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Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Mung-Choc Spread

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As I am relatively limited on store bought spreads (no peanut butter, as per my nut allergy, and I can’t find any vegan chocolate spread around here), I decided to make my own from one of my favourite beans which is mung beans. This is inspired from Celine's Carob Spread, Black Bean Version. However, hers is not cooked (apart from the beans). I've actually cooked all the ingredients together. I find that it actually keeps for longer in the fridge. After two weeks, I still have some in the fridge and it is still good.

What I do when using it from the fridge, as I don't like cold spreads in the morning, I smear this on my bread and then toast it in the oven. I love it this way. But I also like it on wheat biscuits like the Wheatabix kind. I don't like soaking wheat biscuits in soymilk and prefer them dry. So this is a nice spread to use on my Wheatabix. How do you like your wheat biscuits? I'm curious to know! Do you prefer them soaked or dry?

Ingredients (yield about 1 cup)

1 cup boiled/cooked mung beans
15 – 20 pitted dates
3-5 tablespoons coconut milk
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup water
Soft brown sugar to taste (or just add more dates for more sweetness if you prefer)

  • Mash the mung beans. (Or process in a blender with a little water if you want a smooth spread.)
  • Finely chop the dates. (Or process with the mung beans as above if using a blender).
  • If you’ve chopped the dates, place them first in a saucepan over medium heat with a little of the water and allow them to soften.
  • Then place all ingredients in the saucepan, cover and simmer.
  • Stir and mash occasionally.
  • When liquid has reduced, it’s done.
  • You can add some sugar if not sweet enough.
  • Allow to cool completely before storing in the fridge.

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Sunday, 18 January 2009

Gooey Sweet Swede Squares

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There’s a few fruit and veggie deals on at Tesco these few days. Like when you buy a 2kg bag of potatoes, you get a broccoli plus 3 swedes free! This was a bit weird for a veggie deal (I thought)! But I got them anyway, because it was still a good deal. So, I now had 3 swedes at home to cook throughout the week. I’ve had swedes a few times before but I’ve only had them in soups. So, I googled for swede recipes to see if there were anything more creative that I could do with them. I ended up finding more soup recipes and some roasts. Hmmm!

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Then I got the idea of making a sort of swede burfi or halva when I found this Mango Coconut Burfi recipe from the RedChillies Blog (there are some quite nice recipes on there, by the way, although they are not all vegan. But most can be easily veganised). Swede has a pretty bland taste and slightly on the sweet side. So, I thought why not make a sweet recipe out of it?!

When I actually cooked this, I put slightly too much sugar (I’ve reduced it in the recipe), but it was nice nevertheless. I just have to eat it in smaller portions! I also decided I would not have any oil or margarine in this, so I replaced this with a little custard powder to help it to set.

I used one swede for this recipe and it yielded 8 squares approximately 1.5 cubic inches or 4 cubic cm. The texture is more gooey than regular halva which is why I did not think they could be called swede halva. I quite liked them though. I refrigerated them and found they taste better this way.

Ingredients (8 squares – 1.5 cubic inches or 4 cubic cm)

1 swede, peeled and grated
3 tablespoons demerara sugar
1 cup soy milk (use coconut milk if you want a richer texture)
3-4 cardamon pods (whole or sliced open) or ½ teaspoon cardomon powder
3 tablespoons desiccated coconut
½ teaspoon custard powder (or cornstarch)

  • Place the grated swede with the sugar in a saucepan. Cook over low heat and covered for 30 – 40 minutes, or until swede is soft and easy to mash. Stir occasionally and mash just a little bit.
  • Add in soymilk and cardamon pods. Let simmer for a few minutes. Then let reduce until thick. Add 2 tablespoons desiccated coconut.
  • Add custard powder and stir vigorously so as to avoid lumps from forming.
  • This will thicken quite quickly.
  • Remove from heat and pour in a rectangular container to set. (you can remove the cardomon pods if you want before doing this).
  • Sprinkle with the rest of the desiccated coconut. Then, even it on the top with a spoon so that it is about 3 – 4 cm or 1 – 1.5 inches thick (or desired thickness).
  • You can place it in the refrigerator for 2 hours, then cut into squares.

