Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pesto Factory

A few weeks ago, Andy and I decided that we should dig up one of our garden beds, mix some more organic matter into the soil, widen the bed and edge it properly, so that it didn't dry out so much or be infiltrated with grass so easily. The garden bed in question was growing a big, prolific row of rocket (aka arugula), and a straggly, pathetic row of beetroot. So we harvested them, and as Andy dug, I made pesto.
The harvest from our beetroot plants. They weren't so tasty.

This was a serious mission, primarily because we are ill-equipped. Though I sometimes think we are a bit gadget crazy, we don't have a food processor. We have a small mini-chopper, but I smugly thought I would make my pesto by hand in the pestle&mortar.
A pretty big pile of rocket, with some beetroot leaves for pinkness.

This idea, to be quite frank, was a stupid idiot, and I realised as much after one batch. The rocket was stringy, and didn't want to pound down very well. And I would have had to do about 20 batches to get them all done, which would have taken hours for sure.

But I kept the pestle&mortar out and used it to crush up my toasted almonds before they went in to the mini chopper.

 Because it is, ahem, mini, it still took about 6 batches to do. It was a constant, stupid process of making a little batch of pesto, usually in a few stages - crush almonds and garlic, add some rocket, miso and olive oil, blend, add some more rocket, taste, add salt and pepper, and so on - then scraping it out into a bowl and starting again. I had to do a lot of mixing in the bowl, too, because each batch was just a little different. There was pesto and oil EVERYWHERE, and I was feeling a little shmeh at the end from all the tasting of the oily-rich pesto.

But I got there, and managed to make a pretty substantial bowl of pesto.

Andy made me some "lunch" of cucumber & tomato pesto bites, which were really very delicious, and might be a fancy party snack idea.

I transferred the pesto to 6 jars (about 2 meals per jar) and froze 4. We have had pesto on pasta and gnocchi. Because we didn't have any lemon, and because rocket is less exciting than basil, it's never as good as we expect, but it is still yummy.

We've had pesto pizza, too. And we mixed a little pesto in mayo to go with some BBQ veggies.

What's your favourite way to use pesto?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mushrooms on Toast

I know mushrooms (much like olives) tend to polarise people. Some people hate them, but Andy and I love them. We don't buy them very often, because they are usually about $10 a kilo - which isn't very much when you consider how light they are, but is a mental hurdle we struggle to jump. But when we do see them for a little bit cheaper, we tend to get a lot of them. And, in the interests of using them when they're nice, rather than letting them go slimy in the fridge, we tend to use them as feature ingredients.

One of our favourite uses for mushrooms is breakfast-style, on toast (sometimes for dinner, or lunch, but breakfast-style, anyways). Breakfast mushrooms are quick to make, filling and tasty, and take very little in the way of actual cooking skills. Basically, perfect for a weekend morning. They are also easy to vary. Our favourite way to have them is in the form of Creamy Breakfast Mushrooms, which I'll post a recipe for below, but sometimes we saute them with olive oil and balsamic, or with lime and soy, or just with butter (nuttelex, obvi) and salt & pepper.

So here, step by step, is how I put together a cafe-style breakfast in less than 15 minutes.

Creamy Breakfast Mushrooms

Put a skillet on medium-high heat. Take 4 slices of bread out of the freezer (unless you don't freeze your bread, of course!) to thaw. Peel and thinly slice a clove or two of garlic. Put the garlic, along with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and/or butter in the frying pan.

Grab your mushrooms, wipe any obvious dirt off with a tea towel (don't wash mushrooms - they absorb the water, or something, and it makes them go a bit yuck), and slice them thickly. If you can find them on special, or don't mind paying for them, pre-sliced mushrooms make this SO QUICK.

Put them in the pan with the garlic, and stir them around. The hotter you cook them, the better, because they brown quickly without losing all their liquid and kind of... stewing.

While the mushrooms cook, put 3 tablespoons of corn flour in a jug. Mix in the juice from half a lime, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, and about 1/3 of a cup of coconut cream. Whisk this together until it's smooth. While you're doing this, stir the mushies every now and then.

If you have some, dash outside really quickly and grab some parsley, and give it a quick chop.

When the mushrooms just start to soften, put your bread in the toaster.

Re-mix up your corn flour mixture and then immediately pour it into the pan with the mushies, and give it a good stir. It should thicken pretty much straightaway. Let it cook for about a minute, and then turn off the heat. Stir in the parsley, and taste to see if it needs salt or pepper.

