Nac Mac Vegan: adventures in rabbit food

08/12/2009

Chocolate beer waffles!

Filed under: Gadgets, Reading matter — Tags: , , , — Feòrag @ 21:41

This morning, I got a copy of Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. The American brunch foods aren’t common in the UK – we have our own tradition of enormous breakfast later in the day – but I developed a fondness for them through the Sunday afternoon brunch at the late, lamented Country Life in Boston.

The recipe that caught my eye almost immediately was one for chocolate beer waffles. Three of my favourite things in one recipe! I have a waffle machine, and nearly all of the ingredients in stock, so I’ve been making them. I also made the chocolate drizzle – a rich sauce – from the same book to go with them.

The very first thing that impressed me about the waffles section was the list of problems you might have and how to fix them. It included the one that had been bugging me about my own waffle iron – waffles splitting horizontally – and the fix worked.

Anyway, I made the waffle mix with Black Isle Brewery‘s organic porter and Green and Black’s cocoa. I had to buy in almond milk, which is a wee bit expensive, and in future I’m pretty sure I can make it in the soya milk machine anyway. The sauce recipe included a variation involving liqueurs, so I made it with Wynand Fockink Bitterkoekjes. My friends and I have already exhausted all the jokes surrounding the distillery name on our many visits to their proeflokaal just off Amsterdam’s Dam square.

The waffles were lovely, but it was all a bit rich. I learned it’s really important to remember to spray the waffle iron every time, and that it’s not a good idea to forget you have a waffle in there. For this recipe alone, I recommend this book. I’ll check some of the others in due course.

The Post-Punk Kitchen website, home of Isa Chandra Moskowitz.

30/05/2009

Early 20th century nutmeats revisited

Filed under: Gadgets, Historic — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 22:50

I first experimented with making my own nutmeats over four years ago, and wrote up my experiences. I based my recipes on those given in Evora Buckram Perkins’s Laurel Health Cookery. It was a bit of a palaver, and at the time I commented:

It is easier to buy a tin of Nuttolene, but this is a useful recipe to know in case of drought.

Well, it has come to pass that there is a Nuttolene drought. Goodness Direct claims to have it in stock, but I haven’t seen it in the shops for over a year now. The customer comments over on that site hint at discontinuation after 105 years in production – it was invented, as a paté, by Dr. Kellogg himself, and went on sale in late 1904. I’m not sure when it turned into the more solid product I’ve been craving, but the difference seems to be simply the amount of water used.

Since my efforts four years ago, I have acquired a number of gadgets that might make the task easier. Firstly, I have just bought a pair of mug-shaped, loose bottomed cake tins, with a capacity of just over 1.5 cups each. I don’t know what they were intended for, but they struck me as just the right shape for nutmeats. I also have a 600w Braun hand blender, with a large liquidiser attachment, and a Kenwood Major with the meat mincer attachment, the latter serving perfectly well as a nut mill. All of these, in addition to the pressure cooker, should make the task easier than in 2004, and considerably easier than in 1911!

The only change I’ve made to the recipes I used in 2004 is to reduce the amount of water in the Nutmese (the Nuttolene-type nutmeat). The quantities given fit nicely into one of the tins mentioned above. For the record, here they are:

Nutmese

½ cup raw peanuts
1 cup cooked peanuts (see below)
a tiny smidgen of salt (very optional)
approx ¼ cup water.

Put the cooked and raw nuts into a blender and grind together. Add salt and water, and grind some more till it’s smooth. Put into a greased tin, and cover with grease aluminium foil. Steam for at least 2 hours in a pressure cooker.

Wrapped up and ready to steam

Wrapped up and ready to steam


Trumese (Protose-type nutmeat)

½ cup peanuts, cooked
½ cup blanched peanuts (be lazy, buy them ready-blanched)
½ cup vital wheat gluten flour
½ cup water
1 tsp cereal coffee (see note below)

Grind up the peanuts as for Nutmese. Add the wheat gluten and blend a bit more, then add the water and cereal coffee and blend until it turns into a dough, like a slightly heavy bread dough. Put into tins and steam as above.

I had expected to need to mix this up by hand and run it through the mincer a few times, but the Braun hand blender can just about handle this amount of dough. If I made a double quantity, I’d have to use the Major.

Cooking peanuts
Peanuts take about 80-90 minutes to cook in a pressure cooker. I made up a large batch and have frozen the leftovers. Cooked peanuts look like pinto beans, so labelling might be important.

Cereal Coffee
I found it very difficult to get hold of a cereal coffee that did not contain chicory (which would taste foul). I used Yorzo Instant Original from Lima Foods, which is made entirely from roasted barley and nothing else. I’m thinking that a tablespoon full of shoyu, and a reduction in the amount of water used, would be a good alternative.

The finished nutmeats - Nutmese on the left and Trumese on the right.

The finished nutmeats - Nutmese on the left and Trumese on the right.

They came out of their tins pretty easily. Some water got into the Nutmese, making it more like the original paté, but the Trumese came out beautifully – it’s good and solid. I will experiment with using as little water as possible in the Nutmese, but really I’d rather be able to go just up the road and pick up a tin or two of Nuttolene.

Update: the Nutmese solidified considerably on cooling.

