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Vegan Attempts @ The Jetty Oxford

I went to a work lunch at a place not of my choosing today. But I wasn’t paying the bill, so I’m not complaining too much!

We went to The Jetty Oxford, at Bulimba. It’s right near the ferry dock. It had big fat no vegan food. Except, I think, chips and maybe olives. There may have been a salad they could have removed the cheese and dressing from. Er… appetising for a lunchtime meal? I think not.

So I talked to the waitress and she talked to the chef, and he was not helpful. But I think I took him unawares, because about two mins later he had the waitress come back out and offer to make me a mysterious risotto. I agreed.

Here it is:

I think it had fennel, asparagus, apple and maybe mint? The sauce was made from peas. That is not something I would typically choose ever, considering I don’t particularly like peas or asparagus and I’ve actually never eaten fennel. However, the chef didn’t know that and it was very good if you discount the fact that the flavours were not particularly to my personal liking (and actually, I found the flavours were not even too bad). It was infinitely better than chips, olives or nude, boring salad for lunch.

So thank you, The Jetty Oxford chef!

The moral of the story? You should never be afraid to ask if the chef can offer anything vegan, cos they just might!

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Friday Feast: Pickled Watermelon Rind

It’s almost summer here in Australia, which means it’s time to eat watermelon! I like to use my handy dandy melon baller so I can eat it with a fork. I know, it’s kinda un-Australian to not eat it in great big slices and get it all over your face… but I don’t really like getting sticky. If someone builds me a swimming pool to jump into after eating it, maybe I’ll change my method.

Anyway, I was eating watermelon the other day and after I’d removed all the lovely pink flesh of the melon, I was left with the rind, and I remembered reading about a Southern (as in the South, in the USA) snack – pickled watermelon rind. I don’t mind regular pickles, but I’m not as in love with them as my Polish-American partner, so I wasn’t sure I wanted to eat the pickled rind of quarter of a watermelon… but I figured I might as well give it a try at least once. Everyone raved about them, so why not?

Well, I gotta tell you, pickled watermelon rind is yummy! It’s crunchy and cool and refreshing – a perfect snack for hot weather, and it’s not super sweet. Most cold foods are sweet. This one is vinegary,  but a little sweet from the sugar. It’s nice for a change. And I really like the crunch!

I chose the absolutely easiest watermelon pickle recipe I could find. Others call for certain herbs, or soaking the rind overnight – stuff like that. Since I wasn’t even sure I would like them, I was going for minimum effort. I think this actually was a great idea. The simplicity of the flavours is part of what I really like about these pickles. Plus they’re quick and easy, and they use up something I’d normally discard. I just changed the vinegar to apple cider vinegar cos that’s what I had in the cupboard.

So now that I’ve raved… here’s the recipe.

Pickled Watermelon Rind

pickled watermelon rind

Ingredients

  • Watermelon rind (from a quarter of a big melon)
  • 1 very scant cup of water
  • 1 very scant up of apple cider vinegar
  • 2/3 to 3/4 cup caster sugar

Method:

  1. Cut the watermelon rind into small chunks, about 1 to 2 inches in size. Make sure you remove the green skin.
  2. Stir the water, vinegar and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.
  3. Add the watermelon rind and stir.
  4. Turn off the stove, but leave the saucepan on the hotplate. Let the rind sit until it reaches room temperature.
  5. Place rind and as much brine as you can fit in a jar(s) and put them in the fridge.
  6. Eat them right away or save them for a bit in the fridge. Remember, these haven’t been properly sterilised and sealed, so they’re not shelf-safe. You should eat them within a few weeks at most and keep them in the fridge.

pickled watermelon rind in a small jar

Note: swish your mouth with water after eating, because it’s not good for your teeth to let acidic foods like vinegar sit on the enamel.

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Friday Feast: Pumpkin Pie Spice Muffin Tops

These were meant to be cookies. I followed the recipe completely! But they’re way too cakey. They don’t look like the picture in the recipe I veganised. I don’t know what happened… maybe it’s cos I made my own pumpkin puree*? Or could it have been the veganisation? I don’t think it was due to my reduction in white chocolate chips or making my own pumpkin pie spice (you can’t buy it in Australia!).

Anyway, regardless of whether or not they turned out how they were supposed to, they taste good. Just call ’em muffin tops and eat ’em all up!

This recipe makes about 36 cookies.

Pumpkin Pie Spice Muffin Tops

three pumpkin pie spice muffin tops

Ingredients:

  • 2-¼ cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsps pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup vegan margarine, softened
  • 1 cup white/raw sugar (we used low GI cane sugar, which is similar to raw sugar)
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (I made my own from a grey pumpkin)
  • egg replacer for a whole egg (we used Orgran’s No Egg)
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence (imitation is fine)
  • 1 cup vegan white chocolate chips (or chunks, in our case – we cut up some vegan white chocolate)
pumpkin pie spice muffin tops
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).
  2. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
  3. Cream the margarine and sugars.
  4. Add the pumpkin, egg, and vanilla to the wet ingredients and combine thoroughly.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.
  6. When all ingredients are combined, stir in the chocolate chips.
  7. Drop small spoonfuls (slightly heaped teaspoonfuls) of dough on a non-stick cookie sheet, then place in the fridge for 5 to 10 mins before baking.
  8. Place in the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
  9. Cool for a couple minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring to a cooling rack.
pointy pumpkin pie spice muffin top
*To make my own pumpkin puree, I removed the seeds and stringy parts from the centre of half a grey pumpkin. After that, I rubbed it with olive oil and baked it, cut-side down, in a pyrex dish. I took the pumpkin out of the oven when it was really soft, then I removed the skin and pureed it using a stick blender. I put it in a strainer to drain a little, but the puree was too thin and it started to go through the strainer. I did get some excess liquid out, but you’d be better off using cheesecloth if you want to do this. I decided not to bother.
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Friday Feast: Chewy Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

On Halloween night, while Yankee Elv and I were waiting for trick-or-treaters, we decided to make biscuits. I mean, cookies. Since they were American style, they can be cookies just this once.

