Friday, November 30, 2007

Fusion cuisine?

South Asia meets Mediterranean meets North Queensland.

First, Kumudha's Indian vegan omelette. A batter of chickpea flour and veggies seems simple, but the taste is divine. Andy thought it even had a hint of egginess. We made a few changes to Kumudha's recipe, because, well, that's how we roll. Also, we doubled it and got three big omelettes. This was so good. Make it. Like, soon.

We served ours topped with tomato sauce. Note: it's definitely best when hot, it's alright when room temperature, but quite ordinary when cold. Eat it straightaway!
On the side, was Potato Salad, from a recipe loosely based on a newspaper recipe.
The dressing was a mixture of tahini, tofutti cream cheese, soy milk, lemon juice, and mint. Andy thought it tasted like tzatziki. Either way, it was good.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Although being a vegan is easy, not to mention the only way to live, it gets a bit trickier when alcohol is involved. I'm not talking about drunken cravings for cheese or anything like that. The simple act of choosing a beer is hard on a vegan! Some use isinglass, from the swim bladders of fish, in the fining process, others contain honey, or egg albumins. Sure, there are plenty of internet resources, but sometimes the easiest way to ensure the veganity of something is to make it yourself. And, with the right equipment (which requires a minor investment to start with), making your own beer is easy, cheap, and fun.

Instead of doing the brewing ourselves, which is complicated and takes ages, Andy and I buy these canisters of pre-mixed beer bases. You can get all kinds of brews, and can experiment with mixing for more complex flavours. This ginger beer came with the syrupy beer, a yeast packet, and a 'yeast feeder'. To make non-alcoholic ginger beer, add 1 cup of sugar.

To make the adult version, add a whole kilo of sugar. We buy this convenient mix of dextrose, corn syrup, and malt from our local home brew shop.
First, mix the sugar, beer syrup, and a few litres of boiling water in the fermenting drum. Mix realllly well, so lots of air gets in.
Then, pour in cool distilled water, about 15-20 litres. Pouring it from high up means more aeration and better beer.
Sprinkle the yeast packet onto the top of the mix, but don't stir it up.

Then, put the lid on, insert the airlock (which bubbles to show how much fermenting is happening), and put the fermenter where the temperature will stay fairly constant. Let it sit for about a week. If it's cold, it will take longer.
After a week, you've got alcohol, but it lacks fizz. Take the lid off and have a look inside. Have a taste at this stage. Though it's not fizzy, you will get an idea of the flavour the beer will have.
To make bubbles, you need more sugar. These sugar droplets are easy and don't make a mess--one for every regular sized bottle, or two for long-necks.
Sterilise all the bottles, and anything you use in the brewing process, because bacteria or mould makes the beer taste terrible.
With the sugar drops in, fill the bottles. It helps to have a bucket or pan underneath to catch any drips.
Use a fancy bottle capper to put the lids on the bottles...
And then put the bottles in the same place you put the fermenter. And wait. And wait. At least 3 weeks, though 6 or 8 weeks is better. When you can't stand it any longer, open the bottle and pour yourself a glass of homemade beer!
This ginger beer is better than any commercial brands we've tried, and not just because it's alcoholic! It's got more zing to it. And, there is no question about the veganity of it. Sure, the beer is a bit cloudy because there is no fining process, but it tastes good and it's satisfying to know that you made it yourself!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Finally, APV food

After ten days of entertaining my parents, showing them around town, and feeding them, it was sort of nice to have things back to normal. But first! We had to bring them to the airport for their 6 am flight. That involved waking up at 4:15, which is not something I want to do again soon. But, with contacts in and clothes on, falling back asleep when we got home a bit after 5 wasn't really an option. What else would a hungry vegan do but make breakfast?

