Tag Archives: tahini

Recipe: Vegan Cheeseburger Cupcakes

This is the time of year when bloggers do their retrospectives, but I don’t feel like doing a blog retrospective for 2015.  For one thing, I did hardly any blogging, and barely kept up with reading other blogs.  For another, the end of 2015 was made absolutely horrible for us by the disappearance of our beloved cat, Mystery.  She slipped out on the evening of December 22nd, and has not been seen since.  We’ve letterboxed and doorknocked and rung vets and visited shelters, but to no avail, and at this stage, we hold out little hope.  It’s been a painful and distressing way to end an exhausting year, and it’s very hard to look ahead and come up with plans, resolutions, or even hopes for 2016 at this point – because right now we are all too aware that life is uncertain and cannot truly be planned for.

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So no perspectives from me, just a remarkably silly recipe, inspired by Rosanna Pansino’s Nerdy Nummies Cookbook.  She has a very fun recipe for a cupcake that looks like a cheeseburger, with a brownie patty, coconut lettuce, and buttercream piped to resemble cheese, tomatoes.

It’s very cute, but it also looked terribly sweet.  Also, I was cooking in part for Steph, so I needed a vegan recipe, and frankly, I found the idea of a vegan cheeseburger cupcake absolutely hilarious and thus irresistible, so off I went.

To avoid the excessive use of buttercream, I decided it would be more fun to give the burger a fruity sort of theme. Mango fruit leather strips make an excellent (and truly revolting-looking) substitute for plastic cheese, jam makes a fine substitute for tomato sauce, and tinned plums replace the beetroot that is a necessity in any Aussie hamburger. Mint leaves made a delicious substitute for lettuce, and at that point, you’re done.

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Recipe: Chocolate Crackles with the Lot (but Vegan!)

These chocolate crackles really don’t deserve to be as good as they are.  They came about because I had a New Year’s Eve party to go to, and I’m constitutionally incapable of going to a party without bringing dessert – but I didn’t have anything obvious to bring.  What I did have was half a block of copha, a bit of tahini, some chocolate, a big handful of random glacé fruit and a whole box of lollies leftover from various Christmas festivities.  I also had a strong desire not to actually cook, and a rather messy kitchen with both cocoa and icing sugar still left out on the counter after previous baking events.

Everyone knows that chocolate crackles are what Copha (refined coconut oil, for those of you who didn’t grow up with the Aussie tradition of chocolate crackles and honey joys at every birthday party) is for.   And I have always preferred my chocolate crackles with actual chocolate in them.  And surely chocolate crackles could only be improved by a whole lot of random mix-ins?

As for the tahini – well, I didn’t really have enough Copha for the amount of mix-ins I wanted to use.  But I wasn’t going to buy more Copha, because it really is only for chocolate crackles (and, as it turns out, Lebkuchen, which is why I had it in the first place).  I didn’t want to make the crackles richer with butter – I may not be vegan, but if I’ve got a recipe that is perfectly vegan and tasty to begin with, I draw the line at gratuitously un-veganising it – and I was a bit worried that they would be ridiculously sweet.  Tahini is a useful sort of fat, and really quite profoundly bitter, at least to my palate, so it seemed like a good counterbalance to the whole ridiculous mess.

And as it turns out, it was.  This recipe may look like a complete disaster but it actually balances quite well.  And I’ve just realised it isn’t vegan after all, because of my choice of lollies, but since you can make it with whatever lollies you have in the house, I’m still calling it vegan, because it really is as vegan as you want it to be.  A note for the gluten-free – Rice Bubbles are not, in fact, gluten-free, but you can buy annoyingly pricey gluten-free puffed rice cereal that would work perfectly well here.  Since I had nobody gluten-free to cater for, I didn’t bother this time.

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Your Shopping List (or Fridge Dive, depending how you want to play it)

125 g copha
50 g tahini
110 g dark chocolate
3 tbsp cocoa
2/3 cup icing sugar
150 g mixed lollies – I used jaffas, smarties, chopped up jelly snakes, and jelly bellies.  None of these are vegan.  But there is no reason you couldn’t use any vegan lollies you have in the house – I have it on good authority that Skittles and Toffee Apples are fair game, as are a lot of dark chocolate-dipped fruit and nuts, and I know there are plenty of stores that sell specifically vegan lollies, too.  You could also just add 150 g of other mix-ins of your choice.
175 g chopped glacé fruit – I used a mixture of glacé cherries, ginger, apricots and peaches, but any kind would do.
4 cups rice bubbles

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Recipe: Arden Forest Salad

For too long has my Complete Works of Shakespeare languished, lonely and unloved, waiting in vain for our next reading to occur!  I do love our Shakespeare feasts, but they are quite fiendishly difficult to organise – as soon as I think I have a full cast, someone gets sick, or remembers a prior commitment, or moves overseas or interstate, and then everything has to be rearranged.

