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Monday, 26 October 2009

Not-so-Macarons - The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ Challenge

As I announced earlier, I joined the Daring Kitchen and this is my first Daring Bakers Challenge. And a challenge it was indeed! I was even thinking of skipping out this time but as it was my first time, I’d feel very bad to do this.

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

The Daring Kitchen

THE DARING BAKERS OCTOBER 2009 CHALLENGE: MACARONS

That was a pretty tough challenge for me, the main ingredient being eggs (not vegan) and second main ingredient being almond flour (allergic to nuts!). I was pretty uninspired and had so many other things on schedule this month; I was thinking of skipping out.


When I checked what other vegan daring bakers were doing for this challenge, some have tried using Ener-G egg replacer and the macarons looked pretty good and they said they tasted good too.


Well, the thing is I have never actually eaten a macaron! So I have no reference to base myself on to reproduce a vegan version.

I thought about giving this challenge a try anyway and see what it turns out like. I couldn’t find any Ener-G egg replacer in the health shops over here. I haven’t actually used any egg replacers before; I usually just use baking powder, baking soda as risers and soy buttermilk or banana, sweet potato (depending on the recipe) as binding agent. I like to use ingredients that are easy to find anywhere (because I move around even now and then but also so that it is easier for readers to find the ingredients in whichever part of the planet they are!).

Anyway, I did find a different brand of egg replacer – Allergycare and decided to try it. It has soy protein isolate (as main ingredient, I’m not a huge fan of soy isolate, btw) and potato starch. Well I wasn’t convinced that beating this with water would turn it into soft peaks like eggs do. On the package it said to add directly to the flour and not to liquid. So it never rose into peaks. And after 20 minutes of beating I decided to just add in the rest of the ingredients (I halved the recipe by the way). I substituted the almond flour with semolina flour. The consistency was a little too runny and I couldn’t properly pipe the batter.


While baking it spread out flat instead of rising. I don’t think the consistency and taste was remotely close to macarons. They were quite like rubber flip-flops! Bwah! I was disappointed but kind of expecting it. I didn’t take any photos for this first attempt. In fact, no one ate them until they became mouldy and were thrown away. I hate to waste ingredients and was not very happy, quite depressed even!


But I thought of trying a second time. And this time just adding the egg replacer into the semolina flour (I replaced the almond flour), icing sugar, 1 teaspoon of vegan margarine (because I thought semolina flour doesn't hold any fat as almond flour does), 1 teaspoon baking powder and a few drops of yellow food colour. Then added enough water to make a batter that I could pipe. I still can’t tell whether they are close to macaron or not but they were nice to eat though!

The only thing is that they did not rise. They spread out and merged.


vegan macaron


I had some batter left so I piped this onto another tray with more space in between each. And this time I baked it at a higher temperature. I managed to get 3 pairs of cookies (I’m not calling them macarons!) that were decent enough to fill, although they still didn't rise. Infact those cookies reminded me of the 'langues de chat' (cat's tongue) cookies I used to eat.


For filling I made a chocolate-banana ganache. This was nice. To fill 3 cookies, I used 2 chocolate squares (approximately 30g), half a banana (thinly sliced) and 1 tablespoon vegan margarine. Place everything in the microwave for 30 seconds. Then stir a bit. Put back for 20 seconds. Check if chocolate is melted and mix vigorously in the bowl until it’s smooth and spreadable. Or put back in microwave for a few seconds then stir vigorously.


vegan macaron


I might try veganising the macaron recipe again with Ener-G egg replacer if I can find it around here. But I really don’t have a clue what to expect as a cookie, what kind of taste and texture. I am thinking it must be crispy like a meringue on the outside and chewy inside.


I hope the next challenges turn out better for me.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

VeganMoFo08: Dhal Soup with Dhal-Chili Cake

dhal soup


With temperatures beginning to become cooler and cooler over here, soup is starting to feel most welcomed! This one is yet another very popular Mauritian soup (sometimes made thicker into a curry). This recipe is infact great if you’ve made a batch of dhal-chili cake and you have some leftovers. Just toss them in some dhal soup and you have a wholesome protein-rich soup that can be enjoyed on its own or with rice and some veggies.

Dhal-chili cake is one among the first recipes I posted on this blog. This time I made some variations.


