Saturday, 28 September 2013

Root Vegetable Casserole

Time to get the slow cooker out again. This recipe is a combination of slow and 'regular' cooking, as you will see. The ground spices really 'make' this dish, as does the sweetness from the parsnip and sweet potato. And it smells delicious as it is cooking.

What you will need:
2 tbsp olive oil
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 swede, peeled and diced
1 parsnip, peeled and diced
2 tsp each of ground cumin, ground coriander, and paprika
1 cup lentils, rinsed and drained
1 can chopped tomatoes
3 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp fresh coriander

Heat oil in a large pan and add celery. Saute for 3 minutes and then add carrots, swede, parsnip and potato. Saute for 5 minutes.
Add ground spices and cook for 1 minute, stirring.
Add lentils, tomatoes, and stock. Bring to boil, stirring and then transfer into slow cooker.
Cover and cook on High for 3-4 hours. Stir in fresh coriander and serve.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Rich Vegetable Hot-Pot

This dish takes a bit of effort, as there is a fair bit of chopping involved, so set aside about 30 minutes for preparation work and then 45 minutes for cooking in the oven.
There are a fair few ingredients involved but none are hard to find and they all compliment each other so well.
I suggest using a VERY large pot during the prep. stage and then a very large ovenproof dish. There is a lot to pack in!

What you will need:
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped (optional)
2 small - medium eggplants, cut into small cubes
3 zucchinis, cut into small cubes
1 cup frozen peas
handful of green beans, cut into pieces
450g new potatoes, peeled and diced
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
4 fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 can chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
11/2 cup vegetable stock
sliced black olives to garnish

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large pot and cook onion (if using) until golden. Add eggplants and cook for 3 minutes. Add zucchinis, peas, beans, potatoes and the spices. Cook for another 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
Pour mixture into a large oven proof dish and level the surface. Pour stock over the top.

In bowl, mix together both the fresh and tinned tomatoes, 1 tbsp oil, and the parsley.
Spoon over the eggplant mixture.
Cover with foil and bake in the oven for approx. 45 minutes.
Serve with sliced black olives on the top. This adds a salty bite to the dish.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Pana Chocolate

Pana Chocolate has to be one of the very best raw, vegan chocolate I have every tried. It is handmade, organic, contains no dairy or any other animal products and is low GI and gluten free. Oh, and it is DELICIOUS!

There are several varieties available:  Mint, Orange, Rose, Nuts, Cinnamon, Coconut and Goji, Raw Cacao, 80% Cacao and the new Sour Cherry and Vanilla - which I just tried and loved!

If you tend to shy away from dark chocolate because of bitterness, you have nothing to worry about here. This chocolate is neither bitter or sickly sweet. It has just the right balance. Also, it is so very smooth in texture.

The bars are small and quite expensive, so I just treat myself to a square at a time - the way it should be, really. Pop a square into your mouth and savour it!

Pana Chocolate is available in several healthfood shops, cafes and organics stores.
Their website has an extensive list of suppliers in Perth. Just pop in your postcode.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Thai Rice Noodles with Lime-Basil Sauce

I found this recipe in the cookbook "Big Vegan" by Robin Asbell. I used it as a 'base'. In other words, I changed a fair bit of it to suit me and the results were more than favourable.
The rice noodles I used were the Trident Rice Stick Noodles but any will do. You can find them in regular supermarkets. I tend to soak them in boiled water for longer than what is usually advised - about 10-15 minutes.
This recipe is gluten free - just make sure to use tamari and not soy sauce. again, I have had no trouble finding tamari at supermarkets. Sometimes it will be shelved in their 'health foods' section. 
Agave syrup can be found in health food shops or organics stores. If you want, you can use sugar, instead. 
You will find that as you are cooking this, the vegetables will give off a fair bit of liquid, but don't be concerned, as when you add the noodles, they will take up a fair bit of the sauce created.

What you will need:
Approx 250g dry rice stick noodles
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
small broccoli, cut into florets
1 medium carrot, julienned
4 spring onions, diagonally sliced (optional)
juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp of light agave syrup 
2 tbsp tamari
2 garlic cloves, minced (optional)
1 tbsp finely grated peeled fresh ginger
a few leaves of basil, slivered
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, finely chopped (optional)

Place dry rice stick noodles in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Soak for at least 10 minutes and then drain.

