Tag Archives: anyone can cook fabulous vegetarian food

Recipe: Chocolate Rye Zucchini Bread

I’ve been wanting to make chocolate bread for a while, but the ganglion cyst on my wrist makes kneading dough very painful, so it’s all been on the back burner.  But having made Pizza Serafina last week for the Great Bake Off at work (which I really must write about at some point, because it was absolutely bonkers and beyond my wildest imaginings), sore wrists and all, I found myself with leftover fresh yeast – and when I was talking to my aunt about the pizza afterward, she reminded me that my Nonna also used to make a dough that was so wet that one couldn’t really knead it anyway – one just pushed it around a bit in the bowl.

Of course, I don’t have that recipe, and it’s probably madness to make up a recipe for bread, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, and I didn’t want that yeast to go to waste (apparently, I had no qualms about potentially wasting a lot of flour and cocoa and chocolate in my attempt to salvage the yeast…).

One of my scientists recently gave me a medium-sized marrow, with the comment that I was the only person he knew under the age of 60 who might know what to do with it.  If one is going to be the Under-60 Marrow Champion, one must be prepared to take some risks, so I decided that what this chocolate bread really needed was some grated zucchini, to keep it moist.

And maybe some rye flour, to underline the dark, almost bitter, nuttiness of the chocolate and zucchini.

The result?  Well, the dough was downright weird, but it did rise, and I have to say, the flavour isn’t half bad.  This recipe made two loaves of a nice, slightly sweet, chocolatey bread, studded with chocolate, that kind of begs for a little apricot jam, if you ask me.  It’s quite lovely and soft, and perhaps a little on the heavy side, with the rye and chocolate flavours both very much present.  It’s the sort of thing you could have when you felt like eating chocolate for breakfast, without feeling too bad about it afterward.

And hey – it used up a significant portion of that marrow!

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Your Shopping List

35 g fresh yeast (about 10-12g dried yeast)
500 ml lukewarm water
100 g brown sugar
300 g grated zucchini or marrow (about 2-3 small zucchini)1 tsp salt
400 g bread flour
75 g cocoa powder
325 g rye flour
3 tbsp olive oil
200 g chopped dark chocolate

Cinnamon sugar or a little brown sugar to top, optional but very good!

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Anyone Can Cook Fabulous Vegetarian Food: Zucchini Zeitgeist and Merry Marrows

Ah, February.  The season of smoky heat and bushfires (she says, looking dubiously out the window at the pouring rain), of nights too humid for sleep, of days that are long but growing just a little shorter, of children going back to school, of marrows taking over the garden.

I am a terrible gardener, and perhaps this is why I have never managed to succumb to a total zucchini invasion.  My zucchini plants grow filmy white on their leaves, and then they shrivel up, and my zucchinis themselves, while delicious, never reach the apocalyptic numbers I dream of, nor the intimidating size one so frequently hears of.  I do not find myself building zucchini ziggurats or succumbing to squash samurai, nor am I menaced by marrow marauders or carnivorous courgettes.

Which is a rather sad, really.

So I make up for it by buying way too many zucchini at the markets, so that I, too, can face the challenge of what to do with this abundance.  Except that it isn’t a very good challenge, because I have loads of ideas, and nowhere near enough zucchini to do them justice.

I’m sure you do, too.

The February 2015 theme is
Zucchinis and marrows

(Because I can’t possibly be the only person out there who sees a three kilo marrow as a golden opportunity)

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Recipe: Scrambled Tofu with Cajun Spices

Three quarters of the way through the month and it’s probably time I actually created a recipe for my Anyone Can Cook Vegetarian Food challenge.  And in fact, I did create this recipe, several days ago – I’m just having trouble getting around to posting it. I’m running a big event at work next week and am being a bit overwhelmed not so much by the workload as by the slightly terrifying levels of enthusiasm and competitiveness being demonstrated by those around me. 

