Mushroom and Barley

Lois' Mushroom Barley Mix - all packed for lunch

After a fortnight of a cold that left me with no enthusiasm for recipe testing ๐Ÿ™‚ I have again begun to trial the Great Vegan Recipe Competition entries.

Yesterday I tried Lois’ Mushroom and Barley Mix, and brought the “left overs” in a box for lunch. The recipe is extremely easy, and seems forgiving – I left it simmering with no stirring for an hour and it was still fine!

  • 1 cup uncooked barley
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 carrot chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped
  • 2 cups chopped mushrooms
  • 3-4 cups vege stock or water
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 5-6 sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp Harissa (or in Lois’ original chilli – I like less chilli and more spices that most Kiwis)

Sautรฉ onion, carrot, garlic and spices. Add barley, mushrooms, soy sauce and stock. (I’d now keep half the mushrooms to add later with the chickpeas – if you are using soaked, dried but uncooked chickpeas add them now.)

Leave to simmer happily for about 3/4 hour, until the barley is soft but chewy. Check occasionally to ensure thereโ€™s sufficient liquid. I found with precooked chick peas that 3 cups was plenty, but if cooking the chick peas then I expect the extra cup is needed. Add the sundried tomatoes (or other veges like Lois’ capsicum [too expensive at this time of year]) for colour before serving.

This is savoury, convenient one pot, and one serving. It works well to warm up next day for lunch. I would also add some chopped fresh herbs at the end to add more colour as garnish and to add a little zing to the flavours which are otherwise savoury but almost bland. (It was the same reasoning, as well as what was in the fridge, that led me to use sundried tomatoes.)

Falafel Fail

Last night I had my family over for dinner and I decided to do a vegetarian style Greek dinner.ย  The menu was falafel sandwich with hummus and salad.ย  I used this recipe for a greek yogurt dressing for the salad, which I thought was very good.ย  The hint of fresh mint was a very nice touch.ย  For the hummus I used my usual recipe which I think is fairly standard and is usually a hit.ย  But, when it came to the falafel sandwiches, they were …. well, just okay.ย  And okay is fine, but usually when I invite people, especially family, over for dinner I hope for better.

For one, I baked the falafel not wanting to deal with the mess of frying.ย  I suppose that may have been the bigger of my mistakes.ย  But, I used this recipe and just found it to be a bit lacking.ย  In addition, I pulled another recipe for the tahini sauce and it was simply too overpowering.ย  It was very thick unlike the tahini sauce I am accustomed to seeing in my local Greek restaurant.ย  I was almost wondering what would have happened had I inverted the quantities of tahini and lemon juice.

At any rate, everyone ate their meal with no complaints and said that everything was good.ย  But, I know it could have been better.ย ย  So, my questions for you … has anyone got a good falafel recipe?ย  I love falafel and definitely want to try again.ย  Also, do I have to fry it to get the real deal at home?ย  What about a good tahini sauce?

Baked Potatoes

You can usually avoid this by stabbing the potato viciously with a thin blade before cooking (Photo by Robert S. Donovan)

Lifehacker prompted this post, they linked to a page of Kitchen Myths. Most of the list was pretty boring, stuff I either knew (that microwaving does not cause food to become radioactive ๐Ÿ˜‰ or was not really interested in (like whether “real chili” could contain beans) there was one I’d qualify. The author says:

The microwave oven certainly has many legitimate uses, but baking potatoes (or anything else) is not one of them. Sure, you can cook a whole potato in the microwave, but what you get is a steamed potato. The crispy skin and fluffy interior of the genuine baked potato require a long cooking in dry heat.

This is true, but misses the point. What you do is almost cook the potatoes in the microwave, then oil and salt the skins and finish them off in the oven. A saving in fuel as the oven is on much less long and time.

Baked potatoes taste great, loved by most children and are a great opportunity for creative stretching. Think baked potato with olive oil or peanut oil and a little tomato and bacon, for example.

But what suggestions do you have for fully vegan fillings?

Green lentils and sausage

Cooked green lentils (photo by Maggie Hoffman) when you add the oil they'll glisten scrunptiously, the sausage is icing on the cake ๐Ÿ˜‰

This recipe is NOT Vegan, except Vegans can easily adapt it by removing the sausage and adding a little more oil and salt.This is simpler than the public as imagined by a politician, and tastier than even you could imagine (just use plenty of good oil and real ground or flaky salt added just before eating)

  • Green lentils 1/2 cup per person (boiled gently till just soft)
  • Splash or three of nice olive oil
  • Several grinds of sea salt
  • a little thinly sliced sausage (Chorizo is good, but I prefer the thin ones that taste a bit like salami)

Serve with mashed potatoes.

For myself I often leave the sausage out, but it used to help tame the family carnivores ๐Ÿ˜‰ and does add a nice contrast.

