I will start posting again. I will. I fucking will!
The food was great; healthy and brassy, spicy flavours. The point of this post is to illustrate, quite literally, the importance of light to a successful food pic. The below picture was just after it was cooked, at night, without natural light and with rising steam. The picture above is in my lunchbox the next day, stone cold and placed on the window sill of my work at 6am. Which looks more tempting? Natural light is everything.
(P.S. The two dishes, beetroot curry and cabbage dal can be found on the Limes and Lycopene blog)
November is a shitty month as a teacher. There’s reports, marking and other shit that I’m not going to complain about lest I become one of those teachers who regularly updates about hating marking. That is worst than marking itself. But compounding that for me is the School Certificate marking I’m doing this week.
This basically means that I start my days at 6am and don’t get home until after 9pm. For 5 hours of an evening I’m locked in a room and I have to mark short response after short response about women and migrant in post war Australia. Besides the sporadically amusing answer (one response: “women were treated badly in the olden days. They were known as the sloppy seconds) its tedious.
To cut a whingey post short, I have no time to cook. So the next few posts are recipes created on the weekend. This is a broccoli pesto that I got and altered from cookbooks 101. It has spinah and walnuts and olives through it too.
When you go vegan, there are large swathes of products you automatically eliminate from your mental food craving inventory. For me, Adora chocolates in Sydney was an automatic deletion. I’m so glad that I enquired when I was in there with a friend recently. Not only do they sell blocks of dark chocolate that are delicious and vegan, a number of their smaller chocolates on display are dairy free (and are labelled so). All the truffles are out of reach but most of the nut and fruit chocolates are within the rules of veganism.
Let this serve as a warning: Don’t assume. Enquire.
The third pizza for the trifecta (which was actually the best of the three pizzas and my most innovative) had a photo taken of it but that photo mysteriously disappeared. I WILL make it again to show that I’m not lying.
1. Thyme Oil Artichoke Pizza- Its a Jamie Oliver recipe. I think from his first book before everybody carcked on to what a tool he is. The artichokes you have to peel yourself (this is quite satisfying) and the marinade you make for them is great BUT this pizza really needed a thin crust. I was aiming for a thin crust but my amateur pizza dough skills made the pizza puff up when I was transfering it to the pizza stone. I’ve worked out a technique of placing the thin dough on the stone first, pricking it with a fork so it doesn’t start to puff up and then quickly topping it off (i.e., placing the topping on it, not killing it hit-man style).
2. Mustard Base Mixed Vegie Pizza - this experiment failed to a certain degree because I used a chilli mustard as the base and that was really all you could taste. A dijon or whiolegrain would have been better. Again, dough was too thick. I hear that if you’re American then you like that kind of shit, you filthy animals.
3. Salt and Vinegar Potato Pizza - Use this recipe but you really need to dilute the water that you boil the potatoes in. Put them on a thinish base and use a tangy tomato base. Something like this is ideal:
This pizza is seriously great. It seems very carb heavy, but no more than a chip roll. And who doesn’t like a chip roll? This is chip roll’s North Shore cousin who he is part embarrassed by and part envies.
Again, horrible photo, less than horrible meal. Far from it actually. Its the haggis that featured in my first, breakfast-themed post along with Isa’s punk-rock gravy (it surprised me with its authentic gravy taste) and her roasted and heavily salted, garlicked and olive oiled brussel sprouts. If you haven’t tried these, you’ve got to. The potatoes were just oiled and oven-baked with some rosemary on them for that old timey roast flavour.
My friend with tenuous Scottish links thinks its a travesty to be giving this the moniker of haggis when it doesn’y involve sheep guts and animal entrails. She suggested I call it spiced veggie bowl but that sets a dangerous precedent where every vegan version of a meal can only be called by its constituent parts. So haggis it remains.
I’ve signed up to Vegan MoFo. I don’t really know what it means but I gather that its a big vegan blog love-in and already I’ve gained two new followers as a result without having posted a thing. In any case it’ll get me to be more active with my blogging and more creative with my cooking.
A few weeks back I tried the Spanakopita from the Easy As Vegan Pie blog. I have to say that if you are going to make a tastebud for tastebud comparison between the vegan and non-vegan versions, you’re going to feel that the vegan version is missing something. But the whole idea for me with vegan cooking is that these initially ersatz meals become the core of your cravings with repeated eatings and the further you distance yourself from their original form. Add to that the poweful repellent that is the thought of what cheese actually is as well as the means of its production and this by far is the superior of the two.
