Nac Mac Vegan: adventures in rabbit food

26/05/2011

Patra buttie

Filed under: Experiments, Indian — Tags: , , , , , , — Feòrag @ 17:13

This is my own concoction, and it represents a truly British dish, needing the right combination of immigrant groups in sufficient numbers to have shops providing for them.

Patra is an Indian speciality made by spreading a spicy gram flour batter on taro leaves, rolling it up Swiss roll fashion and steaming it. It is available from Indian groceries in two forms in the UK. The easiest to find is canned but it is also available frozen, and this is, in my opinion, much better. The amount of patra you need depends on the size of the patra (the frozen is smaller) and the size of your slice of bread.

Polish shops have a range of ketchups. The “extra hot” one illustrated is not as spicy as it claims but has a nice tang. You can always spice it up by going to a Chinese or North American grocery and getting a hot chili sauce to add to it.

To make one sandwich:

between 3 and 5 slices of patra
2 slices wholemeal bread
Polish “extra hot” tomato ketchup
1-2 tbs olive oil
½ tsp white sesame seeds
½ tsp cumin seed
a pinch of asafœtida (hing)

Heat the oil in frying pan and add the spices. Cook for about thirty seconds before adding the patra and turning the heat down. When cooked, it goes a lovely golden brown colour – after a few minutes you will have to flip the slices.

Meanwhile, take one slice of your bread and put lots of ketchup on it. When the patra is done, arrange it on this slice of bread, add some more ketchup and bung the other slice over it. Cut in two and eat.

25/05/2011

White miso dressing

Filed under: Japanese — Tags: , , , , — Feòrag @ 14:55

This is a classic Japanese dressing for bamboo shoots that works incredibly well on asparagus. It’s very simple:

2 tbl sweet white miso
2 tsp brown rice vinegar
2 tsp sake
a good pinch of yuzu (optional)

Just mix it all together and it’s ready. It’s particularly good the after a night in the refrigerator as the flavours mix together and mellow beautifully. You can also mess with the proportions – using only half the vinegar and sake makes a very thick salad cream type dressing.

24/12/2010

Kenchinjiru: Shōjin winter vegetable stew.

Kenchinjiru is a traditional winter recipe originating in Zen temples, and there are many variations. The basic recipe adapts well to the sort of winter vegetables that are available in Scotland right now. It’s dead simple, and really warming. The amounts given makes a large bowl suitable for a meal for one. It’ll serve up to four as part of a larger meal. This is more of a formula than a recipe, and it can be made gluten-free by using a proper tamari instead of shōyu.

For the soup:
2 cups dashi
½ tsp frying oil
¼ tsp sesame oil
½ tsp shōyu
1 tsp sake

1 shiitake mushroom, both fresh and reconstituted dried ones are fine. If using dried, include the soaking water in the dashi.

2 large leaves spinach, a similar quantity of any green leafy vegetable, or a few green beans.

½ block (100g) tofu, cubed – either silken or “ordinary” will do

Vegetables: (choose three)
Peel (if needed) and slice them thinly. The first four are traditional:
Half a small carrot
5cm length of daikon from the thin end of the radish
1cm lotus root (quarter, then slice)
5cm burdock root
a quarter or a golden or striped beetroot (the traditional red one will colour the soup)
half a small parsnip
10cm length of salsify
a quarter of a small turnip, more if very small.
a similar amount of whatever root vegetable you happen to have.

Extras (choose one):
½ block konnyaku, any savoury variety, broken into lumps, boiled and drained.
1 sheet aburaage, rinsed and sliced thinly.

Heat the frying oil in a medium saucepan and add the vegetables, mushrooms and konnyaku (if using). Stir fry very briefly, then add the dashi, shōyu and sake. Bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are nearly cooked through. Add the spinach and tofu, and simmer until the tofu is warmed through and the spinach slightly wilted. Stir in the sesame oil and serve.

Savoury Strudel

I was attempting to make apple strudel last night and had five sheets of pastry left over. I was also hungry, so decided to experiment and make a mushroom strudel. Except I only had three mushrooms left, so had to add the potatoes.

5 sheets filo pastry, defrosted.
at least a cup vegetable ghee
Approximately a dozen small new potatoes
3 mushrooms
1 small onion
3 cloves garlic, or to taste
¼ cup ground almonds
2 tbl sesame seed
2 tbl olive oil
1 tbl flour
1 cup vegetable stock
Ground black pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 180°C, maybe 200°C if not fan-assisted.

