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Friday Feast: Vegan Barszcz (Borscht)

I recently took Yankee Elv’s surname (we were civilly unionised earlier this year) and so now I sound like I’m authentically Polish, even though I haven’t a Polish bone in my body. The closest I come is a Russian/Finnish Jew about five generations back. Not quite the same.

Anyway, I was determined to be a good Polish wife, so I learned how to make Polish beetroot soup. This beet soup was originally eaten in the Ukraine, but it spread all over Eastern Europe during the middle ages. In Poland it’s traditionally eaten with uszkami (or sometimes over pierogi), but we just had it plain or with pieces of rye toast (using King Henry Bakehouse rye bread, which is locally produced, vegan and made with 100% rye flour). Once I had it with herbed, roasted button squash. The flavours were very complementary.

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Obviously my version of barszcz is a vegan version, which was surprisingly not that hard to do. Barszcz is a primarily vegetable soup anyway, I just had to swap the chicken stock for vegetable stock, leave out the optional ham hock and not serve it with a dollop of sour cream. Otherwise, it was good to go. That makes sense I guess considering it was a soup traditionally eaten by the lower classes and filled with cheap, abundant veges.

I came up with this recipe myself, but it’s based on this vegan borscht recipe and this more traditional red borscht soup recipe. I pureed half the batch and left the other half chunky to see which I liked better. I’m normally a smooth soup person, but I really enjoyed the bursts of concentrated flavour I got when eating the pieces in the chunky soup, so I actually liked it both ways.

The real test was Yankee Elv, who grew up eating Polish food. She says it doesn’t have the sour tang that most barszczs have (usually from fermented beets, vinegar or pickling juices), but that she loves the earthy flavours. It’s different to what I’m used to as an Aussie – I eat a lot of strongly flavoured Italian, Asian and Indian foods, plus Mexican after my time in Texas (it’s steadily becoming more popular here now). The flavours in this soup are more subtle; you can taste the herbs and vegetables clearly, but they meld gently together and no one takes precedence over another. Yankee Elv’s description – earthy – is a good one. She says it tastes like the earth smells after rain. Give it a go for yourself and see what you think.

Vegan Barszcz

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Ingredients:

  • olive oil for frying
  • 1 leek, cleaned and finely sliced
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 small-medium beetroot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and chopped
  • 6 to 8 button or cap mushrooms, chopped
  • 4 cups vegetable stock (broth)
  • 1 tab lemon juice
  • 2 tabs apple cider vinegar (add more if you want that sour flavour)
  • approx 1/4 cup of fresh dill, chopped (stems removed)
  • approx 1/4 cup (generous) of fresh parsley, chopped (stems removed)
  • 2 tsp dried thyme (can use fresh if you want, but use more as the flavour is more concentrated when dry)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 400g can butter beans (or other white bean)

Method:

  1. Heat a little olive oil in a large pot. Saute the leek, onions and garlic over medium heat until soft.
  2. Add beetroot and parsnip and saute for another 5 mins.
  3. Add mushrooms and vegetable stock and lower the heat. Simmer, covered, for 30 to 40 mins, stirring occasionally.
  4. Taste broth, then add desired amounts of the remaining ingredients. Simmer for 10 mins more, or until beetroot is tender.
  5. If you want to puree some or all, let it cool for 10 mins, then puree with a stick blender (immersion blender).
  6. You can serve it as is, with rye bread, vegetables, vegan sour cream, pierogi, uszkami, sauerkraut, pasta or however else you like!
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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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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….

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Friday Feast: Quinoa Puttanesca

I found this recipe on the Post Punk Kitchen Blog, and I knew I just had to try it! I’m all for figuring out new ways to eat ‘alternative’ grains, and quinoa is such a good one, since it’s a complete protein and gluten free. (I like to keep my gluten down.)

This recipe includes wine. Remember, when cooking with wine, the flavour intensifies, so choose a wine you like to drink.

