Monday, 28 December 2009

multicoloured carrot pilaf

After a few days of holiday food, it's nice to get back to normal food. This is simple and easy and homey, but not at all boring. You can easily double or triple the recipe for potlucks or to have leftovers for lunches. The fancy-pants carrots and easygoing spices make it great for bringing to shared food-ish events. It's also the perfect break from rich foods after the crazyness of Christmas and before the impending culinary lunacy of Hogmanay. And I love multicoloured carrots! The ones here are orange ringed with purple. So fun!

Multicoloured carrot pilaf

3/4 cup brown basmati rice
1/2 cup puy lentils (dry measure), cooked and drained (about 3/4 cup cooked)
1 tbs cumin seeds
2 bay leaves
3 cardamom pods, crushed,
1 red onion, in half-moons
1/2 tsp smoked salt
1/3 cup chopped dates
1/3 cup currants
1/3 tsp cinnamon
2 multicoloured carrots, in thin rounds
black pepper to taste
lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup chopped parsley (optional)

Cook rice separately, as usual. Let cool a little bit. Heat up a pan and throw the cumin in. When it smells amazing, add the onions ,bay leaf and cardamom, and saute over low heat until the onions are (I did them in a bit of white wine). Add everything else up to the cinnamon and cook until combined. It should be dry, but not sticky. Add a splash of water or wine if it starts sticking to the pan. Add carrots and cover for a minute or two. You want them to steam, but not get mushy. When the carrots are ready, add lemon juice, pepper, and parsely and stir. Serve immediately. This is also really good as a cold salad, in which case I would garnish it with fresh pomegranate seeds. I served this with roasted okra (in pomegranite molasses and lemon vinegar).

homey, chill, and interesting music: the dubliners, played nice and quiet so that you can sing along without shouting and dance along while you cook in a peaceful candlelit kitchen.

Monday, 14 December 2009

more fun with blowtorches

I couldn't help it.

pumpkin creme brulée

1 package soft silken tofu
500g pumpkin puree
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cardamom powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg powder
pinch salt
1/4-1/2 tsp black pepper
3 tbs arrowroot powder
1/4 cup soy milk

Combine everything and blend! blend! blend!, then pour into 6-8 small coffee cups or ramekins and bake at 180C for 40 minutes in a pan of water. Cool completely. Sprinkle a thin layer of sugar on top of each one, and have fun with the blowtorch. Or just pop them under the broiler.

I'm getting much better at the sugar-melting part. The trick, it appears, is to use a thin, uniform layer of sugar, and to make sure you are using the end (invisible) part of the flame from the blowtorch. Oh, and lots of practice helps.

fun fun music for fun fun kitchen implements: the laughing gnome by david bowie

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Warm-me-up soup

It's rainy. It's dark. It's most definitely winter. And this soup, my friend, will warm you from your nose down to your toes! I just used the veg that I had lying around, and I imagine that almost any combination of root vegetables would work, along with almost any sturdy green. This isn't a fussy soup. Just throw everything thing in the pot and enjoy the wonderful smell in your kitchen as it simmers.

Warm-me-up soup

1 small red onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 medium turnip, peeled and chopped
about 2 cups of chopped cabbage (whatever kind you have around)
1 tbs fresh ginger, grated
3 cloves garlic, chopped
8 cherry tomatoes or 2 uncherry tomatoes, chopped
handful currants
1/2 cup dried sour apricots, chopped
1 scant tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp allspice
2 tbs cumin
1 bay leaf
as much chopped jalopeno as you want
about 6 cups of water or broth

2-3 tbs pomegranate molasses
salt to taste
at least 1 cup of fresh coriander, chopped
1/2 fresh pomegranate worth of pomegranate seeds

Combine everything up to and including the water in a large pot. Bring to a boil, and simmer until all the veg are done. Then add the pomegranate molassses and salt. Just before serving, stir in the coriander and fresh pomegranate seeds. If you have any greens lying around that need using, throw them in too. Serve with potato-mint quickbread (below) and olives.

Potato-mint quickbread

3 spuds, mashed and salted
1 heaping tsp dried mint
1 heaping tsp dried oregano
2 tbs lemon juice
1-2 cups of flour, depending on how wet your mashed spuds are
1 tsp baking soda

Mash the herbs and lemon juice into the spuds. Mix the baking soda with one cup of the flour, and mix that in. If more flour is needed, add it. The dough should be a little sticky, but you should be able to more or less form it into a round loaf. Place said round loaf in a greased and floured pid dish. Bake at 220C for 20 mins, and then 200C for another 10 mins. Let cool for at least 5 mins before liberating the loaf from the pie pan. Cut into wedges and serve.

An alternate way to warm up: "Gin" by the Kronos Quartet and the Tiger Lilies, on one of the bestest sing-along albums of all time: The Gorey End.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

parsnip perfection

You know when after the first bite of something, you immediately think "I will have this every day from here on in, thank you very much. I don't need anything else." ? That was my reaction to this soup. So easy. So wonderful. Parsnips and smoked chilies were made for each other, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. It looks like soup. You don't need a photo. Incidentally, that's also my reaction to La Confession. Once I heard it, I swore that it was all the music I needed. Yum.

1 yellow onion, chopped
2 large-ish parsnips, washed and chopped
1 small spud, chopped
lots and lots of fresh ginger (like 3 -4 tbs) chopped
4 whole cloves garlic
1 tbs marmite (I don't actually use marmite, I use some hippie health food store brand not made by kraft... any yeast extract spread will do here)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1-2 tbs cumin seeds, depending on how much you love cumin.
1-3 chipotle chilies, in adobo sauce
salt to taste
juice from one lime
1 cup parsley, chopped

Put everything up to and including the vinegar in a pot, add enough water to cover by an inch or three, and simmer until everything is tender. Meanwhile, dry-toast and grind up your cumin seeds. When the soup is done, remove from heat and add the cumin, chilies, salt and lime juice. If you are not of the heat-loving kind, use smoked paprika instead of the chilis. Puree. Add parsley and serve. Oh. Yum.

smoky music with a touch of heat: la confession, by lhasa de sela

Saturday, 21 November 2009

fun with blowtorches

.... because who could resist buying a little blowtorch?

You see, I was in the hardware store, looking for a replacement knife for reasons that are neither interesting nor any of your business, dammit. Hardware stores are my favorite, because they tend to have both power tools and kitchen stuff, often in the same room. If there is a consumer-whore heaven, this would be it. In this particular hardware store were lovely little blowtorches. Lovely. They called my name, and I couldn't resist thier siren call. "Wield us!" they said. Who could say no? Not me. After all, I'm only human. Anyway, freshly armed with a new blowtorch, I had to make creme brulee, like, right away. And for some reason, I wanted it to be green.

I've had vegan creme brulees based on both cashews and coconut milk, but find both of them a bit much. They just sit there in my stomach, being heavy. I don't like it. I like the tofu ones, even if it is super-fashionable right now to cook all desserts with ungodly amounts of cashews. Oh, and have I mentioned I also don't make cupcakes?

Anyhow, these are yummerific, subtle and just the right amount of sweet and rich without tipping over that edge of making you regret it an hour later. Plus, they're green! Yay! And more importantly than the taste or colour: you get to use a blowtorch.

green tea and almond creme brulee

1 package soft silken tofu
1/2 cup almond milk
1 tsp almond essence
1/4 vanilla bean
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbs matcha
pinch salt
2 tbs cornstarch

mix together and blend! blend! blend!

