Behold my delicious vegan food wizard skillz!

Tonight I turned this:

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Into this:

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Under that delicious pile of roasted tomatoes and zucchini is an equally delicious pile of wholemeal pasta with kale and walnut pesto.

Mix it all up for a hearty meal with plenty of greens and bursts of sweet roasted tomatoes and zucchini chunks, and the taste of garlic bringing it all together.

home grown ingredients:
Kale
Garlic
Zucchini
Mixed tomatoes (tiny red ones, yellow cherry, mini Roma, standard cherry – there’s a green zebra tomato in the picture but I saved that one for another dish)

store brought ingredients:
Wholemeal pasta
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt
Pepper
Nutritional yeast

It was quite literally thrown together – no idea about quantities. I can try and guess some if anyone really desperately needs a recipe but I’m confident there’s probably plenty of kale walnut pesto recipes to be googled and the tomatoes/zucchini were just veggies tossed with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and roasted.

You know what else was delicious? These babies:

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I made these cookies and cream cupcakes for a work meeting using a recipe from Vegan cupcakes take over the world . It’s the basic chocolate cake recipe with the variation of adding chopped Oreos to the cake batter and also to the vanilla buttercream. Absolutely superb.

They were a big hit with everybody. I’ve kind of made it my mission to keep feeding my work mates vegan food just to show them how delicious and interesting it is.

I’ve also found that vegan cakes seem to be ridiculously simple. Maybe that’s just because I’ve been practicing but I am really enjoying baking now.

I made this cake for a work mates farewell a few weeks ago.

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It’s a chocolate mud cake I’ve made a couple of times from Not Quite Nigella that I came across a while ago. I’ve found it turns out best when I be a bit liberal with the chocolate in the batter (75grams… 100grams… Close enough). I also take it from the tin while still warm and plate it, pouring the ganache over before it’s cool.

This recipe makes a chocolate syrup – I’ve been adding coconut milk or almond milk to make more of a ganache. Either way will be great.

Moving off the chocolate cake theme, I also tried my hand at a vegan agedashi tofu. I used shiitake for the broth and let plenty of them soak for a long time to get the flavour. I also used some wakame to get that “sea” flavour since I’m unable to buy kombu at the moment.

I kept all the wakame and shiitake in the end so it wasn’t the traditional clear broth but it was delicious and hearty. I used cornflour for the tofu coating and fried it in a mix of peanut and sunflower oils. It was dished up with edamame and plain medium grain rice.

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So there are some of my latest food achievements. I’m pretty proud of my efforts – still learning new recipes and methods of cooking and still keeping it vegan.

And by the way, what do you do with leftover Oreos and extra icing?

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pickling season is upon us.

It’s been a few months since I have posted. There’s been a lot going on, however it just seems like I haven’t had time and then when I have, I haven’t been able to decide what to post about. But two requests from friends and family have guided the way.

This year I’ve been pickling vast amounts of cucumbers (14kgs so far, and another batch to do today), but I’ve also been pickling beetroot. I’ve experimented and worked out my own recipe for the beetroot. The cucumbers are an adaptation of another recipe. I’ve found that the trick to pickling is having enough vinegar and sugar to preserve it, and having everything hot to seal the (sterilised) jars. If jarred hot and sealed, your pickles should last a long time, unless you have someone in the house who eats them a jar at a time.

I’m not exactly the queen of proper method when it comes to sterilisation of jars, so I’ll refer you to a link for the proper information.

Important note about jars: if you are putting something hot into your jars, they must be hot as well. If you are putting something cold into them, they must be cool, or at least room temperature. Cold jar + hot liquid = potential glass explosion. Fee free to reuse jars and lids – I do on a regular basis. Just make sure that jars and lids are clean, and free of damage (cracks, chips, etc.

I’ve had my cousin and a friend requesting the recipes, so here they are (minus pictures today)

Awesome bread and butter pickles recipe:

Ingredients:
1kg of cucumbers – the smaller the better, but I pickle larger ones too. make sure they are as freshly picked as you can get *
2 brown onions
3 Tbsp salt
1/2 cup hot water
2 cups vinegar (I normally use white vinegar, but feel free to experiment)
2 cups sugar (I use raw sugar as a general rule. This does change the colour a little, but I quite like it. White sugar is fine if you prefer. Other options could include honey – go wild!)
Pickling spices (this is my standard mix for this recipe. Sometimes I change it up a little)
5 tsp mustard seeds
2-3 tsps dill (preferably fresh)
1/2 tsp turmeric
2-3 chillis – dependent on taste. We have several kinds of chillis growing and they all have different levels of heat.
3 tsp cumin seeds
3 tsp coriander seeds.

