Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Thank you for everything. I have no complaint whatsoever. And quinoa.

With the exception of those whose job it is to be as ungenerous as possible (insurance companies), everyone has been so incredibly generous with me following my flat smokyness. Which has reminded me that I'm fine, and that things are just things, and that I'm in a pretty good situation (I have a job, I have a place to move into soon, I have somewhere to stay in the meantime, and I have lots of looooooooove).

However, the one thing that has kept me from turning into a ranting, raving bitch is my yoga practice. I've been getting on the mat most mornings and whispering "Thank you for everything. I have no complaint whatsoever", which is some not-random mantra that I read years ago in some hippie-woo-woo book that one of my flatmates had left lying around. And you know what? It works. Of course I'm frustrated over the beaurocrats and the unfairness of some idiots setting fire to a flat. But saying this every day keeps me focused on what I do have, which, let's be honest, is more than most people on the planet, even now. And when you can have so much of your material possesions wrecked and be depending on others to put you up and still have more than most of humanity, you're in a pretty good position. So, just to reiterate: Thank you for everything. I have no complaint whatsoever.

Complaint-free quinoa and roasted cauliflower:

1 cup quinoa. Cook that. You know what to do.

While it's cooking, roast 1/2 large cauliflower, separated into chunks that have been tossed with olive oil and cumin seeds.

When the quinoa is cooked, stir in some chopped kalamata olives and some raisins, and douse it with lemon juice and salt, and crumble in some smoked tofu.

Just before the cauliflower is done, toss it with some chopped kale and pop it back in the oven for a few minutes.

When the kale is bright green and happy, mix the roasted veg with the quinoa. Yum.

dancing along to: random conversation with friends.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

up in smoke

...is what happened to my place, when the flat downstairs went up in flames. So now I find myself with far less stuff, staying with friends, and kind of shell-shocked from knowing first hand what it's like to be pulled out of my kitchen window at 2.30 am in my jammies by a fireman. The only things I grabbed between my bed and the window were my glasses, and then, only because I instinctively put them on as I get out of bed.

So, I give you the most comforting soup in the universe, which is what I've been having most nights. It's very loosely based on the "behead the chard" soup in Don't Feed The Bears. My sweetie and I just call this The Soup. I think that The Soup has magical powers to make any situation seem better.

In a pot:
-Crumble some dried shitake mushrooms (say 3 of them) and a few dashes of soy sauce (maybe 1 tbs - go easy, because you can always add more later, but if you oversalt the soup at the beginning, it's harder to save) into enough water to make you a giant bowl of soup
-Set it on the stove to boil, and while it's heating up, add 1 heaping tsp of nut butter or tahini (I've been using walnut butter lately), as much chopped garlic and ginger as you want, a dash of mirin or white wine, and a healthy pinch of dried chili (chipotle is especially fun, but anything hot works, really).
-When the soup is boiling and the nut butter has dissolved, add one serving of rice noodles
-When the rice noodles are nearly done (say, when you've got a minute left), add in whatever veg you want + some smoked or marinated (or fried...whatever you want, really) tofu in cubes. I like to use a green veg (broccoli or kale) + mushrooms + whatever bits and bobs of leftover cooked veg are in the fridge. Sweetcorn is oddly good in this soup
-In your serving bowl, dissolve a tbs of miso in some soup broth that you ladle out of the pot.
-When the soup is done, ladle it into the bowl with the miso. Stir. Add herbs if you've got them (cilantro or basil or both)
-Taste. Adjust seasoning by adding more soy sauce or more mirin, and then add a drizzle of sesame oil. A nice variation is to use walnut butter as the nut butter and then walnut oil at the end, in which case fresh parsley is amazing.
-Try replacing the noodles with cubes of sweet potato. Sweet potatoes and miso are best friends.


The whole thing takes about 15 minutes from the time I walk into the kitchen until I have a wonderful bowl of hug in front of me.

Lessons learned this week:
1. Never get all your Xmas chocolates made in an organized, early way. This is the first time I've managed to get everything ready by mid-November and my FRIKIN' FLAT WAS SMOKED TO DEATH. Next year I will resume my sending-presents-late routine.
2. The fire dept is amazing.
3. My friends are amazing.
4. Eat soup. It helps.

Dancing along to: Mink, Schmink by Eartha Kitt. November is an Eartha Kitt kinda month, no?

Thursday, 10 November 2011

I have an agenda.

It's true.

Yesterday I commented to a friend how many diseases correlate with the (excessive) consumption of animal products. This isn't my opinion, it's just an inconvenient fact if you happen to love cheese.

The hardest part of being vegan isn't finding something to eat when I'm travelling (that's easy), or trying to find a warm-but-not-wooly pullover that isn't polar fleece (that's having awesome crafty friends who trade me knitting for chocolate), or getting enough protein (where are all these protein-deficient people, anyways?). It's watching my loved ones consume food that hurts others and, at least on average, hurts them. It's watching my friends who are still relatively young start getting diagnoses for diseases that are in many (though not all) cases preventable.

So yeah, it's Movember. Terrifying facial hair abounds. Raising awareness and encouraging people to go and get tested for various and sundry diseases is probably a good idea, as is trying to cure what ails us. But you know, it's also a good idea to lower your chances of getting said disease in the first place.

Being vegan doesn't have to be healthy (crisps, coke, and sugar are all vegan), but a healthy vegan diet does seem to produce pretty damn impressive results. If drugs could do what food does, we'd be dancing in the streets. At least give it a read. If you care enough to grow a scary mustache, or fork over money to friends who are doing it, consider caring enough to actually change a little something about your lifestyle so that after your mustachio'd, newly-aware self goes to the doctor to be checked out for rogue cell growth, you've skewed your chances towards health rather than illness.

I'm not a doctor, or at least not *that* kind of doctor, so read the research yourself. Don't take my word for anything, but hell, don't extra-special-ignore it because you like bacon and I like tempeh. I care about pigs, but I also care about people. I don't really want either of you to suffer more than you have to. Read. Eat. Stack the deck in your favor. Especially if I love you, cuz I want you to be around for a long, long time.

Some links
The China Study

dancing along to: I wantcha around, by the ever-inspirational Eartha Kitt

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Am vegan, will travel: myth busting in Barcelona and bergamot madness!

I travel without a camera. So, no pictures. But THREE recipes! And how to find vegan hot chocolate in Barcelona! Oooooohhhhh.... be excited. Be very excited.

So there seems to be this interwebs-based myth that if you go to Barcelona/Costa Brava and are vegan, you have to skip the whole iconic hot chocolate thang. This is bullshit. You just have to ask, smile, and learn how to say "Is there already milk in the hot chocolate?", "no milk" and "do you have soymilk?" in hilariously bad Catalan. Not every single place will have or be willing to make vegan hot chocolate, but after a week in Spain, I can safely say that you have have more than one hot chocolate a day quite easily. Too easily, even. I may still be recovering. Churros, however, are a different story. There may be vegan churros in Barcelona, but I just don't like deep-fried anything enough to bother trying to find them, so I either brought my own cookies to dip in the hot chocolate, or had my hot chocolate straight up. I'm wild that way.

