Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hearty Chicken and Bean Casserole

We now have housemates, so I'm adjusting to cooking for seven. Fortunately they have similar carb Isshews, so we're not trying to cater to too many competing eating styles. Although now the Elder Daughter is a confirmed vegetarian it does make for some extra cooking when she is here - of course it is entirely consonant with her nature that she would be determinedly omnivorous for the years I was trying to feed my family vegetarian food and as soon as we go back to being omnivorous she switches to being vegetarian.

Anyway, last night I made this hearty chicken and bean casserole, modifying it a bit. I bought drumsticks instead of thigh fillets, left out the carrots, substituted one can of kidney beans and one of cannelini beans since that was what was in the cupboard, and left out the celery when I discovered that the new bunch I bought that morning turned out to be manky (damned greengrocer's green lights which disguise that yellowy tinge just long enough to fool you when you're in a hurry). So I ended up subbing a couple of red and green capsicums for the celery and carrots, and upping the amount of onion. I was hoping that I would get some leftovers for Mr Bat's work lunches, but nope, it all evaporated very quickly!

oil for sauteing
10 chicken drumsticks, skinned *
2 chorizo sausages, cut into bite-size pieces
4 medium onions diced
2 small red capsicums, diced
1 medium green capsicum, diced
1/4 small cabbage, finely shredded
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 800mL tin diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed

Brown the chicken drumsticks in the oil, then lay in two roasting trays and scatter with chorizo slices (I used one small and one large tray, since my original pan wasn't deep enough for all the bean mixture). Saute the onion in the pan drippings for a few minutes, then add capsicum, cabbage, and finally garlic. Turn oven onto about 180C. When veges are starting to brown, add beans and tomatoes and heat through. Pour sauce over the chicken and sausages and put the trays in the oven for about half an hour. Serve with sour cream for those wot likes it, and watch it disappear.

* This was for two adults and four children under 6 - I don't eat drumsticks cuz I'm fussy like that. Adjust for your own family's preferences. Next time I will probably add another sausage and another two or three drumsticks, and then we might have enough for a lunch for Mr Bat!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bratwurst with Beans and Silverbeet

A simple, easy one-pot dish which was a big hit with my whole family after a long, tiring weekend.

3 medium onions, cut into rings
5 turkey bratwursts, cut into chunks
3 rashers bacon, diced
4 cloves garlic, finely diced or crushed
1/8th green cabbage, shredded
1 bunch silverbeet, shredded
1 x tin cannelini beans, rinsed *
1 tsp balsamic vinegar (or use red wine vinegar to be really strict on carbs)
1/2 sachet PureVia (equivalent to 1 tsp sugar)

In a large frying pan, start gently sauteing onions. When they start to soften, add the meats and continue to fry, stirring frequently. When bratwurst is almost done, add cabbage and cook for 5-10 minutes, until tender. Finally, add the garlic, silverbeet and cannelini beans, sprinkle with the vinegar and sweetener, and stir continuously until the silverbeet is wilted and the beans are warmed through. Devour.

* According to the information on the can, the cannelini beans contained 15g carbs per 100g, and 7g protein. I estimate that a serve of this was probably about 75g of beans per person (4 serves).

Friday, October 15, 2010

Menu Plans

Hmm, I have a couple of menu plans to post, in case anyone is finding them handy.

This Week
Monday: Kangaroo Spag Bol
Tuesday: Sausages, Roasted Vegetables
Wednesday: Roast Vegetable Fritatta
Thursday: Tomato Soup with Tiny Turkey Meatballs
Friday: Slowcooker Silverside
Saturday: Lentil burgers
Sunday: Almond Crusted Fish with Sweet Potato and Leek

Last Week
Monday: Creamy Chicken Pasta (or cauliflower)
Tuesday: Enchiladas with salad
Wednesday: Silverbeet and onion quiche/mini fritattas
Thursday: Lamb Koftas
Friday: Laksa*
Saturday: Burritos*
Sunday: takeaway**

* We went away for the weekend so meals had to be planned and ingredients bought in advance.
** Planned as takeaway so I wouldn't have to cook after a long drive home.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Black Bean Stroganoff with Braised Cabbage

One of my signature dishes which inexplicably I have never blogged before. I usually serve this over creamy mashed potato, but obviously that's out for me at the moment, so I had it with braised cabbage. And since I forgot to ask Mr Bat to buy potatoes, everyone else had it over rice.

Black Bean Stroganoff

4 small onions, diced
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
5c sliced mushrooms
2c cooked black beans
3 tbsp ground almonds (or plain flour)
2c stock
1c sour cream
slug of mushroom soy sauce and/or balsamic vinegar
black pepper
paprika to serve

Saute the onions and garlic, then add the mushrooms and soften them. Sprinkle over about a tablespoon of soy sauce and/or balsamic vinegar. Stir in the almonds (or flour) and thicken the juices, cook for a minute or two. Slowly stir in the stock, add the rest of the ingredients except the sour cream, and bring to the boil. Cook off some of the liquid, then lower the heat and stir in the sour cream and simmer gently for five or ten minutes to let the sauce thicken and the flavours combine.

Braised cabbage (1 large serve)

About 1 1/2 cups shredded cabbage
1 tsp butter
1/2 tsp chicken stock powder
pinch each fennel seeds and dried garlic (or use fresh)
1 tsp lemon juice
black pepper

Melt the butter, then gently cook the cabbage and other seasonings until soft (about 20 minutes or so). Add a little water from time to time if it sticks, but it should not be wet.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Menu Plan

After a lot of faffing, I finally have my first week's menu plan. It took a lot longer than usual because I had to plan for lunches and breakfasts as well, instead of assuming that I was just going to have toast (I don't like having to think too early in the morning). Here are the dinners, at least - I was impressed that I managed to keep the majority vegetarian. It's not a perfect low-carb menu, but it's a damn sight better than I was managing before!

