Monday, November 29, 2010

Golden syrup dumplings - sugarless, vegan

Hmmm... I was going kind of well there for a while, with new blog entries on a regular basis. With the weekend we just had I haven't really had time. For blogging or for cooking. With family coming from Sweden very soon, and Christmas coming up I'm probably about to have even less time.

Tonight I had enough spare time to make something sweet to follow a dinner of leftovers. There is nothing quite like golden syrup dumplings. They're like a pudding that take absolutely no effort and are the kind of comfort food my nan used to make. Probably more of a winter thing than summer, but hey, it's been raining lately.

Kev is diabetic, so I thought I'd have a go at making golden syrup dumplings without sugar... Since golden syrup is just runny sugar, so I didn't actually use any, I guess these really can't be called golden syrup dumplings. Sugarless maple flavoured syrup dumplings sweetened with stevia just isn't as catchy.

I took the basic recipe my mum used to always use and made some substitutions. Below is the original recipe followed by the ammended version.

Original recipe - (non vegan)

1 cup self raising flour
30 grams butter
1 egg
2 tbsp milk

30g butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup golden syrup
1/2 cup of water
1 tspn lemon juice

For the dumplings:
Rub the butter into the flour to form even crumbs.
Blend in the egg and milk to bring together into a soft dough.
Form into small balls.

For the syrup:
Melt remaining butter in a pan.
Add the syrup, sugar and lemon juice and stir till all sugar is dissolved.

Bring the syrup to the boil and add in dumplings.
Boil for 20 minutes.
Serve with cream or ice cream.

Doctored (improved) version - (vegan dumplings, replacement sugar syrup)

1 cup self raising flour (or in the pictured example I used 3/4 cup flour, 1/3 cup almond meal)
30 grams butter
*Egg replacer for 1 egg
2 tbsp soy milk

30g butter
1 tspn arrowroot or corn flour (with no sugar the syrup will not thicken on it's own.)
1 1/2 tspn Stevia powder
1/2 cup sugar free maple flavoured syrup
1/2 cup water
1 tspn lemon juice

For the dumplings:
Rub the nuttalex into the flour to form even crumbs.
Blend in the egg replacer and soy to bring together into a soft dough.
Form into small balls.

For the syrup:
Melt remaining nuttalex in a pan.
Blend in the arrowroot ensuring there are no lumps.
Blend stevia powder into this mix, making sure no lumps form.
Add the maple, water and lemon juice and blend together well.

Bring the syrup to the boil and add in dumplings.
Boil for 20 minutes.
Serve with cream or ice cream. (Ice cream in the example below is Nushies Vanilla)
*Well, I would have used it if I had any. Probably don't really need it, my dumplings worked ok without it.

Needs more syrup!

These tasted better than they look in that pic. Poor light did not do them any favours... The flecks are from the almond meal. I really should have served them with some more of the syrup that was left in the bottom of the pan too. It looks better with more sauce.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Monk Bodhi Dharma

It's kind of hard to justify driving for 20-30 minutes just to get breakfast so Monk Bodhi Dharma has been one of those places I just hear other people raving about (see the reviews that had me drooling here and here and here).

When we were heading out to Berwick this last weekend however, it was the perfect opportunity to drop in on the way through to try the food and coffee I have heard so much about.

We got there relatively early, around 9am. They were already busy by then and we snaffled the last available table. People started queueing soon after we got there, so I imagine it would be a long wait for a table if you arrived for a late breakfast. Next time I would probably try to get there even a little earlier and try for a better table, since the table we got was the one right inside the door, with one seat below the newspaper rack. Every couple of minutes someone was coming over to put a paper in or take one out and Kev got elbowed in the head each time. Depressing how few people know how to say sorry :(

There was a bit of a wait on breakfast, but our coffees came out really quickly. We just ordered standard blend coffees. I thought my soy latte was pretty good, Kev said his long black was strong but too bitter.

There were so many good options on the menu, but every review of Monk Bodhi Dharma I have read has raved about the vegan french toast, so I had to try it. The french toast is usually served with ricotta, but when ordered vegan comes with sweetened vegan cream cheese instead. It looked so delicious in everyones photos. And it was! The bread did prove to be a bit of a challenge to cut because the crust was a little chewy, but this worked really well with the pear. The pear was nicely flavoured and sweet from what ever it was poached in. It was sweet enough that I skipped on the cream cheese, it was just too sweet for me at breakfast time.

