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Thursday, 29 May 2008

Coconut Chutney (Date and Sesame version)

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Here’s another coconut chutney version. Coconut chutney is really very much like hummus in terms of how you flavour it. Add whatever ingredients you like, whip it all together and you have a nice accompaniment for snacks.

I do make coconut chutneys quite often. And if you haven’t had any coconut chutney yet, you should try it. It’s good healthy raw food which is also very tasty!

This one is a slightly sweeter version.


Ingredients

½ fresh coconut meat, finely sliced
½ tablespoon of tamarind pulp (separate the seeds by mixing with a little water)
4-5 stems fresh mint chopped
4-5 large dates (or more if you like!)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
¼ teaspoon salt
2-3 green/red chillies (optional)
Juice from ½ lime (optional)
40 ml water

  • Place all the ingredients in a blender and grind to a smooth consistency.
  • Add more water as needed to make a thick paste.

Have this with poppadums; they’re great!

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Mother’s Day Mung Bean Cookie Pie

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I was meant to post this on Sunday but didn’t find any time to write it down. This is a cookie pie I made for Mum on Mother’s Day which was Sunday. Well, we did not do much, but at least I baked her a cookie pie which she liked a lot! So much that there’s just 1 slice left today! Well, everyone helped in devouring up the pie!

The cookie dough recipe is based on a cookie recipe from one of Mum’s recipe books that we have at home – Indian Delights by Zohra Moosa (Mum got this book as a present but I can’t find a link or more info about it online). This book has loads of Indian recipes but also quite some Western delights and a few fusion style foods. Although not vegan, a lot of the recipes can be veganized.

The recipe in the book (Naan Khataay with Chana Flour) is intended for individual cookies but I was too lazy to bake 2-3 batches of cookies on Sunday. So I just baked the dough in a pie dish. But then I didn’t want a plain cookie and I had some boiled mung beans that was left from the Mung Bean Pasty I made the same morning. So, I made some mung bean halva and sandwiched it in.

The cookie dough for this recipe was very easy to veganize and adapt.

I made a slight tweak with the flour that was used. While the recipe calls for plain flour and baking powder, I used self-raising as I had run out of plain flour at home.

One more thing is that my kitchen scale is kind of dead. It sort of still reads but it’s wonky and the needle is kind of going in the other direction or something like that. Well, I thought I’d let the old scale retire in peace! I haven’t bought another one yet. But instead I’ve bought a basic measuring cup. I’m going to try use the cup for a while and see how I go. I find most recipes online and most of you use the cup measurement and instead of doing all these conversions every time, I’ve decided to just switch to the cup!

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Ingredients (1 pie dish – 16 slices)

1 cup vegan margarine
1 cup light brown sugar (or demerara)
¾ cup chana flour (gram flour or besan)
1½ cups self-raising flour (plain flour and 1 teaspoon baking powder is also fine)
1½ cups semolina flour
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Almonds or nuts (optional)

Edit: I just remembered, after having posted this, that I used semolina flour as well in this recipe. (The original recipe doesn't include it, so you could just use plain/self-raising and gram flour only). But semolina makes a crunchier cookie! So, I've amended the ingredients.

Mung Bean Halva:
2 cups boiled mung beans, drained and lightly mashed (or 1 – 1¼ cup dried mung beans and boiled until soft)
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup (200 ml) coconut milk (or any non-dairy)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 tablespoon margarine
Coconut flakes, nuts and raisins (optional)


Prepare the halva:

  • Place all ingredients in a saucepan (preferably non-stick), except the margarine. Allow to simmer on low to medium heat.
  • Stir and lightly mash occasionally.
  • Increase heat after 10 minutes to dry up excess liquid.
  • A thick paste is the desired consistency.
  • Add coconut flakes, nuts and raisins if desired.
  • Add margarine at the end and mix well.


Make the cookie dough:

  • Preheat oven at 200 degrees Celsius.
  • Cream margarine and sugar well.
  • Add vanilla essence.
  • Add all flours and mix well. Work with hands until dough is soft and smooth.