Specifically, biscuits and gravy. I didn't have any baking powder, and despite every biscuit recipe I own calling for it, I wasn't going to let that stop me. No, I merely subbed baking powder and didn't think to add something acidic, like lemon juice or vinegar, so the biscuits weren't the fluffiest or the lightest. Oh well, they can't all be winners. The gravy had crumbled up Chicken-style seitan and lots of spices, so that it sort of tasted like sausage gravy.
Since we had such an early start to the day, we went to uni, but by 11 am both Andy and I were dragging. So we called it a day and came home. For lunch, 2 minute noodles mixed with satay seasoning and a scoop of chunky peanut butter. Cheap and easy, but oh so satisfying!
When you wake up before dawn, the day seems to last forever. Because it was American Buy Nothing Day, we took advantage of some of Townsville's free activities and went to the Mango Festival! I was really looking forward to this, and expected lots of mango sales, plus mango salsa, chutney, etc. It would have been cool to have a mango cook/bake-off, or maybe bobbing for mangos or a mango eating contest. Well, there was none of that. It was just a regular school fete, with classrooms turned into mini-golf, and teachers selling crafts and soft drinks. There was one person selling mangos, and one person selling sauces (one of which was mango sauce). Lame. So we came home and I made bagels.
We didn't eat them until the next morning. I toasted them and topped them with Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese, which Andy had gotten me for my birthday... isn't he sweet?

And finally, something we scraped together for lunch. We had very few veggies, very little bread, and no leftovers to snack on. So we took some BBQ sauce, added a tin of borlotti beans, and served it on toast.At least it gave Andy the energy to go out and vote. Though we still don't really know the result of the local elections. 83% of the vote has been counted, and there is exactly a 1.0% margin between George Colbran, labor candidate and owner on 9 local McDonald's, and Peter Lindsay, current Liberal MP for Townsville. I'm on the edge of my seat waiting for the results....

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

DPV Food!

In all, my parents were in town for 10 days worth of eating. They don't know I have a vegan blog--I don't know how I'd feel about my parents checking up on me! They are decidedly not vegan, and a bit turned off by meals without meat. Still, I got them to eat vegan meals for half of the dinners they were here. Let's see, I served them dhal, risotto, curry, burritos, and a salad dinner (potato salad, pasta salad, and stir-fried veggies). They aren't breakfast people, but they had soymilk in their coffee--my mum found out the hard way that soy milk plus fake sugar equals curdled coffee! We ate in restaurants more during their stay than I have all year, I think. I discovered a few more vegan-friendly places, like a kebab shop that serves falafels, and we also visited some old favourites, like the chinese place and a noodle bar in town.

I didn't take many food photos while they were here, but I snapped a few. Here is the food we ate During my Parents' Visit:

What better way to welcome guests to the tropics than with fruit? Three small, sweet pineapples at various stages of ripeness meant we ate lots of pineapple!

Jackfruit is too much of an undertaking for us to buy a whole one, but we buy it pre-cut in tubs from the market.
I went over to Magnetic Island with my parents for a few days while Andy stayed home. On Saturday, mum and dad went out to the reef for a day of snorkelling, glass-bottom-boating, and swimming. I came home to find a birthday breakfast of coconut pancakes with mixed berry sauce! My birthday wasn't until Sunday, but it was so sweet of Andy to make such a yummy brunch.
One day we went up to Paluma, a world heritage rainforest area. In the carpark was a BIG mango tree, so Andy utilised all of his 6 feet 6 inches, plus his long reach, to pick as many mangos from the branches as he could. This was the bounty.
We also got my parents to try black sapote, but they weren't bowled over by the plain fruit. So I turned the rest of it into ice cream. Just mash until it's creamy, mix in the juice of one orange, and freeze. Voila!
So hopefully they have a better opinion of vegan food after this trip. I didn't want to push them too far with something as crazy as tofu (gasp!), but I think between the fruits and the veg, they got some good, healthy, tasty meals.