10/03/2009

Review: Joyce Chen Spiral Slicer

Filed under: Gadgets — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 14:48
Joyce Chen Spiral Slicer

Joyce Chen Spiral Slicer

I picked up this little gadget at Grezzo on my recent trip to Boston. I’d been looking for one, and asked if they knew where I could get on, and it turned out they sold them. It does one trick, one that isn’t done by any of the other gadgets cluttering up my kitchen. It simply cuts vegetables into spirals, with a option to cut them into noodle-like spiral strips. By slicing vertically down your vegetable, to halfway through, you can get slices – I think I’ll stick to using a mandoline and/or my very sharp Japanese knives for that job, thank you.

Getting in five-a-day is tricky, even for a vegan, and doing so during a Scottish winter is even less practical, so my plans for this gadget are to use it to create more palatable dishes from carrots, turnips and similar rooty staples. It should be particularly good for Japanese carrot and daikon salad.

I decided to test it with the vegetable most likely to be subject to its blades – an innocent little carrot. But first I had to assemble it. The assembly is not the same as illustrated in the manual, but that’s because some of the work has already been done at the factory. I also noticed that one of the lugs that holds the top part to the cutting part had not survived the game of rugby played by the baggage handlers. This turned out to not affect its operation, though I might still glue it back on.

I prepared my sacrifice by top-and-tailing it and cutting it in half. Inserting it into the device wasn’t tricky, and operation is simple – just turn the handle clockwise while exerting gentle downward pressure. It’s a slow process, and a little bit of exercise. And the results?

Half a savaged carrot.

Half a savaged carrot.

That should be one of the five. I used it as a garnish on top of a bowl of instant noodle soup, along with some raw spinach and purple sprouting broccoli.

Plus points: makes vegetables more interesting, and raw vegetables edible, relatively inexpensive ($25 US).

Minus points: incorrect assembly instructions, hard work, only one width of strips available, hard to find.

Another review: Vegetarian Belly (negative).

27/02/2009

Review: Sanyo ECJ-FS50 Rice cooker

Filed under: Gadgets — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 12:53
The Sanyo ECJ-FS50 multi-function cooker.

The Sanyo ECJ-FS50 multi-function cooker.

I have been resisting buying a rice cooker for a long time. After all, I have the Perfect Rice Pan and know how to cook rice. What’s more, my friend’s rice cooker produces tasteless, dry white rice and doesn’t do brown rice at all, so why would I want one?

When I was in Japan, I noticed that the rice cookers on sale there were somewhat more advanced than the ones I saw in the shops here. They had computer control, and settings for different types of rice, including brown rice. But nothing like that had ever reached the UK, most of the ones here being simple models, and there was no point bringing one home, because Japanese electricity runs at 100v, rather than 230v. I spotted this Sanyo cooker in the enormous Chinese supermarket in Glasgow. It was much more expensive than most rice cookers, but it explicitly claimed to have a brown rice mode, and was also a slow cooker—another gadget I’d been craving. It seemed to be a halfway house between the more usual British rice cooker, and the more interesting Japanese models—possibly the most simple of Japanese types. My partner is worse than I am when it comes to gadgets, so we bought one, and it sat in the cupboard for a few months whilst I continued to use the Perfect Rice Pan.

Inside the rice cooker

Inside the rice cooker

Last night, I decided to give it a go and see what it did to the Italian short-grain brown rice I use as my standard “Japanese” rice. It’s quite a small rice cooker, but it can cook up to eight portions of brown rice (or ten portions of the tasteless stuff), and its really simple to use—you use the measure supplied to add the rice (one measure=two portions), then top up with water to the appropriate line. The inside of the pan is clearly marked—if you put one measure of brown rice into the cooker, you add water up to the “1” line on the scale labelled “Brown”. You then put the lid down, make sure that the “keep warm” light isn’t on, press the “menu” button until an arrow points to the word “Brown” and then hit the “Cook” button.

And then you wait.

It takes much longer to cook rice—an hour and a quarter as opposed to 40 minutes or so. You get a countdown for the last 13 minutes, which is helpful if you are busy cooking the accompaniments, and it automatically switches to “keep warm” mode when it’s done. The completion of the rice is announced with a ding which might be audible if you live in a Zen temple, as long as you are not too close to any running water.

The rice itself came out as perfect Japanese-style brown rice—better than I do with the pan. It sticks together in just the right way. I haven’t tried it with other rices yet, but this setting should be good for Thai-style brown jasmine rice. I suspect I’ll stick with the Perfect Rice Pan for basmati and other long-grain rices, but for Japanese rice, the cooker wins.

There are many interesting settings to investigate, including one for sprouted brown rice—a product I’ve only just learned about, and plan to order from the Japan Centre soon so I can play with it. There’s a timer, where you set the time you’d like your rice to be ready, and there are steamer and slow cooker functions which look straightforward. I think we can ignore the cooked yoghurt mode!

My main criticism so far is that the supplied power cord is much too short, but it’s a standard kettle cable with a 13 amp fuse, so it’s not hard to replace. In the end, I had the cooker on the IKEA stool close to an otherwise unused outlet, and that kept it out of the way and off the work surfaces. The manual is clear, with amusing Japanese illustrations and very few lapses into Engrish.
I can work around the long cooking times. It is rather expensive, though.

Sanyo’s product page for the ECJ-FS50.
Japan Centre product page. I got it for less than that at the Chinese supermarket, though, and Amazon is even more expensive.

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