Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Vegan MoFo Day 30: Full circle

Here we are at the end of November already - I can't believe it. It seems like only a week ago that I was wondering if I would be able to come up with enough variety in my cooking to blog for 30 days. I've made it! I've tried 7 new (to me) vegan products, attempted 12 new recipes, used 3 previously unused cookbooks and cooked 20 old favourites. I now have enough leftovers in my freezer to keep me going for the whole of December! I've only managed to let go of one of my old vegetarian cookbooks, but I have highlighted another two to look through and then part with over the next few weeks.

I was wondering what to cook for today and then when searching through the kitchen I came across two of the purple potatoes I started out MoFo with. It seemed the right time to come full circle and finish with a variation on the meal I started the month with. So here we have mashed purple potatoes, chickpea cutlet and a rainbow of steamed veggies, served this time with a lemony lentil sauce, based on the Lemony Mixed Bean hotpot recipe I made earlier in the month.
But as a commitment to the future, I also wanted to try a new recipe from a previously unused book. My gaze fell upon Lickin' the Beaters, subtitled Low Fat Vegan Desserts, by Siue Moffat. I bought this book over a year ago and had never got round to using it. I was drawn to the homemade halvah recipe. I associate halva with Istanbul and the most excellent Haci Bekir in Istiklal Caddesi. However, there will be no trip to Turkey for me this year, so making my own halva seemed like a good idea. The ingredients are all very simple - sesame seeds, maple syrup and vanilla with optional cocoa. The first mistake I made was using sesame seeds with their shells on. They were just too bitter for a sweet. Fortunately I had only put maple syrup and vanilla extract in half the mixture, so I can use the other half of the crushed sesame seeds in gomasio. Then I started again with shelled sesame seeds. This worked much better - it looked the right colour and taste much less bitter. I left half of the mixture as it was and added some cocoa powder to the other half. The recipe suggested putting the mixture into a small container and chilling. I used heart shaped chocolate moulds. The finished product was nice - not great, and it really would have been better with more maple syrup added to the cocoa flavoured half of the mix - but it's good as a sweet treat on a cold snowy day. It lacks the consistency of Turkish halva and I'd be tempted to replace half the sesame seeds with ground almonds next time to make it even less bitter. I will definitely be making more recipes from this cookbook.

So where to from here? When I started out, my goal was to blog for MoFo, I didn't believe that anyone would read any of my blog entries and I didn't actually think beyond that. Now I've decided to continue. I can't keep up the same rate of daily entries, especially as i still have all of those leftoves to eat up! But for December my plan is to blog twice or three times a week. I aim to try at least 2 new recipes a week. I'd like to get myself in gear for the PCRM 21-day vegan kickstart in January by cooking mainly low fat recipes, but that plan may change...        

Monday, 29 November 2010

Vegan MoFo Day 29: A Snowy Day and Very Berry Scones

It was 13˚C in my bedroom this morning and I really didn't want to get up. It was snowing  yesterday and most of the night and has continued during today as well. This amount of snow is pretty unusual for Edinburgh - we are beside the coast so on the rare occasions that we do get snow, it rarely lies for any length of time. How typical in this age of global warming that the weather in Scotland gets colder! This snow is going to be a shock for the bulbs in my window boxes. A couple of days ago I had great hopes that the snowdrops might be flowering in time for Christmas; now I'm wondering if they'll recover by springtime. Both cats are refusing point blank to set paw out through the cat flap and are demanding extra snuggling time.
 My snowy back green (more of a back white!) as seen from the window
Brave cyclamens still flowering in my window box, but I'm not holding out much hope for the bulbs come springtime