Monday: Pork Sausage and Bean Casserole
Tuesday: Black Bean Stroganoff (served with braised cabbage for me)
Wednesday: Frittata and Salad
Thursday: Moussaka with Greek Salad
Friday: Pita Bread Pizzas
Saturday: Slow-cooker Butter Chicken (served with cauliflower for me)
Sunday: Zucchini Slice with Fetta

Looking at the kinds of substitutions for pasta or mashed spud usually recommended by low-carb websites, it's lucky I love cabbage and cauliflower as much as I do, really...

Pork Sausage and Bean Casserole

I came up with this recipe last night to use up the pork and fennel sausages in the freezer. When I bought them a while ago I had a beany casserole in mind, but last night I had to figure out how to make it without potato, my casserole standby! This recipe was absolutely gorgeous, although next time I'll use more lemon juice, since the apple and cabbage gave it a natural earthy sweetness which could have been better balanced.

4 pork and fennel sausages
1 tin borlotti beans, rinsed
1 tin tomatoes
3 small onions, diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
2-3 sticks celery, diced [optional]
1 red apple, diced
1/8 red cabbage, shredded
400mL chicken stock
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp thyme and ½ tsp fennel seeds

Saute onions, add garlic. Parboil sausages, cool and dice. Add tomatoes, beans, celery (if using), apple and red cabbage, stock, lemon juice, thyme and fennel seeds. Cook til sauce is reduced.


I've been instituting some changes lately in my eating, with the realisation that I really do not cope well with the level of carbs we have been eating. Making the initial attempt at having the occasional low-carb meal, and trying to stop relying on bread for breakfast and bread for lunch, had such an obvious effect that it's encouraged me to move towards a broader implementation. Since I don't do dietary extremism, my current personal take on "low carb" is not enormously rigorous, with a focus instead on cutting out most processed flour and sugar, as well as potatoes, pasta and rice. I refuse to cut out bread completely (been there done that when I developed a yeast intolerance years ago, and it was a hellish 6 months I have no wish to repeat), but I have switched to eating much less of the low-GI Burgen version, which seems to work for me.

It does mean that we're now eating more meat, because even though I have no intention of cutting out legumes, I'm finding it hard to find vego recipes which don't have a noticeable effect on my blood sugar. I'm hoping that after a while I can tolerate more of it, but for at least a while I expect this blog will be rather less vegetarian-friendly than it has been - sorry!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Zucchini and Feta Muffins - quick hit

I made this recipe today, but what I really wanted to make was this one. Must try the latter when I have leftover rice.

I added about a tbsp of grated parmesan and a slosh of balsamic vinegar to the first recipe, and the muffins came out gorgeously moist and cheesy. Best eaten warm.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Easy Roast Vegetables and Couscous

An honourable mention must go to today's lunch. Since I'm trying to up our vegetable intake and stop relying so much on bread products, I'm now aiming to cook lunch at least three times a week. Today, I roasted a couple of pans full of sweet potato, potato, carrot, onion and cauliflower, all tossed in olive oil. I served it over couscous made with a knob of butter, and 1/4 tsp each of cumin and coriander just to warm the flavour up a bit, and the leftover pickled red cabbage from the other night. I originally contemplated making gravy, since my family used to do the full sit-down roast beast, gravy and veges every Sunday lunch and I had a hankering for it, but in the end decided to go with half a jar of tomato chutney which nobody liked very much on sandwiches, heated up with a handful of sultanas and a tablespoon or two of water to make it more of a sauce. Oh my, was it good, and beautifully simple to prepare, too - just what I want from a lunch!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Pickled Red Cabbage

Another one of my winter comfort foods. Tonight I served it with sausages and mashed potatoes for a quick meal, but it's delicious with quiche or cottage pie or lots of other vegetarian options.

Pickled Red Cabbage

1 tbsp butter
1 onion, sliced
1/4 smallish red cabbage
1 red apple, diced
2 tsp caster sugar
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Melt the butter and saute the onion. When it's tender, add the cabbage and saute gently til it starts to soften. Chuck in the apple, then stir through the vinegars and sugar. Cover and simmer gently for about 10-15 minutes, or until the cabbage and apple are tender - but not limp - and the onions and apple have taken on a rich purple colour.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Hunza Pie

Tonight's dinner was so magnificent I have to write down the particular variation on the recipe so I can hopefully recreate it. Hunza Pie is one of my mother's old standbys, and one of my favourite winter comfort foods. I've seen a number of variations using potatoes in the filling or pastry above or below, but my mother's was always a quiche-like combination of brown rice, silverbeet, cheese and eggs in a pastry shell, topped with sliced tomatoes and more grated cheese. Nom.

Today's effort at recreating it achieved an amazing flavour by gently cooking down the shredded silverbeet in melted butter and olive oil, together with onion and garlic, and with a slug of balsamic vinegar added. The pastry was dead easy, done in the food processor and crisp despite not bothering with blind-baking - in fact, if you have a food processor you can do a lot of the prep in it and save washing up. I served the pie with baked potatoes for a perfect winter meal.

Hunza Pie

1c uncooked brown rice
1c wholemeal plain flour
3/4c plain flour
125g butter, chilled and diced
3-4 tbsp cold water
1 bunch silverbeet
3-4 small onions
2-3 cloves garlic, finely diced
~1tbsp butter
~1-2 tsp olive oil
~1-2 tsp balsamic vinegar
~1 tsp oregano
freshly ground black pepper
4 eggs
~1c grated cheese
2 tomatoes, sliced

Cook the rice in two cups of water in a covered saucepan. While it's burbling gently away, put the flours and butter in the food processor and pulse until it looks like breadcrumbs. With motor running, add tablespoons of water down the tube until the pastry comes together. Give it to your daughter so she can roll it into a ball and stash it in the freezer to cool (you can stick it in the fridge, but we don't have one, hence the freezer).

