Tuesday 31 January 2012

Baba Ghanoush Burgers

From The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet, Joni Marie Newman, Fair Winds Press, 2011.

The idea of using what is basically a dip as the basis for a burger was interesting. I’m not totally convinced that this one really worked but I did give it a try.

I’ve made several burgers from this extravagantly boastfully titled cookery book. They have usually worked in various degrees of successfulness. Whenever they don’t quite match up it is in their moistness; they are usually a bit on the dry side and require plenty of sauce to overcome this.

The baba ghanoush burgers started off by frying eggplant in some sesame oil. When it was ready garlic, chopped onion, cumin and seasonings were added. They were cooked for a quarter of an hour.

Stock was then added with TVP granules. The mixture was covered, removed form the heat and left to stand for about 10 minutes.

Chickpea flour was then added. The mixture was covered and placed in the fridge for about half an hour. It was suggested that the mix be left for as long as possible for the flour to absorb the flavours. I left mine for about an hour and a half.

The mix was shaped into patties and baked for 20 minutes. They were then given a few minutes in a frying pan to give them a crunchier crust.

I served them with garlic artichoke spread from the same book. The burgers certainly needed plenty of moistening. I suspect it is the chickpea flour which this book seems to favour as a binding agent. Next time I make something from here I’ll watch this element. I think they could do with less, or perhaps a flour which is less drying.

To accompany the burgers I made River Cottage garlicky flatbread.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

River Cottage Garlicky Flatbreads

From River Cottage Veg Everyday!, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Bloomsbury, 2011.

I’ve really begun to be very interested in making bread-based items. I found a chapter in this particular book that was called ‘Bready Things’. It was encouraging enough to make me look for something to make from the chapter. Garlicky flatbread sounded just right to accompany a baba ghanoush burger.

The dough came from a recipe in the book called ‘magic bread dough’. It was made from a mixture of plain white and strong white flour with salt, yeast, warm water and oil. This was kneaded for a while, a little bit uncomfortably as it was somewhat soft and sticky. It improved as it was kneaded. This was then left to rise.

The garlic oil was able to be prepared while the dough was proving. Garlic was lightly fried in olive oil until it began to sizzle. It was then taken off the heat, poured into a bowl and left to cool.

The dough was now punched back and rolled into small balls. These were rolled out into flat circles. They were left for a few minutes while the pan was heating. It was then only a simple matter of frying them one by one on the dry pan. It only took a few minutes on each side. As soon as they came off the pan, some of the garlic oil was sprinkled over with a little bit of salt.

Though a bit time-consuming from having to wait for the dough to prove, if you have time to spare these turn out to be quite moreish and make a very suitable accompaniment for curries or dips—and in my case, a burger.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Monday 30 January 2012

Chinese Spinach, Mushroom and Tofu in Clear Broth

From Healthy Asian Vegetarian Dishes, Periplus Editions, 2003.

Asian soups are so easy and quick to prepare—and they are usually tasty as well. This soup turned out to fit the mould.

I’m gradually working my way through this little book and thoroughly enjoying the results. It’s often difficult to find a vegetarian Asian cookbook that really works but this one seems to do the trick.

For this soup I only had to stir-fry some ginger and garlic for a few seconds. Spinach that had been chopped into reasonable pieces was then added and fried for a couple of minutes.

Then in went the stock, tofu and button mushrooms, on went a lid and it was brought to the boil and simmered for a couple more minutes.

 Some sesame oil was now added together with seasonings. Ready!

This was a pleasant, clear broth soup that was fresh tasting and fun to eat.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Sunday 29 January 2012

Waldorf Salad

From Salades, Damien Pignolet, Lantern, 2010.

My Waldord salad didn’t exactly follow all the ingredients as per the instructions in Salades, but then, the recipe did mention that the recipe has altered so much over time that it is difficult to know exactly what the original recipe was like.

The variations I made were not including celeriac; there was none available. I also didn’t not peel my walnuts. While the instructions advised that the difference between a peeled and an unpeeled walnut is remarkable, I just wasn’t in the right mood to carry out this delicate operation.

So what I did was dice the inside stalks of celery. I chopped up the apple and tossed it in a little lemon juice. The mix of celery and apple was tossed in some mayonnaise (a commercial one). Walnuts were then chopped and combined with the other ingredients. And this was basically it. It was placed in some cos lettuce leaves and a few leaves of watercress were added.