When the toast is done, you can put on some butter if you're feeling indulgent, or just put it on the plate and scoop some mushrooms on top.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Doctor Who Party

Last weekend, Australian TV screened the last episode in the latest series of Doctor Who. Andy and I are relatively new Whovians, coming to the series in the last few episodes of David Tennant's period as the Doctor. We've since caught up on almost all the episodes that have made up the new incarnation of Doctor Who, thanks to ABC2's nightly Doctor Who episodes a few months ago. I am completely unfamiliar, though, with the older shows, unfortunately!

Of all the beings, friendly and otherwise, the Doctor encounters, the only ones that genuinely frighten me are the Weeping Angels:
So when I saw that last week's episode would be a Weeping Angel episode, I decided that there would be strength in numbers, and invited two of my Whovian friends over to watch with me.

We started before the show started with some veggie sausage rolls, filled with lentils, bulgur, TVP, and grated carrot. They were really yummy, and between the four of us, we ate this whole tray - Andy was the MVP in that game.

For dessert, we had some "jammie dodgers", which are reportedly the Doctor's favourite food, and also pretended to be a "Tardis remote self-destruct button" in one episode with the Daleks. These are actually Arnott's Raspberry Shortcakes, which are ninja vegan and which I'm pretty sure are the same thing as jammie dodgers.

And I made Ood cupcakes!

Not exactly like the original, but Ood-ish.

These are chocolate cupcakes, with peanut butter icing, and the Ood-ish features are made from cut up Extreme Sour Straps (which are also ninja vegan).

It was a good way to ease the tension of the Weeping Angels! But now Doctor Who is over for another series, and I've got to find something else to do with my Saturday evenings...

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Kiwi Coconut Upside Down Cakes

After trying to Eat All The Food in Brisbane last weekend, I spent Sunday getting ready for, and then being at, a Townsville Vegan picnic.

It was supposed to be in one of Townsville's botanical gardens, but the sky was gray and we got scared it would rain (of course it was lovely at the time of the picnic) so we switched the location to my house. It was a small gathering of people, but it was worth doing because I got to meet new vegans! By new vegans, I don't mean that they are newly vegan, but rather that I've never met them before.

You see, we North Queenslanders have recently been joined by Stevie and Luc, creators of the really great vegan podcast Team Earthling. I have been listening to their podcast for a few weeks now, when I walk the dog in the mornings, and I really love it. So it was great to have the opportunity to meet them in person! Me & Andy and Stevie & Luc were also joined by Matt & Thomas. I've known Matt for a few years now and he's one of my main Townsville vegan friends, and his son Thomas has been joining us since he was born a year and a half ago.

I did what I always do and forgot to take pictures of all the picnic food that people brought, despite full intentions to photo-document everything - there was cucumber sushi (from me), bread and bagel chips with guacamole and eggplant-y hummus (Stevie & Luc), chocolate tart, biscuits and fruit (Matt). But I did snap a photo of my sweet offering before people arrived. So I give you that, along with a recipe.

Kiwi Coconut Upside Down Cakes

3 kiwi fruits, peeled and cut into 12 thick slices
1/4 c. vegan butter or coconut oil
1/2 c. brown sugar

1 c. plain flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. bicarb soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. coconut oil
1 c. coconut cream
2/3 c. sugar
1 c. desiccated coconut

Lightly oil the sides of a 12-cup muffin tin. In a mini frying pan or saucepan, melt together the vegan butter and brown sugar. Bring it up to the boil, and cook for 3 or 4 minutes, until it starts to get thick and caramel-y. Spoon this into the bottom of each muffin cup. Place a slice of kiwi fruit on top of caramel.

Heat oven to 180 (350F). In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, bicarb soda and salt. In a large bowl mix coconut oil, coconut cream, and sugar. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix gently. If you overmix this, your cakes will rise in a funny shape which is no good for the upside-downing. Fold in the coconut. Spoon batter gently into the muffin cups on top of the kiwi slices and caramel. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until cooked through and springy.

Loosen the cupcakes with a butter knife or similar utensil, then invert the muffin tin onto a board. Gently lift it up as you coax the cakes out of the pan. When I did this, a lot of kiwi fruit slices stayed in the pan, but it's very easy to stick those back on the cakes. And the slightly ragged look of these adds to their appeal, maybe? In any case, they are too yummy to really judge by appearance!