Kev ordered the sweet corn and ricotta hotcakes served with basil pesto and cherry tomatoes. He's a big fan of savoury pancakes, corn and pesto so this was like a breakfast dream come true. I didn't try these myself, however Kev said that they were great, plenty of corn, good texture and great flavour. His only wish was that there was more of it.

They had a selection of vegan cakes available too, and I did think about getting one to take, but decided against it. I got all excited when I saw they had brownies, but was crushed to see they had walnuts in. Being allergic to walnuts sucks, most brownies and carrot cakes get walnuts stuck in them. Boooo. The cupcakes looked really good, red velvet I think. In hindsight I regret not getting one, but I was all pouty about not being able to get a brownie. The pic below is not great, but you can still kind of see how nice the cupcakes looked - I liked the icing, red and brown swirled together.

I'd definitely come back here again, maybe for one of their degustation breakfasts (next scheduled are on the 30th November and 1st December).

Why is everything awesome so far away from my house :(

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Vegie pasta in mustard sauce

Pasta is usually pretty basic food with very little effort required. Generally not something I figured was worth much blog time.

Till I saw this in the local deli:

The pasta was just so pretty, and the ingredients were just durum wheat, and vegetable colour (provided you don't get the pastas with black where the colour looks to be from squid ink). From memory it was also around $12 a box. $12 for pasta? EEP! But I had to try some. I always have to buy wanky stuff like this when I see it, I just can't help it...

It was really nice pasta which held it's shape and retained a lot more colour than I expected it would when cooking. It looked so nice in the bowl it was a shame to go and spoil it by putting sauce in with it really...

Unfortunately not many people are happy to be presented with a bowl of plain pasta for dinner, so I did have to make a sauce to serve it with.

I get kind of tired of the usual tomato based sauces we do for a quick pasta dinner. I decided this time I'd try something different and make vegetable pasta with a mustard style sauce. The mustard sauce is just a basic roux sauce with mustard and garlic. This sauce tastes much like a welsh rarebit.

Vegetable 'chicken' pasta with mustard sauce

250gram mushroom
1 head of broccoli
2 bunches of asparagus
Handful of spinach
1 box frys chicken style strips
1 tspn mustard (i used whole seed mustard)
2 cloves diced garlic
2 tspn nuttalex
2 tspn cornflour
2 cups soy milk
Grated cheesly to taste
1 box of pasta

Pour the pasta into a pot of  boiling water and set this cooking. The pasta took about 12 minutes to cook for me, so this should be done by the time you have your sauce and vegetables finished.

Chop the mushrooms, asparagus and broccoli and set in a saucepan to cook. While the vegetables are cooking, in a separate pan, fry the chicken style strips.

While the vegetables and strips are cooking, start the mustard sauce. In a small saucepan, melt the nuttalex. Add in the garlic, pepper and mustard and lightly fry for a minute.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the cornflour and stir in to form a smooth paste with no flour lumps.
Add the soy milk a little at a time, working the flour and milk mix into a smooth paste. Between additions of milk, return the pan to the stove for a short time to keep the sauce heated, but do not stop stirring while over the heat.
Once all the milk is blended in, return the pan to the heat and stir continuously till the sauce is thickened.
Add in the grated cheesly and stir.

Combine the vegetables, chicken style strips, spinach and sauce and blend through.

Drain the pasta and serve with vegetable and sauce mix.

Sure, the sauce doesn't look pretty, but it was damn tasty.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Home made dog biscuits

We were able to pick Leela up from the vets on the weekend. I can't believe how wrong the house felt without her there. While it will be a couple of weeks before she can walk on that leg again (I still get teary when I see her hopping around on three legs), and around 6 weeks for a full recovery, she has done really, really well and is healing a lot faster than the vet expected.

At the moment while she is still on her pain medication, she spends most of her time sleeping on her couch, (yes, she has her own couch. It's very rare that dog beds come big enough for Leela, and the couch was going to be thrown out, so we claimed it) and making puppy dog eyes at us to try and guilt us into giving her treats.

Leela enjoying her ugly grey couch

Treats are a problem. Leela is on an elimination diet...

