Monday, August 29, 2016

Banana & strawberry cupcakes

August 21-22, 2016

My job is now split over two campuses - I've got some lovely new officemates and we've all moved into a newly refurbished workroom together. Our supervisor invited the rest of the department around for an office-warming morning tea, and our team all agreed to bring along snacks to share.

I first baked a tray of gluten-free, vegan caramel slice to ensure that most special-diet bases were covered. Then I moved onto using up some bananas in a cupcake recipe that I've had bookmarked for 8 years. With eggs and vegetable oil and fresh strawberries folded through perhaps it's more of a muffin recipe, except that the 'muffins' are spread with cream cheese frosting. I slathered the frosting on generously with a knife (no piping for me), and added some sprinkles on top for decoration. I had almost a cup of leftover frosting, which I enjoyed eating with fresh strawberries over the following week.

I like the flavour combination of sweet bananas and strawberries offset with a little tanginess from lemon zest and cream cheese. It was very popular with my colleagues too!

Banana & strawberry cupcakes
(slightly adapted from a recipe on Vanilla Garlic)

3 cups plain flour
1 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
generous pinch salt
3 small bananas, peeled
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 eggs
3/4 cup sunflower oil
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 cup strawberries, chopped

1/2 cup butter, softened
250g cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons milk

Preheat an oven to 180°C. Place cupcake papers in a cupcake tray.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate large bowl, mash the bananas and the vanilla together. Crack the eggs in one at a time and whisk them through. Whisk in the oil and lemon zest until well combined. Gradually stir in the flour mixture, and then fold in the strawberries.

Spoon the cake batter into the cupcake papers to three-quarters full. (I made 16 cupcakes, and so used up the mixture over two separate baking batches.) Bake the cupcakes until a skewer comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

Allow the cupcakes to cool before frosting them. This is a good time to take the butter and cream cheese out of the fridge to soften.

With an electric beater, whip together the butter, cream cheese and vanilla until fluffy. Sift and beat in the icing sugar, half a cup at a time until well mixed and fluffy. Beat in a little milk if the frosting looks too stiff to spread. Use a knife to spread the cooled cupcakes generously with frosting. Store cupcakes in the fridge, but allow them half an hour on the bench before eating.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Thai barbecue seitan sandwiches

August 20, 2016

We had a pretty quiet weekend lined up, so I decided it was time to get stuck into one of the many intriguing but complicated recipes in Street Vegan, my birthday present from Cindy. The sandwiches section of the book is filled with amazing combos, all of which require a fair amount of effort. After much debate, we settled on these rolls filled with Thai barbecue seitan ribs, pickled onions and smoky, roasted peanuts.

There are a lot of elements to these but they're all relatively simple and standalone, which means you can make them whenever you've got time - you could easily prepare the nuts, onions and sauce well ahead of eating, which would make the actual assembly trivially easy. 

We doubled the ribs component of these to make sure we had leftovers, but even then we wound up with a disproportionate amount of the barbecue sauce - don't be afraid to tweak the quantities a bit to balance things out. 

The end results were spectacular: the ribs themselves were probably a little bit on the soft side (don't be afraid to add even more gluten flour than specified in the recipe below), but that meant they soaked up the sauce very effectively, making for a tangy, smoky sandwich filling. The pickled onions and nuts added more zingy flavour and a bit of crunch - these are some impressive goddamn sandwiches. We had the leftover ribs with the barbecue sauce and some roast veggies, which worked superbly as well.

Thai barbecue seitan sandwiches
(slightly adapted from a recipe in Adam Sobel's Street Vegan)

pickled basil & onions
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 bunch of Thai basil leaves
1 large red onion, sliced

In a small saucepan, combine the vinegars, salt, mustard seeds and sugar and bring the mix to a boil. Stir in the basil and onion. Once the mixture has come back to the boil, cover the saucepan and kill the heat. After 20 minutes or so, transfer the cooled mixture to a sealable container and set aside.

smoked chile-roasted peanuts
1 cup roasted, salted peanuts
1.5 tablespoons agave nectar (or maple syrup)
1.5 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line an oiled baking tray. In a bowl, thoroughly combine all the ingredients. Spread the seasoned nuts onto the baking tray and roast for 8-10 minutes, until the liquid has dried up.