After the pastry has rested a bit, flour a work surface and roll it out to fit a large deep pie dish*. Meanwhile, ask your offspring to rip up the silverbeet and cram it into the food processor. Add a couple of roughly chopped onions, and whizz briefly (don't pulverise it). Melt a hunk o' butter (depending on how nervous you feel about the amount of butter in the pastry) in a big frypan, and add enough olive oil to stop it from burning. Gently fry the garlic for a minute or two, then add the silverbeet and onion and cook til the silverbeet reduces a bit. Slosh in some balsamic vinegar and add the oregano and pepper. When the silverbeet is starting to darken and wilt, add the rice and stir to combine, then quickly toss through half of the cheese and turn into the pastry case. Whizz up the eggs in the food processor and pour over, then top the pie with tomato slices and the rest of the cheese. Cook for around 35-45 minutes.

 * Mine was 25cms across and 4cms deep - if yours is smaller reduce the amount of filling, and you'll have some leftovers from the pastry unless you reserve a third of it for topping the pie, as in the original recipe I adapted this from.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

More Soup, and Scone Pinwheels

I've been feeling a craving for soup made with rich meaty stock lately. I made soup from lamb shanks the other night, cooking the bones for two hours on the stove with lots of veges and barley and lentils, then after I'd cut most of the meat off, chucked the bones into the slow cooker with another couple of soup bones, onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves, and a slug of vinegar (to help release the calcium from the bones, according to Sally Fallon) and simmered it for about 24 hours. I took some of it out halfway through and refilled the crockpot with more water, and ended up with one litre of thick, gelatinous stock, and two litres of thinner, but still tasty broth in the freezer.

Today was definitely a soup day, so I defrosted a litre of the broth and added half a cup of soup mix (the packet stuff from the supermarket, or just use whatever combo of barley and legumes you prefer), a sauteed onion, and a couple of cups of diced root vegetables. I ended up adding probably close to a litre of water as the soup simmered away for an hour while the lentils and barley cooked, but just keep an eye on it and make sure the water level never gets too low. Then just before serving I added some diced zucchini and Brussels sprouts. We ate it with grated cheese on top, and warm cheese and chutney pinwheels on the side.

Cheese and Chutney Pinwheels
(recipe adapted slightly from Alison Holst's Dollars and Sense Cookbook)

2c flour (I used 1/2c wholemeal and 1 1/2c plain)
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
25g olive oil
1/2c milk
1/4-1/2c cold water
~1/3c chutney
~1/2c grated cheese

Stir the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Pour in the olive oil, milk and 1/4c of the water, and stir. Add a little more water if necessary until the dough comes together. Roll it out on a floured bench - or, if you're like me and your children have stolen the rolling pin - pat it into a rectangle shape about the size of your average baking tray. Spread it with chutney and sprinkle with grated cheese, leaving a 2cm clear edge on the long side which is furthest away from you. Moisten the clear edge with water or milk to help it stick, then loosen the dough with a palette knife or spatula and roll it up from the long side which is closest to you. Cut it into 2cm thick slices with a sharp knife, and lie the slices flat on a greased baking tray, leaving room to spread. Cook at 220C for 10-12 mins or so, until the pinwheels are golden on top and cooked through. Makes about 15.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Quick Bean and Pasta Soup

I'm trying to make soup for lunch when we're home during the day, because gawd knows we could do with upping our vegetable intake a bit, and toast for breakfast followed by toast for lunch isn't cutting it. But I'm a lazy tart at heart and toast is easy. So I've bestirred myself a couple of times this week and started cooking the soup around 11:30 when people are starting to get grumpy from lack of protein, and we've had some nice warming meals. It is definitely soup weather!

The bean and pasta soup I made yesterday was a definite hit. I wasn't happy with the balance of flavours in the previous soup, which I'd made using stock powder, so I made up a rich vege stock the night before. A carrot, handful of celery sticks and leaves, two onions, some bayleaves, peppercorns and a clove of garlic, cooked down to a gorgeous brown broth, probably about 4 or 6 cups full (who notices that sort of thing).

I didn't bother browning anything the next day because I had my beautiful stock, but you can if you want. I also used dried garlic, because I have heaps, and it kept the emphasis on speed of preparation, but if that strikes you dead in your foodie heart then by all means use the real stuff. Ditto the beans.

stock, glorious stock
1 can five bean mix
2 sticks celery, with leaves, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 potatoes, diced
~1 tsp dried garlic
1/3 cup risoni
1 tsp dried basil
1 slug mushroom soy sauce (optional, but it adds a bit of oomph to the broth)
salt and pepper to taste

Combine everything except the risoni, bring to the boil, and simmer until the potato is nearly tender. Check the seasonings, then add the pasta and simmer for about 8 minutes, or until tender. If you like a thicker soup, mash roughly so that some of the potato is broken up.

We served it with grated cheese on top, and the smalls insisted on toast, since apparently toast is an essential part of the Authentic Soup Experience, but it really doesn't need it. Very filling!

New (old) cookbook!

I was unable to resist adding a new recipe book to my collection this week - The Findhorn Family Cookbook. Down to earth, sensible, tasty, easy vegetarian recipes which aren't unnecessarily penitential about butter and salt and sugar, plus commentary about being at one with our vegetable brethren - how could I leave it on the shelf? I haven't cooked anything out of it yet, but I promise to report back.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Couldn't Be Arseds

I had an attack tonight. I think it's the first one since we got here, and given how much I've been cooking, it was probably overdue. And we ate all the leftovers for lunch, and I've stopped buying Things In Jars for these moments, so there was only one solution: breakfast for dinner!

Since we don't have a microwave down here, it resulted in a lot of washing up, but it was very delicious. We had scrambled eggs (just eggs scrambled in butter, since I had no cream), fried onion rings, fried tomatoes, a scattering of bacon pieces, and baked beans, on toast. And now that we've digested a while, Mr Bat is making pancakes (the big fat fluffy American hotcakes), to be served with maple syrup or lemon juice and sugar. Nom.

What do you do if you're having an attack of the Couldn't Be Arseds? Does someone else cook, or do you have simple standbys?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

O Dumplings, glorious dumplings!

