Sunday, 30 September 2012

Afghan Recipes

Wow, the end of September came around very fast! As you may have noticed, September has been Afghanistan Food Month, which has been a wonderful experience for me. Sadly work has been really busy lately and I got very sick around the middle of the month, so I didn't end up getting to cook all the dishes that I wanted to. I think I will have to try some of them later in the year and then post them up retrospectively. Of the dishes that I did cook and post, however, I was incredibly impressed! All six of the dishes I posted were truly delicious and many of them I will definitely be making again.

Here is a recap of the mouthwatering delicacies from Afghanistan this month, the savoury were amazing - but the sweets stole my heart!


Mashawa - Afghan Spicy Beans
These beans were adapted from a meaty version that I found online. My version is purely beans and fantastic spices! It uses mung beans, chickpeas and kidney beans and was actually quite quick and easy to prepare. It was very popular with my dinner guests, and I think it would be perfect for taking to a dinner party or potluck. Check out the recipe here.

Sweet Potato and Coriander Bolani
This Afghan dish of pan fried filled flatbread made a big impression on me! These ones are filled with sweet potato, coriander and shallots. It's filling traditionally encompasses shallots (scallions) with potato, pumpkin or sweet potato - however, I think that the possibilities for fillings are endless and I'm planning to have some fun experimenting with fillings now that I have this recipe. Check out the recipe here.

Tofu Palau
Qabili Palau is the national dish of Afghanistan, so I really wanted to make it even though it is traditionally make with chicken and/or lamb. I decided to give it a go anyway, substituting delicious spice marinated tofu instead. It was absolutely delicious, and I'll definitely be making this again! Check out the recipe here.


Vegan Halwa e Zardak
This one sounds a little strange, I know. I'm sure a lot of people would turn away at the thought of carrot pudding for dessert, but I implore you not to! Carrot and dessert are great friends (remember carrot cake?) and if you didn't think so before then this creamy carrot pudding flavoured with cardamom and rosewater and topped with delicious crunchy pistachios and almonds will convert you. Check out the recipe here.

Awb e Dundawn
These heavenly little bites of pistachio, rosewater and cardamom just melt in your mouth and leave you reaching for another. They're soft and crumby like shortbread, and use the holy trinity of Afghan flavour combinations! I think these are possibly the best biscuits I have ever made. Check out the recipe here.

Asabia el Aroos
I was orginially planning on making a big pistachio baklava for Afghanistan month, but I decided to try something a little different instead. These Asabia el Aroos are called "Bride's Fingers" in English, and they're actually quicker and easier than baklava (and a little bit healthier!). They're filled with pistachios and cardamom and dipped in orange blossom syrup, and once I tasted them I was a little bit in love! These will definitely be made again. Check out the recipe here.

So - What's next?
Next month I will be back to Europe and exploring the delights of German cuisine! It should be very exciting, although I have a feeling it might be more of a sweets focused month - bring on all the German cakes! Keep your eyes on the blog for my German vegan creations.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Spicy Tofu Palau (Afghanistan's National Dish - Vegan style!)

Every month when I feature recipes from a different country around the world, I usually have a huge cooking blitz one day early in the month. I'll cook something like 8 different dishes from that country and then invite some friends around to help me eat it all! This works well because not only can I have a day of focused cooking and photographing, but I can also get feedback from a group of people on which dishes were the absolute best and which ones didn't quite make the grade.

The downside, however, is that I'm generally running around frantically trying to get it all together in the last hour or so before people arrive, so invariably there is one or two dishes that fly a bit under the radar in terms of photography! This is one of them! It's not the greatest photo I've ever posted, but it was one of the most popular dishes of the whole night, so there was no way that I wasn't going to post it! 

The other reason that I definitely wanted to post this one, is because Qabili Palau is the national dish of Afghanistan! It's also not very vegan! It's usually made with chicken, lamb or both. So, you'll have to forgive me for this not very traditional recipe, but I decided I would substitute some delicious spice marinated tofu - not because I thought it was authentic, but because I thought it would be incredibly delicious!

This is probably going to be my last post this month from Afghanistan, as the month is almost over! Sadly I didn't get a chance to try or to post all the recipes that I wanted to, so I may have to try some of them a bit later and then add them up! Check out my other Afghan recipes in the links below the recipes, and if you'd like to request a country to be featured leave me a comment on this post.