Dhal chili cake

Ingredients (approximately 25 cakes)

1½ cups (250g) channa dhal soaked for at least 8 hours (preferably overnight)
1 onion, chopped
2 stems spring onions, finely chopped
2 small green chillies chopped (optional if you like it hot)
Salt to taste
Vegetable oil for frying

  • Drain dhal completely. Grind the dhal to a paste in a food processor or blender to a combination of fine and not so fine consistency. (There must be enough fines to bind the chili cake together).
  • Add the rest of the ingredients – onions, spring onions, chilies and salt.
  • Mix well. This is best mixed by hand.
  • Preheat oil on medium heat.
  • Drop the dough in small loose balls in the hot oil. (Do not compress the dough balls too much otherwise the centre will remain uncooked).
  • Turn occasionally until golden brown. Adjust heat if necessary to ensure thorough cooking.
  • Remove and allow to drain on kitchen absorbent paper to absorb the extra oil.


dhal chilli cake


Quick Dhal Soup

There are many dhal soup versions out there, but I end up always making this one because it's so quick and always very convenient to just throw everything in a pressure cooker! It is also a healthy version with just 1 tablespoon oil (that you can omit and replace with some water when the recipe calls for it, if you want a completely fat-free dhal)

Ingredients (4 servings, as a side dish)

1 cup (160g) channa dhal (no soaking required)
1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped
1 tomato, chopped
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 leveled tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
5 - 6 curry leaves (or 2 – 3 bay leaves), optional

  • In a pressure cooker (or deep heavy base pan with lid), heat the oil.
  • Add all ingredients except salt and dhal.
  • Sauté for a few minutes. Add a little water to avoid burning.
  • Add the dhal and 5 cups (1 litre) water. (If you place your index finger in the water just touching the dhal, the water level should be one knuckle and a half deep).
  • Close pressure cooker and allow to simmer on medium heat.
  • As from first whistle, allow to simmer for 12 minutes.

    I’ve only ever used a whistling pressure cooker which starts to whistle after enough steam has built up inside. So, I wait for the first whistle, then I allow the dhal to cook for another 12 minutes which gives me the right consistency.
  • Allow pressure cooker to cool down for 10 – 15 minutes. Then open.
  • Add water if dhal is too thick or you can thicken it over high heat for a few minutes if too thin.
  • For those of you using a deep pan, boil until dhal is soft. (This should take 20 – 30 minutes).
  • Place dhal in serving bowls and soak in a few dhal cakes.
  • Serve hot with rice, bread or on its own.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

VeganMoFo 07: Vegan Mauritian Stew

Vegan Mauritian Stew
One dish that I don’t make often enough these days, and this because I’ve discovered so many vegan blogs with so many yummy recipes to try, is some good traditional Mauritian stew. This dish is originally made with meat, fish or seafood but here I’ve used tofu. Red kidney beans or butter beans are also nice substitutes.
One thing that I’ve noticed when cooking potatoes in tomato sauce is that they don’t cook very well in the sauce. There is some kind of chemical reaction with the tomato sauce and potatoes that makes them take longer to cook. So, my way of doing this and saving me a lot of time is to cook the potatoes first completely (or almost). Then add them to the tomato sauce.
Also I’ve decided to leave the skin on the potatoes this time but feel free to peel them if you prefer. Any potatoes are fine to use except floury ones.
Ingredients (3 - 4 servings)4 rooster potatoes (580g)
1 block (250g) firm tofu
1½ cup (170g) frozen peas
7 – 8 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt to taste
Sauce blend (process everything in a blender):
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 can (400g) chopped tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, chopped
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
2 bay leaves (or 5 – 6 curry leaves)
2 green chilies (optional or leave whole in the sauce)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Oil as needed to shallow fry
Curled parsley for garnish
  • Cut potatoes into small cubes. Place into fry pan with a little oil (2 tablespoons).
  • Cook potatoes covered until soft and lightly browned of all sides. Stir occasionally. If potatoes start to burn instead of cooking, add a little water and cover, reduce heat and continue cooking until soft. Remove, set aside.
  • While potatoes are cooking, cut tofu into triangles. Season with a little salt.
  • Shallow fry until golden on each side. Remove, set aside.
  • While tofu is cooking, place all ingredients for the sauce blend in a blender and reduce to a puree.
  • Add 1 tablespoon olive oil in a deep pan. Pour in sauce blend.
  • Add cloves and bay leaves.
  • Simmer for about 15 minutes, adding a little water halfway through (or as required).
  • Add in potatoes and tofu. Stir and mix well in the sauce.
  • Add 1 cup (200ml) water.
  • Add frozen peas. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  • You may add a little more water if sauce is too thick. Add salt to taste.
  • Garnish with some chopped curled parsley.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

VeganMoFo 06: Tandoori Sweet Potato and Cauliflower

Tandoori Sweet Potato and Cauliflower

I’ve made tandoori potato and cauliflower before but this time I used sweet potato instead and added some sugar snap peas as well.

