Thursday, January 28, 2010


For Christmas this year, my supervisor gave me a spice kit for a Sri Lankan vegetable curry. Her sister makes them, mainly from spices she grows up in north Queensland.

The kit includes a pouch of whole spices, a pouch of the secret family blend of ground spices, and the family recipe with instructions on how to make a Sri Lankan curry.

The flavours are mostly familiar, but include things like pandanus and rumpii leaves which I've never used before.

We cooked ours up with sweet potato, carrot and zucchini, and at the end added some tofu chunks, and served over rice.

It was really delicious -- Sri Lankan curries have a distinct and full flavour that isn't too spicy but is complex with flavour bursts in every bite. I highly recommend this, although they are such a boutique company the product may be hard to find (though, in Australia you may see CurrieZ, which is a rip-off of this idea by a former family friend... I will be staying away from that brand on principal).

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A winning combination?

What could I possibly make with this combination of ingredients? Why would the thought even occur to me to combine potato chips with peanut butter, chocolate and raspberries?

Well, I've been following the travels and chocolate-eatering of one Hannah, of Wayfaring Chocolate blog. She recently trialled a Trader Joe's candy bar, the PB & J. Hannah was disappointed in the product (as were other reviewers I found while googling said candy bar) but I was intrigued. Chocolate, peanut butter and jam -- that makes sense. But potato chips?

Given the utter lack of Trader Joe's in Australia, I set about thinking of ways to create a similar concoction. I seriously considered attempting a candy bar, but instead decided on a slice -- a bit closer to my comfort zone. I also decided to use whole raspberries, instead of raspberry jam, because that's how I roll.

In the end, I very closely followed the recipe for black bottom no-bake peanut butter silk pie (or whatever the name of it is) from Vegan with a Vengeance. Chocolate biscuit crust, then sprinkled with frozen raspberries, peanut butter filling poured over, and chocolate ganache spread across the top before sprinkling with crushed potato chips.

This was good -- not great. The flavour combinations were indeed intriguing and have serious potential. However, there were a few flaws in my technique that need tweaking. For instance, my biscuit bottom was a bit soggy, my chips weren't crushed enough, and my chocolate ganache was too hard. And a serious flaw that I really need to think about to overcome -- potato chips get soggy really easily. I put this in the fridge to chill for less than an hour, and the chips were already stale. I love the idea of a crunchy topping, but next time I think I'll try putting the chips under the chocolate.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bubble Wrap

What's that, under the big sheet of bubble wrap?


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Gluten Free Meal

When I heard about kristy's diagnosis with coeliac's disease, my first thought is: I could never go gluten free! I've always felt bad for people who don't/can't eat gluten, because it is one of those pervasive ingredients that is in everything, and that is really, seriously delicious. But then I had a think about it, and realised that my reaction to gluten-free is probably similar to omnivores' reactions to veganism. And I realised just how many of the things we eat are naturally gluten free. So, while I still wouldn't wish an enforced gluten-free diet on anyone, I am now thinking a bit more positively about the whole situation and have taken notice of the gluten-free meals that I just so happen to eat.

Like this one...

Red Lentil Dhal with Brown Rice, deliciously flavoured with mustard, cumin and coriander seeds, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks and lemon juice.

For dessert, tapioca pudding. Now my earlier experiences with tapioca pudding were Not Good. We had it in school sometimes, and it was watery and reminded me of fish eggs. But I now love the gooey-gummy texture, and when it's cooked and flavoured properly it's actually a very enjoyable dessert.

Tapioca Pudding

1/4 c. seed tapioca (those are the tiny balls)
2-ish c. rice milk (or other gluten-free non-dairy milk)
1/4 c. sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 c. desiccated coconut
pinch of salt

Mix everything together in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower heat and simmer, stirring almost constantly, until it is thick and the tapioca pearls are cooked through, about 30 minutes. Pour into dessert bowls (or wine glasses, if you don't have fancy crockery) and chill for at least an hour.

Before serving, top with whatever fruit is in season -- in our case, delicious Keitt Mango.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Spag Bol

Andy and I were a bit stuck for dinner ideas. With not many veggies in the fridge, no tofu, and a desire to *not* heat up the house by turning on the oven, we turned to pasta. But what kind of pasta? Creamy, beany, herbalicious? Flicking through Wild Morsels for inspiration, we happened upon a recipe for Spaghetti Bolognese.

I've never had spag bol before. Andy was never a huge fan. But for some reason, we decided to cook this. And luckily, we both really liked it. But, while the recipe called for 1 cup of red lentils, I had vague recollections of Vegetation's post about bulgur... so I've made a few substitutions and am proud to present you with a recipe for a tomatoey delicious Spag Bol.

1 T. rice bran oil
1 medium onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. diced red capsicum
1/2 c. red lentils
1/2 c. bulgur
400 g. tin whole peeled tomatoes
2 to 3 cups water
1 t. vegemite
1 t. soy sauce
1 t. dried oregano
1/4 c. tomato paste
1 t. miso paste
400 g. dried pasta

In a deep skillet, heat oil over medium heat and saute onions until soft. Add garlic and red capsicum and cook another 3 to 4 minutes. Stir vegemite into 1 cup of water, dissolving as much as possible. Pour tomatoes into a bowl and squeeze with your hands to crush them. When capsicum is soft, add lentils, bulgur, tomatoes, vegemite water, soy sauce, oregano and tomato paste. Stir, and add another cup of water if necessary to fully cover the lentils and give a saucy consistency. Bring up to the boil and then lower heat and simmer. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more water when needed. Once lentils are soft, boil water and cook pasta. Combine miso paste with a little bit of sauce and stir until dissolved, and then stir the whole lot back into the skillet. Serve over pasta with fresh black pepper, torn basil leaves, and a few sprinkles of tofu fetta.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Basil Tofu

In addition to salads, stir fries are an excellent hot-weather meal. They don't take much prep, they're quick to cook and they don't leave you with a too-full feeling.

