Thursday, December 30, 2010

I'm in Florence!

Hey everyone,
Apologies again for the lack of updates... I haven't been cooking anything on my travels, but I've eaten some amazing food (especially here in Florence!) and can't wait to recreate it all in my kitchen when I get home. I'll try to take some more photos, because generally I'm starved and inhale my food before I think about reaching for my camera. ;)
Another year is creeping up... I hope it's both as challenging and as educational as the last, but I'm hoping for a little less stress, too. Still, I'm willing to admit that I need to be challenged in order to progress, so I have no real complaints about the last 12 months.
Back in a few weeks!
xo Megan

Sunday, December 19, 2010

On holiday!

My apologies for the lack of posts lately; I've had a lot of organising to do for my present travels. Rather than being bored and stuck in Paderborn over Christmas, one of my sisters has met me here in Amsterdam, and we'll be indulging in a 3-week, 7-country, 10-city whirlwind tour of Europe. So I'll be back in January, hopefully with lots of new ideas for things to cook, and plenty of (happy) tales to tell. I hope everyone has a great holiday season! xo.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Vegetable Fritters

This was a phenomenal lunch. Really. So much so, in fact, that it's roused me from my near-holiday stupor for long enough to post about it. I know, I've been Missing In Action lately. I have one week of German class left before our Christmas holidays, which consequently means that I have absolutely no interest whatsoever. It's a bit hard to deal with at times, but rest assured, I've been indulging in plenty of comfort eating. ;)

Here's the healthy part of the meal. The tomatoes are clearly grown in a greenhouse at this time of year, which means that they're not overly flavourful, but they're still a refreshing bite in a salad. However, I think I'm going to have to give up on them entirely, and switch to canned or passata for recipes from now on. Oh, and for the record, I'm not usually one to add tinned corn to a salad; that's a very, um, 'European' thing to do. Frozen corn kernels don't appear to be known to freezer sections around here, so I have to use up leftover corn immediately. Here, I used a cup in the fritters, so the rest went into my salad. This place is breaking down my resistance...

I like my batter for fritters to be pretty highly spiced. I used about a teaspoon of dried chilli, a teaspoon of thyme, as much pepper as I could be bothered grinding into it, and a little salt. I don't always bother adding salt to my fritters, because the first thing I do after removing them from the pan is to give them a liberal sprinkling of salt. So you're more than welcome to omit it. I'm not that concerned about salt.

This mixture needs to be thick enough to hold the fritters together without running off, but not so thick that you could bake it like a cake. It's a very forgiving mixture, so you can always add more flour if you make it too liquid. This is another point at which I lament the lack of self-raising flour in this country... baking powder just doesn't act as evenly. Still, these are impossible to stuff up, I promise.

Once the shredded vegetables and corn are mixed into the batter, it's time to fry. How large your fritters are depends entirely on your personal preference. I like my fritters quite large, so that I can spend less time cooking and more time eating; these are my reliable option for when I want something hot and filling in less than 10 minutes time.

As you can see, this fritter is pretty large. It's always fun to make a lot of small fritters, too; you can keep them warm in a hot oven, but they'll lose their crunch, so I prefer to make them and eat them all at once. I'm also not averse to a fritter that covers my entire plate; the way I see it is that they're time-economical. Which is definitely what I need these days; I have so much to do right now that I feel panicked just thinking about it. I'm going to have to write this post faster...!

Vegetable Fritters

1 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup corn kernels
1/2 zucchini, grated
1/2 large carrot, grated
soymilk (I think I used about 1 & 1/2 cups? I don't measure)
1 tsp chilli or cayenne
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp black pepper
salt

In a bowl, mix flour, spices and soymilk to make a batter. Add grated vegetables and corn, and mix thoroughly.
Fry fritters in oil until crispy.
Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, and serve hot.
These go nicely with a salad to create a full meal, especially using pumpkinseed oil as a dressing, and I recommend lightly pickled vegetables too; I had beets and a couple of crunchy pickles to accompany. At home in Australia I always ate these with chunks of avocado and chilli sauce, but I've also decided that I'm not averse to BBQ sauce as an accompaniment, either.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Veg for Breakfast.

