First of the passionfruit harvest- Passionfruit tart

The harvest has started! The passionfruit are finally yellow enough to pick… just.

My daughter decided to make a passionfruit tart and it was a great success. She has been taking over a lot of the cooking lately as I really don’t enjoy it and my energy is fairly low at the moment, so I would rather save it for more enjoyable activities (like eating).

The basic recipe my daughter used is as follows;

Passionfruit tart

Base

150g arrowroot biscuits

1/3 cup coconut

100g softened vegan margarine

Blend together in a food processor until it forms a crumbly mass that sticks together when squeezed. Press into a tart plate and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Filling

1 can coconut cream (refrigerated and drained of liquid when opened to retain just the thick cream)

4 tblspn icing sugar

1 large passionfruit

Whip chilled and drained coconut cream with icing sugar until it is firm. Add passionfruit and spoon into tart case. Refrigerate until firm. Serve with more passionfruit on top.

This dessert tasted so lovely, we all went back for seconds.

YUM.

Mulberry/blueberry apple muffins

I was looking for a way to use up the seemingly endless supply of blueberries and mulberries we have this year (no complaint at all, I feel rich!) and thought about making muffins that I could freeze. I also wanted to use up some okara or some sourdough discard in the process. Since my daughter won’t be eating these muffins, I think I will try to use maximum eggs in the recipe too (abundance can be such a chore… joking).

Ingredients

  • 1 cups  plain flour
  • 1   cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup okara or sourdough discard
  • ¾  cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • ⅔ cup oil
  • 2 egg
  • 1 cup soy milk (may need to add a little more milk if using okara)
  • 2 cups mulberries/ blueberries or a combination
  • 1 chopped apple 

Method

Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl, then add wet ingredients except berries and apple. Mix well to combine, but be careful not to overmix. Add fruit and stir to combine. Spoon mix into greased muffin tins and bake at 200 degrees C for 20 minutes.

You can sprinkle some granulated sugar and cinnamon over the muffin tops before baking if you are feeling fancy; it gives the muffins a nice crackly top.

These muffins freeze well, but they don’t last in the cupboard for long as the moist berries become mouldy fairly quickly.

The blue/green/purple hue is from the mulberries and blueberries combined. I actually love the colour. The muffins taste light and soft and fruity; just the way they should taste.

Making a scoby hotel

So it is time to take a break from making kombucha for a few months; I am not drinking as much as I was, and the batches are getting a bit too vinegary for my taste because of the heat and longer time between batches.

The vinegary large batch in the brewer can be used as cleaning vinegar, so I just bottled it up and left it to mature. Apparently it can be used to make salad dressings and in cooking just like apple cider vinegar.

The scoby was checked into the new scoby hotel. A scoby hotel is a clean jar with some sweet tea and a cup or two of starter kombucha. The only care it needs is a top up of sweet tea every month or so. I store the jar in the fridge and hope that the room service bill won’t be too high.

I know, scoby looks disgusting!
The new scoby hotel

I will start making kombucha again in a couple of months, hopefully the scoby will survive until my enthusiasm returns.

Vegan fried chicken with seitan

My daughter came home from work with a craving for KFC, which would put her in hospital if she ate it, so I decided to have a go at making a vegan version. What is it that we all remember about KFC? For me (and my daughter) it is the crispy, oily outer coating, so that is where I will start.

I found two videos on YouTube to guide my thinking; the seitan recipe and the coating recipe. Of course online recipes are just a jumping off point for me (we all know I can’t follow instructions), so this is what I actually did;

The seitan chicken

Wet Mixture (Should make about 1 ½ cups)

1 tsp Soy Sauce (or miso paste)

1/2 Cup Chickpeas

1 Tbsp Bullion

3 Garlic Cloves

2 Tbsp Onion powder

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

several pieces of sundried tomato

1 Cup Water

fresh oregano, thyme, mugwort (about 2 tablespoons)