400g hard tofu, drained
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cups basmati rice
2 onions, diced
5 tbsp vegetable oil
2 carrots, sliced into long thin pieces
1 cup raisins
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 cup vegetable stock, hot (or use a vegetable based 'chicken' stock, such as Massel)
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
1/2 cup almonds, chopped

Palau Spice Mix
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp black pepper

To Make
1. Wash the rice well and soak in plenty of cold water for 1 hour.
2. Combine the spices to make the spice mix.
3. Slice the tofu into long strips (about the size and thickness of hot potato chips). Lay about half of them out in a layer (I do it in a rectangle tupperware container so that I can put the lid on and shake it all up) and sprinkle 1 tsp of the spice mix over it. Lay a the remaining tofu on top and sprinkle another teaspoon of the spice mix. Drizzle the 2 tbsp olive oil over the top, put the lid on and shake it all up (you can also just mix it in a bowl and mix it around every now and then). Leave to marinate for at least 20 minutes, preferably 30 minutes.
4. Place a large non stick pan (I just used my wok - not very Afghan but it did the job beautifully!) over a medium heat and add 3 tbsp vegetable oil. Add the onions and the carrots and fry for 3-4 minutes, or until the carrots are slightly tender, but not quite cooked yet. Add the brown sugar and the raisins. Cover with a lid and cook over a low heat for another 2-3 minutes, or until the carrots are just cooked.
5. Remove the carrots & raisins from the pan and set aside. Add the tofu and all of the spice/oil marinade to the pan. Fry over a medium heat until the tofu is browned on both sides. Remove from pan and set aside. 
6. Drain the rice and rinse well. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add the drained rice to the boiling water. Bring back to the boil and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until the rice is only just cooked. Drain.
7. Heat the remaining vegetable oil in the wok and add the remaining palau spice mix. Fry for 1 minute, the spices should become very fragrant, but careful not to burn them. 
8. Add the rice to the pan and stir well so that the spices are mixed through. Add the hot vegetable stock and the carrots and raisins. Cover and simmer over a low heat for 5 minutes.
9. Remove from heat and stir through the chopped nuts. Top with the fried tofu and serve. 

Serves 4. 

This month I'm featuring lots of amazing recipes from Afghanistan!
Check out my other Afghan recipe posts:

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Spring Vegan Ruby Grapefruit Cake

I'm excited about spring, it makes me truly happy inside! The sun is shinning, my heater is off and I've actually been able to wear some t-shirts. It's early days yet, so my light cardigans are also getting their workout, but it's still enough to make me happy and excited. I don't like winter at all, and I hate being cold! 

So, when charged with making a cake for my grandmother's birthday gathering, I felt the need to make something fruity to celebrate spring! Gorgeous big ruby grapefruits have come into season at my local supermarket, so I used them as my inspiration. The cake is deliciously sweet and tangy, whilst being moist and rich with flavour. I do, however, apologise about my icing and piping efforts in these photos, I know it's not my best work! I was in a bit of a hurry to get out of the house so I did a slightly slapdash job of it. That didn't matter though because the cake was absolutely delicious, and lucky my gradmother absolutely loves grapefruit! This was lucky, and is probably something you should check before making it for someone!!

1 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups raw sugar
2 1/4 cups soy milk
1 1/2 cups fresh ruby grapefruit juice (throw the pulp from juicing in there too!)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups plain wholemeal flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarb soda

1 cup vegan margarine (nuttelex)
3 1/2 cups soft icing mixture
1/4 cup fresh grapefruit juice
2 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 drops pink food colouring (optional)

Fresh grapefruit slices for decorating (this is optional, but HIGHLY recommended, as the fresh grapefruit really makes it special)
Sugared flowers (optional, just because it's spring!)