The number of questions I’ve been getting about exactly how things will work and precisely how I will prevent cheating – including the Graphics department expressing an alarming level of concern about people forging voting tokens (and I’m not at *all* worried that it’s the people who design all the images, drawings, posters etc who have forgery on their minds…) is… well, let’s just say that I’m beginning to wonder if my trust in my colleagues is misplaced and I should be appointing scrutineers.  And maybe the Electoral Commission, to supervise.

(Still, given that my biggest worry a few weeks ago was that nobody would participate, overwhelming enthusiasm is a fairly nice problem to have.  I am beginning to feel a little bit like a kindergarten teacher, however.)

Anyway.  This is indeed a lovely, quick recipe to make – and it’s tofu, which is a product I’m normally terrified of, so it’s slightly amazing, even to me, that this recipe has been getting onto my weeknight roster.  To me, this tastes like a nice, spicy version of scrambled eggs.  (Andrew tells me it tastes nothing like scrambled eggs. He’s wrong, but since he hates eggs, and likes this recipe, I’m not going to complain…)  Like scrambled eggs, it’s a good, fast recipe to put together on a hot day.

I like to serve this with corn chips, which saves any extra cooking and is also yummy.  But it’s pretty nice on it’s own, or you could stuff it into a burrito for a vegan version of breakfast burritos…

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Your shopping list

250 g soft tofu
4 spring onions (scallions)
2 capsicums, one red and one green
1-2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp Cajun spice mix
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, or 1 tsp ground chipotle pepper
½ tsp turmeric
250 g cherry tomatoes
small handful of fresh coriander (optional – leave it out if you hate coriander)
½ cup grated cheese or vegan cheeze (cheddar, mozzarella, or a combination of cheeses)
corn chips or bread to serve

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Anybody can cook Fabulous Vegetarian Food: 15-Minute Wonders

Am I the only one looking at the weather forecast for the next few days and whimpering?  I am not a fan of the summer.  True, we get all the most fabulous stone fruit and berries and tomatoes and eggplants and other gorgeous crops – but the price we pay is high.  High on the thermometer.  And really, where is the fun in having gorgeous, seasonal ingredients in the kitchen if it’s too hot to cook them?

So this month’s challenge is really twofold – to use beautiful, summery ingredients to make a meal, while minimising the amount of time spent with the stove running.  Or to be precise…

The January 2015 theme is
15-Minute Wonders

(Because I can’t stand the heat – but I can’t seem to stay out of the kitchen, either…)

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Recipe: Fruit Mince Filo Cigars

Last weekend, I was invited to a Yule celebration at the home of one of my friends from work.  It was an amazingly fun evening (I think I could become addicted to the werewolf card game, even though I’m fairly terrible at it), and also notable for the incredible quantities of potatoes and cream that found their way onto the menu.  This is, perhaps, inevitable when the host and half the guests are French, and are, moreover, from places like Normandy and Burgundy, where potatoes and dairy products are pretty big stuff.  (I am informed that they do not believe in vegetables in these regions.  Other than potatoes.)

So we had roast lamb, and we had roast potatoes, and roast sweet potatoes, and we had pommes dauphines and we had gratin dauphinoise. And there was quiche, too.  I decided that *some* sort of non-potato vegetable wouldn’t go astray, so my offering was ratatouille.  (Which, actually, I was a bit nervous about actually calling ratatouille in front of a group of French people, as I have no idea what an authentic ratatouille is like, but apparently it was acceptable).

For dessert, since we clearly had not had enough cream yet, there were crèmes brulées (we got to blow-torch our brulées at the table, which instantly elevates this dinner party to the best one I have ever attended.  Also, possibly, the most dangerous one, since the blow-torch came out after the second glass of wine for most people at the table, and when you consider that many of the guests have a tendency to gesture a lot with their hands, you will understand why this was a little alarming…), and also waffles with nuttella and whipped cream.  I had considered once again taking the high path and bringing something with actual fruit in it, but the whole Yule / Christmas in Winter spirit overwhelmed me, and it was absolutely necessary to bring something involving spices, brandy and fruit mince.

Which is when I thought of these little cigars.