In a wok pan, heat the coconut milk over medium high heat and add tomatoes, broccoli, carrots and (is using) spring onions. Bring to a simmer and add lime juice, agave, tamari, ginger and garlic (is using). Stir while cooking. How long you wish to cook is up to you. Some prefer the vegetables to be firmer, whilst others prefer them to be tender. Taste test ever few minutes until vegetables are to your liking and then add the noodles. Stir to coat with the sauce and heat thoroughly.
Add basil and peanuts (if using) and toss.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

LaZuppa Classic Bowls

I am finding that more and more vegan friendly products are showing up on our supermarkets, which is great. My latest discovery is the LaZuppa Classic Bowls range. These are available in Coles and Woolworths, found in the same section that has the canned and packet soups. Whilst not all the range is vegan, a lot of it is.

The portions sizes are perfect for lunch, as they are the equivalent of a good sized bowl of soup. I have been having one a week for lunch at work, during the cooler months. All you need is microwave oven and about two minutes. Easy.

I have tried all the vegan varieties and they all get the 'thumbs up' from me: Spinach and Chickpea; Pumpkin; Minestrone; Ribbolita Tuscan Vegetables;  and Moroccan Pumpkin with Chickpea. They are as close to home made tasting soup that I found on store shelves, so far.
And they are also gluten free!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Mung Bean Casserole

One of the things I love about being vegan, is trying out new things. Before giving this recipe a go, I had never eaten or cooked with mung beans or fenugreek seeds. I had no idea what they would taste like, but I thought what the hell, I will give them a go.

I found this recipe in the cook book "Veggiestan : a vegetable lover's tour of the Middle East" by Sally Butcher. I tweaked the original recipe a bit to suit me. I must admit it took a fair bit of looking to find the mung beans. There were none in the supermarkets but I did find some in health food shops. The same went for the fenugreek seeds. I would imagine that stores like Kakulas would stock both, so next time I am there, I will stock up, because I have every intention of making this one again. Yes, it was a success!

What you will need:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 garlic cloves, minced (optional)
2cm knob fresh ginger (finely grated)
Dash or two of chilli powder
1 onion, chopped (optional)
2 capsicums, chopped (optional)
2 medium potatoes, chopped into about 2cm cubes
1 tsp turmeric
2 cups mung beans, washed (no need to soak)
1 litre water or veggie stock
250g fresh spinach, roughly chopped or thrown in whole
3 tomatoes, cut into chunks
juice of 1 lime
salt to taste

Heat the oil in a large pot or wok pan and sprinkle in the fenugreek and cumin seeds. One minute later, add garlic, ginger, chilli, onion and capsicums, if using.  Saute until onions are translucent, stirring often.
Add potatoes and turmeric. Minute later, stir in mung beans and add water.
Bring mixture to the boil and then simmer for 45 minutes.
Add tomatoes and spinach and cook for 10 minutes. Add lime juice and salt to taste.

You can serve this up with rice or bread but I found it very filling on its own.

Monday, 16 September 2013

International Vegetarian Food Fair 2013

I went to this event last year with a friend and rather liked it, so I decided to go back this year, with my
partner. As before, a lot of the food on offer was vegan and was marked clearly as being vegan. In fact, all the signs also listed the ingredients in each dish, which was great.

We didn't arrive at the venue (South Perth Community Center) until several hours into the event, and discovered that some of the foods were already sold out. I missed out on the savory Vietnamese pancake which I really wanted to try this year. Drats!

The place was quite busy - even more so than last year, which was great to see.

We had a walk around the stalls, having a look and deciding on what we wanted to try. Most of the food appeared to be Vietnamese and Thai cuisine. Certainly, all of it was Asian. There was a fair bit of mock meat dishes, some deep fried items, some fruity desserts and my favourite - the Green Papaya Salad. (More on that soon.)

The boyfriend decided to first try the Bean Curd and Seaweed Rolls which contained tofu, carrot, seaweed and mock ham made of soy. I wasn't a fan of the ham as it tasted way too much like the 'real thing' but the boyfriend seemed to have enjoyed it.