To Make
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
2. Combine the oil, sugar, soy milk, vanilla and grapefruit juice in a large mixing bowl and whisk until combined (you can also just stir with a wooden spoon, but a whisk really gets the job done nicely!).
3. Sift in the dry ingredients and mix together to combine. Don't over stir, just make sure it is all nicely combined.
4. Grease a 23cm diameter cake pan (preferably springform) and line the bottom with baking paper. Pour in the batter.
5. Bake for 1 hour, or until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.
6. Remove from the oven, run a sharp knife around the outside edge of the tin to separate any bits of the cake that may have stuck to the tin. Allow to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes and then remove the sides of the pan and gently transform the cake to a wire cooling rack to cool the rest of the way.
7. To make the icing, combine the margarine and soft icing mixture and beat with electric beaters until combined. Add the vanilla, grapefruit juice and food colouring and beat until it forms a light fluffy icing. If it is a little soft in consistency you can add a bit more icing sugar to make it firmer and easier to pipe.
8. Once the cake is completely cool cover the top and sides in icing. You can pipe borders or just leave it smooth. Decorate the top with slices of fresh grapefruit.

Makes 1 large cake.

Looking for great vegan cakes? Try some of these!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Sweet Potato and Coriander Bolani (Afghan flatbread)

Another delicious Afghan offering for you! This is one of my personal favourites, although thinking back on all the others that I have posted, they're soft of all my favourites this month. I think that Afghanistan has been  one of my all time favourite countries that I've featured thus far! Mostly I've been going a bit crazy with the sweets, so it's time to balance it out with some savoury. 

This is bolani, a delicious filled flat bread which is pleasantly naturally vegan! It can be filled with a number of fillings, such as potato, spinach, lentils, leek or pumpkin. The filling almost always also contains shallots (scallions). These ones are lightly pan fried, however they can also be baked. 

I absolutely loved these! Now that I have the base recipe I will be making them again and putting anything that I can think of into them! I can imagine all sorts of delicious vegetable fillings for these bolani. In fact, I might even try adapting it to some sweet fillings!

3 1/2 cups plain white flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 cup water
1 tsp olive oil
500g sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup sliced shallots (scallions)
1/3 cup chopped coriander
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp soy sauce
Extra olive oil, for frying.

To Make
1. Combine the flour, salt and cardamom in a bowl. Make a well in the middle and gradually add the water and the teaspoon of oil and mix to form a dough. Knead into a ball. If the dough is too dry to form a smooth ball add a little more water.
2. Turn the dough out onto a floured benchspace and knead for 10 minutes. Yeah, a little tedious I know. Set yourself a timer so that you don't cut the time down.
3. Put the ball of dough back in the bowl and cover with a cloth. Let it rest for about an hour.
4. Put the sweet potato in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer until the sweet potato is cooked, about 15 minutes (will vary depending on how big you chopped it). Drain.
5. Put the cooked sweet potato in a bowl and mash it up a bit, it doesn't have to be smooth. Add the shallots, coriander, lemon juice and soy sauce. Mix well.
6. Divide the dough into 6 equal balls . Take one and roll it out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured bench (don't make it too floury, otherwise the edges of your bolani won't press back together). Roll it out into a thin tortilla, about 25-30cm diameter. The thinner your roll it out the better.

7. Spread about an eighth of the sweet potato filling over half of the circle, leaving about 2cm around the edge.

8. Fold the other half over and press the edges down together. If you have put a bit too much flour on it then it won't stick properly, if this is the case you can brush it with a bit of water to help it stick, but it shouldn't need this. 
9. Repeat with the remaining ingredients until you have 8 bolani ready to go.
10. Heat a non stick frypan over a medium heat with a small amount of olive oil. Add two bolani to the pan and fry until browned slightly on both sides, about 5 minutes on each side. Keep your eyes on them so that they don't char. Drain on a paper towel as you remove them. Cook the rest in batches.

~ As you assemble your bolani and set them aside, don't lay them touching one another as the dough it quite sticky and you may never be able to separate them again! This disaster is what happened to my first attempt at these
~ If you don't have a non stick pan, use a bit more oil and keep your spatula close at hand to make sure they don't stick 

Friday, 21 September 2012

Wasabi-fried Eggplant and Avocado Sushi Rolls

Sushi is the perfect party food - it's pretty, colourful, filling and adaptable to whatever you want to put in it! It's also a very fun thing to make with friends. It's lovely to spend some quality time with friends, one prepares the sushi rice while another prepares all the fillings. Then you can roll them up together while another fried slices them up and arranges them on a plate. Easy and great fun, after all, cooking with people is much more fun the cooking for people!