Variations:
You can add raisins, nuts and/or dates.
If you don’t like cardomon, vanilla essence might be nice too.

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Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Mauritian Style Vegan Halim with a Twist or Curried Dhal Soup with Meatless Balls and Eggplant

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I made this dish some time during last week and BoyfriendLovlie said this was The-Most-Fabulous-Vegan-Dish I have ever made! Uh! What about the other food I’ve made so far? Well, I think I’m going to take this one as a compliment. I think the reason he liked it so much is because it was very close to the meat version he used to have! But I agree, it was really delicious and much better than the meat version! Much much better than I anticipated!
It is based on a very popular Mauritian soup dish called Halim. So popular that this is even sold as a hot soup in mini food stalls or caravans on street corners! I very rarely feature Mauritian dishes here although Mauritius has a rich food heritage. With the country being multicultural from history, it has a fabulous marriage of cuisines – from Chinese, Indian, Creole style to European. Well, I think Halim originates from Pakistan or the Persian regions. However, in Mauritius, this has been adapted with Indian spices, the use of Chinese chives or scallions as garnish and traditionally served with French bread. Vinegar or lemon juice can also be added to the soup just before serving.

While Halim is basically a high calorie meat dish laddened with ghee and high fat mutton or beef, my version here is a low-fat vegan one with a slight twist; I have added in some aubergines (or eggplants if you prefer). Eggplants in dhal soup is another Mauritian delicacy!

True Halim recipe calls for cracked wheat. Shame that I did not have any; it’s a very tasty addition. Feel free to add in 4 – 5 tablespoons to soak together with the dhal if you happen to have some cracked wheat. I have added it to the recipe in case you are incorporating this ingredient.

The ‘Meatless’ Balls are adapted from Joni’s Swedish Meetballs recipe. I changed the spices and used minced soy meat instead of TVP. The minced soy meat required less liquid to be rehydrated. I also did not use wheat gluten as I did not have any, but they were still great! BoyfriendLovlie adored the meatless balls on their own. I kept some of them (just the meatless balls) in the freezer and we even had them the next day as a sandwich-filler with salad! They’re great to freeze too if you want to make them in advance. I think I'm going to make them into burgers next time.

Meatless Balls Recipe
Ingredients
(about 22 balls – 2.5 cm or 1 inch diameter)

2 cups minced soy meat
1 cup vegetable broth, hot (or 1 stock cube dissolved in hot water)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon cumin (ground)
1 teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon ginger powder
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
4-5 dashes of Tabasco (or to taste)
½ teaspoon sea salt or to taste
Oil for frying

  • Rehydrate minced soy meat by pouring boiling broth over the dry flakes, cover and let sit for 10 minutes.
  • In a non-stick pan, sauté the onions and garlic in vegetable oil until translucent. About 5-7 minutes.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Mix this in the minced soy meat. Add the flour and all of the spices including Tabasco (just don’t put your finger in your eyes afterward, when handling!). Let sit until cool enough to handle.
  • With your hands, form balls about 2.5 cm or 1 inch in diameter.
  • The balls should be firm enough so they don’t fall apart in the oil.

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  • Fry them in oil (allow them to be ⅓ immersed), rolling them around in the pan to brown on all sides. You may need to adjust the heat (i.e. oil should not be too hot) so that the inside is thoroughly cooked as well.

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  • Remove when lightly crispy on all sides. Drain on absorbent paper.
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Mauritian Style Vegan Halim with a Twist!
Or Curried Dhal with Meatless Balls and Aubergine

Ingredients
(4 servings)

22 (or so) meatless balls (prepared as above)
1 cup yellow split dhal (soaked for at least 4 hours)
4 – 5 tablespoons cracked wheat (soaked with the dhal for at least 4 hours), optional
1 large aubergine (or eggplant), chunkily sliced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin (ground)
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon mild curry powder (or hot or just your favourite one!)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon vegan margarine (or vegetable oil)
¼ cup soymilk (optional)
Salt to taste