It was a nice mix of sweetness and tanginess. Although I think Boyfriendlovlie didn’t quite like that combination (he’s not a very ‘sweet and sour’ person; I think his taste buds get confused. It’s either sweet or sour but not both together).

Well anyway, I quite liked it as I’m a great fan of sweet potato and the tandoori marinade was a nice change to the usual plain oven roasted ones (they’re my favourite though!).

Ingredients (4-5 servings)
2-3 sweet potatoes (approximately 500g)
1 medium/large cauliflower
2 cups (100g) sugar snap peas
2 tablespoon (50g) tandoori powder (or tandoori paste)
½ cup (100ml) soy milk
Juice of ½ lemon
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
Salt and cracked pepper to taste
½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil or vegan margarine

Breadcrumbs (optional)

  • Place lemon juice in soy milk and let stand.
  • Peel and cut sweet potatoes into cubes or wedges.
    Cut cauliflower into small bouquets.
    Add tandoori powder or paste to soy milk mixture. Add in garlic, ginger, cinnamon, salt and pepper (to taste).
  • Pour marinade mixture onto sweet potatoes and cauliflower. Mix well. Don’t add in the sugar snap peas as yet.
  • Leave to marinade for about 10 minutes. (I was short of time, so I popped it into the oven straight away).
  • Add oil or margarine. Stir well.
  • Place in an oven proof dish and bake at 200 degrees Celsius for 1 hour or until sweet potatoes are cooked.
  • Add in the sugar snap peas and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Put back in the oven for about 10 – 12 minutes.

Monday, 5 October 2009

VeganMoFo 05: I like my avocado sweet!

avocado

One thing that almost always brings me puzzled looks and questions is the way I eat my avocados. I’ve been used to eating avocado as a fruit (which they are really!) and so, almost always eat them sweet.

I very often have an avocado for breakfast. Just cut in half, diced and sprinkled with sugar, that’s how I like it!

avocado

But mind you, unlike when using avocado in salads or other savoury dishes, when eating avocado as a fruit, it has to be perfectly ripe, soft and more on the mushy side. This is when it tastes best!

Today I decided to have a fancier avocado breakfast. I had it with banana smoothie which was very refreshing.

Boyfriendlovlie had some too but he said he would rather have this as a dessert! Well then it’s up to you, maybe a dessert after breakfast!

Ingredients (1 serving)
1 pot (125g) soy yogurt (any flavour you like, I used mango and peach)
1 banana
¼ cup (50ml) soy milk
½ avocado (or a whole if small)
Raisins, dried fruit (optional)
Dessicated coconut (optional)

  • Place first 3 ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.
  • Pour into bowls.
  • Cut avocado in half, remove the stone. Then dice the flesh while still in the skin (taking care not to pierce through the skin). Then scoop out the diced pieces.
  • Place avocado pieces, dried fruits and coconut onto smoothie.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

VeganMoFo 04: Stir Fry with Vegan Mince

vegetable mince in black bean sauce

Frozen vegan mince ‘meat’ is not something I have very often; I am not very fond of over-processed foods. Most of the time I use beans in my recipes for protein. But from time to time I like a change.

Stir fry is something I make very often, most of the time with tofu for protein. I had never tried it with mince before and so yesterday night I thought of giving it a try.

Because stir fry is so versatile, the ingredient quantities are approximate and can be changed to your liking. I however made this one with much less sauce and we had it over noodles sautéed in a bit of oil and spring onions.

When I do a stir fry I like to sauté each vegetable separately. This keeps them crisp as every vegetable has its own cooking time. But also because too many vegetables in the wok create more steam that gets trapped in between the vegetables and this softens them too much. Stir frying a small quantity at a time then mixing them altogether at the end keeps them crispier.