Thai barbecue sauce
1 cup lime juice
1 cup olive oil
1 stalk lemongrass, stripped and chopped into large chunks
1 tablespoon minced galangal
1/4 bunch of Thai basil leaves
1/2 cup coriander leaves
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and stemmed
3 tablespoons tamari
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 cup tomato paste

Put the lime juice into a medium saucepan and add in the lemongrass, galangal, Thai basil, jalapeno, cayenne pepper, tamari and the ground and fresh coriander. Bring the mix to the boil and then kill the heat and allow the mixture to cool. Pour the mixture into a blender or food processor, along with the tomato paste and olive oil and blend until smooth.

seitan ribs
500g firm tofu
6 tablespoons tamari
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1.5 cups gluten flour (our seitan was still very soft, consider adding more)
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
2 tablespoons ground coriander
oil for frying

In a food processor, puree the tofu, onion, garlic, carrot and celery together until smooth - this took at least five minutes of blending for me, but it will depend on your equipment I guess.

In a medium bowl, combine the gluten flour with the paprika, cumin, coriander and curry paste. Mix if the blended tofu mix and knead for a minute or two until you get a reasonably dry and firm dough. Add more gluten flour as needed here - my guess is we added about another 1/4 cup.

On a cutting board, roll the dough out into a flat square - about 20cm X 20cm. Slice the square into ~15 thin strips and then cut them in half.

Heat a generous layer of oil in a frying pan until it's hot and then fry the 'ribs' in batches, turning to brown the outsides, for 5-8 minutes per batch. Top up the oil between batches if required. Pop the fried ribs onto some paper towel as you go to soak up the excess oil.

When you're ready to eat, heat the pre-fried ribs in a pan (we just used half of our batch) and, once they've warmed up nicely, pour in about a cup of the barbecue sauce. Stir everything together gently, so that the ribs get coated in the sauce and cook for a few minutes, until it fries off a bit and things aren't too liquidy.

4 long rolls
1 cup vegan mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
2 cups mixed green leaves

Build the sandwiches!

Start by combining the mayo and Sriracha to make a slightly spicy spread; smear it on the rolls.

Pop some greens on the rolls and then 5-6 seitan ribs. Sprinkle the pickled onion and some peanuts on top and then serve.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Mankoushe IX

August 14, 2016

Though it's still pretty chilly, there are signs that winter is receding - the neighbourhood magnolias are flowering, the magpies look ready to swoop any day now and we've seen 20 degrees again, just the once. It's enough to inspire Michael to get up early for bird-watching, and for me to grab a picnic blanket and meet him for lunch.

Rather than preparing our own spread, we picked up lunchboxes from Mankoushe ($13 each). They'll cater to all manner of special dietary requirements, and the packages were vegan by default on the Sunday that we dropped in. We enjoyed dense little packs of a half-dozen dishes - grainy salads, garlicky sauteed greens, fresh tomatoes and pickley cabbage, nuts folded into a starchy mash, and slightly saucy lentils. Michael ably shovelled up his share with a wooden fork while the sun was still shining; I was slower. The wind picked up, the sun ducked behind a cloud, and I tucked up the last third of my food for later. We escaped the rain, at least. It's still a bit early for picnicking, but perhaps you can find a more sheltered spot to enjoy this splendid takeaway meal. 

You can read about one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight of our previous visits to Mankoushe.

323 Lygon St, Brunswick East
9078 9223
lunchboxes $13

Accessibility: There's a small step up through a narrow-ish entry but everything's more generously spaced once you're in. We ordered and paid for our takeaway at the counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

where's the beef? turns 10

August 23, 2016

Today we celebrate the 10th birthday of this here blog. We started where's the beef? in our first month of living in Melbourne and it's grown into an incredible document of our time in this city - it's threaded with the broadening acceptance and availability of vegetarian foods, the ebbs and flows of food trends, and our own evolving kitchen habits. We've collated some year-by-year highlights below.