Method:

thinly slice the cucumbers and onions. I use a mandoline slicer, but a food processor with a slicing blade or a sharp knife would do the same job. Place them in a non-reactive bowl or pan. I actually brought a few cheap 5.1 liter buckets with lids for this purpose. Dissolve the salt in the hot water, pour it over the cucumbers and onion, mix through, and let sit for 3 hours.

As you get to the end of your three hours, sterilise your jars so they are ready to go. The next part isn’t particularly time consuming.

Mix the vinegar, sugar, and pickling spices in a non-reactive pan. make sure you have enough room to add your cucumbers. With a small pan you may need to boil them in batches.

Bring the liquid to a boil, stirring occasionaly until the sugar is fully dissolved. Boil for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, drain your cucumbers and onions. press them to release any excess moisture. Don’t stress about damaging them as I squash mine a fair bit and they seems ok. You’re just trying to get the extra liquid out.

Tip the cucumbers and onions into the pot. Bring to boil and let boil for 2 minutes.

Fill the jars with your delicious pickles. fill to about 1 cm from the top, making sure there’s enough liquid to cover thm, then put the lids on. Make I usually fill them on a wooden board on the sink. Sitting hot glass on metal or glass can cause issues, so once filled they are transferred to a teatowel laid out on the bench.

Do not disturb until fully cool. a normal screw top jar will pop as it seals – so expect a few pops from your kitchen while they cool.

Beetroot in Apple Cider Vinegar:

Fresh beetroot, either boiled or baked in their skins. I didn’t weigh my beets when I picked them, but I’d guess it was maybe 1- 1.5 of beets. I’ll weigh next time.
3 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
2 cups sugar (again, I used raw. The colour doesn’t matter as the beets will turn everything purple anyway)
1 Tbsp mustard seeds
3 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds

I didn’t measure the spices, but I’d say the proportions were roughly what I’ve listed here. Throw in what you like.

I boiled the beets for my last batch, but I prefer to bake them as they seem to keep more of their juice in. If baking, wrap in foil and bake in a moderate oven til tender. If boiling, simply boil until tender. Either way, when trimming them cut off as little as possible. The more of the inside you expose, the more juice can come out.

Once cooked, let them cool by sitting in cold water. Once cool to handle, use your hands to slip the skins off. If you wash your hands regularly throughout this process they won’t get stained.

Chop up your beets as desired – I’ve done some as slices for sandwiches, some in 1cm chunks for salads, and some baby beets whole.

Place all other items in a non reactive pan and bring to the boil. while it’s coming to a boil, sterilise your jars.

let the liquid boil for a few minutes. Toss in your chopped beets and boil again, for 3-5 minutes.

Fill your jars, again leaving some space at the top and making sure there’s liquid to cover them. Pop on your lids, and let the jars cool.

Both of these recipes, if prepared right and with sterilised jars and clean equipment, should last at least a year. let the jars sit for at least a week before opening, to let the flavours develop properly. As with all preserves, it’s better to store them in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.

Delicious roast lamb and also pumpkin seeds

I made a roast lamb on the weekend. It was very delicious.

Ingredients:
Rolled shoulder roast lamb
Some garlic cloves (I think I used about 5 for this one)
1 bunch fresh rosmary
salt
pepper
olive oil.

First, I brought a rolled shoulder roast. I turned on all four burners of the BBQ and put the hood down to heat it up.

Then I took the lamb and used the technique I always use with a roast lamb: I cut slivers of garlic from a couple of cloves, pierced the lamb all over with a thin knife, and pushed the garlic into the slits. Not only does this impart a lovely flavor to the lamb, but it also means that when you slice it, you get chunks of garlic embedded in the meat.

then for the coating:
I crushed the remaining cloves of garlic in my mortar and pestle, adding some rosemary leaves (saving 2 sprigs for decoration), rock salt, and a few twists of pepper. I ground that up to make a rough paste, then added enough (extra virgin) olive oil.

I rubbed that all over the lamb, and then pushed the two sprigs of rosemary under the strings. This would be optional for roasts that don’t have string though.

I then put it in a rack, in the baking dish for the BBQ – a BBQ roast works with indirect heat, rather than being directly on the burners. I sat it in the middle, and turned down the burners directly below it. I cooked it for about half an hour per 500gm as we like our lamb well done. I try and keep the guage at about a medium level – around 160 degrees C.