I've been experimenting with new and delicious sushi fillings recently, and this is the first of several you'll be seeing from me. Sushi just feels like perfect spring fare, so I've been having a hankering for good sushi lately. This one didn't disappoint. Now, I know that wasabi isn't everybody's cup of tea, so to speak, but don't fear that. Honestly, I'm not much keen on it myself, however, the wasabi in this is not too strong, and I personally loved it. So if you're not a wasabi lover, don't be deterred - you will still love this! If you are a wasabi lover on the other hand, then I encourage you to double the quantity of wasabi!

Wasabi-fried Eggplant and Avocado Sushi Rolls

1 quantity sushi rice
6 sheets nori seaweed
4 thin asian-style eggplants, cut into strips
1 tbsp oil
2 tbsp sake (optional)
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil
11/2 tsp wasabi (use 2-3 if you love wasabi)
1 avocado, cut into strips

You will also need:
A sushi rolling mat
A bowl of water with a dash of rice vinegar

To Assemble:
1.  Heat the oil in a frypan and add the eggplant strips.
2. Combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, wasabi and sake (if using) in a small cup or bowl and mix well to completely dissolve the wasabi. Pour over the eggplant strips and fry for 5-7 minutes, turning frequently. The eggplant slices should be soft and slightly charred. Remove and drain on some absorbent paper towel.

3. Lay a sheet of nori seaweed on your sushi rolling mat. Wet your hands in the bowl of water (this stops the rice sticking all over your hands) and grab a handful of rice (about 2/3 cup worth, but you don’t need to measure it out). Spread it over the nori sheet evenly, making sure you spread it out to all the edges as well but leaving about an inch or so at one end.
4. Place a couple of pieces of eggplant and some slices of avocado along the middle of the rice.

5. Lift up the edge of the mat (not the edge with the inch of nori left bare) and, rolling away from you, roll the mat over once whilst gently pressing on the ingredients in the centre with your fingers to hold them in place. You should have rolled over all the rice and only have the bit of nori you left bare showing. Press gently on the roll to make the sushi roll neat and firm.
6. Wet the edge of the nori with a bit of water (to make it stick easier) and roll the sushi that last little bit (being careful not to roll the mat up with it). Press again gently into either a circle or square shape.
7. Repeat steps 3-6 until all ingredients are used up (should be about 6 rolls).
8. Use a very sharp knife to cut each log into eight equal pieces, dip the knife into the bowl of water to prevent it sticking to the rice as you cut. Serve immediately with soy sauce to dip.

Makes 6 sushi rolls, feeds about 4.

How to Make Sushi Rice

Here is a recipe staple, making decent sushi rice. Having the rice just right is the most important part of sushi, overcook it and it will be mushy and tasteless, under cook it and it will be hard and inedible. However, you shouldn't let that intimidate you! Give it a try and you'll be making sushi like a pro. This method is adapted from Sushi by Ryuichi Yoshii.

Sushi Rice
2 1/2 cups short grain sushi rice
3 3/4 cups water
1/4 cup sake (optional)

Vinegar Dressing
1/4 cup sushi vinegar (rice wine vinegar, should be right next to the sushi rice and nori at your supermarket)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp fine sugar

1) Put the rice in a large bowl (at least twice the volume of the rice) and fill the bowl with cold water. Stir with your hands and then carefully drain out the water. Repeat this process twice more.
2) Drain into a colander and allow to drain for 30 minutes.
3) Place rice and the 3 3/4 cups water in a large non stick pan with a good lid (a wok is ideal for this). Bring the water to the boil over a medium heat. Once it comes to a boil, increase the heat and boil for 3 minutes.
4) Lower the heat and cook for about 20 minutes. Many recipes will tell you not to take the lid off at all during this time to ensure even cooking. I have found from experience that taking the lid of and giving it a stir every once in a while reduces the likelihood of it sticking to the bottom and doesn't affect the evenness of the cooking, so I would recommend it. After about 20 minutes there should be no water remaining.
5) While the rice is cooking, prepare the vinegar dressing. Place the vinegar and salt in a small pan over a low heat. Whisk constantly until salt dissolves. Add the sugar and whisk to dissolve, don't let it boil. Once dissolved, remove the pan from the heat.
6) If using the sake, add it to the rice just before you remove it from the heat. Remove from the heat and cover again with the lid. Let stand for 10-15 minutes to finish cooking.