Dry Ingredients

1 Cup of Vital Wheat Gluten

¼ Cup of tapioca and coconut flour

2 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast

Dried rosemary, nutmeg and black pepper

1 tsp Sea Salt

Method

Mix the wet ingredients in a blender or food processor and the dry ingredients in a bowl. Then gradually combine the wet with the dry in a bowl. Knead the dough until it is firm, but can be pulled apart and re-kneaded. This part takes practice, it is easy to under or over knead and either have a too soft or too firm result). When the dough is firm enough for your liking, tear off pieces and squash the dough into vaguely chicken piece shapes, make the pieces flat as the dough swells up to about double when boiled. Mine made seven pieces.

Dry ingredients.
Wet ingredients.
Making chicken pieces.
They smell lovely.

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and add 2 stock cubes (or equivalent) and a bay leaf. When the water is simmering, just below a rolling boil, put the chicken pieces in one by one and simmer the pot for about 20 minutes.

The pieces will sink to the bottom, and won’t rise until they begin to cook.
After 20 minutes the pieces are all floating on the surface of the water.

Once the pieces are cooked, they can be taken out and drained on a paper towel until you are ready to coat and fry them (I put mine in the fridge).

Ready to go in the fridge. I am trialing the ‘If You Care’ brand of kitchen sponge (washable) for food draining, I will let you know if it works.
A closer view of the texture. It is juicy and tender if looks are anything to go by.

Now it is time to make the coating…

Wet bowl

1 cup soy milk

11/2 tablespoons vinegar (I used my home made mead vinegar)

Dry bowl

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour 

1 tablespoon rosemary and nutmeg

1/2 tablespoon paprika 

1/2 tablespoon mustard powder

1/2 tablespoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon black pepper 

Method

Mix the dry ingredients in the dry bowl and the wet ingredients in the wet bowl. Don’t be surprised if the wet bowl goes all lumpy and curdled, it is supposed to, just mix it back in.

Dip the pieces of chicken in the wet bowl then put it in the dry bowl and cover it with the flour mix. You may have to repeat this a few times to get a good cover.

Then fry the chicken pieces in a frying pan or a deep fryer until they are golden brown and crispy.

We ate these with chips and they were satisfyingly crispy and oily.

Accidentally making the lettuce last longer in the fridge

Some of the lovely greens in the trailer bed

The trailer bed is bursting with greens, it is so easy to stroll out and pick a salad base. Of course, I prefer to pick every few days and keep the leaves in the fridge. I’m lazy that way. The problem with keeping the leaves in the fridge is that they go slimy and bad by the second day, and then I need to pick more. That is a problem I may have accidentally found a solution for.

Let me explain… The lettuce and other greens are watered using washing water (the used water from the washing machine) and the remnants of the duck and chicken water pots when we refresh them. This means that the greens have a lot of unsavory bacteria on them (and silt), so the leaves need to be washed well and disinfected somehow.

The day’s haul of fresh lettuce leaves

I wash the leaves in a tub of water (which is then poured back onto the garden) to remove any dirt and silt. Then I soak them in a water and vinegar solution (1/2 cup vinegar to 5 litres of water). I use my home made vinegar for this, and it seems to work.

Soaking in vinegar solution

I use vinegar for all my cleaning; in a spray for kitchen surfaces, in the washing, as a floor spot cleaner, as an emergency bath addative (when I’m really smelly), as a medicinal additive in the animal waters, you name it. Using it to clean bacteria off food is a logical step.

Draining out the excess water

Then I discovered that the vinegar rinse keeps the lettuce fresh in the fridge for a week. You have to be sure to dry as much water off the leaves as possible and line the bag or container with a paper towel though (I keep trying to think of a washable version of paper towels for this).

Chopped lettuce ready for the fridge

I am so happy with this little discovery that I wanted to pass on the tip. A vinegar soak not only makes sure the lettuce is safe to eat, it also makes it last much longer in the fridge, and it is another use for my home made vinegar.