I actually made these for the first time after Christmas last year, when I realised I had a bit of fruit mince leftover from my mince pies, and also some filo pastry leftover from turning my Christmas chook into handheld chicken and pumpkin filo pies, and decided to combine the two.

They were amazing – astonishingly rich on the inside, but with a lovely, light, crisp pastry that made them a delight to bite into.  Also, they are surprisingly easy to make, which is a bonus.  And fantastic when dipped in double cream.  Which is not vegan, but a good cashew cream might actually be even better.

Of course, I had no idea what proportions of anything I’d used, so I figured I’d save the recipe until I had a bit more time.  Which was why I was half an hour late to the dinner party – it turned out that I didn’t, really, have that much time after all…

It was still worth it, though.  And after all those potatoes, a dessert that was low on the whole pastry/cake/pudding side of things and high on the rich, dried fruit side of things wasn’t a bad match at all.

(Though I suspect a fruit salad, while less Christmassy, would have been even better…)

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Your Shopping List

1 quantity of Easy Fruit Mince, made with cocoa butter instead of butter for vegan goodness.
1 handful each of dried cherries, chopped dried apricots, and chopped dried figs.

1 packet of filo pastry from the fridge section.  Please, not the freezer section.  I cannot stress this highly enough.  If you buy your filo pastry from the fridge, it will come out as lovely, soft, fine, layers of pastry, like fabric that roll like a dream.  If you buy it from the freezer and defrost it, it will come out like paper.  Old, crackling, crumbling paper.  And it will stick to itself and it will break when you try to unroll it and then you will end up with little flakes of pastry everywhere and nothing to roll your fruit mince in, and you will be very sad and you will wish you had taken my advice.  Which is good advice.  Seriously, get your filo from the fridge, or don’t bother.  I don’t want you to be sad, and I’m sure you don’t want that either.
Olive oil spray

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Anyone Can Cook Fabulous Vegetarian Food: Vegan Christmas in July

Oh, I am excited about this one.   So excited that I am bringing this allegedly monthly challenge back from yet another hiatus when Life got the better of me.  I know it’s not quite July yet, but let’s face it – the wintry weather has set in.

We don’t really have holly in Melbourne, but if we did, it would have berries on it.  And while it isn’t snowing here, I understand they are having a pretty good ski season up in the Victorian Alps.  Meanwhile, we have the wind wuthering around our house, the weather is cold and dark, and when one goes out in it, it rains.  Sideways.

This may not sound appealing to you, but I actually love Melbourne winters.  Partly, it’s perversity – nobody else seems to love this weather, so I do, wholeheartedly.  (In return, Melbourne very kindly gives me good weather for any events I hold outside, even if the weather has been utterly unpromising up until that point.  We have a very good relationship, Melbourne and I.)

But mostly, it’s because this is such fantastic baking weather. Continue reading

Anyone Can Cook Fabulous Vegetarian Food: Magical Mushrooms

No, not that kind.  We are not doing hallucinogenic food on the blog this month.  We shall save that for another month.

OK, no we won’t do that, either.

So, it’s Autumn in Melbourne, which means that there are mushrooms at the market – Swiss Brown mushrooms, Portobello mushrooms, little white button mushrooms, and more exotic fare like delicate oyster mushrooms, shitaake mushroms, and gorgeous, autumn-leaf-coloured pine mushrooms (my new favourite).

Delicious.  And while mushrooms are not really meat for vegetarians (despite certain advertisements suggesting the contrary), they certainly are a popular ingredient in vegetarian recipes.  They may not be meaty, but they have a big, assertive flavour, and can fit into a variety of cuisines.

Just don’t make them slimy.  How do people do that, anyway?  I mean, seriously, the number of times perfectly good cafés have fed me slimy mushrooms of evil is countless, and yet I have never had this happen to me when I am cooking at home.  It’s a mystery.  But I digress….

The May 2014 theme is Mushrooms

(Badger badger badger…)

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Recipe: Vegan Choc-Cross Buns with Tahini and Apricots

I take Easter, and particularly Good Friday, very seriously.  It’s not just because of the sheer number of professional commitments I have around Easter (and Good Friday is pretty much the peak of these, as I tend to have a late service on Thursday evening, then help lead the Way of the Cross procession through the city all morning on the Friday, before settling in for an afternoon service somewhere – Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday are relaxing by comparison!), or even just about the religious aspect, though this is important to me, too. 

