Sunday, 29 March 2009

happy bogle day! part 2

Oh yes, it's that day again: Bogle Day. Yes, Bogle Day. Don't you celebrate it? You should.

In my tireless attempt to vive the fine tradition of Bogle Day, I give you: Bogle Cake. Or rather, Bogle pudding. In honour of a) spring b) hygiene c) fine whiskey and d) fine vegan dessertery, this year's Boggle Cake is steamed rhubarb pudding with whiskey sauce, made in my supacool vintage pudding steamer. The pudding steamer makes all kinds of claims about hygiene, so this may be the most hygienic pudding I've *ever* made. Be impressed. Be very impressed. Also, go wash your hands before reading further. And, because it is Boggle Day, the cake includes spuds. Hey, my vived tradition, my rules. Vive your own damn tradition if you want spudless cakes. This is kind of like the Scottish version of mochi. Spring mochi. Spring mochi in Scotland. With Bogles. It's got that kinda chewy, not-too-sweet thang going on. The sauce, on the other hand, is very sweet, and not unlike a nice kick in the ass.

Bogle cake.

I medium spud, grated
1 scant cup rhubarb, chopped
1/4 c currants
3 tbs grated ginger
1 lemon of zest
1/2 c. sugar
pinch salt
3/4 c white self-raising flour
(or white flour + 1 tsp baking powder)
1/4 c arrowroot flour

Mix ingredients in order. Place in greased container suitable for steaming (closed containter). Steam for 45 mins. Let cool for a bit, and then attempt to liberate the pudding from the container. This will be difficult. I failed, which is why I took the photos with the pudding already in a bowl. So, on second thought, I recommend a *well* greased container, not just one that you've lightly greased in a half-assed manner. The Bogles get angry when you slack off, and pudding welded to the extra-hygienic pudding steamer is their swift and Bogley revenge.

Whiskey sauce:
1/4 c. whiskey
1/4 c. agave
lemon juice from that lemon
1/2 tsp arrowroot.

Heat sauce until it thickens. Pour over pudding.

Bogle music: Monster Mash.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

I may never sleep again

Espresso sorbet (or, more accurately, mokka sorbet). Not for the faint of heart, the low on caffeine tolerance, or the afraid of bitter. Or those who suffer from insomnia. Two photos: the fancy way to serve it, in a very very tall wine glass, and the way I actually like to eat it, in an espresso cup (from whence it came).

11 shots mokka or espresso (I had planned on 12, but I accidentally drank one)
scant 1/2 c. sugar + 1/4 c. agave syrup.
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 -1 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp xanthan gum

Make coffee, and while still hot, dissolve the sugars in it. You may want more sugar. I like things pretty bitter. Once the sugar is dissolved, let the coffee cool. Once cool, mix in everything else using either an immersion blender or a blender blender. You'll need one or the xanthan gum won't dissolve. Freeze. I don't have an ice cream mixer. I also didn't have any orange oil left, but I was planning to add a few drops, so do that if you can. Eat.

note: if you have an ice cream maker, you can probably cut down on the xanthan gum a bit.

music that hasn't slept in centuries: Bach, the coffee cantatas.

Monday, 23 March 2009

smoky tea tofu

Tonight I'm feeling all quiet and homey. I was listening to Leonard Cohen and cooking for someone I love very very much, and I wanted something yummy and warm and kind of exotic, in that way that teahouses can feel exotic when the lighting is just low enough and the furniture doesn't match and just for a moment you can see how it was rare and wonderful to get delicacies from hundreds or thousands of miles away. From worlds away.

It is cold and blowing and wet outside. A reminder that although the days are getting longer, it's not spring yet.

Tofu and leafy broccoli in lapsang suchong tea.

In the morning, make a very very very (very) strong cuppa. I used 4 teabags for 1.5 cups of water, in which I marinate a block of tofu, cut into strips. Marinate your cut up tofu in this all day in the fridge. If you don't do this, don't panic. Just make your tea and pretend like it's been marinating all day. Don't tell anyone you forgot. Shhhhh! It'll be just as good, just a lot less intense. First, get some rice going and try not to forget about it. Now you're free to turn your attention to the tofu and broccoli. Dump the tofu + tea in a nice big pan, add a dash (2-3 tbs) of sake and a dash (ha! still 2-3 tbs) of shoyu (take out and reserve 4 or so tbs of the tea + shoyu + sake marinade) and simmer until the liquid reduces to just enough liquid to saute the broccoli. Your kitchen will now smell like a campfire. Mmmmmm. When the liquid has reduced, add a head of broccoli, chopped (I used flowering broccoli), cover and steam briefly. When the broccoli is done, add a bunch of enoki, turn off the heat, and cover again until enoki are wilted. Now, mix 2 tbs of unsweetened chestnut puree into your reserved tea marinade. Pour this over your tofu/broccoli/enoki mixture and heat if necessary. Sprinkle with black pepper. Garnish with slivers of orange, if you have any around. Serve over rice, or with soba noodles. Or hell, as a filling for baked potatoes. Have a small bowl of green olives alongside this. They go really well with this dinner.