This weekend, I craved vegetables. Not just at lunch and dinner like any normal person, no, I craved them at breakfast. After an incredibly unhealthy weekend last weekend, and consequently a less-than-perfect week, I just felt like I'd lived on quick-to-eat carbs (semolina and oats, mainly!) and needed something better. So, vegetables for breakfast was my solution to my craving. I felt like something with shredded zucchini - I thought about raw zucchini noodles, but the weather was much too cold. Grated zucchini and pumpkin provided the perfect solution.

You'd never think that so much flavour would come from a vegetable stuffed into plastic like a corpse at a crime scene. Seriously, that's not a flattering photo. But that's how my pumpkin came - I finally got into the habit of buying a chunk of a massive one, instead of selecting an entire pumpkin in a slightly smaller size. This way saves me the disappointment of terrible pumpkins... although, this one was pretty watery, and didn't roast very well. Never mind. I'm pretty sure it was a Muskatkurbis, but it had a large grain and the outside was a little bumpy, rather than smooth, so it was probably some sort of hybrid. It had that same lovely colour, though, and it was still delicious.

All grated up and ready to go, although the proportion isn't accurately displayed here - it was half and half, really. I entertained thoughts of making this beautiful grated mix into a salad, perhaps with some grated red beet to make it pretty (I not-so-secretly enjoy turning foods pink with beets) but again, the cold weather got the better of me. When it's -10 degrees C outside, I'm not one to enjoy my vegetables straight from the fridge. I don't handle cold weather overly well, so the promise of a long and snowy winter does have me a little worried. Never mind, though, breakfast will always come to my rescue!

Spring onions were sauteed in olive oil, and then the grated vegetables tumbled in after. My only concern was that they released a lot of moisture as they cooked. This could potentially be avoided if a huge pan and a minimal amount of vegetable was used, but that goes against the idea of a hearty (but healthy!) breakfast. My other idea was to wring the vegetables out before serving them, or to drain them in a sieve, but I decided against it. The final result was delicious, saucy, not-quite-soupy and completely addictive. I need to buy more zucchinis now, so that I can make a massive batch and eat this for breakfast every morning. Pasta, eat your heart out.

Veg for Breakfast.

2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 large zucchini, grated
2 cups pumpkin, grated (or an amount equal to the zucchini)
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat about 2 Tbsp olive oil in a frying pan, and sautee the spring onions until they're soft. Add the zucchini and pumpkin, 1/4 tsp of rosemary, and half of the parsley. Mix well, and allow to cook until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir regularly.
Meanwhile, in a smaller pan, heat about 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Add the chopped tomatoes and any juice released in the process of cutting them. Add the rosemary and stir well.
Cook the tomatoes until they've broken down just enough to form a sauce - they should still be chunky and rustic. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and a dash of cayenne or chilli if you need some extra warmth. Add the remaining parsley at the last moment before serving.
Season the grated vegetables with salt and pepper. Serve in a large bowl topped with tomato sauce, and feel virtuous about eating such a great breakfast, even when you go back for seconds.

black radish.

This rather beautiful vegetable is, indeed, a black radish. It's almost a pity that it's so good looking, really, because I didn't enjoy it. It was tough and bitter and nowhere nearly as satisfactory as the crisp bite of a daikon or cute pink radish. I couldn't eat it, it was that bitter... and believe me, I can eat a lot of unenjoyable food in the name of wasting less. Black radish = fail. :(

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Garlic and White Bean dip.

Sorry for disappearing off the face of the earth after the Vegan Month of Food... I've been pretty flat-out lately, but that's not all bad. In fact, a very good dip came from a recent visit to my friends in Muenster: Tash and I were lamenting the lack of ready-made dips, but a quick scan of her kitchen proved that she had all the necessary ingredient to make one of the easiest (and most garlicky) dips around:

Garlic and White Bean Dip

1 x 400g tin white beans, washed and drained
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic
juice of 1/2 small lemon
salt and pepper

Sautee the garlic in the olive oil until browned.
Add all ingredients to your lovely food processor. Or Tash's lovely food processor, in this case. Blend until smooth.
Add water to adjust consistency - you want it thick, but you need to be able to dip the crackers without breaking them.
Tash also had some chives in her fridge, so I added a couple. They did look rather pretty.

Confession: I really enjoy taking over other people's kitchens! ;)
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