Monday, November 26, 2007

BPV Food

I have a lot of food pictures to post, because when my parents were in Townsville I didn't get much chance to check my email, let alone blog about meals. Instead of overwhelming you with 10 skillion photos in one post, I'm only posting pictures from Before my Parents' Visit--BPV meals. Stay tuned for DPV and APV posts, in the next few days.

First up, an entree. Some bruschetta, in fact. Andy's specialty, a mixture of tomatoes, basil, olives, capers, and garlic, mixed up with a bit of balsamic and spooned onto toasted bread rolls.
For breakfast, some tofu scramble. Mostly the recipe from VwaV, but with a few changes. But, this was a while ago, so I don't remember what they were! Served with avocado and toast, and tomato sauce to serve. This, along with a great cuppa tea, made for a tasty start to the day.

Jerk flavoured seitan cutlets. Take an ordinary boiled seitan recipe, but before you boil it, form into patties. Cook them in a frying pan for a few minutes on each side, so they are well browned. Then boil for 30 minutes, and let cool in the liquid for another 30. These had some jerk seasoning in the seitan, and then they were marinated in more. Served with grilled capsicum, coconut rice, and salad.
The leftovers make great burgers, too. The next day for lunch, on a sandwich with salad and tomato sauce.
Udon noodles with peanut sauce, sweet soy tofu, and veggies. Another dinner based on a VwaV recipe, though changed around a bit. Are you noticing a trend? Andy and I have a hard time sticking to recipes. Call it non-conformist, or something like that.
There were other pictures, but I honestly can't remember what they were! But there are some yummy ones coming up, including a birthday breakfast Andy made for me, and a frozen confection. Plus, when my parents get their photos up online, I can post some pictures of their visit. So there is a lot in the works for the Tropical Vegan, stay tuned!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Buy Nothing Day

For 15 years, Adbusters has promoted Buy Nothing Day, rather than the purely commercial "Black Friday". I heard about it through Vegan Voice magazine, (I received the new issue in the post yesterday), and blog's like Bazu's.

I completely agree with the concept of Buy Nothing Day. Especially after spending 10 days with my parents, who are the typical American consumers. Since I haven't seen them in about 18 months, and haven't spent much time with big-time consumers, I was quite shocked at their flippant attitude towards consumption, money, and trash. Why cook when we can go out to eat? Why keep something that's a little broken but still use-able, if you can just buy another? The amount of empty softdrink bottles was surprising--it normally takes Andy and me a week to fill up our box for recyclables, but my parents managed to do so in two days.

Although I love my parents and it was great to see them, I've forgotten how annoying that American attitude is. (Let me point out that I am not generalising all Americans, especially not vegans. But, the view of things as disposable seems to go hand-in-hand with the SAD and the belief that animals are around purely for our benefit.) So, to celebrate, I'm embracing Buy Nothing Day. According to the website, today is American BND, and tomorrow is International BND. Well, I'm buying nothing on both days. A master cleanse, of sorts.

Buy Nothing Christmas? I won't be able to participate completely (I've already bought some [vegan] gifts for people), but Andy and I have decided to skip pressies this year. I'll keep you posted on what we do instead...

P.S. I'm slowly but surely getting up to date on all your blogs!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Home again, home again

I've charged up the batteries and downloaded photos from before Canberra, and also taken some since I've been home. Here's what we've been eating...

Pasties, with a side salad.
The filling was a mixture of roasted sweet potatoes, leftover rice, kidney beans, leftover cheez sauce, and raw corn.
A tofu cheezcake. I got the recipe from the back of a silken tofu container. All it calls for is 3 packs of silken tofu (I cut the recipe down 2/3's and used one plain silken and one mango flavoured), sugar, lemon juice, liquid sweetener (golden syrup) and a crust. I used the granola nut crust from Ultimate Uncheese. The recipe said to bake for 40 minutes until it's set, but this was in the oven for probably twice as long. I came home the next day and Andy had left a significant dent on the cake, but hadn't bothered to cut pieces. So we just ate the rest of the cheezcake that way. It was pretty good, but would have been better with fruit on top.
A funny melon we found at a produce stand. It was lemon yellow outside, but white inside, with really runny seeds. The flavour was super sweet and less melon-y than a honeydew.
A black sapote milk shake made by Andy. Put some sapote and soy milk in a jar, shake like hell, and serve.

