Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Vegan Nutmeat Bolognese with Zucchini and Carrot Spaghetti (low carb)

Like every other Australian kid, I grew up eating a lot of spaghetti bolognese. It's so commonly cooked in Australian homes that it's practically a national dish. Nobody in my family was vegetarian or vegan at the time, but my father used to switch around between making our bolognese with meat or with nutmeat. Even as a kid, I loved the nutmeat one more than the meaty one. When I grew up I learnt to cook it for myself and made it often. I introduced it to my Italian best friend and even he loved it more than the meat version. He wasn't a vegan then, but he is now and it's become the lunch we always cook whenever we catch up at, in either of our kitchens. So, it's a sentimental dish for me, and one I probably should have shard on the blog earlier.

Usually, I'd have it with thin spaghetti (the thinner the better!), but cutting back on my carb intake has meant experimenting with other options. These zucchini and carrot noodles taste wonderful with this sauce, and make for a much lighter meal. I've left mine raw, and then ladled the hot sauce over them which cooks them just slightly. You can also blanch them for a minute before eating to soften them up, but don't cook them much or they will break apart and become mushy. You'll want a julienne slicer to get them nice and noodle-y, but I seem to recall mine cost less than $2 from eBay.

Vegan Nutmeat Bolognese with Zucchini & Carrot Spaghetti

Ingredients1 tbsp. Olive oil
1 onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 x 400g can of nutmeat, chopped finely
2 x 400g cans diced tomatoes (or even better - 1 can diced, 1 can crushed)
1 tbsp. Tomato paste
1 tbsp. Soy sauce
Pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup fresh oregano, chopped finely
Cracked pepper, to taste
1 zucchini, julienne sliced into noodles
1 carrot, julienne sliced into noodles

(or, use spaghetti)

To Make:
1. Heat olive oil in a pan and sauté the onion until just starting get translucent. Add the garlic and carrot and fry for a moment. Then add 1/3 cup water and simmer, covered, until the carrot is cooked through.
2. Add the chopped nutmeat, cans of tomatoes, tomato paste, soy sauce and nutmeg. Add 1/2 cup water and bring to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered,  for about 15-20 minutes by which point the sauce should have reduced and thickened nicely. Stir in the fresh oregano and add cracked pepper to taste.
3. Shred your zucchini and carrot into noodles using a julienne slicer and divide between two bowls. Ladle the hot sauce over them. If you like, sprinkle with some (vegan) parmesan cheese.

Makes enough sauce for 3-4 people, and enough noodles for 2.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Pumpkin & Sweetcorn Soup

I'm not generally a big fan of cold weather, but when it starts to move in I try and look on the bright side. For me, there are only two pros to winter; one is climbing into a bed which has been pre-warmed by my electric blanket and the other is gorgeous soups and stews. Pumpkin is a classic which comes out every autumn. I've eaten a lot of pumpkin soup in my life and it always surprises me how often it is incredibly average. It's one of those dishes that everybody makes, but not everybody makes well.

You can make this recipe as a straight pumpkin soup, without the corn. I have to thank my partner for the addition of the corn, I had never even thought of putting corn in my pumpkin soup before but he would often cook us pumpkin and sweetcorn soup for a winter dinner. In this recipe I've combined my favourite pumpkin soup with his version to make probably the best one I've ever eaten :)

Pumpkin & Sweetcorn Soup

1 kg pumpkin, skin removed an chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and chopped
1 large stick celery (including leaves), chopped
1 parsnip, peeled and chopped (optional)
1 bay leaf
2 heaped tsp powdered vegetable stock
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 x 400g cans creamed corn
Salt and pepper, to taste

To serve: vegan sour cream and chopped fresh chives.