We made two types: chewy chocolate chip and pumpkin pie spice with white chocolate chips. The latter turned out too cakey. The flavour is great, but the texture is not right. However, if you think of them as something other than cookies (such as muffin tops), then they are super yummy. As for the former – the chocolate chip cookies – well, they’re only the most super awesome vegan cookies I’ve ever tasted.

So, here’s the recipe. We didn’t really change it much; but we did reduce the number of chocolate chips. Admittedly, this was only because we didn’t have enough chocolate chips… We actually changed the method more than the ingredients. Clearly we made smaller cookies, cos we ended up with 48 rather than the 25-30 the recipe said it would make. Also, to get a great texture and shape, Yankee Elv puts the tray full of unbaked cookies in the fridge for 5-10 minutes before placing it in the oven. This really helps for some reason and is not a trick I’ve ever used before. This may be why I’m typically bad at baking cookies. But these ones turned out great (thanks YE).

Chewy Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

chocolate chip cookies on a plate

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of softened vegan margarine
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white/raw sugar (we used low GI cane sugar, which is kinda like raw sugar)
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence (imitation is fine)
  • 2 1/4 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 300g vegan chocolate chips (the original recipe called for 12oz)
Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
  2. In a large bowl, cream the margarine, sugar and brown sugar.
  3. Slowly stir in the non-dairy milk.
  4. Add the vanilla essence.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking soda.
  6. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir well.
  7. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  8. Drop small spoonfuls (slightly heaped teaspoonfuls) onto non-stick cookie sheets and refrigerate each tray for 5 to 10 minutes before placing them in the oven.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes.
  10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly, until you can lift them off the tray with a spatula. Then place them on a cooling rack until they’re cool. Make sure you eat some while they’re warm though!
chocolate chip cookies all in a big stack on top of each other (like a tower)
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Friday Feast: Rajmah Gobi Curry

This is a dish I made a few weeks ago with whatever I happened to have in the house. Clearly, I had a lot of cauliflower (gobi). It tastes good with basmati rice, but I also enjoyed this curry as a filling in a wrap.

When I made it, I let it simmer on the stove for about an hour while I was cooking something different for Mr Teeny-bop’s dinner and baking dessert. The long simmering time really made a difference – the curry would have been quite watery otherwise. If you want to make this with less cooking time, I’d reduce the coconut milk and chopped tomatoes – possibly using as little as half as much.

Chickpeas would also go well in this – in fact, that’s what I was originally going to use, but we didn’t have any! Kidney beans (rajmah) tasted great instead.

Rajmah Gobi Curry

rajmah gobi curry

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cauliflower
  • 1/2 red capsicum
  • 1/2 green capsicum
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 400mL can coconut milk
  • 400g can kidney beans
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tab lemon juice
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 tab vegan margarine
  • 2 tab curry powder
  • oil

Method:

  1. Heat oil in large pan over medium-high heat and fry onions until slightly brown.
  2. Reduce heat to medium and add garlic, curry powder and tomatoes. Combine and simmer for 2 minutes.
  3. Add cauliflower, beans, lemon juice, salt, pepper and half of the coconut milk. Simmer for 6 to 8 minutes.
  4. Add capsicum, margarine and the other half of the coconut milk. Simmer for as long as you want – up to an hour – until the curry reaches a consistency you like. The chickpeas should be soft and the cauliflower tender.
  5. At the end, add the peas for just long enough to cook through. (If you leave them in there too long, they’ll get mushy and gross.)
  6. Serve with rice or flat bread. Yum!

rajmah gobi curry

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Vegan Fast Food

Vegans and fast food don’t often go together. There are exceptions, like Lord of the Fries in Melbourne, but those kinds of places are far and few between. Takeaway food from regular restaurants is a bit expensive to eat very often.

So usually I make my own fast food.

This is what I had for lunch the other day:

refried beans, pinto beans, rice, sweet potato, salsa

  • Roasted sweet potato (I had two in the basket in the pantry starting to get a bit old, so I roasted them up to eat as I pleased)
  • Refried beans with jalapenos (thanks Old El Paso!)
  • Mexi-beans (thanks again Old El Paso!)
  • Mexican style express rice (this time, Uncle Ben’s was my friend)
  • Roasted capsicum salsa (I’m taking out shares in Old El Paso).

So these aren’t the most eco-friendly items I’ve ever eaten… two things from cans, one in a plastic packet and one from a jar… but aside from the rice packet, it’s all recyclable and/or reusable, which is more than you can say for the paper/cardboard/plastic/styrofoam packaging you get from places like Macca’s.

It’s also loads healthier.

And it was fast! It took me less than 5 mins to make. Sometimes that’s what you want. Plus, there’s leftovers!!

refried beans, pinto beans, rice, sweet potato, salsa

But best of all, it was tasty. Nommmmm….