Year 1 Being our first year living in Melbourne, we spent our weekends exploring various restaurants, markets and festivals all over the city. Michael started working in Fitzroy and launched the Gertrude St Grub series; Cindy's workplace showed off their home cooking skills.
   Best recipe: spiced chickpeas
   Best restaurants: Three, One, Two, Moroccan Soup Bar

Year 2 Cindy had a slow culinary start because she had her wisdom teeth removed. After that week we got much more sociable, participating in our first food blogger meet-ups. We travelled around Victoria and the world, ticking off Halls Gap, Wilsons Prom & the Mornington Peninsula, then touring the UK. Michael visited Japan for the first time, before Cindy climbed aboard the Chattanooga Choo-Choo.
   Best recipe: we discovered Isa that year, making many soy bombs and chickpea cutlets
   Best restaurants: A Minor Place, Attica

Year 3 Veg*n blogging hit critical mass in Melbourne and we all made friends IRL - there were dinner parties, birthdays, potlucks, festivals, yum cha, pizza nights and even a big group weekend away. I developed my almost-famous vegan sausage roll recipe.
   Best recipe: vegan sausage rolls
   Best restaurants: Hellenic Republic, Monsieur Truffe

Year 4 We explored fancy regional restaurants in Beechworth and Port Fairy before venturing further to Asia, where we ate the freshest tofu of our lives in Kyoto and learned to fry eggs into noodles in Kuala Lumpur. At home we published our 1000th post, joined twitter and tried our hand at a Christmas tofurkey.
   Best recipe: vegan omelettes and hash browns
   Best restaurants: Court Jester (sadly departed), Yong Green Food, Sonido

Year 5  Our travel-eating highlight was an all-blogging all-vegan long weekend in Sydney. In Melbourne, The Fox (one, two, three, four) and The Gasometer (one, two, three, four, five) vied for our veg*n pub-meal affections. Cindy turned 30 and held an ice-cream potluck that is still talked about to this day; less than a month later we discovered Ottolenghi.
   Best recipe: char koay teow
   Best restaurants: Mankoushe

Year 6  We partied through our first MONA FOMA in Hobart, Michael ate vegan poutine in Toronto and together we took in a northern summer in Berlin, Iceland & Norway. Back home we focused on fungi, foraging for our own around Victoria and experimenting with corn smut in the kitchen.
   Best recipe: black pepper tofu
   Best restaurant: New Day Rising

Year 7  In the summer we talked books and foods on the radio, which was a lot of fun. For Melbourne veg*ns more broadly, it was the Summer of South.
   Best recipe: BBQ bao
   Best restaurants: Wide Open Road, Dainty Sichuan

Year 8  Cindy snuck vegan eats around an Auckland conference, Michael found more than pizza and pasta in Turin, and Cindy ate Florida icecream, Denver diner waffles, Baltimore's high-end wholefoods and Native American cuisines in a DC museum. We reunited to tour veg hotspots New York and Portland, then headed home via Tokyo for a special family meal at a forty-plus-year-old Buddhist restaurant. We expanded our online presence by starting a facebook page.
   Best recipe: can't-stop choc-chip cookies (with added rosemary)
   Best restaurants: Smith & Daughters, Shandong Mama

Photo graciously provided by Green Gourmet Giraffe

Year 9  We published our 2000th post and celebrated with a picnic that we remember fondly. Cindy joined a fine dining panel at the Melbourne Writers Festival and attended a range of other food-centred events. We circled around to Tokyo for a third time, Kuala Lumpur for a second, and learned the wonder of cơm chay in Vietnam as a first.
   Best recipe: curried peanut sauce bowl with tofu & kale
   Best restaurant: Trang