Preparing the Rice
1) Spread the hot rice out in a large, flat non metallic bowl. A wooden one is traditional, but I don't have one of those, so I always use my large ceramic lasagne dish.
2) Spread out the rice using a squared wooden spoor or plastic spatula. Stir the rice to separate the grains, use a slicing motion and try not to mash the grains.
3) Drizzle the vinegar dressing over the top and continue mixing and lifting the rice to evenly distribute the dressing. Fan with with a handheld fan while you stir (or enlist an extra pair of hands to help you with this).  Continue to mix and fan until the rice reaches about skin temperature. Cover with a lid to keep warm and then you're ready to roll!

Makes enough rice for 6 large sushi rolls or 12 small ones, serves 5-6 people.

~ Sushi rice needs to be made just before you use it, it won't keep.
~ Don't allow the rice to cool too much, as it will harden and dry out.
~ The sushi needs to be eaten soon after you make it, definitely the same day as you make it!

Now you've got your rice, what to put in it?
Common vegan friendly ingredients include: avocado, cucumber, carrot, asparagus, shallots, shitake mushrooms, tofu, tempura vegetables and eggplant.

Want something a bit different?
Wasabi-Fried Eggplant & Avocado Nori Rolls
Sweet Potato, Asparagus and Tahini Nori Rolls

Keep your eyes out for more unique and delicious sushi recipes coming soon!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Afghan Brides Fingers with Orange Blossom Syrup (Asabia el Aroos)

This month the Sweet Adventures Blog Hop is having a 'Sauces' themed hop. An interesting theme, as I never do many sweet sauces, so I was a bit stumped. I will be very keen to see what everybody else posts, as it is an area which I'm sure could encourage much creativity! In the end I managed to combine this blog hop with my other theme for September. September is Afghan Food Month, which has been delicious thus far! I also have to say that I have been receiving a very enthusiastic response from readers about featuring Afghan food, it seems to be a very popular choice! If you'd like to request a country to be featured then head on here and do so!

I very almost made a baklava, because I absolutely love baklava and I've actually never made a pistachio one. But instead I opted for the Afghan option which I've never made before - after all, these feature countries are meant to be all about learning and trying new things right? These light and tasty Brides Fingers are actually much easier than making baklava. They are also comparatively healthier, as they use less margarine and the end results are dipped in the syrup rather than completely soaked in it. I'm still a sucker for baklava (check out my Walnut Baklava here), but I think I will probably make the Brides Fingers more often!

Thanks to the super Kitchen Crusader for hosting this finger licking hop! Check out my entries into the other sweet adventures hops:

August's Berry Hop - Sugar Free and Vegan Raspberry Fudge
July's Nut Hop -  Best Ever Vegan Carrot Cake  (I got this one in just in time, but it never appeared on the link list so you may have missed it!)
June's Pie Hop - Easy, Sticky, Messy Banana Rum Pie
May's Tea Hop - Thai Red Tea Vegan Jelly with Poached Apples
April's Lemon Hop - Lemon Curd 'Cake Sandwiches'
March's Layers Hop - Rhubarb and Apple Sago Parfait
February's 'Love' Hop - African Almond, Pistachio and Orange Blossom Bites
January's Chocolate Hop - Black Forest Shots and Truffles in 3 Flavours: Smoky Paprika, Tahini & Strawberry Gum
December's Festive Hop - Chocolate Ice-Cream Christmas Pudding


The Bride's Fingers
80g pistachios
1/3 cup raw sugar
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
7 sheets thawed filo pastry
1/2 cup melted Nuttelex
Extra chopped pistachio, to garnish (optional)

Orange Blossom Syrup
1 1/2 cups raw sugar
3/4 cup water
1 tbsp orange blossom water
Juice of 1 lemon

To Make
1.To make the syrup, combine the sugar and water in a small pan and place over a medium heat. Boil until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup becomes slightly thicker, abotu 15-20 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the orange blossom water and lemon juice. Set aside to cool.
2. Combine the pistachios, sugar and cardamom in a food processor. Process until the nuts are well chopped. This is your filling.
3. Cut your filo pastry sheets once longitudinally and once horizontally, to make 4 long thin strips out of each sheet.
4. Lay 2 sheets of filo with the short end facing you on your work space. Grab a pastry brush and melted nuttelex and have them on hand. I like to brush just one line of nuttelex between the two sheets to hold them together, but it's not entirely necessary.
5. Place a tablespoon of the filling across the short side of pastry facing you.

