Monday, 22 August 2011

Vegan Party Menus Part 2: Tomato, Olive and Red Wine Dip

This one was the perfect companion to the Sweet Potato and Sunflower Seed Dip.

1 onion, finely chopped
Olive oil, for frying
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp dried mixed herbs
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1 can crushed tomatos
3 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp red wine
1/3 cup sliced black olives (although if you are using 'sliced olives' from a jar rather than slicing your own deli kalamata olives I recommend using half a cup because they have a less strong flavour)

To Make:
1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and sauté the onions and garlic until soft and transparent. Add the mixed herbs and sweet paprika and fry for a further minute until the herbs are fragrant. 
2. Add the remaining ingredients except the olives and heat through. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
3. Remove from the heat and stir the olives through.
4. Serve warm or at room temperature with crackers and/or celery & carrot sticks.

Note: This is also a great base for pasta! If you have any leftovers (which you won't because it's awesome) you can stir it through some hot pasta with a tin of diced tomatoes and some chopped basil and you have a fantastic pasta!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Vegan Party Menus Part 1: Sweet Potato and Sunflower Seed Dip

Out there in the world there seems to exist this myth that Vegans are very difficult to cater for and inviting them to your party is just a pain - but seriously those guys from Mythbusters should get onto this one because truly Vegans are not hard to feed in fact you will find it to be cheaper than feeding your meatlover friends. The other awesome thing about Vegan party food is that everybody can enjoy it and it is so tasty that everybody loves it - that means you don't have to have separate designated food for each of your guests depending on their eating preferences. This recipe is also made Gluten Free by substituting tamari for soy sauce, which means all your guests can be eating the same thing! (Unless they have some sort of weird sweet potato allergy).

So, next time you are having friends over, Vegan or otherwise, check out this series of recipes (that I will be adding gradually) all of which I served at my most recent birthday party to very enthusiastic guests!

Sweet Potato and Sunflower Seed Dip

1 medium-large sweet potato (choose the size depending on how many people you are feeding)
1 onion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Olive oil, for frying
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp tamari (or substitute soy sauce)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
Cracked pepper to taste

To Make:
1. Preheat the oven to a moderate temperature (about 150-180 degrees Celsius). Spread the sunflower seeds out evenly on a tray and toast in the oven for about 3 minutes or until they go brown and smell intoxicating. Watch them the whole time though or you'll burn them. Seriously do it.
2. Peel the sweet potato and chop into chunks. Boil them in water until they are nice and soft and then strain and put aside.
3. While your sweet potatoes are boiling you can heat some olive oil in a saucepan and add the onions and garlic. Sauté until the onions are completely cooked and then add the spices. Fry for a further 1-2 minutes until the spices are fragrant. Turn off the heat.
4. The next step you can do one of 3 ways 1) in the saucepan you used to cook the ingredients (this is what I did), 2) in a mortar and pestle because you ROCK and mortar and pestles are awesome or 3) in your food processor (but then you have to wash the damn thing up afterwards booooo). So... pick your vessel and combine the onion and the sweet potato and mash/pestle/process until smooth. Add the tamari and cracked pepper to taste and mash a bit more.
5. Stir in the sunflower seeds (not in your food processor because then they will get all ground up), leaving some aside to sprinkle on top so it looks pretty.
6. Set aside and serve either warm or at room temperature (preferably not chilled, so if you made it the night before (which is a very smart thing to do) make sure you get it out of the fridge a couple of hours before you are going to serve it so it can become room temp).

It's dip so serve it with carrot & celery sticks, crackers and/or corn chips.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Multigrain Minestrone Soup with Chestnuts

Adding chestnuts to just about everything in is a habit I picked up when living in China when roasted chestnuts were sold cheap on the side of the road all winter. They add a lovely nutty sweetness to this soup which is a perfect one for using up all the little bits of vegies in your fridge, I just used whatever bits of vegies I had in my fridge so you can substitute any vegies that you have.

5-6 raw chestnuts
1 litre vegetable stock
1/2 cup green lentils
3 tbsp brown rice
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 tbsp bulghur
3 tbsp quinoa
2 carrots, diced
1 celery stick, diced
1 cup of finely chopped cauliflower
3-4 button mushrooms, diced
5 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1/3 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 zucchini, diced
1/3 cup soup pasta
1-2 handfuls of baby spinach
Salt and pepper to taste

To Make:
1. Preheat the oven or grill to high (as in over 200 degrees Celsius) and roast the chestnuts until they are slightly blackened on the outside and the shells are cracking. Remove from the oven and let cool before removing the shells, incuding as much of the dark brown skin underneath the shell as possible. Chop the chestnuts roughly and set aside to use later.
2. Bring the vegetable stock to the boil and add the lentils, brown rice and garlic. Simmer covered for 10 minutes while you prep all your other vegies.
3. Add the quinoa, bulghur, carrot, celery, cauliflower, mushroom, tomato paste, paprika and peas and simmer for a further 10 minutes or until the grains are well cooked.
4. Once all the vegies and grains are cooked add the pasta, zucchini and chestnuts and simmer, stirring frequently, until the pasta is cooked (you may need to add a bit more water to stop all the pasta and grains sticking to the bottom).
5. Once the pasta is cooked through turn off the heat and stir the baby spinach leaves through and then serve immediately.