Time to revive this blog from its hibernation. After our epic holiday and 3000km drive to our new home (during which our camera met an Unfortunate End, so alas this blog will be returning to bland monochrome for the foreseeable future), we've settled in happily over the last week. Part of the process of making a house into a home for me always involves cooking, putting my the skill of my hands and heart into filling the house with familiar scents and energy. I've been experimenting with perfecting a bread recipe, kneaded in the bread machine to spare my RSI but baked in the oven, baking muffins and cakes, and taking advantage of the glorious bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables on every roadside farmstand.

While I might be waking the blog from a hibernation, the weather is definitely encouraging the reverse. Since we arrived in the Huon Valley, the weather has been rainy and autumnal, blessing us with sunshine, fogs and a multitude of rainbows, but over the last two days we've had a real taste of winter's blast on our hilltop. So tonight was definitely a night for a rich, warming winter soup of grains and root vegetables, topped with the glorious fluffy clouds of dumplings.

I love dumplings. They are not, as they are for my Beloved, a childhood comfort food - indeed I don't recall my mother ever making them when I was a kid - but I discovered them a few years ago in Sara Lewis' cookbook, Veggie Food For Kids. Since then, I've made them innumerable times and this particular recipe has never failed me. Tonight, however, I absentmindedly mixed up two recipes I had been reading, and made the dumplings with different proportions and added an egg. The dumplings attained gigantic, saucepan-dominating proportions with the larger quantities, and the addition of the egg seemed to make no particular difference, so I'm giving my usual recipe here instead.

Barley and Lentil Vegetable Soup with Dumplings

2 onions
2 cloves garlic
2 potatoes, diced (I used Dutch Cream, grown ten minutes up the road from here, and they were superb)
1 carrot, diced
1/2 sweet potato, diced
2 tbsp pearl barley
2 tbsp red lentils
2 tbsp Puy lentils
lots o' stock, or 2tsp stock powder and water
1/2 tsp each cumin and coriander
2 bay leaves
black pepper
1c frozen peas

Saute the onion until tender, add chopped garlic and fry until fragrant. Brown the root vegetables for five minutes or so for deeper flavour. Cover the vegetables generously with water or stock and add stock powder (if using) and other seasonings. Toss in the barley and legumes of your choice (I like the way that the red lentils cook down and thicken the soup and Puy lentils are just divine, but use whatever you have or prefer), bring to the boil, and simmer, covered, until vegetables are almost tender. Add the peas just before you're ready for the dumplings, but make sure the water comes back up to the boil before you add them.

200g plain flour (I use a mix of wholemeal and white, but it works with all wholemeal too)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground parmesan or 1/2c grated cheese
50g butter, diced
enough cold water to form a soft dough

In a food processor, whizz the flour, baking powder and cheese to make sure it is evenly mixed, then add the butter and process until it forms coarse crumbs (don't overprocess). Gradually add water and knead gently until it comes together into a sticky dough; try not to handle it too much or the butter melts and the whole thing goes horribly squoogey. Quickly form into a log, and cut into 12 equal pieces. Let your kids practise their ninja playdough rolling skills and make them into rough balls, then drop them into the gently boiling stew, evenly spaced out. Put the lid on and simmer for fifteen minutes or until light and fluffy - don't take the lid off if you can avoid it. They should double in size into gorgeous fluffy pillows of carbolicious goodness. Devour!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Butter Cake

I have needed a standard birthday cake recipe for yonks. K's birthday party was this week, so I decided to just go for a classic butter cake recipe*. I can't take any credit for the decoration since my MIL offered to do it, but I figured the cake recipe was definitely worth writing down here for future reference.

I actually made this cake twice this morning, because I'm currently so scatteredbrained from Moving Hell that with my first attempt, I not only forgot to pre-heat the oven, I also forgot that I only have plain flour in the house, and didn't add baking powder to my mixture. The resulting cakebrick was still tasty, if dense, but the version which actually contained raising agents had a lovely fluffy crumb.

125g softened butter
2/3 cup caster sugar
2 eggs (lightly beaten)
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 cups self-raising flour (or 2c plain flour + 4tsp baking powder)
2/3 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 180C (unless you are a dingbat like me) and grease and flour a cake tin. Let the birthday girl beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Hold the beaters steady as she adds the eggs and vanilla essence, and then let her beat them until well combined. Add the flour a half-cup at a time, alternating with the milk, then share the beaters out between your children to lick. The mixture should be light and fluffy. Splat it into the prepared tin with a spatula and scrape down the sides of the bowl, but not too carefully, because your children will probably be finished with the beaters by the time you have the cake mix smoothed down and the tin in the oven, and they will be wrath with you if you haven't left them enough mixture in the bowl to share. Cook it until it is done, and if the top cracks like mine did, don't worry about it, your MIL can always just add extra icing. Or you can, if you don't have a MIL to subcontract your cake decoration out to.

Serve with the traditional accompaniments of out-of-tune renditions of Happy Birthday in three different keys, and an embarrassed birthday girl who wishes everybody would stop singing so she can eat.

[* Acute readers may have gathered from this that I'm no longer dairy-free. I've given up on any attempts to get cute and creative with my diet, or my blogging for that matter, because our upcoming interstate move is monopolising most of my brain power].

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The CBFs

What do you do on those nights when you couldn't be bothered cooking? My usual standby is risotto, but I've only perfected one dairy-free version and my family don't like it as much as I do so I try not to feed it to them every week :P Stir-fries are good when we have the veges for them; so are microwaved potatoes with Mexican beans from the freezer (although woe! re the lack of sour cream and cheese). And I'm quite happy with breakfast for dinner any night, but my beloved is less so.

My compromise between cooking from scratch and calling out for takeaway is a stash of sauces in jars (ones without too many numbers in them), but unfortunately my usual Butter Chicken-minus-the-chicken version is out due to containing cream. Which is annoying, because it's really nice and super-easy as a vego recipe with just onion and a combo of potato and cauliflower or peas or spinach. I did have one jar of sweet and sour sauce left, which I made up with tofu and heaps of vegies for dinner tonight, but in future I think I'm going to make it myself using this recipe (although I won't bother with frying and battering the tofu, with it being a CBF evening and all). Sweet and sour sauce is so easy I think even with making the sauce beforehand instead of opening a jar, the dish still counts as minimal preparation...