  • Press half of the cookie dough obtained into ungreased pie dish (10.5 in or 27cm).
  • Top with the halva, spreading and smoothing out evenly.
  • Cover with the remaining cookie dough.
  • Decorate with almonds or other nuts.
  • Bake for 18 - 20 minutes.
  • Remove and slice into triangles when still warm.
  • Put back in oven for another 3 – 5 minutes.
  • Allow to cool before serving.


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Sunday, 25 May 2008

Rice noodle soup to warm up the weekend...

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As the temperatures are gradually getting lower over here, soups are most welcomed. I prefer chunky soups but do enjoy pureed ones as well. Yesterday night I felt more like a light chunky soup and Chinese soups are my favourite kinds of soup. And they are pretty simple to make too.

Just before serving, I threw in some raw mung beans sprouted at home. They add flavour and crunch to the soup. The mung beans were still newly sprouted, just after five days.

You can sprout your own beans too. Just place some mung beans on a plate or large bowl. Cover with water but not completely. The beans should be half in water and half in contact with air. Place in a corner where the beans won’t be in direct sunlight. Check water daily and add as required. Another way you could do this to line a colander with a wet cloth and add the beans on top of the cloth. Keep cloth wet.

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Sprouted beans can be used raw in salads or cooked in soups and stir fries.


One thing about the rice noodles to use. Be sure to get a good brand that does not go all soggy as soon as it is immersed in boiling water. Or some brands also have a tendency to break into small pieces. I guess you’ll have to try different brands to know which ones are good. I used this one but don’t know if it’s available everywhere.

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So yesterday for diner and today for Sunday brunch I had this nice warm Chinese soup.



Ingredients (4 servings)

2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 bunch Chinese greens, chopped to 3 – 4 cm in length (adjust quantity according to volume yielded)
10 – 12 dried shitake mushrooms (soaked in hot water for at least ½ hour), sliced
1 can baby corn, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 piece ginger (3 – 4 cm long), grated or finely chopped
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon cornstarch

2 layers rice noodles (or 250 g)
Water as needed to make soup


  • Place rice noodles in a big bowl of cold water. Allow to soak for 45 minutes. (Do not over-soak. It’s preferable to leave them slightly crisp).
  • In a non-stick deep pan or wok, add 2 tablespoons of hoisin sauce and half a glass of water or mushroom water*.
  • Add sliced mushrooms and allow to simmer for 5 minutes on medium heat.
  • Add carrots, baby corn and ginger.
  • Cook for 7 – 10 minutes or until carrots are tender (but not completely soft).
  • Mix the cornstarch in a little cold water.
  • Add this to the pan. Stir and mix well. Sauce will thicken. Add more water or mushroom water (if left) as required. The amount of sauce here doesn’t really matter as this will become a soup anyway.
You can also leave this quite thick if you want to keep the vegetables separate from the bouillon. It might be better for storing left-overs in this way.


To make bouillon:

  • In another pan, bring 4 bowls (serving size) of water to boil.
  • Mix 1 teaspoon cornstarch with some cold water. Add this to the water.
  • Add salt to taste.
  • Add noodles and greens. Simmer for 2 – 3 minutes.

To serve, place noodles in serving bowl, top with the vegetable stir fry and add a few large spoonfuls of bouillon together with the greens.

Add bean sprouts and a dash of fresh lemon juice if you like a tangy taste.

Optional: adding 1 tablespoon of miso paste to the soup in the serving bowl is also quite nice.

This soup can also be made in less time if you use fresh mushrooms or canned ones (you won’t have to allow for soaking time). You can also just add the dry rice noodles to the bouillon and boil for a little longer.

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*mushroom water - this is the water that is used to soak the mushrooms in. It gives a nice flavour to the soup.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Yummy Sesame Snaps...Hmmm!

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Sesame snaps have been my all time favourite sweet stuff for ever since I knew how to chew! I don’t know about you but those little tooth-rottingly sweet crunchy thingies do satisfy my sugar cravings anytime of the day! Apart from being loaded with sugar, these little snaps are somewhat nutritious though due to the sesame seeds.

