Monday, January 30, 2012

Moroccan Quinoa Salad

It seems like such a long time ago that I made this dish.  I had a big assignment due and so that has taken precidence over blogging for the last few weeks.  Although the assignment was handed in 4 days ago and I am only just now sitting down to post this recipe.  Mmmm, maybe "to busy with study" was just a lame excuse!

For my 3rd new vegan recipe for 2012 I tried decided it was time to try out Quinoa.  I still think of this as Quin-oh-ah in my head before translating to Keen-wah to say out loud.  I browsed recipe sites and books and found lots of delicious sounding recipes before I settled on Moroccan Quinoa Salad. 

So colorful
I wanted to find a summery salad to have for a lovely lunch when my mum came to visit.  You can find the recipe over here at the 20 Minute Supper Club.  It is not a vegan recipe site so be warned.  But there are lots of vegan recipes.  Click on "Special Diets" and you will find that Vegan is a category.  Which just goes to prove how special us vegans are.

I was not able to source the black beans in time so I used kidney beans instead.  I will hunt down black beans and try it again soon as I am sure it will be delicious with black beans.

I served it with a garden salad.  And we had hummus with veggie crudites on the side.  Mum brought over a delicious home made herb scone which went perfectly with the meal.  A lot of food for just 3 people - dear husband, mum and I!  So there was plenty left over for the next few days.

A delicious, satisfying, healthy, summer lunch.

Quinoa is a great addition to a vegan diet.  This was my first attempt and admittedly it came out just a touch gluggy - though that didn't spoil our enjoyment of it. In its natural state Quinoa has a coating of saponins that have to be rinsed off - they are unpalatable and can be an irritant.  However if you buy a box of quinoa it is likely to already have been rinsed. 

I have already made this salad again with a few changes and transformed it into a "Mediterranean Quinoa Salad".  I did a much better job with the quinoa the second time around - a bit less rinsing (I am sure the box of organic quinoa I used was already rinsed), bit less water, a little longer cooking at a lower temperature.  It came out fantastically fluffy!  I left out the cummin, reduced the oil and added balsamic.  I left out the mint and coriander and instead added fresh basil.  I used borlotti beans and added a few extra olives.  Yum!  I think the possibilities are endless - you could use the Moroccan Quinoa Salad as a starting point and make all sorts of substitutions and additions.

In Veganomicon it says that eating Quinoa regularly will have you elevated to a level 7 vegan in no time!  Well, I am not quite sure what a level 7 vegan is but I instantly thought of this classic Simpsons moment:

Not a great quality clip - the only Simpsons clips that seem to be allowed to stay on Youtube are ones that people have videoed of their TV playing the Simpson.  What's with that??  How does that promote the Simpsons brand?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chipotle Chilli with Sweet Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts

The great thing about this "new vegan recipe every week" challenge is that it is leading to me try new ingredients and flavor combinations.  This week I had the pleasure of meeting chipotle for the first time. 

This weeks recipe was suggested by my partner in this weekly-new-vegan-recipe venture: Chipotle Chilli with Sweet Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts.  The recipe is on the Post Punk Kitchen web site.  So I can share it with you without having to type out the recipe which, for a lazy blogger like me, made it an even more attractive choice.

No need to feel like the only ignorant one in the room if you don't know what chipotles are.  I had no idea either and so I went ahead and googled/wiki-ed them before reading the recipe.  And then when I returned to the recipe page on the PPK there was all the info I needed.  Apparently they are "this decade’s sundried tomato" and apparently I have been living under a rock.  :)

A chipotle is a smoked jalapeno.  A jalapeno is a medium sized chilli pepper.  A chilli pepper is a..... No wait, you know what that is right?  Dear husband and I really enjoyed the smokey flavor and aroma.

I only made two teensy changes to the recipe.  I used two tins of beans (instead of one) and, as usual, I reduced the salt to suit my un-Americanised taste buds.   Here is a snap of how it turned out.

This is the first time I have been brave enough to follow a recipe that calls for brussel sprouts.  As a kid brussel sprouts were the most poisonous food on earth (closely followed by liquorice and liver - shudder) and were used in childhood oaths between my sibblings and I, eg, "Honest, really, if I am lying I will eat a whole truck load of brussel sprouts and liver!"  I never thought I would grow up to be one of those adults who actually eats brussel sprouts by choice. 

I found chipotles at my local shopping village at Passione Gormet Deli.  They had dried chipotle and chipotle in tins in adobo sauce.  They also had lots of other cool stuff including the creamiest, most yummiest, most delicious ever hummus.  (Note to self - it is high time you started making your own hummus).  The owner (at least I think he as the owner) was very helpful.  I asked if he stocked any vegan cheese or chocolate.  Apparently he did stock it at first but there wasn't enough demand.  I will have to see what I can do about that!

Pinto beans were a little trickier.  For the second time this year I found myself standing in the shop using my iphone to google "x beans are also known as".  I used borlotti beans which seemed to be the closest thing to pinto beans available at my local IGA.  I need to find a shop near my house that sells a wider range of beans.  I went on a wild goose chase today looking for black beans - but more about that in my next blog post.

Anyone have a fantastic hummus recipe they want to share?  I have been looking at lots this week and can't decide which one to try so I would love a recommendation.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Leek and Bean Cassoulet with Biscuits

For my first new vegan recipe for the year I had a flick through Veganomicon by the Post Punk Kitchen crew.  It is such a great book filled with so many delicious sounding recipes that it was hard to chose.  I have book marked lots more recipes for future vegan cooking adventures.