I'm eating leftovers for dinner today (as I shall be for most of December after all the cooking I've done this month!) but I still wanted to cook something, so I chose another recipe from Vegan Brunch - Berry Scones. When I was still a vegetarian, I used to enjoy the Very Berry Scones from a certain multinational coffee shop chain. I was really excited to try this recipe and had a bag of summer fruits in the freezer to use up. I had lots of fun making them - the consistency was nothing like any scone I have ever made before and I ended up wearing some of the scone mixture. I really don't know what's happening with my baking over the last few weeks - after my dense and compact chocolate muffins and my Salvador Dali-esque ginger biscuits, I didn't hold out much hope for scones when the dough attempted to drape itself over any available surface. They spread on the baking tray as they cooked and 6 of them actually joined up, despite starting out quite far apart. So they ended up rather flat and not terribly attractive, but they taste AMAZING! I've eaten 3 already and I shall have to hide the rest if they are to last out the rest of the day. How sad that I will need to try that recipe again to see if I can get the consistency right. In fact I can well imagine that it may take several tries to perfect the recipe - what a hardship!!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Vegan MoFo Day 28: Pesto and Scrambled Tofu

Two firsts for me today - the first time I've made pesto and the first time I've made scrambled tofu. As a vegetarian I loved pesto, so I'm not sure why I haven't attempted to make it since I took to a vegan diet. I suspect that I was harbouring a belief that you really needed parmesan cheese to make a good pesto. When I first made the change to a completely vegetarian diet in the 1960s, food choices when eating out were very limited here in the UK. There were basically two options: cheese salad (comprising a pile of grated cheddar cheese, a couple of leaves of iceberg lettuce, 2 halved tomatoes with perhaps some sliced cucumber and a couple of spring onions, topped with salad cream) or cheese omelette and chips. When I went to college things got even worse and the vegetarian meal on offer in the cafetaria invariably included 2 fried eggs. Being offered 6 fried eggs a day as the only food option meant that after a couple of weeks I never wanted to see another egg again and I put on over 3 stone (50 lbs) in as many months by comfort eating chocolate bars. So after becoming vegan, I couldn't really see the point of eating scrambled tofu when I had never enjoyed scrambled eggs in my pre-vegan days. Today I've proved myself wrong on both counts and I will be making both pesto and scrambled tofu again.

I took Vegan Brunch as my starting point for both recipes. I've had this book about a year and although I've read it like a novel, this is the first time I've used it to cook from. I'm not very good at just sticking to a recipe as printed, so of course I made a few adaptations.

1 clove of garlic, crushed
50g/1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
28g/1 pack of fresh basil leaves
pinch of salt
2 Tbsp light olive oil
1 Tbsp water
1.5 Tbsp nutritional yeast

Buzz crushed garlic and toasted pinenuts in food processor, add basil leavessalt and olive oil and process until smooth. Add water and nutritional yeast and blend well.

Pesto Tofu Scramble with Mushrooms and Tomatoes 
1-2 Tbsp light olive oil
2 spring onions, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
175g chestnut mushrooms, halved and finely slliced
250g firm tofu, squeezed and crumbled into large pieces
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
2 Tbsp pesto (or more to taste)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Gently saute spring onions for a couple of minutes. Add tomatoes and saute for a futher 3 minutes. Add crushed garlic and mushrooms and saute for another couple of minutes. Add crumbled tofu, stir well and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in pesto and nutritional yeast and cook for a further 2 minutes until warmed through.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, if required. I served mine with steamed broccoli and petits pois. I think it would be really nice with sauteed potatoes or rosti. I really like that pesto, tomato, mushroom combination and the nutritional yeast in both the pesto and scramble made it taste really creamy. This made enough scramble for 2 servings, so I'm really looking forward to breakfast already. the pesto made about 4 servings, so I'll be having pasta with pesto sometime in the next couple of days.                          

vegan MoFo Day 27: Lemony Mixed Bean Hotpot

I adapted this recipe from one of those recipe cards that you can pick up at the supermarket. I brought the card home and used it as a bookmark and then finally rediscovered it in one of my cookery books a couple of years ago. Since then it has been a firm favourite. You can use any tinned or cooked beans that you have at hand. When I'm cooking beans for a recipe I cook twice the amount I need and freeze the rest so I usually have quite a variery of cooked beans in the freezer. If I don't have enough for this recipe, then I supplement them with a handful of lentils.