Lots more to pick

Raw, vegan cheesecakes… yum

This weekend, I decided to make some cheesecake to go with our usual Friday night indulgence of pizza, bought from the local cafe. I love pizza night; I don’t have to cook (not that I do very often anyway), and we have a really yummy meal of gourmet pizza. So this Friday afternoon, I whipped up some individual desserts for us all to share after our pizza.

I used the Blueberry cheesecake and avocado chocolate tart recipes I found here to give myself an idea to start from.

First I blended all the ingredients for the base together;

Base ingredients

1/2 cup raw almonds

1/2 cup raw walnuts

1 cup dates pitted

1/4 cup coconut oil melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch sea salt

Then I greased up a muffin pan, put strips of grease proof paper across the cups and squished a desert spoon of the base into each pan. Next time I think I will make sure the coconut oil is fully melted and drop the dates into the blender one at a time because the resulting base is a bit chunky for my partner’s liking.

Then, while the bases set in the freezer, I blended up the avocado and chocolate filling.

Ingredients

medium avocados

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup melted coconut oil

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon (scant) salt

I blended all this together into a thick sauce kind of consistency and plopped it into the muffin pan. There was enough to half fill nine of the 12 cups. Then I whipped up the cashew cheesecake mix…

Ingredients

1 cup soaked cashews

1 cup soy milk

1/3 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons frozen lemon juice

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

I blended this mixture for a long time, then used it to top up some of the muffin cups. Then I dumped a half cup of blueberries into the mix and blended them in until the mixture was a lovely purple. This purple goop was spooned into the muffin cups that were left, then the whole tray was dumped (carefully) into the freezer for 3 hours to set while my partner went to fetch the pizza.

plain avocado chocolate
avocado chocolate and cashew cheesecake
Plain blueberry
avocado chocolate and blueberry

In the end, I had eight left over cheesecakes to freeze for a later dessert.

Give these easy vegan desserts a go. They are so easy and so yummy (not to mention the slightly healthier nutrients).

Making vinegar

I have always had a habit of wondering how random common household items are made, it drives my partner nuts. I will stop doing something to wonder (sometimes out loud) how something is made and if we can make it too. Sometimes I wonder how the process was discovered in the first place. In the kitchen, it is amazing how many everyday items can be made by neglecting them. It leads me to think that the greatest discoveries in culinary arts were probably made by very bad housekeepers. Vinegar is one of those things.

My home made vinegars, made from home brewed wines

Vinegar is a double fermented product that uses yeasts to make alcohol then bacteria to turn the alcohol into vinegar. Apparently the process can be completed in the same container by adding dried fruit and water to a bucket or jar, stirring it every day and keeping it covered with an air permeable cover (like a cloth). The acetobacter in the air will turn any alcohol into vinegar. It can most usefully be used to turn bad wine into good vinegar.

Vinegar has been made and used for about 5000 years in most parts of the world (maybe longer). It has been used to disinfect and preserve food (the original use of marinade was not to improve taste, it was to make old meat safer to eat), it has been used to clean wounds and treat digestive complaints (and as a base for delivering medicine). It has been used as a cleaning and disinfecting agent in household cleaning and to preserve specimens in the lab. Here at the humpy, we use it for all the above uses (well… not too many specimens preserved). I buy a 15 litre tub of white vinegar twice a year and many bottles of apple cider, balsamic and specialty vinegars as well. If I can make my own, there is one less thing I need to buy, as well as the satisfaction gained by knowing how to make something myself.

My vinegar shelf

For my vinegar experiments I used some of my home made wines that didn’t taste very good. I had a batch of mead (honey wine) that tasted harsh and had a faintly musty flavour, so I knew I wasn’t going to drink it. Instead of wasting the hours of work that went into making it, I decided to have a play at making vinegar.