To Make:
1. Boil the kettle while you chop all your veggies up.
2. Combine the pumpkin, onion, carrot, potato, celery, parsnip, bay leaf and powdered vegetable stock in a big soup pot. Add enough hot water so that it is just below covering all the vegetables and bring to a simmer.
3. Simmer, covered for about 20 minutes. Stir every now and then to ensure that the veggies on top get cooked too, as they cook down they will release their own liquids and there will be enough water in the pan to cover all the veg but if you put in too much water at the start then you'll end up with watery soup.
4. Remove the lid and add in the ground cumin and ginger. Simmer, uncovered for another five minutes. Remove from the heat and all to cool until it is cool enough to blend.
5. Blend until smooth (a few chunks are ok too) and then return to the heat. Add the 2 cans of creamed corn and stir though, leaving it on the heat until heated through. Season generously with salt and pepper.
6. Serve hot with a dollop of vegan sour cream, chopped fresh chives and warmed crusty bread.

Serves 4 (with bread).

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Burmese Eggplant Salad (Khayan Dhi Pope Thoke)

This recipe was one of my favourites from Myanmar month, but I didn't get time to share it that month so here it is, a little late. I made this dish a couple of hours in advance before a dinner party and left it sitting on the bench so that it would be room temperature (rather than chilled in from the fridge) when I served it. Evertime I walked past where it was sitting on the bench I got this divine waft of sesame oil and roasted eggplant and it just smelled so amazing. I couldn't wait to eat it! The smell and taste of this salad are both just wonderful, plus it's very quick and easy to make.

Burmese Eggplant Salad (Khayan Dhi Pope Thoke)

2 large eggplants
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp vegan fish sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 green chilli, de-seeded and chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
Juice of 1 lime
1 large (or 2 small) shallot, white and green parts chopped
Fried shallots, to garnish (optional)

To Make
1. Heat oven to 180 degrees. Pierce eggplant skin a few times with a fork. Lightly oil a baking tray or dish and bake eggplants on it for 20-30 minutes, turning the eggplant over once about halfway through. The eggplant should be soft and the skin easy to peel off. 
2. Cool the eggplants and then peel the skin off. Chop the roasted flesh roughly and put in a bowl (try to catch all the juices as well). 
3. Add the sesame oil, vegan fish sauce, soy sauce, green chilli, crushed garlic and lime juice to the eggplant and mix well. Season with pepper. Taste to check seasoning, and add a little extra of whatever you think it needs more of. 
4. Stir through the chopped shallots. If you like, sprinkle with some fried shallots (pictured in the second photo, but not in the first) immediately before serving.

Can serve either warm with rice (serves 4), or room temperature as a side salad (serves 6).

Last December I featured vegan recipes from Myanmar (Burma).
Check out my other Burmese recipe posts:

Monday, 11 May 2015

Callaloo (with Kale)

Callaloo is a dish made all over the Caribbean and some parts on Africa. It's made with a leafy green vegetable - generally taro leaves, amaranth or calalu. Often the vegetable itself is known as callaloo. Sadly, I don't have those options available so I've made mine using kale. It's perhaps not so authentic, but it turned out delicious. The kale keeps its texture so beautifully.

In Trinidad and Tobago callaloo includes okra, in some parts of the Caribbean it may include coconut milk, seafood or meats. This is a Jamaican version, made as part of my Jamaican food month a couple of months ago, so it's flavoured with onion, garlic, tomato and scotch bonnet chilli.

It may look like not much, but sometimes simple is just so special and this callaloo makes a great side veggie dish. Leftovers also make a sensational pizza topping.

Jamaican Callaloo

1 big bunch kale
1 tbsp. oil
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. vegetable stock powder
1 onion, diced
1 tomato, diced
1/2 scotch bonnet chilli
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp. thyme leaves
Pinch of salt

To Make 1. Wash the kale thoroughly and remove the tough stems. Chop or tear roughly into medium sized pieces.
2. Place the chopped washed kale in a large pot and top with all the other ingredients. Cover with a lid and place over a medium heat. Cook for 10-15 minutes. Serve with rice.