For the last hour I covered it with foil and it was deliciously moist when done.

here’s how it looked when I pulled it from the BBQ:

rosemary and garlic roast lamb.

I dished it up with a bunch of roast veg, including Beetroot and turnips fresh from the garden, and the pumpkin that we’ve had sitting in the bottom of the pantry all winter after we picked it from our autumn harvest.

Tonight I roasted the pumpkin seeds. I used this recipe for the tip on boiling first. I boiled them in the salted water for 10 minutes. Then I tossed them with olive oil and a cajun spice mix. A quick toast in the oven at 200 degrees C for about 15 minutes until they started popping, and they are done!

Also, I’m amazed at how long my hair is getting!

Too much broccoli and too many turnips.

So I’ve spent the weekend spring cleaning and in between dealing with the end of our harvest for some veggies. Amongst that I’ve also visited the local farmers market with Scott and Lotta, and watched me little brother Dave’s team lose the Div 3 hockey grand final. It was an amazingly stressful and exciting game to watch, ending up with a controversial goal from the opposition which lead to a draw at full time. Enter Golden Goal mode – 10 minutes play, then swap ends without a break and another 10 minutes. First to score wins. As it was still a draw at the end of that time, they then play off with penalty shots (5 for each team) and basically it’s the best out of 5. If at the end of the 5 penalty shots each it is still a draw then they continue having shots until someone wins. So we all crowded around the end of the field…. waited with bated breath as each player taking the shots and the goalies lined up. The stress was almost too much. in the end, they got more flicks in then we did, and they took the flag. With all the extra time and commiserations after the game, it was too late to go home and cook a roast chook for dinner, so we went past Carvin’ it up – basically it’s a takeaway, but the takeaways are roast meals with all the trimmings, and the most amazing pork crackle I have ever tasted.

So our roast chook is going to be cooked today, for lunch and for lunches through the week.

I snapped the last of the broccoli off the plants yesterday. The stems I pickled, the tops I blanched and froze. As there were a lot of secondary shoots and broccolini, the stems were pretty small – just in case anyone is wondering about the photo.

Pickled broccoli recipe (I used a combination of ideas from a few recipes, so here’s what I ended up with) :

Broccoli Stems
garlic
1/2 water 1/2 rice vinegar (enough to cover stems and fill jar)
Honey (1 tablespoon per cup of liquid)
sprinkle of chili flakes.

I peeled and sliced the stems into chunks. I peeled and thinly sliced 2 cloves of garlic and mixed it through the broccoli chunks. There was enough to fill a 500ml (ish) cliptop jar so I then made up a pickling soloution with 1/2 cup rice vinegar, 1/2 cup hot water, and 1 tablespoon honey. I threw a splash of Mirin in there but it probably wasn’t necessary as the honey was in there. I also added a sprinkle of my superhot dried chilies.

Then I brought the pickling mixture to the boil and boiled the chunks and garlic very briefly (About a minute and a half). I then poured it into the washed and sterilised jar, and sealed it. I’m waiting for it to cool and I will probably store it in the fridge. I’ll give it a week and then open it and see how my experiment went.

Turnip greens and the tops of some Beetroots were lightly steamed, cooled, and packed in Ziplock bags, labeled, and frozen. I handed a bunch of turnips over to the neighbours and Scott and Lotta came to get some as well. It’s great growing so much so cheaply and being able to share the goodness of organic home grown vegetables.

Sunday’s projects were Pickling some turnips, roasting a chook, and making orange marmalade with the oranges that mysteriously appeared on our doorstep. I believe they came from Gary’s side of the family.

I used this recipe for the turnips (they are dyed the beautiful colour by pickling it with some beetroot, which was also from our garden)….

Pickled stems and the beautifully coloured pickled turnips.

…and this recipe for the marmalade. It hasn’t set properly, because I got impatient by the end of the day and didn’t get it to setting point before bottling it, but that’s easily fixed by tipping it into the pot and boiling it some more. It tastes pretty awesome though.

I want to put this on so many things..

So that was my weekend of cooking.

For future reference, my chicken was cooked in the BBQ – I pierced a lemon all over and placed it inside the chicken with some basil (thawed from the freezer). Outside I rubbed it with olive oil, salt, pepper, and more basil. The lemon gives it a nice flavour and the juice keeps it moist – delicious! I dished it up with a bake of layers sliced potato, turnip, and sweet potato, with onion, garlic and bacon scattered throughout. I poured a mix of 1/2 light sour cream and 1/2 chicken stock over, covered it in foil and baked in the BBQ. I finished it by melting some cheese over it.