With all the allergies and intolerance I have to food and chemicals, I suppose it is fitting that my dog has a list of allergens too. Currently she is eating a low allergenic prescription dog food. She cannot have meat, which rules out most commercial dog treats. Those that remain have wheat or dairy. So unfair.

I had purchased her a bag of Vegan Pet Peanut Woofers some time back, and she loved them, so I decided to try making a batch of my own, wheat free. I added psyllium husk in place of some of the flour since the post op medication she is on has made her a little constipated...

Peanut doggy biscuits

4 cups gluten free flour
2 cups of psyllium husk (or substitute with more flour)
1/2 cup of flax seeds
1/2 a cup of unsalted chunky peanut butter
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups of water.

Pre heat oven to 175 C.
Blend together all dry ingredients.
Add the peanut butter and rub into the dry ingredients to form crumbs.
Slowly add water and work together into a firm dough. If you are not using psyllium in the mix, you will probably only need 2 1/2 cups. If you are using psyllium you may need the rest of the water as the psyllium will soak the water up.

Either make balls of dough to form biscuits, and flatten them on the tray, or roll the dough and cut shapes. I rolled the dough and cut bone shapes. For christmas they will be cut in dog shapes so while we are eating gingerbread people, Leela and Katie can eat peanutbread dogs.

Bake the biscuits for around 30 - 40 minutes till they feel really firm but are not burnt. Turn the oven off and leave the biscuits in the oven to cool. My 2 doggy taste testers heartily endorse this product.

Mmmmm... peanutty

I also tried to make her some tofu jerky, but my oven doesn't do really do cool temperatures all that well, so they cooked too much and too fast, coming out as really dry crunchy tofu chips. Apparently they still tasted good though...

Doggy tofu chips

1 block of tofu
Marinade (I used a mix of cheatin gravy powder, some vegie stock, some gluten free worcestershire sauce and a little sugar)

Press the tofu between 2 plates for around 20 minutes to get excess water out. I put a bag of flour on the top plate for added pressure.
Cut tofu into strips. The tofu will shrink to nearly half the size, so don't cut too small.
Put the tofu into a container and pour over the marinade to cover. Seal the container and leave to marinade for a few hours. I left mine overnight.

Set your oven for as low as you can, aim for 120 C. Place a cake cooling rack on top of an oven tray or lammington tin. Place the tofu strips on top of the cake rack. This will ensure the tofu gets dried from both sides.
Leave to cook for at least 4 hours. Tofu should be dried out, and chewy.

The recipe above has worked for me using a different oven. The oven I have now though cooks all lower temperatures as 150 C so I ended up with super dry crunchy tofu chips.

Apologies for the crappier than usual photo quality.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Timeline fair - non food nerd post

This is not post about food, more a geek post. With the time it took to drive to Berwick and back there wasn't really any time for baking. We went today to an event called the Timeline Fair (previously MMFAT - Melbourne Mediavel Fayre and Tourney), held at the old cheese factory in Berwick, where re-enactment groups from the viking age, up to world war 2 did public displays and demos of their hobbies.It was great to see so many who are passionate about and dedicated to their hobby, and doing something interesting and unique.My fiance is a member of one of the reenactor groups so I did the good girlfriend thing and want along.

The event is a 2 day event, held over this weekend out in Berwick at the old cheese factory and is probably the closest thing we have in Australia to a Ren Fair, something I have always thought would be interesting to go check out.

The event was split into 2 separate areas, a large 'encampment' where members of the various reenactment periods set up their tents and gave displays of various periods of combats. A large craft and merchant area was also set up for people to sell their hand made crafts.

Below are just a few snaps from the event.

Hand made by the extremely talented Craig Sitch

The crafting tent of Sven the Merchant, viking age carpenter

Bojo the canvas custom tent maker
Re-enactors with medieval musical instruments

Encampment of the LaTrobe Uni group
Helmets and swords for sale

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Vegan Mars Bar slice

I ordered some twilight bars from the cruelty free shop and was feeling kind of nostalgic, so decided to turn one of them into mars bar slice. When my brother and I were little, mum used to always turn mars bars into mars bar slice, I guess to make them stretch further, and because she figured mars bars were just too sweet for kids to be eating as is. Mars bars always just tasted better this way anyhow.

