Sourdough biscuits

Because I am always looking for ways to use up sourdough discard, I found the recipe on this blog; Sourdough surprises.

I thought I would share this quick and easy recipe with you. Of course I substituted the butter in this recipe for vegan butter and the egg for a flax egg, but otherwise I managed to follow instructions… except for adding M&Ms that is.

Basic Sourdough Cookie Recipe (recipe from The Gingered Whisk)

1 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup sourdough starter, 100% hydration
1 tsp Vanilla
3 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup toasted chopped walnuts (or other nut of your choice)
6 ounces chip (chocolate, white chocolate, butterscotch, whichever suits your fancy)
1 cup dried fruit (Cherries, cranberries, whatever you have…)

Preheat oven to 200 degree C.
In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugars.
Turn the mixer off, and with a wooden spoon gently mix in your starter until combined.
Add the egg (you can turn your mixer back on now) and the vanilla.
Slowly add the flour mixture into the mixer, until just combined.
Fold in your nuts, chips and fruit.
Place by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet and bake 10-12 minutes, or until starting to turn golden brown around the edges

I whipped up the biscuits while I was waiting for the kettle to boil for the washing up, they were so quick and easy to make. I added some left over M&Ms I had in the fridge, some dried cranberries and the left over bits from a packet of walnuts in the cupboard. Not bad for a morning’s work really.

I also made some pound cake… to use up excess eggs.

How I got stuck in the kitchen… a cautionary tale

Sourdough waffles, blueberry turnovers, blueberry and chocolate muffins… oh my!

The kitchen has been the centre of my world lately, and not by choice. I have been having some major dizzy spells (not yet sure of a cause, but the results are like drinking three bottles of wine on an empty stomach, without the giggles) and that has left me at home, trying not to drive anywhere. In an effort to do something useful, I have been making soy milk and sourdough stuff more consistently. This upping of the home-made-food-from-scratch game has led to the inevitable increase in secondary yields that need to be used; okara from the soy milk and tofu making, sourdough discard from the always active starter. These secondary yields need to be used up, so I am spending even more time in the kitchen making stuff for the freezer and meals, then more time washing up and sweeping floors. Added to that, it is the start of the Spring egg laying flush, so we are swimming in eggs too. I feel like I never get out of the kitchen at all.

Still… the result is a lot of yummy food, the full use of all the products we produce and buy and I feel like I am at least a little bit useful. The following photos are a sample of my kitchen efforts and are really just a sort of reminder to myself that all this work is resulting in something, not just making washing up.

Scrambled egg and parsley on sourdough bread
Wholewheat sourdough choc chip biscuits
Whole wheat sourdough bread
Chicken soup (Using a friend’s home killed rooster)
Sourdough waffles with blueberry compote
Vegan lasagne
Tofu and vegetable stir fry (satay sauce)
Poached eggs and spinach on white bread toast
Sourdough vegetarian pizza bake
Vegan blueberry cheesecake bites
Vegan spinach and ricotta gozleme
Okara falafel
Seitan sausage rolls

Vegan meat substitute – seitan

I know it’s a bit blurry, but it looks like real meat doesn’t it?

I finally found a meat substitute my family is enthusiastic about (and by enthusiastic I mean they will actually eat it). Seitan is a high protein steamed dough product made from vital wheat gluten. I am so very glad nobody has discovered they are gluten intolerant, we would be hard put to find whole protein sources if we couldn’t eat whole grains.

Making seitan is one of those kitchen jobs that take a lot of time, most of it in the waiting, but it is worth the wait. My daughter requested some sausage rolls today and I am out of seitan (having used the last batch in a meatloaf last night), so I thought I would show you how I make it. I use this recipe from Chef Jana.

You don’t technically need a goose kitchen assistant for this recipe, but it does add a certain something to the process.

The ingredients are simple to find, except possibly the vital wheat gluten. I had to order the VWG (Vital Wheat Gluten) online from the cruelty free store. You can make seitan from whole wheat flour, but it involves a lot of washing of the dough to remove the starch component and I am trying to reduce water use (we are very low on water in early Spring before the rain comes). So I bought a kilo of VWG and decided to shortcut the process. At some point (when we are water rich) I would like to try making seitan from scratch using my ground whole wheat flour.

Ingredients

2 cups Vital Wheat Gluten

2 tsp paprika

1 tsp black pepper

2/3 tsp nutmeg

2 tsp onion powder

2 tsp garlic powder

1 cup of water with 10 Tsp soy sauce

2 TBSP lemon juice

Method

Mix the dry ingredients together well, then add small amounts of liquid at a time. Mix really well between additions of liquid and when you can form a dough ball, use hands to squish the mass together into whatever shape you choose. Simmer the mass in a pot of stock for about 35-45 minutes.

