Friday, October 30, 2009


Last week I was very generously offered some backyard bananas by fellow Townsvillain Dee, of the blog Cycling Paradise. Of course I accepted, and quickly whipped up a batch of biscuits as payment. When she dropped them off, I was a little taken aback...

How on earth would I be able to use up 4 1/2 big bunches of lady finger bananas, especially given that Andy's away?

A week and a half later, I needn't have worried. I've eated a lot of bananas, in a variety of different forms. First, though, I peeled one whole bunch and put it straight into the freezer for later use.

I've been having lots of sliced banana on my morning muesli.

I had a banana split, with mango and crushed peanuts on vanilla soy ice cream.

Sunday I spent a while baking, to replenish the freezer with post-bike ride snacks and morning tea food. First, spiced banana empanadas. The empanada dough recipe is from The Tropical Vegan Kitchen, but instead of using pumpkin for the filling as she suggests, I used mashed banana mixed with cinnamon and crystallised ginger. Something about these is a little bit funny, texture-wise, but overall I like them.

I also used up some ripe mangoes for Hawaiian Mango-Nut Bread, from The Tropical Vegan Kitchen. Mango, banana, dates, and I used sunflower seeds. This is really yummy, and nice and crunchy on the outside.

All of that got me down to about half...

So I've also been indulging in smoothies. Plain banana + flax + soy milk; sorbet-ish mango + banana + orange juice; and my favourite, banana + chocolate + sunflower butter.

I couldn't let my wealth of bananas pass without venturing into experimental territory, though. I wanted a savoury dish that included bananas, and The Tropical Vegan Kitchen delivered for me. Indian Black Barley Pilaf with Bananas and Oranges, made with plain instead of black barley, and with the addition of spinach. This was an easy dish to make and really just involved dumping everything together and simmering before stirring the fruit in at the end. It was tasty, and the cinnamon and coriander of the dish was well-matched with the tangy orange and the sweet banana.

And just last night I made the "Banana Swirl Cheese Cake" from Vegan Planet. Except, I didn't bother with swirling, and the fact that there is no cream cheese in this recipe leads me to call it "Peanut Butter Banana Pie". This was very simple--make crust, blend tofu with banana, blend tofu with peanut butter, pour into crust and bake. And surprisingly, the tofu seems to have firmed up quite well even without any corn flour or other thickeners. The true test will be today when I take the sides off the pan and try to slice it, so stay tuned for an update.

With all of that, I still have about 10 bananas left at home. With a vegan picnic potluck coming up on Sunday, I'm thinking I have to bring something banana-y. I was thinking about Banana Split Pudding Brownies from Vegan with a Vengeance but am open to other suggestions, so if you know of any great uses for bananas please let me know.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Eating my way around the world.

I may be too poor to travel very often, but at least I can feel like I’m a jetsetter in my kitchen. Let me point out before I start that I am not claiming any sort of authenticity in these dishes; rather, the flavours and/or the cooking style is inspired by global cuisines.

Starting in southeast Asia with a curry. This one is a yellow curry with coconut milk, full of chickpeas, sweet potato, zucchini, carrots, and snow peas.

From the same region, Thai-style peanut burgers. TVP and gluten flour formed the bulk of these burgers, which were flavoured with peanuts, peanut butter, chilli paste and basil. Topped with a peanutty-yogurt sauce with more basil, and resting on a bed of salad, these were a hearty lunch.

Moving north to China, veggie fried rice and General Tsao’s Tofu. I realise that this is a really anglicised version of Chinese food, but sticky spicy tofu!

Westward, into Eastern Europe with Chickpea Paprikash from The Urban Vegan. Andy made this, subbing mashed sweet potato for half the chickpeas. Served on some chunky spaetzle, from the same cookbook, this was really morish. On the side, half an artichoke with caper-dill butter. This was Andy’s first time eating an artichoke and he wasn’t super impressed. I love artichokes, and thought that the dill and capers went really well with it.

On the other side of the globe, something resembling Mexican food. Another recipe from The Urban Vegan, Bean and Bulgur Tacos. Instead of tacos, we rolled ours up and smothered them in enchilada sauce before popping them back into the oven for a few minutes.

Coming soon—what to do with a ridiculous amount of bananas...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Did someone say mango season?

It's that time of year again. The trees have flowered, and their fruits have set and are starting to ripen. Riding my bike home from yoga after dark, the whole town smells like mangoes. But, it's still the early days and no one is selling any mangoes at the markets. So last weekend Andy and I took matters into our own hands. We were at uni on Saturday to do some work, and before going home we toured around to a few of the mango trees on campus and helped ourselves to a bag full of a combination of Bowens and an asian variety (chok annan or nam doc mai, I think).

They were all pretty green and there was no chance they would ripen before Andy set off on his field trip. But, inspired by Brisvegan's green mango salad, I decided to make something with them in their current state. That spiralled into a whole tropical-themed dinner.