The collection of recycled wine bottles I use for brewing

The mead was poured into a smallish kombucha brewing jar that I had spare. Then I added a bottle of apple cider vinegar I picked up at the local Co Op to the jar and put a cloth cover on it. The apple cider vinegar was raw, meaning it had living bacteria colonies in it. That is it really, I put the jar up on a shelf and left it for two months.

The vinegar grew it’s own Mother… just like kombucha does

When I had a minute, I just poured the vinegar through a filter and bottled up the results. It tastes mild and smooth; I think this would make a great vinegar for shrubs. It is good as a salad dressing and in marinades too.

The vinegar Mother from the top

The Mother was left in the sieve, so I poured a new batch of old wine into the brewer and added the Mother to it. This should get the vinegar making off to a good start again.

Filtering out the yeast lees and the Mother
The Mother ready to go to a new home
The vinegar brewer ready for new wine
This is a batch of blueberry wine that went a bit musty, now it will be blueberry vinegar

Now I know how to make basic vinegar, I think I will branch out to making fruit vinegars too. For me, the vinegar making answers a question I had about how the product is made, and it allowed me to use a product that had no other use. I will continue to make vinegars at home and eventually I would like to make enough to use for cleaning too.

Everyday life holds so many small but important mysteries; how is vinegar made? How was it discovered? What can be added to vinegars? What can I make from my vinegar? These are just the questions I had about vinegar, I have many more questions to be answered and each day brings new wonderings. There is no room or time for boredom or stagnation of the mind… life is just too interesting.

Raw vegan carrot cake

While I’m not going to go on a completely raw food diet, I do love the raw food desserts I have made so far. I’m trying to use a lot more fruit and veg and feed my family a lot more too. This carrot cake takes no time at all to make (the longest bit is grating the carrots.

I used this recipe, and followed it closely this time. The only difference I made was to freeze the cake in muffin pans, which is how I am making desserts and sweets now in an attempt to limit how much I eat.

Ingredients

Carrot Cake

2 1/2 cup shredded carrots

1 1/2 cup raw walnuts

1 cup dates

1 cup shredded coconut

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

pinch of salt

Cashew Cream Frosting

1 cup raw cashews

1/4 cup water

3 tbsp maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

juice of 1/2 lemon

pinch of salt

1/3 cup coconut oil, melted

Instructions

  1. Grease a 12 muffin pan tray with olive oil
  2. Grate the carrots and add all other cake ingredients to the carrot bowl and mix up well. Put this mix in a food processor and grind it all up until it looks like a dry cake mix.
  3. Press the cake into the prepared muffin pan, smooth over the top, and place in the freezer while making the cream cheese frosting.
  4. To make the cream cheese frosting, combine cashews, water, maple syrup, vanilla, salt, and lemon juice in a blender. Blend until silky smooth. Add coconut oil and blend to combine. Pour onto the chilled cake and smooth the top. Freeze for at least 2 hours.
  5. When ready to serve, remove the cake from the freezer. To release it from the pans, force a knife down one side of each cup and lever the cake out. Top with walnuts and dust with cinnamon. Let it thaw 10 minutes at room temperature.

I do love making these little raw vegan desserts in muffin trays; they are so easy to pop out into bags and store in the freezer until we feel like a treat, and everyone can have something different if they want to.

Mulberry syrup

The mulberry tree is still giving us a bountiful harvest, and supplying the chooks, ducks, guinea fowl and various wild birds and possums with enormous amounts of food. I pick an ice cream container (the 4 litre size) every day, and knock off a lot of ripe fruit in the process. Nothing goes to waste in nature; the wild birds fly in for a feed at various times of the day, they knock fruit off onto the ground in the process of eating. The chooks and ducks camp out under the tree in the shade and eat the fruit that drops from the birds, the wind and me picking fruit. No fruit sits on the ground to rot. My harvest so far has led to mulberry cake (a basic yoghurt cake with mulberries added), mulberry pie, the first batch of mulberry wine, a lot of smoothies and fresh fruit snacks and now I am making mulberry syrup. The syrup will be stored in the fridge to use as a topping for waffles, ice cream and to use in milkshakes (and other as yet unthought of things). I think I will make a batch to freeze too (for later in the year).

