Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Greens Pie

You know, I've been feeling really good lately. I've been running again, eating incredibly healthy food (lots of greens, owing to my lack of sunshine, and heaps of raw foods too) and generally feeling pretty positive. I've been rediscovering bands I love, doing quite well in my classes, keeping up with the lectures I give at the uni, and even found the time to start proof-reading my housemate's final paper. Everything is coming up Milhouse.

So, to celebrate, I broke out the unhealthy food! Ha, not really. I broke out two small sheets of puff pastry, the olive oil, soymilk, vege stock and the bunch of Mangelwurzel leaves that I had sitting in the fridge. Normally I'd use spinach, or maybe even coloured silverbeet (because I used to have huge and profuse plants growing in my garden) but I saw the Mangelwurzel at the Dom Markt and made the purchase. If you're not familiar with it, it's related to silverbeet (chard). Mixed in with a creamy sauce and plenty of seasoning, this was definitely the treat that I deserved! Make it. You're worth it. ;)

Greens Pie

1 large bunch greens (silverbeet, mangelwurzel, whatever!) leaves and stems separated and chopped
3 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 Tbsp white flour
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
soymilk (sorry, I never measure)
2 tsp vege stock powder
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp dried rosemary leaves
1/2 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp siracha (optional; only if you like a kick!)
+ sufficient puff pastry to cover.

Preheat your oven to 210 degrees C.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and sautee the garlic until fragrant. Add the chopped stems and allow to sautee for a few minutes to soften. Add the dried herbs, pepper and stock powder.
Add the flour to the mix and stir so that the flour isn't clumped. Allow to cook for another minute, to lightly toast the flour and get rid of that raw-floury taste.
Add soymilk, about a cup at first, and then more as you need it. Stir constantly to enable the flour to thicken into a sauce without getting lumps, adding extra soymilk as needed to make a smooth but very thick sauce. (Add siracha here, if you need the spice.)
Fold through the chopped leaves, allowing to wilt, before transferring the mix to an oven-proof dish.
Top with enough puff pastry to cover, and bake for about 10-15 minutes, according to the directions on your pastry box. (My oven is insanely slow, and took 25 minutes.)
Enjoy! The filling will be creamy while it's hot, but can set when you refrigerate your leftovers (what leftovers!?).

This is also pretty good as a side dish, if you cringe at how unhealthy puff pastry is... ;)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I hope I haven't already posted this...

You know, this is precisely why I'm not into commercial vege burgers. That white layer you see on the outside of the patties? That's fat. And yes, I did mop it up with paper towels as it melted. But seriously, how disgusting is that? This is what I get for buying commercial, frozen vege burgers instead of cooking real meals. In my defense, it was one of the things I ate just before going away, when the contents of the fridge were a touch, um, scarce. What little was in there was condiment-based, plus a few salad items, so I decided to have burgers and salad. Give me a plain salad any day. Or better yet, give me a homemade burger made with items that constitute real food. Sadly, just because it's vegan doesn't mean that it's worth eating. :(

Savoury Vegetable Pancakes

You're probably thinking that the title here is rather obvious. Duh, Megan, of course your pancake with vegetable filling is savoury. But, you shouldn't jump to conclusions just yet; if I ever get around to taking a picture of them before devouring them, my sweet pumpkin pancakes might yet make an appearance... unfortunately, they tend to only appear for a few seconds before they're hidden by my teeth, tongue and digestive system. They're that good. So today, I give you a different breakfast; one inspired by my insatiable green-veg cravings. I think it's the lack of sunlight that has been causing them, but there's only 8 weeks until I leave Germany, so that will all be solved in good time... Am I excited? You better believe it.

So, once again, I'll apologise for the lack of food styling and delicious pictures. You see, at 8am on a Sunday morning (my idea of sleeping late), I'm generally not at my photographic best... plus the sun isn't up yet, so my kitchen is dark. And I'm also not at my best when I was woken at 1am by the pig-squeals of the upstairs neighbour (and her boyfriend) who are up to the eyeballs on god knows what... that's another story for another time. We used to have such a quiet apartment, and I really don't know what happened... However, to get to the point, this isn't the best looking collection of veg in sauce you've seen lately. Normally I'd be making it creamier (see note later) but I'm watching what I eat at the moment, and so it probably looks a little strange. It was originally supposed to have whole baby spinach in it, but then I decided that the spinach was too good to be mixed with other vegetables, and saved it for lunch. Shredded, frozen spinach took its place... but I recommend the baby leaves. They're so much prettier.

Plain pancakes:

1 cup flour (I used half wholemeal spelt and half white; my spelt doesn't hold together as well as it normally does, probably because it's a different brand)
soymilk to bind
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed herbs, optional

Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl. Add soymilk slowly, mixing as you go, until it comes together into a thick but still pourable batter.
Heat a touch of oil in your frying pan, pour in half of the batter, and spread thinly with the back of your spoon or fork.
Fry until one side is golden (generally when it looks fully set on top, you can flip it) and fry on the other side until there is no more raw batter or pale spots.
Repeat with the other half of the batter.

