Sunday, February 26, 2012


There is something about flat bread that, to me, makes a curry meal feel complete. Maybe it is because it feels more authentic, or because I like eating with my hands, or just because I really love bread. But, on an average weeknight, we have neither the time nor the motivation to bother making bread. So, on the weekends, we sometimes make a big batch to stash in the freezer.
Butternut pumpkin & jackfruit curry with mango chutney and chappati.

The recipe for these chappatis originally came from How it all Vegan, which I borrowed from the library. It was the version that was translated to British measurements, and I know that in other cookbooks this has led to errors and mistakes. So that may be an explanation for how unimpressed I was. But, the recipe wasn't very good. So I've changed it, quite a lot. I'm not sure about the distinctions between Indian flatbreads, so maybe these need a name other than chappatis - maybe Andy's constant mispronunciation (chiapattis) is a more apt name for them.  Anyways, they're the best flat breads I've been able to make. They're soft and chewy, rather than dry and cardboardy. The recipe is easily cut in half, or doubled. And they're perfect for scooping up a curry.
Black-eyed pea dhal, eggplant bharta, rice and chappatis.

350 grams plain flour (or a mix of plain & whole meal)
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. oil
90 - 175 mL water (this will depend on humidity, your flour, etc. Start with a little - you can always add more later.)

In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt.

Drizzle over the oil and mix with a fork until the oil is well incorporated.

Slowly drizzle in the water, a little at a time. Mix with a fork until it starts to form a dough, then take over with your hands. Mix it until you have a soft, but not sticky, dough. If it feels just a little too tough, a good way to incorporate a tiny amount more liquid is to knead with wet hands. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, until it is smooth and stretchy.

Divide into balls - about 8 is the size we like from this amount of dough.

Roll each ball thinly. I find the oil in the dough is enough to keep them from sticking without dusting any flour - just keep flipping the bread over as you roll, to make sure one side doesn't hold fast to the counter top.

Hint: don't roll too many at once. If they sit on the counter for too long, they stick and make a mess. I learned this the hard way while making a double batch by myself. It really works best if you have two people, one rolling and one cooking.

Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. Let it get nice and hot before you start cooking the breads. Then cook one bread at a time, for about 1 to 2 minutes on each side, until they are lightly browned and bubbly. If the pan is hot enough, they should look like this for about 20 seconds:

Then they will get small bubbles:

Which then turn into big bubbles:

These big bubbles collapse when they cool, leaving light, chewy breads.

Let the breads cool a bit on a plate, and then either (1) eat straightaway, (2) wrap up so they don't go stale while your curry cooks, or (3) put them in a ziploc bag and freeze for later. Half an hour at room temperature and they'll be thawed and fresh as new.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Polly want a Pie

Andy and I had dinner with friends on the weekend, and we were asked to bring dessert. My problem is that I don't want to be a one-trick pony, constantly making the same things to share. But at the same time, I obviously want to use recipes that I know work, especially when sharing. So I spent some time trawling through all the "dessert" tagged posts on this blog, looked through my cookbooks, thought about the weather, and settled on pie.

I have made this pie, once before, a long time ago. The recipe is from the Food Network, and it's called "Polly's Perfect Blueberry Pie". (Hence Andy's suggested title for this blog post.) It may be more of a tart than a pie, but regardless of semantics, it is a really great recipe. It is easy to do, and quick. And the best part is that the press-in pie crust doesn't require ice cold ingredients, it isn't aided by a food processor, and there is no rolling out. Perfect for a pastry-phobe in the tropical summer. And since it's not at all about developing glutens, I suspect that gluten-free flour would be just fine (but this is an un-tested hypothesis).

Here's how it goes.

2 c. sifted plain flour
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 to 2/3 c. sunflower oil
3 to 4 Tbsp. non-dairy milk

500grams (1 quart) frozen blueberries, thawed
3-4 Tbsp. corn flour
3/4 c. sugar
a dash of cinnamon
a dash of nutmeg
1 tsp. lime juice
4 tsp. margarine (optional, but my mum always did this, so I do too)

The crust can be mixed in the pie plate, and this is what I did, but I think it would be easier to do well in a bowl. In a 9 inch pie pan, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt. In a jug, mix the oil and milk. Drizzle over the dry ingredients and mix with a fork until everything is dampened, but try to avoid over mixing.

Use your hands to press the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan. About 1/3 should fall over the edge of the pan, keep this until later.

If you've mixed the dough in a bowl, just keep some of the mixture separate from the start.

Tidy up the edge of the crust, and then prepare the filling. In a bowl, mix the berries, corn flour, sugar, and spices. Pour them into the crust. Sprinkle the lime juice over the berries, then dot with margarine and sprinkle the reserved crust crumbles over the top.