Also I cooked a cabbage from the garden – lightly steamed then tossed with butter, salt and pepper. I would have taken a photo of the chicken as it was delicious and moist with crispy skin….. but it got eaten pretty quickly!

recipe – “Asian Tacos”

My two younger sisters are with us tonight. Mum dropped Lisa to my house after work and I drove her over to her hockey match in Albury. Kate got a lift with someone else and I took my pirate quilt and cheered them on to a 2 all draw in the thunder and the hail.

Prior to this, however, I got some meat marinating. Knowing it was going to be a late dinner I prepared part of it earlier in the day. I wanted something light, fresh, and somewhat Vietnamese inspired. I had an idea for something like rice paper rolls, with a bit of crunch. Except I didn’t feel like rice paper so I decided to use lettuce instead. Kate ended up deciding they were “Asian Tacos” so I think we should stick to that. Sounds good enough for me.

I had two lots of meat marinating while we were at hockey. Here’s what I did:

Overall ingredients for meat (or rough guesses)
500gm of Beef
500gm of free range chicken (any boneless part that you want)
2 stalks lemongrass
1 – 2 chilis (more if you’re game)
6 cloves garlic (I put 3 in each)
2-3 cm piece of fresh Ginger
splash of Mirin
1 bunch of fresh coriander
zest and juice of 1 lime

For the rest of the meal:
Iceberg Lettuce leaves, peeled off the head whole.
Carrot
Snow Pea Shoots
Red Capsicum
rice noodles (thin ones)
Dipping Sauce or ingredients for one.

Lemongrass Beef.
Very finely Grate (or smash in a mortar and Pestle) some fresh lemongrass, ginger, garlic and chili. Add a touch of sesame oil and a tiny bit of Mirin (certianly optional – or try a pinch of sugar if you don’t have Mirin). Mix through some beef, cut into strips and marinate for the length of a field hockey game (70 mins, plus the warm-up and aftergame talk)

Coriander and lime Chicken.
Smash one whole bunch (including roots if they are clean enough) of fresh coriander, some garlic, a bit of salt, some fish sauce – not too much – and some oil in a mortar and pestle to make a nice paste. Add zest and juice of a lime. I used half a lime and it probably could have done with more. mix that through your chicken and marinate until ready.

I then cooked up the beef in a frying pan (as I brought pre-cut strips and they were too small to skewer properly), and skewered the chicken chunks and BBQ’d them.

Yummy green chicken

While the meat was cooking the girls helped me cut up the rest of it and make the sauce. We took a recipie from this book: Vietnamese Street Food. I won’t post the recipe here at the moment but it’s a basic dipping sauce, with lime juice, rice vinegar, fish sauce, chili, garlic, and sugar. Yum!

Lisa made the sauce…

…while Kate chopped some veggies

Kate and I chopped a few things up. We ended up with thin carrot sticks, sliced spring onion, thin sticks of red capsicum and some snowpea shoots. Check it out:

The noodles are not in this photo – they’re on their way to the table though

The sauce ended up tasting pretty good – although it was less a dipping sauce and more a “pour on your food and let it drip everywhere” kind of sauce. Whatever works.

tasty tasty sauce

How To Eat:
1) Put in mouth
2) Chew
3) Swallow
4) repeat steps 1-3 until foodstuffs is gone.

…. no seriously, this meal is fun. Grab a lettuce leaf, put some noodles in, then some meat, then the veggies.

the final product

roll….

and Nom.

some recipes – Super Awesome Nachos and my Chicken Schnitzel

There are certain things I don’t order in restaurants, purely because I have my own way of cooking them, and restaurants tend not to cook them the same and I get disappointed. These dishes include risotto and Nachos.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m really cooking it properly, or if my recipe is so far from the traditional that it can really be called what I call it anymore. That’s what’s happened to my nachos recipe over the years. Are these really nachos anymore? Regardless of what it should be officially called, I refer to them as Nachos. Or when I add the extra bits, Super Awesome Nachos.

Essentially my Super Awesome Nachos are nachos with a salad thrown on top. I have heard these referred to as haystacks, but I like my version better because it sounds cooler.

Anyhow.

SUPER AWESOME NACHOS:

here they are, all naked before I put the extra bits on.