Ingredients for stock

4 cups water

2 vegetable stock cubes

1 onion

2 garlic cloves

1/2 cup soy sauce

Any herbs you choose (I didn’t use any in the mix today, I will add them to the sausage rolls)

The seitan can be stored in the stock in the fridge for a week or it can be frozen (without the stock) for up to 3 months (apparently, mine doesn’t last that long).

Seitan can be used in any recipe in place of meat. Today I am mincing it to use in sausage rolls. I have used it cubed in stir fry and casserole, minced in meat loaf and sliced in sandwiches. I also plan to use it as a steak one day, to see if I can wean my carnivorous partner off his occasional steak indulgence.

The sausage rolls where made by mixing chopped herbs (parsley, thyme, oregano and rosemary) with almond paste and minced seitan, they rolling the meat in puff pastry, brushing with soy milk and baking for 15 minutes in a medium oven.

This is the sausage rolls I was trying to make…
These are the sausage rolls I made.

I still prefer the cauliflower and mushroom mince for minced recipes with sauces as the texture is better, but seitan is great for recipes that need to stick together in any kind of shape (like sausage rolls and meat loaf). I also think that multiple sources of iron and protein (and all those other nutrients we need) is a better way to be sure we get what we need.

Soy and agar hard cheese- still looking for the grail

I found this recipe while cruising cooking blogs (yes, I am officially now that boring). It is supposed to make an American hard cheese… sort of like the processed cheese used to make cheese sticks (for those who went to primary school in the 70s and 80s). The original recipe called for almond milk, and since I didn’t have any almonds soaked to make the milk… I used soy milk instead. I hope that won’t affect the taste too much. The rest of this recipe is straight from the blog I found it on.

Ingredients

2 cup soy milk

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp miso paste, any color

2 tbsp nutritional yeast

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

2 1/2 tsp sugar

1 1/3 cup water

2 1/2 tbsp agar agar powder

Instructions

In a medium size sauce pan on medium heat, add in all ingredients EXCEPT for the water and the agar agar powder.

Whisk together until the miso paste has completely dissolved. Taste, and add any extra flavorings at this time if you choose.

In a separate sauce pan, add in water and agar agar powder. Turn on the heat after you add in two ingredients and stir together on medium heat until the agar agar powder has completely dissolved. This should take 2-3 minutes.

Once the agar is dissolved, pour the mixture into the blender with the milk mixture and blend for a minute or two until it is well combined.Pour the mixture into a mold and put it in the fridge to set. This part needs to be done quickly, because the agar begins to set very fast as it cools.

I decided to not take the ingredient and process photos for this post; they all look the same anyway. There seemed to be a lot of liquid in my chosen mold, but I decided to see if it would firm up in the fridge.

The final cheese took about three hours to set and cool completely. Then I upended the mold onto a lunch box lid and cut the cheese straight away. The results look like processed cheese; it has that particular rubbery look and feel that Kraft cheese sticks had (from memory). It is a bit ‘wetter’ than the real thing, and by that I mean it is sort of … umm… jelly ish. The texture is more of a really hard jelly than a squeezed and squashed emulsion. I put some slices onto crackers and the taste is OK, cheesy and pleasant, but not close to real cheese. I think it will make a good cheese for topping lasagne and toasting in sandwiches, but it is not the grail. On with the search.

Vegan butter batch

I also made some vegan butter for cooking purposes, trying out a new recipe I found. I think I was a bit slow getting this butter into the mold. No problems though, I will use it all for baking anyway.

Bagged up ready for the freezer.

The epic story of the Please-everyone-lasagne

Our story begins with me wishing we could eat lasagne; I love it. We have had vegetarian versions for years, but we needed a vegan option and, to make matters just a bit more fiddly, it now had to be tomato free. My partner has discovered that tomato products give him heartburn, which is inconvenient and made me consider replacing the partner to avoid having to find new recipes. In the end I decided that replacing the recipes was the least work and the lasagne adventure began.

I considered all the elements that make up a lasagne; mince and tomato sauce (with vegetables added), a bechamel sauce of some description, lasagne pasta sheets and a hard (or semi hard) cheese for melting. I also considered the order these things need to be made in so as to have everything ready in the appropriate time frame.

First thing to make is the vegan mince substitute. There is a separate blog post explaining how to make this stuff here. I made up a large batch and put several meals worth of vegan mince in the freezer for future meals.