Pour into 4-6 oven-safe containers, and place them in a pan of water. The water should come halfway up the containers. Bake, uncovered at 200C for 45 mins. Cool completely. Sprinkle with sugar and then melt it with a blowtorch! Wooohoooo! Alternately, place under a broiler until the sugar caramelizes (this is not even nearly as much fun as using a blowtorch, but will produce perfectly good creme brulees, if you're into that sort of thing). I think I need to practice a bit to get the top of these perfect, but I'm totally willing to put in as many tries as needed.

I made them in glasses, because I was excited about the colour, but I actually think they'd be prettier in ramekins. I'm sure you can make your own decisions on this front.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

scavenged pumpkin buns

I really hate it when people waste food. This week at work, there were three perfectly good uncarved pumpkins that were going to get thrown out after being used as decoration for a Halloween party. This made me angry. What sort of people are we that we use food as disposable decorations? So I took one of the pumpkins home and made these buns, and also some pumpkin ravioli. Note that this is the kind of pumkin that you usually carve up for jack o lanterns, so it's not very sweet or tasty. I also used an apple from a big batch of them that I picked a few weeks ago that was well past it's prime, and wasn't very sweet. If you use a sugar pumpkin for these, cut down the sugar and spices. These are rather heavily spiced because the pumpkin mainly provides moisture and a bit of a pumpkiny taste, but there's no point trying to let an anemic pumpkin "shine through". You'd need a sweet winter squash or sugar pumpkin for that. If you don't use quick yeast, proof yours in some water and sugar beforehand and omit the hot water from the pumkin/apple mixture.

These aren't cinnamon buns in the cakey sense. I like to eat them for breakfast, where I don't want a sugar rush, or to feel weighed down afterwards. These are more of a bread, and would even go nicely with soup, especially one with north african spices. Mmmmmmm..... maybe I'll try that for dinner.

dry mix:
2 cups ww spelt flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp nutmeg
dash black pepper
pinch salt
1 tbs quick yeast

blend together:
1/2 rescued (medium size) pumpkin, cut into slices and roasted until it begins to caramelize
1 apple, picked from an abandoned tree
2 tbs of okara or soy yogurt or ground almonds or almond butter. Pick one.
You should end up with a scant 1.5 cups of puree altogether. Reduce the water if you have more, or if your puree is very wet. Mine was the consistancey of very thick apple sauce.

mix into pumkin/apple
1/2 cup very hot water.

Add wet ingredients to dry, mix with a spoon, and then liberally dust a counter with either a cup more spelt flour or a cup of some other random flour (I used rice flour). I also liberally dusted myself with flour, but that's optional. Knead until the dough comes together, adding more flour if you need to.

For the filling (basically a sweet lemony creamy thing):
1 batch okara or 1 cup ground almonds
agave nectar to taste
generous squeeze lemon juice
1 tbs sweet white miso

Roll out dough into a square. Spread with filling. Sprinkle with raisins. Roll up and cut into 6-8 buns and place them in a pan that is lined with paper that you have sprinkled with cornmeal. Let rise overnight in a cool place, or for an hour in a warm place. Preheat oven to damn hot (250C) with a pan of water in it. Bake at 250C for 10 mins, drop temp to about 200, and bake another 5 mins. Take out and brush with a mix of soy milk, agave and cinnamon. Bake for another 5 mins. Take out and brush again. Let cool for about 20 mins. Eat!

Warm and comforting music: Nighbook.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Untraditional traditional familiy irish pudding!

Veganizing traditional holiday favorites is always a bit tricky, because you're often fucking with something imbued with a great deal of nostalgia and meaning. And in this case, something that until now, was imbued with a great deal of Guiness. And as we all know, Guiness is not vegan.

I've seen a few vegan Christmas pudding recipes. Most are, um.... lacking. One was nothing more than fat-free banana bread with raisins. Now, I like banana bread with raisins as much as the next vegan, and I do keep added fat to an absolute minimum on a day to day basis.... but c'mon.... It's frikin' CHRISTMAS! A feast day should be a feast, dammit. This is one of those holiday dishes that I look forward to, but only want to eat once a year, so rich and boozy and sweet is it. To me, this *is* what Christmas tastes like. So I give you my mommy's recipe (which was my gramma's recipe, which ... oh... you get the idea) for (Irish) Christmas pudding, which I've veganized. Irish pudding differs from (the dreaded) fruitcake in that it barely maintains enough structural integrity to slice, and is basically just dried fruit rehydrated in a winning mixture of stout and whisky, and then sterilized and left to age to perfection for several months. It is like the embarassing drunk-on-sunday-afternoon cousin of respectable fruitcake. Usually, you'd make this at Easter-ish and store it until Christmas. The best puddings are the ones that have sat for TWO years...

1 loaf white bread, in crumbs (stale is best)
1 pound cocoa butter, grated (you could use margarine or vegetable suet if you'd rather, but I hate the taste of both of those, and figured that cocoa butter would taste better)

1 heaping tbs baking powder
1 cup white wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp nutmeg

In a blender, mix:
3/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup arrowroot flour
1 lemon (or orange), chopped, peel and all, but de-seeded
1 apple, cored and chopped (you can use a grated carrot instead if you want)

add this to the bread and spice mixture.

4 pounds (yes POUNDS) raisins, currants, sultanas etc. your choice of mix
1.5 cups fancy dried fruit (I just used dried pears and candied ginger)
1 cup halved candied cherries

Slowly stir in 2 pints of cold stout (I used Suma organic stout... a good list of vegan beers is here, 2 tsps almond extract and 2 shots whisky. I've been told that the whisky must be Irish. I suspect this is true. Anything other than a splash of Irish might hurt the very soul of the pudding. This would be unwise.

Let the pudding batter sit overnight, covered, soul intact. You can see it in the photo of the pudding-mess in the giant pot. It looks gross, and tastes and smells oh-so-good.

The next day....give it a stir and divide it into 3 large or 6 small puddings.

You can cook them in air tight tins or other containers that you can boil for 9 hours. I used sandwich containers that are microwavable and freezable, so I figured that they were boil-able as well. I turned out to be right (phew!).

For each pudding:

It is very important to line the tins very well because the puddings must stay dry while they're being steamed. We use layers of brown paper and wax paper. Put a triple layer of brown paper on the bottom of your tin and then put strips from one side to the other going across the bottom again until the side is covered. Then, put another piece around the side. The particular pattern doesn't matter, but the key is that you shoudn't have any holes in the paper nest.Make a wax paper pocket inside that and spoon the pudding in. See photo. Close the wax paper over the pudding and put a triple layered piece of wax paper over it. Put more brown paper and close the tin tightly. There should be no spare room inside the tin.

Put a little rack on the bottom of your pot and put enough water in to have the pudding tins float. You need fairly big pots as they need lids on. Let the puddings simmer for 9 hours. Yes, 9 hours. This is serious, folks. I made several small puddings instead of 3 large ones because I didn't have any containers big enough to do big puddings. Meh. So I only simmered them for 7 hours. I am such a slacker.