Stretching and bending

Pasta Sauce by Tim Patterson

I’ve had a stinking cold for the last week, so I haven’t been making progress with the competition recipes (another chance to persuade your cousin Jo[e] to add their best effort) today I am hoping I’m feeling better, so to encourage that hope I was going to look at which recipe to try next. I got waylaid, by my post Two lessons in meat avoidance, that set me thinking about ways to reduce the meat (dairy or egg) component in “regular” meals, as a contribution to the overall goal of a more modest lifestyle.Here is a first list of tips:

  • use a little cheese to add meatiness to a vege dish (like the Parmesan in my roast veges)
  • add beans to the meat in a stew or casserole, in winter we love slow cooker casseroles, they cook beans brilliantly as well as meat – when an RC is cooking for the un-repentant sort use less meat and replace half with beans or lentils
  • make up the pasta sauce with lentils instead of, or more sneakily with (as above, maybe 1/2 and 1/2) mince
  • use a strong tasting savoury meat in small quantities – bacon (I know bacon in piles makes any food except icecream better) even a little will make a hot or cold salad taste meaty

I’m sure several of you have good ideas or examples too, so please chip in…. It is (after all) all about sharing ๐Ÿ™‚

Carrot and Cashew Soup

Nearly Vegan Carrot and Cashew Soup

Heather’s competition recipe (from Alison Holst)

  • 500g carrots
  • 2 small onions
  • Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Curry powder and some cumin seeds
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup toasted cashews

Chop onions and begin to cook in the saucepan with the oil (soften rather than caramelise them), add curry powder and cumin. Then chop and add carrots, add the stock and simmer till the carrots are tender. In a blender process the toasted cashews to the consistency of ground almonds (can be toasted under a grill with 1/2tsp oil). [Or if you are Tim just add them before the final few wizzes in the food processor.] Drain cooked carrots and onion and put into blender with ground nuts. Process adding stock as required to get the desired consistency.[Again I just slopped the lot into the food processor, and added the nuts – see above – just before finishing, to keep a bit of crunch.]

Taste & adjust seasoning. Reheat to serve.

Experience (the Voice of): Tasty, filling and robust! Yum, this will certainly be added to the staple soups for something quick, easy, tasty and filling for when we have a crowd for lunch. I’m going to experiment a bit more, next time the Cumin will definitely be ground not seeds (they went all fibrous when processed ๐Ÿ™ and I’ll reduce the curry powder a bit further and add Coriander leaves as garnish instead of the Yogurt in the photo making it really Vegan again ๐Ÿ™‚

BTW: If you try a competition recipe and like it please either say so in the comments on this blog post, or click the “Like on Facebook” button, that way I can factor your preferences into the result. Voting more than once will only count as one, even for your own entry ๐Ÿ˜‰

Mixed grain and seed bread

Bread of both kinds, though the "flatbreads" rose so much this time they are almost mini-loaves ๐Ÿ˜‰

Several of the competition recipes need bread to accompany the main dish, and even more fine bean and lentil recipes do, so here’s what I usually do for a tasty fairly quick bread.

Put into the breadmaker (in roughly this order):

  • a cup or two of warm water (if you are not Vegan you will get softer bread adding an egg to the water or substituting milk for the water)
  • a Tbsp of dried yeast (the fancy mixes work even better)
  • a Tbsp of sugar
  • 1-2 cups of wholemeal flour
  • 1-2 cups of plain (strong = breadmaking = hi-grade) flour
  • some (1/4-1/2 cup?) flax seed (Linseed) to add fibre, and vitamins and minerals, and above all taste
  • 1/4 cup gluten flour
  • tsp salt

Start the breadmaker on the dough setting, unless you are more practiced than I you will need to adjust the flour and water till the dough seems roughly right (not stickly and sloppy, but not too hard and crumbly either).

Meanwhile put in a covered dish:

  • 1 cup mixed kibbled grain – today I am using kibbled wheat and rye flakes (Isn’t “kibbled” a nice olde worlde word? But I could not get kibbled rye at the supermarket and was not near the bin-inn…)
  • 1 cup boiling water

When the dough is risen switch off at the mains, add the soaked kibbled grains, and switch on again. For really solid and tasty add 1/2 cup seeds (pumpkin, sunflower…). At this stage you may need to add more flour, it depends how dry your soaked grains are…

When kneaded either:

  • make flatbread – just pull off tennis ball (or a bit smaller) lumps and roll or pat into a flat “loaf”. Leave to rise and then either bake (200C), grill or BBQ sloshing oil and sprinkling with salt makes them even nicer ๐Ÿ™‚
  • make country focaccia, roll into French Stick like sausages. Leave to rise and spread. Bake (200C) till then give a nice solid tump when you tap them.

“Leave to rise” depends on the heat, phases of the moon, how much of a hurry you are in (bread dough before it is ready to cook can sense hungry children and rises more slowly in their presence) but an hour in the airing cupboard or in the oven onย  50C is often enough. It should at least double in size.