Vegan mince

Then I made up a simple vegan lasagne sheet batch using this recipe. The pasta needs to sit and chill in the fridge for a little while before being used, so it made sense to make the batch early in the day and have it ready.

The vegan mozzarella almost done

Instead of the bechamel sauce I decided to use the vegan ricotta cheese I already know how to make. I added just a touch more lemon juice to the recipe and a splash of soy milk to make the results more sauce-like. Of course I needed to make tofu for that; this time I used my emergency stash of carton soy milk to make it up.

Soy milk becoming tofu

The tomato-free part proved harder than I thought. I needed a red sauce that could be used on the mince to add that signature colour that stains all the plastic storage containers (otherwise it just isn’t lasagne). I went looking, and eventually found a recipe that I could live with. I didn’t take photos of the sauce, but it ended up as an orange goo, that tasted fairly good, but wasn’t tomato at all. It didn’t help matters that the tin of beetroot I was remembering being in the back of the cupboard proved to be a tin of pineapple. I think the beetroot is added to make the orange into a closer-to-tomato red.

I made a quick vegan mozzarella cheese that could be sliced up and ‘melted’ on the top of the lasagne and whipped that up. I have been making mozzarella using the Mad Millie recipe for a little while and it is reliable, if not really cheesy.

Vegan lasagne ready to go in the oven

Making this lasagne took me most of the day, with two extra rounds of washing up. It tasted fairly good, but not good enough to justify that length of time in the kitchen. I will have some of the elements prepared in the freezer for next time though.

I do like the vegan mince recipe though. It is fast and makes up enough in one batch to make the mess worth it. I think we will be swapping over to this mince for at least some meals.

Vegan meat substitute – cauliflower mince

I am always on the lookout for a cheaper way to make meat substitute for our family. We buy Quorn meat substitutes from the supermarket at the moment and that stuff is expensive, so I continually look for other high protein, high iron plant based meat substitutes. I found this recipe recently and thought I would give it a try.

It is basically a mix of cauliflower and mushrooms grated into fine pieces with 1/2 cup of blended nuts and some flavourings.

I used;

1 medium cauliflower, grated

4 cups of grated mushrooms

1/2 cup macadamia nuts (blended)

1/2 red capsicum

1/2 cup tomato paste

1 teaspoon Pink Murray River salt

Black pepper

1 tablespoon paprika

I blended and grated up everything then stirred it all together until it looked like mince. Next I spread it onto two baking trays with silicon sheets on them and bunged the trays into the oven on a medium heat.

Blended macadamia nuts
Mushrooms
A cauliflower head
The added flavourings ready to mix

I had to set my phone alarm for 10 minute intervals so I remembered to turn the mixture and stir it up somewhat. The goal is for the ‘mince’ to brown and get a little bit crispy in places. It really helps to develop the meat-like texture. The total cooking time was about 50 minutes; a long time for me to maintain focus in the kitchen.

On the trays ready to cook up

When it was ready… eventually… I made a lasagne out of it and had just a bit left to freeze for another recipe.

The vegan lasagne I am fairly proud of.

I really like this recipe; it tastes good, is high in whole proteins and iron (thanks to the mushrooms) and it is reasonably cheap to make. The down side is the long cooking time, but I think I will just make large batches so I don’t have to do it often.

Sourdough choc chip biscuits- refrigerator version

I found a great recipe for sourdough choc chip biscuits that you can mix up in a huge batch and let sit in the fridge for a week, only baking what you want at any one time. This way the biscuits are always fresh out of the oven and you are less likely to eat 24 in a sitting (unless you can find the energy to make a second batch.

Unfortunately, I can’t find the original blog post for the recipe. So I thank the mysterious sourdough baker who posted this recipe originally (of course, I changed a few little things too). Here is my version;

Refrigerator sourdough choc chip biscuits

Ingredients

  • 0.75 teaspoon, Baking Soda
  • 50 gram, Pure Vegetable Oil
  • 1 tsp, Baking powder
  • 2 teaspoon, Vanilla Essence
  • 150 g(s), Sourdough Starter
  • 0.50 tsp, Salt
  • 175 gr, Wholewheat flour
  • 110 g, Brown sugar
  • 1 cup(s), dark choc chips
  • 100 g, White Sugar

Method

The ingredients are listed in weight (some of them anyway) because it is a really easy way to get your proportions of ingredients right (if you have a kitchen scale with a tare button that is). I just bung a mixing bowl onto the kitchen scales and weight out or add all the ingredients except the baking soda and the choc chips. Then I mix them together really well until they look like biscuit dough (or my arm gets tired). After that I add the baking soda and mix it in, then the choc chips.