The formula for making syrup is fairly easy to remember; make your fruit juice, then add sugar to it in a ratio of 1:1, cook it down to get the right consistency and you have a great syrup. Of course you can jazz things up a bit by adding spices and herbs, or a dash of a good vinegar to bring out the fruit flavours, but the basic syrup is just juice, sugar and water cooked down into a sauce.

To make the juice; I filled a pot with mulberries, 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water and put the pot on a low heat to start the berries breaking down. The juice starts to run out fairly soon, and when the berries are heated through, I turned the heat off. The sugar starts the process of drawing the juice out of the fruit (osmosis) and the heat weakens the walls of the berries so that they are easier to juice.

The entire pot is blended up into a pulp in the blender and the juice drained out using a sieve. Then I measure the juice yield in my handy jug.

Straining juice through a sieve

The juice and an equal amount of sugar are added to the pot and the beautiful purple potion is bought to a simmer for about five minutes. You could simmer for longer to get a thicker syrup, but I like the runny effect.

Simmering away. I had 4.5 cups of juice from a full pot of mulberries

Bottle into sterilized jars or bottles and seal straight away. Once it is cool, the syrup can be stored in a cool, dark cupboard, in the freezer (for a longer shelf life) or in the fridge. Once a bottle is open, it should be stored in the fridge.

Two bottles and a small container of syrup for this batch
The syrup is ready when it coats a spoon; just thick enough to be a syrup rather than a liquid

I have plans for using this syrup to flavour a batch of kombucha, and to make a Lebanese night-time drink called Sharab el toot.

I am loving the harvest of fresh food at the moment, this is what makes life feel abundant and rich; the ability to eat from the garden.

Making tofu at home

Home made tofu stirfry… yum

Tofu is so easy to make and it is such a satisfying thing to whip up and have in the fridge for making stir fry, sauces and various desserts. I have been making about 200g of tofu a week (and my partner still has no idea how much tofu he is eating) and using it to make cheesecake like desserts in various flavours. There isn’t much actual work in making tofu, but there is a bit of planning and thinking ahead. This is how I go about it.

I make a huge batch of soy milk using 2 cups of soy beans. How I do that is described here.

After bottling a litre of milk for home use and putting the okara (the pulp) in a lunchbox in the fridge or freezer, I put the rest of the milk back on the stove on a low heat to warm up again.

When the milk reaches 71 degrees Celcius, I add the juice from a lemon mixed with 1/2 cup of warm water by pouring half the mix into the pot and stirring for a few seconds. I wait a minute or two before adding the rest of the lemon juice and gently stirring the lot a bit. I usually put the lid on the pot and leave it to sit for a half hour or so while I do something else (I have forgotten it and left it until the next day at this point, but it isn’t to be recommended).

When I lift the pot lid, I should see lots of white curds in a clear or slightly yellow/green liquid. Now I know it’s time to pour the lot into a tofu mold lined with some wet muslin or cheesecloth. The liquid that drains out is really rich in nutrients and can be watered onto the garden outside (it gets smelly after a day or two).

This is not a great example of the curds, but you can see how they form

When a bit of the liquid has drained out of the mold, I fold the cloth over the tofu and put the press lid on. You can use anything heavy to weigh down the lid. I usually use a 3 litre juice bottle. Leave the weight on the press for three hours or so. This presses the tofu together and makes it firm.

Curds in the press
Folded over neatly, ready to press
I put a container under the mold to catch the liquid that drains out as it is pressed. The 2 litre juice bottle is just heavy enough to weigh the tofu down

When the tofu is all pressed out, I unwrap the block and put it into a lunch box filled with water in the fridge.

Ready to use tofu

It really is that easy. I plan to plant a crop of soy beans in the garden this year, so I can make tofu, okara and soy milk from my own crop. I wonder if it will taste different?