The photo isn’t great. Its was taken on my I-phone but you get the idea. Flakey pastry; creamy tangy centre. A satisfying meal.
This dish is so good. I know this not only through the authority of my own tastebuds but there is an abundance of circumstantial and direct evidence too:
- Both myself and Vanessa felt compelled to write to the creator of this dish to demonstrate appreciation and awe.
- When I cooked it for my parents they did their usual “this is delicious” nurturing routine BUT THEN went back for seconds and kept some for lunch so I know it was more than affability.
- Another carnivore friend has sent me multiple texts (two) of praise and has now requested the recipe.
- And I’ve had a number of people say “this dish is so good”.
This is now my go-to dish when cooking for others. I’d call it my signature dish but that’s wanky and also, because the dish is Terry Hope Romero’s, then technically that would be forgery. I’ve made this a number of times: for parties; for dinner guests; for a friend that had a baby; for a friend who lost a father. I sincerely recommend you try it.
Three caveats: 1. Tomatillos are hard to find in Australia. I have located a place that sells them canned and they work well.
2. It can get expensive. If you have a lot of the spices, etc on hand then it’s not too bad but pine nuts and cans of tomatillos are pricey.
3. It takes time, somewhere between 2-3 hrs from opened can to open mouth. So its a good weekend afternoon activity with red wine and Neko Case. It reheats well so you could cook it a day in advance or at least some components of it.
One of the most sacrificial things I have found about going vegan is that at most cafes there is virtually NO vegan option. Eating out for lunch or dinner is fairly easy to negotiate but I have been less than satisfied with the vegan breakfast choices available. In my previous life one of my greatest indulgences, particularly on school holidays, involved a cafe breakfast, coffee and a scratchy attempt at the Herald’s crosswords.
When I first went vegan I found myself in a food court on a Sunday morning with an abusive hangover and no options besides a cous cous and pumpkin salad that did nothing to temporarily soothe my pain like a fry-up would. So for me it is important to know that you can make an awesome vegan breakfast to ensure my fidelity to The Cause. While the following is more than an alocholic’s shakey hands could handle on the morning after, it was a frigging good breakfast.
As-Scottish-As-Vanessa Breakfast Fry-Up
- Store bought hash browns - grilled under the griller. If I had more time I’d have made a rosti which no doubt would not have tasted as good but it would bolster my cooking blog cred.
- Garlic mushrooms - a bunch of mushrooms, pan fried in olive oil with garlic tossed in at the end so that it was still pungent rather than tasting like grated coal.
- Rocket pesto - from here. I found that it was too bitter (from the lemon, not the rocket) and so added extra garlic, oil and some savoury yeast flakes to rescue it from drowning in a lemony sea. Not only was it rescued but was probably the most buoyantly delicious component on the plate.
- Baked Beans - I fried an onion and then a few cloves of garlic in a dish on the stove; chucked in a couple of cans of chopped tomatoes, some fresh thyme, a glug of red wine, about a tablespoon of brown sugar, two tins of beans and some diced, fried-off facon. The key is letting it cook for almost an hour until it becomes almost stew-like; extremely tender. I did it on the stove for 30 mins and then in the oven for another 30 to free up some stove space.
- Roasted cherry tomatoes - again the vines are just for cred. I roasted them in the oven for about 40 mins at about 170 degrees. I doused them in olive oil and a blasamic glaze before they went in and greeted them with a salt and pepper ticker-tape parade on their triumphant return. A drizzle of the balsamic was reapplied too.
- Vegetarian haggis - I followed this easy recipe. The quantities were so small and precise and I have no scales, so I winged it. I just tried to keep all the ingredients in proportion to one another. It firmed up well in the oven but when I pulled it out of the tin, it was only the exposed top that had developed a crust. So I placed the untinned haggis loaf back into the oven to get crispness all round. And each individual piece that I carved for this breakfast got the same crispening treatment in an oiled frying pan before I served it. I topped it with an onion jam and it was…..um…. not even finished my first post and I’m struggling with synonyms and metaphors to describe deliciousness.
This is how the haggis looked out of the oven but before individual pieces were fried:
You can see it’s moist inside, a little too moist and so a greasy frying-up was in order.
I wanted to cook the PPK’s scrambled tofu too but we voted in the federal election this morning, walked the dogs and went shopping. So by the time all the rest was ready to eat, waiting on one last dish to be cooked was more than our hunger could tolerate.