I chose Leek and Bean Cassoulet with Biscuits.  Probably because the name caught my eye.  Cassoulet with biscuits!  ~ Insert giggle ~ Because "biscuits" are sweet cookies in Australia, and who has ever heard of a Cassoulet?  Well, probably you have, but it was a new word to me.  According to Wikipedia (that perfectly reliable and thorough information source) a Cassoulet is a slow cooked bean stew from the South of France containing white haricot beans.

So I guess we can just say I cooked a Bean Stew with Dumplings.

Verdict: satisfying, homely and nutritious.  Not exactly a "knock your socks off" kind of dish but a good base recipe that you could easily modify by changing the veggies/legumes/seasonings to suit your taste buds.  It would also be a great recipe to use up any veggies getting close to their "best before: date that you can find lurking in the bottom of most peoples fridges and veggie boxes.

I was hoping that the recipe would be on the Post Punk Kitchen website so I could just link you to it but no such luck.  However this recipe on the site for Dilly Stew with Rosemary Dumplings is kinda similar. 

I stuck to the recipe pretty closely as it is the first time I have made a Cassoulet with Biscuits (giggle again - yes I am that childish).  The only changes I made were to leave out the salt, add a few extra peas and carrots, and just before putting it in the oven I added another can of beans as it seemed a little light on for beans.  I had only bought one tin of white beans so the second tin were kidney beans - which added a little colour so I was pretty happy with the outcome.

The dumplings are very similar to the damper I sometimes make when we have soup.  You can find the recipe here.  I love adding herbs to my damper and I think that adding a little chopped fresh herbs to these dumplings would be great too.

Dear husband and I drizzled some truffle oil on top of our stew.  Mm mm mmmmmm!  Thanks mum for buying it for us!

Below is the recipe for this stew and dumplings with my additions.  It might look a little long but it is really pretty simple to make..  I will definitely be making this recipe again and tweaking it each time.  I think it can be used as a very versatile base from which you can let your creative energies be guided by the whims of your taste buds.

Stew Ingredients
2 potatoes, cut into small pieces, boiled until not quite soft and drained.
3 cups veggie stock
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons oil
2 leeks, thinly sliced (~ 2 cups)
1 small onion, medium diced
2 cups diced carrots
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping tablespoon copped fresh thyme
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup frozen peas
2 cans beans, drained and rinsed (I used white beans and kidney beans, but I think butter beans would be really nice too)

Dumpling Ingredients
¾ cup soy milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1½ cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup vegan margarine or shortening

1. Preheat the oven to 220oC (425oF).
2. If you have not already boiled you potatoes do so now.
3. Combine the milk and apple cider vinegar and set aside.
4. Mix the cornstarch into the stock and set aside.
5. If you have an oven proof skillet - use it.  If not use your soup pan.  Saute the leeks, onion and carrots in the oil over a medium heat until soft and just beginning to brown - about 10 minutes.
6. Add the garlic, thyme and pepper and cook for 1 more minute.
7. Add the potatoes, peas and stock mixture.
8. Bring to the boil and then lower the heat and leave gently simmering while you make the dumplings.
9. In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt.
10. Cut the margarine into the flour and then mix with your fingertips until it resembles bread crumbs.
11. Add the soy milk and mix with a fork until it is just combined.
12. Gently knee the dough about 10 times with floured hands - just do it in the bowl, no need to mess up your kitchen bench any more than you already have.
13. Add the beans to the stew. If you have not used a skillet it is time to transfer your stew to an oven proof casserole dish.
14. Break off chunks of the dumpling mix and form roughly into golf sized balls.  Drop on top of the stew about an inch apart.
15. Bake for 15 minutes until just slightly browned.
16. Use a large serving spoon to ladle into bowls taking care to have the dumpling on top.

Before and after baking.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Very Vegetarian Christmas.

It has been over 2 months since my last confession blog.  I am feeling like a very sheepish vegan apprentice.   The time pressures of study, moving house, and all those other tasks that life throws at you gave me an excuse to turn to convenience and take away food - which was all to often non-vegan.  And the festivities of dear husband's birthday, Christmas and New Years gave me a sense of licentiousness that has seen me eating vegetarian treats a plenty.

Becoming a vegetarian was easy.  I decided.  I changed my eating habits.  I have never looked back.  I have never even felt like looking back.

Becoming a vegan has been harder.  It has been a much bigger challenge for me.  But that doesn't mean that I am giving up.  No sir.  Not me.  Excuses and festive licence are now behind me and this Vegan Apprentice is back in training.  Let the vegan trumpets sound!

I am still working on my resolutions for this year, and it will be another week or so before I have crystalised my plans and goals for this year.  But one has already been decided on and I am about to declare it to the world (or at least that teensy part of it that is listening).

Resolution: Be a better vegan apprentice.
Goal: Try one new vegan recipe per week.

Ok so I might be a little behind because it is the 8th of January and I haven't tried a new one yet. But I am not going to let that little fact upset me.  I am not even going to be making a new vegan recipe today.  Dear husband put in a special request for Chickpea, Ginger and Peanut Curry so I made that today.  Yum, yum.  We really love this one.

So trying my first new vegan recipe for 2012 will happen tomorrow.  I have already chosen the recipe, bought the ingredients and gotten all excited about it. 

Many thanks to a dear friend who has encouraged me and is joining me in this venture.  (Love you Sarah!)  She has already tried out a new recipe from the PPK website and enjoyed it.  I will be trying it very soon too and will let you know how it goes. 

I am very interested in hearing from other vegans and would-be-vegans about what has helped you to make the transition.  And if you have any tried-and-tested vegan recipes that are on regular rotation at your house - please share.  Help a vegan apprentice out.

Happy New Year!  I have high hopes for 2012 and I hope you do too.