Normally mars bar slice is something you want to make a lot of, because it is so moreish and addictive with the chewy chocolate caramel and crispy rice bubbles. I have plans to keep the other twilight bar for later in the week when we are babysitting nephews - melted down they make a great fudge topping for ice cream that sets into a nice chewy shell. I just had one bar left to make the slice from, which was probably just as well - once the batch of slice was set it didn't last us very long. If I'd made any more we just would have ended up eating more of it...

Mars bar slice: There really is not much at all to this recipe. Just multiply ingredients for the number of bars you are using if you want a bigger batch.

1 twilight bar (or use a jokerz bar if you want a peanutty version)
3 teaspoons nuttalex
1 cup rice bubbles
1 small block of plain chocolate (I used sweet william this time)

Chop the twilight bar into small pieces and place in a heat proof bowl with 2 teaspoons of the nuttalex. Rest the bowl over a pan of boiled water and allow bar to melt. When melter, stir till all ingredients are melted and combined into a smooth, glossy liquid.

Blend in the rice bubbles till they are all coated and stick together.

Press the rice bubble mix into a slice tray, lined with baking paper.

Melt the block of chocolate with the remaining nuttalex and stir till melted and combined. Pour this over the top of the rice bubble mix, and put in the fridge to set.

I have just started a reorganisation of my pantry and could not for the life of me find where I put the slice tray, so I used some silicon cupcake trays I got a while back. I like these little trays, not just because they make really cute little teddy bear cupcakes, but because they also mean I can skip on using cupcake papers.

From 1 twilight bar, and 1 cup of rice bubbles, I got 5 little cupcake shaped mars bar slice pieces. Yum!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Gasometer, Collingwood

I've been wanting to go to try Gasometer in Collingwood for a few weeks now after hearing a new veg friendly place had opened. I had thought we were going there a few weeks back, but my boyfriend had other ideas - on the way there he drove me to the place we first met, proposed and then took me to Shakahari where he had booked a table with some of our friends to celebrate.

Tonight being the last weeknight we are going to be able to go out together for dinner on a weeknight for a while, we decided to venture across the westgate and finally check out Gasometer. We had heard really good things about the place, and we were certainly not disappointed. I think the place has only been open for just over a month or so in what used to be an Irish pub. They've done a really nice job on the place. Something about the interior kind of reminded me of some of the old school train stations we saw in europe though I am really not sure why that is. This is one of the places that has gone on the list of places we want to take the family from Sweden when they come over for Christmas.

There were many vegetarian and vegan options on the menu, and Kev, being the awesome guy he is, ordered dishes that I could try too, even though he was tempted by the ricotta and goats cheese options. We got there right at peak dinner time so it was really quite busy and the food orders took a little while. This just meant we had time to enjoy a beer or two.

Their menu can be found here - Gasometer Menu. Along with the standard menu there was a sheet of specials for the day. We did consider ordering the street corn from the specials menu, it looked really interesting (I can't remember what the description was, only that it sounded like I wanted to eat it), but we opted to try 2 items from the regular entree menu - the fried olives stuffed with vegan roasted pepper cheese, and the smoked tofu strips (ordered as spicy not brutal because we are wusses).

Entree serve of olives

Inside the olives

Smoked tofu strips

The tofu strips were really tasty, and the ranch dipping sauce was great. I'm glad we only ordered spicy and not the brutal, the spicy was perfect. If we'd gone for the brutal I might not have any taste buds left. Kev and I both agreed that the fried olives were absolutely amazing! I think I will have to try making something like this myself at home with black olives. Olives are awesome.

For mains I ordered the areapas with red chilli seitan. The whole dish looked so appetizing when it came out, with a beautiful mix of colours, and I'm always partial to anything that comes with a lime wedge! I was expecting the seitan to be spicy but it wasn't. At least I don't think it was, my tongue could have still been recovering from the tofu strips... I really enjoyed this dish, particularly the corn areapas. Kev was a little less enthused than I was, but he doesn't really like the texture of seitan. Flavour wise he thought it was great.

Kev ordered the vegan chorizo burger, and loved it. He was kind enough to let me have a bite, and it has to be up there as one of the best veg burgers I have ever had! I will definitely be ordering this again. The chips were great too, again some of the best I have ever had. And it came with a slice of pickle!!!!! It's the little touches that make a great meal perfect.