Sesame sometimes slightly triggers my allergy to nuts; but I just can’t give up on them. (I am not lethally allergic to nuts. A few is fine. I just get something like a hay fever which becomes a flu and cough or something if left untreated).

I tried to make my own sesame snaps once. Boy, I had a hard time scrapping my pan afterwards! It became so hard that it solidified before I could pour it out of the pan!

The ones in the photo are just some I bought at the supermarket. I might try making them once more some day!

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Green Beans with Mustard Seeds

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I remember the first time I went to England and was shopping for my first kitchen utensils and gadgets, there was one thing I couldn’t find anywhere. A bean slicer! They might have been available but I couldn’t find any close to where I used to live. I thought it was quite a basic kitchen tool. But there you go, they were apparently not very popular in England. So, from one of my holidays to Mauritius, I took one back with me.

Sliced beans just taste so much better from whole ones! Sliced beans are also great eaten raw in salads.

For today, I sautéed them in a bit of olive oil and mustard seeds. This is so quick and easy. And so tasty too!


Ingredients (4 servings)

250 g green beans
1 red onion sliced
2 teaspoons whole mustard seeds
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt to taste

  • Cut ends of beans and slice using a bean slicer. (Discard the strings that will come off).
  • In a non-stick deep pan on medium, add the olive oil.
  • Add onions and mustard seeds. Sauté for 1 minute.
  • Add green beans and stir to thoroughly mix oil with beans.
  • Cover and cook on low to medium heat until beans are tender. (You don’t want to cook them to death as they will lose flavour. I usually just cook them halfway through. Switch off heat. Cover and let stand for a while. The steam will cook the beans slightly more leaving them still crisp.)
  • Add salt to taste. (Do not add salt while cooking as this will cause a lot of water to come out of the beans making them soft and soggy).


Monday, 19 May 2008

Roasted Baby Potatoes with Garlic

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If there’s one thing I’ll never tire of, it must be roasted baby potatoes!

I half-boiled them for 15 minutes this time to save on roasting time (which took about 15 minutes again). But they are surely very nice as well when roasted from raw.

I marinated them in a tablespoon of softened margarine, loads of finely chopped garlic, red onions, salt, pepper to taste and sprinkled with parsley for the last 5 minutes of roasting. Yum!

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Pear Rolls

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I’ve been inspired so much by Celine’s gorgeous breads that I’ve decided to give bread baking a go! The only bread I had baked so far was the flat bread for my pizzas!

This particular one was inspired from the Pumpkin Almond Rolls.

I made a huge batch and will give half the batch to BoyfriendLovlie. They will be fantastic breakfast during the week for everyone!

I used pear instead of pumpkin but I actually used them as the filling as well as in the dough. So, I adapted the recipe to this:

(I actually made 24 rolls but I have halved the recipe here. Very brave for a first attempt, I know!)


Ingredients (12 rolls)

250 g all-purpose flour
50 ml warm water
1 teaspoon yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
50 g softened margarine
6 large pears
Juice from 1 orange
Warm water as needed to form dough (approximately 2-3 tablespoons)
125 ml pear puree (obtained from liquefying some of the cooked pears)
Icing sugar (for dusting on top)


  • Peel and cut the pears into small pieces.
  • Place in a saucepan with orange juice.
  • Cook on low to medium heat for about 20 minutes or until soft.
  • When pear is cooked, liquefy some in a blender to obtain 125 ml of puree. Set aside.
  • Place the yeast, sugar and 50 ml warm water in a glass. Mix well and let to stand for 10 minutes until foamy.
  • Place flour and margarine in a mixing bowl. Work the margarine into the flour until well mixed.
  • Add the pear puree and yeast. Knead and add warm water as required to form a dough.
  • Knead until dough is not sticky anymore.
  • Pour a little oil in the bowl and allow the dough to stand for about an hour or until double in size. (I didn’t have to wait long. Mine rose in about 40 minutes).
  • After dough has risen, punch down and divide in two.
  • Roll each dough flat to 30 cm by 30 cm (12 in by 12 in).
  • Spread 2/3 of the area (from the side closer to you) with the pears.
  • Roll tightly.
  • Cut into 6 parts (5 cm or 2 in).
  • Flatten slightly trying to close the bottom slightly with the dough.
  • Place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. (I used greaseproof paper as the excess juice from the pear filling might cause the rolls to stick to the pan).
  • Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until golden. (I turned the trays midway through for even baking).
  • Remove from oven.
  • Dust with icing sugar through a sieve.