When you cut out the walnut peeling process this is a quite simple salad to prepare. And, if you like lots of crunch, it’s a fresh flavoursome one. I don’t over like the texture of celery. The flavour is fine but biting into it is, for me, close to the fingernails-on-the-blackboard feeling. However, this is modified a little by the mayonnaise and doesn't screech quite so much.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Saturday 28 January 2012

Zuppa Reale (Royal Soup)

From The Vegeterranean: Italian Vegetarian Cooking, Malu Simõs & Alberto Musacchio, Simon & Schuster, 2008.

I have a fondness for soups (as is probably obvious). This royal soup looked very interesting and while it had several elements to it, I thought it was worthwhile having a go at it.

The first step was to make the stock. Tomatoes, an onion, zucchinis, carrots, potatoes and celery were cut into reasonably sized pieces and placed into a pan of water and simmered for at least an hour. The mixture was then strained to obtain the stock.

The interesting content for the soup was made while the stock was simmering away. Some egg was beaten with a little semolina, some grated parmesan, and pepper and salt. This was fried in small portions in a pan so that it was able to spread to make a thin little fritter. When the fritters were all done they were cut up into 5 mm squares.

The greens for the soup were escarole but as I had some English spinach on hand I decided to use that. This was blanched in hot water, then drained and roughly chopped. Some olive oil was heated in a pan with garlic added and cooked until it was golden. At this stage the spinach was added and cooked a little longer.

The stock was reheated and the spinach and little fritters were added and simmered for a few minutes. Some cubed soft cheese was placed at the bottom of the serving bowls and the soup placed over it.

This was a different soup that was quite enjoyable. The fritter pieces were tasty savoury bites. The cheese melted into the clear, gently flavoured stock and aided its texture. The spinach added a bitter tang. All in all a pleasing mixture of textures and flavours.

 Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔

Baked Brie with Raspberry Coulis

From Biró: European-Inspired Cuisine, Marcel Biró and Shannon Kring Biró, Gibbs Smith, 2005.

I had never thought to bake brie. When I found this recipe I was immediately inspired to make it.

The recipe in the book called for lingonberry sauce but I have never seen these berries in Sydney. I had seen a lingonberry jam in Ikea but it was just out of my way to go there, so I settled for using raspberries.

The brie was cut into wedges and these were double breaded, that is dipped in flour, then eggs beaten with milk and then breadcrumbs. This whole pattern was repeated. The brie was then put in the fridge to keep it as cool as possible before the next step.

The coated brie was sautéed in oil and butter until browned on all sides. The wedges were then placed in the oven for about 5 minutes.

I served them with a cold coulis of raspberries. A real taste treat. This is one I must make more often. In preparation I purchased a jar of lingonberry jam the next time I was at Ikea.

After the flop from using one other of the recipes from this book I was really pleased to find that this one was a perfect success.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Friday 27 January 2012

Tourte de Blettes

From River Cottage Veg Everyday!, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Bloomsbury, 2011.

I couldn’t imagine the use of chard in a sweet pie so naturally I had to make it to see if it really worked. I had just purchased River Cottage Veg Everyday! and looking through it came to this Tourte de Blettes, the very last recipe in the book. The photograph of the pie didn’t encourage me overly either because there was a slice of the pie with the chard, very green looking, tucked in with pieces of apple and raisins. But the taste would be the test.

Pastry was made first. This was a sweet pastry, flour and icing sugar mixed with butter and rubbed until like breadcrumbs. An egg yolk and a little milk and it was soon brought together into a dough and placed in the refrigerator to chill.

The chard (I used silverbeet), less the firm stems, was washed and placed in saucepan over heat until it had wilted. When cool it was squeezed tightly to rid it of any liquid. It was then chopped.

The chopped greens were mixed with beaten eggs, pine nuts, lemon zest, sugar and raisins which had been previously soaked in brandy. The little bit of brandy left was also added.

The apples were grated and squeezed to get rid of any liquid. They were also then added to the mixture.

The pastry was rolled out to make a base and a lid for the pie. When the pastry was rolled out and fitted into the pan, the filling was spread on top. The lid was placed on, some slits made for steam, and it was then baked.

The pie turned out a lot better than I had expected. The silverbeet worked reasonably well with the apples and raisins. It wasn’t my most favourite apple pie but was all right.  

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Cathay Rice Salad

From Quiet Food, The Buddhist Institute of South Africa, Double Storey Books, 2006.

I never feel that a rice salad is a salad but, whatever the naming, a warm spicy rice and lentil mix makes a pleasant accompaniment.

I actually misread the instructions for this one. The lentils had to be cooked for 20 minutes before using. The details for this were in the ingredients list rather than in the recipe instructions themselves. In a hurry I just read the quantity of lentils from the ingredients and failed to take in that they needed to be cooked first.