Slice the potatoes very thinly and parboil. Set to one side.

Slice the mushrooms and onion thinly. Crush or chop the garlic finely. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and gently fry the mushrooms, onion and garlic for a few minutes. Add the ground almonds and the flour and fry for a minute or so more or until the flour darkens. Turn the heat down, and gradually add the stock, stirring all the time, until you get a thick creamy sauce. Bring to the boil – it should thicken slightly – then add the cooked potatoes and black pepper to taste and set to one side.

Melt the ghee in a small saucepan and leave on the lowest heat.

Place a clean tea towel on a flat surface. Put the first sheet of filo on top of this and brush it all over with the melted ghee. Place your next sheet of filo on top of this and repeat, until all the sheets of filo are used up. Sprinkle about 1½ tablespoons of sesame seed all over the top sheet. Allowing about 5cm (2″) at the end, and about half that at the edges, spread the filling in a rectangle at one narrow end of your pastry. It should cover about a third to a half of the surface area. Using the tea towel like a sushi mat, lift up the narrow end and gently roll the pastry into a large Swiss roll. Place onto a greased baking sheet with the “join” underneath.

Brush the top with more melted ghee and sprinkle over the remaining sesame seeds. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until it is nicely browned. Don’t forget to switch off the heat under the remaining ghee!

Notes
I used vegetable ghee for this, but you could use a baking margarine. The fat level is important to make this recipe work, so it needs to be a hard margarine such as Tomor Hard Block. I liked how this recipe turned out, but am thinking of experimenting with olive oil next time. To slightly reduce the fat content, the top could be brushed with soya milk instead of ghee.

Use a flavoursome stock. I used a Kosher parve beef-style consommé, sprinkled onto the sauce at the boil, and stirred in. I would also have used more mushrooms and fewer potatoes, but that’s what I had.

04/12/2010

Spinach with pine nut dressing

This is a variation on a traditional Japanese dish, using pine nuts instead of sesame seed. The dressing can be made with practically any kind of nut or seed, but I had some pine nuts to use up, and they worked really well.

A bag of spinach (200-250g)
30g pine nuts
1 tbl shōyu
1 tbl mirin

Toast the pine nuts in a frying pan, no oil, until mid-brown. Grind them as fine as you can and mix in the shōyu and mirin. Put to one side.

Thoroughly rinse the spinach and wilt by boiling it in as much water as sticks to it. Rinse in cold water, and gently squeeze out as much liquid as you can. You will probably have a sausage shaped lump of spinach at this point. Cut it into short lengths of about 2cm, and separate the pieces as you put them in a bowl. Mix in the dressing and leave for a while before serving at room temperature.

This recipe can be made gluten-free by using proper tamari instead of shōyu. You should use a high quality mirin, such as Clearspring’s Mikawa Mirin, for this dish – it’s worth it.

25/10/2010

01/10/2010

Curry Udon

Filed under: Japanese, Recipes and techniques — Tags: , , , , — Feòrag @ 12:35

Yesterday, the Japan Centre sent me a link to their Japanese Curry Udon recipe. It’s almost vegan. The main problem with it is the tsuyu. All the commercial bottled tsuyu contains fish, as far as I’m aware. Last night’s tea was based on this recipe, and this is my version of it.

For the curry:
2 cubes of hot Golden Curry roux
400ml water
1 onion, chopped in chunks
1 carrot, cut into chunky triangles
2 small potatoes, cubed
4 cherry tomatoes, or one ordinary one, chopped
a handful of dark tvp chunks
vegetable oil for frying

For the soup:
400ml konbu dashi, or 400ml water and half a sachet (4g) instant dashi powder.
2 tsp shoyu
2 tsp mirin (use a cheap one here)

2 bundles dried udon, or two packets of fresh udon

Put the tvp chunks to soak in plenty of warm water about 15 minutes before you need them, then drain well.

Put plenty of water into a large saucepan and start to bring it to the boil. Heat oil in a wok or large frying pan and fry the onions, carrots, potato, tomato and tvp chunks for a few minutes until the onions are however you like them. Add 400ml water, bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are cooked through.