I’m happy with my first attempt at bread baking! I’ll be awaiting BoyfriendLovlie’s verdict tomorrow!

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Clear-the-Fridge Fried Rice!

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I think fried rice is not only a great way to use left over rice but also vegetables that you just want to use up to clear the fridge! And besides, fried rice is actually nicer when made with rice that was cooked the day before and kept in the fridge. It is firm and easier to stir than if the rice was just cooked.

This is what I did yesterday with half a cauliflower, 2 carrots, sweet corn, mushrooms and some chives sprinkled on just before serving. I don’t really like cauliflower because of the farty smell it gives off when cooking! But I quite like it cooked in this way. The smell is well camouflaged!

After cutting the vegetables into small pieces, I sautéed them in 1 tablespoon of margarine and a little hoisin sauce until almost cooked. I then added the rice with about 1 teaspoon of mushroom soy sauce. I stirred a few times without covering.

The heat and sauces causes the rice to become quite mushy. So, I usually wait for the rice to cool down and become firm again before reheating and serving.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Apple Cinnamon Scones

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My Saturday plan, today, was to go out shopping. I’ve seen this really nice bikini in this shop about a week ago and have fallen in love with it. Well, it’s nothing great, a quite simple bikini really. I’m the sort of person who can’t buy things on the spot. I have to wait a week or two before I can make up my mind whether I really want it or not!

But then, waking up this morning, to my disappointment, it was pouring outside! It has been raining all night and it didn’t look like it would stop soon either.

There’s no fun at all buying a bikini on a rainy day! And besides, this dull weather was making me feel gloomy and cozy at home.

So, I needed something warm to at least enjoy this somber day at home. I had some of the cooked cinnamon apples I used for the Apple Custard Pie I made the other day. It’s been almost a week, but they’ve kept very well and could still be used. Scones sounded nice and as they just need basic ingredients like flour, margarine, a bit of sugar and milk, I gave them a go.


Ingredients (10 – 12 scones)

300 g plain flour
75 g margarine
3 tablespoons demerara sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
100 ml non-dairy milk (I used light coconut milk, soy milk is fine too)
3-4 apples cooked as in the Apple Custard Pie recipe
Raisins or dried fruits (optional)

Glazing:
2 tablespoons date jam
2 teaspoons lemon juice


  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
  • In a mixing bowl, sift the flour.
  • Add baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add margarine.
  • Work the mixture with the hands until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  • Add sugar and raisins. Mix well.
  • Make a well in the middle and add the milk. Mix with hands.
  • Make small balls. Top with some apples and place on a greased baking tray.
  • Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes.
  • In the meantime, prepare the glazing by placing the jam and lemon juice in a saucepan on low heat.
  • Stir and mix well until a syrup consistency is obtained. This should not take more than 5 minutes.
  • Remove scones from oven. Glaze each scone with the date jam syrup using a teaspoon. Take care not to allow the jam to spread on the tray. It will be difficult to remove the scones from the tray afterward.
  • Put back in oven for 5 minutes. Check whether scones are done by inserting a toothpick. If it comes out dry, then it’s done.
  • Remove from baking tray and allow to cool on cooling racks.


I like them warm and they were perfect with a nice cup of tea.

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Friday, 16 May 2008

Chili White Beans with Leeks

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Ok, SisterLovlie is getting impatient! She’s waiting for me to watch a DVD together. So, I’ll be quick! Tonight I had white beans in tomato sauce with green chilies and leeks. And the brownish stuff at the back is aubergine stir fried with chopped onions and a little turmeric. I’m a great fan of aubergine…you must have noticed how often they appear in my foods!