There was a vegan dessert on the menu, pumpkin pie with ginger ice cream. Unfortunately neither Kev or I had any room left for dessert so had to give this a miss. We figured when we ordered the 2 entrees that this was probably going to happen, but the starter menu items just sounded too good to pass up. Next time we will skip the entrees and give the pumpkin pie a go.

Gasometer on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lord of the fries, you made my day!

Technically this should not be a blog post since there is really no content for it, other than me wanting a forum to be able to say that the burger and fries I got from Lord of the Fries Melbourne Central were the best I have had for a long time!

I'd had some disappointing food from there in the last few months and for a while I had noticed a decline in the quality having gotten things like cold chips and stale buns. Maybe I caught them on bad days, but was really impressed by how good they were today. You totally made my day, thanks LotF!

Since I have nothing else to say, so this post doesn't look pathetically short, here is a picture of a Zombie Ninja fighting a Dalek.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Loving hut

Occasionally I get to work out of the Richmond office rather than in the CBD. Aside from giving me an excuse to drop into Ikea, it gives me a chance to try somewhere new for lunch.

Today I went to try Loving Hut (hopefully their website will update soon to include the Melbourne location).
I think this place has really only been open a couple of weeks, and they are still finalising their menu. When K and Toby from In the Mood for Noodles reviewed them, not all their menu items were available. Maybe it was because I went on a week day, early in the lunch period, but they were serving their full menu today.

Rather than order a main from their menu, I decided to try the options from the bain marie. $8 gets you your choice of 1 noodle or rice serve, with 2 choices of main. The serving size was really generous too. I opted noodles, with the beef in black bean and beef rendang dishes.

The dishes were really tasty. Unfortunately the food was nearly cold when it came to me. As much as I liked the taste of the dishes, I struggle to eat barely warm food. I really wished I had ordered a main off the menu, their menu options all sounded really tasty, but I was pressed for time so went the quick option of the ready made dishes.

I had ordered a serve of dumplings to try for a side. These were made to order, and were really tasty and completely worth the trip. The sauce was good, the filling was really tasty and fried nice and crispy.

While I was disappointed with the dishes from the bain marie not being hot, I think I might have gotten them on a bad day. The staff were really friendly, and they have only been open a short time. They are still settling in. I will be going back here, and next time getting a dish made to order from the menu.

Monday, November 15, 2010

White choc and raspberry cookies

One of the best flavour combinations ever has to be white chocolate and raspberry. Actually any kind of chocolate and raspberry, but I only had white chocolate, so we'll just go with that.

I've been looking for something to do with my bag of sweet william white choc chips for a couple of weeks now. I also had half a punnet of frozen raspberries left over from my chardonnay/raspberry jelly experiment. I tossed up between a few options (pudding, muffins, friands) before settling on a batch of white choc raspberry cookies.


1 cup of nuttalex
1 cup of fine sugar
half a tin of condensed soy milk
3 cups of self raising flour
1 cup white choc chips
About a cup of raspberries

Set oven to 180 C.
Cream together nuttalex and sugar till pale, then blend in condensed milk. Add in the flour and blend. This will for a very soft dough. Mix in the chocolate chips.

I tried 2 ways with adding the raspberries, the first I took some of the dough with choc chips and formed it into balls and placed on the baking tray. I then pressed 2 raspberries into each cookie ball and flattened them a little.

The second way I tried with the rest of the remaining dough, was to just blend the raspberries into the dough.

The first batch of cookies was done in 15 minutes, the second took a little longer and was in the oven for 18 minutes. I guess having the berries blended through made the dough a little wetter.

The cookies come out a little soft so need to be left to cool for a bit before lifting them off the tray. When they do cool though, they are beautifully golden and slightly crisp in the outside, but still soft and a little chewy inside. I had more dough than I wanted to bake tonight, so I froze half the dough. Hopefully I survives freezing, I think it should...

Here are some samples of how the cookies came out. Since it is only a visual sample you'll just have to take my word for it that they were damn good cookies.

Nom nom nom

I think I prefer the look of the cookie that had the raspberries blended through.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mutant potato chickpea korma

Just as well we like curry, because we are going to be eating it for the next few days... It was meant to be a small potato and chick pea curry that just escalated into a huge saucepan filling vegetable/legume/curry free-for-all.