At the end of this marathon simmer, rescue the puddings by removing the tins from the water and drying off the outsides. Open the tins. Double check that no water got in. If it did, that pudding won't keep and you should eat it in the next few days (it'll keep for a few weeks in a tupperware container in the fridge). Assuming all your pudding wrappings are dry, DO NOT TAKE THEM OUT OF THE TINS. Let them sit for an hour on cooling racks before removing the puddings from the tins. DON'T UNWRAP THEM.

Let them cool and wrap them well in 2 layers of tin foil. The tin foil goes over the many layers of wax and brown paper already encasing the puddings. If you have any tin foil leftover, you can make yourself a tin foil hat. You know you want to. Let them sit somewhere cool and dry until Christmas. Ideally, this should be about a year (which explains the careful wrapping), but we've been known to just make them a few weeks before. They really do taste better the longer they age.

Me and my dad eat this pudding with vanilla ice cream (I think coconut-milk based would be best). Everyone else seems to just eat it plain.

Untraditional traditional music: The Pogues, or to get in the holiday spirit: Lump of Coal (the only acceptable Christmas album ever).

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Cleaning out the fridge soup

This soup is a great example of using stuff lying around... I had half a pumpkin left, and had cooked up a big batch of black beans a few days ago for hummous... and I've had a houseguest, so have made more almond and soy milk than usual, and had pulp from that taking up fridge space.. you know how it is. Because this soup just relies on baking everthing, it doesn't take much actual work. I was at home working, and this took about 15 minutes, total, of my time, though it baked for about an hour while I typed and swore. Feel free to apply this method (omitting the typing and swearing, if you wish) to what's in your fridge rather than focusing on what was in mine. The basic flavours (with what I used in parentheses) are:

something dark and smoky (black beans, smoked peppers)
something sweet and dense (pumpkin, baked onions)
something acidic (tomatoes, lemon juice)
something rich (nut butter, almond meal, hummous)

What I did:

I put all this in a roasting pan:

1/2 squash with edible skin, cubed
1 onion, cut in chunks
5 whole cloves of garlic
12 small tomatoes, halved

I poured enough water to the baking dish to come halfway up the tomatoes, and popped it all in the oven, uncovered, at 220C for about an hour. Once it got going, I did the beans.

I had cooked black beans on hand. About 3 cups of them. I put them in a large pot, covered them with water, and added
3 tbs fresh grated ginger
2 tbs roasted cumin
2 tbs roasted coriander
some fresh thyme (because it was there, dammit)
1 tbs chunky peanut butter
some left over almond meal from making almond milk (1/2 cup or so)
some leftover hummous (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
a healthy number of chopped chipotle peppers
lemon juice ( I'm out of lime, which would have been my first choice)

I simmered that until the pb dissolved, and then just turned it off and let it sit there until the roasted veg were done, then combined the two things. I almost threw in some cocoa as well, but oddly enough, I didn't feel chocolatey. This is rare, but it does happen from time to time. I'll probably add a few tablespoons of cocoa nibs to the leftovers when I take them for lunch.

We had this with baked corn tortillas, olives, salad, and ginger beer!

Just to get you on your improvisational way, here are some possible subs for the different taste categories. Don't use them all at once (except the spices. They all go together if you want. Use one, two or all of them), and not all combos will work, but play around a little... pick one or two things from each category and go for it! say 1) blackeyed beans, plantain, mangoes, lime and coconut, or 2) lentils, mushrooms, stout, parsnips, tomato paste and chocolate....:

something dark and smoky, including a legume (puy or beluga lentils, blackeyed beans, shiitake mushrooms, smoked paprika, porter, stout or rauchbier, dry-roasted spices in general)
something sweet and dense, when baked (carrots, parsnips, leeks, beets, apples, any winter squash, corn, red peppers, plantain)
something acidic (mangoes, tomato paste, unripe peaches, tamarind, lime juice, cider vinegar)
something rich (tahini, soy/oat cream, coconut or coconut milk, cocoa powder or grated chocolate, leftover hummous or tofu spread)
spices: cumin, coriander, oregano, black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cayenne, jalopenos, chipotle or other smoked chili, sweet chilies, garlic.

You could also add a whack of chopped cilantro or parsley to liven this up... but I didn't have any. Chopped kale or spinach would also be lovely, and add some green. The point of cleaning out the fridge soup is that you *don't* run out to the store for random ingredients. Use what you have on hand.

Friday, 25 September 2009

I wanna be a chocolate god post 10: tea, kind of.

So, I've been hearing a lot about Brewed Chocolate lately, but we can't get it in the UK. I looked on line and discovered that it's just concentrated chocolate tea. As in, just cocoa beans and water (and of course sugar, which I'm glad to do without in this case, because it is tediously overused in just about everything... I could rant about this for days). I thought, sheesh, how hard can it be to brew chocolate? So I did. And it's yum. It was super easy. Easy, I tell you! And depending how much you pay for your cocoa nibs, it's about 10 times cheaper than buying the stuff. Plus, you don't have to put up with somebody else oversweetening your drink. Win.

1 heaped cup cocoa nibs
1 L water

Place in pot. Simmer until reduced by half. At this point, you can (optionally) add spices. I used about half a cinnamon stick, 2 cloves and 2 green cardamom pods and a few whole black peppercorns. Continue simmering until you have about 150mL of liquid left... in my pot this was just enough to barely cover the nibs. Strain liquid into a glass jar. Keeps in the fridge for, uh, a long time. I used it up before I discovered how long.

To use: use 1-3 tbs of concentrate for 1 cup of hot water. Add sweetener to taste (I don't add any). Sip. Feel sophisticated.

The strength and bitterness of the concentrate depends both on how much you reduce the liquid and the quality/taste of your cocoa nibs. I get my cocoa nibs from here, a source that I highly recommend for anyone in the UK. It's pretty much the best unprocessed chocolate beans/nibs/liquor that I've found anywhere, and very reasonably priced for what you're getting. Plus, it comes packed with little heart confettis. As usual, when buying chocolate/cocoa products, make sure that slaves weren't used to get them to you.

When you're done, don't throw out the cocoa nibs! Nooooooo! You can use them in cookies, brownies, cakes, pancakes, or mole sauce (grind them up for the mole). Or, you can throw them in the blender with 1/2cup of almond or hazelnut (or other nut) butter and some agave, or with 1/2 cup - 1 cup of apple, pear or pumpkin butter (you won't need agave for those, and the pear is divine, especially if you a hint of cardamom, while the pumpkin is nice with cloves and black pepper, and you can actually use it for really decadent pie filling if you want) and make your very own chocolate spread. You can give this to people as presents and they will be very very impressed. can use them ground up in any of my savory chocolate recipes on this blog. Or you can just eat them with a spoon.

Friday, 11 September 2009

savoury blackberry preserves

I love blackberries, and we were out on the beach picking them. A lot of them. Lots and lots. While picking, I ate as many as possible. Usually I try to stick to the general rule of "don't eat anything larger than your own head", but I may have eaten more than one me-head worth of blackberries. However, since blackberry season is tragically short, I think an exception was in order. Plus, we were on our bikes all day, and you need energy, right? Upon arriving home with 4 L of blackberries, I made blackberry soda bread, and a few wee little adorable pots of blackberry jam (mostly for guests and gifts), but to be honest, jam doesn't really float my boat. I like all of my sweets to be in the form of actual fruit and/or chocolate. At this point, I should confess that my house is where jam comes to grow very interesting mould and then die. However, I do love berries with a wild passion, and miss the saskatoon berries that I grew up gorging on. Recently, I've been into making savoury dishes of things that are usually sweet (at least in western cuisine), and have pretty much fallen in love with this idea. This is a sauce that's good on rice, especially with marinated and baked tofu, or chickpeas and rice, or an omnisub such as that slightly bizarre yet yummy vegan duck that is *actually shaped like a duck* at the Chinese supermarket and travel agency near my place... Either way, there are lots of jam recipes out there for those with a sweet tooth. Here are some blackberry preserves for the rest of us:

2L blackberries (I only know this because we picked 2 1L containers)
6 cloves garlic, chopped fine
dash salt
1/2 tsp spanish paprika
dash chili flakes (I used about 1/2 tsp)
1 whole lemon, chopped, peel and all.
1 bunch coriander chopped (about 1.5 cups).