Beef/Bean mix:
I usually make this with only beans, however I know Gary prefers it with some meat in it. This mix was used the night before for burritos and I threw some extra beans in to top it up. if you want vegetarian, omit the beef and increase the beans. When using all beans I tend to smoosh some of them up a bit for added texture

500g Mince (usually beef, feel free to substitute turkey mince, chicken, go crazy!)
1 can red kidney beans.
1 onion, chopped (I like it chunky)
garlic (however much you like. I like heaps.)
1 reasonably sized capsicum, cored and chopped.
Fresh or dried chilis (to taste)
Cumin seeds
(a dash of) cinnamon
cayenne pepper
fresh or canned tomatoes, chopped. – I used a 500 ml preserving jar full of whole tomatoes, so maybe one can or 2 big fresh ones?
Fresh/dried oregano and basil.

Optional: grated carrot and/or zucchini. I tend to put these in the full vegetarian version for a bit more texture and flavour.
I also threw in a bit of homemade tomato sauce at the end.

Other stuff you need:
Corn chips
Avocado
Fresh tomatoes (this week I used cherry roma. Oh My Nonexistant Deiety! amazing!)
lime
sour cream
lettuce, shredded.
cheese, grated.

how to make beef mix:

1) sautee onions, garlic, and chili in a bit of olive oil until starting to soften. Heat oven to 180 degrees. Or if your oven is like mine and is lame as hell, heat to 200 degrees.
2) brown beef with the onions, garlic, and chili.
3) add beans, capsicum and tomatoes.
4) add cumin, a dash of cinnamon, and however much cauyenne pepper you like. Don’t overdo it though. it’s better to add a little then have to add more then to try and fix it when there is too much. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5) simmer till thick enough. Add the basil and oregano.

Next part is to assemble the nacho section.

put a layer of corn chips in an oven proof dish. Add half the been mix, then top with half the Cheese. Repeat. if you want, you can put a bit of paprika onto the top of the cheese, just because. Bake this in the oven till cheese is melty and it’s looking like it wants to be eaten.

Meanwhile, back on the kitchen bench:
Shred lettuce. Chop avocado and tomatoes. Slice the lime in half. Mix the avocado and the tomato together and squeeze some lime juice over it. Open the sour cream.

Fetch the nachos from the oven, top with lettuce, avocado and tomato mix, and dollops of sour cream.

Nom.

they may not be pretty but they are delicious.

My other recipe (as advertised by my post title) is for my chicken schnitzels.

simple but delicious

First, a word on chicken. I use only certified free range chicken if I can help it. I don’t even really think about it much. If free range is not available, I don’t buy chicken. I guess it comes partially from my upbringing where we raised our own chickens to eat and although that isn’t an option for me right now I’d like to support a meat industry that is the most ethical one we can access at the moment. I understand there are issues with the definition of free range, however when given a choice I guess it’s the lesser of two evils approach that I’m taking.

Also, with eggs, I don’t buy free range eggs from a company that also sells cage eggs. I choose to send my money to companies that only sell free range eggs. Again, we are working on setting up our own chook yard so we can raise our own and provide for our own food. In the meantime, I’ll do my best to support the most ethical practices I can.

So now that I’m off my high horse, here’s what I do with those delicious free range chicken breasts.

Chicken Schnitzels:
Free range chicken breasts (1 per schnitzel desired)
panko breadcrumbs (I prefer the texture on the Panko crumbs. For those unfamiliar, check the asian section of the supermarket.)
cornflour
free range eggs (one will generally do two schnitzels)
herbs – I tend to use fresh oregano, thyme, and parsley. In summer I use basil.
salt and pepper
olive oil.

1) wash, pat dry, and finely chop herbs. Mix with the panko crumbs. Also mix in some salt and pepper and spread them on a plate or another dish to dip the schnitzels in.
2) organise three plates/Dishes. the first has the cornflour, the second the beaten egg(s), the third the panko crumbs.
3) beat the breasts with a meat mallet/tenderiser until thin enough.
4) heat a frying pan with some olive oil. When hot, begin the schnitzel process.
5) take a flattened breast, lightly coat it in cornflour, then beaten egg, then then panko crumbs, ensuring even coverage.
6) place in frying pan. Cook a few minutes either side. You may have to add some olive oil or it will not look lovely and golden brown when done.

if you need to cook in batches, place cooked schnitzels in an oven at 100degrees, placed on a rack over a tray. This should keep them hot and crispy without them sitting in oil.

I like to dish these up with steamed veg and some gravy. This night I made steamed broccoli and mashed sweet potato with paprika.

Variations: try Basil, lemon thyme and lemon rind, or basil, parsley and parmesan.

and finally, here’s Gary enjoying my epic Super Awesome Nachos:

By the way, we shared that dish. I know it’s huge. It was split between us.