There is vegan hot chocolate in a wonderful choclateria smack in the middle of Barcelona at La Pallaresa, Calle Petritxol. They make their chocolate with water. There are also a number of small cafes scattered around the city that have soy milk, and it's usually indicated on the menu. When I say "scattered" I mean "every 3 blocks". Trust me, you're not going to want for hot chocolate, or even a soy latte. If you want tea, however, you're fucked. Sorry. There is tea on the menu, but it's pretty horrific. Stick with coffee or chocolate. Providing the hot chocolate isn't pre-made with milk (which it is in most choclaterias, like Xoco or La Granga which are nearby), any cafe with soy milk seemed quite happy to make me a vegan hot chocolate, though they were surprised at the request. One waiter said "Sure. I guess so. Why not?", looked at me like I was insane, and then returned several minutes later with a delicious hot chocolate. The best hot chocolate I had was actually in St.Feliu (where I was at a workshop) at a little place whose website I can't find where they served Enrico Rovira hot chocolate, with TWO vegan options: either made with water, or with soy milk. Heaven! And there's a little vegetarian (with lots of vegan options) restaurant just around the corner (El Celler de Triton, at c/ Sant Antoni, 5, right on the main beach street) if you need a salt fix after the chocolate sugar rush! The chocolate shop is apparently a stealth cafe, since I can't find it on the interwebs. That's kind of refreshing, actually. Use your choco-dar. That's how I found it.

One of the very best things about travelling is wandering through new and exciting markets and gawking at new and exciting produce. Confession: I don't eat out much when I travel. This isn't because it's hard to eat out and be vegan so long as you have minimal planning and interpersonal skillz. It's because I love cooking. Also because I travel so much that I get my fill of restaurant food, both fancy and plain, without trying. So, given the choice, I cook. On a recent trip to Barcelona, my sweetums brought me bergamots at the market just off La Rambla, which we wandered around for a while before going on a hot chocolate crawl.

Anyway, bergamots are pretty frikin' strong, so here's what happened with just two of them:

Bergamot pilaf:

1 c brown basmati rice, cooked with a tbs of toasted dried coconut

1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp avocado oil
1 tbs black cumin seeds
2 red onions
2 carrots, peeled and chopped in big(ish) chunks
1 tsp sugar
sprinkle of salt
1 cup veg broth or 1/2 cup veg broth and 1/2 cup white wine (I used the broth from making simmered seitan)

2 cups seitan, in thin slices

zest from one bergamot

Heat oil. Add cumin seeds and onion. Drop heat and let onions cook slowly (caramelize them if you have time). When the onions are more or less done, add the carrot, raise the heat to medium, and let it cook for two minutes or so, stirring to keep things from sticking. Add the seitan, sprinkle with sugar and salt and keep going until things begin to stick to the pan, and then add the liquid. Simmer uncovered until the liquid has reduced and the carrots are tender. Add cooked rice and bergamot zest. Mix. Devour.

Green tomato and bergamot chutney

1 pound green tomatoes, chopped
2 small apples, chopped
1/3 cup cheap-ass plain vinegar
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup dates, chopped
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
2 inches of fresh ginger root, chopped
1 stick cinnamon
juice from one bergamot

Combine everything except the bergamot juice, and simmer for as long as you can stand it, or at least an hour. Let cool a bit. Stir in bergamot juice. Taste. Add more sugar if you want. I didn't. In theory, you can can this properly, but it keeps for quite a while in the fridge if you just put it in a clean glass jar with a lid. It's too yummy to not eat in short order anyways...

Deconstructed London Fog ice cream trio

3 cups cashews, soaked for a few hours and then drained
2 cups silken tofu
2 cups really rich soy milk (or 1 cup soy milk + 1 cup soy cream)
1 cup agave nectar
1 tbs xantham gum
pinch salt
stevia to taste

Put the base ingredients in a blender and blend until very smooth. Divide into 3 equal parts. This base is fairly unsweet. I don't like my ice creams super-sweet, but if you do, go for it.

Part 1:
Add 4 tbs of assam tea to the base + 1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract (I think almond works better) + 1 tbs vodka. Blend! The vodka is optional- it just keeps it from freezing too solid if you make your ice cream in cute little heart molds. If you skip it, you'll just have slighly more solid ice cream. No biggie.

Part 2:
Add 1 whole vanilla bean (if you have a vitamix or other superpowered blender of doom), or the seeds scraped from one whole vanilla bean (if you don't have a superblender) + 1 tbs vanila (or plain) vodka. Blend!

Part 3:
Add the zest from 1 bergamot and juice from 1/2 bergamot, at least 1/2 cup icing sugar and 1 tbs orange flower water. Blend! (I promise the flavor will mellow after it freezes)

Pour the ice creams into moulds and freeze. Unmold and let thaw for a few minutes before eating. This makes a lot of ice cream. Really lots. And that is not a bad thing.

dancing along to: Tea for two.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

very Scottish rolly buns

...because they have oatmeal and brambles. Blackberries for those of you not lucky enough to live here.

Step one: Get on your bike. Remember to pack a tupperware container or three in your bag.
Step two: Bike to a bramble patch and pick as many brambles as you can. Remember that the brambles taste better if you have to climb over a fence to get them.
Step three: return home happy and triumphant with purple hands
Step four: make these rolly buns

Dough dry ingredients:
1:1:1 (approx) mix of oat flour, whole wheat flour and chickpea flour
pinch salt
sprinkle of brown sugar
(generous) dash cardamom
(stingy) half dash of cinnamon
a goodly amount of quick yeast

Dough wet ingredients:
warm water
drops of almond essence
dribble maple syrup

Roll out the dough and then spread a mix of brambles and peaches tossed in arrowroot over it. The peaches are optional. I bought some dud peaches that were too cottony to eat, but just fine to cook with. Using them up like this (and as baked peaches stuffed with brambles and candied ginger) helped numb the pain of having substandard peaches mocking me from the fruit bowl. Now, back to the buns: Roll it up! Cut into buns! Let rise overnight. Bake the next morning and have the Best Fall Breakfast Ever.

I really didn't measure anything for these, so consider recreating the buns in this post to be an invitation to break free from the tyranny of the measuring cups!

Friday, 9 September 2011

the secret ingredient is love.

Or so I told my buddy when she showed up for her birthday breakfast cake to celebrate the beginning of her third decade. When pressed, I had to admit that there were a few other ingredients holding the love together for better bake-ability. You see, I think that it's important to have cake for breakfast on one's birthday. To start the year off right, and make the day special, and to take advantage of being a grown up and actually remembering to go ahead and have cake for breakfast every now and then. It's good for the soul. Buddy requested ginger cake, and peaches are lovely right now, so here's what the birthday girl found when she arrived at my flat.

Gingerbread cake, cardamom icing, fresh peaches, ginger ice cream.

For the cake

Mix liquid ingredients

1.5 cups applesauce
1/2 cup almond meal left over from making almond milk (or use 1/2 cup ground almonds + 3 tbs water)
1 good size slice of fresh ginger
1 tsp almond extract
3/4 cup molasses
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup ginger wine

blend all of this in a blender.

Now, mix up the dry ingredients

1.5 cups self-raising whole wheat flour
1 cup soy flour
pinch salt
1 tbs ground ginger
1/2 tbs cardamom
1/2 tbs nutmeg
1/4 tbs cloves
1/4 tbs cinnamon
1 cup chopped candied ginger

Pour wet into dry and mix to combine. Pour into a greased and floured (or just silicone) cake pan and bake at 180C until done. Depending on your baking vessel and your oven, "done" is probably between 40 mins and an hour. Poke the cake with a knife occasionally, and when the knife comes out clean, it's done. If you want to ice the cake, bake it the night before.