This month I'm featuring lots of delicious food from Jamaica.
Check out my other Jamaican recipe posts:

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Russian Blueberry Tartlets (Chernika Tartaletki)

Bite sized treats are always my favourite - they're no mess and easy to eat but most of all they just look super cute. I guess the only problem is they're too easy to eat - you just keep going back for another and another and....

These little cute blueberry tartlets were delicious. They could be made with other berries too, or a mixture. Whatever you like really. They're a Russian recipe, which means they're served with a very Russian little dollop of sweetened sour cream.

Chernika Tartaleki

2 1/2 cups wholemeal flour
2 tbsp. castor sugar
Pinch salt
1/2 cup nuttelex (or other vegan margarine)
2/3 cup icy water

Blueberry Filling:
3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (unthawed)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tbsp. maple syrup

For serving;
1 cup vegan sour cream
2 tbsp. castor sugar

To Make:
1. To make the pastry, combine all the ingredients except the water in a food processor and blitz until you have a mixture which looks like fine breadcrumbs. Gradually add in the ice water until the mixture comes together to form a dough, it should be wet enough to hold together but not sticky enough to stick o your fingers as you form it into a ball (add more water or flour as needed t get it to the right consistency). Wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
3. Combine the blueberries and corn-starch in a bowl and md until all the blueberries are coated. Add the maple syrup and stir through.
4. Take half the dough from the fridge and roll it out on a floured benchtop to about 1/8 inch thick. Cut out as many 3 inch circles as you can and then re roll the scraps and cut again. Lightly grease a muffin pan and place a circle of dough in each one. Fill with as much blueberry filling as it will hold and bake for about 10 minutes, turning the tray around halfway through to ensure even cooking.
5. Repeat with all the remaining dough and filling. Cool the cooked tarts.
6. Combine the vegan sour cream with the sugar and keep in the fridge until ready to serve.
7. Just before serving, add a dollop of the sweetened sour cream to the top of each little tart.

Makes about 2 dozen.

Monday, 27 April 2015

[The Best] Curried Potatoes

Potato curry is such a perfect dish, the potatoes are superb consistency just waiting to soak up the delicious flavours of your curry sauce. These curried potatoes are genuinely some of the best I have ever eaten (that is a really tough call!). It's made here with potato as the absolute star, but you could adapt it to be a more general veggie curry by using a range of different vegetables. This is the perfect dish to make for a potluck or party though, just exactly as it is.

The chilli in it is definitely optional, in fact I think it's just perfect without it. But you can throw in the jalapeño if you really don't like your curries mild! This recipe makes a fairly large serving, perfect for taking to a potluck or serving up at a dinner party. If you're making it for a smaller crowd or as a side dish for a family diner, try just making half.

Curried Potatoes

1 1/2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 onions, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 tbsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. allspice
1 lg carrot, diced
1kg chat potatoes, peeled and halved
3 medium tomatoes, diced
1 cup vegetable stock
1 jalapeño, finely chopped (optional)
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Shallots (green parts only), to garnish

To Make
1. Heat oil in a wok and add the onion and garlic. Sauté for about 5-7 minutes, until translucent.
2. Add the curry powder and allspice and fry for about another minute. Then add the carrot and potatoes. Cook for a further 4 minutes.
3. Add the tomatoes, vegetable stock, jalapeño, balsamic vinegar and one cup of water. Bring to a boil and the reduce heat. Simmer, covered for about 45 minutes or until the potatoes are tender ad cooked through.
4. Serve with rice and garnished with fresh chopped shallots.

Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Orange Teacake Biscuits

It's only since I started blogging that I realised how much I love orange. It had never really occurred to me before, but since I label each post according to key ingredients and the list appears in the side bar to your right, I've discovered that 'orange' is one of my most frequently used labels. In fact, I've got almost as many recipes labelled 'orange' and I do 'chocolate'! I glanced down the list, they're a fairly equal spread of sweet and savoury. When people ask me about my favourite ingredients I never think of orange, but it turns out I use it a lot more often than many of the ones I would list as favourites.

