Friday, 27 December 2013

Christmas (a.k.a. Let's Have The Oven On All Day You Guys)

My family is not one of great traditions, but for me Christmas will always equal baked veg (and a good dose of bad TV to go with it). Despite the fact it was 31 degrees, I couldn't resist throwing together a baked dinner with Sanitarium's vegie roast and as many veggies as I could fit in this gigantic mother pot:
I followed Jamie Oliver's sound advice (does anyone else love his Christmas specials?) and tried his smashed potato recipe - what makes this one great is instead of smashing the spuds immediately after you parboil, you wait half an hour, then smush, then bake for another half an hour. The potatoes stay moist and crisp like mad on the bottom and are so, so good. Other than that, pretty typical roasties - pumpkin, potato, sweet potato, carrot, a whole onion cut into small wedges and separated (do this so all the little bits caramelise and get everywhere and go super soft - brilliant). Rosemary, thyme, onion powder. Simple. Brilliant. Not very dignified in the pan though:
You get some seriously good stuff out the other end! This is my personal veggie-pile and a few slices of veggie roast. Yum.
The spuds on the bottom are inspired by quinces and kale's recent roast spud post - couldn't resist trying it as well as regular roasties. I made almost a batter with the flour and oil and tossed the spuds - it was quite tasty! I have other ideas for using that concept and will post about them when I have time to experiment.

Anyway. A roast dinner is delicious but always, always make far more veg than you need so you can have bubble and squeak the next day! This is actually from another Jamie Oliver christmas special I watched.. no idea, maybe years ago now. Anyway, it's super simple and extremely delicious, so give it a go. Nothing like the traditional kind really, but so worth it.

You will need:
Leftover roast veg from the fridge (I've used potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot and onion. Keep your pumpkin to a minimum - 1-2 chunks - or things get a little gloopy. If you don't like to roast onion, dice and fry one up and add it to the mix, it's brilliant.)
A few slices of leftover roast "meat" (optional) - nut roast, lentil loaf, tofurky, whatever you like- I'm using Sanitarium's vegie roast. I love this stuff. If you want, facon would be pretty great too, but the point of this is leftovers really, so don't make a big effort.
A little oil, salt and pepper
A big flat nonstick frypan (use something heavy bottomed for best result)
A spatula or your favourite squishing implement

Take out your leftover veg and chop into roughly 1 cm pieces. You want to chop rather than tear to retain texture. As you can see below, the pumpkin is delicious but gets super mushy so you don't want a lot of it. Give it a good crack of salt and pepper and toss it all together so you end up with a decent mix of veggies - no clumps of one thing.
Chop up your roast "meat" into fine pieces (smallish dice will do) and add to your vegie mix. This is my leftover vegie roast - this one is great because the glaze is largely sugar, so it caramelizes and you get sticky burny crispy bits to add into your veg and it rocks. (That said, if you have a favourite pre-made veg 'roast' let me know about it! I haven't tried any of the other brands.)

Heat your frying pan to about medium and add a small splash of oil. Pour in your roast veg mix and press down in the pan. Let sit for around ~5 minutes - you want a nice brown crispy crust forming. When that's happened, give everything a big stir so new sides will brown. Nothing will stick together here and that's kind of the point, so roll with it. You're basically making a glorified hash here, but if you prefer a patty, then use a little more pumpkin, tear everything roughly /use a masher and shape with your hands. You'll get a very similar result, just with less texture.
 Let cook another five minutes until everything is hot and crispy, then turf out and serve with your leftover roast, or some greens, or whatever takes your fancy. For the non-vegans out there, Jamie suggests cracking an egg on top and letting it cook in the hash, so give that a go if it's your kind of thing. But on its own, this is divine and one of my favourite breakfasts ever.

As for other Christmas nibbles, I tried a few pre-made tasty bits this holiday. These are Moo Free's new chocolate pralines. Honestly, I'll finish them but they're overpriced and far too sugary - the inside texture is like sand (gritty and kind of sticky on your teeth), and it kinda feels like they used mostly sugar and not enough hazelnuts for the interior. (I make praline from time to time and it's incredible when done right, bad praline makes me sad.) My mother summed it up quite well when she said "the problem with vegan milk chocolates is they try to emulate creaminess with sugar.". And it's true. Still, very glad I got to try them but I'll stick to my own in future.
Coles has had an interesting range of "christmas balls", mostly vegan (says so on the label!). I picked up the choc-almond ones, $5. They're pretty good - nice cocoa hit, kind of remind me of a hedgehog slice. There's sultanas in them but very few - you forget until you bite into one, which is really confusing to eat. I'm excited to see more and more vegan treats appearing though, so awesome!
I also got these - Fino's Confections jellies. I love these. Great texture, great flavours - they are definitely a two-bite candy though, they're about an inch across. Terribly pricey but easy to get a hold of and very tasty! I actually picked up the citrus pack today and they're not half so nice as the berry ones, go figure:
We're also obsessed with this juice lately - I'm not really a juice person, or an anything-but-water person, but this stuff is brilliant. The label made me chuckle when I bought it, but damnit they're right - I could happily live on this stuff. You win this round, Freshafruit.
And.. that's it for Christmas for another year! Now back to skinning hazelnuts for praline and pretending it's not going to be hot tomorrow. Whoops.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Updates, Updates, Updates

Hello! This week has been the Week of No Photos, largely due to a lot of kitchen screwups. Here's some.

