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!