It all started going wrong when I failed to read the back of the pack of Sharwoods korma paste. I had cooked the potato cubes, and chickpeas, and poured a can of coconut milk in to simmer. After industriously scooping half the jar of paste into the saucepan and stirring it in, I decided to give a little taste test since the sauce was darker than I expected. I've never used a curry paste before. I just assumed it was like a jar of pasta sauce where you add the whole thing in. Apparently I was only meant to put in 3 tablespoons... With way too much curry paste, it was totally inedible. I had to add 2 more cans of coconut milk and a pack of soyatoo cooking cream to save it...

Now I was left with a big pot of curry sauce, that had a few sad chickpeas and potato bits floating in it here and there... So I rummaged through the crisper and the pantry to see what I had. I came up with half a cauliflower, a head of broccoli, a can of brown lentils and a can of kidney beans, which all went in the pot.

The end result was actually really tasty... Phew, nice save! I served it with some fried garlic chapattis (mission food  brand) and some extra soyatoo cream on top. Luckily Kev enjoyed it, and went back for seconds so we only have 2 days worth of leftovers now rather than 3...

I also had a bit of a brain fart and forgot to cook rice to serve with the curry. All round not the best of nights in the kitchen... I'm going to be more careful to read directions on labels for a while.

Seddon Deadly Sins

There is a cafe near our house that we go to fairly regularly, called Seddon Deadly Sins. For a start, just the name is pretty damn awesome. The staff are super friendly and the service is great, regardless how busy they are (usually very busy from 10.00 onwards). The cafe has a nice relaxed atmosphere, with 4 separate dining areas - 4 tables on the footpath, a relaxed but usually crowded front room, a courtyard that is lovely on warm days, and my favourite the cosy back room with fireplace. I love the interior, and their furnishings and that they haven't caved to the hipster cafe trend and decided that milk crates pass as chairs and communal tables are the way to go. They also have a room upstairs called the Good Room that is full of various old sofas and chairs (all second hand chesterfields, and plush red lounges sourced from eBay) and the bathroom upstairs is well worth checking out. In my dream house, my bathroom looks a lot like this one, minus the disco ball... The Good Room is used for coffee and cake only however, and sometimes they will offer to seat you up there with a coffee while you wait for a table to come available.

I do think it is adorable that they present their menus inside old little golden books though.

Since the fiancé is a bit of a self confessed coffee snob, the most important thing for him in any cafe is the coffee, and the coffee at SDS definitely passes the test. It is easily the best coffee we have found over our side of the westgate.

In keeping with the name of the cafe, a lot of the items on the menu are named after sins like gluttony, wrath and envy. The guys here are always happy to adjust a meal where they can. I ordered the field mushrooms, which is usually 2 mushrooms filled with mushy peas topped with haloumi, served on spinach and eggplant with 2 poached eggs. I ordered it without eggs and cheese. Once you take the eggs away it looks like a pretty small weekend breakfast, so I added a side of tomato. Most of Kev's hashbrowns also came out on my plate and I held them hostage for a while, but eventually caved and released the little crispy fried prisoners one at a time. I'm pretty sure the hashbrowns are not even vegetarian, they look like commercially prepared frozen ones.

More food needs pea in it!

There is spinach on that plate, it's just hiding under the eggplant and mushroom.

Aside from the standard menu, every weekend they will have a specials menu up on the chalk board. These are usually meat based, but occasionally there are some real gems up on the board like breakfast dahl (yay!) or a rosti. Today the special was corn and zucchini pikelets with aioli sauce, served with spinach, poached eggs and bacon. Kev ordered this without the bacon, but with sides of tomato, mushroom and hashbrown.

They also have a cake cabinet with various sweets, cakes and biscuits. There is always at least one flavour of cheese cake, and 1 gluten free cake option. The options available will change day to day, but I have not yet seen a vegan option available.

I also just wanted to show you my new tea cup, which I think is really cute. It was given to me by a friend who saw it and decided they had to get it for me. Being a ranga, I have from time to time copped the nickname 'little red', and she thought this mug would be the perfect gift. And I love it, thanks Em :)

Does anyone have any suggestions for good cafes that serve good coffee and have vegan breakfast options? I know there are plenty of places over the other side of the westgate, but would really appreciate if anyone has any recommendations closer to us.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Such an easy tart...