By now, the water in the big pan should be boiling so add a dash of oil and the udon, and boil them until they are tender. Drain, put into cold water, then drain again.

Meanwhile, put the soup ingredients into a smaller saucepan and bring them to the boil. Simmer very briefly and remove from heat.

Back to the curry, when the vegetables are tender, add the cubes of roux one at a time and stir until they are completely dissolved. Add the soup and mix thoroughly.

Divide the noodles between two large bowls, then ladle the curry soup on top of them, and serve. It can be quite messy to eat.

Notes
You need to choose your curry sauce carefully – there are at least two varieties of Golden Curry, one of which contains beef and the other of which is vegan. The vegan one helpfully had the words “No meat contained” splashed prominently on the packet and seems to be made for the US market. Go for the hot variety, as Japanese curry is incredibly feeble compared to what we’re used to in the UK.

It would be much easier to make this by adding the soup ingredients to the vegetables right at the start, and that’s what I plan to do in future.

You can vary the curry ingredients according to what you have. The version given is a close interpretation of the classic Japanese curry. They have regular cubes of beef in theirs, and the TVP chunks are exactly right in this. Tofu, unless deep fried, doesn’t work too well, but gluten is good. I always add the tomato as it has a dramatic improvement without the flavour becoming too obvious.

22/05/2010

Spring Nimono

Filed under: Japanese, Recipes and techniques — Tags: , , , , , , — Feòrag @ 12:28

Spring nimono

When I was checking out the Sankō-in website while writing up my visit there, I noticed a reference to a cookbook written by the current abbess Kōei Hoshino: 精進豆料理 (Vegetarian Bean Dishes). A shopping accident quickly followed, and the book arrived from Japan a few hours before a package from London containing something ordered on the same day. The recipes in the book are divided up into months, with others in chapters for each season. I noticed quite quickly that Hoshino is not as concerned with precise measures for each dish, or timings, or any of the other stuff that we are presumably supposed to know! What follows is, therefore, not a precise translation of a recipe from the book, but my attempts to recreate it with what information I was given.

IngredientsIngredients

2 sheets aburaage
3 small taro
1 large half boiled bamboo shoot
¼ tsp shōyu
2 tbl sake
sugar to taste
a small amount of water

You will also need a drop lid, or some foil.

As you can see from the photo, I chose to omit the sugar and replace the sake with a medium-quality mirin. You could easily use rice syrup or any other sweetener. The bamboo shoots are the sort described as “winter bamboo shoots”. You can get smaller ones than the one shown in Chinese supermarkets. They come sealed in plastic bags with saltwater. They tend to be smaller, so use two of these and adjust the cutting accordingly. There are several types of taro available in both Chinese supermarkets, and Indian/Pakistani grocers. The ones used in Japan are hairy, so I opted for the hairiest variety.

In Japan, the three main ingredients are at their peak in the spring, but this recipe could easily be used with all sorts of roots and tubers, including potatoes. I think small white turnips would be particularly nice.

Putting it together
How to cut the vegetablesPeel the taro and cut into bite-size cubes. Parboil the taro for around 5-10 minutes. Drain and then wash the pieces thoroughly. Cut bamboo shoot in half, then into quarters, vertically.

Remove oil from aburaage by holding it under a hot running tap then squeezing. Cut each piece lengthways into three strips and tie in simple knots, keeping the strips flat (click on the images to enlarge):

Tying the knot
Completed knots

Put the taro, bamboo shoots and aburaage knots in a medium-sized saucepan, with the knots on top. Add water to the pan to a level about halfway up the vegetables and bring to the boil very slowly. Spend this time wondering where your partner/cleaner/cats hid the drop lids, or fashioning one from foil. When the water boils, add the other ingredients, stir very gently to mix, and drop in your drop lid (or insert your piece of foil). The idea is to hold down the veg so they do not break up – if you have a set of saucepans, the lid from the size below the one you are using will do. Simmer for another 5-10 minutes until the taro is cooked through.

The meal in fullThis quantity will serve two as a main dish with rice, or up to six is used as part of a larger meal. I had it with asparagus and broccoli tempura, konnyaku in miso, brown rice and a clear soup with hana fu and green soya beans.

25/01/2010

Haggis and Tattie Pakoras

It’s Burns’ Night, when it is traditional to eat haggis, tatties and neeps while drinking whisky. Instead, I created a dish which represents modern Scotland in all its diverse wonderfulness.