Year 10  We both spent decent chunks of this year out of Australia - Michael embraced the working lunch in Stockholm for two months while Cindy learned the secrets of stinky bread-baking in smalltown Pennsylvania. Around our travel we've embarked on a 2006 Cheap Eats Guide project, enjoying a vegan resurgence at Ray. Cindy's rediscovered the joy of jaffles.
   Best recipe: peanut butter & blueberry pie
   Best restaurants: Moroccan Deli-Cacy, Brae


These highlights have reminded us how lucky we are to travel regularly for work and for pleasure, to eat delicious and nutritious foods out and about with friends and every night at home, for the time and money to treat food as a hobby as well as a necessity. We hope never to take that for granted.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Friends of the Earth

Cheap Eats 2006, a decade on

August 13, 2016

Part of the reason we decided to do our Cheap Eats 2006 project was to catch up on some glaring omissions in our near-decade of blogging. Cindy covered off Fo Guang Yuan in April, and this weekend we made our first ever visit to Collingwood vego stalwart Friends of the Earth.

We haven't actively been avoiding it, but the fact that it's taken us so long to visit is probably at least partly due to a suspicion that FOE would serve up worthy but bland vego food. Luckily, that impression was completely wrong - the cafe has a lot more to offer than just lentil stews: there are doughnuts and other sweets, lunch rolls, pizzas and more, along with a seasonal mixed plate. Everything is vegan by default (although there's dairy milk and butter on hand), and they're good at gluten-free options as well. There's a handy selection of veg-friendly groceries, including organic fruit and veggies.

I really wanted to try the baked tofu roll with cashew cheese, slaw, spinach and sesame mayo ($9), but I was hungry enough to tackle the large seasonal plate ($12.50). This is a classic vego buffet plate: rice, salad, a delicious tofu curry - hearty, tasty and healthy. It's a good option.

Cindy wasn't hungry enough to tackle a real lunch, so she ordered a lemon currant scone ($4) and a cup of dandelion tea ($4.50 + $1 for almond milk). The scone was a departure from the classic Australian version, with its triangular shape and dusting of sugar, but Cindy was impressed by it nonetheless. 

There are plenty of lovely-looking vegan sweets to choose from - at least partly provided by Crumbs.

Steph convinced me that I had to try FOE's newest special - a vegan croissant filled with smoked tofu and cashew cheese ($6). I took one home and had a wonderful breakfast the next morning - it's worth a visit to FOE on its own.

We can now personally recommend Friends of the Earth - it's doing much more than the daggy 1980s vego food we were half-expecting, and we really shouldn't have taken a decade to visit. It'll be much less time before we go back.


Friends of the Earth has received pretty limited blog coverage over the years - there are positive write-ups at The Wholefood Mama, Vegan About Town, Veganopoulous, New International Students and MEL: HOT OR NOT.

Friends of the Earth
312 Smith St, Collingwood
9417 4382

Accessibility: FOE has put some thought in - there's a shallow ramp on entry, non-gendered individual but standard-width toilet cubicles on the same level (the wooden floor is a teensy bit uneven) and a low counter for service.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Trailwalker macaroni

August 10, 2016

I've been making this vegan cheesy macaroni recipe for years and am well overdue to blog it. It's stayed unblogged so long because I never take a photo of it! It's the lazy Friday night-on-the-couch recipe that uses pantry ingredients, for when I haven't soaked cashews for Isa's mac'n'cheese.

Over the years, the pressure to write it up myself has steadily increased. Source blog VeganYumYum hasn't been updated since 2012 and her archives have been disturbed by hackers. After all that time of making this macaroni for the two of us, the recipe has achieved legendary status with a small cluster of friends just this year. Back in April Michael and three mates embarked on the 100 km Oxfam Trailwalker, and I joined the support crew. I cooked this macaroni for dinner: making a double batch of sauce at home two days in advance, then the pasta and some roasted broccoli and carrot in a cabin as the team walked. I insulated the enormous pot with teatowels and we drove it to the walkers' 60 km rest stop at about 10:30pm. Steam rose from the pot as I lifted the lid and scooped carby comfort into bowls for the tired walkers. One of them has told me several times since that it was the best meal of his life.