Bake the pie in a 180(350F) oven for 45 to 50 minutes (if the berries are still frozen, the pie will take a while). If the crust is browning but the filling isn't setting up, cover the pie with aluminium foil.

Our was a little juicy, but when it cooled fully, it was fine. I was pretty nervous before cutting that the crust would crumble and we'd be eating a sloppy mess, but it worked perfectly.

This was really good. I wish we had more right now.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Healthy vs. Junky

When Andy was away for two weeks, in addition to a smoothie a day, I ate some other things, too. The last few times I've been home alone I have experienced severe lack of motivation to cook much more than noodles or toast. But not this time! This time I did cook some stuff, but it wavered between being mega-healthy, and mega-junky. All delicious, though.

I started by making a raw cabbage salad, with grated carrot, nigella seeds, and a little bit of olive oil and vinegar.

I often came home from work and snacked on such healthy delights as cucumber (or carrot) and cannellini bean dip.

I made a bowl o' potatoes + beans + carrot + spinach + garlic, which was a pretty healthy dinner.

But then I ate an entire dinner of nachos - not the loaded kind of nachos that Andy and I usually have, which match the junkiness of chips with healthy beans & veggies. These nachos were reminiscent of the sort of snack you can get at takeaway shops (at least, where I grew up). The snack which consists of a container of tortilla chips, smothered in melty-processed "cheese" from a tub. I say "cheese" in quotes, because I suspect it was more chemical than anything else. But, for some reason, I wanted to eat that, so I made a vegan version, using the recipe for Nacho Cheeze from the Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook.

It was good, but I actually kind of liked the veggie- and bean-centric meals better. I dare not tell teenage-Theresa that this was the case, though.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Polystyrene Slice

Last week I went in to the city, which is only 5 or 6kms from our house but which we very rarely visit. I was there to record an interview with my friend James on ABC Local Radio about veganism, food, and blogging. While I was there, I dropped in to Plant Essentials to replenish my stocks of makeup and lotion. And when I saw a pack of puffed quinoa on a reduced to clear table, I grabbed that as well - good for granola, I thought.

But then, before I could even think about granola, Hannah posted a recipe for peanut butter bubble slice (or, peanut butter rice krispy treats). It looked really good, and I thought, I could make this with things I have on hand - that is, subbing golden syrup for the brown rice syrup, and using these quinoa puffs instead of rice bubbles.

So I tried it out. First, I measured my puffed quinoa into a bowl. Nacho was interested, so to avoid her putting her paw in the bowl, I put a few puffs onto the counter for her. That was my first indication that puffed quinoa has a lot in common with polystyrene balls (you know, the kind you fill a bean bag with). They flew across the counter on the power of the fan breeze, ending up all over the kitchen.

I forged ahead, using crunchy peanut butter, of course, because why not? I also threw a bit of LSA into the mix, so I could pretend this slice is healthy. And, since we don't have a microwave, I did it all on the stove.

These are not as good as I expect an actual rice bubble slice is - too much puff, not enough krispy. But, it's really not bad. It's salty-sweet-nutty, and the crunchy peanut butter helps the polystyrene-ish quinoa slice to have a bit of texture. It is a good mid-morning uni snack, with enough protein and carbs to get me through till lunch. So while it's not a total, utter win, it's certainly not a fail, either.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Smoothie Central

My mum got us a ginormous mixer/blender/more attachments than I know what to do with thingie for Christmas. When we got it, we couldn't figure out how to actually open the blender jug, and it was nowhere in the instructions. Everything we tried seemed like it would break a brand new blender jug, so we put it in the back of the cabinet, emailed the company, and kind of forgot about it. Till the end of January, that is, when I remembered, and we pulled it out, carefully examined the largely unhelpful diagram on a sticker, and then realised it was actually quite easy. The tricky part was that the blender doesn't unscrew normal way - instead of "righty tighty, lefty loosey", it is some non-rhyming, and thus nonsensical, scheme.

Once we figured out how to open it, we could use it. That coincided with me being home alone for the past two weeks, and I decided that while Andy was away, I'd have a smoothie every day! I don't know why it had to be when he's away, but it made sense at the time.
Mango, banana, soymilk, oats, and LSA.

Andy comes home tomorrow, so now seems like a good time to share my smoothie knowledge, and photos. Some of these things may not be revelations to anyone, but they were to me - I've been slow to the smoothie bandwagon, because of the lack of blender till now.
Banana, peanut butter, and soy milk.

Frozen fruit makes a smoothie which is more like a bowl of ice cream. And there is nothing more wonderful than having a bowl of ice cream for breakfast. Fruit that is cut before freezing is best for my (non-Vitamix) blender, except in the case of bananas - whole-frozen bananas break into pieces pretty easily, but once they've been sliced it seems the pieces freeze together into a block.
Pina Colada - pineapple, coconut milk, and lime juice.