And then, of course, there is the cooking.  For reasons that even I do not entirely understand, I feel compelled not merely to drastically overcater, but to do so in a way that fits the theme or story of the play.  Which means sitting down with book in one hand and notepad in the other writing things like ‘fool.  Passionfruit?  Lots of hearts.  Venison!  Disguise. Pancakes, pancakes, pancakes’, and then trying to come up with a collection of recipes that both cover the most important keywords while actually producing a fairly balanced meal that covers this week’s collection of dietary restrictions…

This sounds like a big complaint, which it really isn’t – but it serves to explain why I have to be feeling pretty bold to plan one of these feasts, and why by the end of them, I feel both great satisfaction and as though I’ve been hit by a train.

Anyway.  Today’s play was As You Like It, which is one of Shakespeare’s comedies, clearly written at a point in his life when he had a lot of good musicians in his Company, because everyone sings, all the time.  He hasn’t quite written a musical, but you can see that he was seriously considering it.  As You Like It is notable for pretty much the entire cast running off to live, like Robin Hood, in the greenwood.  Half the characters start off in exile in the wood, more characters join them there as the play progresses, and at the very end, when everyone is set to return from exile, the villain of the piece puts himself into self-imposed exile – you guessed it, in the woods.

Clearly, the woods needed to be represented here, so I decided to create a salad forest, suitable for exile with random singing.  This is my excuse for making it quite so mildly psychedelic – I imagine most forests are not amply endowed with magenta rocks, but mine is.  This is, of course, a composed salad, and your dressing is essentially the layer that everything is standing on, so when serving, make sure you get a good scoop of the yoghurt layer and the nutty gravel to go with your vegetables.  It really is astonishingly delicious.

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Your Shopping List

300 g Greek yoghurt
1 tbsp tahini (unhulled is nice!)
100 g pistachios
100 g  slivered almonds
125 roasted chickpeas (sometimes called chick-nuts)65 g dried cranberries
6 small oranges (blood oranges or even mandarins would work – that’s about the size you are after.)
12 stems of broccolini
8 little bocconcini (ovalini are good)
4-6 spears of sage flowers or rosemary in bloom
8 small radishes in mixed colours
5 sprigs of thyme
a handful of dill
3-5 sprigs of mint
80 g fresh blueberries Continue reading

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: Roasted Root Vegetables with Sweet Spices, Tahini, and Maple Syrup

closedoneThis is a very simple recipe that can either be served as a side dish or over cous-cous or rice as a meal (though in that case, I’d probably stir in a tin or two of chickpeas ten minutes before the end of cooking).  But simple doesn’t mean ‘non-tasty’, at least not in my book, and this is rather gorgeous – the tahini balances the sweetness of the spices and maple syrup, preventing this from turning into Dessert Vegetables, which would be a bit weird even for me, and I love the way that every bite tastes slightly different – gingery or anisey or cinnamon-laden or sesame-seedish, though I admit, this is probably an artefact of me not mixing things together well enough.  The flavours do all go together beautifully, however.  And the colours are a perfect celebration of autumn!

I admit, there is a fair bit of peeling and chopping involved in this recipe, but it’s also a fairly relaxing recipe to make – you can peel serenely while listening to a CD, and then, when everything is in the oven, you can sit down with a book or pop onto the internet and read a blog post or two while it all bakes.  The oven is doing all the work.

If you happen to have leftovers after this, you can combine them with stock and more chickpeas to make a stunningly flamingo-pink soup, worth eating for the colour alone, but also gorgeously velvety and tasty. 

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1/2 a butternut pumpkin (mine was moderately sized, but this recipe is fairly approximate, so you decide what you like!)
4 carrots, as many colours as you can find
6 baby beetroots
3 parsnips
2 onions
500 g orange sweet potato

2 tbsp tahini

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup canola or sunflower oil

2 tsp cinnamon
3 star anises (what is the plural of star anise, anyway?)
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cumin
a knob of fresh ginger approximately 1 x 2 inches
a good pinch of nutmeg

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