Green mango salad with crushed peanuts, the suggested variation of Green Papaya Salad from The Tropical Vegan Kitchen.

Coconut crusted tofu with lemongrass and capsicum sauce, from The Urban Vegan cookbook.

And baked sweet potato chippies, gently spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg.

For dessert, a coconut jelly (agar, sugar, coconut cream) with "Aussie-style Green Mango Sauce" from The Tropical Vegan Kitchen. The green mango sauce is simple--mango, sugar and water, cooked like apple sauce. I don't know how "Aussie-style" it actually is, but it was yummy enough. Andy said it would be better as a chutney than as a dessert item, but I liked its simple sweet-tartness.

Luckily, this all only used about 5 or 6 mangoes, so I've still got a fair few ripening on the benchtop... (See all of my other mango-themed posts.)

Monday, October 19, 2009


Eggplant is one of those veggies that we often get, and rarely know what to do with. Our stock standard for a while was eggplant pasta sauce, or if we were feeling particularly ambitious, eggplant lasagna. Then we shifted to eggplant bharta for a little while. Then we had eggplant schnitzels about once a week.

But the thing is, eggplant is a fairly versatile vegetable. So lately, we've been trying to be a bit more creative with our eggplant meals, as these two examples illustrate.

First, ratatouille pizza. This was my first time making ratatouille, and I like it. Especially when it was paired with a thin, whole wheat crust and some olives. All this needed was some tofu fetta and it would have been perfect.

Here, miso-glazed eggplants. Thick slices of eggplant marinated and then baked in a sauce of miso, brown sugar, a bit of soy sauce and water. With a stuffed pumpkin (with mango-radish stuffing, which was strangely good), a salad, and roasted radishes. These are really good.

We've got another eggplant in the fridge, and Andy is off tomorrow for another long field trip, so if you have any excellent uses for eggplant, please share your ideas!

Monday, October 12, 2009

City Mouse -- Country Mouse

It’s no secret that I am not a city mouse. They are crowded and I feel out of place in cities. I definitely feel at home in small towns, and although I occasionally complain about the lack of fun in Townsville, I do love living here (if anything, it's a little too big).

But, although I don’t feel at home in urban environments, I am in love with the new cookbook, The Urban Vegan: 250 Simple, Sumptuous Recipes from Street Cart Favourites to Haute Cuisine. You may remember that I was a tester while Dynise was developing her cookbook, and I loved all of the recipes that I tried. Now the book is here. I’ve had it for just over a week and we’ve made seven recipes from it (only one of which I had tried during testing).

My first impression of the book—it’s pretty. The cover is colourful and eye-catching, and the layout feels sophisticated. The index is well-done (an important feature in cookbooks, if you ask me). The blurbs before each recipe are entertaining and give you an idea of who Dynise is, which I like. The intro material is also helpful without being verbose or prattling on for too long. We’ve taken Dynise’s advice to heart, particularly the bit encouraging experimentation with recipes. We have a hard time following recipes exactly at the best of times, and since we are in a decidedly un-urban environment we have a hard time finding certain ingredients—so we make do.

Now onto the food...

The first day we got this book, Andy made one of the recipes for dinner. The recipe was for Foil-Roasted Beets with Wasabi Vinaigrette, but we didn’t want to wait the hour that beets would take to roast whole, so we cut them up pre-roasting. This made the cooking process quicker without affecting the flavour at all. The wasabi vinaigrette was a surprisingly perfect companion to the slightly sweet, earthy beetroot. Best of all, this recipe was very easy to make, perfect for the end of a tiring week.

When we went sailing last weekend we wanted to try out one of the lunch recipes, and settled on Sandwich Mousse, with a few substitutions. Borlotti beans stood in for pink beans, but a splash of beetroot juice brightened up the colour. We also used roasted garlic instead of raw, and dill instead of the other herbs, because that’s what grows in our garden. This was a perfect sandwich filler, and it made enough for Sunday lunch plus a few sandwiches throughout the week. Andy liked it so much he’s requested it again for this week’s lunches.

A fantastic side dish from the cookbook is Couscous Mosaic. Full of flavour and simple to make, this recipe made enough to last a few dinners. First, we had it alongside eggplant schnitzels with onion gravy and a veggie salad.

It also went well paired with a dhal burger, Cumin Fried Potatoes from La Dolce Vegan, and another veggie salad.

Chocolate-Chipotle Chilli was a delicious Friday night meal. A lot of ingredients (this isn’t even all of them)...

But with only a few steps for the actual preparation. In place of chipotle, I used a mix of smoked paprika and cinnamon, and some mango-ginger hot sauce stood in for the chilli powder and tamarind. Simmered for a while, and topped with a dollop of guacamole this was declared by Andy to be the best chilli I’ve made. The chocolate gave it a deep, earthy darkness which was lightened up with the sweet corn, the chewy tvp and the black and kidney beans.