This was a little ironic as the book Quiet Food has a subtitle ‘A Recipe for Sanity’ and its philosophy is to take time over your cooking and eating. It encourages us to slow down, not only in the eating but in the cooking and enjoy the process. In my eagerness to get moving I slipped up in the instructions and prepared a less-than-perfect meal.

I fried the onions and garlic and placed them in a rice cooker. I washed the rice and added it to the cooker with the lentils and all the other ingredients (star anise, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon and raisins). I measured in the water and turned on the cooker.

When it was done the dressing with touches of lemon juice, ginger and brown sugar was added.

The resulting rice salad was a pleasing one, though it did have a bit of nutty crunch from the undercooked lentils.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Thursday 26 January 2012

Rice Soup

From Thai Vegetarian Cooking, Vatcharin Bhumichitr, Pavilion Books, 2003.

I had some boiled rice over from a previous meal so looked for something in which to use it up. Thai Vegetarian Cooking seemed an obvious choice to look as I had successfully made other Asian dishes from it.

Firstly some dried Chinese mushrooms were soaked in hot water.

While they were soaking I fried some garlic in olive oil until it was golden coloured. This was then taken off the heat and saved.

The boiled rice was placed in a pan of boiling stock and all the other ingredients added to it. They were the Chinese mushrooms sliced, some preserved radish, light soy sauce, sugar, chopped fresh ginger and ground white pepper.

The mixture was stirred for a minute and poured into bowls for serving. The saved oil and garlic was poured over this and it was garnished with chopped spring onions and coriander.

I fully enjoyed this. It was like a very thin congee, light and full of flavour. When there’s some boiled rice left over in the future I must remember this for it’s a fast, simple way to use it up and gain a tasty dish.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Seaweed Daikon Wraps

From Pure Vegetarian, Paul Gayler, Kyle Cathie Ltd, 2008.

I’ve always been well satisfied with the recipes I have followed from Pure Vegetarian so it was a disappointment to find one that just didn’t work for me. Partly it was obviously my fault but some of the problem was in the recipe.

Daikon had to be sliced very thinly along their length. A mandolin was suggested but since I don’t have one of these devices and since it does suggest you could use a potato peeler I used that. It wasn’t that easy but it was doable. I did end up with slices that were variable in shape but hopefully they should work.

The vegetables were then mixed in a bowl and seasoned. Included in the mix was some maple syrup, chopped cashews and lime juice. Yuzu juice was preferred but I could not obtain it.

Wakame seaweed was one of the vegetables that had to be pre-soaked in hot water. I am not overly keen on seaweeds for they remind me of seafoods which for me are totally distasteful. I know that the seaweed really has a smell and taste of the sea rather than of seafood but it is difficult to discount it because of this. However, bit by bit I am trying to get used to this particular vegetable. I do know it has many values but when I poured the hot water over the wakame the smell was so overpowering that I decided not to use the full amount of this ingredient.

The other vegetables (avocado, cucumber, red capsicum and mango) were chopped small. The carrot was thinly sliced. There were no instructions as to what to do with the wakame and it was in long pieces. I decided it should be chopped too though was not sure that this was the intention.

Two slices of daikon were then laid together slightly overlapping. Some of the filling was placed one end and it was rolled up. Well I tried to roll it up. The filling would keep coming out and the daikon slices tended to fall apart. It all became a bit of a mess.

There were some wakame strips left because I had cut back on the amount of this that I had used. I decided to lie a strip along the length of the daikon before adding the filling and rolling it up. This was a little bit more successful, though not much.

The resulting rolls were not able to be picked up the way a roll should but had to be eaten with a knife and fork. With the dipping sauce (now poured over the unpleasant looking rolls on the plate) they tasted quite good—much to my surprise. It’s not a dish that I would make again.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking:

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Farfalle with Garlic, Potatoes and Spinach

From Vegetarian Bible, Margaret Barca, Penguin Books, 2008.

For a quick and satisfying pasta meal you can’t go further than this one.

Potatoes are sliced and put into water, brought to the boil and cooked until just soft.

While this was cooking I fried some chilli and garlic in a pan until the garlic was just done.

Into a pan of boiling water I threw the pasta and let it cook. When it was ready it was drained but a little of the cooking water was saved. The pasta went back into the saucepan, together with the potatoes, the garlic and chilli, and the saved water. To this was added the spinach which was cooked until the spinach was wilted. It was then served with the usual grated parmesan on top.

I am usually surprised at how well potato goes with pasta. I always feel that they are too close and would not work, but they do, and work well. With the chillies and garlic as an added flavour boost this is a meal that is fast to prepare and flavoursome.