Got any quick, simple, dairy-free/vegan recipes to share for next time?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Vegan Pot Pie and Coleslaw

I'm going off dairy to see if it fixes my recurring middle ear infections (we have a strong family history which indicates that it's the likely culprit). Dangnabbit. I was vegan for a year, and cheese was definitely the hardest thing for me to cut out of my diet!

Tonight was another bottom-of-the-vegie-crisper night, since I will be going to the markets tomorrow. I pulled out all the vegies I had in the fridge and decided to make a pot pie with most of them, leaving the cabbage and carrots for coleslaw. I normally make a pot pie with white sauce, but obviously that's now on the banned list, so I used a small tin of coconut cream and added some ground almonds to thicken it. It was very yummy!

Vegan Pot Pie
1 lge onion, diced
1 lge tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp each cumin and coriander
1 lge red capsicum, diced
1 med zucchini, diced
1/2 sm sweet potato, diced
3 med potatoes, diced
1 sm tin coconut cream
1/4 c ground almonds
black pepper
1 sl. dairy-free puff pastry (I used Aldi brand)
1 beaten egg (omit for vegan version)

Steam potato and sweet potato until tender. Meanwhile, saute onions, then add capsicum and garlic. Coninue frying until pepper starts to soften, then add zucchini for another five minutes or so. Add the spices, and fry for a few minutes. Start to drizzle in the coconut milk to make a paste, then add the potato and sweet potato and toss. Pour in the rest of the coconut milk, add the ground almonds, and heat through. Pour the mixture into a deep pie dish, top with a sheet of puff pastry and brush with beaten egg, if using. Bake at 200C until puffed and golden brown.

~1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp seeded mustard
1-2 tsp olive oil
1-2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
1-2 tsp water
1/4 sm green cabbage, shredded
1 med carrots, grated

Combine the dressing ingredients, starting with the smaller quantities given, and adjusting to taste. It will be very strong-tasting by itself, but the sweetness of the cabbage and carrot will temper it, so don't worry too much. Add enough water to make it a smooth, slightly runny consistency, then toss through cabbage and carrot.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bottom of the Vege Crisper Chickpea Curry

This is my bog-standard clear-out-the-fridge-before-market-day curry. It's best with root vegetables but you can add anything into it which doesn't mind a half hour cooking period. However, sweet potato is essential for the proper balance between sweet, spicy and creamy, in my opinion. I've been playing with the seasonings for a while, and for ease of use I generally go with commercial curry pastes, but I didn't buy any this month. I used an experimental blending of spices instead and it turned out perfect! Although anyone who likes a bit more bite will want to up the chilli a fair bit ;-)

This is now my definitive foundation recipe.

1 lge onion
1/2 tbsp oil
2 tsp crushed garlic (or two cloves)
1 tsp ea cumin and coriander
1/2 tsp ea ginger and turmeric
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
1/2 tbsp panch phora
2 medium potatoes, diced
1 sm-med sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 lge carrot, diced
400g tin chickpeas (or 1/2 c dry weight, soaked and pre-cooked)
1c frozen peas
125mL coconut cream
1/2c ground almonds

Saute the onions til translucent, then add garlic, then spices and fry until fragrant (add a bit more oil if they're too dry). Add the root vegetables and enough water (less than a tbsp) to coat them with the spice mixture, and cook for five minutes or so. Put in about an inch of water, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are nearly tender. Remove the cover, add the chickpeas and boil briskly until the water is almost evaporated. Reduce the heat and add the peas and coconut cream. Bring to a very gentle simmer. Stir through the ground almonds and heat very gently for five or ten minutes until the sauce thickens. Serve over brown rice.

As with most curries, this is even better made ahead and allowed to rest for a couple of hours or overnight for the flavours to blend.

Makes 4-5 serves.


I have two recipe posts waiting to be written, but when trying to menu plan for the next month, I've come up with another problem with this idea. I need to minimise new purchases and make as much as possible out of the contents of my pantry and remaining food storage so I don't have to move it all interstate. Gah. I'm not sure it's going to be compatible with continuing the challenge...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Growing Mungbean Sprouts

I can happily grow mungbean sprouts of the length for use in sandwiches (or, if you're my kids, fighting over while they're still in the sprouter) but have signally failed to grow them long enough for use in most East Asian cookery. I'm bookmarking this link in the hope that it will help me solve the problems I was having. I've never weighted them while growing before, for instance.

It inspired me to do some quick salad sprouting with the kids today. We inherited a three level sprouter from my Dad which is probably at least 20 years old. Although it's the kind which should be used with disposable filters for the smaller seeds like alfalfa, I never use them, and so long as I drain them well enough they're usually fine without. I couldn't find any mungbeans, but I did have a new bag of alfalfa and an old jar of fenugreek, alfalfa and mustard combo, so I did a tier of each. The mixture may be too old to sprout: we'll see in a few days.

Casualties so far

These are some which did not make the cut.

38/365 Cull

Quite a lot of the ones I am getting rid of are just too narrowly focused to be worth keeping, and since I'm moving back towards fully vegetarian, most of the ones which contain mostly meat recipes are pretty useless too. But I'm also culling my vegetarian collection and getting rid of the ones which are so drearily determined to worry about fat, sugar and salt that they forget to concentrate on taste.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Mama Zabetta's Spicy Greens

This recipe is from Witch in the Kitchen: magical cooking for all seasons by Cait Johnson, which I only just bought and thus is not on my potential cull pile, but I figured I hadn't made a recipe from it yet so I should probably blog one anyway. The cookbook is divided into sections for each of the eight major pagan festivals and contains lots of other suggestions for crafts and rituals as well as seasonally-inspired recipes. I love it and foresee it getting a lot of use!