Now I'm not promising that this recipe will make the best meal of your life - it's all in the context. But that context means, even after years of history in our home already, it's now known as Trailwalker macaroni here, even if its most frequent showing is on our couch on Friday nights.

Trailwalker macaroni
(a recipe from VeganYumYum, archived here)

500g macaroni
1/3 cup margarine
1/4 cup plain flour
2 1/2 tablespoons tamari
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon white miso
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/4 cups soy milk
1/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes

Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the macaroni until al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce, making sure that you have all the ingredients ready on hand. Start by melting the margarine in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When it's completely liquid, whisk in the flour to make a smooth paste. One at a time, stir in the tamari, lemon juice, miso, tahini and tomato paste - the mixture will be thick. Gradually whisk in the soy milk, just a half cup at a time, trying to maintain a smooth sauce. Stir in the yeast flakes until well combined. Keep the sauce on low heat, stirring regularly, until the pasta is ready.

When the macaroni is cooked, drain it and transfer it back to the large saucepan. Pour in the sauce and stir well. Serve immediately. We usually eat this with roasted broccoli and carrots - it's pictured above with parsley, roasted broccoli, cauliflower and kale.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Reese's poptarts

August 6-7, 2016

While I was in the US, missing Michael and cooking stuff together, we agreed that we'd try making the Street Vegan poptarts when I got home. While I would have happily embarked on them any old weekend, we had a nice opportunity to bake them for a 2-year-old's birthday party and share them around.

Michael picked out the peanut butter-chocolate filled version and I set to work a day in advance. The filling is a simple, reliable mix of chocolate ganache swirled with peanut butter. The pastry is made with electric beaters and includes egg replacers, which isn't my usual pace. It seemed too mushy and I upped the flour to make a more sturdy, rollable dough (I've adjusted the quantities accordingly below).

On the morning of the party I set to work assembling and baking the poptarts. The recipe's designed to make 10 hefty tarts but instead I cut at least twice as many two-bite treats. I barely used half of the filling since my mini-tarts had a higher edge-to-middle ratio (again, I've altered the recipe below for a better fit). The edges sealed easily with a fork just so long as I didn't dust too much flour around.

It was difficult to work out when the poptarts were fully baked since they're not supposed to brown. I gave 'em a few extra minutes on a hunch and they were still a little underdone - I'd suggest eating a tester before you progress to the icing stage. Once you spill the glaze over them there's no going back! The original recipe suggests using chocolate glaze all over and white vanilla glaze in decorative stripes, but I thought some coloured sprinkles would be less fiddly and for an audience of under-5s.

Indeed, I overheard one youngster declare these poptarts his favourite food at the party. A couple of adults got a real kick out of them too. I'm not quite convinced that they're better than a more conventional pie or tart, but they were a fun little party project to share with friends.

Reese's poptarts
(slightly adapted from a recipe in Adam Sobel's Street Vegan)

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons egg replacer powder
1/2 cup water
3 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup margarine

1/2 cup soy milk
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa
1 tablespoon soy milk
coloured sprinkles

Place the vinegar, egg replacer and water in a medium-large bowl and beat them together with an electric mixer until foamy. On low speed, mix in the flour, salt and margarine until the mixture comes together as a dough. Allow it to rest for at least 15 minutes - I covered my bowl with a lid and refrigerated it overnight.

In a medium bowl, bring the soy milk to the boil. Take it off the heat and stir in the chocolate chips and salt. Keep stirring them together until they form a thick, smooth ganache. Chill the ganache for at least 2 hours, I refrigerated it overnight. When it's time to assemble the poptarts, swirl the peanut butter through the ganache.

Line 1-2 baking trays with paper and lightly spray them with oil. Preheat an oven to 180°C.

Lightly flour a clean surface and roll out the pastry to 2-5mm thick (I did this in about 4 small batches). Slice the dough into rectangles of the same size - mine were about 4cm x 6cm, but the recipe was designed for larger ones. Spoon filling into the centre of half of the rectangles, place the other rectangles on top of each once, and use a fork to crimp the edges together (see photo above).