Suggested garnish:
Coriander (or cilantro)
Mint leaves
Chopped scallions / Chinese chives
Lime / lemon wedge (to squeeze on)

  • Boil dhal together with the cracked wheat and some salt until dhal is soft but still whole (about 15 – 20 minutes). If you are using a pressure cooker, time it so the dhal is not completely disintegrated.
  • Drain (but not completely) the water into a bowl (you will use this water later if you need to add sauce). Keep both dhal and water aside.
    A little note here: it is best not to use too much water to boil the dhal as you will lose a lot of nutritious water otherwise, just use enough so that it doesn’t dry up and you can still use the rest as sauce addition.
  • While the dhal is cooking, you can prepare the eggplant slices. Fry them in 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil until soft and lightly browned. Set aside.

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  • Place cumin, curry powder, turmeric and minced ginger in a bowl. Add some water and stir to form a paste. Set aside.
  • In a deep sauce pan (Teflon / non-stick preferably), melt vegan margarine.
  • Add in onions and garlic. Saute until translucent.
  • Add the curry paste. Add water (from the drained dhal) if required.
  • Stir and allow spices to roast for a while. 5 – 7 minutes. Add more water if required.
  • Add in the dhal with some water. Stir and mix well. (The amount of water you add will depend on how thick you want the soup to be. I like thick soups, almost curry-like but if you prefer thin soups, this is also fine).
  • Add soymilk for a creamier consistency.
  • When the soup has almost reached the consistency you want, add the meatless balls and the pre-fried eggplants. Stir and mix well. Allow to reduce and thicken slightly. Add salt to taste.

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  • Serve hot with Indian or French bread. (I had chapattis!) Or just as a spicy soup on its own with some scallions and freshly squeezed lemon juice for a fresh tangy taste.

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Do you feel like some delicious heartwarming Mauritian inspired dish tonight?!

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Tuesday, 13 January 2009

A Belated Christmas Goody

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These days I’ve been so uninspired to blog. Not that I haven’t been cooking and baking. I have and have been taking photos too! I’ve just been feeling too lazy to type down the recipes. There are days that I just want to linger around, away from the computer.

I’ve also been feeling a bit sluggish these few days. So, I did some yoga today in the afternoon. It’s amazing how yoga revitalizes all my senses no matter how short the session! I always have to drag myself to start doing it and as soon as I start the session I feel so great and so relaxed. And afterward so energized! I say to myself, I'll do this everyday. But the next day, I just keep postponing to the next. There was a time when I used to be very regular with my yoga. And initially when starting to write this blog, I intended to talk about yoga too. But I think moving country has upset my rhythm. So now that I have blogged about it, I should keep up to it and that should motivate me!

I have been trying to catch up a little bit with reading all your posts! I can’t!!! I’ve got so many blogs in my reader now! Every time I read a post, I find a new interesting blog from the comments and I add it to my list. It’s like veg*n blogs are experiencing some kind of boom!
I think this is a good thing though! It means the world is changing, right?! Cool! :)

Well, anyway... I made the mocha cake I made for Christmas again. And this time I’ll post the recipe. I hadn’t written down the recipe back then; I wanted to make sure I had got it right and tried it once again before posting.

I used less oil (than the first one) but it was still very nice and quite spongy. You can increase the oil if you want a richer cake, then just reduce the other liquids.
One other thing I did differently is the icing. Last time I made a ganache by melting some chocolate over low heat together with a few tablespoons of soy milk and a tablespoon of instant coffee granules. Stirred and mixed well then poured it over the cake. This time, I made the icing with cocoa powder. Both are great icing although I personally prefer this second version because it’s lighter.

There are a few more recipes that I have been making and that I have yet to post. So, some more are coming up soon!