The white beans are an adaptation of the Butter Beans in Tomato Sauce I did some time ago. Today I felt like something hot. So, I added some whole green chilies (feel free to slice them if you want an even hotter sauce!) and some finely chopped leeks.

It was quick and simple.

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Go to go watch that film now…

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Easy Stir Fry

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Chinese is one of the very many cuisine that I like. I particularly love stir fries as they're so quick and easy to make. Just toss in any veggies I have at hand, my favourite sauce, stir and it's done. Stir fries used to be a regular dinner meal I used to have (in my London days) when I was coming back from overtime work at 9pm! And leftovers were always nice for my lunch the next day.
Stir fries can go with noodles, rice or just on their own (like I tend to do) when I want a light meal.

Tofu used to be part of the ingredients I would incorporate in stir fries until I discovered my soy intolerance! So I eliminated them. So now my stir fries are just veggies. I try to add bean sprouts and mushrooms whenever I can to add a bit of protein to the meal.

I never measure the quantity I use for stir fries; I just toss in everything in a wok. And it's never the same twice but always tasty!

The ingredients that I usually use are carrots, mushrooms, baby corn, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, mange-tout, any Chinese greens like bok choi, spring onions, water chestnuts to mention some.

As carrots take the longest to cook, I usually add them first in a wok with a little oil or margarine or sometimes just water. Then I add the rest of the ingredients keeping the bean sprouts, greens, mange-tout and spring onions for last.

My favourite sauces are either black bean or hoisin which I add to the vegetables while stirring. Plum sauce sometimes provides a little sweetness (that I like from time to time) to the sauce. I also add in 1-2 tablespoons of potato flour or cornstarch mixed with a little water and allow the sauce to thicken.

One thing that I once tried was to cut (using kitchen scissors) thin slices of Nori from a Nori sheet and add them on just before serving. I quite like the 'fishy' taste and fragrance it gives to the dish!

Monday, 12 May 2008

And the celebrations go on...

I did say the month of May is my favourite month of the year because of all the celebrations! Well, yesterday it was my birthday. I’m not particularly excited when it comes to my own birthday but I do like spending some time with my family. And especially this year, as I’m in Mauritius around this time, we were all reunited. (I am not always in my home country for my birthday).

Everyone helped out to prepare salads and nibbles.

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The nibbles were:

Okra Bhajis that I previously attempted.

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Courgettes (zucchini) Rolls - The filling was carrots and mushrooms cooked with hoisin sauce and a bit of potato flour to ‘stick’ them all together; the courgettes were previously marinated in lemon juice, salt and sugar.

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Chickpea patties inspired from Jessy’s (http://happyveganface.blogspot.com/) Tex-Mex Burgers – I used chickpeas instead of black beans. And I omitted a few more of the ingredients she used. I ended up using just chickpeas, sweet corn, onions, pinch cumin (powdered), spring onions and corn flour. They were really tasty!

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Garlic and sesame toast – basically slices of bread spread with just margarine mixed with finely chopped garlic, cracked pepper and sesame.

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And roasted red onion hummus (I'll provide the recipe another time but it's pretty basic and if you've ever made hummus before, you can guess how to make it).

For the birthday cake, we had a bit too much cake lately, so SisterLovlie and I decided to make a pie instead. Pies are one of SisterLovlie’s favourites, especially custard ones. The birthday pie was an Apple Custard Pie which we had for dessert.

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The pie is fairly easy and can be made even easier if you just get frozen ready-made shortcrust pastry and some canned filling for the topping. I’ve used coconut milk for the custard but you can use any other non-dairy milk. Almond milk might be nice too!

I used a 26 cm (10.5 inch) pie dish.


Ingredients:

Shortcrust pastry (or use frozen ready-made shortcrust pastry):
300 g plain flour
150 g vegan margarine (room temperature)
5-6 tablespoons water (or as required)
Pinch salt

Custard:
1 can coconut milk
5 tablespoons custard powder
200 ml water
70 g sugar

Apple filling:
6 apples (firm ones are best)
Juice from 1 orange
Pinch cinnamon.

