Sunday, 27 February 2011

"Eggplant" Rollatini with Spinach and Tofu Ricotta

This recipe is a variation of one from the justly-famous Veganomicon, which we got for Christmas. (We spent Christmas in Switzerland, and my brother insisted that we carry this heavy book all the way there and back so we could open it on Christmas Day. My belly thanks you, Ed, but my back does not!)

We've been very slowly working through the recipes ever since. This one was quite complex to make, involving marinara sauce, breading mixture, tofu ricotta and a final assembly stage, but cooking together is a nice way of spending a winter's evening.

First, three aubergines were sliced lengthwise at a thickness of about 3 mm. I found the easiest way to do this was to cut them in half, lay one half on a board flat side down, and run a knife along to cut a slice off the bottom. If you press the handle of the knife onto the board and keep it that way as you move it, the blade will be held level at the right height. The slices of aubergine will look far too thick and stiff to roll up. Salt, drain and rinse them, however, and they lose a lot of water and become floppy. I'd never done this because it seemed an overcomplicated and 1970s technique, but I see now that it can have uses.

While one of you is developing aubergine science, the other can make up some tofu ricotta (recipe here) and almesan (a Parmesan substitute made with almonds -- recipe here). Get some marinara sauce on the go as well: it gets better the longer you leave it to cook.

Flour the slices and shallow-fry them to become golden brown. (The book advises coating them in a breadcrumb-and-herb mixture with almesan but we couldn't get it to stay on. Just add extra herbs somewhere else if you want them!)

To make the rollatinis, roll each aubergine slice around a spinach leaf and two tablespoons of ricotta. You can add toasted pine nuts too. Pour half your sauce into the bottom of a deep oven tray, arrange your rollatini on it, sprinkle on almesan and pour over the rest of the sauce.

Bake them for about twenty minutes at 180 °C and serve with more almesan sprinkled over the top. The book suggests serving with steamed broccoli or spaghetti ... but by the time we'd finished making the rollatini, we weren't hungry enough for either of those!

This was delicious and I can't wait to make it for guests. David thought the tofu ricotta was nicer than the real stuff, while I could happily eat almesan on its own with a spoon. We both agreed that having more sauce would have been better as it cooks down quite a lot.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Pear Tart

This was a tart we made from pears grown in our back garden. The fruit were a bit sour but nice, and the tart came our really well. The recipe: Put a big handful of raisins into a mug and fill it up with hot water. Leave them to soak. Take 5 pears and slice them into very thin wedges. Mix half a jar of vegan yoghurt with the soaked raisins and some pear syrup. If you don't have pear syrup, use golden syrup, maple syrup, or runny honey. Take an oven tray with raised edges, grease it if necessary, and line it with puff pastry. Blind bake for 5 minutes, then arrange the pears in an overlapping fashion. Pour the yoghurt/syrup/raisin mix on top evenly and put back into the oven until the pastry is brown.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Extended Edition Salad

Vegans, as we all know, eat vegetables, and vegetables means salads. Salads do not have to mean health food, however! We recently had a salad made from the following ingredients:

  • head lettuce
  • cherry tomatoes
  • fresh basil
  • humous
  • pesto
  • doritos (Yes, they're vegan. They may not technically be classed as food, but they are vegan.)
With a sauce made of:
  • 1 part olive oil
  • 2 parts balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Monday, 25 October 2010

International Almond Cupcakes of Mystery

A stack of un-iced almond cupcakes.

Adapted from Peanut Butter Cupcakes in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.

My friend Martin gave me this amazing book for Christmas and Dave and I have been slowly working our way through it since. I made the Gingerbread Cupcakes at the weekend -- they were delicious -- and wanted to repeat them tonight. Unfortunately, once I'd sieved the flour into the bowl I realised we were missing some key ingredients. I flicked through to find something I could bake instead. The substitutions I had to make gave a certain international aspect to the recipe!