music: Leonard Cohen. Suzanne. And she feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

am vegan, will travel, part 2

I've posted before about traveling while vegan, and a friend suggested I actually show my little red travel bag. Here is it, packed, with a paperback thrown in for scale (actually, the paperback is just as important as the food). This bag is for a week-long working trip in Germany. See how little space it takes up? During the trip, I'll be able to hit a grocery store at the beginning, where I will buy a big bag of carrots, a big bag of apples, and a whack of dried dates or figs, which I will keep at work. Then it's cafeteria food for lunches (no restos nearby where I work, and it's a small harbour town on the north shore of Germany) and I'll be staying with a colleague, who is always awesome about making sure I have vegan eats for breakfast and dinner, and who always has a decent supply of fresh fruit and veg hanging around. So, this bag assumes that I'm going to be able to get bread and fruit for breakfast, and have access to a salad bar at lunch (but that's it.. there are no vegan options on the menu at that cafeteria. sometimes that means there's only lettuce and bread at the lunch for me. sometimes I can make an awesome salad with chickpeas, piles of veg and even some seaweed. depends on the day). And ... I know that I'll get dinner at the end of the day. So this is an "emergency lunch" bag, designed to deal with the dreaded all-iceberg lettuce lunch in the middle of an 18 hour workday. I don't know about you, but I can't work on no energy. I get cranky. And stupid. So this little red bag saves me.

The bag has 6x instant miso soups (I almost always have one with my lunch when i'm living on salad bar lunches and it's cold outside), some small packs of roasted seasoned nori, bag of apricot kernals, bag of soya nuts, bag of roasted dried chickpeas (all of these make lettuce into a good instant meal), bag of rice crackers (who can resist?), 2 lara bars (useful if you have to totally replace a meal at some point), 2 red bean paste candies, some licorice, a really frikin' good bar of chocolate, bag of goji berries and raw cacao beans, a few teabags, candied ginger. I'll probably also pick up some tofu jerky and maybe some soymilk at the grocery store there when I have a chance. I used to also travel with chocolate covered coffee beans, but no scientific institution is ever short on coffee. ever. I'm always caffeinated to within an inch of my life on these trips.

Things I know I'll be able to get there (like in vending machines or at the small convenience store near the research institute) so I don't bother carrying them, but I would if I were going somewhere more remote: nuts, vege yeast pate to put on bread (sometimes I love the german obsession with yeast spreads!), coffee, endless awesomely good german bread, beer (yays!), more chocolate.

That might look obsessive, but I like to be able to concentrate on my work when I'm working, not to worry about if I'm going to be hungry (and therefore cranky and not at my best in terms of concentration) if we have to work late and order pizza, which may or may not arrive without the cheese, no matter how nicely we ask (this is where the lara bars come in handy). Also, it takes the pressure off my hosts if they know that I have some "vegan food" with me. Some of it is also stuff to share (the chocolate, the rice crackers). I also bring a small thermos with me so that I can make my own coffee with soy milk before getting on long train rides, or don't have to use disposable cups. It's also nice for making soup.

Of course, the most important thing in this whole post is the book. There's nothing worse than being on a plane and having nothting to read. That and the nice chocolates and the duty free whiskey one picks up for one's hosts.