I usually rest the dough in a container in the fridge for at least an hour or so. Then I use two spoons to scoop up and drop spoonfuls of dough onto a baking sheet with a silicon sheet on it. I put them in a medium heat (200 Celsius) oven for ten minutes then let them cool on the baking sheets.

This dough can be stored in a container with a lid (to stop drying out) in the fridge for about a week. It will make about 24 biscuits (depending on size).

Everyone loves these biscuits and they make great deserts. They are also one more way to use sourdough starter discard and make me feel like I have my life under control (in the kitchen anyway).

Ricotta from tofu – still searching for the grail

I have been home sick a fair bit lately (I am going through some fairly intense dizzy spells) and that has given me a lot of time to read interesting blog posts. I found a blog called ‘Simple Vegan Blog’ which has a treasure trove of interesting recipes and tutorials, among them was a really simple ricotta recipe made with tofu.

Gozleme is good comfort food.

I have been making small amounts of tofu at home and adding it to stir fry and other hidden dishes, but to make this recipe I had to go out and buy some as I haven’t made any in a while and I never make more than 100g anyway. Everything else we have in the pantry or freezer. I wanted to make some spinach and ricotta gozleme (sourdough, of course) that my daughter could also enjoy, so first I had to find a way to make vegan ricotta, then make the gozleme. As you can imagine that took up half a day and made a lot of washing up. If I am going to make that much mess, I like to make something that can be frozen and used at a later date. Making multiple meals at one time cuts the clean up in half in the long term (because I won’t have to do that clean up next time I want that meal). Also, I really like to try new stuff.

After making the gozleme dough and putting it to rest in the fridge, I put the big bunch of spinach on to steam and got to work making the ricotta. The recipe is so simple it doesn’t really count as a recipe, it’s more guidelines really.

Take about 275g of tofu (I used firm), chop it up and put it in the blender (I used the bullet blender and did two batches) with one tablespoon of lemon juice (I used some frozen juice I had), two tablespoons of nutritional yeast (I used three actually) and a teaspoon of salt (I used Murray River Pink salt). Blend it up until it is the required texture and there you have it… vegan ricotta.

This is the vegan ricotta after the spinach and onion were blended into it.

I blended the spinach and some onion into the ricotta to make my gozleme filling. It turned out very well and my daughter came searching for more after we had eaten some for lunch and I had frozen the rest for work lunches (that’s when you know it’s a success).

Vegan ricotta can be used anywhere you would use dairy ricotta apparently; in both hot and cold dishes, even as a dip. I’m not sure why finding vegan versions of animal products makes me feel so satisfied, but it does. This was a very flavourful addition to our vegan cheese library, but it isn’t hard cheese, so the search goes on.

Sourdough waffles

In my perennial search for new things to make with sourdough discard, I discovered a recipe for waffles. My partner loves waffles and will occasionally buy a pack to eat with ice-cream. The hope that the results of my kitchen experiments might actually be eaten by my family keeps me interested in life, so I thought I would give the waffles a go.

I have all of the ingredients on hand (or a reasonable substitute), but I don’t have a waffle iron. I went looking on Ebay and found a fairly cheap ($40) waffle iron that goes on the stovetop. Then I forgot all about waffles for six weeks while I waited for the waffle iron to arrive. I found a great recipe for sourdough choc chip biscuits that was a great hit with everyone (I will post the recipe soon) and have been making bulk batches of them for everyone.

When the waffle iron arrived in the mail, I seasoned the cast iron by rubbing it with vegetable oil and heating it on the wood heater for a few hours. This process makes the iron look like it is a hundred years old and may have been used by your great, great grandmother to hunt rabbits in the far distant past. Then I was ready to make waffles.

The first part of the recipe calls for the flour, water and sourdough starter to be mixed together and left on a counter overnight (deliberate neglect… right up my alley). I didn’t have enough wholewheat flour to do the job (waiting for the next shipment of wheat to be ground into flour) so I added 1 cup of rye flour and 1 cup of wholewheat flour.

The next morning I threw in all the other ingredients except the baking soda, and mixed it up. I put the waffle iron on the stove to heat and added the baking soda to the mix.

I oiled up the hot waffle iron and poured in exactly one cup of the bubbly mix. Closing the lid fast is a bit of a skill, the lid has to be closed before the batter reaches the edge of the iron so it doesn’t leak out. It takes about two minutes each side (you flip the iron periodically) to cook them through.