5-6 tablespoons demerara sugar

2 handfuls of red beans or baking beads (for weight on the crust when baking)


Apple filling:

  • Peel and cut the apples into slices (not too thin).
  • Add cinnamon and orange juice.
  • Cook on low to medium heat until soft.

Shortcrust pastry:

  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
  • In a mixing bowl, sift the flour. Add the margarine, cutting and folding.
  • Mix with hands until mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.
  • Add salt.
  • Add water (as required) and knead to form a dough. The dough should be supple and non-sticky.
  • Flour a board and roll dough to the size of your pie dish.
  • Transfer into pie dish. Add some red beans (to prevent the dough from rising).
  • Place in oven for 10 – 12 minutes or until just starting to turn golden brown.

Custard:

  • Place coconut milk in a saucepan.
  • Mix custard powder with 200 ml water.
  • Add this to the coconut milk.
  • Add sugar.
  • Cook on low heat until mixture thickens (about 10 minutes).

I like rather creamy custard. (It’s hard to describe what consistency you need to reach with this custard but the more you allow the mixture to reduce, the thicker the custard will be when set).

  • Remove crust from the oven. Remove all beans from the crust.
  • Pour custard onto crust. Smooth out lightly.
  • Arrange cooked apples on top of crust.
  • Sprinkle with demerara sugar.
  • Put back in oven and allow to bake for 15 minutes.

Enjoy hot or cold.

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Next is Mother's Day coming up in two weeks over here and SisterLovlie's birthday to finish the joyful month of May!

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Superman Surprise Birthday Mini-Cakes!

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For BoyfriendLovlie's birthday today, we had lunch at Panarotti’s Pizza. I was supposed to go to his place but we changed plan at the last minute and I quickly booked a table for two.

Yesterday I’ve been very busy baking and decorating mini-cakes. As I knew I would have to get on a bus to his place, I thought carrying around a big cake wouldn’t be great. So I made these mini-cakes instead to fit into 2 boxes that were easier to get around with.

As I had been busy during the day yesterday and wanted to spend the morning with BoyfriendLovlie, I had no choice but to bake the mini-cakes yesterday night. At 2.00 am I had just finished everything and was doing the dishes! But I was very pleased with my mini-cakes and so was BoyfriendLovlie!

There’s something you must know about BoyfriendLovlie. He spends most of his time on planet Krypton. Yes, Superman! Whenever he does come to planet Earth, he tells me all about the incredible adventures that he’s had up there. Soon, I’ll be joining him in his new adventures where we’ll be riding on dragons and conquering new planets! (In case you’re wondering, we’re perfectly sane people. We’re both just artists with limitless imagination that creates worlds more real than reality!)

So, for my Superman’s (aka BoyfriendLovlie) birthday I made some Superman Surprise mini-cakes! They look normal and girlie on the outside but with a beaming superman logo inside.

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This is what I was up to last night. I stenciled out the Superman logo in marzipan cutting around with a fine knife. It’s my first time using marzipan which I had made myself thanks to the recipe that was provided to me on the veganfitness.net forum.

Earlier today, I headed my way to the restaurant with my mini-cakes and handed it over to the guys. They very kindly accepted to arrange them for me on a plate and bring them over to our table after lunch.

At this time of the day, the restaurant is usually empty. So we had the whole place to ourselves! My Superman arrived shortly afterwards and we ordered garlic bread and pizza with no cheese. The pizza was great, really tasty! And I loved the olive oil they served that had dried chilies, thyme and bay leaves soaked in it.

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After we finished everything, BoyfriendLovlie was already getting ready to go. I had to convince him to stay a little longer and chat. The mini-cakes were brought over and the guys at the restaurant did a sort of cheerleading birthday song and clapping!

With some Superman super-outbreath, BoyfriendLovlie had already blown off all the candles before I got the chance to take a picture with them lighted! Hmmm!

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Well I hope these little Superman cakes give BoyfriendLovlie some extra strength for his future adventures!

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Happy Birthday BoyfriendLovlie!