Also the night before, make the icing:

1 package vegan cream cheese (I use Sheese)
1 tetra pack firm silken tofu
pinch salt
4 tbs icing sugar
1 tbs cardamom

Combine using a hand blender. Leave in fridge overnight. It will firm up a bit.

The next morning, ice cake and top with fresh peaches. Yum.

I served it up with ginger ice cream from here. I modified the ice cream by adding xantham gum and a splash of ginger wine(before blending, to keep the ice cream from getting too solid in my fridge), and then stirred in an ungodly amount of crushed candied ginger in syrup (after blending). I used homemade soy kefir instead of yogurt, and subbed stevia for the sugar.

dancing to: happy birthday toooooo youuuuuuuuu!

Friday, 2 September 2011

compassion. also, carob.

Compassion is a word that gets thrown around lightly, but it's one I take quite seriously. I sat down the other day and posed one of those ridiculous hypothethicals to myself (If someone were forced to describe me in a single word, what would I want that word to be - in other words, what is the outwardly acting part of me that I most value), and my first instinct was to answer "compassionate".

I thought about this a lot, because the answer surprised me and frankly, I thought it was boring and maybe a little too woo-woo to admit to publicly. I wanted a more exciting answer. I expected me to say "intelligent" or "creative". Secretly, I longed to have picked "transgressive". But when I was honest with myself, I stuck to "compassionate". So what does this mean in terms of habits? Habits are what we do every day. They are our default actions, and I would argue that our habits (rather than our occasional acts of grandeur or madness) tell what kind of people we are.

First of all, a compassionate person habitually acts with compassion. Yup. In my books, intentions matter less than actions. Intentions matter, of course, but the point of an intention is to inform action (or inaction). To act with compassion, I have to know what compassion is, and how the intention of compassion manifests in action. So.... compassion is a sympathetic consciousness of another's suffering (part one) combined with a strong desire to alleviate it (part 2). The definition is paraphrased from my trusty OED, and the parts are my addition.

Part 1: A sympathetic consciousness of another's suffering. This means that to act with compassion, I first have to put myself in the other guy's shoes. Or the other guy's feet, if the other guy happens to be unshod. To experience the first part of compassion, we have to shut up and observe others and try to figure out their point of view rather than our point of view. That annoying person next to me on the plane who can't shut up is lonely, or maybe scared of flying, or maybe they're just trying to be nice to me. There they are. I'm annoyed. I don't have to stop being annoyed, I just have to acknowledge that and also look at it from their perspective. Or... there's a chicken somewhere who has their own agenda. Most likely, being someone's dinner is not part of that agenda, even if that someone is hungry and likes the taste of chicken. From the chicken's point of view, my dinner is not their concern, and most certainly not something that they're willing to die for.

Part 2: A strong desire to alleviate the suffering of another. To act with compassion, after putting myself in the other guy's feets, I have to think of possible courses of action, and choose the one that makes them suffer least or (even better) brings them joy. So, maybe I can spend a few minutes talking to the annoying person next to me on the plane, at least until we're through the turbulent takeoff and they're no longer clinging white-knuckled to the armrest, and then tell them politely that I'm *really* looking forward to my book rather than glaring at them and putting on my noise-cancelling headphones as the plane lurches left and right. For the chicken, one option is to kill them quickly, but actually a better one is not to kill them at all. Food-wise, being vegan is how I understand compassionate action. And compassion is more important than pleasure. Of course, it's also possible (and important) to be compassionate towards oneself, but there's a big different between compassionate towards yourself and being indulgent or entitled.

Cultivating compassionate habits means that the day-to-day of what I do should be based on the two things above. Too often I see the pattern of merely declaring oneself compassionate rather than a focus on compassionate action. Frankly, if we have a strong desire to alleviate the suffering of another but fail to do so given an easy opportunity, then the desire probably isn't all that strong. It's true that some situations are harder to figure out, but many are simple, and working on the hard stuff is no excuse for not doing the easy stuff. It may be unclear to me which approach is best with a student who is struggling (tough love or gentle nudging or asking if they've considered a different area of study altogether), but that wouldn't excuse me mocking someone with a learning disability.

So what does that mean in terms of concrete action? I try not to look away from suffering when it is right in front of me. I refuse to pretend that homeless people aren't there. I refuse to pretend that the meat in the supermarket wasn't a sentient, feeling being. But I'm not perfect. Right now, I secretly wish that whoever stole my bike wheels returned home to find that their car was gone. Sigh.

Now, in the spirit of this actually being a food blog: carob. Another place that compassion is hard is towards people who keep on pretending that carob is just like chocolate. They ruin carob, which is perfectly delish in it's own right. So, while I go and try to cultivate compassion towards those well-intentioned destroyers of desserts, I leave you with this super-yummy dessert that in no way resembles chocolate.

Carob brain-freeze enabler

4 frozen bananas, peeled and in pieces (keep them already peeled and chopped up in your freezer at all times in case of emergencies)
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
4 heaping tbs carob
1 tbs maple syrup
tiny itsy bitsy pinch of salt

up to 1/4 cup soy or almond milk OR 1/3 cup soy yogurt

Put everything in either a high powered blender (like a Vitamix) or a food processor. Add enough soy milk or yogurt to let it blend, but only enough to let it blend, or your brain freeze enabler will go from spoonable to slurpable, which might not be a bad thing.... Blend until smooth and about the consistency of soft-serve ice cream. Serve drizzled with a little more balsamic and a little more maple syrup. Serves 2-3 people, depending how reasonable you want to be about serving sizes.

Monday, 22 August 2011

dancedancedance (and taste your chocolate)

Another non-cooking post because these days I'm doing more travelling and working than cooking so my food-related instructions would go something like this: wash fruit. Wash veg. Eat. Since I'm not much of a photographer, I'm not going to take artistic pictures of bowls of cherries and piles of peaches. Get your own. Enjoy how pretty they are. Wash. Eat. Dance dance dance.

This blog is called kitchen dancing because that's how I feel when I cook. It's playful and fun and creative (and I get to eat the evidence). I also feel like that when I eat. I love eating. More to the point, I love tasting and feeling and smelling. Like so many others, I spend my days in my head (I'm an academic) and so it's always a nice change to move into the kitchen and spend time in my body. I'm home in the UK for a few weeks now before my next round of trips and it's the best time to be here: stone fruit, berries, glorious bike-riding weather, warm tea in cool evenings but the sun is still up early enough to make running or going to yoga achingly beautiful and calm.