We then tried a sample of Fried Coconut Cake. We were won over and bought a pack to take home.

After loading up with some Taro and Sweet Potato Rolls and some Samosas, I thought I had better try something that wasn't deep fried  - the Green Papaya Salad.
Never before had I eaten green papaya and certainly not in a salad that combined it with tomatoes, soy sauce, peanuts, carrot, chilli, lemon and something called 'salted bean'.

I was asked how spicy I wanted it and I opted for 'not very'. I watched as the ladies at the stall added the ingredients into very large mortar and pestles and started pounding away at it. Before I knew it, I was handed the salad in a container. When I tried it, I was so impressed. The taste sensations! A bit spicy, a bit salty, juicy, crunchy, and the tomatoes went so well with it all. I did not eat it all in one go. I ate half and then the rest a bit later, and  I have to say that it tasted even better once it had 'stood' for a while. I will have to try and track down the recipe for this!

I am definitely planning to go again next year but earlier next time, before some of the dishes on offer disappear!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Zafferano Restaurant

I had never been to Zafferano Restaurant before, it being out of my price range, but a small group of friends and I won some vouchers to dine there, so we got together for lunch. We rang and booked a table in advance and made sure to mention that we were all vegans and asked if they were able to accommodate us. The answer was 'Yes', so when we arrived, we were presented with a menu that they had specially put together for us, which included entree and main options.

For the entree, I and a few of my party, opted for the sweetpea risotto, which featured fresh garden peas, bound in a saffron risotto and garnished with extra virgin olive oil. Oddly enough, this dish had a 'fishy' flavour to it - so much so, that we had to check with the chef that it was, indeed vegan. We were assured it was, and it was suggested that its 'fishy' flavour came from the stock, which took a week to prepare. whatever gave it that flavour, it wasn't a favourite with us.

Thankfully, my main was a delicious pasta dish, which included chilli, rocket and fresh herbs, in fresh lemon and extra virgin olive oil.

Others had the mushroom risotto which featured slow roasted field mushrooms, and I was told it was very tasty.

Also meeting approval was the pumpkin salad, which was made up of roasted pumpkin, cherry tomatoes and rocket, in an almond and poppy seed dressing. 

As there were no desserts listed in our menu, the chef came out and spoke to us, offering a few suitable options. These were basically sorbets with either strawberries, peaches or bananas, preapred in various ways. We all tried a bit of all three of these and it was hard to pick a favourite!

All in all, we enjoyed our lunch. The staff were friendly and helpful and the chef was accommodating and happy to come to our table and discuss our options.
The view we had from our outdoor table, was lovely, as the restaurant is situated right on the Swan River.
The downside to the restaurant is that it is very expensive (on average, the entrees cost $12 to $27, the mains up to $40, the desserts around $15) and the portions on the small side.   
But if you can afford it, and want a 'finer'dining experience, then by all means give this restaurant a go - just make sure you give them sufficient notice that you will be requiring a full vegan menu.

Zafferano Restaurant is situated at 173 Mounts Bay Road (Old Swan Brewery) in Crawley. 
They are open Monday to Sunday Noon to late. Breakfast available on the weekends 8am .

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Coles Simply Gluten Free Quinoa Range

This is a nice little range that Coles have put out for those who have an allergy or intolerance to gluten.

I was a bit wary at first, however, as to whether these products were suitable for vegans, as there was no indication as to the type of emulsifier used. Some are plant derived, some animal.

I ended up emailing Coles and they stated:

Upon receipt of your correspondence, we were in contact with our National Quality Team. They have advised that this is vegetable based emulsifier. We do not use the animal source in our products.

Great news!
There are three varieties available - the plain quinoa, the Moroccan style brown rice and quinoa , and the Mexican style brown rice and quiona, which is my favourite, as it has quite a bit of 'kick' to it. NOTE: the Moroccan contains milk so avoid that one!

They are easy to use - just heat up in a microwave - so they are good to take to work for lunch. I like to heat and then add to some raw vegetables.
These are also very handy when travelling, as they do not need refrigeration.