Simple Mocha Cake

Ingredients (8 – 10 servings)

Dry ingredients:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons instant coffee granules (I used freeze dried coffee)
Pinch salt

Wet ingredients (all together should amount to 1½ cups or 300 ml):
¾ cup (150 ml) soy milk
2 tablespoons vinegar (I used malt)
⅔ cup (130 ml) coconut milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (you can add more oil and reduce the coconut milk)

Icing (all leveled tablespoons):
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons vegan margarine
3 tablespoons soy milk
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
5 tablespoons soft brown sugar

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  • Add the vinegar to the soy milk and let it thicken. Then add in the coconut milk and vegetable oil.
  • Mix all dry ingredients together.
  • Pour the wet ingredients onto the dry and mix well. Do not beat.
  • Mix gently but thoroughly until no dry ingredients are left at the bottom.
  • Pour mixture into a greased baking tin. (I used a rectangular one 23 cm x 15 cm or 9 x 6 inches but you can use a smaller baking dish as it is a relatively small cake)
  • Bake for 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  • Let cool completely before turning out.


Prepare icing:

  • Place all ingredients for the icing in a saucepan over low-medium heat.
  • Stir as the margarine melts to mix all ingredients together.
  • When all is dissolved and mixture starts to thicken (or just before first boil), remove from heat.
  • Pour over cake.
  • Dust with some icing sugar (optional).

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Tangy Crunchy Granola

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I had a very ripe pear that I wanted to use up and didn’t want to just make something like a muffin or cake with it. I’ve seen a few recipes about homemade granola and have kept them as a recipe to try one day. So there! It would be a great way to use up all the cereal leftover bits that sink at the bottom of cereal packs.

With the pear reduced to a puree, mixed with orange juice, then thickened to a syrup, this made a nice tangy crunchy granola. It smelled so good while baking! I had it with some warm homemade soy custard on this cold frosty Wednesday morning.

Ingredients (3 – 4 servings)

½ cup orange juice (squeezed from 1 orange)
½ cup pear puree (from 1 pear)
1 tablespoon vegan margarine (you may leave this out for a low-fat version)
5 tablespoon soft brown sugar
10-12 pitted dates, chopped
¼ orange peel, finely chopped
1 cup cereal leftovers (optional, or just add 1 more cup rolled oats)
2 cups rolled oats
2 tablespoons desiccated coconut
1 tablespoon carob/chocolate chips (optional)

  • Mix the orange peel with 1 tablespoon sugar and a few drops of water. Leave this to marinade.
  • Pour orange juice and pear puree in a saucepan.
  • Add in remaining 4 tablespoons sugar and margarine.
  • Bring to a syrup.
  • Stir in dates.
  • Remove and allow to cool a little.
  • Preheat oven at 170 degrees Celsius.
  • In a big bowl, mix in cereal dust, rolled oats, desiccated coconut and carob chips.
  • Add in the syrup and mix well.
  • Make sure everything is well coated with this mixture. (I used my hand).
  • Lay on a greased baking tray. Sprinkle with the orange peel. (Lightly mix if you want).
  • Bake for 30 minutes.
  • Remove and scrape off.
  • Allow to cool before storing in an air-tight container.

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Sunday, 4 January 2009

Easy soychunk and veggie meal

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Yesterday for diner, I made some veggies stir fried in a nut of vegan margarine and soychunks cooked in tomato sauce. It was a quick simple meal but very tasty!

For the veggies, I used diced parsnips (a too often forgotten vegetable, yet so flavoursome!), sliced courgettes (or zucchini), mushrooms and onions.

  • Sauté the parsnip first in some margarine with some finely chopped garlic.
  • When almost cooked and sligtly browned, add in courgettes, mushrooms and onions.
  • Stir a few minutes, then add salt and pepper to taste.

Soychunks in tomato sauce; I made this one really quickly.

  • Rehydrate the soychunks (I used about 1 cup) by boiling for 10 minutes in salted water. Then drain all water.
  • Heat some oil. Add in the soychunks, sprinkle with some dried thyme.
  • Allow to cook until slightly crispy and golden. Remove and set aside.
  • Sauté some onions and garlic with 1 tablespoon of oil, add about ½ cup of pasta sauce (or tomato puree).
  • Allow to reduce a little. Then add in the soychunks. Stir and mix well. Add water if more sauce is required and salt to taste.