Combine everything except the coriander in a pot and simmer until the berries start to disintegrate and the lemon has lost all hope of remaining recognizably a lemon. Add coriander and simmer another few minutes. Pour into sterile jars and preserve using your favourite technique, or let cool and pack into freezable containers for the freezer. British freezers have a capacity of approximately 1 pint of very specific geometry, and I need that space for my cube of frozen edamame, so I went for the preserves. Here is a good explanation of making preserves if you don't know how.

music for berries with a hint of nostalgia: all you can eat, by kd lang.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Almond cake with green tea white chocolate ganache-like-stuff-that-isn't-technically-ganache.

Since white chocolate isn't really chocolate (in my books), I think it's okay to make it into something that isn't really ganache. This cake is lovely and fall-coloured, and we had a lovely cozy dinner party where this was a lovely cozy end to it. Summer is definitely over here in Edinburgh (see photos for evidence, taken out of my kitchen window just seconds after I photographed the cake... that's the castle I plan to hide out in when the zombie apocalypse occurs). Ahem. Right. It's fall. It's rainy. The days are getting short at an alarming rate. Let the evenings of long post-dinner conversation in cozy kitchens begin!

Warning: You need to make the cake and the ganache the day before you intend to serve them! Or at least the morning of the night you plan to serve them! The cake is much much better after it's had 24 hours to sit there, and the choc stuff needs to set. Don't try to do this at the last minute and then blame me when it gets all melty.

For the cake:
2 cups soy/almond okara OR 1 c soy yogurt and 1 cup almond meal
3/4-1 c soy milk (3/4 if you use the yogurt, 1 if you use the okara).. basically, you want your wet ingredients to be the consistency of yogurt. act accordingly.
1 tbs almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
drop lime oil

1.5 -2 c flour (depends how wet your wet ingredients are)
1 tbs baking powder
dash salt
1/2 c. sugar (that's all the sugar you'll want, given how rich the icing is. up this to 3/4 c. if you're not using an insane icing)

Mix wet ingredients. Mix dry ingredients. Mix wet into dry. Or dry into wet. I don't care. This will make a fairly wet batter. Add 2 tbs vinegar (I used elderflower, but use apple cider or other mild-ish if you don't have elderflower vinegar lying around). Pour into a small oil and floured cake pan. Bake at 190C until done (mine took about 30 mins, but I like to make cakes that are small and thick, as opposed to large and thin). The cake will seem slightly undercooked. Leave in pan, covered with a clean towel, to cool overnight. Don't remove it from the pan or it will dry out too much. The next day, cut cake in half, and put a layer of white choc. green tea stuff in the middle, and a layer on top. A piping bag helps here, or just a leftover plastic bag that you've cut a hole in. If the not-ganache has set *too* much, disrupt it with a fork and then have a quick go at it with the hand blender again. The heat from just moving it around will be enough to make it workably soft and melty. Garnish with pretty white or light fruits.

For the green tea white chocolate ganache-like-stuff-that-isn't-technically-ganache:

chop up 3/4 cup of cocoa butter, and put it in a container that you're going to use a hand blender in.

add 1/2 cup raw cashews to the cocoa butter. Place this container aside and try not to snack on the cashews. Add a pinch of salt. Just a tiny pinch.

Prepare almond cream, made by blancing a big handful of almonds in boiling water, draining them, and then blending them with about 2/3 cup of soy milk and then straining the whole mess through a cheesecloth. You should have just over 1/2 cup of very thick liquid.

bring the almond cream, along with 1/2-3/4c of vanilla sugar (depends how sweet you like your sweets), to a boil on the stove. Take off the heat as soon as it boils.

Dump the very hot almond cream into the cashews and cocoa butter and blend! blend! blend!

Add 1 tsp macha and blend! blend! blend! some more. Test it out by dipping your finger in and licking it off. Test as much as neccesary to convince yourself that this was a good use of so much cocoa butter, but not so much that you don't have enough left to ice the cake.

Let set overnight.

Now, you can either decorate this cake like an adult, as others would do, or make it kind of look like a physalis-topped toadstool, as I have done. Here, where it is already fall and my kitchen is *cold*, I could have rolled out the chocolate into a sheet, but I distrust cakes with rolled icing, so I went with something a little more playful. Personally, I think my way is more fun, but you should suit yourself.

music for people who suit themselves: nanny nanny boo boo (Le Tigre)

Thursday, 23 July 2009

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

Gentle readers (adventurous cooks). Science is a demanding mistress who leaves precious little time for blogging. Though I intend to sporadically update this blog, it will be quite rare from here on in. I'm leaving it up as a recipe archive. Enjoy, and see you when I retire (or get tenure)!

Fish balls:
okara, shitake mushrooms, chopped yuba, capers, garlic, wakame, soy sauce, smoked paprika, chickpea flour.

I ate this with kimchi rice (exactly what it sounds like) and a bowl of miso onion soup.

Now, excuse me. I have some extremely nerdy thoughts to think, some slime to pipette, and fitness landscapes to paramatize.

Dancing to: Nrrrd Grrrl. MC Chris.

Friday, 17 July 2009

smoked shitake slurp

I find the farmer's market pretty exciting, generally. This is because a)I like produce and b) I am easily amused. However, there are some people whose mere presence (and they're not there every week) throws me into a tizzy. They are: the smoked shitake dude, the heritage potato guy, and the fancy tomato people. (Those aren't their official names.) This week, the smoked shitake dude was there! Oh joy! Oh yummyness!

Also, life is especially full as of late, and I haven't been cooking very involved dinners. This is quick but satisfying. I looove the combo of mushrooms, plums and smoke. It's deep and dark and mysterious and earthy. And in this particular incarnation, slurpy as well (bonus).

Saute about 3 cups of sliced smoked shitake in a splash of sake. Add a handful of chopped roasted chestnuts or a cubed cooked sweet potato (ie, you want something sweet and dense)

When the mushrooms are done, mix the sauce together in a cup and then add it to the pan:
1 tbs ume paste
1 tbs mirin
1 little dash soy sauce
1 tbs white wine (or sake)
dash lemon juice
about 1/4 cup of water to thin it out

Toss with two people worth of rice noodles. I used these fancy-pants pumpkin rice noodles, but they totally didn't taste pumpkin-like.

Variation: for extra points, leave out the water and add 1/2 cup of extra strong brewed black tea to the sauce. Jack the heat up so that the sauce reduces a bit, and proceed.

Slurp your noodles along with: Coco Rosie. Everybody wants to go to Japan.

Monday, 13 July 2009

when life hands you lemons

...make beans. It's what I do. I *am* vegan, after all. These ain't pretty (as you see in the photo), but oh sweet jeebus, are they ever a yummy and satisfying dinner.