This time of year is all about delight. In late summer everything seems to be yelling "Use your senses, crazy humans! Slow down and taste! Slow down and look! Slow down and smell all these things before they shut down for the winter!" Since the world is telling me to notice it more, it seems fitting that I'm co-hosting a tea and chocolate tasting event this week and I'm sure people will ask me how to taste chocolate. I can tell them how I taste it -how I tease the different smells and flavors out of chocolate so that it amuses and delights me, but ultimately, the right way to taste it is the way that gives you the most enjoyment. Chocosnobs may disagree with me, but I say that if you get genuine pleasure out of scarfing the whole bar in 2 minutes, then go for it. I generally don't scarf my chocolate. I like to enjoy the tastes slowly, kind of like tasting wine (but I don't spit the chocolate out). I like to look at the chocolate, smell it, and notice how the taste changes over time, how the second bite is different from the first, how it reminds me of particular places or memories or smells or tastes. I like to notice the way it feels: how it melts. I like to let the taste fade after I've finished. Some bars have three or four tastes and some have dozens. Some are wild and some are refined. Some are loud and some are subtle. Some I love and some I dislike and some I'm just indifferent to. I train - I keep notes on how chocolates from different places taste, and on how different chocolate makers put their own signature style on top of that. I make my own chocolates and have fun noticing how tiny changes in technique makes a huge difference in finished chocolate. I get frustrated and get my friends to eat the evidence when things don't work. I crank up the music and dance.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

practice makes...

...more practice. Let me explain. I don't often blog about anything other than food or veganism here, but sometimes other things are relevant. In this case, yoga is relevant to cooking. Before you roll your eyes (or hell, after you roll your eyes) keep reading. It might help.

There are things we do that we don't stop doing until we die. You can get better at it, it can be fun or not fun, but the point is that you do it. For me, cooking is one of those things. We don't *have* to cook - there are certainly enough ready-made foods around. And I don't have to cook at a practice - one can certainly approach it just as a means to getting food into one's tummy. But if I had to pick a way to describe my cooking, I would say that I have a cooking practice.

A little background: I am an improvisational cook. Though I have cookbooks, and read cookbooks, I rarely follow recipes (even when baking - GASP). In the kitchen, very few things flummox me. I cook easily, and while not every single meal is a masterpiece, I'm just as happy when I have to improvise because I'm cleaning out the fridge, have run out of an ingredient that I could have sworn I had lots of, or because of new dietary preferences or restrictions, as I am when everything goes according to my evil culinary plans. I love cooking. To me, it's like dancing when nobody's looking. It's like jazz. It's like... running really fast when you're bursting with energy. It's like fingerpainting with a 4 year old. You get the point. All of these things are experiences, not endpoints. And all of them are things that come more easily the more you do them. So the grownup way of saying all that is that for me, cooking is a practice. Like all practices, the point is that it's part of my life. It's something I do every day (or almost). It doesn't interrupt me being me, it's just part of me.

Wanna hear my woo-woo hippie secret? I've started going to yoga at 6.30. Every single morning. I started doing it in self defense - I can't always make it to evening classes if things pick up at work, and I like to be able to socialize in the evenings, or work, or cook. So when yoga is relegated to evenings, it often gets skipped, and is a source of major scheduling woes. And after not-too-many weeks of doing the same series of asana every morning, I rapidly realized one very important thing: the asana are not the practice. Getting up at 5 is the practice. Getting on my bike is the practice. Showing up is the practice. Breathing is the practice. The asana focus me, but the practice is much more than that. Oh, and the exercise is a side-effect. The muscles in my arms are a side effect. Being able to do the splits fairly effortlessly is a side effect. Being (nearly) able to walk about on my hands is a side effect. These side effects are all awesome, but I can't motivate myself to get out of bed before sunrise with the possibility that I may one day have a nicer ass. I just have to get out of bed because I'm getting out of bed. I can't climb on my bike in the rain for killer abs. I can climb on my bike, every morning, to climb on my bike. And I sure as hell can't make it through the entire primary series before breakfast for any goal. I can, however, breathe in and out and focus on whatever asana I'm in (or attempting) right then and there, and eventually the series gets done. You see, there isn't a goal. If I ever manage to do every single asana in the primary series, I won't "finish" anything. I'll just fall on my ass less. And keep getting up at 5. And some days my yoga practice really sucks: sometimes I'm tired, or unbendy or unbalanced or unfocused and one time, I just kind of burst into tears. But the thing about a practice is that it includes the sucky days too. Yoga on days when I fall over or can't keep my mind from wandering off in all directions is just as much yoga as days when every asana falls into place and I experience each and every breath conciously. The only way to fail at practicing is not to show up.

Now here's how it relates to cooking: the final dish is a side effect. Being able to cook a dinner party for 8 without a recipe book or even knowing what the ingredients will be the day before (and not finding that stressful) is a side effect. Making a cake that you imagine but don't have a recipe for, and having it work out the first time is a side effect. Making my own chocolate bars is a side effect. Cooking is a practice. Each step is it's own thing. If you worry too much about the end product, then it becomes a chore. Not that the end product isn't awesome. It is. I love preparing food for those I love. But I'm not torturing myself to make them something. The practice is this: shopping, chopping, mixing, tasting. The practice is putting combinations of spices together over and over until you know how they will affect each other before starting, it is chopping often enough that chopping takes on an effortless rhythm that isn't unlike breathing. It's paying attention to smells and textures when they happen so that eventually you can smell when the rice is done without opening the pot or pull sesame seeds off the heat when they're toasty but before they burn. It's making bread over and over and eventually (trust me) you just know when the dough is right. It's really listening to what your loved ones tell you they like and don't like and inventing recipes just for them. Cooking is cooking and it doesn't end, so you might as well let it be an end in itself. The food, my friend, is a side effect. Oh, and the only way to truly fail at cooking is to fail to show up. Making plain boiled rice is not lesser cooking than is a 4 layer birthday cake, or Christmas dinner. Sometimes I burn the rice. And that's practice too.

Monday, 20 June 2011

am vegan, will travel: be prepared.

I travel a lot. And often, I get the comment "it must be hard to travel and stay vegan". Uh... no. You just have to be a little bit prepared. Depending where you are going (I am currently in the middle of nowhere, pretty much exactly...I think they call it Oklahoma), bringing a stash of food with you can save your ass (and your tummy). I've already posted on my standard vegan scooby snackz - but it bears reiterating that a little bit of preparation goes a long way. If you have some dried chickpeas, some dried berries, and some nuts, you can jazz up even the boringest and most iceberg lettucy of salads to be a filling meal. Add a few packs of powdered miso soup to your bag, and a bunch of powdered greens drinks, then buy some non-perishable produce when you arrive: carrots and apples are my standards. Even in the heat, they've been keeping fine in my room. I also picked up some rice cakes since I'm pretty sure that the bread at the conference isn't vegan. If you're gluten intolerant or super-picky, just pack the rice cakes in your suitcase. I also always pack a thermos, a sporknife, and some teabags (because it pisses me off to pay for a breakfast buffet where I can't eat anything). Finally, I *always* pack some fancy chocolate to share with others - this is vegan activism. I don't want people to see a deprived vegan, and when you're sitting there pulling dried chickpeas out of your bag to add to your iceberg lettuce while everyone else is eating a 3-course meal, you do stand out a little. A fancy treat can really turn the tables and make people see that you're not a martyr, and can also defuse a lot of uncomfortableness that others might be feeling (think about it - wouldn't you feel bad eating a giant piece of cake in front of someone who wasn't eating it because of allergies, but feel much more relaxed if they suddenly pulled their own dessert out? A lot of food eating is social - remember that sometimes a chocolate bar is more than just a chocolate bar.). Sure, bringing extra stuff with you means that you have to check a bag instead of going with only carry-on, but meh. It's not hard, and it's only the tiniest itsiest bitsiest bit inconvenient. Sometimes it's a little inconvenient to act in line with your morals. To all those who whinge that a few minutes of planning are needed: GROW UP already (unless you're an actual child, in which case, grow up at the usual speed, okay?).

