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.