6. Fold the edges of the pastry inward. I always let the edges touch in the middle, this allows for consistency of size and easy, neat rolling.

7. Brush the pastry with melted nuttelex and roll it up into a neat little log. You can use a little bit of extra melted nuttelex to help seal the edge. 

8. Place the logs with the edge facing downwards on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Continue until all the filling and pastry is use up. Should make 14 'fingers'.
9. Bake in an oven heated to 150 degrees C for about 15 minutes, or until the pastry is just golden brown. Keep an eye on them, as oven temperatures vary.
10. When you remove them from the oven, grab a pair of tongs and immediately dip the hot fingers into the cold syrup. Arrange on a plate. Drizzle 1-2 more tbsp of syrup over the top and sprinkle with chopped pistachios (optional). Serve at room temperature.

Makes 14. 

This month I'm featuring lots of amazing recipes from Afghanistan!
Check out my other Afghan recipe posts:

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Awb e Dundawn (Heavenly Afghan Pistachio Biscuits!)

I don't make a lot of biscuits, not really sure why. But making these amazing biscuits makes me want to make them all the time! They are Afghan Pistachio Biscuits, their texture is soft and crumby like shortbread and they're flavoured with the traditional Afghan holy trinity - rosewater, cardamom and pistachios (the basis for all Afghan desserts as far as I can tell!).

Every month I take a country recommended by a reader and feature as many good recipes inspired by that country that I can in a month. Want to see some of the other ones I've had?

January 2012 - Croatia Month
February 2012 - Chad Month
March 2012 - Bosnia Month
April 2012 - Iran Month
May 2012 - Scotland Month
June 2012 - Cambodia Month
August 2012 - Sweden Month
September 2012 - Afghanistan Month

This recipe is also part of the Eating the Alphabet Blog Hop, which this month is using the letters P, Q & R. Lots and lots of choices from those letters. My contribution is Pistachio based, one of my absolute favourite nuts to make sweets out of. This recipe, like a few others featured this month, was adapted from It's a great resource for ideas, however some of the recipes haven't turned out like the photo and description would indicate. This one wasn't an exception. It said to cook the biscuits at 200 degrees C for 10-12 minutes! I gave them the benefit of the doubt and tried it. At 200 they overcooked in about 6 minutes. So I changed the temperature and the time and they turned out much better.

Awb e Dundawn
Adapted from Afghancooking

3 cups wholemeal flour
1 cup soft icing mixture
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 cup Nuttelex (or other non dairy butter or margarine)
3/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
3 tbsp rosewater, plus 1 tsp
2 tbsp pistachios
Whole pistachios, to garnish

To Make
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
2. Mix the flour, icing mixture, baking powder and cardamom together in a bowl.
3. Add the Nuttelex and rub into the dry ingredients with your hands until the mixture is the consistency of coarse bread crumbs.
4. Add the oil and rosewater and knead into a ball.
5. Knead with your hands for a few minutes. The mixture will be slightly crumbly, but should stick together into a ball when pressed.
6. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Roll out pieces of the dough about the size and shape of a ping pong ball or a whole walnut. Place them on the baking tray a few centimetres apart.
7. Use your index finger to gently make an imprint on each biscuit, the edges will crack a bit as you do this, but that's ok.
8. Bake for about 8 minutes. The bottoms will be slightly browned but the tops should be still pale. They'll be slightly soft as you take them out of the oven, but will firm up as they cool.
9. While they cool make the pistachio filling. Place the pistachios and the extra 1 tsp rosewater in a food processor. Process until a coarse paste is formed.
10. Place about 1/2 tsp of pistachio paste in the imprint of each biscuit. Decorate with a whole pistachio if you wish.

Makes about 20 biscuits.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Vegan Halwa e Zardak (Carrot, Cardamom and Rosewater Pudding)

This September is Afghanistan Food Month, so here is my first Afghan sweet for the month! This is a veganised version of a recipe which I found here. As soon as I read it I knew that I had to make it. I love making sweets out of carrots! Carrot cake has always been a favourite of mine; I also made a delicious carrot and rosewater jam when I featured Iranian food - which was unexpectedly delicious! So I was fairly sure that it would be a big success, and it really was! It even exceeded my expectations.