Finally, you *can* get vegan food just about anywhere. It may not be fancy, but it will probably fill you up. Be polite. Smile. State exactly what you want, and be firm. Say please, say thank you, and leave a decent tip. Do not whine, throw a temper tantrum, or be an entitled bitch. And if that fails, pull the dried chickpeas and carrots out of your bag, accept the situation with good humor and grace, and enjoy the company (and the chocolate bar). So far, I've only failed once, which puts the chances of getting vegan food at about 67/68, if I've properly tallied my trips so far this year. Them's pretty good odds. So stop whining.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

I wanna be a chocolate god: vegan != healthy

This recipe singlehandedly (singlebrownie-ly?) disproves the often-made (erroneous) assumption that vegan == healthy. I modified the recipe from here, making it more spicy and less sweet. And... more chocolatey. I put some of them in the freezer "for later" and discovered that they are reeeeeeeally delicious and highly addictive frozen. Especially made into a brownie sundae on banana soft-serve. I imagine they'd also be good on coconut milk ice cream, but that much coconut at once is probably lethal.

Chai brownies

1 cup coconut oil
200g dark chocolate (I used about 80% cocoa content, leftovers from homemade bars)
1 tsp vanilla
chai spices: 1 tsp cardamom, 1/2 tsp each of cinnamon, ginger, ground aniseed and black pepper, 1/4 tsp of cloves. Optional 1/4 tsp of chili powder.
1 cup very strong black tea
1 and 1/4 cups sugar (1/2c white and 3/4 cup brown works best)
2 cups cake or pastry flour (I use whole wheat pastry flour)
1 scant cup dutch process cocoa
2 tsp baking powder (omit if you use self-raising flour)
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp flax seeds (ground)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F and grease an 8 x 8 pan, or use an ungreased silicone pan.
2. In a double boiler or makeshift equivalent, melt the coconut oil, chocolate squares and vanilla together. Add sugar and remove from heat.
3. Make tea (3 teabags). After it has steeped and the teabags have been removed, stir the flax into the tea. Let this sit for at least 5 mins. It will thicken into goo.
4. In another bowl, sift together the flours, cocoa, baking powder and salt.
5. When your flax mixture has thickened, add it to the chocolate/coconut oil / Now combine the chocolate/coconut oil/flax/tea mixture with the flour mixture and stir to incorporate. The batter will be less liquid than you are probably used to. Fear not.
6. Spread the batter into the greased baking pan and bake for 30-40 minutes. Test after 30 mins, but in most ovens that I've used, it takes closer to 40. I did have one very overzealous oven that used to do them in 30, though. Best to check.
7. When finished, remove the brownies from the oven, and *do not try to remove them from the pan*. They need to be completely cool before cutting them. Best is to make them the night before you need them.

I've also made these with Dove's gluten-free flour blend and tapioca flour (3:1 ratio), and they are delish, but need 1 more tbs of flax and an extra 1/4 cup or so of tea.

For the icing, I used 1 package vegan cream cheese (Sheese brand), 1/2 cup icing sugar, and 50 grams melted chai-flavored chocolate (I had some "failed" chai chocolates left over from making them for a friend) and a pinch of salt all mixed with a handblender.

Dancing for the brownies: Suzanne Vega: Nine objects of desire.

Friday, 27 May 2011

queen of tart: rhubarb thyme rolly buns

It was only a matter of thyme. Ahem. This week there was some lovely deep-red rhubarb in my fridge and a big bunch of fresh tyme in my veg box. When they saw each other, they fell in love, and it just seemed wrong to separate them. So I made these.

dry ingredients:
flours-equal parts millet, chickpea, arrowroot and brown rice (for a grand total of 2.5 cups)
1.5 tsp xantham gum
1 tbs flax meal
pinch salt
1 package quick yeast
zest from 1 lemon
2 heaping tbs fresh thyme leaves, rubbed

wet ingredients:
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup soy milk
juice from lemon
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbs maple syrup

Mix all the dry ingredients together. Mix all the wet ingredients together - they will curdle- and pour over dry ingredients. Mix mix mix until it's all mixed into a sticky dough. Add more water or soy milk if it's too dry. Add more millet flour if it's too sticky.

okara from 1 batch soy milk (1 heaping cup)
1 tbs coconut flour (optional, but nice)
2 tbs sweet white miso
2 tbs maple syrup
pinch salt
zest from 1 lemon
arrowroot powder (start with 1 tbs)

Mix all the filling ingredients together. They should be gloopy, like cream cheese. Add enough arrowroot to ensure that this is so (the exact amount you need will depend on how watery your okara was to start with). The filling should be quite sweet, as you are going to throw rhubarb into it.

Chop up 2 cups rhubarb and one very ripe pear. Mix them. If you do not love tartness, mix 1/4 cup (or more) of sugar in with the fruit. I love tartness. I am the queen of tart. I eat rhubarb straight. I also sometimes peel and eat limes. So... I made this without sugar and found that the pear and the maple syrup took the edge off, but left the filling pleasantly puckery. If you are more of a sweetie-pie than a queen of tart, then go with the sugar.

Now, roll out the buns into a rectangle on a very well-floured surface (I used more millet flour), schmear with filling, and then cover that with a layer of rhubarb and pear. Roll up. Cut into 4 buns, place in a silicone pie dish, and let rise overnight. If you don't use silicone or other seriously non-stick cookware, then coconut oil + flour a normal metal pie dish and proceed with that. Don't skip the oil + flour, or you will never ever unstick your rolly buns from the pie dish, which will be sad.

The next morning, preheat oven to as high as it goes with a bowl of water in it. Drop temp to 200C, and, without waiting for the oven to actually cool to 200C, put the rolly buns inside. Bake 40 mins (assuming you've made 4 large buns).

Devour for breakfast with green tea and fruit and be pleased with spring.

Dancing along to: The Spice Girls: Wannabe. I'll tell you what I want, what I really really want: RHUBARB.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

blueberry almond rolly buns

It is cold and windy and raining and thoroughly demoralizing out there. So I present you with comforting yet quasi-springlike rolly buns for Sunday morning breakfast, hot out of the oven.

I'm beginning to love xgfx baking. You see, there are soooo many flavours and textures of flour out there to explore. It's wonderful fun, and I'm stunned that I didn't start in on it sooner. Even if/when I return to using wheat and other glutin-y flours, I'll certainly be bringing more different flours in on a regular basis. I made two *giant* buns today instead of the normal four smallish ones, because we were very very hungry.

the latest:

equal parts
3/4c millet flour
1/2c brown rice flour
1/2c arrowroot flour
1/4c soy flour
1/4c carob powder mix

1 tsp xantham gum
1 heaping tbs flax meal
pinch salt
pinch nutmeg
quick yeast

enough warm water to make dough with 2 tbs dark agave and 1 tsp vanilla extract dissolved in it (start with a cup - you can always add more)

The method is now like making cinnamon buns. Just roll the dough out gently on a well-millet-floured surface into a rectangle, and then and cover the rectangle with a layer of filling, and then 1/2 cup of dried blueberries, then roll the whole thing up and slice it into either two ginormous or four reasonably small buns. Put those in either an oiled and floured pan, or a silicone baking pan (I use a silicone pan).