Lemony Mixed Bean Hotpot
1 medium onion, peeled and finely sliced 
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 sticks of celery, finely sliced
2 carrots, peeled and cut into thin sticks
1 red pepper (capsicum), deseeded and diced
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp ground cumin
390 g/14 oz tin of chopped tomatoes
340 ml/1 1/4 cups vegetable stock
205g/7 oz/1/2 can borlotti beans
205g/7 oz/1/2 can cannellini beans205g/7 oz/1/2 can pinto beans
1 lemon, thickly sliced
20 g/1 handful of fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped
Saute the onion for a couple of minutes in 2 Tbsp vegetable stock. Add garlic, celery and carrots and cook for about 7-120 minutes, adding more stock if needed. Add pepper and spices, cook for another minute and then add tomatoes, vegetable stock, beans and lemon and cook gently for 10 minutes. Just before serving, remove the lemon slices and stir in the fresh coriander (cilantro).

Friday, 26 November 2010

Vegan MoFo Day 26: Vegetable Pilau

All the MoFo cooking must be getting to me, because today I found myself in M&S buying tarka dhal and bombay aloo for my dinner tonight, after I realised that they are inadvertently vegan. Their rice however is not vegan so I decided to make some spicy vegetable pilau to go with it.
Spicy Vegetable Pilau
225 g/1 cup basmati rice, washed, covered in water and soaked for half an hour
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp sunflower oil
2 bay leaves
1 clove
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely diced
50 g/1/3 cup frozen sweetcorn
50 g/1/3 cup frozen peas
25 g/1/4 cup cashew nuts, lightly toasted
475 ml/2 cups water
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp garam masala
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large frying pan, saute the cumin seeds for 2 minutes, add the bay leaves, cardamoms and clove and saute for another 2 minutes. Add the onion and carrot and saute until softened. Stir in the drained rice, sweetcorn, peas and cashew nuts and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add water, ground cumin, garam masala, salt and pepper, bring to the boil, cover, turn down the heat and simmer for around 15 - 20 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed. 

I served mine with the tarka dal and bombay aloo, plus a vegetable pakora, onion bhaji and vegetable samosa and a couple of poppadums. 

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Vegan MoFo Day 25: Mushroom/Brazil Nut Patties

Today I had a pack of leeks that needed to be used up and so I made vegeburgers, or to be more precise, brazil and mushroom patties.  This is an old favourite whch I adapted from a recipe I found in a supermarket vegetarian cookbook from the 80s. The patties freeze well and are quick and easy to make.

Brazil Nut and Mushroom Patties
175 g/6 oz leeks, cleaned and finely sliced
1 tsp celery seeds
175 g/6 oz mushrooms, sliced
100 g/4 oz cooked brown rice 
125 g/4 oz brazil nuts, ground
25 g/1 oz pecan nuts, chopped
50 g/1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
1 tsp yeast extract
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper

Saute the leeks in 2 Tbsp of vegetable stock for about 5 minutes, add mushroom and celery seeds and saute for another 5 minutes, adding more liquid if necessary. Remove from the heat, mix in remaining ingredients and knead until strings of gluten form. Divide into 8 and form into pattie shapes. Shallow fry for 7-8 minutes or bake in a pre-heated oven at 350F/180C/Gas Mark 4 for 20 minutes, turning after 10 minutes.

I served mine with mashed potatoes and petits pois. They are nice with a tomato sauce but I had no energy to make a sauce this evening so I made do with some tomato ketchup instead.


Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Vegan MoFo Day 24: Smoky Lentil Sauce

I wanted something quick to eat this evening so I went for my favourite quick meal of rice, steamed veggies and a sauce. I have a basic lentil sauce that I make and then create variation by changing the spices and adding different herbs and vegetables. So I have a Creole lentil sauce, Cajun lentil sauce, raunchy red lentil sauce (based on the Raunchy Red Lentil Soup from La Dolce Vegan), lemony red lentil sauce etc etc. There are as many possibilities as your imagination can come up with.Today I decided to try a variation on the theme of yesterday's lentil soup.