3/4 cup soya milk
2 tsp sushi vinegar
1/2 cup whole nut almond butter
1/3 cup vegan margarine
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 plain wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 salt

1. Preheat oven to 180 °C and line a 12-cup muffin tray with paper liners.
2. Add sushi vinegar to soya milk and put to one side to curdle. (Finally, a recipe where you're meant to curdle the soya milk!)
3. Mix the almond butter, margarine, sugar, maple syrup and vanilla together in your main mixing bowl. Add the soya milk and vinegar and mix them in well.

Mixing the wet ingredients.

4. Sieve the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a smaller bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the main bowl and mix.
5. Fill the cupcake liners equally and bake for 20-25 minutes (ours were done after 20 minutes). They're ready when you can poke a skewer into the middle and it comes out clean.

Adding the batter to the cupcake liners.

Dave made a chocolate "buttercream" icing to put on top from margarine, lots of cocoa, some icing sugar and a little soya milk.

A cupcake with a thick layer of chocolate buttercream icing on a blue plate.

The cupcakes were tasty and very satisfying. The recipe called for plain white flour and next time I would use that instead of the wholemeal, but it didn't really matter because the almond butter had a strong enough flavour to stand up against it.

These were so good, I may never make the peanut butter recipe in the book -- unless I run out of almond butter, of course.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Star anise schnapps

A bottle of vodka and several green, unripe walnuts on a table in a garden

The picture above is rather misleading. Last summer, my colleague Martyn gave me half a dozen unripe walnuts from his tree, to make schnapps with. I steeped them in vodka for five months, according to this recipe, and left the liquid to mature for seven months. Just as the schapps should have been ready to enjoy, I moved house and the jar was spilled in the process.

Martyn gave me some more walnuts this year, the ones shown above. Unfortunately, it was too late in the year and they had already formed their woody shells. I cast about the kitchen for something to schnappsify, and found a bag of star anise. Here's a recipe for star anise schnapps from the same site.

This recipe had the advantage that it was a lot quicker to mature. (Being absent-minded, I still left the star anise in for a few days longer than recommended.) A week later, I served it to some friends as a digestif: seen below are Jenny, David and Dave.

The schnapps had a beautiful amber colour and a strong flavour of aniseed, with delicate undertones -- more complex than, for example, sambuca. The next time I make it, I'll probably leave the pods in for the same length of time and dilute it slightly with more vodka. I also want to try turning it into a liqueur and experimenting with the rest of the spice cupboard

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Beetroot and squash soup with red bean mash

When this blog started, the first couple of posts were of beetroot-based recipes, as Rachel had just gone to the market and brought back a lot of beetroot. This is once again the case, so here's some delicious squash and beetroot soup:

Recipe (serves 2)

  • 2 small squashes/pumpkins
  • 2 beetroots
  • olive oil
  • a stock cube
  • garlic paste, salt, a bit of cayenne pepper, and lots of cumin
Peel, de-core and cube the squashes and cube the beetroots. Put into pan with a generous amount of olive oil, some garlic paste, and the spices. Gently fry for 5-10 minutes. Then add the stock and enough boiling water to cover the vegetables. Simmer, occasionally stirring, for half an hour. The squashes will have dissolved, the beetroots softened, and the soup become thick, red, and creamy.

To go along with this, Rachel made a bean mash consisting of chopped spring onions, mashed kidney beans, lemon juice, tahini and pepper:

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Knobbly courgette, pea and tofu tart

One of the nice things about my company is that a lot of my colleagues have vegetable gardens and are generous with the produce thereof. This is how I came by this knobbly Venetian courgette. After it had served its time as an alien ray gun, it had to be cooked, and we thought this variation on a favourite meal would work nicely.

The original recipe is from The Really Useful Vegetarian Student Cookbook and contains courgette, peas, leak and anchovies (not too vegetarian!). Edit: no, it was in The Really Useful Student Cookbook, where anchovies would be less of a problem.

For this meal we steamed the courgette, as it was quite hard, while frying an onion in margarine, and then added the courgette, some frozen peas, salt and pepper and a packet of Cauldron marinated tofu chunks to the pan for a bit. We used readymade puff pastry for the base, leaving a margin around the edges to puff up.

The result was delicious. Steaming definitely helped the courgette play nicely with the other, fast-cooking ingredients but it kept its character in the mix. On the side I served some Greek-style chickpeas that another colleague had given me.