My menu plan for the week had vegetable fritters down for one night, so I moved it to Monday night, since I do the fruit and vege shopping on the weekend, and added the stir-fried greens recipe as a side. I made brown rice and corn fritters, which my kids devoured as though they hadn't been fed for a week, but the stir-fried greens weren't as much of a hit with them (although we adults ate the lot). The two smaller ones insisted on cutting up the silverbeet for me, which meant that Miss K at least tried "her" greens and seemed to like them, but she didn't touch the other vegetables. I thought they were very yummy indeed, and it's definitely my kind of recipe, since it contains lots of "add whatever you like here" and "chuck in another slosh of this until it looks right". And half the fun of this book is in the author's editorialising throughout the recipes, which I'm leaving out for brevity. But here are the bones of the dish.

Mama Zabetta's Spicy Stir-fried Greens with Nuts and Seeds

Dinnerblogging: ingredients

2-3 tbsp olive oil
Onions, chopped
Garlic cloves, chopped
Dried mustard (I didn't have any)
Chilli or pepper flakes
Assorted slower cooking vegetables: I had zucchini, celery and green capsicum
Shoyu or tamari (I had mushroom soy sauce)
Dry red wine (optional)
Assorted faster cooking vegetables: I had silverbeet (swiss chard)
Toasted sesame seeds or sunflower seeds
Cashew, pecan or almond pieces
Toasted sesame oil (I didn't have any)
Fresh parsley, chopped (I had coriander)

Heat some oil in a large frying pan or wok. Add the onions, garlic, chilli or pepper flakes and dried mustard. Stir occasionally til onion is golden and tender. Chop your slower cooking vegetables, and add with a slug of soy sauce and red wine (if using). Stir and add olive oil occasionally. [I added about a tablespoon of honey as well]. When everything is just crisp-tender, add the faster cooking vegetables and continue to cook for just another couple of minutes, until the greens are just wilted.

Add a handful or so of toasted sesame seeds or sunflower seeds and either cashew, pecan or almond pieces [I dry-fried a saucerful of sunflower seeds, slivered almonds and pine nuts, and served separately at the table]. Drizzle with toasted sesame oil and serve topped with chopped fresh parsley [or coriander, if you remember, which I didn't] over a bed of your favourite cooked grain.

Dinnerblogging: Mama Zabetta's Spicy Greens

I served it as a side to my rice fritters, which are the easiest thing in the world to make and somehow turn brown rice into a magnificent dish which Ms I Hate Brown Rice, Actually will devour. You can add tuna for a non-vego audience and they are even better. I served them with a dollop of sour cream and some sweet chilli sauce on top, but Ms B insisted on eating them with tartare sauce like she used to when she ate the tuna patties, and they were still yummy.

1 cup brown rice, cooked and cooled slightly
1 cup corn kernels
1 cup grated cheese
salt and pepper
2 eggs
1-2 tbsp flour to bind

Combine. Drop tablespoonfuls into a frying pan over medium heat and flatten. Turn them over when they're cooked on one side, then stick them on a plate in the oven to keep warm while you fry the rest. Try and secure some for your own plate before your offspring devour them all and then fight over the crumbs.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Tomato-Barley Soup

I wanted something a little less ambitious after the last couple of recipes. I'm not overfond of tomato soups personally, but my family loves them, and I figured this one sounded interestingly chunky and encouragingly simple.

The recipe comes from Nava Atlas' quirky cookbook American Harvest: Regional Recipes for the Vegetarian Kitchen. This is yet another one from my mother (I swear I have actually bought some of my own cookbooks in the last twenty years). I really like reading this cookbook because, as you can kind of see in the last photo, it is full of funny little pencil drawings and snippets from historical cookbooks and other sources. But I hardly ever cook anything out of it, which seems like a shame. It just doesn't quite match up with my usual cooking style, although it's much less stereotypically American than most of the internet since it relies on fresh unprocessed ingredients and does not contain any mention of either Velveeta mock-cheese or cream of lark's-vomit soup. But I now have a list of recipes I like the sound of (including the Virginia Peanut Soup on the facing page), so hopefully I shall use it more often, since I can't bring myself to put it into my cull pile.

Tomato-Barley Soup

2 large onions, quartered and thinly sliced
3/4 cup pearl barley, rinsed
2 medium carrots, sliced
2 medium turnips or 2 smallish potatoes, peeled and diced (I used potatoes)
2 large stalks celery, diced
One 28-ounce can imported plum tomatoes with liquid (1 used 2 x 400g tins)
2 bay leaves
5 cups water
3 tbsp fresh dill (I didn't have any)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. And the onions and saute over a low heat until they are golden. [Endeavour not to get distracted and burn the crap out of them, especially if they were your last ones, because otherwise you might have to go to the lengths of emptying them out of the saucepan into a colander and scrubbing out the saucepan before putting the slightly singed pieces back in, and that would be just silly.] Add the barley, carrots, turnips or potatoes, celery, tomatoes with their liquid, bay leaves, and water. Turn up heat to bring to the boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 1 1/4 hoursstirring every 20 minutes or so [I didn't cook it for that long; probably only 45 mins]. At this point the barley and vegetables should be done, or nearly so.

Add the dill and season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer, covered, another 10 or 15 minutes...Adjust the consistency with more water, if necessary [it was]. The soup will thicken as it stands [oh boy, did it just]. Adjust the liquids and seasonings if necessary, but let it stay nice and thick.


Filling and tasty. We served it with grated cheese on the top, which worked well. I could have added more water before serving, but I liked it as a stew. Will probably make again, anyway.

Friday, February 05, 2010


It's clear the challenge is not going to work as written. I didn't record a meal last night because I ran up against the fact that I only had a few vegetables left in the fridge and am trying to cut out going to the shops specifically for one recipe. I couldn't find anything which I could reasonably make with the vegetables I had which didn't a) come too close to a meal or protein source we'd had in the last couple of days, which I hate doing; b) require so many substitutions as to make it barely following a recipe at all; or c) teach your grandmother to suck eggs - ie. one recipe I found which I could have made last night without substitutions was tuna patties. Um, right. The day I need a recipe to make tuna patties, it won't matter because I'll already be in the nursing home.