Place the pastries on the trays and bake them for 15-20 minutes, until they're a little firm. Allow them to cool to room temperature.

Sift together the icing sugar and cocoa in a small-medium bowl. Stir in the soy milk to make a smooth glaze. Spoon the glaze over the centre of the poptarts and decorate them with coloured sprinkles. Allow the glaze to set at room temperature for at least an hour before serving.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Gopal's Vegetarian Restaurant

Cheap Eats 2006, a decade on

August 2, 2016

Between Michael's and my travels, we've let our Cheap Eats 2006 project lapse for a few months. We're reviving it with this visit to Gopal's in the city. When we first moved to Melbourne I was just barely done being a student and Brisbane's Hare Krishna restaurants, with their cheap and filling vegetarian meals, were a favourite hang-out. Gopal's had the same relaxed atmosphere and we notched up two short reviews in our first months here. We later checked in for a marathon cooking class, and we've failed to mention this dependable eatery on our blog for a good five years since.

While we were originally a bit put out by the cost of the chef's special, it has aged well! $12 in 2006, the equivalent feast plate is still just $12.95. This entitles you to a tray heaped with food - soup, rice and your two chosen curries, two chosen salads, a drink and a dessert. It's hearty, bulk cooking based on affordable vegetables and dried spices. I've always liked the kofta, and on this visit particularly enjoyed the tanginess of the lassi. Michael's chocolate ball reminded me of oat cookie dough, and my apple crumble was similarly oaty and comforting.


Gopal's has received low-key blog coverage: praise from vegan bloggers Veganopoulous, Almost Skinny Vegan Food and Green Gourmet Giraffe, as well as omni bloggers The Melbourne Glutton, Food Food Food and Sweet and Sour Fork; only Eat & Be Merry have been notably disappointed.

Gopal's Vegetarian Restaurant
139 Swanston St, Melbourne
9650 1578

Accessibility: We entered via a narrow staircase with a handrail and did not notice an alternative access point. We ordered and paid at the counter. Tables were quite well spaced. We didn't visit the toilets but noticed gendered doors for them on the same level as the restaurant.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Jerk-seasoned sweet potatoes & black beans

July 27, 2016

I picked up a few small gifts for Michael on my travels through the US: a snowy owl pin from West Virginia, astronaut magnet and freeze-dried ice-cream sandwich from the Air & Space Museum, and of course some duty-free snacks at the airport. 

Actually, the first gift I bought was a jar of Jamaican jerk seasoning from DC's Union Market. Though the seasoning itself is vegan, it's traditionally used to flavour meat. Still, I had some vague memory of seeing a few vegan recipes on USian blogs and I was pretty sure Michael would enjoy its spiciness. The person running the spice stall boosted my optimism, telling me about the vegetable-based stew she'd made recently with this condiment. Just go easy, a teaspoon at a time, she warned me. This stuff is hot!

I had a hell of a time getting this jar safely home. I packed it in my carry-on bag, only to have it rejected as a liquid over 100mL. So I chased my checked-in luggage back through the front counter, downstairs to baggage claim to nestle it amongst my dirty laundry and back upstairs to recheck. I tried not to imagine the glass crushing on the journey, staining my clothes with pungent oil.

The jar survived, and I was keen to make quick use of it. Internet browsing turned up this stew/curry recipe as an appealing winter weeknight option - it's a big pot of sweet potatoes and black beans, simmered in a tomato-based broth infused with the jerk seasoning, ginger and fresh coriander. Though the original recipe contains three tablespoons of seasoning, I heeded the market salesperson and started with just a teaspoon. It gave just the right amount of heat on that first night, as we spooned the stew over steamed rice. Michael added a bit more to the mellowed leftovers.

That still leaves 95% of a jar of jerk seasoning in the fridge! Please tell us what else we should do with it.