Lemon-thyme beans

1 small onion
3 cups cooked black eyed beans (or other white beans such as butter beans)
2 heads roasted garlic
2 large, juicy lemons (you know ... the big sicilian ones that you can practically eat straight up)
a handful (yes a giant handful) fresh thyme. I mean it. Fresh thyme or bust.
salt and pepper.

Saute onion in whatever strikes your fancy. I used a splash of white wine. Add the beans, the garlic mush from the two heads of garlic, and the zest from both lemons, and a bit of water. Simmer for a minute or 5 while you separate the thyme leaves from the stems. You should have at least 1/4 cup of fresh thyme leaves. I had about 1/3 cup. It's a lot. Add the juice from both lemons, the thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Heat up to a simmer, then cover and turn the heat off entirely. Leave it for 5 mins. If you want, stir in two or three tbs of nutritional yeast. Eat the beans! Sing! Boogie! Be happy that lemons exist! Ahem.

I served this beany lemony goodness over baked potatoes. If you don't have roasted garlic lying around (because really, who leaves roasted garlic lying around for more than 30 seconds without eating it?), just throw the garlic in the oven with the potatoes, and add it to the beans whenever it's done.

Sexy in a garlic breath, full-of-beans kinda way: Queen Bitch, by David Bowie.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

beets, lentils, and homemade mustard.

...which is a lot for one little post, but they all go together. This lentil and beet dish is incredibly versatile. You can change the ratios to make it mostly beets, mostly lentils, mostly onions, or anything in between. You can also make it as simple or complex as you want by adding some or all of the extras.

For the lentil and beet salad:

3c cooked black beluga lentils
2 beets
1 large onion
1/2c dried mushrooms (nice strong ones, like porcini)
fresh dill, chopped (I used about 1/2c, but others are usually more, um, moderate with herbs. I don't see why.)
balsamic vinegar OR vincotto + a splash of lemon juice (I used my new favorite thing, which is vincotto with carob)
scant 1 tsp good carob powder
salt and pepper to taste

optional add-ins
any or all of: chopped walnuts or toasted hazelnuts or green olives or capers or chopped fresh parsley to taste.

Bake or caramelize the beets and onions. Rehydrate the mushrooms in as little hot water as possible. When the beets and onions are done, take them out of the oven to cool a bit, and simmer the mushrooms briefly in their own juice. Chop up the beets and onions. I like big slices. When the mushrooms are done, hopefully there will still be some liquid left. Combine everything, including the mushroom liquid. Add the optional add ins. Or don't. They are, after all, optional. Serve this salad warm (or cold) on chopped bitter greens and apples. Or just chopped bitter greens. Either way, you can schmancy it up if you toss the greens first with a mustard/agave/vinegar dressing (which is those three ingredients in a 1:1:1 ratio, using apple cider or red wine vinegar)

I like mustard, and it's insanely easy to make your own. Here, I used my homemade whiskey mustard. Yes, whiskey. Because what's the point of living in Scotland if you can't cook with whiskey? 

To make your own whiskey mustard: put mustard seeds of the colour(s) you want in a glass container and cover them with whiskey and leave it in the fridge for a day or two or three (the exact length of time will depend on whether or not you forget it's there). Then blend it to the smoothness you want, add apple cider vinegar until it's the right consistency (the consistency you want), and return it to the fridge for a week so that it can calm down a bit. Make sure you put a lid on it. There. Now you have mustard, made to your own taste. You can even add sugar (agave nectar) or salt or other flavours (tarragon is yummy, for example). Don't you feel smart?  

While your beets are baking and your mustard is mustarding, dance around wildly to whiskey-mustard music with a sweet side: The Pubcrawlers

Sunday, 28 June 2009

rosey datey breakfasty buns

Yup. The title pretty much explains it. These are sweeter than bread, but not as sweet as cinnamon buns or cake. This recipe serves 2 hungry people, or 4 not-so-hungry people, or could conceivably make 6 itsy-bitsy snack-size buns for a lovely afternoon tea, if you're into such things.

1c whole wheat flour
1/2 c. soy flour (I bet chickpea flour would also work, but I'm not promising anything)
1/2 tsp vanilla salt (a bottle of sea salt in which you have cleverly placed a ground up vanilla bean several weeks ago)
2 tbs maple sugar
1 tbs quick yeast

Mix all this together, then mix up your wet ingredients

about 3/4 c. warm water
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract

Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix. Adjust water/flour ratio. Knead for about 5 mins. Roll out into a rectangle, and brush with rosewater, then sprinkle with about 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1 tsp cardamom. Sprinkle with 1/2 c. chopped dates and 1/3 c. pistachios. Roll up as you wish, either making 2 really fat rolled buns or 4-6 smaller buns. Cut into buns. I made 2 giant ones, and the reason for wanting a giant bun will be clear shortly. Sprinkle your baking pan with cornmeal, and place the buns in it. Allow the buns to rise for about an hour (I went for a run in the foggy Sunday morning and Sweetums puttered around the house).

Heat up your oven to *damn hot*. Mine goes to 250C, so that's what I used. Brush buns with soy milk spiked with a little rosewater. For the love of sweet Jeebus, if you have a fan assist, turn it off at this point! Bake for 10 mins, checking that they don't burn. Brush again with soy milk, and drop the heat to 200C. Bake for another 10-15 mins. Remove from oven. Brush again. Decrease baking times by about for smaller buns. Serve with fresh fruit and bitter chocolate dipping sauce (good quality unsweetened cocoa dissolved in the leftover soy milk/rosewater that you were brushing the buns with).

Friday, 19 June 2009

Cherry Bomb! or... I wanna be a chocolate god part 9: Cherries!

Birthdays are an excuse for me to do stuff like this. My sweetums loves cherries and balsamic vinegar and fine chocolate. So this is a cake of (you guessed it) cherries, balsamic vinegar, and fine chocolate. Your birthday is the one day a year when you don't have to make any concessions to other people's tastes, so this is when "love it or shove it" recipes come out. This is one of my favorites. The cake is dense and fairly dry and not sweet. It gets soaked with syrup, which it drinks up like mad, and then covered in layers of ganache and fresh fruit. Oh, and you have to start it a day and a half in advance. One of the guests said that this cake was nearly enough to make her believe in a higher being.

On a really odd note: it's hard to find people to feed around here.I love making stuff like this, but you need an occasion. Or at least a few hungry friends.   

For the cake:

Note that this makes TWO CAKES (ie- each layer is a full cake, making this a 10-12 serving cake). If you're not making a layer cake, half the recipe.

500 g pitted cherries that have been soaked at least overnight or overday in enough balsamic vinegar to cover them. drain the cherries, reserving the (now cherry-flavoured) vinegar. 

2 c sugar

2 c water, hot

1/4 c cocoa butter

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar (use the stuff that the cherries were soaking in)

1 tsp vanilla

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

5 cups plain white flour

1/2 cup arrowroot flour

2 tbs cocoa powder

1 tbs carob powder

Preheat your oven to 180C

Melt the sugar and water in a pan without stirring so that it forms a syrup. When the syrup has simmered for about 5 mins (reducing a little), take it off the heat and add the cocoa butter, vinegar and vanilla. The cocoa butter should immediately melt. Set this pan aside. 