You can find them in Coles supermarkets, in their very own 'Simply Gluten Free' section.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Sanitarium Vegie Delights Chilli Non Carne and Chickpea Masala Curry

Naturally, home made curry and chilli tastes the best, but for those days when you come home from work and are too tired to cook, I have found steaming some rice and adding a can of one of these, does the trick. Best if you heat before you add but I have been known to eat them unheated and they taste fine.

Both are vegan and gluten free, and are available from the health foods section of Woolworths supermarkets. My partner likes the Chilli one but I find it a bit too hot and spicy, so I prefer the Curry, which although is spicy, isn't overly strong.

Like I said, it is good of steamed rice, but I have know to throw it on some soft rice noodles. On toast is another good option.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

gopicnic Ready-to-eat-meals

These are little boxes of vegan and gluten free yum that my partner and I like to take with us when we are out walking for the day, in a park, the bush, whatever, and don't feel like having to pack a picnic's worth of food AND carry it with us as we walk. With this box of treats, we can just stop every now and then and have a 'course'. Best of all, nothing needs to be refrigerated.

There are usually 5 items in each pack, basically consisting of a type of cracker, dip, trail mix, fruity snack and dessert. One pack per person is the way to go but we share, as these little beauties are a bit pricey.

According to their website, there are several vegan varieties to choose from, however, we have only seen and tried 3 of them: the Sunbutter and crackers, the Hummus and crackers, and the Black bean dip and plantain chips.

The only place we have seen these being sold is the Victoria Park Loving Hut cafe. If you spot these anywhere else in Perth, please let me know!

Monday, 9 September 2013

Bodhis Wheat Free Pizza Bases

I discovered these gluten free pizza bases at the Coles Gluten Free Expo this year and gave them a go, after confirming that they were also vegan.
In the past, I had trouble finding a gluten free base that didn't also have 'milk solids' listed in its ingredients.
The only ones I could find were the Simply Wize ones, which although are good, are rather small in size.
The Bodhis ones are larger, have nicer texture and flavour to them. Hands down the best gluten free vegan pizza bases I have tasted so far.
Good news is, they are not only available in some health food shops, but also in Coles supermarkets, in the bread section. Their shelf life isn't all that long, so make sure that when you buy them, you plan to use them soon.
A pack, which contains 2 bases, costs around $5-6.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Recipe: Creamy Potato Soup

I have really been using my slow cooker, lately, thanks to "The Vegan Slow Cooker" by Kathy Hester. This is another recipe I lifted from her cookbook. This is good on its own or you can use it as a base for other creamy soups, adding broccoli, spinach or carrots.

What you will need:
4 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cut into medium sized cubes.
1 clove garlic (optional)
2 cups water
2 tbsp chicken flavoured vegan bouillon (I use Massel brand, available in supermarkets
1 sprig fresh rosemary
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup soy milk ( I use Bonsoy, as it is not sweet. Available in supermarkets)

Combine potatoes, garlic (if using), water, bouillon, rosemary, salt and pepper in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.
Add the soy milk. Remove rosemary sprig.
Puree the soup with a hand held immersion blender.
You can serve topped with shredded vegan cheddar cheese, if you like.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Recipe: Hungarian Mushroom Soup

Another slow cooker recipe from "The Vegan Slow Cooker" by Kathy Hester. This one is  a thick, creamy soup, and very easy to make.

What you will need for the Sour Cream:
1 1/2 cups raw cashews OR equal amount of silken tofu (This is the super soft kind)
1 cup water
juice of half a lemon

Method for the Sour Cream:
Combine the ingredients in a blender and puree until fairly smooth.

What you will need for the soup:
2 to 3 tbsp olive oil
1 medium sized onion, minced (optional)
Approx. 600g mushrooms, chopped
4 cups water
1/2 tbsp vegan chicken flavoured bouillon ( Massel are a good brand. Available in supermarkets.)
Juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp paprika

Method for the soup:
If using onion, saute in a pan, over a medium heat, using the olive oil. 3-5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until they begin to brown and give off their liquid, 8-10 minutes.
Combine the sauteed vegetables, water, bouillon, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and paprika in the slow cooker and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.
Add the sour cream and sir to combine. Serve.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Recipe: Cheezy Squares

I am not one of those people who can just make up delicious concoctions as I go. I kinda need a recipe to follow. But I have a friend (hi Ramona!) who is good at experimenting and she is the one who came up with these. We were going to a quiz night and she brought these along. They were DELICIOUS and not all that hard to do. They are also quite open to interpretation - you can pretty much use your imagination as to what toppings you want to use.
They are best eaten while still warm but they taste fine cold, too.