We had these with some basmati rice. It was really yummy!

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Saturday, 3 January 2009

A little treat for me!

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While I love cooking a lot, there are some days that I just need a break! And for those days, there’s BoyfriendLovlie who’s more than eager to exert his chef skills! He is usually ousted out of the kitchen when I’m cooking lest I’d be distracted with him monkey-ing around. Well, there are days that we do cook together and it’s very fun. Yesterday, however, BL decided he would treat me to a lovely dinner!

Stylishly, with a beer in one hand, he did all the chopping, slicing, frying, stirring and voilà! He made this fantastic fried noodle dish with cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, tofu, spring onions, soy sauce, hoisin sauce and his secret ingredient that he later revealed – maple syrup!

I ate more than I usually could (because it was so good!).

Hmm, maybe I should take days off from the kitchen more often!

Friday, 2 January 2009

Mixed Beans and Aubergine (Eggplant) Patties plus a Green Bean Salad

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Yesterday was a chilled day at home, we brunched on the leftover pizza and then I decided to make some bean patties for dinner. I also wanted a fresh but filling salad to go with the patties and green beans stroke my fancy!

Ingredients (12 patties)

3 cups mixed boiled beans (I used chickpeas, red beans and mung beans)
1 aubergine (or eggplant if you are more familiar with the term)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Handful shredded and chopped cabbage
Dried thyme
1 teaspoon potato starch
A few mint leaves, finely chopped (optional)
Salt to taste

Oil for shallow frying and coating

  • Slice the aubergine into thick circles (or whatever is easiest for you to fry). Wash them in some salt and water. Rinse off.
  • Heat 4 – 5 tablespoons of oil in a fry pan.
  • Add in aubergines. Fry, turning occasionally, until well cooked.
  • Remove from oil and drain on absorbent paper.
  • Then mash or chop them.
  • Preheat oven at 180 degrees Celsius.
  • Lightly mash the beans in a large bowl.
  • Add aubergine and all remaining ingredients (except oil).
  • Mix well. Taste for salt.
  • Take some of the mixture (about the size of a ping pong ball), and shape to a ball.
  • Then flatten while shaping the edge so it does not form cracks.
  • Lay on a greased baking sheet or tray.
  • Brush / Spray with oil.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, turning them over at 20 minutes.
  • Remove and allow to cool slightly. Serve warm or cold.


Green beans and couscous salad

I blogged about my bean slicer before. I took some photos this time so you can see it in action if you’ve never used one. You can buy it from here (in the US) or here (in the UK) if you fancy or check your local store (although they might not be easily available everywhere).

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For this salad, I used

10 – 12 green beans
½ courgette (or zucchini), sliced thinly
½ avocado, sliced
½ cup couscous, soaked in ½ cup water (or according to packet directions) – allow to cool completely before adding in the salad
½ the juice of a lime
1 teaspoon soft brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

  • After slicing and chopping to about 2.5 cm or 1 inch in length, leave the green beans to soak in a mixture of lemon juice, sugar and salt for about 30 minutes.
  • Then mix all ingredients together. Use the lemon juice from the green beans as seasoning.
  • Add pepper.
  • Add more salt if required.

That’s it for the salad, nice, quick, easy and all raw!

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Thursday, 1 January 2009

Best Wishes!

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Wish you all a very Happy New Year 2009! And besh wishes for less cruelty around the world so it becomes a better place for every creature to live in.



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On New Year’s Eve, I had pizza (and chips – I thought I’d allow myself some ‘less’ healthy eats on this day, well they weren’t that unhealthy as they were oven chips). It was a quiet night with BoyfriendLovlie. I called my family who are in Mauritius and 5 hours ahead of us to wish them a Happy New Year!
Time really flies; when I think that I spent the New Year last year under the tropical heat in Mauritius! Speaking of, it’s apparently unbearably hot over there this year.

Then, BL (BoyfriendLovlie) and I watched a movie – What Dreams May Come. It’s the 5th time I’m watching that movie and BL’s 2nd time.

Now I’m off to make some chickpea patties for dinner tonight!

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