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Monday, 5 May 2008

Pear Coconut Custard Creme (Crème Caramel) Dessert

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May is my favourite month of the year not only because it’s SisterLovlie’s, BoyfriendLovlie’s and my own birthday (I don’t really like it when it comes to my own birthday though!) during this month but also because we get the nicest weather over here, I think. This transition month from summer to winter offers nice temperatures and good weather in general (well, I think so anyway! I don’t like scorching waves of heat). The mornings are slightly fresher. But the days are getting shorter! I really need to go and enjoy a few hours at the beach a few times more before it gets chilly! Having said that, winter is not too bad over here though; pretty mild.

Well, I made these refreshing little coconut custards 2 days ago while we’re still enjoying the warm weather. They are light and don’t require any baking.

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I used a large pie dish and made some in little ramekins. The ramekins are supposed to be turned upside down before serving; I also added some vegan chocolate coated Marie biscuits to go on the bottom when turned.

I made the caramel as optional to be poured over. Without caramel, this is a lighter more refreshing dessert.

Now, about the caramel, I don’t know how others manage to get it right, but I’ve never been able to make caramel according to the recipes that I seen before where they say to add 2 tablespoons of water to 100g of sugar and allow it to melt gently until it changes colour et cetera. I’ve tried a number of times but it just becomes a solid block in the end when it cools down! Hhh!

I might be missing something! Anyway, I usually just make the caramel my style and they taste and look like caramel! I’m happy with my version of caramel! What I do is I just add some boiling water at the end and stir vigorously to prevent the caramel from turning solid and it remains a thick syrup consistency. I also use demerara sugar. It is slightly trickier to know when the sugar has actually caramelized when using demerara. At some point the sugar will become very flaky then starts to melt, this is the turning point and care should be taken at this stage not to burn the caramel.

I got 5 ramekins and 1 pie dish of 8 servings for the quantity I used. If using just ramekins you might get around 10 – 12 or you could use a deeper pie dish than the one I used and make 10 – 12 servings depending on how big you cut the pieces.

Ingredients (10 - 12 servings)

Custard:
3 tablespoons vegan custard powder
3 teaspoons agar agar powder
½ can coconut milk (thick consistency)
75 g sugar
1 liter water
1 teaspoon vanilla essence (optional)

Topping:
6-7 ripe dessert pears (or any soft ripe ones)
½ lemon

Caramel:
100 g sugar
2 tablespoons water
5–6 tablespoons boiling water (optional, if you are doing the caramel my style)

10 – 12 Marie biscuits (optional)
Grated fresh coconut

  • Peel and cut the pears into small pieces.
  • Place in a saucepan and squeeze the lemon onto the pears. Stir to mix well.
  • Allow to cook on low heat for about 20- 30 minutes or until pears are soft or just slightly crunchy if you prefer.
  • Arrange in ramekins or dish. Set aside.

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Note: Do not make the custard while the pears are still cooking as it will start to set as soon as it is cooked. Wait for the pears to be ready.

  • In a saucepan on medium heat, add the coconut milk and 700 ml of water.
  • Mix the custard powder in 200 ml water until completely dissolved.
  • Add this to the saucepan, stirring as required to avoid lumps from forming.
  • Add sugar and stir well until dissolved.
  • Mix the agar agar powder with 100 ml water until dissolved completely.
  • Add this to the saucepan stirring as required.
  • Add vanilla.
  • Allow the custard mixture to heat up until boiling, stirring as required to avoid burning.
  • Switch off heat as soon as it starts to boil.
  • Immediately Pour into ramekins or pie dish over cooked pears.
  • Arrange Marie biscuits on custard cream if desired.

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  • Leave to set undisturbed at room temperature until cooled enough to go into the refrigerator.
  • Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving.

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Caramel:

  • Place the sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a saucepan on low heat.
  • Allow sugar to melt stirring once or twice. Sugar will turn flaky then will start to melt.
  • When all sugar has melted, add about 5 tablespoons boiling water, stirring vigorously.
  • This keeps the caramel from going rock solid.