1 heaping c. almond pulp leftover from making almond milk
1 tsp agave
pinch nutmeg
pinch salt
1/2 tsp almond extract

Let rise overnight in a cool place, like my kitchen, or the fridge in a normal-temperature kitchen. The next morning, heat oven up to 250C with a metal pan of water in it. Turn the heat down to 200C (but don't wait for it to cool), and put the buns in. Bake for 40 mins (if you've made two giant buns), or 25-30mins (if you made 4 smallish buns).

Monday, 16 May 2011

Pretty please, with a cherry on top.

I like it when fruit attacks my dinner. Also, I bought a cherry pitter on a recent trip to Cambridge. I kid you not. There was a cafe. The coffee was excellent. And for some completely unfathomable and wonderful reason, they had little cherry pitters for sale. While killing time waiting for my train to London, I had one coffee and bought one cherry pitter and was very pleased with life in general (though that could have also had a lot to do with the fun science and bright sunshine and the fact that I was headed to a roller derby game in London).

Cumin-basil socca-like-thing (chickpea flour, flax meal, salt, toasted cumin seeds, dried basil, water). I like to preheat my cast iron pan in the oven, then take it out, melt a tiny bit of coconut oil in it, and then pour the batter in and put it back in the oven. It makes a lovely crust on the bottom. I call this a socca-like-thing because it's not nearly as fried as actual socca. It's more like the love child of socca and chickpea pizza crust.

The socca is simply topped with rainbow chard wilted in white wine, then liberally sprinkled with cracked black pepper and then festooned with pitted cherries. The sauce is reduced balsamic vinegar into which I've melted some unsweetened chocolate.

So easy. So good. And... first cherries of the year!

Dancing along to: Ray Spoon. Fun and yum, just like this dinner.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

I wanna be a chocolate God part I've-lost-count: Exaptation

Exaptation is when something is used for a purpose other than the one it evolved for or was designed for. Like when, in one's student days, one might have used empty milk carton boxes as bike basket. Like when those crazy dinosaurs used the structures that had evolved for heat regulation and turned them into feathers which were then used in flight. Not that the author of this blog would have ever stolen a milk box during her wild student days. Oh no. However, I think that the appearance of the chocospresso in my life is up there with the origin of flight in the history of all life. Yes. It is that cool.

Enter my espresso maker. My perfect, sparkly green, stovetop mokka machine that is the only thing that an (ex) girlfriend and I ever purchased together, since neither of us was capable of sharing coffee in the morning, and my then-coffee-maker only made a double shot. We needed a double shot *each*, and neither of us was inclined to be reasonable at 6 am and let the other one go first.

Now, many years (and a few girlfriends) later, I've all but stopped drinking coffee, and haven't had any in the house since my holiday guests decamped (hello little sisters!). But here's the thing: I love my green sparkly mokka maker. I feel like we've been through a lot. Also, it's green and sparkly, and therefore awesome. So, I got to thinking... cocoa beans are beans. I wonder if I can grind them up like coffee beans and make cocospresso? In short: YES, YES OH GOD YES.

-Grind up cocoa beans or nibs in a Vitamix dry jug until they're a bit coarser than espresso-ground coffee beans. If you have a coffee grinder, you could probably use that. Leave the cocoa coarser than you would the coffee because otherwise you will clog the filter of your machine, which will suck, make too-bitter chocospresso, and possibly explode. You don't want that.
- Make chocospresso the same way you'd make espresso, using less cocoa than you would coffee (leave about 5mm of space in the filter basket and *do not* tamp down the ground cocoa beans. The ground nibs expand slightly.

Eeeeeee! You can drink it straight up, like I did on the first go, or go all nuts like I did and foam up some almond milk to make a chococcino (as I did about half an hour later).

Chocospresso is bitter in a good way, like espresso. Only it comes without the heart palpitations and bad breath. Plus, I feel extra-clever. I bet that Archeopteryx felt clever, too.

Exaptation success! It is a good day in the kichendancing cave indeed.

Dancing along to: Couleur cafe by Jane Birkin

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

vampire-proof your spring fling

I love spring in Edinburgh. I also love wild garlic. And while I'm at it, I'll profess my love of polenta, aubergine, and anything simmered in red wine. Now, what I do not love is having cold fingers. And my fingers have been very cold for days now. DAYS. While the calendar says spring, and the wild garlic heralds spring, and the earlier-and-earlier sunrise confirms spring, it is still FRIKIN' COLD when I go out to run in the morning, and quite chilly when I bike home at night, which makes me refuse to quit eating wintery food just yet.

This recipe is kind of loose, because it kind of just happened. I wanted garlic. Lots and lots of garlic. Lucky for me, I seem to have picked an entire carrier bag full of the stuff during my (finger-numbing) bike ride last weekend. So, here's what happened.

I made homemade "faux beef" seitan (test recipe from New American Vegan), modified to make it dryer and spicier and smokier, then rolled it up in a cheesecloth and simmered it for about an hour in water + soy sauce + bay leaves + red wine. Kept the resulting broth and used it to:

-caramelize a red onion with dried basil, pul biber chilis and black pepper
-then I added an aubergine, chopped sundried tomatoes, and some chopped capers and more broth so it was vaguely stew-like.
-When the aubergine was mostly done, I added a courgette and some of the seitan.
-When that was done, I added smoked sea salt and a ridiculous amount of chopped wild garlic. Yes, my little pretties, *all* the green you see in that picture is wild garlic. I smell awesome right now.

I piled this all on polenta (I stir in white miso and nutritional yeast at the end of the polenta cooking).

Mmmmm... garlicky spring comfort.

Dancing in a most unspringlike way along to "My daddy is a vampire" by The Meteors.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

bim bim baptastic

Ahem. This is soooo not authentic. But so far as I understand it, bimbimbap is "stuff on rice". And "stuff" means "a few different small things rather than one big thing". So, inspired by the recent opening of an *actual korean resto* in Edinburgh, which I want to eat at all the time, I made this:

Brown rice, topped with simmered tofu, spicy mushrooms, ginger-miso carrots, perfectly slimy okra, and kimchi. And maybe some pickled onions. YUM. Also, I have been out picking wild garlic, because, despite the craptastic weather, it is spring. Dammit.

The okra is from Asian Vegan Kitchen. It is perfect. Make it now.

Highly addictive tofu:
simmer together 2 tbs soy sauce, some sugar, 1 tsp ground sesame seeds, 1 tbs red wine, some chili flakes (I used urfa biber, cuz I wanted kind-of-but-not-really smoky). When the sugar has dissolved, carefully add tofu (enough for two people). When the tofu is cooked, add 1/2 cup wild garlic and 1 scallion, chopped. Let these warm through. Drizzle with sesame oil to taste.

Simmer mushrooms in soy sauce + mirin + kochuchang paste + grated ginger. Devour.

1 large carrot, grated + 2 heaping tbs pickled ginger, cut into thin strips. Sauce: 1 tbs white miso + 1 tbs lemon vinegar + 1 tbs pickling liquid from the ginger.

The next night, I might have made this again, only with greens instead of okra.

Also, I have made skully chocolates. The chocolates are not actually blurry, but my camera is acting odd. Perhaps it is afeared by the awesome scariness of my skully chocolates.

