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!