Now, the post Canberra food. SusanV's seitan ribz, Beets Me Potato salad, and raw salad. The ribs were made a month or so ago and frozen. The BBQ sauce is based on the Pomegranate BBQ recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance (which I now finally own, thanks so much to Anna). Instead of pomegranate molasses I used plum sauce, and instead of maple syrup I used golden syrup. Everything else was the same though, and this was GOOD. The raw salad is raw corn, basil from the garden, and tomato with a bit of sea salt and pepper. Chocolate cake. I used the recipe for Raspberry Blackout Cake with Ganache-y Icing from Vegan with a Vengeance. Instead of raspberry I used mashed banana, because we had some that needed using. I cut the recipe in half, and I didn't use any icing. At the last minute, Andy decided he wanted some raspberry, so I swirled some jam through the batter before baking. This cake is so moist and delicious.
Homemade salsa. Grilled green capsicum, fresh tomato and raw corn, with red chilli flakes (from the garden) and black pepper.
Layered together with some refried beans, Nacho Cheez sauce from Ultimate Uncheese, guac, and fresh coriander. The concept for this dinner was shamelessly stolen from Veganista's kitchen, but Townsville lacks some ingredients so I improvised. Served with corn chips (next time I'll buy the 'no salt added' ones, because they were SO SALTY!).
Last night's dinner, what Bazu would call "Veg on Veg". Leftover beet/potato salad. Tossed salad with lettuce, cucumber, mushrooms, green beans, capsicum, carrot, and avocado with a splash of Apple Balsamic Vinegar (reduced to clear for $2 a bottle). Jimmy Crack Corn Crack, from The Alternative Vegan by Dino, baked instead of fried. The baking made them a bit dry, so if I do them in the oven again I'll probably add some oil or coconut milk to the batter. And Sesame Asparagus from VwaV, roasted rather than sauteed, since the oven was on.
Thanks, Anna, for the cookbook! As you can see, I've been putting it to good use. I still can't believe it took me so long to get my hands on!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Dining out in Canberra

Dining out in Canberra was SO MUCH easier than dining out in Townsville. So many places to choose from, and so few days (and dollars!) to spend in the city.

The first restaurant we tried was Au Lac Vegetarian Restaurant, renowned for it's vast array of mock meats. We ordered more than we thought we could eat, but then ate it all! Every dish was empty when we were finished. Neither of us had cameras, but imagine: Au Lac special salad with vegetarian 'prawn' crackers, soy chicken nuggets, steamed buns, Soy Beef Satay, and Soy Fish in Clay Pot Sensation! And rice, and to drink I had a coconut juice, the liquid and flesh from a green coconut. It was incredible. The soy beef and fish were a bit creepy, but very tasty. And, considering all the food we ordered, the whole meal cost less than $50--super cheap.

For lunch I visited the Asian buffet at ANU. You get a plate and get your food, then pay based on how much you've got and what sort of food it is. There were 2 tofu dishes and steamed veggies, in addition to some veggie noodles and spring rolls. I got a pretty big plate for $7, and it was all quite tasty.

Thursday for dinner Anna and I went to Fekerte's Ethiopian Restaurant. This restaurant seemed a bit posh, with simple clean decor. There was an interesting mix of Asian and white workers in the kitchen and waitstaff, and the Ethiopian owner was constantly around wiping tables and making sure everything was okay. The menu stated very clearly that every vegetarian dish was suitable for vegans and used oil instead of butter, and no dairy, eggs, etc. We shared an entree of fava bean dip with some yummy flat bread. Then we split a Vegetarian Platter, which had pumpkin curry, kidney bean curry, potatoes & carrots, spinach, shiro, yellow split peas, and raw veggie salad. The injera was perfectly springy and sour, though we could have used more of it. My other complaint is that it was served in a very western way. Though it was on a platter between us, it was hard to eat Ethiopian style. But, I guess that's what happens when food is exported from its original country. A bit expensive, but totally worth it for a delicious Ethiopian food experience.