First you need to catch your haggis. The vegetarian haggis (Haggis herbivorii) has been increasing in numbers of late, and researchers think that h. herbivorii makes up 25% of the haggis population in Scotland. They are primarily urban creatures, so one should not be hard to find. They have expanded their territory from their traditional haunts in the corners of wholefood shops, and can often be found lurking in supermarkets. Some have reported success in breeding them in captivity.

I managed to bag the commonest subspecies, the MacSween Vegetarian Haggis (h. herbivorii macsweeniensis) for this recipe, which makes lots.

approx. 500g vegetarian haggis
half a dozen medium potatoes
1½ cups gram flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp ajwain seed
1 tsp dried chillies, or to taste
1½ cups water

Give the seeds and chillies a good bashing in a mortar and pestle then stick them in a food processor or a bowl with the gram flour, baking powder and turmeric. Add about half the water and mix well, then add the rest of the water as you continue mixing until you get a smooth batter. Put it to one side.

Cut the potatoes up into small pieces and parboil about 5 minutes. Drain and allow to cool a bit. Meanwhile, skin your haggis and break the flesh into small pieces – around the size of a hazelnut. Put the pieces in a bowl as you work, and dust them with flour (gram, wheat or rice) to stop them breaking apart too much.

Add the potatoes and mix. The haggis will break up a bit. Don’t worry. Add the batter and mix some more. Do not despair as the haggis breaks up some more. It really doesn’t matter as long as there are some nice lumps.

Heat vegetable oil or vegetable ghee in a deep fat fryer (for the sensible), a frying pan, or a wok. When it is hot, turn the heat down a little – the pakora need to cook fairly slowly about five minutes a side. Put tablespoonsful of the mixture into the oil and deep fry until both sides are a dark orangey brown. Don’t overfill the fryer. Remove when done and drain. Eat as soon as they are cool enough with a dipping sauce — a good cheating pakora dipping sauce is a mixture of mint sauce and tomato ketchup. They will keep quite well and freeze if you don’t eat them all.

If I had been able to get a neep smaller than a beach ball, I would have used some, also parboiled, instead of half the potato.

I challenged myself to go a month without drinking alcohol, so whisky was not on the menu. Instead, I drank some of this rather fine Braes O’ Gowrie Sparkling Elderflower from those nice Cairn O’Mohr people.

11/12/2009

Latkes

Filed under: Jewish, Recipes and techniques — Tags: , , , , — Feòrag @ 12:53

Latkes in the pan

Latkes in progress.

It is, apparently, That Time of Year and this morning Neil Gaiman lamented on Twitter Alas I will not get to cook latkes until I get home on Weds, when I’ll try to solve the world latke shortage singlehandedly. I don’t have that problem, and they’re one of my partner’s favourite comfort foods. They’re a complete pain if you don’t have a food processor with a grater attachment, but that’s what spouses are for! Most recipes contain egg, but it’s a really straightforward substitution. I do not bother peeling the potatoes and use wholemeal flour, but still, latkes are only good for your mental health.

3 or 4 medium or large potatoes (you need about half a kilo, or just over a pound in old money)
1 medium onion
2 tbl plain wholemeal flour
2 tbl gram flour (chick pea flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
black pepper to taste
frying oil

Grate the potatoes reasonably finely into a bowl – I used a Microplane “coarse” grater for this (or rather, my partner is volunteered for this task). Do not discard the liquid that comes off. Grate or mince the onion and add to the potato. I also mince the bits of potato that didn’t get grated and add that to the mixture. Mix the flours, sugar and pepper together well, making sure to be rid of all the lumps, then add to the potato and onion. Mix it all up well.

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Traditionally olive oil is used, allegedly in memory of the miracle at the centre of Chanukah – the day’s oil lasting 8 days. My Reform mother-in-law uses butter, (she also makes her latkes quite coarse and large, more like hash browns – heretic!); I use a blend of olive oil and margarine because it tastes good.

Drop tablespoonsful of the mixture into the oil — you should get four in an average pan — and cook the latkes over a low to medium heat until they are a lovely golden colour. Remove, drain and eat promptly. The quantities given make about 12 – you will probably need to stir the mix again between batches.