Onions, garlic, capsicum, carrots, bok choy, mushrooms, and zucchini provide a wide variety of flavours, textures, and nutrients. Frozen tofu, thawed and squeezed and then marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, chilli, palm sugar, and rice vinegar provided a chewy and filling focal point. Steamed jasmine rice made a good, if nutritionally depauperate base. And whole, fresh basil leaves from the garden added a certain je ne sais quoi, elevating this from a simple stir-fry to a fancy-pants dinner.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Gift Post

I've posted about our trip, about some of the gifts we gave, and about the delicious vegan meal we had, so to wrap up the xmas posts, I present you with a photo-essay of the things we got.

Because I'm vegan, and thus do a lot of cooking, I have a bit of a reputation as a foodie amongst Andy's family. Thus, we got a string of food-related gifts. Like the Jamie Oliver Flavour Shaker, sort of like a mortar&pestle but more compact.

We got a veggie peeler too, because I've complained to Andy's mum that I'm defective when it comes to peeling things. I've always blamed it on being a leftie, and most peelers being designed for right-handed users. But this peeler bypasses the problems and is surprisingly awesome.

This was actually an early wedding present, but this beautiful tea set from Andy's younger brother & his partner has already seen its fair share of use.

Andy's grandma gave us two tea towels printed with Australiana, as well as a freaking adorable apron that her mother embroidered in 1975.

More obvious than foodie-gifts, though, are the plain and simple "vegan" gifts. Like a cookbook with the V word sprawled across the front (this is the cookbook where the Black Forest Cake recipe came from, as well as the creamy mushrooms on toast from the cook-up brekky).

Or dairy-free chocolate.

Non-food related, we were gifted with these eco laundry balls which remove the need for detergent and a rinse cycle.

As well as a nerf ball, a gorgeous fabric-covered journal, an organic gardening magazine, some handmade earrings, and a bicycle repair kit.
Of course xmas isn't about the gifts, but I love the thought that went into the gifts we were given!

Vegan Xmas Dinner

Before heading south, Andy and I got together with my vegan friend Mel and her husband for an entirely vegan meal. Mel was kind enough to let me test out our xmas seitan recipe on her, so I could tweak it as needed before serving to a room full of omnivores on the 25th. I used a combination of chickpea flour and gluten flour, and stuffed it with the Pecan Cherry Stuffing from Urban Vegan.

Andy and I also threw together a quick green salad and brought a jar of cranberry jelly with us.
Mel got to work on all of the sides. Rosemary roasted potatoes, and roasted carrots and pumpkin, plus delicious stuffed zucchinis which aren't in the photos. The star of the dinner, however, was the bubbly but non-alcoholic Mango Tango from Robinvale Organic Wines.
Mel also wowed us with dessert, a traditional Plum Pudding served with vegan cream and vanilla ice cream. Unfortunately we forgot to photo that part of the meal -- quite frankly, I was more concerned with eating it!

It was a great chance to eat good food with good friends -- without having to ask about ingredients or make sure that the serving spoons didn't get dipped into a non-vegan dish. Merry xmas, Mel!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Merry Craft-mas

In keeping with my belated christmas posts, I have another for you (and at least two more on the way).

In this one, I get crafty.

In addition to pango jam, Andy and I gave a few handmade stuffed toys as presents. I have recently rekindled my love of crochet, and decided to enter the surprisingly prolific world of amigurumi -- Japanese stuffed toys.

For my nephews in the US, I made two little monster dolls, from this pattern. Each took about a day to make.

Apparently they loved them, or at least the younger of the two did. Upon opening their presents, the 18-month old grabbed both his and his brother's monsters.

Another crochet gift was quickly thrown together for Andy's brother, who recently spent a year living on Macquarie Island -- an sub-Antarctic island full of penguins, seals, and other wildlife. I looked up a few penguin patterns, messed one up and improvised it until I got a semi-cute (though lopsided) result. This one only took a few hours, including several stuff-ups!

To go with everyone's pango jam, I crocheted some pineapple fridge magnets, which took about 10 minutes each.

And for our kitty friends, I made some catnip toys, which took 20 minutes max.

I'm already brainstorming about the handmade gifts to give next year!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Happy belated christmas

This year, Andy and I headed south so that we could spend Christmas with his family. Although no one really practices the religious side of things, it was a good opportunity to get together with everyone.

A few gifts were given.
We had limited luggage space, so our haul was small but good. I'll post more in future about a few of the cool things we got.

We went to the beach, which was icy cold (okay, it was 21 degrees C), but managed to go swimming -- twice.

We explored a bit of the surrounding area, including the nearby Ben Boyd National Park.

We tried out Andy's older brother's kayaks on Lake Curalo -- the wooden one was handmade by Andy's brother and father three years ago. They were in the process of making another this christmas.

I made a vegan black forest cake.

It was delicious.

We also made a big cook-up brekky one morning, with creamy mushrooms, sauteed spinach and grilled tomatoes.

Most of our excessive eating was fuelled by the garden kept by Andy's mum and dad. This harvest included oranges, zucchini, tomatoes, beetroots, onions, and cucumbers.

Hope you all had a good December, a pleasant end to 2009 and I hope that 2010 is exciting and satisfying for everyone!