After a pretty rotten day today, of endless meetings followed by confirmation that our rottweiler has torn a cruciate ligament which needs a $2000 operation to correct, I wanted cheesecake, but I was just too damn over everything to put in the effort needed for a cheesecake and wait for it to set. While Leela is on pain medication she is on a special home cooked dog food that won't upset her stomach, and after cooking a batch of ricey oaty dog gunk, I wasn't up for another major cooking exercise either.

So I made a super cheaty strawberry cheese cake tart! I love this recipe, it is so quick, and other than burning pastry, nothing can go wrong with it. This is based off a strawberry tart recipe I found in one of my mum's old cook books when I was a teenager.

If you want to make your own pastry, go right ahead and knock yourself out. I have included the basic pastry recipe I follow if I do get the urge to cover the kitchen in flour. With my evenings impatience though, I used pre made frozen pastry sheets.

Strawberry 'Cheesecake' Tart

1 cup flour
A pinch of salt 
1/3  cup nuttalex
2  to 3 tablespoons cold water 

3 punnets strawberries
1/2  cup sugar 
2  tablespoons cornflour 
1/4  cup water 
1  pack tofutti cream cheese
1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice
Grated rind of 1 lemon

Sift the flour and salt together into your mixing bowl. Blend in nuttalex until dough forms into small crumbs, then blend in cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time till the pastry will form together into a ball. Flatten your pastry ball and dust with flour, wrap and refrigerate till the dough is firm and cold - about 40-45 minutes. Chilling the dough will give you a more flakey pastry. Roll the chilled dough till you can cut a circle with radius 5cm bigger than your pie tin. Lightly grease the pie tin, press the pastry in and bake at 250°C for around 10 minutes (or just follow what the frozen pastry says).

Take about a cups worth of the strawberries and mash or puree them. In a saucepan, mix strawberry mash, sugar and cornflour. Slowly blend in the water and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly till the mix boils and thickens to a  sauce. Set this aside to cool. 

Beat the tofutti, lemon juice and lemon rind till smooth. You could probably sweeten the tofutti mix a little if you like, but I usually don't since the strawberries are sweet enough. I do sometimes add a little white chocolate to the cheese mix which works well. 

Spread the mix into the pie crust. Slice the remaining strawberries and cover the cheese mix with them. Now pour the strawberry sauce over the top. If you're not impatient like I am, you should probably put it in the fridge to set... If you don't let it set, the filling will most likely start sliding off as soon as you start cutting slices, as seen in exhibit A below...

Add caption

Runny or not, it still tastes awesome!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Vegie wellington and peanut butter cups

For a few weeks now I've had an urge to turn a Sanitarium vegie delights roast into a beef wellington. Last night I finally got around to it, and it... was... awesome! I really should have done this sooner.

There wasn't much needed in the way of ingredients, and very little prep work required. Initially I was going to go really basic and wrap the vegie roast loaf as is in the puff pastry but I had some mushrooms and hazelnuts so figured I would make a coating for the roast.

Veg Wellington
About a cups worth of chopped mushrooms
Half a cup of ground Hazelnuts
1 tablespoon of gravy powder 
1 chopped onion
1 clove chopped garlic
1 Vegie roast
1 sheet puff pastry

Fry the onion, garlic and mushrooms. Add gravy powder, pepper and hazelnuts and simmer till thickened. The mix should be thick enough to be able to stick a coating to the outside of the roast, and stay put as you wrap the roast in the pastry. It didn't look like much when it was done - the mushroom mix started oozing out the ends.

The pastry instructions were baking at 180ºC for 45 minutes but it really needed 55 minutes to get the pastry nice and golden. It worked perfectly.

After dinner I had a go at a recipe for peanut butter cups from Alicia Silverstone's Kind Diet book. I had a go at making my own graham crackers using the recipe from the Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World blog.

Graham cracker recipe:

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup oil
2 tablespoons molasses (I didn't have any straight molasses, so I used half black strap molasses and agave syrup)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup soy milk

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Mix dry ingredients together well. Blend together the wet ingredients and then mix well into the dry ingredients. Knead dough together into a ball then roll out into a rectangle sized to fit the baking tray. Press dough into tray and mark into squares. Bake for 14 minutes.