I tweaked the recipe slightly – slightly increased the tomato, added sun-dried tomatoes and roasted capsicum, and reduced the capers – but otherwise it is the same thing. The taste of the olives and capers comes through strongly, so if you don’t like them (yes Mum, this would be you), then this dish would not be something I’d recommend. However, if you love the taste, as I do, then it’s fabulous.

I was surprised by how spicy (hot) it was. It seemed more like a matriciana than a puttanesca to me, but then it’s been a while, so maybe I’m remembering incorrectly. If you don’t like spicy food (yes Mum, that’s you again), I would suggest reducing or eliminating the crushed red pepper flakes. If, like me, you love spicy food – and I’m a spice wimp, but I still love it – then this is the perfect dish for you!

Quinoa Puttanesca

quinoa puttanesca

Quinoa Puttanesca, still hot and steamy.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • generous pinch tarragon
  • generous pinch marjoram
  • 1/4 cup wine (I used white because that’s what was open, but red would work too)
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, roughly chopped (sliced in half is great)
  • 1/4 cup capers
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped small
  • 1/4 cup roasted capsicum, cut into strips
  • 600g (21oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 2 to 3 cups of cooked quinoa*

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a good-sized pot over medium heat.
  2. Add the garlic and stir for about a minute, being careful not to burn it.
  3. Add herbs, spices and wine; cook for about a minute.
  4. Add olives, capers, crushed tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes and roasted capsicum. Simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes.
  5. Reserve a few ladelfuls of sauce to put on top of each serving.
  6. Mix the quinoa into the remaining sauce in the pot.
  7. Serve in individual bowls with a spoonful of the reserved sauce on top. Yum!


quinoa puttanesca

I used red quinoa because I thought it matched the sauce better, but you could use white or black quinoa and it would work just the same.

*Note: To cook the quinoa, rinse about a cup of uncooked quinoa to remove any residual bitterness. Put the quinoa in a pot with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the grain is tender and the water has been absorbed.

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Friday Feast: Carrot, Pineapple and Soybean Stir-fry

Ok, I know this combination of ingredients sounds weird, but it’s good, trust me. This is one of Yankee Elv’s recipes, and she first made it while she was in the USA. I think it’s some kind of weird US North Pacific Rim fusion sort of meal. Anyway, it’s really easy and tastes great, so give it a go!

Carrot, Soybean, and Pineapple Stirfry

carrot, pineapple, soybean stir-fry

Carrot, Pineapple and Soybean Stir-fry, with rice.

Ingredients:
• 2 tablespoon oil
• 3 cloves garlic, minced (or as much as you want)
• 2 medium carrots, sliced
• 1 240g (8oz) can pineapple chunks WITH juice – don’t drain
• 1 – 1 1/2 cups frozen green soybeans (edamame)
• 2 tablespoon soy sauce
• 2 teaspoon sesame oil
• 1 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (less or more to adjust spiciness)
• 2 teaspoon sesame seeds (optional)
• cooked rice (preferably cooked at least a day before, so it is less sticky)

Method:
1.
Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat.
2. Add garlic and carrots and stir-fry for  about 4 to 5 minutes
3. Add the pineapple with the juice. Saute on medium-high until juice is almost gone; about 5 to 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, defrost the frozen soybeans so they are no longer frozen (but they can still be cold) by heating them in the microwave, in water to cover, for 1 minute (if you don’t have a microwave, you can do it on the stove).
5. When the pineapple juice is almost gone, add the soybeans, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, and red pepper. Heat for 3 to 5 minutes, until the spices are mixed and the beans are warmed through.
6. You can either mix in the rice and cook it some more with the stirfry (gives the rice some extra flavor), or just ladle the stir-fry over the rice.

Optional: sprinkle sesame seeds over the meal for a bit of a crunch.