Frozen pineapple is really good, but it's probably worth cutting out the fibrous core before freezing. We don't bother with this when we're eating pineapple, but there were a few fibrous chunks in my pineapple-y smoothies.
Tropical - mango, banana, pineapple, LSA, oats, lime juice, and coconut milk.

Green smoothies are fo reelz - they don't taste like spinach at all. I knew this in my head, and have always thought green smoothies are a cool idea, but when confronted with my first celadon-hued smoothie, I was a bit trepidatious. Until I had a taste.
Oats, almond meal, ceylon spinach, mango, banana, and pineapple.

In addition to adding green veggies, you can make orange smoothies, with carrot!
Oats, almond meal, carrot, spinach, blueberries, raspberries, banana, and sunflower butter.

Adding a small handful of oats, soaked overnight in water or milk (soy or coconut, for me), makes me feel full all morning.
Oats, banana, almond meal, and I don't know what else!

I had the clever (I thought) idea of soaking almonds and adding them to the smoothie, like basically making almond milk without straining. Not a good idea - the smoothie had lots of throat-tickling chunks of almond that were still chew-able, rather than soft. Almond meal, however, is a good way to pump up the protein for a post-exercise smoothie without choking.
Almonds, soaked in a bit of water, and blended up with a banana, and with soymilk that was rinsed around a nearly-empty jar of chocolate sauce.

I prefer to eat my smoothie out of a bowl, with a spoon, in almost every case. This reduces the likelihood of painful brain freezes.  This one looked thin enough for a glass, but then I ended up eating with a spoon in the end.

Brain freeze aside, eating a big bowl of ice cream for breakfast did make me very cold on a few occasions - it must have cooled my core down, or something. This was good on the mornings when I rode in to uni, but on a Saturday morning I had to dive back under the doona to warm up - when it was 32 degrees outside.
Blueberries, mango, pineapple, oats, flax seeds.

Getting 2-4 serves of fruit, the odd serve of vegetable, a serve of rolled oats, and most mornings some almond meal and/or flax seeds is a pretty good start to the day, I think.
Carrots, oats, almond meal, flax seeds, mango, and banana.

So, what am I missing? I readily admit that I am still a smoothie novice, so give me your favourite smoothie tips!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Papaya Curry

Andy and I like, but don't love, pawpaws - the red ones are usually pretty yummy, but the yellow variety sometimes has a bit of unpleasant flavour. But, they grow so prolifically, so we often find ourselves gifted with fruit. And I would never, ever say no to free fruit & veg, so we find ways to enjoy it. One thing that we have found about pawpaw is that we prefer them when they are picked on the green side, and then eaten when they are *just* underripe.

But sometimes, we get fruit, and we find ourselves jumping the gun - we cut too soon. We do this frustratingly often, with avocados, mangoes, and now, pawpaws. This one was actually too underripe for us to want to eat, but then we thought back to our adventures with unripe jackfruit, and wondered if unripe papaya could be used as a vegetable.

We put it in a curry, and the answer is, yes. It's slightly sweet, but no more than a sweet potato. We upped the spiciness factor by pounding some of the pawpaw seeds into the curry paste - did you know the seeds are edible, and super peppery? We usually dry them out and store them in the pepper grinder. Aside from the seeds, this curry paste had turmeric and chilli, from Dee & BoaB's garden, and ginger and garlic, with a bit of coconut cream to make it saucy. And pawpaw chunks were accompanied by onion, carrot, kangkong (water spinach) from a bucket in our back courtyard, and eggplant. The pawpaw and the eggplant came from my friend James' garden, so this was a very local meal.
Pawpaw Curry

So - unripe fruit can be used as vegetables. You have no idea how excited this makes us.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Choko Stew

I've talked about chokoes (aka chayotes) before on this blog, and even posted my favourite choko recipe - that is, my favourite winter choko recipe. At the moment, it is far too hot to have the oven on, even briefly.But, chokoes are a veggie that grows locally, lasts in the fridge for aaaages, and is pretty versatile (rumour has it they are actually the main ingredient in McDonald's apple pie filling!). So we grabbed some at the market recently, because even though I can't stuff 'em and bake 'em, I can use them in other ways.

For example, steamed, with sauce.
In this case, with pan fried potatoes, and steamed spinach and green beans, covered in garlicky tahini sauce.

The most exciting part about this cooking method is that sometimes your choko shows you some love.
Love choko

But Andy and I sort of made up this recipe for a Mexican-inspired choko stew. The best thing about this is that it takes only 30 minutes from "Go to Woah", as they say, including polenta-cooking. Take that, Jamie Oliver. Also, it's versatile. I've made it twice, the second time deviating quite far from the recipe, and both times were equally delicious. It can be veggie packed, or if your fridge is a little bare, it can focus on beans or TVP. It's gluten free, and can really easily be soy free. So, essentially, it's a good all-rounder.