And I know I've said this before, but the best way to get people to accomodate you is to a) be gracious and b) be specific. ALWAYS thank people for setting up vegan food for you, even if you're eating pb sandwiches and pickles every day. If you whine about it, you're a loser, and a bad guest, and frankly, an ungrateful spoiled brat. And ALWAYS give people specific examples of easy-to-find things you can eat, rather than only focusing solely on what you don't eat. Do say what you don't eat, but make sure to provide positive information as well. Most omnivores seem to think that "vegan food" is a special subcategory of edibles that they can only find at great expense in specialized stores, which can make providing "vegan food" very stressful for your hosts, when really, it doesn't have to be a big deal at all. For example, it's a good idea to point out that dried pasta, all fresh fruit and veg, and peanut butter are vegan. So is pitta bread and canned beans. Point this out specifically. Name the foods. Don't make people hunt down hard-to-find ingredients ("gee, I really like sea vegetable tempeh and konnyaku with vegan worcestershire sauce and just a touch of fresh grated horseradish, do you think you could drive 50kms to find it for me?"), but do give them a specific list of easy-to-find, inexpensive stuff that you will happily eat ("If it's no trouble, could you pick up some apples, bananas, carrots, peanut butter and pitta bread for me? If you don't have time, can we swing by a grocery store together when I arrive?"), and make sure to thank them if they do it. Now is *not* the time to be picky about the variety of the apples or the shape of the pasta, okay? Be a good guest, make it easy, and remember, it's often not about the food. Trips like this are about seeing people, or getting work done. Keep things in perspective, and enjoy the pb&j and black coffee. Most importantly, enjoy the people.

Also, randomly: Plumbuns! Spicy cornbread filled with plums and some sort of cream cheezy concoction. I'm still working on this one, but will put a recipe up when it gets perfected.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

stuffed shells

I've been wanting mole-inspired things ever since I made that chocolate dinner cake a while ago, but mole takes forever, and it was Friday night, and I was at work until 7:30 and had had a looooooooong week of being repeatedly struck down by the fickle and vindictive gods of molecular biology. So I wasn't up for making anything futzy and neat and delicate. On the other hand, I had spent the entire week being repeatedly struck down by the fickle and vindictive gods of molecular biology, so I wanted something cushy and comforting and chocolatey. So this is relatively easy, but still enough to feel like a celebratory dinner. After all, I suspect that the gods will eventually find a new victim. This was a very satisfying dinner, and since I already had cooked lentils in the fridge, only took about half an hour to pull together. I love how it looked so messy, especially after a week of extra carefully moving around microliters of ridiculously expensive enzymes, and taking care of microorganisms under sterile conditions, and keeping all the damn identical tiny tubes of minute amounts of clear liquid carefully labelled and organzied. A chocolatey mess was exactly what the doctor ordered.

Pasta shells stuffed with this:
In enough white wine to just cover , cook these (you can also use veg stock, or diluted white wine, or even a light beer):
a chopped onion
a chopped parsnip
some capers
some garlic (4-5 cloves)
some oregano
4-6 chopped sundried tomatoes (no need to rehydrate them first, they'll cook up)

When the onion is translucent, add:
2c cooked puy lentils
1/3 c cocoa nibs
1/2 tsp cinnamon
dash cloves
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp grated ginger
black pepper
a chopped chipotle pepper
dash smoked paprika
about a tbs of chopped capers
salt to taste

Simmer for a while (any liquid should evaporate) When it's all done, put your pasta on to cook. Once you have the pasta going, add 2-4 tbs flour dissolved in 1/2 c water to your hot lentils, keeping them on low heat. This will thicken them up. Once they thicken up, turn the heat off.

Sauce: 1 c balsamic vinegar, reduced to a third of a cup. Once reduced, add 15g good chocolate. It will just melt in. set aside.

When the pasta's done, stuff each shell with the lentil mixture. Drizzle with the balsamic sauce. If you want to make this fancier, make ravioli out of it using fresh pasta dough. Serve with steamed broccoli that's been doused with lemon juice. A carrot salad would also be nice, but I was out of carrots.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

spring soup

Wild garlic! It's here! Yay! This soup is simple, and perfect. The mushrooms add a lot of depth, the black pepper gives it heat, and the whole thing is satisfying but unstodgy. Kinda like spring.

Spring soup:

boil up:
2 dried shiitake mushrooms
lots of galangal (um, at least 4 large slices)
some lemongrass (2 stalks, bruised)
lots of black pepper (at least a tsp, more if you like the heat)
anisseed (1 tsp)
shoyu to taste (2-4 tbs should do it, but make your food how you want, not how i want)
a dash of mirin
a leek, chopped
a medium spud, chopped
some mushrooms
a chopped carrot
chicken seitan

when the spuds are done, declare the soup done, take it off the heat, pick out the galangal and lemongrass chunks, add a bit of lemon juice, and stir in 1 cup wild garlic, chopped.

exhuberant music for exhuberant soup: king of spain, moxy fruvous.