I've also discovered that there are classes of cookbooks which are getting a pass even though I don't necessarily want to cook anything out of them in the next couple of months. For instance, the aforementioned recipe for tuna patties came from The Commonsense Cookery Book, which I will be keeping as a resource for my kids as they learn to cook. Another, Farmhouse Cooking, is staying because, while I don't anticipate needing a recipe for curing a ham any time soon, it's rather more likely to come in handy at some point in our proposed homesteading adventures.

Bu ton the other hand, while I didn't find anything I wanted to cook yesterday, I did put five or six books in my cull pile. I'm still trying to decide what to do with the vast number of ethnic cookbooks which require an upfront investment in condiments which I probably won't use up any time soon and will just be annoying to pack. It's also coming up against the fact that I don't necessarily give a rodent's posterior about being authentic if it involves twenty three herbs, spices and sauces when I can just trade that in for a commercial sauce or paste, or make something which tastes awesome but is probably a shocking mismatch of ingredients from different traditions (oh, sorry, I mean Fusion Cuisine). This is probably an admission that I am not a Real Foodie(TM), but meh. Should I turf them all and decide that this is what the internet is for?

That said, I'm not even thinking about getting rid of, say, Claudia Roden or Madhur Jaffrey, because there are some things which One Just Does Not Do.

Anyway. I'll revise my original target to posting here 4 times a week, and anything more than that is a bonus. Also, since I'm not just putting my main meals on trial, I'll try to do more baking as well. I have at least four bread cookbooks and still never make bread by hand, for example. Sigh.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Gado Gado

This is another one from The Vegetarian Gourmet. It was kind of a cheat, since I've made it before, but by the time I'd discarded four other cookbooks because I didn't have the ingredients or hadn't left myself enough time, it was this or just flinging something together, and I didn't want to fall in a heap on the second day of my challenge!

Gado Gado is a very useful "bottom of the vege crisper" recipe, since you just pull out any vegetables you've got and whack peanut sauce on them. Mmm, peanut sauce... I added noodles to the suggested list of foods to serve, and cooked up enough hard boiled eggs for everyone to have one (or, in the case of the kids, two). I'll give the recipe for peanut sauce as written, because I actually followed it with only one substitution due to missing ingredients, but just tell you what veges we had instead of giving you the suggested ones. You can use whatever you want, or whatever needs to be cleared out of the fridge before you go shopping.

My nearly-5yo also had enormous fun with this recipe. She peeled veges for me, then cleared the table (because she wanted it to be "pretty" for the photographs) and assembled most of the veges on the platter by herself. She did not, however, eat the peanut sauce, which kind of made it less like gado gado than a big plate of vegies, noodles and eggs, although she didn't seem to mind this.

Vegetable Salad with Peanut Sauce (Gado Gado)


2 cloves garlic
1/2 - 1 1/2 tsp chilli powder (I used a bit less than 1/4 because I am a wimp)
1 medium onion, finely diced
225g crunchy peanut butter
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar (because I didn't have any lemon juice)
450mL water

Heat the oil in a saucepan and saute the onion until golden. Add the garlic and chilli and fry until fragrant. Add the peanuts, brown sugar, and rice wine vinegar or lemon juice and stir to combine, then gradually stir in the water. Bring it to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened but remains thin enough to pour. Keep the sauce hot on a very low burner while you finish preparing the vegetables.

Vegetables platter
1 small red and 1 small green capsicum, sliced
about two cups of shredded won bok
1 tin of baby corn, or use fresh
1 medium zucchini, cut into 2 inch long sticks
1/4 cauliflower, cut into florets
1 medium sweet potato, cut into 2 inch long sticks
2 small carrots, cut into 2 inch long sticks
3 cakes of rice vermicelli
hard boiled eggs (optional)

I didn't blanch the capsicum or won bok, although Scott suggests doing so for some vegetables, because I could not be arsed. I steamed the sweet potato and carrots until almost tender, then added the cauliflower for a couple of minutes, then the zucchini for another couple of minutes.

Boil the noodles for a few minutes until cooked, then drain and put in the middle of the platter. Arrange all the vegetables in piles around the edge of the platter. Pour the sauce over the vegetables, or serve in a separate bowl. We gave everybody a hard boiled egg each, although Scott suggests using 1 egg as a garnish. Omit entirely for a fabulous vegan meal!


It was bloody marvellous. Two out of two recipes from this book have been roaring successes: I think this book is going on the "keepers" pile!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Vegetable Paella

Recipe from David Scott, The Vegetarian Gourmet. This is another one which has been hanging around in my bookshelf for decades and is rarely used. I think it was originally from my mother as well, come to think of it.

A rice dish jumped out at me tonight, because we all like rice but I'm bored with risotto. I always thought a paella was pretty similar to a risotto anyway, but I've never made one with brown rice before. It might have been a good idea to take the extra cooking time into consideration when choosing a recipe when it was already 7pm! It took over an hour to cook. But that may have been an advantage, because everyone was so hungry by the time it appeared that it was hoovered up with great enthusiasm by everyone, including Ms I Hate Brown Rice, Actually (B) and Miss I Will Never Ever Eat A Tomato [Or A Capsicum Or A Mushroom Or Any Visible Onion] (K).

This would be easy enough to veganise if you just leave out the cheese garnish at the end (although you might want to add a contrasting flavour to serve with it, or up the seasonings, since I suspect it may have been a trifle bland without the cheese).

Here followeth the recipe, with the usual variations noted (because I am constitutionally incapable of following a recipe exactly as written).