The recipe that I got from this website wasn't the best recipe. The first step is to cook the carrots in butter (i.e. nuttlex) and then add all the liquids and then to "cook until all the liquid is absorbed". This didn't make sense to me at all, as carrots are already filled with liquid and don't generally absorb much by nature. So, unsurprisingly, they didn't. Perhaps they meant that it should be cooked without a lid so that the liquid would evaporate away? It didn't bother me though, as it made a lovely pudding even without having all the liquid 'absorbed'.

I recommend this dessert any day. It's a bit different any anyone you serve it too will be pleasantly surprised! The guests at my dinner party loved it and were really pleasantly surprised that it was made of carrots. 

Vegan Halwa e Zardak
Adapted from

1kg carrots, grated
1/2 cup Nuttelex (or any other non dairy butter or margarine)
1 1/2 cup almond milk (or sub soy milk)
1 1/2 cups coconut cream (1 tin)
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cardamom
2 tbsp rosewater
1/2 cup almonds, chopped
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped

To Make
1. Grate the carrots. Yep, a bit of a slog. If you have a food processor that has a grating attachment then you can do it in there, as long as it grates fine enough. Otherwise I recommend enlisting a helping hand to help you get through it all.
2. Melt the Nuttelex in a large pot. Add the grated carrot and cook over a medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes. The carrots should have started to soften and smell cooked.
3. Add the almond milk, coconut cream and sugar. Turn the heat to low and simmer, covered, for about an hour. It should thicken as it cooks, stir occasionally. 
4. Add the cardamom and rosewater and stir through. 
5. Heat a small (preferably non stick) frypan and add the chopped almonds and pistachios. Toast over a medium heat, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes. Keep your eye on them so that they don't burn!
6. Transfer the warm pudding to a serving bowl and top with the toasted chopped nuts. Alternately, serve in individual glass bowls or parfait glasses.

Serve warm or room temperature.
Serves 6.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Meat-free Mashawa (Afghan Spicy Beans)

This month I am experimenting with recipes from Afghanistan. Every month on Gormadize, I take a country which was requested by a reader and I go on a quest to discover their traditional dishes and cooking methods. Of course, making everything vegan means that I can't always do things the traditional way, but I learn a lot of new things along the way.

I was really excited when an anonymous reader suggested Afghanistan, as I adore middle eastern food and any excuse to cook more of it if fine by me. I was also intrigued because most of the middle eastern food I have eaten has been either Lebanese, Turkish or Iranian. So Afghanistan was quite an unknown for me. I found some absolutely amazing looking recipes online - especially the sweets, oh my! I think that I could eat Afghan sweets forever, stay posted for some amazing recipes!

I'm starting off with a savoury dish. This is Mashawa, well a vegan version. It would traditionally be made with red meat and served with yoghourt. But I have to say I didn't feel that this vegan version needed anything! It was exceptional, and very easy to make. The main thing you have to remember is to soak the bean for 24 hours beforehand. You can also use canned beans in this recipe, however, if you do you will need to add them much later in the cooking process which means they won't absorb as much of the flavour.

Why Soak Beans for 24 hours?
Soaking dried beans is important for two reasons. Firstly it allows them to absorb a lot of the water they need before you put them in your cooking. This means they won't absorb all of the liquid that you put in your dish and leave you with a dry pot! Soaking them in cold water also means that they will absorb the liquid more evenly and are less likely to split open when cooked.

Secondly, it makes beans much easier for your system to digest. This is where the 24 hours comes in. Most recipes will recommend you to soak beans overnight. Some even claim you can take a shortcut by soaking them in warm water for a couple of hours. These methods will take care of the water absorption, mentioned above. The reason we need to leave them to soak for 24 hours is because after that amount of time they begin to start their germination process, not so much that they become sprouts, just enough to make them easier for you to digest. This will also make the beans much less likely to give you flatulence.

The the great thing about using dried soaked beans is that you cook them in with your dish, as opposed to tinned beans which are already cooked and get added in at the end of cooking. This means that dried beans absorb more of the tasty flavours of your dish. They'll taste better!