In hindsight, I should have used just the agave syrup. The black strap molasses had far to strong a flavour and left me with biscuits that smelled like burnt licorice. They did have a nice colour though.

For the peanut butter cups:
1/2 cup Nuttalex
3/4 cup crunchy unsalted peanut butter 
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1 block of chocolate

Recipe makes 12 peanut butter cups, line a muffin tin with 12 paper liners.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Blend in the peanut butter, then maple sugar and mix well. Mix in the graham cracker crumbs. Remove the mixture from the heat. Divide the mixture between the cup cake papers. Set aside in the fridge to cool.

The recipe wanted the chocolate for the topping melted with soy milk, but I prefer a hard chocolate shell to a ganache topping, so I just melted straight chocolate to top the peanut mix. The cups took about 30 minutes to set in the fridge.

Anything that leaves the paper that oily has to be good for you

The cups were really tasty, and not as rich as straight peanut butter cups. They were kind of oily though. I think they could probably have been made just as well either with less or no nuttalex, and maybe some soy milk instead.

There were a few other recipes from the Alicia Silverstone book on the website link and they look really good. I might have to track down a copy of the book.

There's always room for pie

I really wanted to get a pie from the Funky Pies stall at World Vegan Day but since I had filled up on Mr Nice Guy cupcakes, Crumbs lemon donut and lunch from the Enlightened Cuisine stall before I saw the Funky Pies stall, there really wasn't any room for pie :(  They were also sold out of the Eezy Chic 'n' Cheezy by the time I did get round to them anyway. Actually I probably could have managed to share a pie a little later in the day, I just couldn't bring myself to fight my way back to the stall through the crowds of people milling around it.

Left with a pie craving, the only logical thing to do is make a pie. We had a couple of friends joining us for dinner who are big fans of their standard mince pie, so I decided to have a go at making a mock mince pie.

For the pie I used:
Pre made pastry sheets (because I am lazy)
Half a bag of TVP dry mince
Kidney beans
Cheatin gravy powder
Spring Gully Worcestershire sauce
Savoury yeast flakes

To make the pie, I greased the pie pans, and lined the pans with a layer of pastry. I've had bad experiences blind baking pastry shells before, so I skipped blind baking this time. 

For the filling, I chopped and fried the mushrooms, onion and beans a little, added in the TVP cup for cup with water. While the pot was coming to the boil I added a couple of spoons of gravy powder, along with a splash of braggs, worcestershire, yeast flakes and pepper to get some flavour into the TVP. Once the water was boiling the TVP took about 5 minutes to soak up most of the liquid and what was left was a nice thick gravy base.

There was easily enough filling for the 2 pie shells, and just enough pastry left to top them. You probably can't see from the pictures but I got a bit carried away fluting the edges of the pies to attach the top pastry.

Baked at 180ºC for about 30 minutes and the pie came out perfectly. The pastry has to be one of the best I have used (and it was gluten free!!). It was perfectly golden and flaky with a great flavour. The brand was Pastry Pantry rough puff.

I was expecting when I cut the pie to have filling ooze everywhere, but the slices held their shape. The pie tasted great too, and got compliments all round.  

For every success there is a failure though. I got this ice cube tray that I love. My fiance hates it, but I love it. It's an ice cube tray made of silicone that makes 4 ice brains. Here is an example of what the ice cubes look like after they are popped out.

Coconut water and orange mango brain freezes

I got what I thought was a brilliant idea of using the tray to make chocolates. Since I had half a block of rice milk white chocolate left, I painted this into the groves in the mould before coating the whole thing with dark chocolate. When it was set I put in some soft caramel I made, and then put some dandies marshmallow in on top, then sealed with chocolate again.

Everything looked like it was working perfectly till I came to pop the brains out. Unfortunately the silicon mould did not want pop straight out and needed to be forced and stretched around the chocolate. I had made the chocolate coating too thin so it just cracked leaving me with a disgusting oozing mess.

Aside from the breaking and the oozing, I actually quite like the affect of the two chocolates together in the mould. They still tasted great too, a sticky messy sugar and chocolate explosion. I will have to try this again, just make the chocolate shells more durable next time.