Vegetable Paella

Oil (I used the infused oil from a jar of sun dried tomatoes, for extra nom)
2 cloves garlic
2 medium onions, sliced
2 medium green peppers, sliced (I used one green, one red)
1c chopped mushrooms (my addition)
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (I used a punnet of cherry tomatoes, halved)
375g brown rice
850mL water or stock
salt and black pepper to taste (I added 1 tsp each cumin and coriander and a slug of red wine vinegar, because I thought it sounded dreadfully bland)
100g cucumber, peeled and sliced (omitted)
2 sticks celery, chopped (omitted)
100g chopped nuts (I used cashews, slivered almonds and pine nuts)
1 bunch English spinach, washed and shredded (my addition)
1c frozen corn kernels (my addition)
50g olives
175g grated Cheddar cheese

Heat the oil in a heavy frying pan and saute the onions until they start to colour. Add the pepper and mushrooms and fry for a further 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, rice and spices and cook over a low heat, stirring, for 5 minutes. Pour in the water or stock [I had mine at the boil], season with salt and black pepper, and boil rapidly for five minutes.
Add the cucumber, celery and nuts, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the rice is tender and all the liquid is absorbed [add the slug of vinegar at some point in this process]. Stir in spinach and corn towards the end of the cooking time. Serve garnished with grated cheese and olives [we probably used twice as much as specified].

Cookbook Challenge

My name is Mama Ogg, and I have too many cookbooks.

I'm moving interstate in a few months, and part of our decluttering effort probably really ought to focus on reducing the weight of our ridiculously huge library. So as part of that - and partly to get me out of a food rut I'm currently stuck in - I am going to try to go through all my recipe books and see how many recipes I actually feel inspired to cook, and then, how successful they are. Preferably with pictures, because this blog has been pretty moribund for years and is dreadfully boring besides. So, I think a two-month challenge to whittle down my book collection would be a Good Idea. Starting yesterday!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Red Bean Goulash

Recipe from Janet Horsley's Bean Cuisine, with one or two minor changes. Bean Cuisine probably has the distinction of being my oldest vegetarian cookbook, which my mother gave to me when I was a teenager (I first went vego when I was about 14 but I don't remember exactly when she gave me the book). It's one of those earnest and unintentionally funny British wholefoods vegetarian cookbooks where they are making the first valiant attempts at ethnic outreach to avoid the tedium of veg and three veg, boiled until grey, a la Ye Olde English Vegetarian Cookery. I wasn't tempted by Tangerine Tofu Salad or Wheat Berry Risotto, but I did like the sound of Red Bean Goulash. And it was terribly good :-)

2 onions
1 green pepper
2 sticks of celery
2 potatoes
1/2 tsp caraway seeds (I didn't have any, so used cardamom instead)
2 tsp paprika (next time I'm going to try it with 3 tsp)
4c water + 2tsp stock powder, or just use stock
1/4 small cauliflower
2 400g tins kidney beans, or 1c dry kidney beans, soaked, boiled and drained
2 tbsp tomato puree (I used about a cup of passata)
1/2 c natural yoghurt
2 tsp lemon juice (I omitted this since I didn't have any lemons)

Slice the potatoes, celery, onions and pepper and saute in the oil. Add the seeds and paprika and fry until fragrant. Pour in the water and simmer until potatoes are just tender [I misread the recipe here and used 4c of water, but the original calls for only 1 1/4c. I will go with my quantity next time though, because it made lots of tasty sauce which was awesome with mashed potato!]. Stir in tomato paste/passata, cauliflower and beans and simmer until everything is tender and sauce has reduced a bit. Take off the heat, stir through yoghurt, cover and sit for half an hour or so before serving to let the flavours blend. Serve with mashed potato made with sour cream and lots of pepper and salt. Nom!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Roast Vegetable and Chickpea Stew

about 6c diced sweet potato, pumpkin, potato and red onion
olive oil
1 tin chickpeas, drained
1 tin diced tomato
1c passata
1/2 c sultanas
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1tsp each cumin, coriander and sweet paprika
1/2 tsp each ginger and chilli powder (or to taste)
1c couscous
1c boiling water
olive oil, black pepper to taste
1/2c slivered almonds

Toss the vegetables separately in olive oil. Roast the sweet potato and potato for ten minutes then add the pumpkin and onion and roast until soft. Put the vegetables in a large frypan or saucepan with the chickpeas, garlic and spices and saute until fragrant. Add sultanas, tomato and passata, stir and simmer for about fifteen minutes to allow the flavours to blend (add more water if necessary to stop it sticking).

In the meantime, combine the couscous and boiling water in a covered pan for about five minutes, then stir through a drizzle of olive oil and black pepper to taste. Toast the almonds briefly in a hot pan until golden, stirring all the while, and remove from pan as soon as they're done to stop them burning. Sprinkle over the top of the tagine to serve.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Ethiopian Lentils and Vegetables

Ethiopian Vegetable Bowl

Lentil Bowl (recipe adapted from here)

1 small onion, diced
~1 tsp each ginger, garlic powder (aaargh, no garlic in the house! Use the real deal if you have it)
~1/4 tsp cayenne
1 c red lentils

Saute onion til transparent, add spices and fry for a minute or two. Add lentils and 3-4 cups of water and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 30 minutes, checking the water level occasionally.

Vegetable Bowl (recipe adapted from here)

1/2 large sweet potato, cut into small dice [original recipe calls for carrots but I didn't have any]
3-4 medium potatoes, cut into small dice
~1 tsp each ginger, garlic and turmeric
1/4 green cabbage, finely shredded
1/4 zucchini, cut into small dice (optional)
4-5 shallots, snipped

Saute the root vegetables in a big frypan until they brown, to deepen the flavour. Add spices and fry for a minute or two, then add a little bit of water until it's about 1cm deep. You want to steam the vegetables but cook the sauce off by the end of the dish, so start with a little bit of water and add more if necessary. Cover and simmer gently until the vegetables are almost tender, checking on the water level occasionally to make sure it doesn't stick. Then add the cabbage, zucchini and shallots and stir to coat thoroughly in divine-smelling yellow sauce. Add a bit more water if necessary (only enough to dampen the mix and make sure it doesn't stick) then cover and simmer for five minutes until vegetables are cooked through but still vibrant.

Serve with rice.