I found a recipe for dolmades… I love dolmades! This recipe uses nasturtium leaf as the wrapper, rather than the usual grape vine leaf. I have been trying to use things from the garden that the possums and bandicoots don’t eat, my reasoning is that if I can get my family to eat what does grow here, I won’t have to be disappointed by trying to grow what they will eat, but I fail at growing.
I harvested about 20 leaves from the nasturtium plants… there were plenty. I also cut a few flowers to add to the stuffing mix while I was there.
Then I put a cup of rice and a handful of dried peas into the hay box cooker with enough water to cover. I put it on the stove and got it boiling before popping it all into the container.
While the rice cooked, I fried some onions, grated carrot and garlic with some sundried tomato and pepper. I also added some paprika at the last minute.
When it was all cooked, I chopped the nasturtium flowers and a cup of spinach (and other green things) and stirred the lot in together.
Rolling the stuffing up in the leaves with a bung hand was a mission, but I got it done in the end.
Lastly, I poured about 3/4 cup of vegetable stock over the little bundles in my Dutch oven and put it in the oven on medium heat for 40 minutes.
The result was a great tasting dolmade that had a very weak wrap. They taste spicy and flavourful, and are filling, so I think I will make them again.
I recently had the most delightful desert at a friend’s house; Choc ripple cake. I have never had it before and I really enjoyed it, so, of course, I had to have a go at making a vegan version for my family.
The cake uses a lot of whipped cream, so I needed to find a vegan whipped cream recipe. This video seemed to be the simplest one to start with. I combined the first ingredients;
1 cup soy milk
1/4 cup raw cashews
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 pinches salt
Then blended them until they were smooth. Next I added 2 cups of oil slowly while continuing to blend (or whip) the mixture. Within ten minutes I had a credible whipped cream and it tasted delicious.
Then I just whacked the whole thing together and stored it in the fridge to do its magic.
I’ve got to say, this is a VERY tempting vegan dessert.
Recently I decided to start paying attention to my iron consumption (having been diagnosed with an iron deficiency). To achieve this I downloaded an app called MyFitnessPal and logged everything I eat into it each day. This little app counts calories, but it also counts macronutrients (iron among them). After about two weeks of tracking, I discovered that my iron intake is fairly low and so is my protein. To combat this trend I decided to make some vegan protein powder and up my leafy greens and legume consumption.
I have a favourite YouTube channel when it comes to making interesting food for us; Chef Jana. She has a recipe for protein powder that seems to work for us. So off I went to the food cupboard looking for ingredients.
We had most of them, I did however have to substitute hemp seed for flax seed. It was so simple to measure it all out into the blender and hit the button. I poured the powder into a big jar and we started adding it to smoothies, salads, baked goods (vegan brownies… yum) and even mashed potatoes. The result has been amazing! If the tracking app can be believed.
I feel a bit more energetic too. Other health issues remain, but that is the inevitable march of time (for which there is no cure).
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;
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.
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.
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;
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.
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.
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).
Now it is time to make the coating…
1 cup soy milk
11/2 tablespoons vinegar (I used my home made mead vinegar)
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
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.
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.
First I blended all the ingredients for the base together;
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.
2 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…
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.
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).
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.
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.
Press the cake into the prepared muffin pan, smooth over the top, and place in the freezer while making the cream cheese frosting.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
When the tofu is all pressed out, I unwrap the block and put it into a lunch box filled with water in the fridge.
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?
Since this is my digital cook book, I thought I would share yet another sourdough discard recipe. I do love brownies, and these ones use some more of the sourdough discard. I used this recipe as inspiration and, of course, went slightly off track.
1/2 cup aquafaba (chickpea water)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup + 2 tbsp icing sugar
100g vegan block ‘butter’
150g dark chocolate chips
1 cup sourdough discard, 100% hydration
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
70g ground almonds
3 tbsp cornflour
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1/4 tsp fine table salt
flaky salt, for sprinkling (optional)
Whisk the aquafaba:
Place the aquafaba and cream of tartar (if using) in a food processor or a bowl with a mixer thingy. Whisk on high speed until it becomes a thick pale foam, like whipped egg whites.
Whilst continuing to whisk, add the sugar a few tablespoons at a time.
Once all the sugar has been added, continue to whisk for 5 minutes more to ensure as much sugar as possible has dissolved. It should look glossy, thick and opaque white, like egg whites whisked to semi-stiff peaks.
Melt the chocolate & butter:
Place the vegan butter and broken up chocolate into a small pot and place over a low heat. Stir until almost fully melted. Remove from the heat and set aside so the residual heat can melt it all fully.
Once fully melted, stir the sourdough discard and vanilla extract into the pot of melted chocolate/butter mixture. It may look kind of split/grainy but this is fine.
Combine & Bake:
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a 19 x 25 cm rectangular brownie pan with baking paper.
Mix around 1/4 of the whisked aquafaba into the melted chocolate mixture. You don’t have to be gentle here as this step is to help loosen the texture of the chocolatey mixture.
Now pour that loosened chocolatey mixture into the bowl of whisked aquafaba. Sift the cocoa powder, ground almonds, cornflour, bicarb and salt on top (see notes if you don’t have a sieve).
Use a spatula to fold the mixture together gently, trying to maintain as much of that air in there as possible. Make sure you get right to the bottom of the bowl and scrape the sides too!
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes – the top should look dry, matte and the brownies shouldn’t wobble when you shake the pan. If you insert a toothpick into the centre, it should come out with some thick, gooey batter (NOT loose, drippy batter!) attached to it.
Remove from the oven and run a knife around the edges whilst they’re hot to loosen any bits which may be stuck. Leave to cool for 20-30 minutes before removing from the tray and cutting into squares. They will sink in the centre as they cool so may crack a bit as this happens. You can sprinkle them with some flaky salt as well now.
This was a great tasting brownie; so light and tangy with a gooey centre. It was really crumbly though and didn’t hold together well in the container.