Mix the dry ingredients together, and then pour the wet ingredients into them, and then fold in the cherries. Bake in two cake pans at 180C for about 45 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. 

Take em out and let them cool for a few minutes in the cake pans, and then turn them out of the pans and let them cool completely, preferably upside down. I just cover them with a tea towel and leave them out overnight. The cakes should be dry-ish (but not overcooked)

The next day... make the syrup:

3/4 c balsamic vinegar

1/4 c agave 

simmer to reduce by about a third. Take off heat and allow to cool. 

You'll also need 

300g of chocolate worth of your favorite ganache, with a sprinkling of salt added (trust me... this whole cake is quite sweet, and you need to counteract it). I used dark, dark chocolate and just make a simple water ganache. 

another 300g or so of pitted fresh cherries. Save a few whole ones for the top. Things are so much nicer with a cherry on top, don't you think?


This cake tastes best if the syrup has time to do it's thing. Assemble it at least an hour before you plan to eat it, preferably more. Put the bottom layer of the cake on the plate you will serve it on. Poke a few holes in it with a fork. Now pour about 1/3  of the syrup over it, and let it soak in. The syrup is *intense*. Use it as described above if you want a really strong cake, or replace some of the vinegar with water, for a calmer cake. But don't just leave the syruping out, or you will just have a dry cake, and not in a good way.  Once it's soaked in, cover that layer with a layer of ganache (half the ganache) and embed a layer of halved, pitted cherries in the chocolate. Place the top cake on top. Poke a few holes in it with a fork. pour about 1/3-1/2  of the syrup over it and let it soak in (are you seeing a pattern here?). Then cover the cake with the rest of the ganache and place cherries on top. Let the cake sit for a while. The syrup will make everything all moist and cakey and the ganash will harden to a shine. Serve with vanilla ice cream and let guests drizzle the extra syrup on their cake to taste. 

As usual, please don't use slave chocolate. Use fair trade and/or organic chocolate (some minimum level of human rights need to be respected to get the organic stamp), or chocolate that you know is not sourced from places that use slaves. 

Dancing along to: Joan Jett, Cherry Bomb! 

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

mole hummous

Best eaten on a picnic... shown here on pumpkin bread, along with various yummy fresh things from the farmer's market. Sweetums and I were out biking all day in the rolling hills around the Trossachs. Oh yeah. It was a beautiful spring day out, and we didn't see anyone. Not a soul. Everyone must have been inside watching tv or something. I was outside in the sun, biking along, having a blast, enjoying being in my body, and then having a wonderful picnic by a river. And I thought: being alive rocks. I wonder why more people don't try it?

mole hummous:

1 can drained black beans

1 clove garlic

fresh ginger (about an inch)

about a tsp ground cumin

about a tsp ground coriander

pinch cinnamon

jalopeno pepper

pinch smoked paprika


lots and lots of lime juice

2 heaping tbs cocoa powder

1/2 cup fresh coriander, chopped

blend! blend! blend! Everything but the coriander, which you should mix in later.  And then pack it up in, put in in your bike bag, and find a lovely picnic spot. 

music: don't fence me in, by cole porter

Thursday, 11 June 2009

confusion yum: chili meets salsa meets italy, and it all gets kitchendanced

Sometimes, I don't wanna cook the tomatoes because actual ripe tomatoes are so wonderful after a winter of using canned or dried ones. But I want chili. And then I thinks to myself : what *is* chili, really, but cooked salsa? Maybe I'll just make some salsa and put it on rice. And then I thinks: oooh, look, dried mushrooms, and isn't that fresh basil in the fridge? Maybe I want a nice fresh basil tomato mushroom sauce. But with chocolate. Finally, I think: I want it ALL. I don't care if it goes together.

Confession: I don't just think this. I say it out loud, at the tomatoes, as if they have an opinion on the subject.

The result is wonderful. In fact I will be making it again, much more decisively, and without consulting the tomatoes at all. And again, and again, because it's ridiculously easy and pretty and colourful and enables me to eat chocolate and chickpeas for dinner at the same time, both of which rank very high on my "foods to get excited about" scale. And the tomatoes agree. They told me so.

3 cloves garlic
2 nice fresh (opinionated) tomatoes
1 red or orange pepper
1 bunch basil (I ended up with just over 1 cup)
1 sprig of fresh rosemary leaves
a handful of dried mushrooms
1 heaping tbs of capers, drained
a handful of sundried tomatoes, soaked in just enough hot water to cover

See that list of stuff above? Chop it all into tiny bits and dump it in a bowl along with the soaking water from the tomatoes, if your tomatoes are pre-soaked. If you (like me) aren't the kind of girl to have presoaked sundried tomatoes around, just set them soaking now, and add them later. If you've been good and read to the end of the recipe, you'll realize you have half an hour of fudge time on the tomato-soaking.

1 lemon of lemon juice
1 lime of lime juice
2 tbs of toasted cumin seeds
1 tbs of dried chili (I used one that was described as "sultry", ie.. a nice complex sweet hot, but use whatever kind strikes your fancy)
some ground black pepper, to taste
3 tbs of finely grated unsweetened chocolate (I grate it with a lemon zester)
and a sprinkling of cocoa nibs too
sea salt (I used smoked)
2 c of sprouted chickpeas (or cooked chickpeas, or other sprouted legume...) I used sprouted green chickpeas because they're both yummy and pretty.

Stir this around and then let it sit while you cook rice or read a book or whatever. It needs at least half an hour for the mushrooms to soak up liquid

Just before serving, stir in a tbs or so of toasted and ground sesame seeds or almonds. Chopped mango is also nice in this, but I accidentally ate most of it while waiting for the rice to cook, so only about 1/4 of a mango actually made it into this dish. I highly recommend using more than 1/4 mango, but these things happen. You can't really expect me to know that there is a chopped mango sitting right there and not eat it. It's just impossible. There will be a fair amount of liquid in this dish. I like that, because you can then pour it over rice. If you want a thicker liquid, add tahini or peanut butter, or just don't add the tomato-soaking water.

I just stirred this into warm rice and scarfed it down. It was one of those Very Satisfying Meals. Comfort food for summer, I guess. If one can call what we have here in Edinburgh "summer". I mean, I am typing this in a toque. But it's a cotton toque and it's light out at 11 pm. So, summer.

A note on the chocolate. I've been using Willy's Supreme Cacao a lot lately. It's an unsweetened block of cocoa (100% cacao, meaning that it contains only cacao solids, including cacao butter... this is not just pressed cacao powder) that you grate onto foods. I like the Venuzuelan Black variety. At first glance, the price tag seems high, but a block of the stuff goes a long way, and even if it didn't, it's so good that I don't care. Oh yes. Fuck all the vegan parm substitutes. Just grate this on everything. I kid you not. I've put it on pasta and tomato sauce, on chili, on middle eastern soups, even on a pear and arugula pizza. The dude behind this chocolate clearly knows what he's doing. He's made a super duper high quality chocolate without any of the pretense and preciousness I've come to expect/tolerate from high-end single-origin, handmade, slave free (I could keep going on the qualifiyers, but let's just say ethical and damn fine) chocolate. So if you're in the UK, check out his stuff. Then, make confused chili.

the tomatoes dance to their death to the diabolical strains of : this offer is unrepeatable, by elvis costello

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Buckwheat-pear pancakes

These are substantial without being heavy, and are actually...dare I say it... fluffy. A perfect post-run brunch on a Sunday. This makes 9 small (ie, one hungry-person brunch size serving = 3 pancakes + fruit salad) or 3 huge, plate-sized (1 pancake = 1 serving) pancakes. I don't see the point in eating medium-size pancakes, but I won't stop you if that's your thing. I suspect it'd make about 6 of those.