All together, it took me about half an hour to make the batch up, and I made a small batch of blueberry sauce to go over my waffles while I did it.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

This is a fairly easy way to use up sourdough starter, and I am left with a lovely pile of waffles to freeze for future breakfasts too.

Tips;

If the waffle iron starts making smoke… get the waffle out of there and turn the heat down a bit.

Find a good set of leather gloves for opening and closing the waffle iron… getting the tea towel stuck in the waffle is no fun.

Give the waffle iron a long time to cool down before cleaning the stove… may result in blisters.

A straight edged screw driver makes a good scraper for cleaning the stove of any leaks during over filling of the waffle iron… use gently to avoid scratches to the stove.

#coronavirus- making kombucha

I don’t like soft drinks; something about the carbonated bubbles makes me avoid them. I do like to try new things (I’m adventurous with food); I happened to try kombucha one afternoon and to my surprise I loved the flavour. So I went looking for how to make it (because, while I may be adventurous, I am also cheap).

So I watched a few YouTube videos and read some blog posts about making Kombucha and how good for you it is. Then I found a local (ish) company that sells Kombucha kits, so of course I bought one.

How does kombucha work? The short answer is; the magic of fermentation. The sugars in the tea are converted to alcohol by the yeast community in the scoby (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast), then the bacteria in the scoby feed on the alcohol to produce a kind of vinegar. The tea also provides a little caffeine, tannins and other flavours to the brew. It is possible to make a kind of kombucha from oak leaves (but I haven’t tried that one yet). The scoby makes a new layer each time you make a batch of kombucha, and needs to be divided every now and then. It can be used to make fruit leathers, or a vegan leather substitute. It can also be given away to friends or used to start a new kombucha batch, or even used to make soap or other skin care products (I look forward to making scoby soap). After all that reading, I was excited to start making my own.

When the kit arrived in the mail, it contained a glass 8 litre jar with a plastic tap, a piece of closely woven fabric (and a rubber band), a bag of tea bags, some sugar and a sealed bag of slime (a scoby). Instructions were included and easy to follow.

I have made about 4 batches using this kit so far and it is an easy process that doesn’t require a lot of fiddling about. So I thought I would go through it here.

Before beginning the process of bottling kombucha, boil the kettle and make a strong pot of tea. I have only used black tea so far, but apparently you can also use green tea and white tea (any tea without flavourings is OK). This pot of tea needs to steep for a few minutes until it is very strong. I use 9 tea bags per batch and I make it in the coffee plunger so I can squeeze the tea bags and get the last of the dregs from them.

When the tea is steeped enough, I pour it into a bowl and mix in 3/4 of a cup of raw sugar. Apparently you can use any kind of sugar (and even honey) as long as the yeast has enough sugar to convert to alcohol (and then to vinegar). The sugar needs to be dissolved completely, so I give the tea a mix with a spoon and set it aside to cool a bit while I bottle the previous batch.

I was lucky enough to be given a supply of those lovely Grolsch beer bottles by a friend (Thanks Lucille), they are perfect for making kombucha in. I wash and disinfect 8 of these bottles, including scrubbing the little rubber seals on the stopper. I pour some fruit juice into each bottle; I have tried orange juice, apple and black current juice and now mango juice. In the future I will try ginger and other herb teas (with sugar) and maybe some fresh juiced fruit from our trees (mulberry springs to mind). The possibilities here are endless, as long as there is some sugar in the flavouring it will make bubbles in the brew.

Now for the moment of truth; bottling the brew. The tap on the bottom of the jar is very useful here, I just fill each bottle almost to the top using the tap. I leave the scoby in the jar and fill bottles until the scoby is sitting about level to the tap (for me that is 8 bottles). These bottles are sealed and set aside in my kitchen cupboard for 2 days, then moved to the fridge or given away to friends. I do label the bottles (mostly because I give them away to friends).

Now to top up the brewer for the next batch. I add another 2 litres of cold water to the sweet tea in the bowl to cool the lot down to body temperature, then pour it into the top of the brewer. Sometimes I need to top up the jar with a bit more water.

The new brew then sits quietly on the kitchen counter next to the sourdough until next week. The brew time varies with the daily temperature and with individual taste preferences.

The finished product is a lovely sparkling, fruit flavoured drink that is apparently good for digestion and internal bacteria balance (with occasional globs of gelatinous pre-scoby). I pour my kombucha into the glass through a tea strainer to remove the inevitable little bits of slime (they are harmless, but gross).

Now I have made a few batches, I have some scoby extras to play with; I’m not sure what to try first, but if you are a local and want to have a go brewing kombucha, leave a comment here and I will eventually get a scoby to you.