NB: brushing the top with oil, or milk, or egg, or even water really helps the crust, sprinkling with salt and seeds adds interest too. You can also add herbs, rosemary is great, but add them late in the final mix even after the kibbled grains.

A busy weekend and another problem :(

Cosset Cafe 1087 New North Rd, Mt Albert, Auckland NZ offers a mainly Vegan menu, including some meal options, but most cafes and cheaper eateries don't ๐Ÿ™

Our busy weekend reveals another difficulty with trying to cut back meat, eggs and (possibly) dairy. We were rushing from place to place so we only had 2-3 meals (including breakfasts) at home over the weekend, one lunch was fish and chips (the only other option in that part of town was a meat pie), though one cafe meal was mushrooms few cafes have more than one vegan (or even quasi-Vegan) meal on offer.

In Auckland we could have gone to Cosset, but eating out on busy days may prove difficult ๐Ÿ™

Milk without Money

Well perhaps not, but I thought that quote from Isaiah 55.1 was appropriate since that’s what it can seem like when trying to eat less meat and animal products.ย  It seems like there is dairy everywhere, flowing with milk and honey indeed!

Just after Tim’s most recent post about dairy and its relationship to being a repentant carnivore, I realized just how big of a deal dairy is. Over this past week I’ve been out and about a lot. I’ve been at family and church gatherings and also been caught having to eat at restaurants a number of times. When it comes to family and church gatherings I think these situations are probably most difficult for meat avoidance.ย  At one family gathering this past week, it was either eat meat or virtually nothing at all (my wife’s family had a crawfish boil, though I’m not sure about the ecology of eating crawfish).

In the case of eating out, I am realizing that vegetarian eating decisions are sometimes fairly easy to make while vegan ones often are not (There are no restaurants that I know of with vegan offerings anywhere within about a 45 minute drive from my home).ย  The reason for this is that many of the vegetarian dishes that I have seen, at least at the restaurants I have eaten at recently, contain cheese or some other dairy product as a primary ingredient.

One meal that I ate was at a microbrewery that is also a restaurant.ย  I mainly go there for the beer ๐Ÿ˜‰ (and please no one tell me that beer is ecologicially bad, I’m not sure I could bear that this early on in trying to make a change), but my wife likes the food.ย  Oddly enough, there they had several vegetarian style offerings (Based on past experiences I would normally not expect a brewhouse to be so sensitive).ย  Yet in each case the vegetarian offerings had cheese as one of the primary ingredients.ย  So, I did the best I could.ย  I ordered the personal size vegetarian pizza.ย  I suppose I could have asked them to hold the cheese, but I’m not sure how appetizing that would have been.

In another case, my wife and I ate at our local Greek and Lebanese restaurant called Albasha.ย  I like Albasha’s fare because many of the dishes that I like are devoid of meat.ย  However, once again everything usually comes with some sort of yogurt sauce or dressing.ย  I ordered the falafel sandwich.ย  It had a bit of a creamy tahini sauce on it and it came with feta salad, but I did feel better about it than the vegetarian pizza.

I guess these experiences just reinforced that one’s decision about dairy can be a really important one and one that I have been thinking a great deal about…

Pot of beans & judging the competition

Not my beans, look somethinglikes photo from La.blasco

I have not started on trying out the competition recipes, there was too much food around that needed using up this week. I won’t be over the weekend as I’ll be in Tauranga and want easy meals (see below), but plan to next week. This means there is still time to ask your friends for their best Vegan maincourse or lunch (i.e. substantial but portable) recipes…

Beans with Preserved Lemons

So as to have a couple of quick easy meals for the weekend, and a tasty meal last night I did a big pot of those young greenish (but dried) beans in the slow cooker yesterday. The ones that are like Flageolet Beans, but not from the Harricot but perhaps Fava… [BTW the slow cooker is great for beans, but NOT the red ones, as they need a good fast boil for some of their cooking time to remove poisons ๐Ÿ™ ]

Just put:

  • Some chopped onions and garlic (less than the onions ๐Ÿ˜‰ but plenty I used six cloves)
  • Bay leaves/Thyme/Rosemary
  • Beans

In the pot and more than cover with vege stock (my second batch of Nathan’s free stock worked fine with just the stalk ends of celery and other peelings and wastage including onion and garlic skins) the exact quantity is difficult as different beans soak up different quantities. (BTW in the slow cooker all day there is no need to pre-soak the beans.) The ideal is if you can look in on them at lunch time to maybe add more stock.

Near the end of cooking add some preserved lemons and limes. In NZ now is the time to set up a shelf of jars, as limes are as cheap as they get, and they do make the lemons taste even better ๐Ÿ™‚ The preserving somehow mellows the flavour and they go brilliantly with the beans adding interest to the dish. The Velveteen Rabbi called them “sunshine in a jar” – I can’t beat that ๐Ÿ˜‰

Season and if need be thicken the sauce with a little maize meal/cornflour.