Bopping along to: Kung Fu Fighting! (getting tempered chocolate into those frikin' skully molds means) I was fast as lightning....

Friday, 4 March 2011

land and sea rolly buns

Perfect for breakfast (or dinner). They go well with slices of apple and slices of almond cheese. Actually, I think they go well with pretty much anything, but that's because they contain two of my favorite things: seaweed and spinach.

1 and 1/2 c buckwheat flour
3/4 c brown rice flour
1/2 c soy flour
2 tbs ground flax seeds
1 tsp xantham gum
pinch salt
1 tbs quick yeast

Mix all this together, then add warm water to make a wet dough. Let it rise for about an hour or two. It won't rise very dramatically, but it *will* rise.

Rinse and chop up 1 c sea lettuce (or use dried)
wilt and squeeze the water out of and chop lots o spinach (enough that you have just over 1/2 when you're done) - or use 1/2 cup frozen

Paste made from 1 tbs ume paste + 1 tbs rice syrup (or agave) + a squeeze of lemon juice (fine, about a tsp, more or less to taste). If you don't have ume paste, try substituting miso. This will taste totally different, but the key is that you need some sort of strong fermenty taste.

Mix the sea lettuce into the dough. Dust a surface liberally with buckwheat flour. Dump dough onto surface. Knead a bit. It will absorb the flour. Worry not! When the dough stops being sticky, stop kneading. Re-dust (liberally) the surface with flour, then dust the top of the dough with flour, then roll it out into a rectangle. Spread your ume syrup over this. Spread the spinach on top of all that. Roll up and cut into four or six buns. Let rise overnight.

Preheat oven to 220C with a metal cup of water in. Drop the oven dial down to 200, and put the buns in. Bake at 200C for 25 mins. Brush with a thinned out version of the ume syrup (1 tsp ume, 1 tbs agave, few drops of lemon, 1 tbs water) when they come out of the oven, and if you're feeling really fancy, a wee bit of coarse sea salt.

land and sea music: all you can eat by kd lang

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

practice pancakes

Confession: I got so excited about Pancake Day, that I accidentally scheduled it a week early. Luckily, there is nothing wrong with having a "practice run" of pancake day. Phew! These are weekday-dinner pancakes, meaning that you throw the batter together in the morning, and then leave it in your fridge all day and come home to deliciousness! I top them with caramelized red onions, apples (added to the onions so that they're cooked, but not mushy), fresh thyme and crumbled smoked tofu. They also work reheated and drizzled with maple syrup for breakfast the next morning. Yum. These are gluten-free, if you're into such things. I'm doing a bit of an experiment to see if xgfx is for me. I secretly hope it's not, but ... I'm trying to keep an open mind, which will be easy if I just eat these pancakes a lot. They're some of the best I've made so far! I looooove 'em, and even if I end up giving gluten the thumbs up, I think I'll stick with this as my new dinner pancake recipe.

Dinner pancakes

1 c buckwheat flour
1/2 c fine polenta
1/2 c brown rice flour
1/2 c full-fat soy flour
3/4 tsp xanthan gum
pinch salt
dash nutmeg
1 tsp quick yeast
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbs ground flax seeds in 2 c water (let sit for 10 mins)

Mix all dry ingredients. Stir in water/flax. Adjust consistency. Place in fridge (or on counter if your kitchen is cool) for the day. At night, pancakify! I find that it helps to cook these on slightly lower heat and for a bit longer than eggy pancakes (from what I remember... it's been over a decade since I confronted an eggy pancake), and cover the pan while they cook. Use either a well-seasoned cast iron skillet, or a nonstick pan. If gluten isn't a problem, sub beer for the water. As soon as I locate a gluten-free beer, that's certainly my plan!

dancing to: ladies and gentlemen, pop goes the world, by men with out hats!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

pop! pop! poppyseeds!

I make rolly buns most weekends. Why? Because I love the form of cinnamon buns, but don't much like eating a giant roll of buttery (or vegan equivalent thereof) sugar to start my day, either in terms of taste or in terms of the inevitable sugar crash an hour later. But what could be better than a bun with the spread rolled in? These are bread, not pastry. Mmmmmm... homemade bread. What could be sillier, prettier, and more decadent coming out of the oven on Saturday morning (and then re-heated, all toasty and crisp on Sunday)?

For 4 buns

The night before, mix together
2.5 cups spelt flour
0.5 cups soy flour
tbs wheat gluten
pinch salt
a sprinkle of cardamom
1 tsp quick yeast
1 tbs lemon zest

Stir in about 3/4 cup warm water (add a bit more if you need to, but start with that)- you want a slightly wet but not sticky dough. Don't bother kneading it. Form the dough into a loose ball in the bowl and let it sit there while you prep the filling.

also the night before, mix this all together into a paste:
1/2 -1 cups black poppy seeds, ground (I use a vitamix dry jug)
3/4 cup almond pulp (leftover from making almond milk, or just use almond meal + a few tbs of nondairy milk)
a few drops stevia or a few tbs brown sugar
1 tbs brown rice syrup (agave is too runny for this)
the rest of the zest from that lemon above. Or the zest from a whole new lemon, depending on how much you love lemony goodness. I used a whole new lemon.
optional cardaomom or cinnamon. I use cardamom.
1/2 tsp almond extract
pinch o salt

Now, roll out your dough on a generously floured surface. Spread with the filling. Roll up, place in an oiled and floured pan (or a floured silicone pan - which is what I use), cover, and leave to rise overnight in the fridge if you live somewhere warm, or on the counter if your kitchen isn't much warmer than the inside of your fridge at night. I use the counter.

The next morning, remove the buns from the fridge (or gaze at them lovingly on the counter), and preheat your oven to *damn hot* with a metal glass of water in there. When it's heated, drop the heat to 200C, pop the buns in, and let them bake for 20 mins. After 20 mins, remove, brush with soy or almond milk spiked with a little sweetness, and eat them.

Poppyseed rollybun music: Jane Birkin. Arabesque.

Friday, 4 February 2011

fun things to do with millet

Dinner of the vegan whore! Ahem. Or, more politely, putanesca-inspired millet bowl.

Toast your cumin (1 tbs) and millet (1 cup) in a dry pan and then add water (1.5 cups), sundried tomatoes (3-5, cut in strips) and turmeric (1/2 tsp). While that does it's thing, get going on the rest.

Separately, in a pan:

a goodly amount of white wine
6-8 cloves of garlic (preferably smoked garlic), chopped
1 deseeded red chili, chopped
1 tbs capers, chopped
a giant handful of kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1 preserved lemon, chopped
a splash of the olive brine
(let all that simmer a bit)

2 small heads broccoli, chopped
1 small handful parsley, chopped

Stir in some nooch at the end if you are so inclined. I was so inclined, and it was yummy.

Would you like to know a secret? To make pitting olives faster if you're going to chop them, squish them with the flat of your knife - the pits should just come out, or at least be loose enough that you can cut the olive in half and it will just fall out.

simmer along with Yo Yo Ma, voice of the tango.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

comforting rolly buns

These taste like ovaltine. Just the thing in winter.

Now, repeat after me: carob is yummy. It it not a chocolate substitute, but it is yummerific in it's own right. Just let it be carob, okay? The salt in the filling makes this taste a little like ovaltine and caramel apples. Breakfast win.