To serve, insert a knife on the side of the ramekin to slightly detach the custard and allow to fall on serving dish. Or for pie dish version, cut into squares or triangles and serve upside down. Top with caramel and grated fresh coconut.

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Alteration: If you prefer a creamier consistency, try adding less agar agar powder (say just 2 teaspoons) and more coconut milk (1 can).

Friday, 2 May 2008

Okra Bhajis

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May Day yesterday, but the stomach doesn’t take a holiday (unless you’re fasting or detoxing)!

On every public holiday, when everyone is at home, we like something to nibble on in the afternoon. There was some okra in the fridge that needed to be used. They had already been there for longer than enough!

I remember I had okra tempura batter croquettes once at a party I was invited to and they were quite nice. So I made some okra bhajis using gram flour (or chickpea flour) which could be a nice alternative to the famous UK Onion Bhajis.

These are a wonderful starter or just a little snack, so easy to make and also gluten-free.


Ingredients (10-12 bhajis)

10-12 small okras (leave them whole, leave the top parts on)
Water for boiling

Batter:
200g chickpea flour (gram flour)
125 ml water (adjust as required)
1 onion finely chopped
Spring onions (5-6 stalks depending on the variety, adjust to taste) finely chopped
1 teaspoon baking soda
Salt to taste

Oil as needed for deep frying

Dipping Sauce:
1 teaspoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon plum sauce (or sweet and sour sauce)
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
Pinch salt
4-5 tablespoon water

  • Allow water to reach boiling point in a pan. Then put okras in.
  • Boil okras for 3 minutes until half cooked. Don’t allow them to turn soggy (watch them if you have very tender okras, they might need less time).
  • Remove from water, set aside.
  • Mix all batter ingredients together in a large bowl. I’ve put the amount of water to be 125 ml, adjust quantity to obtain a quite thick consistency.
  • Note: the amount of water required to make a thick batter will depend on the amount of the other ingredients you are adding as well.
  • Heat oil in a deep pan on medium.
  • Dip okras one by one in batter. Using a tablespoon, coat 1 okra at a time with batter. Spoon out the okra and drop in hot oil.
  • Fry a few at a time (how many fit in the pan without them sticking to each other.)
  • When golden, remove from oil.
  • Place on absorbent paper to remove excess oil.
  • For the dipping sauce, combine all ingredients together.


Serve hot.

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Thursday, 1 May 2008

Watercress Juice, my new morning tonic!

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I have heard a lot about the goodness of watercress in general but had never actually done more research on it myself. While I have been wanting to eat mostly raw for a while, actually doing it is another thing. (I would terribly miss cooking and baking!) So I am starting a little at a time. And I have found that consuming mostly raw in the morning is a good easy start. As far as I can, I now eat all my fruits in the morning and by lunchtime.

I have also experimented with juicing. I started with fruits – apple and kiwi, grapefruit, pear and kiwi and a few more combinations.

I tried this watercress juice and it is quite a punch on the stomach the first time I had it. I am now getting used to its peppery taste. I have tried to mix it with carrot juice and a squeezed lemon. It is easier to drink and they add to the essential nutrients.

I remember my Mum used to give me warm watercress juice mixed with honey when I was little and suffering from a bad cough or bronchitis. Warm watercress juice with honey is so sickening! I used to hate it and as a child, I never believed it did anything good to me but make me want to throw up!

I don’t take honey anymore, so no more stomach trauma with that. But plain watercress juice is still very strong on the stomach. With the added carrot juice and a squeezed lemon, it is still quite strong but having read about the benefits I think I am starting to like it. I’ve had it 3-4 times since last week.

For my watercress juice, I used:

About 50 – 75 g watercress
½ lemon, squeezed
1 carrot
½ glass water

  • Blend all ingredients together in a blender and pass through a fine mesh sieve.

If you want to know more on watercress, this site was very helpful to me:

http://www.watercress.co.uk

I learned that the Egyptian Pharoahs served freshly squeezed watercress juice to their slaves each morning and afternoon in order to increase their productivity.

And there are a few interesting recipes too!

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