Ingredients (4 - 5 servings)

2 cups (200g) vegan mince meat (I used the Realeat Vegemince that I found in Tesco)
1 carrot (150g), cut long and thin
¼ cabbage (200g), shredded
5 – 6 closed cup mushroom (200g), sliced
3 – 4 clusters dried wood ear mushroom (optional)
1 onion, sliced in big chunks
1 tablespoon black bean sauce
1 teaspoon black bean sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch (or potato flour)
½ cup (100ml) water
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt to taste

Spring onions for garnish

  • If using wood ear mushrooms, place them in a bowl of water and microwave for 3 – 4 minutes. Leave to soak in the hot water while cutting the other vegetables, then slice thinly.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in pan/wok, add mince meat (from frozen). Season with 1 teaspoon black bean sauce, sauté and cook for about 8 minutes.
  • Remove from heat. Set aside.
  • Add 1 tablespoon oil in the same pan, then add in carrots. Stir and cook for a few minutes. Remove, set aside.
  • Add another tablespoon oil, then add in the cabbage. Saute over high heat for 1 – 2 minutes. Remove and set aside.
  • Repeat with the mushrooms (wood ear and closed cup). Remove and set aside.
  • Bring all the vegetables (except onions) and mince meat back to the fry pan/wok again. Add 1 tablespoon black bean sauce. Stir and mix well.
  • Mix cornstarch in water. Pour into the pan and mix well.
  • Sauce will thicken. Adjust with a little more water if too thick.
  • Add onions and stir a few times.
  • Add salt to taste.

If you are having this over noodles, prepare noodles according to package instructions. I re-hydrated mine then sautéed in a bit of oil, soy sauce and spring onions.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

VeganMoFo 03: Tofu Scramble with Parsnip

Tofu Parsnip Scramble


Parsnip is most often cooked in soups and gratin and less often in stir fries or sautés. I personally very much like the taste of sautéed parsnip.

If cooking time is kept short, I quite enjoy a more flavoursome fried taste with a reasonable level of intact nutrients.


Tofu Parsnip Scramble



There’s one thing I can never get enough of is scrambled tofu. And no MoFo would be complete with some delicious scramble tofu for a Saturday brunch!


I have long been tossing the idea of adding diced parsnip to my tofu scramble. I’m glad I tried because it was a well tasty brunch!


Ingredients (2 servings)

2 parsnips (diced)
1 block (250g) firm tofu
1 small red onion
3-4 green chilies, chopped
2 stems spring onions, finely chopped
1 salad tomato, diced
1 tablespoon black bean sauce
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon olive oil
Salt to taste

  • Heat oil in a non-stick fry pan. Add onions. Cook for a few minutes.
  • Add in parsnips. Cook for 3 minutes.
  • Coarsely mash tofu with a fork.
  • Add in the tofu. Stir and cook until tofu begins to lightly brown (about 10 minutes).
  • Add chilies and black bean sauce. Sprinkle with dried thyme.
  • Add diced tomatoes. Cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add salt.
I am so much enjoying

VeganMoFo

Friday, 2 October 2009

VeganMoFo 02: Veggie Kebabs!

veggie kebab


Today I had a very long day! And I finally managed to post now. But we had a really nice dinner! As most Fridays, we usually like some finger food for dinner. And tonight (well yesterday night!) I made some kebab skewers. These are inspired from a Mauritian vegetable batter cake where shredded vegetables are dipped in batter then deep fried. I wanted to avoid all this oil and decided to put the vegetables on skewers then bake them.

I first tried with metal skewers to wrap them on but they were a bit fiddly and the vegetables would not adhere to the skewer. So I tried with some bamboo ones and they came out perfect. It does require a bit of patience but after a few, you get the hang of them. These kebabs can be deep fried as well if you like. In which case, you might want to make a thicker batter with a thicker coating, so that they don’t disintegrate in the oil.

If you bake them, these kebab skewers are actually virtually fat-free apart from the grease on the baking tray! I did not use any oil anywhere else in the recipe. I just love tasty fat-free vegan food!

I made quite a big batch and kept some in the freezer before baking. So you may want to halve the recipe.