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Friday Feast: Vegan Apple Crumble

Lately, I’ve been on a bit of a muffin kick. This isn’t a muffin recipe though – I’m still working on those. Don’t get all impatient-like, the recipes will come. But right now, this is an apple crumble recipe. It’s good stuff. I tweaked an apple crumble recipe I’ve been making since I was 13, took some inspiration from a berry cobbler that Yankee Elv makes, and ta-da! Vegan dessert-y goodness. I first made this about a month ago.

I made up some soy custard to go with it. I just followed the instructions on my Poppy custard powder box, but added extra custard powder as soy custard seems to thicken up a bit less than dairy custard. It turned out beautifully. For those of you who can’t find custard powder, you could probably just use cornstarch (cornflour) with some vanilla flavouring and yellow colouring. The only other ingredients are non-dairy milk and a spoonful of sugar.

Yankee Elv asked me to make this again the next week. She’s a bit obsessed with it now. But it really does taste so good…

Apple Crumble

Apple cumble

Apple crumble with home-made soy custard. It's a dreadful photo, sorry - it was night time so I had to use flash and it's very glary.

Ingredients

**filling**

  • 800g tin pie apples (or equivalent fresh apples – I work full time, so I’ve no time to stew apples. I have to make do with recycling the tin)
  • 2 tabs white sugar (I use low GI cane sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

**topping**

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • Heaped 1/4 cup vegan margarine, softened and in small pieces
  • 1 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).
  2. Combine filling ingredients in a pie dish.
  3. Combine topping ingredients, except margarine, in a bowl.
  4. Rub in margarine until combined.
  5. Cover filling with topping.
  6. Bake for approx. 30 mins, or until topping is starting to brown and get crunchy.

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Friday Feast: Quinoa Biscuits (Cookies)

I would like to declare that I am absolutely dreadful at baking biscuits (cookies). I’m not sure why; I can bake pretty much everything else, but biscuits just stump me. Even when I follow the recipe exactly, they still come out stuck to the pan or something. However, this recipe (which I got from the back of a packet of Nature’s First Organic Quinoa Flakes) worked fine the first time! If you’re having trouble with the biscuits sticking to the pan, increase the size of your cookies or decrease the cooking time. This worked for me.

I liked that these biscuits were somewhat lower GI than regular biscuits (the quinoa increasing the protein), and I made them even more so by changing the flour to rice and spelt. The original recipe called for wheat flour. The liquid sweetener you use will also impact the GI of the biscuits, as will the type of sugar you use, and how much optional stuff you include (for example, including the cashews will increase the protein/fat quotient per biscuit, which in turn will make them lower GI). It’s a whole complicated thing. I don’t mean to sound obsessive, but for health reasons, it seems it’s better for me to eat lower GI, so I’m doing my best to consider that at all times!

Anyway, I now present to you…

Quinoa Biscuits (Cookies)

Quinoa biscuits

Quinoa biscuits.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup liquid sweetener (the original recipe called for honey, which I used because I wanted to use the last of our honey up)
  • 1/3 cup sugar (I used low GI sugar)
  • 1/2 cup vegan margarine (I always use Nuttelex)
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (I used smooth, but I bet crunchy adds a little something something)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence (I used imitation, and it was fine)
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 1/2 cup wholemeal spelt flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda (baking soda)
  • 3/4 cup quinoa flakes
  • 1/8 tsp salt (optional)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled cashews (or other nuts – optional)
  • 1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 175°C (350°F).
  2. Beat honey, sugar, margarine, peanut butter and vanilla essence until creamy.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine flours, quinoa flakes, bicarbonate soda and salt (if using). Add to wet ingredients, beating well until blended.
  4. Place heaped teaspoonfuls approximately 5cm (2″) apart on an ungreased baking tray.
  5. Bake for approximately 12 minutes or until golden brown.
  6. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from tray; continue to cool on a cake rack before storing.
quinoa cookies

Mmm... tasty quinoa biscuits!

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