Vegetable Filling:

1/2 small head of broccoli, sliced small (I quartered my florets so they'd cook quickly)
1/2 red capsicum, sliced thinly
2 generous handfuls of baby spinach leaves
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 cup soymilk
2/3 tsp vege stock powder
1 Tbsp flour
2 tsp vegan margarine, optional*
olive oil
salt and pepper

In a frying pan, heat a touch of olive oil. Sautee the broccoli and capsicum until the broccoli is bright green, 2-3 minutes. Push to one side.
On the other side of the pan, add the margarine and flour, mixing to make a roux. Add soymilk and mix well to make a thick sauce. Mix broccoli and capsicum with sauce and season with stock powder, basil, oregano and plenty of pepper. (Salt only if you've used a really low-salt stock; generally you shouldn't need it.)
Add a touch of water as extra liquid if needed, and fold through the baby spinach. Allow it to wilt for a couple of seconds, and then serve immediately.

To serve: Place 1 pancake on a plate, top with half of the vegetable mix, and fold over to form a taco-like shape. Eat & repeat! ;)

Eat blood oranges for dessert. Yum. Now there's a food that will never be ugly!

*In regards to the creamy sauce: If you're being careful about what you eat, you might like to omit the vege margarine, flour, and half the soymilk, using instead 1 level tsp cornflour dissolved in 1/2 cup water to thicken.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Easy Satay

This comes with a disclaimer: it's not the healthiest meal on this site. Sure, it's a whole lot better than shoving a hunk of beef into your mouth, or loading up on butter. Unless, of course, you're allergic to peanuts, in which case you might like to try this using almond butter instead of peanut. Unless you're also allergic to almonds, in which case, make your own damn recipes. ;)

This is an easy satay sauce, both rich and moreish. I like to serve it with slices of cucumber or a green salad to cut through the richness, and it's fantastic over rice or stirred through hokkien-style noodles. You can use whichever vegetables you have on hand, provided that you keep it colourful. The real reason why I often make this dish (the deliciousness of peanuts aside, here) is that it's great for hiding leftovers, or worse, something that I haven't liked all that much.

You can rest assured that it wasn't the above kale that I disliked. No, siree. My pain was self-inflicted; I stand entirely guilty of purchasing white asparagus out of season (c'mon, 1 euro 11 cents for a huge bunch!) and it was bitter. I'm still a little sensitive to bitter tastes, as much as I'm readily developing an addiction to olives, and have rediscovered the joys of broccoli. And that white asparagus wasn't going to eat itself. So I hid it in a sauce gutsy enough to disguise the bitter overtones, whilst still letting me enjoy the texture. Take that, Asparagus gods!

Yes, that is a giant hunk of peanut butter in the above photo. I'm not joking when I tell you that this sauce is easy. At its most basic, it can be cut down to four ingredients, but trust me when I tell you that it benefits from the addition of fried aromatics... oh, and the vegetables, of course. ;) Generally I make this sauce for chunks of crispy tofu, which I double-coat in spiced cornflour before frying. Unfortunately, I not only lack cooking oil (which is probably a good thing, in retrospect) but I'm also trying to eat healthier, after an overdose of unhealthy while I was away. So I figured that this sauce was naughty enough without involving anything fried in masses of oil. If you want the full deal, however, you know what I'll be recommending!

Easy Satay

2 spring onions, sliced
2 tsp sambal oelek*
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3cm piece ginger, finely chopped
1 zucchini, cubed
4 huge leaves kale or other green, chopped
2 cups sliced button mushrooms (mine were small, therefore just quartered)
1 bunch white asparagus, peeled and cut into 3cm lengths
2/3 cup frozen peas (optional; I was just finishing off the pack)
250g firm tofu, preferably fried until crisp in spiced cornflour coating!
1 x 400g can coconut milk (or coconut cream; make sure it's unsweetened)
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup sweet chilli sauce
rice, to serve

Sautee the spring onion, garlic, chilli and ginger in a tiny splash of oil until the garlic is cooked. Add vegetables, excluding peas (if using) and asparagus, and sautee for two minutes, or until just beginning to soften.
Add asparagus, peanut butter, coconut milk, soy sauce and sweet chilli sauce. Stirring constantly, allow the sauce to blend together and thicken slightly. Add water if you like a thinner sauce.
Simmer for four to five minutes, or until the asparagus is crisp-tender.
At the last moment, add the frozen peas and fried tofu. (If using plain tofu, add it with the asparagus.) Stir gently, so that the crispy coating doesn't fall from the tofu.
Serve immediately, over a bed of rice or noodles, and eat until you want to explode. :)

*my measurement for the sambal could be wrong, because the particular brand I bought just doesn't seem spicy! :(
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