In fact, these days I have a personal Good Friday ritual that involves fish and chips and a re-watching of the really good 1971 Jesus Christ Superstar film – because I spend so much of Easter feverishly keeping track of how many more rounds of chant I need to do, or where in the pew sheet I am, or how to make that hymn scan in Italian, or concentrating feverishly on using my voice efficiently so that it actually lasts through four days of epic singing, that there really isn’t much room for personal religious observance.  I’m too busy concentrating on doing my job right!  And that’s totally fine, but I then need something that will let me stop and contemplate the season, and it turns out that JCSS is great for that.  Especially this year, when I’ve spent so much time living in Passion land, between St Matthew, and the readings this week, and listening to the St John Passion sent to me by my pen-friend’s mother.

I just got totally distracted from what I was going to say, which is that for me, Good Friday is also sort of a birthday.  I was born on Good Friday in 1976, so I tend to view the entire Easter Weekend as fair game for birthday gatherings, if there is no time on the day itself.  And the first thing my mother ate after I was born was a hot cross bun, so I am undoubtedly pre-disposed by the conditions of my birth to take hot cross buns seriously, too!

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Anyway, after doing the Hot Cross Bun class at Gewürzhaus, I was consumed with the need to make hot cross buns, repeatedly.  And when I saw the recipe for the choc-chip kind (which I actually view as Not Proper Hot Cross Buns, but never mind that), I was immediately seized by the conviction that these needed to be veganised.  Of course, I then got totally overwhelmed by singing commitments, but yesterday’s afternoon service, in addition to being long, was also fairly inaudible from the organ loft, and so I found my brain turning to recipe design.  As one does.  In particular, I could not help thinking that chocolate tahini would make an amazing substitute for all the butter and eggs that one normally finds in hot cross buns.  Oh yes, indeed.  And since there is at least one vegan in the choir I’m singing with tonight, this is clearly exactly the right time to unleash vegan chocolate hot cross buns on the world!  

Happy Easter to you, if you celebrate it.  As for me, I’ll be singing…

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Recipe: Absurdly Cute Meringue Easter Bunnies

This is yet another one of those recipes that happens when I decide to make lemon curd, and then have to figure out something to do with all the egg whites.  I was just going to do plain meringues, but then for some reason my brain (which is not usually a particularly visual organ) came up with this image of stylised bunnies.  I drew the design on a piece of paper to see if it actually looked bunny-like outside my brain, and it did!  After that, it was just a matter of figuring out what colour to make the paws and ears, and how to do little bunny-like faces…

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Your Shopping List (for 12 bunnies, which is what I would have had if I hadn’t managed to stuff up on separating one of my eggs)

4 egg whites (use the yolks for lemon curd, or maybe a huge batch of mayonnaise)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 1/3 cups of caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
food colourings and flavours to taste – I used rose, violet and orange essences. 
coloured mini choc chips, or silver cachous, or other decorations for faces.
several piping bags, if you don’t already own them – you will probably need one for each colour, unless you are much bigger on washing up than I am

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Anyone Can Cook Fabulous Vegetarian Food: Easter Inspirations!

So apparently the Tofu Challenge turned out to be kind of an April Fool’s joke on my part, since I never did manage to create a tofu recipe (though I did cook with tofu *three whole times*, so at least I achieved that much in my pathway towards vegetarian enlightenment).

But it’s a new month, which means it’s time for a new challenge, and since my singing diary tells me that Easter (and laryngitis) is fast approaching…

The APril 2014 theme is Easter  Inspirations

(because God is love, and food is love, and I don’t think I’d better continue on to the logical conclusion of that thought or nobody will ever let me sing in their church again, but meanwhile my brain has moved on and is considering an entirely new series of heresies about transubstantiation and this is what happens when I’m doing too much singing and not enough sleeping.)

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