Appelmoes (UK English seems to lack a word for this stuff, but Americans call it “applesauce”. I mostly see it in the Netherlands though, where it’s really popular, and the Dutch word is the one I know) is a traditional accompaniment. I like them with a bit of black pepper, and yuzu is really good on latkes. Himself is trying to convince me that Omnomnomnom is some kind of traditional invocation, but I don’t believe him.

28/11/2009

Japanese tofu article

Filed under: Ingredients, Japanese, Reading matter — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 12:14

Kimiko Barber goes In search of traditional Japanese tofu in today’s Financial Times.

28/10/2009

On Haggis

Filed under: Historic — Tags: , , , , , — Feòrag @ 12:28

This is a comment I made back in 2006, which is interesting in its own right.

Vegetarian haggis has been around for at least 100 years, and there is evidence to suggest that the original was veggie – it really is just leftovers plus oatmeal and spices. The oldest example I know of comes from Reform Cookery Book: Up-To-Date Health Cookery for the Twentieth Century by Mrs. Mill, published in 1904. Apart from the butter, which is easily substituted with another fat, the recipe is vegan.

Scotch Haggis.

“Fair fa’ yer honest, sonsy face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin’ race.”

It is to be hoped the shade of Burns will forbear to haunt those who have the temerity to appropriate the sacred name of Haggis for anything innocent of the time-honoured liver and lights which were the sine qua non of the great chieftain. But in Burns’ time people were not haunted by the horrors of trichinae, measly affections, &c., &c. (one must not be too brutally plain spoken, even in what they are avoiding), as we are now, so perhaps this practical age may risk the shade rather than the substance.

For a medium-sized haggis, then, toast a breakfastcupful oatmeal in front of the fire, or in the oven till brown and crisp, but not burnt. Have the same quantity of cooked brown or German lentils, and a half-teacupful onions, chopped up and browned in a little butter. Mix all together and add 4 ozs. chopped vegetable suet, and seasoning necessary of ketchup, black and Jamaica pepper.

It should be fairly moist; if too dry add a little stock, gravy, or extract.

Turn into greased basin and steam at least 3 hours. An almost too realistic
imitation of “liver” is contrived by substituting chopped mushrooms for the lentils. It may also be varied by using crushed shredded wheat biscuit crumbs in place of the oatmeal. Any “remains” will be found very toothsome, if sliced when cold, and toasted or fried.

Interestingly, this recipe is almost identical to modern vegan haggises, which usually involve lentils and kidney beans, plus mushrooms.

26/09/2009

Nut Rissoles with savoury rice

Filed under: Historic — Tags: , , , , — Feòrag @ 16:57

Last night I made a couple of dishes from Rupert H. Wheldon’s No Animal Food. First published around 1910, this was the first book to advocate veganism and it contains 100 recipes at the back. The ones I tried last night were:

12.–Nut Rissoles
3 ozs. mixed grated nuts, 3 ozs. breadcrumbs, 1 oz. nut butter, 1 chopped onion, 1 large cupful canned tomatoes.
Mix ingredients together; mould into rissoles, dust with flour and fry in ‘Nutter.’ Serve with gravy.

28.–Plain Savoury Rice
4 ozs. unpolished rice, 1 lb. tin tomatoes.
Boil together until rice is cooked. If double boiler be used no water need be added, and thus the rice will be dry and not pultaceous.

My versions:

Nut Rissoles
1 cup mixed nuts, chopped in food processor
breadcrumbs made from 1 slice wholemeal bread
2 tbsp vegan margarine
1 chopped onion
1 can tomatoes, blended.

Mix the nuts, breadcrumbs and onions together in a large bowl. Melt the margarine and add it. Use your hands to mix it all together and add just enough tomato to bind it. Make into four burgers. Dust with flour and fry slowly – they’ll burn if you’re not careful.

Plain Savoury Rice
1 cup long-grain brown rice
the remains of the tomatoes from the nut rissoles
enough water to make 2 cups liquid

Bung all of the above into your favourite rice pan. Bring to the boil and simmer, with the lid on tightly, until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove the lid, stir quickly with a fork, then replace the lid and let it sit, off the heat, for a couple of minutes or until you need it. Alternatively, put the ingredients in your rice cooker, and cook according to the instructions.

I served all of the above with my mushroom gravy, and can recommend both recipes. The rice, especially, was delicious, even though it’s so simple.

I’ve visited the Nut Rissoles before.

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