-1.5 c buckwheat flour
-1/2 c ww spelt or wheat flour
-1/2 c muesli base (ie, rolled oats, rolled rye, flaked rice...whatever, so long as it's not "puffed" anything... just use plain rolled oats if that's what you have)
-1/2 cup soy flour (if you dont' have this, sub in more of the buckwheat or wheat, and use soy milk instead of water in the wet ingredients, but the soy flour + water works much, much much better)
-1/2 tsp guar or xanthan gum
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 tsp sugar
-1 tsp cardamom
-1 tbs baking power.

Mix dry ingredients. Add enough water to form a thick batter (2-3 cups, depending on your flours, your muesli base, etc.). Now, go take a shower and let the batter sit for about 15 mins.

Stir in
1 decent sized handfull chopped walnuts (uh... 1/3-1/2 cup)
2 smallish chopped pears (this is a perfect way to use bruised, overripe, or just plain sub-par pears)

Heat up a nonstick pan or griddle. I find the pancakes work best if you heat up the pan, then drop the heat to medium-low (I have a gas stove, which lets you change temp quickly), spray the pan with oil (these taste best if you use olive oil) and then cook them covered. To know when pancakes are ready to flip, look at them, when the top looks bubbly, they're ready to flip. Try to flip them only once, and don't fiddle with them while they're cooking, dammit. For those of you with non-vegan pancake experience, vegan pancakes (at least mine) cook a bit longer than omni pancakes, and on slightly lower heat, and do best if they're cooked covered. I've spent years figuring this out. Have fun reaping the rewards of my pancake experiments. Keep the cooked pancakes on a plate in a warm oven while you do the next batch. Cold pancakes, while wonderful as leftovers, are a bit of a disappointment in non-leftovers.

Serve with cinnamon coffee, fruit salad and maple syrup or apple/pear sauce or soy yogurt...surely you can make your own decision here.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

from Florence, with love: warm farro salad

Every year I get to go to Florence for work, which rocks. Florence is an excellent place to spend a week working and eating... I rarely eat out here, for a simple reason: I stay next to the central market, and like to spend time cooking with the spectacular fresh ingredients available in spring. This year I did the usual pasta (picci, which is rarely found outside Tuscany, and which I love, but I also love that it's something that is still a local food) and fresh porcini, but that's not really something you need a recipe for. However, spelt is big here. I especially like whole spelt berries, or farro. You can use them like rice, or wheat berries, or small pasta. You can make rissotto with them, which I highly recommend. They're super yummy chewy. Also, spelt seems to be the only concession to "whole grain" made here. Everything else (the bread, the pasta, the rice) is white. This year, I also happened across some fresh canellini beans (which practically melt in your mouth), and there were little zucchini flowers everywhere. Oh my. I made this, and it was perfect. It's very simple, and relies on having good, very fresh ingredients. In other words, no, you can't substitute canned tomatoes, cheap-ass olives, or dry parsley. (You can, however, use dried beans). Make this when you can get excellent tomatoes that were picked ripe, and get damn good olives. If you can't find zucchini flowers, use barely-steamed mangetout or fresh green peas.

-1 c farro, cooked (gives about 1.5 cups)
-1 c fresh cannelini beans

-8 zucchini flowers
-2 ugly but perfectly ripe summer tomatoes, chopped
-2 cloves garlic, chopped
-1 c parsley chopped
-a few spicy olives in olive oil, or if your olives are in brine, some good olive oil to drizzle plus a dash (only a dash) of hot pepper. This isn't a hot dish per se. The pepper just adds a very subtle edge. Very. Subtle. Exercise restraint, gentle reader, and you will be rewarded with a lovely lovely layering of flavours. Too much chili, and you'll overwhelm everything, which would be a shame.
-salt and pepper to taste

Cook the spelt berries/farro in plenty of boiling salted water for about 10 mins. At the 10 minute mark, add the beans. Somewhere between the 15-20 minute mark both should be done. When the farro and beans are done, add the zucchini flowers for about 30 seconds, and then pick them out with a fork and put them aside (you want to just barely cook them). Drain farro and beans. Return them to the hot pot, but don't bother turning the heat back on. Stir in all the other ingredients, and serve, topped with the zucchini flowers. Oh, and when I say "some olive oil", I didn't add any. I was just using olives preserved in oil. So if you're adding, I'd say 1 tsp or so for the whole recipe. Or you could just leave it out.

singing: a love song to ugly tomatoes that i made up on the spot.

Saturday, 23 May 2009


Omelettes! Who doesn't like these. Really. The possibilities are endless in terms of fillings. Vegan omelettes are typically made only of tofu. I like tofu, but find an entire plate of it a bit... much. Also, adding chickpeas (even in the form of flour) to anything is a good move in my books.

A note on omnisubs. I don't bother trying to imitate what an eggy omelette would taste like. I don't know that I'd remember anyways. I try to create something that is yum in it's own right, and that vaguely fills the same category as the omnifood for which I named it. And if I were naming this accurately, I'd call it "better than eggs". In so many ways.

For 4 people worth of basic omelette:

1 c chickpea flour (gram flour)
water to form a batter (about 1.5 cups)
1/2 tsp salt (black salt works best)
1/2 c arrowroot
splash vegan worcestershire sauce
4 tbs white miso
tarragon to taste (I used about a tsp)
1 tsp baking powder

mix all this together to a thin batter and let stand 30 mins.

puree in 1 block silken tofu. This will be a pretty thick batter, about the consistency of pudding. It should *just* be at the point where you need a spoon to help it spread around the pan.

just before cooking stir in
1 tbs apple cider vinegar

To cook. Spray a pan with olive oil. Let pan get nice and hot, and then pour in your omelette. Drop the heat to medium-low and cover. Cook until cooked through. You can add fillings as the omelette is cooking. Here I've added some brocolli and olives and vegan cheese (I'm not a big fan of commercial fake cheezes, but I do like me some of the stuff from the Uncheese Cookbook. You could also use my bloo pate.

Here's another combo that I made but didn't take a photo of (which makes something akin to a spanish tortilla). Mix these into the batter before cooking: cooked cubed potatoes, onions, tomatoes, olives, steamed chopped and drained greens, dash of smoked paprika, chopped jalopenos.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

garlicky spring risotto

A friend gave me a splendid bag of fancy-pants arborio rice. This is what happened when I got home. This is tastes like the filling of stuffed vine leaves, only in the form of risotto! So exciting! The leftovers are great wrapped in vine leaves (how shocking). Failing that, they're also great wrapped in any leafy green. Or eaten straight out of the container cold. I might have done that today at lunch.

Confession: I love fresh fava beans. LOVE. However, they take for frikkin' ever to shell, so I'm secretly glad that fresh fava bean season is mercifully short, because otherwise I'd have a pretty serious time problem on my hands.