*Bean Soaking Tips*
~ Soak your beans in bulk as soon as you buy them. After soaking for 24 hours (or even a bit more) in cold water, drain them and put them in a ziplock bag. Get as much air out as you can and put the bag in the freezer. They are now ready to use as you need them.
~ Buying dried beans is much more cost effective than buying tinned beans. E.g. A can of tinned chickpeas costs about $1.5-$2, depending on the brand. They're about 400g which will give you about 1 1/2 cups of chickpeas. A bag of 375g dried chickpeas costs me $1.29. Once they are soaked they give about 5 cups of chickpeas.
~ If you are soaking your beans in hot weather it is advisable to leave them in the fridge. If the weather is cool then you can just leave them out on the bench.
~ If you use tinned beans it is important to rinse them first.
~ Buying tinned beans means you have no control over how long they have been soaked before they were cooked, which means they may be harder for you to digest and cause more flatulence

Afghan Mashawa
Adapted from

3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes (more or less, depending on your preferred level of hot)
6 cups vegetable broth (or use vegetable based beef stock, such as Massel)
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup dried mung beans
2 cups pre-soaked kidney beans (or 1 can, drained and rinsed)
2 cups pre-soaked chickpeas (or 1 can, drained and rinsed)
2 tbsp dried or fresh dill

To Make:
1. Heat the oil in a large pot and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and salute for a further 2 minutes.
2. Add the dried coriander, pepper and chilli to the pot. Stir well and cook for 1 minute.
3. Add the tomato paste, vegetable stock and mung beans to the pot. Bring to the boil.
4. Lower the heat and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Add the chickpeas and kidney beans and simmer for 30-35 minutes, or until the beans are cooked through. They will have absorbed a lot of the broth.
6. Add the dill and season to taste with salt (or soy sauce if you prefer). Simmer uncovered for another 8-10 minutes. Serve.

Serves 4, ideal with some crusty bread. Also perfect to bring to a potluck or family dinner.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Celebrating Spring with Strawberry Lime Infused Vodka

I've been a little lax with posting this month! It's already 10 days into the month and I've only posted once - whoops! I have a few feeble excuses. I've been very busy at work (which has been wonderful!) but mostly I've just been too busy enjoying SPRING to want to sit indoors in front of the computer typing up posts. The sun has been shining all week and the days are warm and sparkling, it's just absolutely wonderful.

I'm not a fan of winter, I'm prone to a bit of S.A.D. so the start of spring is always a huge cause for celebration for me! It means that I've made it through another winter (this sounds dramatic but I find them a genuine struggle) and I can start enjoying myself and living it up again! I love the day when you find you can wear a t-shirt and feel the sun on your skin again. I also love transitioning into light salads, fruit salads and fruity cool cocktails.

So, I'm celebrating spring with this delicious and simple infused vodka. I first tried infusing vodka earlier this year, when I made Pineapple and Basil Vodka. It was delicious, although somewhat strong on the basil flavour, so it wasn't something I could drink a lot of. My second attempt, however, was absolutely fantastic. This vodka is infused with Lime and fresh Strawberries and it's phenomenal. The strawberries turn the vodka a gorgeous rich red colour and this vodka tastes so good that you can just drink it straight (if you like strong drinks!). It's perfect on ice topped up with a splash of chilled soda water and a slice of fresh lime.

750ml vodka
2 punnets fresh strawberries, washed and chopped in half
6 limes, peeled and sliced

To Make
1. In a large jar with a sealable lid (with a wide top so that you can get the stuff back out again!) place the strawberries and the lime slices.

2. Pour the vodka into the jar and shake it up gently.
3. Seal the lid on the jar and set aside in a dark cupboard to infuse for 1-3 weeks, getting it out occasionally to shake it (but ensure that the fresh ingredients are covered by the vodka before putting back in the cupboard) and taste it to see if it is infused to your taste yet. Gradually the strawberries will lose all their colour to the vodka. When you have pale white-ish strawberries in the jar you know it is done!
4. When you get it to the strength you like strain the whole jar through a strainer lined with muslin or cheesecloth.  Discard the strawberries and limes and put the vodka into a bottle.

~ Best served with fresh lime juice, to get the fresh tang of the lime
~ If you can think of a use for the pale vodka soaked strawberries then put them to good use! I couldn't really think of anything, so if you do let me know what it was!
~It is best to keep the vodka refrigerated, as the fruit content of this vodka means it could possibly go bad. I say possibly, because it lasted fine in my fridge for a couple of months and you'll probably drink it all up before it gets a chance!