- Called a local Indian restaurant about making a vegan masala dosa. Girl on the other end whisper-yelled "I DON'T UNDERSTAND" and then hung up on me. D: Tried to make own dosas - the packet mixes are decent, but cannot get the frying of right. Have mastered the potato filling though - through use of a packet spice mix and a lot of turmeric, but still. The potato mix also makes amazing spicy fritters with peas and other veggies added.

- Craving tomatoes, I tried this recipe from the Vegan Yum Yum cookbook. I am not a fan of creamy risottos and somehow I always manage to forget this. Veganopoulous' kritharaki is still my favourite wet tomatoey thing (is there a nice way to compare risoni/risotto?) by a long shot, so I gave up and made that for dinner instead and it was awesome.

- Made this vegetable manchurian recipe. Accidentally added too much ginger to the sauce and it was really, really bad. Ate the veg balls on their own and they were divine, despite having basically no seasoning. Sometimes veggies are just really really brilliant on their own. Will definitely make these again, they'd make awesome appetisers!

- I tried out potato waffles in my waffle maker and surprisingly, wasn't really a fan - they didn't really crisp up like a fritter, but still, mashed potato is not bad no matter what. I really want to try this recipe next, it looks incredible.. like a fritter, but better.

- More hot days, more noodle salad. The tofu in here is half soy-sesame and half lemongrass - the lemongrass was really mild and turned out more perfumed than flavoured. Will play with that more, though - I live near an amazing fruit and veg shop that always has it fresh for very very cheap. The noodles here are actually about 50% bean sprouts:

I flavour it with a little light soy and vegetarian fish sauce. The one I use is the one in this post by New Epicurian - it's nothing like fish sauce, but it's sweet and a little vinegary with a nice chilli afterburn. Perfect for noodles and spring rolls and just about everything ever.

- Made this meat pie recipe for kicks today. It was disgustingly tomatoey, so I didn't end up finishing it - but pastry is always pretty good. It was a great experiment nonetheless. I can't quite replicate the La Panella pie though:

- Picked up some close-to-use-by passionfruit Coyo for half price at Go Vita, and knew I'd never eat it in time so - almond milk and a little agave and hey presto, fro-yo! Really good stuff. I'll be doing this again with the homemade kind in future.

- This pair of juvenile king parrots have figured out we put out seed and have been stopping by. The boy (in front) is friendly and will eat out of your hand, although he's terribly messy and looks like he has leprosy or something. His missus is shyer, but still not overly worried. They're adorable and we love watching their colours develop. Aren't they festive?

And last of all - Merry Christmas, folks! What are you doing for lunch/dinner?! 

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Hot Beef Injection?

Anger Burger still inspires me, despite Sunday's blog absence. Flipping through the site for dinner ideas a few days ago, I came across Sunday's recipe for Bowl Noodle Hot, essentially a slow-cooked Asian beef soup designed to be a salty, tangy vehicle for noodles and veggies and the giant hunks of beef you simmer with it. Hmm. I did what probably should have had a terrible result: forgot the beef and made it anyway. IT WAS AWESOME.

The method is pretty simple: everything gets plonked in a giant pot, brought to the boil and simmered on low for hours. You start off with pretty bright veggies - it looks bright and fun, but ends up a gorgeous thick dark mess with a layer of (very attractive) sludge. Sieve it and you have a seriously fantastic soup going on there. As far as the recipe, if you ignore the lack of beef here I didn't really deviate from the recipe too much; I used my homemade stock concentrate (via the recipe at Appetite Affliction - brilliant stuff, so convenient!) instead of beef broth and added a small sprinkle of Massel's beef powder to attempt to get a 'beef noodle' flavour. No Kitchen Bouquet, because I don't know what it is. A little Maggi Seasoning instead. No Szechuan peppercorns because we're wusses in this here house - I did throw in some of the regular variety though. This gets super salty and condensed, so add water as you feel it's needed - I probably added two-three cups on and off as it simmered. I didn't measure my vinegar, just tasted as I went along. It's a great addition; if you have it, use it - it helps with the complexity of the flavours something fierce.

Organic ramen from the supermarket (something seems ironic in there), dumplings and my favourite firm tofu fried crispy. I wouldn't do the dumplings again but the tofu really is amazing here. The broth is salty and rather intense and the crispy, kind of egginess of plain fried superfirm tofu does wonders. Next time I'll keep the 'fu but add some veg - Sunday suggests carrot and daikon, and I'll definitely use bok choy. If I had a barbecue, I'd use PPK's grilled ramen recipe for the veggies, because that sounds delicious. This was an awesome dinner with a pretty minor amount of effort. And there's still a decent amount of stock left to reduce down and freeze, so there will be more of this in the future. Brilliant. I'm going to go sit down and congratulate myself on this one.

Friday, 6 December 2013


Did anyone else grow up with Betty Crocker cake mixes? My mother used to decorate cakes professionally, and she always used a Betty Crocker as her base (even though she's a smashing baker). This recipe is the closest and the best. (2 cups of sugar, be warned.) Use coffee instead of water. That's where it's at.

And then, because two cups of sugar isn't enough, mock creamy filling. (Margarine and icing sugar, beat it 'til it's fluffy and not grainy in the slightest.)

And THEN the best cocoa you have and some coffee and make a nice dark mocha icing. Somewhere along the line this became the Technicolour Dreamcake (although I have no idea why now) but sometimes you really just need to eat a pile of kilojoules and this is an excellent way to do it. Yum yum.

Back to non-rambly posts soon, I promise. But a question - does anyone know where to get pearl sugar in the CBD or southeast? I have got myself a waffle maker and I need pearl sugar to blister my tongue, clearly. Thanks in advance!