So what I'll do is post the recipe as we made it the first time, since, for a change, we actually wrote down most of what we did. Then I'll tell you about my second batch.

Choko Stew
1 red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. minced chilli
1 choko, cut into wedges and then chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 c. TVP crumbles, soaked in 1 c. vegan chicken or veggie stock
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. paprika
1 small fresh tomato, chopped
2 x 400ml tins of tomatoes (diced or whole peeled, just squash them if they're whole)
1 T. dried celery (or use celery seeds, or celery salt)
1/4 c. capsicum (we used pre-frozen)
salt and pepper to taste

Start by heating a pot over medium low heat. Quickly slice up the onion, then start that sauteeing in some oil. While the onion sautees, chop the garlic, chilli, and other veggies. When the onion is quite soft, mix in the garlic and chilli. Stir them around for about a minute, then add the choko and carrot. Stir them around for another minute, then add the remaining ingredients. Let it come up to a boil, then drop it down to a simmer, and cook for about 20 minutes, until the veggies are soft.

While the stew simmers, you can put together a quick polenta.

1 c. vegan chicken stock
1/4 c. soy milk
1 T. olive oil
1/2 c. dry polenta

Bring the stock, milk and oil to just below boiling and then whisk in the polenta. Cook it over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, until nice and thick. It's best to dish it out into bowls straight away, before it sets to the shape of your saucepan.

We served this first batch, on the polenta, with a scoop of Uncheese we had leftover from some other thing, which was yummy. We got four Andy & Theresa-sized serves, which could easily stretch to 6. The polenta was only enough for three, though, so probably double it if you're hungry.
Polenta TVP stew

The next time I made this, which was just 2 days ago, I made the following changes:
  • I used a brown onion, and chopped it instead of slicing
  • I left out the chilli
  • I added a sweet potato, chopped up
  • I used a tin of 4bean mix instead of TVP
  • I used 1 tin of tomatoes, 400ml of vegan chicken stock, and no fresh tomato
  • And I left out the celery and capsicum
See, it's versatile. 
 This would be good with black beans or kidney beans, and served over quinoa or rice instead of polenta. Try it out, and let me know how it goes!

Monday, February 06, 2012

Fun with a Capital F

Capital, because I'm talking about our visit to Washington, DC. Which, aside from being my place of birth, is also the capitol of the US. And a place where we spent a few days on our travels round the globe.

I posted two on-the-run posts about DC while we were travelling, marvelling at the delicious and plentiful vegan options. I stand by that assertion - it seems like every restaurant we passed had easily veganisable options. And let's just remember back to the vegan pizza I got from z.Pizza, a non-vegan chain, and the vegan white velvet cupcake from a non-vegan cupcakery.

We stayed outside of DC, in another AirBnB place in Alexandria. It was a little out of the way, a 20 minute train ride to the end of the line followed by a 20 minute bus ride into the deep heart of American Suburbia. On our first evening, we got frighteningly lost after we got off the bus - it felt a little like the twilight zone, because we turned down roads that deposited us right back where we started. And in the suburbs, no one is around to ask for directions, especially not after 8pm. 45 minutes later we found our way, and the next day we made sure to bring a map.

It wasn't too bad, but just meant that we spent our days out and cooked dinner at the house and went to bed early. And our host was just the loveliest person you could ask for.
The leaves were changing when we were there, which was also lovely.

On our first full day in DC, we got off the train in the heart of Alexandria and went to Whole Foods, stocking up on bread, vegan hot dogs, vegan mac&cheese, and pasta. These sustained us in the evenings. We had morning tea one morning via an excellent Latina grocery store near the Huntington train station - these pineapple turnovers were fully vegan, and sweet and excellent, to boot.

Grocery stores and restaurants aside, we spent some time looking at monuments and memorials.

But mainly, it was raining, so we spent a whole lot of time in museums. Not once did we pretend to be Ben Stiller and Amy Adams.

The Smithsonians are all free, and not in that "By donation but we'll guilt you if you don't give us half your life savings" way that some museums are free (dirty look directed at the Natural History Museum in NYC).

In the American history museum we went to the exhibit on contraceptives, and I laughed out loud and pointed at this badge...

Which prompted a young (11years old?) girl nearby to look closely and then declare, "That's disgusting, mom." I felt judged.

We looked at rocket ships.

And dinosaurs.

And intricately beaded artwork.

In between the rain, we also saw the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, and, similarly, Occupy DC.

And China Town.

And the reflection pool, under construction so I couldn't pretend to be Jenny Gump and run across it.

And the White House. We weren't invited in, which is just rude.

All up - DC is a great place to get your fix of learnings for freeee, surrounded by easy to find vegan food.