Serves 3-4.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Vegan Lime and Coconut Scones

Not only are these scones absolutely delicious, light and fluffy, and just seriously rad/awesome, they are also incredibly quick and easy to make. The secret? A butterknife and hands! These ones are perfect with our Homemade Strawberry and Mulberry Jam!
So make a batch of these babies for afternoon tea/morning tea/anytime you want and scone it up!

1 3/4 cups of plain flour
2 level teaspoons of baking powder
3/4 of a cup and 1 tablespoon of coconut milk
1/4 of a cup of ricebran oil
1 tablespoon of either agave nectar or maple syrup
The zest of 1 lime.

How To Make:
1. Preheat your oven to 2oo degrees celcius.
2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and make a well in the centre.
3. After zesting the lime, mix the zest into the ricebran oil and pour the oil, coconut milk and agave nectar/maple syrup into the well you made in the flour.
4. Arm yourself with a butterknife and briefly stir the scone mixture until it is all well combined into dough (about 2 minutes).
5. Sprinkle some flour over a flat surface (i.e. bench, chopping board) and gently knead your dough on it for about a minute.
6. Spread and flatten the dough until it is about 2cm flat and use a circular biscuit cutter (or any cutter you like!) to cut the dough into, well, circles...
7. Get a tray, line it with baking paper and place your soon-to-be scones onto the tray, quite close together.
8. Bake them for 12-15 minutes.
9. Remove your scones from the oven and serve them warm with a good quality 100% fruit jam (I used black cherry). Enjoy them while they last!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Four Types of Lentils (with Broad Beans)

Lentils are awesome! :)

1 bunch shallots/spring onions (either are fine)
½ tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin
8 cups vegetable stock
½ cup blue lentils (or ‘French Lentils’)
½ cup green lentils
½ cup yellow split peas
¼ cup red lentils
2 carrots, diced
½ cup broad beans (frozen if fresh not available)
1 zucchini, diced
Salt and pepper to taste

To Make:
1. Heat some oil in a heavy based saucepan or soup pot. Slice the white parts of the shallots and put the green parts aside to use as garnish (or to put in a salad for some other meal). Sauté the white parts of the shallots in the oil with the fennel seeds until the shallots are soft and the fennel seeds are fragrant. Add the cumin and sauté a further minute.
2. Add the vegetable stock, and all 4 types of lentils. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Add the diced carrots and broad beans and simmer for a further 20 minutes, or until the lentils are nice and soft. Check the water level to make sure there is enough water and add more (boiling hot) water if the water has reduced too much.
4. Add the zucchini and season to taste with salt and pepper. Once zucchini is cooked serve.

Serves 4.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Vegan Mandarin and Goji Berry Mini Cake

When you live with only 2 people in a household you tend to need an event to make cake because a whole cake between 2 people is really just too much (especially if one of them isn't that into cake - it isn't me). But cake is great so you still want to be able to enjoy it for just 2 right? The solution is Minicake - my new favourite thing. It is perfect for 2 to 4 people so you won't feel too guilty for eating a whole cake between you. This quantity fits perfectly for a cake tin which is 19-20cm diameter and about 7cm high. So if you want to make a full sized cake just double the quantity (or if you have a huge mofo cake tin then triple it).

2 mandarins
1 cup soy or rice milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups plain wholemeal flour
1 tbsp arrowroot powder
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 tsp Chinese 5 Spice
1 tsp orange extract
1/3 cup Goji Berries*

1 cup margarine (ie Nuttelex because that stuff is awesome)
3 1/2 cups icing mixture
1 tsp vanilla extract
1- 2 tsp mandarin juice (optional)
1 mandarin, to garnish

To Make:
1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celcuis (or a little less if your oven is a very hot one).
2. In a large mixing bowl combine the soy milk and apple cider and vinegar. Whisk to combine and set aside for a minute or two to let it curdle a bit.
3. Add the sugar, oil, vanilla and orange extract and whisk to combine.
4. Sift in the flour, bicarb, baking powder, arrowroot, and 5 spice and whisk to combine. Don't worry if the mix isn't completely smooth, a few lumps are fine. Divide the mandarin into segments and chop each segment in half (removing any seeds as you go), you should have about a cup of chopped mandarin. Add the mandarin pieces and Goji berries to the mix and stir through.
5. Grease your 20cm diameter mini cake tin well and line the bottom with greaseproof baking paper. Pour your mix into the cake tin and put in the oven for approximately 50 minutes. Don't open the door while cooking to check it though! Cook for 50 minutes and then check that it is cooked by inserting a sharp knife into the centre of the cake, if it comes out clean then your cake is done. If not put back in the oven for 5-10mins.
6. Turn the cake out onto a cooling rack and allow to cook while you make the icing.
7. Combine all the icing ingredients in a bowl and beat using an electric mixer (or good old elbow grease if that is your thing) until fluffy.
8. When the cake is cool top it with the icing and decorate it with mandarin segments. I decorated mine (as you can see in the picture) with a pomegranate that I had lying around that needed to be used up... but seriously who has a pomegranate just lying around?? So you can use any other kind of fruit for the contrasting colour - I recommend fresh or frozen raspberries or chopped fresh strawberries.

*Goji berries have become a bit of a fad lately and they are available in the health food section of most supermarkets. But unless you are a rich sucker you are much better shopping for Goji berries in a Chinese supermarket, China town or at a Chinese Herbal Medicine dispensary. They will be much more reasonably priced!