Basic Red Lentil Sauce
1 small onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed 
1 small red chilli (optional and if appropriate)
100 g/1/2 cup red lentils
150 ml/3/4 cup vegetable stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Other herbs and spices to taste

Saute the onion, garlic and chilli (if using) in 1 Tbsp vegetable stock (or olive oil, if you prefer.) Add lentils and vegetable stock plus spices as desired. Bring to the boil, cover, turn down the heat and simmer for between 10 and 15 minutes. Blend until smooth with a hand (immersion) blender.

Today I added 1/2 tsp smoked paprika and 1 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped. I also added the almond mush left over from making almond milk the other day - 1/2 Tbsp ground almonds would do as well. After simmering I added the juice of half a lemon.

I served the sauce over steamed vegetables and a portion of Monday's seeded spicy rice. I think it would be better with plain brown rice so that the smoky paprika flavour could reign supreme without fighting with the spices in the spicy rice mix.

I divide the remaining sauce into single servings and freeze, ready for a really quick and easy dinner.

Vegan MoFo Day 23: Lentil Soup

I love lentil soup and have quite a few lentil soup recipes in my repertoire. I wanted to use my slow cooker today so I adapted a recipe from A Vegan Taste of the Middle East by Linda Majzlik. This turned out to be really tasty and different enough from my other red lentil recipes that I will definitely be making it again.

Spicy Middle Eastern Red Lentil Soup 
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 red chilli(or more/less to taste), finely chopped 
100 g/4 oz tomato, skinned and chopped
150 g/6 oz red lentils
650 mls/22 fl oz vegetable stock
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp paprika
freshly ground black pepper
Juice of half a lemon
Saute the onion, garlic and chilli in a tablespoon of vegetable stock until softened. Add the skined and chopped tomatoes and cook for a few minutes more. Transfer to the slow cooker, add lentils, stock, paprika and parsley, season with black pepper and cook on low for 5-6 hours. Blend with a hand blender, add lemon juice and garnish with some more  chopped fresh parsley.  

Monday, 22 November 2010

Vegan MoFo Day 22: Seeded Spicy Rice

Often my dinner is a bowl of brown rice with steamed veggies and a lentil sauce of some sort. Usually I have plain steamed rice, but sometimes I really want something more flavourful. This is one of my favourite recipes - tasty, quick to make and using ingredients I usually have at hand. The recipe calls for white basmati rice, but I imagine that any long grain white rice will be fine. I have made it using brown basmati which takes an extra 10 minutes and more water to cook.

Seeded Spicy Basmati Rice 
1 tsp sunflower oil
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
5 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 tsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
200 g/1 cup white basmati rice
400 ml/1 2/3 cups vegetable stock
115 g/1/2 cup natural soya yoghurt
1 Tbsp sunflower seeds, toasted
1 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh coriander leaves (cilantro) to garnish

Heat the oil and gently saute the spices and crushed garlic for 1 minute, stirring continuously. Add the rice and vegetable stock, bring to the boil, cover and turn down to a simmer for around 15 minutes. Stir in the yoghurt and toasted seeds, season to taste and serve garnished with chopped fresh coriander leaves (cilantro).

When I am out of yoghurt, I mix in some almond milk and the juice of half a lemon instead. Today I served this with steamed broccoli, cauliflower, sugarsnaps and brussels sprouts, topped with a lemony lentil dal with some mango chutney on the side.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Vegan MoFo Day 21: Split Pea soup

No energy for cooking anything too elaborate or time-consuming today so I went for one of my favourite soups instead. I adapted this recipe from A Vegan Taste of East Africa by Linda Majzlik. I have found some of my favourite recipes from the Vegan Taste of books:
Ethiopian Spicy Green Split Pea Soup
225g/8oz split green peas
1 onion, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
2 Tbps vegetable stock
1 tsp ground ginger
black pepper
900ml/1½ pts vegetable stock
finely chopped fresh coriander

Saute the onion in 2 Tbsp vegetable stock. Add split peas, garlic, chilli and ginger and season with black pepper. Add 900 ml/1½ pts vegetable stock, stir well and bring to the boil. Cover the pan, reduce heat to a low simmer and cook for around 30 minutes until the peas are well done and the soup is thick.  Puree with a hand blender, adding more water to get the consistency you prefer. Serve garnished with chopped coriander.