1 c arborio rice
1c white wine
hot veg stock or water

2 stalks celery
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tbs cumin
1 zucchini, thinly sliced
1/2-1 c fresh fava beans (broad beans)
1/2 c fresh mint, chopped
a few sprigs fresh dill, chopped
juice of 1 large lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Usually I use brown rice, but for this, brown is a bit heavy, though it could work if you wanted to use this as a stuffing for peppers or something. Meh. Serve this with olives and a simple tomato salad.

General instructions for risotto are here. For this one, prep the rice (ie, rice, wine, stock) in a nice heavy bottom pan. While the rice is cooking, shell the fava beans. When that's done, get going on the celery and garlice: In a separate pan from the rice, saute the celery and garlic on medium heat in a splash of wine. Once they're translucent, add cumin and zucchini, drop the heat and cover. Add fava beans at end (a minute or two before the rice is done. Mix the rice into the veg. Stir in the mint, dill and lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste.

springtime music: dance me to the end of love, by leonard cohen, for my plum.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

spicy coffee cake

Before going to bed on Friday night, I usually set up some bread dough, usually green tea twirly buns of some sort. That way, I can have warm bread for breakfast on Saturday. Then, one Friday, tragedy struck when I found myself without matcha (which takes some planning to come by in Scotland). I did, however, have a whack of bananas that were past their prime. This bread has quite a kick and tastes like strong, sweet coffee with ginger and cardamom, like they serve in one of the lovely Sudanese restos in town. This is a very dense loaf, and the texture is somewhere between yeast bread and quick bread. Despite the sugar and bananas, this bread isn't sweet. That last sentence will make sense once you look at the list of spices. If you want sweet bread, add about 1/2c sugar and scale back the ginger and mustard (but don't leave out the mustard entirely until you've tried it, trust me). I don't want sweet bread. I want spicy bread. It is spectacular with orange marmalade. And it's better the second day, after all the spices settle in.

3 bananas, mashed
1/2 cup soy yogurt or 1/3 c. okara diluted with enough water to make 1/2 cup goo.
1/3 cup molasses
1/3 cup agave (or sugar)
3-4 tbs orange flower water
1/3 cup cocoa nibs
2 heaping tbs ground ginger
1 tsp ground dry mustard
2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch cloves
2 tbs - 1/4 cup espresso powder (I just use normal espresso, not instant. the grind if fine enough that it doesn't make the bread grainy)
1/2 tsp salt (I used vanilla salt)

about 2.5 cups strong whole wheat flour (bread flour, not pastry)
1 package yeast (2 tbs)
+ about 1.5 cups more to knead in ( I used ww spelt)

Mash first group of ingredients together. Mix yeast with the 2.5 c flour (I used quick yeast, which you add directly to flour, otherwise, go through the appropriate rigamarole of proofing your yeast in some warm water + sugar, and just add a bit of extra flour). Mix yeast flour into mash. Knead in the rest of the flour. continue kneading and adding flour until dough is as wet as possible without still being sticky. Form into a round loaf and place in a bread or cake pan that you've sprinkled with cornmeal. Spray the top of the loaf with olive oil. All of the spices are going to just about (but not quite) kill the yeast, and the bread rises slowly so this does best if you let it rise overnight on the counter (my kitchen is fairly cool). You don't have to cover the bread. It's very moist, and the oil will keep it from drying out. Then again, I live in a very undry country, so this might not be true if you live in, say, Arizona. Use your judgement.

In the morning, heat your oven to 250C. Bake uncovered at 250 for 10 mins, then cover, drop the heat to 220, and bake for a further 15-20 mins. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Eat!

Monday, 11 May 2009

jumping on the bento wagon

...Well.. not really. I always brought a lunch to school, right through to the end of studenty days (which extended into my late 20s), and now I bring a lunch every day to work. Wanna know a secret?: I hate having to eat out at lunch. Hate it. It's almost invariably expensive, boring and never as yummy as what I could bring myself. Here's a standby for what I make when I don't have any leftovers from the night before. Also, when I just need a spud. Because sometimes one just needs a spud, ya know? Since a potato stuffed with something (think baked potatoes and beans) is pretty much the best simple lunch ever, here's a take on it that has veg and is a bit lighter than baked potato and beans, and is also good cold: a nice big spud, cut in half and boiled in water to which I've added soy sauce and a bit of sake. Said spud is stuffed to within an inch of it's life (and my lunchbox) with grated carrot salad: 1 obscenely large (and incidentally, obscenely shaped) grated carrot, 1 chopped scallion, about 1/2 cup of chopped seaweed (I used multicoloured, but anything will do), 2 tbs chopped pickled ginger, a few frozen edamame (they thaw out by lunchtime), salt, pepper, some vinegar from the pickled ginger, a splash of shoyu, and some toasted sesame seeds.

Also, I got onto this whole Health Blogger Network thing. I'm not sure what will come of it. I don't really think I'm a health blogger per se. I cook vegan food. I cook pretty much without fat and I use whole foods, tending towards lots of veg, grains and legumes, rather than processed omni subs such as vegan cheese or ice cream or other junk food. Frankly, I think this tastes *better* and is more satisfying than pretty much anything processed or pre-made that I can buy. I make treats, but they are very much treats, and with me, they almost invariably end up being chocolate. I do the first (the vegan bit) because I think it's the only ethical way to live and the second because I rather like being alive and being able to live in my body and that means taking care of myself. I'm 30-something now, and want to still be doing science, writing, riding my bicycle, cooking, travelling to places that cars just can't go, and generally raising hell when I'm an old lady. And more immediately, I want to keep feeling good now. Since I'm lucky enough to not have any major health problems, I want to be able to fully enjoy all the cool stuff that I can experience, such as getting up in the morning and stretching like a cat, running in the sun (and rain), walking on my hands, climbing big hills and looking down at beautiful landscapes, reading good books, hearing music, getting into interesting conversations, and having lots of sex. I think that my life, and my enjoyment of it, is worth the time and effort of cooking food that 's good for me and that I like eating. So, I don't generally wince at spending money or time on food. Being ill or constantly tired also costs money and time, so I look at what I do in my kitchen as an investment as well as a source of immediate amusement. I cook yummy fun food because, as I just said, I like being alive and happy, and yummy beautiful food is exciting and gives me great pleasure. I love cooking. I love eating. I love feeding the people I love. So, if there are any new readers, welcome to the kitchendancing cave. I hope you find stuff in here that will amuse and delight you.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

it's not easy being green.

Green is the colour of spring. It's the colour of so many things.... and if green has a taste, this is it. I love foraging for edibles (though I actually didn't pick these myself). Wild garlic, nettles, berries, mushrooms... yum. And there's something extra yum about food that is a) free and b) seasonal and so precious. This soup is dead easy, so long as you don't touch the nettles. I used a cunning combination of chopsticks and scissors to remove them from their stems. If you lack chopsticking skills, I recommend gardening gloves.

Nettle soup.

1 onion or leek, chopped
1 large spud, cubed
3 cloves garlic, crushed
cover with either lightly salted water or broth, and boil until soft

when the spuds are cooked through, add
1 cup of parsley, chopped
2 cups of nettles, leaves only (don't chop them, just dump them directly from the colander into the soup, then wash off the colander immediately lest any of the diabolical little stinging hairs be left behind)
let this simmer for a few minutes

Blend! Blend! Blend! Reheat if you need to.

Off the heat, add
1/2 cup of okara or soy yogurt
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
juice from 1 lemon
2-3 tbs of white miso

Eat, preferably while listening to Kermit the frog sing "It's not easy being green"