Jerk-seasoned sweet potatoes & black beans
(slightly adapted from on a recipe from BBC goodfood)

2 onions
50g fresh ginger
small bunch coriander
1-3 teaspoons jerk seasoning
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
400g can chopped tomatoes
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 vegetable stock cubes
600mL water
1 kg sweet potato
2 x 400g cans black beans
300g jar roasted capsicum
salt & pepper

Roughly chop one of the onions and place it in a small food processor or spice grinder. Peel and roughly chop the ginger and add it to the processor; get the coriander stalks and jerk seasoning in there too. Blend everything up into a paste.

Finely dice the second onion. Heat the oil in a large pot and saute this onion until soft, about 15 minutes. Add the blended spice paste. Stir in the tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, stock cubes and water. Simmer everything for 10 minutes.

During the simmering, peel and dice the sweet potatoes. Drain the black beans. Drain and slice the capsicum. Add the sweet potatoes to the pot and simmer them for 15 minutes. Stir in the black beans and capsicum slices and season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 5 more minutes and serve garnished with the reserved coriander leaves.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Nigella's winter plum cake

July 24, 2016

Cindy returned from her travels early on a Monday morning, and I wanted to have something worthy to greet her with. I turned to Nigella for help, settling on this recipe for a winter plum cake. It seemed well within my limitations technically (no separating of eggs, no layers), but still seemed fancy enough to serve as a welcome-home treat.

I still managed to cock things up initially, and had to restart from scratch after combining the wrong ingredients. Once I actually read the recipe things came together pretty easily. The end result was superb: the almond essence shone through, and the canned plums added bursts of sweet fruitiness. It doesn't need much icing - I used the simple lemon glaze from this recipe. We polished the whole thing off in a matter of days - I'll definitely make it again.

Winter plum cake
(slightly adapted from Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess)

1 600g can of plums (I could only find a 800g can, so I just snacked on the rest), drained
1 cup self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup ground almonds
125g butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon almond essence

Grease and line a 20 cm springform cake tin

Preheat the oven to 170°C.

Chop the plums and pop them into a sieve to drain.

Mix together the flour, ground almonds and baking powder in a large bowl.

Cream the butter and sugar together and then beat in the eggs, adding a tablespoon of the flour mixture after each one and then beat through the almond essence.

Fold in the rest of the flour mixture and the chopped plums.

Pour and scrape the mixture into the baking tin and bake for about an hour, checking after 45 minutes. 

When the cake's ready, take it out of the oven and leave it to cool for 10 minutes or so before popping it out of the cake tin. 

Ice with your icing of choice (I used the lemon glaze from this recipe).

Monday, August 01, 2016

Spinach & black bean burrito bowl

July 16, 2016

I spent much of this week eating badly - pizza, toasties and other kinds of yellow food lacking any real vegetables. Desperate to get something a bit fresher into my body, I turned to Isa Does It - a book loaded with wonderful fresh recipes. Isa's bowl recipes are particularly sure-fire, and this had just the combo of simplicity and pizazz that I was looking for. It's super easy - even easier if you don't make your own guacamole (although I can recommend making the version in Isa Does It - it's worth the small amount of effort). Otherwise you just cook the quinoa and speedily heat up the rest, with the wine and garlic being absorbed into the spinach as it wilts. Adding some hot sauce brings some boldness to an otherwise pretty mild dish, but even without it this is a winning dish.

Spinach and black bean burrito bowl
(slightly adapted from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Isa Does It)

2 tablespoons olive oil
200g baby spinach leaves
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 small brown onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 small tomatoes, chopped up small
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 cup white wine
1 teaspoon salt

For serving
4 cups cooked quinoa (you could get away with 3)
Guacamole (I made some using the recipe in Isa Does It, but just go with your favourite version)
Hot sauce

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and saute the onion for 5 minutes or so, until it softens. Add the garlic and fry for another minute or so.

Throw in the tomato, cumin and salt and keep frying for a minute more. 

Add in the white wine and bring it to the boil for a couple of minutes. Drop the heat to low and add the spinach in (in batches), cooking it down to make space for it all. 

Add the black beans, cook for another couple of minutes and then serve on the quinoa, topped with guacamole, coriander and plenty of hot sauce.