Then Friday for lunch I met up with Anna, Cristy, and Lily for lunch (and we had a few conference people tag along as well). We decided on Sizzle Bento, on the ANU campus for cheap and veggie friendly food. We all ordered the Combination Vegetarian, which had veggie sushi, noodles, kelp, and tempura--and they snuck in some egg that we all had to ditch. The food was only okay--the sushi was fine, and the noodles and kelp were good, but the tempura was soggy and lukewarm, and Cristy's was not cooked in the middle. A bit disappointing, but the conversation made up for it! (Note to self: bring cash to this place, they don't take EFTPOS.)

Poor Andy, alone in Townsville, didn't eat quite so well--one day he had a plum sauce stir-fry with gluggy couscous. He defrosted a pizza crust I'd made him but didn't quite bake it all the way so it was a bit doughy. One day he just couldn't be bothered, so he ate garlic bread and a cob of raw corn. I think he's glad I'm back. It's weird, because he's a good cook usually, but I guess he just lacked initiative to cook for himself!

Edited to add: Andy reckons I'm misrepresenting him. He wants me to point out that he *loves* corn raw, and he doesn't want me to cook it ever again. It's not so much that he couldn't be bothered, but he found a new favourite veggie!

I'm back to normality for a week, and then my parents are coming to visit! They'll be here for 12 days, including my birthday, so I'll probably continue to stay behind on the blogiverse...


I'm back from my week in the ACT, and I have zero photos to show for it! I charged up some batteries before heading down, but they were the crap ones and they were dead before I put them in the camera. Doh! But, you can check out Veganista's blog for some pictures and her take on things.

I'll start with my minor complaints--Canberra is freakin' cold. I was expecting heat, because Canberra bloggers mentioned 30 degree weather before I left. I brought one sweater, and only thongs for my feet. I was a bit chilly the whole time. It's also a very dry city. There was no moisture in the air, so my eyes were dry, my nose was dry, and my skin was dry. One benefit of the dry air--my hair dried straight. As soon as I got back to Townsville it went annoyingly wavy again.

All told, it was a very fun trip. The conference itself was good, though a little overwhelming at times (both in terms of information overload and not knowing anyone around!). My paper was well received by the small group of people that came to hear it. I heard lots of interesting papers and met lots of interesting people, both fellow post-grad students and lecturers and professionals.

The highlight of the trip was definitely the vegan meet-ups. Anna was extremely generous and invited me to stay with her for the trip, and I got along really well with her and with Suki, Mia, and Madu (though he was a bit indifferent towards me!). We seem to have lots in common--we're both INFJ's with very different backgrounds but similar outlooks on the world and life and things.

We also met up with Cristy and Lily from Two Peas, No Pod for lunch. Unfortunately, the food was the suck, but the conversation was really interesting. Lily was such a well-behaved bub--even when she was getting 'fussy' she was much more calm than many babies I've seen! We talked about PhD's, and travelling, and ecotarianism. I wish I'd had more time with less people around, but we'll just have to meet up again next time!

I ate very, very well during my trip. I think I've eaten in more restaurants in the past week than I have since the start of the year! Canberra has an enormous selection of restaurants, but we only got to try a few. Of course, Chez Anna may have been the best--creative dishes like layered nacho dip, sesame tofu with LOTS of veggies, Mushroom-pecan Pita Burgers with homemade mayo... She is a great cook! I definitely picked up some ideas for new meals and some food photo tips ;-)

I'll do some restaurant reviews in my next post, so this one isn't 100 pages of text only.