2c malthouse bread flour (or just use whole spelt). Also works great with half and half spelt and barley four.
pinch salt
1/4 cup fine polenta
1/2 cup teff flour
tbs gluten powder
2 tbs carob powder
2 small apples, grated
1 tbs quick yeast

2 tbs barley malt syrup in 1/2 cup hot water + 1/2 cup soymilk

Mix dry ingredients. Mix wet into dry, and add more flour until you have a wet, but not sticky, dough. Let rise 1hr. Dump onto a floured surface and roll out (how thick is up to you, but I roll it out to about the thickness of my fingers). drizzle about 2-3 tbs of malt syrup over it, sprinkle a tiny pinch of salt and another 1-3 tbs of carob over that, and then top everything with 2 more chopped up apples. The moisture from the malt syrup and the apples will turn the carob powder into paste, worry not. Roll up. Cut into 4 - 6 buns and place them in the pan that you will cook them in. I find it best to schmear the pan lightly with coconut oil and then sprinkle that with cornmeal so that the buns don't weld themselves to it overnight. Let rise overnight in the fridge.

In the morning: take the buns out of the fridge and preheat the oven to 225C for 30 mins, preferably with a pan of water in there. It seems to work best if you preheat the oven with the fan assist, but then turn it off just before putting the buns in. Pop the buns in the oven and bake 40-60 mins (this will depend on size of buns and if there is any space between them... I like mine to squish up against each other, so it's basically the same as baking a loaf of bread, so it takes almost an hour. If the buns are well-separated, it takes more like 40 mins). Remove from oven and brush with soymilk. Cool briefly before eating.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

I wanna be a chocolate god post (large number): spiceh!

Okay, so you know how sometimes I make chocolate tea? Then I'm left with boiled nibs. Also, I make almond milk, leaving me with almond pulp. This uses up the nibs and pulp and is super yummy. And spicy. And fun. They're very, very coffee-dippable and highly addictive. Just warning you. For those of you who aren't plagued with leftovers from chocolate tea and almond milk: I can't help you. Work out your own substitutions. Or just get into chocolate tea and almond milk. Trust me, it's not a bad combo, especially if you have these cookies to dip in them.

So, I have this idea that there are three main lineages of cookies: persian, italian, and american. Persian cookies are the sweet, halvah-ish ones that are meant as rare indulgences. Italian cookies are dry and not so sweet and decidedly grown up, meant to be dipped in vin santo, or strong coffee. American cookies are child-like and moreish. If I had to vote, I'd go with italian. These cookies are what would happen if turkish coffee careened into chocolate biscotti. And frankly, I hope that such happy accidents happen more often.

1 and 1/3 cups simmered cocoa nibs, drained and ground
1 cup almond pulp (leftover from making almond milk, or just use ground almonds mixed with almond milk or water to form a paste)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 soy flour
1 tsp baking powder (not soda!)
pinch salt
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground anise
1 tsp pul biber or similar chili
1/2 cup finely chopped coffee-infused bitter chocolate (optional, or use plain chocolate and add a tbs of instant espresso to the batter)

Combine all ingredients. Using a teaspoon and wet hands, form into balls. For extra points, roll in sugar. I do not need extra points. Place balls on a greased cookie sheet. Smoosh carefully to desired thickness. The cookies won't change shape much as they bake. Bake at 200C for 15 mins, then drop the heat to 150, and bake for another 30 mins. Let them cool for a bit on the cookie sheet, then gently lift them onto a cookie rack and cool completely. They keep for frikkin' ever, in theory. In practice, they get eaten long before that.

kitchendancing along to: C is for Cookie, sung by none other than The Cookie Monster.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

persimmon rolly buns

I impulse bought many persimmons. I couldn't help it. They were perfectly ripe, and calling out to me, and really, really cheap. Soooo... persimmon rolls, anyone? On the weekends when I am home (or sometimes even when I'm at other people's houses and they don't mind me taking over the kitchen), I make rolly buns for breakfast. I have a made-up (and deeply silly) song that I sing while I make them. Every week is different (both the song and the buns), and I usually just make 'em up (both the song and the buns) as I go along. Anything, really: green tea, almond, red bean, pear, aniseed-fig, pumpkin, chestnut, date, olives and herbs, smoked tofu... nothing is safe from my rolly-bun plots and schemes. This week, it's persimmon. And because I love y'all, I actually wrote down the recipe as I went along.

I love persimmons, but I don't usually like persimmon bread. These fruits are so sweet and delicate, it seems overwhelming to add sugar to them, and then weigh them down with piles of oil. These buns are light and chewy, and the cherries make things interesting without falling into the realm of sticky-sweetness. You can easily substitute coffee for the tea, if you've only got coffee on hand. In that case, I'd recommend using cinnamon, or even a sprinkle of grated chocolate, in place of the rosewater. You could also add grated apple to the buns... just spread it on the dough along with the cherries if you want.

2 1/2 ww spelt flour
3/4 c chickpea flour (or soy flour)
1 tbs gluten powder
1 tsp ground cardamom
2 tbs assam tea leaves
1 tbs instant yeast
pinch salt

pulp from 5 very ripe persimmons (big ones)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup dried sour cherries (or 1/2c dried cherries and 1/2c walnut pieces)
soy or almond milk

Mix together dry ingredients. Add wet ingredient. Stir until you have a dough but don't bother kneading it. This will be a wet dough, and look more like a quickbread than a yeasted bread at this point. Cover with a clean dishcloth and leave to rise in a cool place overnight. For those of you who live in countries where it's actually warm, or have discovered the wonder of central heating and insulation, you may want to put the dough in the fridge.

The next morning, dump out your dough on a heavily floured surface. Knead briefly to incorporate enough flour that the dough holds together. This will be anywhere from 1/2 to 1.5 cups of extra flour. Roll into a rectangle. Mine was smaller than a standard rectangular cookie sheet, but just. I usually roll my dough out on a silicone baking mat, which saves me having to wash the countertop afterwards. Plus, then I know that to make 4-6 buns, I need a square of dough that just barely fits on the mat. See? Easy peasy. The important thing is that the dough should be about as thick as your thumb. Brush with rosewater and then sprinkle with cherries (the rectangle of dough, not yourself, unless you have extra rosewater and cherries). Roll up the dough so that you end up with the shorter, fatter cylinder rather than the longer, skinnier one (though you could always make tiny buns by ignoring me here). You can either make 4 ginormous buns, or 6 normal size ones, depending on where you stand on eating baked goods that are larger than your head. Personally, I find that eating anything larger than my head is a bad idea. Place rolly buns in a greased pan that you have then sprinkled with cornmeal (or flour), brush with soy or almond milk, and let sit for 30-40 minutes. During this time, preheat your oven to damn hot (250C). When the oven is hot, put a metal cup of water in there, and then your buns. Disarm the fan assist if you have one. Learn from my mistakes (and burnt rolly buns). Bake at high heat for 10 mins, then drop the heat to 180C, and bake for another 25-35 minutes (depending on the size of your buns). When you take the buns out of the oven, brush them again with milk spiked with a bit of rosewater. Let cool for a few minutes, and then gently extract them from the pan. These are a real treat if you eat them still warm, and hold up well to toasting the next day.

singing: the rolly bun song. You'll just have to make up your own when you cook them. Go on. You know you want to.