For Saturday breakfast, I turned to Better than Buttermilk Pancakes, using the suggested Banana Walnut variation. In batter form I was a little sceptical—the batter had a slightly squicky flavour I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I thought maybe the utter lack of sugar in the pancakes was to blame, but when they were cooked up I had no doubt that they were fantastic. I realised I was picking up on the taste of the uncooked soy bean flour, which I hate but which luckily goes away when cooked. These were perfect pancakes—thick but fluffy. Andy wasn’t impressed with the walnuts in the pancakes—too crunchy—but I thought they were great.

To go with hotdogs and baked beans, Andy whipped up a batch of focaccia, half roasted garlic and half avocado. We made the dough in the bread machine, which is very easy, and were very pleased with the results.

Finally, we like to keep muffins or cupcakes in the freezer to take to uni for morning tea throughout the week. I flipped through and settled on Ninja Ginga Bread, in cupcake form. This time, I used pumpkin puree in place of the apple sauce (which you can’t actually taste at all) and upped the cocoa powder instead of using espresso powder. We ate one warm from the oven, and it was very sophisticated, complex and spicy. I’m looking forward to eating them throughout the week.

All up, I’m so far very impressed with this cookbook. I love that the recipes don't rely too heavily on processed ingredients and mock meats (although they are in there, for the occasional treat). I can’t wait to try out some more.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

C is for cookie... or, B is for biscuit...

While vegan cupcakes may be great and may just take over the world, my addition to the vegan revolution will be in cookie form. They're less work, which is good for lazies like me. They are easier to transport and wrap prettily for gifts. And (possibly most importantly), they post well so I can send them to family and friends around Australia. (This has kind of become my "thang", so much that two of Andy's brothers mentioned vegan cookies on the statements they wrote in support of my permanent residency application.)

Last week was my PhD supervisor's birthday and I collaborated with two of her other students on a gift. We thought about books, about jewelry, about trinkets, about good coffee... but everything was either too personal or too dear. So we decided that edible gifts always go down well. We combined our baking adventures on a pretty plate wrapped in cellophane and ensured good supervision for at least another year ;)

My contribution to the sweets plate was two flavours. First, snickerdoodles. I followed Gina's recipe, posted on Vegan Strong and adapted from VegWeb. Instead of healthy flours, I used plain old white flour. And I needed to add a bit of soy milk, about 1/4 cup, probably because of the 10% humidity we've suffered through recently. Still, these were as perfect as Gina promised, all soft and chewy and cinnamony-delicious.

The second batch was passion fruit-coconut. For this I followed a recipe from Wild Morsels, kind of. Instead of "pulp from two large passionfruits", I used a tin of passion fruit pulp. This seemed to make the dough much wetter than it should have been so I added an extra 1/2 c. of flour. I think I could have even gone more, but I didn't want to stuff around with upping sugar and baking powder as well, so I left the dough a bit moist. To compensate, I rolled each biscuit in coconut before baking. These were a tad cake-y for my liking, but subtle and dare I say, sophisticated.

My second foray of the week in cookie-ing was gluten-free. When I was invited to go sailing with my friend, I remembered her saying that she tries to avoid gluten. I stumbled upon Nora's post about Hannah's simple peanut butter cookies and knew I had to make them. These were a breeze to make, but they stuck to my pan a bit. I made only a quarter of the recipe and added dark chocolate chunks. These were yummy, a bit tricky to eat due to their crumbling but they were popular with everyone on the boat.

Finally, I revisited Gina's perfect biscuit, but switched up the flavours and the flour. Chickpea flour made these suckers gluten free, and I opted for chai-inspired spices and orange oil. They were a bit soft and probably should have baked a few more minutes, but they were tasty and chewy and with a bit of tweaking I think I'll have my go-to GF biscuit.

Monday, October 05, 2009

I'm on a boat...

Yesterday I went sailing with a few friends, and it was fabulous. It was a gorgeous day, blue sky, 33 degrees and just windy enough to move us along comfortably. The boat, a shiny white catamaran, is home to my friend Suzanne and her partner. It was a big boat, but would be a small house!

We set out a bit before lunch towards nearby Magnetic Island.

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I've spent a bit of time on the suburbs and beaches on the east side of Maggie--from Picnic Bay up to Horseshoe, and everywhere in between. But the western side and Five Beach Bay remained off limits to me--they are only accessible by foot or four wheel drive. Or, of course, by boat. So I was very excited when we headed out towards West Point, where we had a quick lunch in the doldrums, before the breeze picked back up again. Andy and I brought sandwiches: a baguette filled with "Sandwich Mousse" from The Urban Vegan cookbook (more on that soon), green capsicum and tomato, plus some salad and pineapple. We filled up on gluten free, vegan biscuits that I brought to share (more on those as well).

Then we ducked around West Point and tucked ourselves in to Five Beach Bay for a swim. The water was lovely and the sun was warm--it was perfect.

We sailed most of the way back to Townsville, spotting the odd dolphin, jumping fish, and possibly a dugong, and made it back just as the sun was setting over Castle Hill. What a great way to spend a Sunday.