What you will need:

Sheets of frozen puff pastry. (We used Pampas, which is free of animal ingredients, but just check ingredients list for other brands. There IS gluten free puff pasty available to buy and use but I have found that it just does not puff properly so I use the regular kind.)

Toppings of your choice - sliced black olives, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion, asparagus, broccoli etc.

Small amount of soy milk for brushing.

Cheezy sauce - this is a stock standard white sauce recipe off the back of a cornflour packet, with a sprinkling of nutmeg, salt and nutritional yeast added, to taste.


Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
While the pastry sheets are still frozen, score with a knife, crossways to make 4 squares to a sheet. Snap the sheets and place on a baking tray.
When they are slightly more thawed, score them again about 1cm from each edge, along all four sides of each square.
Arrange your toppings on the inside of the scored lines and then top with a dollop of cheezy sauce.
Glaze the edges of the tarts with soy milk, using a pastry brush.
Pop into the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until the exposed pastry edges have browned nicely.

Leave to stand for a few minutes before serving, as it helps to firm up the sauce a bit.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Recipe: Split Pea and Apple Soup

I would not have thought that apple would have gone well with the other ingredients in this soup recipe, but oddly enough, it does.

This recipe is from the book "The Vegan Slow Cooker" by Kathy Hester. As indicated by the title, you will need a slow cooker for this recipe.

This recipe is gluten free.

What you will need:
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2 medium sized carrots, chopped
1 medium sized apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
6 cups water
2 tbsp vegan chicken flavoured bouillon (the Massel brand is available in supermarkets and is vegan)
2 cups split peas
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp nutmeg
salt to taste
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Combine all the ingredients except for the balsamic vinegar. Cook in a slow cooker on low for 6 to 8 hours.
Remove the bay leaf and add the balsamic vinegar. Stir to combine and the puree soup with a hand held immersion blender. Serve.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Recipe: Russian Sauerkraut Apple Salad

I nabbed this super simple recipe from this website.

I know sauerkraut is an acquired taste. My mother, although Greek, spent most of her childhood in Poland, so she often cooked with sauerkraut when I was a child. If you haven't had it before, give it a go. You may be surprised at how tasty it is. Plus, it is full of probiotics, thanks to the fermentation process.

What you will need:
1 can of sauerkraut (about 400g)
2 apples (my favourites are fuji apples)
1 tbsp sugar
fresh chopped parsley, to taste
fresh chopped dill, to taste (optional)

Cube apples and add to other ingredients. Combine well and serve. Easy!

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Vegan feta, anyone?

Coming from a Greek family, I was raised on feta cheese. My favourite way to eat it was with pasta or with watermelon. I have found from experience that it is an acquired taste and if you were not raised eating it, it may take a while for you to get use to it.  Feta also varies a lot, depending on where it is made. The Greek feta, I found was dryer, more crumbly, whilst the Danish was creamier and smoother. Saltiness was another factor. I found the Greek to be saltier.

Why am I going on about dairy feta in a vegan blog? Well, I have actually managed to find a vegan version, which surprised me to no end! I have come across all sorts of vegan cheeses, from cheddar to blue, but never feta. 

Then I heard that the Kakulas stores and some other European import food stores stock a vegan cheese, so I had to go and check it out.

I found some at Kakulas Sister in Nollamara. It was behind the deli counter, and was labelled as 'Fasting/Vegan Feta'. The 'fasting' aspect is for the benefit of their Greek Orthodox clients, who for religious traditions, fast at certain times of the year. For vegans, this means that this feta contains no animal ingredients and I am told, has been confirmed by the highest Greek Orthodox authority in Perth. 

I bought a small block and took it home to crumble it on some pasta. The taste test proved that it leaned more towards the 'creamy' texture, rather than the crumbly and it was very much salty. Some might find it too salty, so I would suggest consuming it in moderation. You'd probably want to do that anyway, as it is quite rich , too.

So, finding vegan feta just goes to prove that if you look, you can pretty much find a vegan version of just about anything!