The Vegetarian Bible is such a handy book for finding simply explained vegetarian meals. Explanations are clear, precise and short—and they work.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Cavolfiore in Umido (Stewed Cauliflower)

From Tuscany, Phaidon, 2011.

This sounds much better by its Italian name than that of Stewed Cauliflower.

Aiming to head for Tuscany later this year, it seemed a good idea to try some more vegetarian Italian cooking from that region. I turned to this rather handsome volume which is a mixture of recipes and information on the foodstuffs and farming of the different regions.

I was somewhat concerned about the time that the cauliflower was to be cooked in this recipe. Firstly, before anything else is done, it had to be boiled for half an hour. This was already some 20 minutes more than I would normally cook it.

The cauliflower was then cut into reasonably thin slices. It was so soft that it was falling apart a little, though it was manageable.

Garlic was then fried in a pan of olive oil until it had browned a little. This was taken out to leave a garlic-flavoured oil to which the cauliflower pieces were added and cooked on a low heat until slightly browned. Some tomato paste was dissolved in warm vegetable stock and added to the pan. Seasonings were added and the pan covered to simmer for an hour more.

I began to panic after half an hour. This seemed far too long to cook cauliflower. I knew it was called stewed cauliflower but I couldn’t bear to have it stew any longer.

It was a soft, mushy vegetable that was served on the plates and while I didn’t really appreciate its softness it was remarkably strongly flavoured. Rather than being washed out, the flavour seemed to have intensified. Served in a smaller quantity as an accompaniment with other items this could work well as a contrasting element of flavour.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Tagine of Yam, Shallots, Carrots and Prunes

From Tagines & Couscous, Ghillie Başan, Ryland Peters & Small, 2010.

Whenever I discover a tagine of vegetables I always want to get to work and make it.

I found this one in a book of tagines, Tagines & Couscous, which I had used before with success.

I felt that the dryness of yam would be well accommodated with the sweetness of carrots and prunes. It did turn out to be so, especially since honey was added as well.

It was a simple dish to make. The shallots were peeled and kept whole. They were fried in olive oil and butter with some ginger and cinnamon sticks. When the shallots were turning golden the yam and carrots were added. After a few minutes sautéing, the prunes were added together with the honey. The stock was added. When it came to the boil it was turned down to a simmer and the tagine lid put on.

It was cooked in about half an hour, when chopped coriander and mint were added together with seasonings. It was served with a buttery couscous with almonds.

This was a different and flavoursome tagine with the sauce becoming quite syrupy.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Monday 23 January 2012

Vegetable Samosas

From Commonsense Vegetarian, Mudoch Books, 2011.

The instructions for making the dough for these samosas called for a food processor but I used the old method of hands. It was still pretty easy to mix up the flour, salt and oil with a bit of water, then put them in the refrigerator to wait for the filling.

The vegetables for this were potatoes, cauliflower and frozen peas. The first two were cooked separately. Onion was fried for a while to soften, then garlic, ginger and curry powder were added to cook a little longer. Then came the vegetables (including the peas) and some lemon juice. They were given a minute or two and then left to cool.

The dough was now rolled out into 15 cm rounds. Mine were somewhat shaky circles as I can never get dough rolling very accurate. The circles were cut in half to make semi-circles. Mine were now even worse but I persevered.

A small amount of the filling was placed on these and they were folded over and sealed. I ended up with samosas of a variety of shapes. After deep frying they appeared much better than I had imagined they would turn out. And they were really good to eat with a little mango chutney. I thoroughly enjoyed them. The leftovers also were great the next day. Very satisfied.

I have always come away satisfied with the recipes from this book. They suit the name ‘commonsense’ and you end up with satisfactory meals from the down-to-earth instructions.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Cheese and Potato Layer Bake

From What’s Cooking Vegetarian, Jenny Stacey, Parragon, 2000.

Anything with potatoes and cheese as ingredients will tempt me so when flipping through the pages of What’s Cooking Vegetarian I came across this old favourite I just had to make it. It’s a dish that comes in many variations and guises so it’s worthwhile trying out the variations when I come across them in different books. This particular variation contained leek.

The potatoes were first boiled and then sliced. A layer of them was arranged on the bottom of a casserole dish. On top of them went some sliced leek, some chopped garlic, grated cheddar and mozzarella. A sprinkling of chopped parsley was also added. These layers were continued until all of the ingredients were used, ending with a cheese layer.

Milk and cream were mixed (this was a rather rich variation) and seasonings added.  This was then poured over the layers in the casserole and baked for a little over an hour.

Tasty and filling with the satisfying feeling of indulging more than you should.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