Veggie Kebab

Ingredients (About 20 kebab skewers)

1 large (250g) courgette (zucchini), cut thinly into julienne
3 carrots (300g), grated
¼ cabbage (200g), shredded
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cups soybeans (500g), boiled
4 – 6 potatoes (500g), boiled
4 – 5 green and red chilies, chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon plain flour
Salt to taste

Batter:

6 tablespoons plain flour
½ teaspoon turmeric
Water to make a thick-to-thin batter

About 20 bamboo skewers

Breadcrumbs for coating (I used one with herbs and garlic)
Soymilk for glazing

  • Make batter by mixing all the batter ingredients together. Set aside.
  • Peel and mash the boiled potatoes.
  • Coarsely mash the soybeans.
  • Squeeze out all juice from the grated carrots. (You can keep the juice for drinking. It’s delicious!)
  • It’s important to really squeeze out maximum liquid from the vegetables otherwise the kebabs might break or disintegrate during baking or frying.
  • In a non-stick pan, toss the shredded cabbage and courgette.
  • Stir until the liquid starts coming out. Sprinkle with a little salt if this is not happening.
  • Remove vegetables from liquid. Set aside.
  • Add 2 tablespoon water in the pan. Add in onions, turmeric, garam masala and cumin. Stir and cook for a few minutes. Adjust water if required.
  • Remove from heat and add to mash mixture.
  • Add all ingredients together (including cornstarch, flour and salt to taste) and mix well. It’s best to mix with the hands.
  • Take a small ball of the mixture in the palm of the hands and shape around a bamboo skewer.
  • Brush with batter.
  • Then roll in breadcrumbs and evenly coat the kebab.
  • Place on a greased baking tray.

veggie kebab

  • Bake for 30 minutes at 220 degrees Celsius then turn them on the other side and brush with some soy milk.
  • Bake for another 30 minutes. You may want to turn them at 15 minutes interval on 4 sides.
  • Remove from oven and serve warm.

veggie kebab

Thursday, 1 October 2009

VeganMoFo 01!

This is my first VeganMoFo post. And this is the plan:

  1. Blog about anything food, nothing specific, just eats and drinks, for the first few days, to get me started.
  2. Fusion dinners. I’ll try (try!) to make mix food from different cultures
  3. Anything brunch or snacks
  4. Food that reminds me of Mauritius or inspired from Mauritian cuisine (yes, I don’t blog enough about Mauritian food. So, here’s a chance! I’ll add in my own personal touch to them)

Well this is just the plan…I’ll try as much as possible to stick to this but we’ll see!

VeganMoFo

So, for my first post I’m going to talk about my experience of British food (or more so English food)!

When I first went to England in 2004, the food was a shock to me. It was plain and bland and I thought I could never ever like English food at all. One food that struck me most was the Jacket Potato more so because of the name than what it really was. Why do they call it ‘jacket’ potato? I would wonder. Well, it’s simply a baked potato served with the skin on. It is very commonly served with butter, sour cream and chives, but also very often stuffed with anything-that-comes-to-mind when the folks go bonkers! It is pretty interesting but I took a while to try and like it. But now, I totally looooooove it! Jacket potatoes can be a very nutritious meal if served with healthy low-fat ingredients.

Well my choice of filling this time was lentils sautéed in tomato sauce.

For jacket potatoes, the best potatoes to use are floury ones (or ones labeled as baking potatoes). They should be baked for an hour and half to two hours in the oven depending on the size. But I cheated and steamed them for 20 minutes first, then baked them for 45 minutes until the skin was crispy.


Jacket Potato with Lentils

Ingredients (4 servings)

4 medium to big baking potatoes

Filling:

1 cup (180g) black lentils
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 red onion, chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon demerara sugar
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon dairy-free cheese powder (I used the Free and Easy Dairy Free Cheese Flavour Sauce Mix)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon (or to taste) coarse sea salt
Parsley for garnish

  • Brush and wash potatoes.
  • Bake potatoes at 190 degrees Celsius (for 1½ to 2 hours) until the inside in cooked and the skin is crispy. (Or you can cheat like me!)

To make filling:

  • Boil lentils until tender but not too mushy. Drain water (or keep to use in soups later on) and keep aside.
  • Heat oil in a non-stick pan.
  • Add onions and sugar and stir for a few minutes.
  • Then add in tomatoes. Cook for a few minutes until liquid is slightly reduced. (Alternatively add water if required if too thick)
  • Add cocoa powder and cheese powder. Sprinkle with thyme. Cook for one more minute.
  • Add lentils. Stir and mix well. Adjust consistency with some water if required.
  • Add salt. Sprinkle with some chopped parsley.
  • Make a cross incision on the baked potatoes. Slightly open them and stuff with filling.
  • Enjoy warm!

jacket potato

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