Part of the reason is because I'm a bit addicted to home made orange curd, and use it on a lot of things :) But actually I think the main reason is the use of oranges across the whole world to add flavour to such a broad variety of dishes. Many of my orange recipes on this blog are actually part of my world food challenge posts, recipes from all different parts of the globe which use orange as a central flavour to their cooking, it's amazing when you think about how far ingredients spread around the world to be adapted and interpreted by so many different cultures. Here are a few examples of the Orange posts from all over the globe, just to highlight my point:

The Netherlands - Dutch Orange Bitters (Oranjebitter)
Tunisia - Orange Flavoured Doughnuts (Yoyo)
Brazil - Fried Rice Balls flavoured with Orange, Olive & Brazil Nuts (Bolinhos de Arroz)
Nepal - Chilli, Grapefruit and Orange Salad
Egypt - Orange & Olive Salad with Cumin
Samoa - Chocolate Orange Rice Pudding (Koko Rice)
Costa Rica - Orange & Passionfruit Pudding

We could actually add Russia to that list now, because I found and adapted these lovely Orange Teacake Biscuits when researching Russian recipes for the blog.

Orange Teacake Biscuits

1 cup nuttelex (or other vegan friendly margarine or butter)
1 cup castor sugar
1 tbsp. orange zest
1 tbsp. orange juice
2 tsp orange extract
2/3 cup apple sauce (or you can use an egg replacement such as 'no egg"'to the equivalent of 2 eggs)
3 cups wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
Large granule sugar (sometimes called 'coffee sugar'), for decorating

To Make:
1. Cream the butter and sugar together using an electric mixer (or some nice vigorous elbow grease, which is my most common method). Add the orange zest, juice, extract and the apple sauce and mix until completely smooth.
2. Sift in the flour and the baking power and mix well. Form your dough into a ball and wrap in cling wrap, refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. In the meantime preheat your oven to 180 degrees C. Cut your dough into 3 pieces and roll out the first one on a floured bench to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut out whatever shapes you like and arrange on a tray lined with non-stick baking paper. Press a sprinkling of the large sugar granules into the top.
4. Bake in batches for about 8 minutes, or until just lightly golden in colour. Turn the tray around about 5 minutes into the cooking to ensure even baking. If you're using smaller than average cutters, they will need a bit less cooking time.

Makes 25-35 biscuits, depending on the size of your cutters.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Make Your Own Garam Masala

A little while ago, I had a kitchen epiphany. I had a lovely dish brewing in my brain, it was going to be gorgeous and spicy. I headed to my spice rack only to find none of the star ingredient I had in mind - garam masala. Much as I hate making a trip to the shops for just one item, down I went to get the all important garam masala, only to find the shelf completely bare. I was irrationally frustrated by this, and grumped my way back home. It took a surprising amount of time for me to realise that, of course, garam masala is just a blend of spices which are all present on my insanely well-stocked spice 'rack' (I use the inverted commas there because no one rack could possibly contain all my spices, so they are in fact in there separate clusters all around my kitchen).

I couldn't quite believe I'd been so silly. So I made some myself. I have not bought garam masala since that day, because making it was easy, fun and meant that I could tweak it to include more of the spices I love the most. Making spice blends also has the benefit of making your house smell ridiculously yummy. Plus - look how much darker and richer my home made mix is compared to the months-old stuff that has been sitting in the supermarket.

My Garam Masala Blend

2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
3 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp black peppercorns

To Make:
1. Combine all spices in a frypan and dry roast gently until fragrant and just toasted. Allow to cool slightly and then grind into a fine powder using a spice grinders, a mortar and pestle or a food processor which has a spice grinding attachment. Keep in sealed jars and use generously.

NOTE - If you don't have whole spices and don't want to go out and get them all, you can combine the same quantities of ground 
spices in a jar and use that. However, roasting them yourself before grinding really adds richness and brings out the flavours, so it's definitely preferable.