Nac Mac Vegan: adventures in rabbit food

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.

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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.

11/07/2009

Edinburgh Farmers’ Market

Filed under: Ingredients, Shopping — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Feòrag @ 11:33

The location for the farmers' market is spectacular, especially on a good day like this.

The location for the farmers' market is spectacular, especially on a good day like this.

The Edinburgh Farmers’ Market is a weekly event, which is unfortunately on the wrong side of town for us. The withdrawal of the number 17 bus has made getting there by public transport impossible, and the fact that it’s on top of a car park isn’t an encouragement to use public transport either. So, when we go, unless we’re feeling really fit, we take the Volvo and then buy enough veg to justify it.

At first sight, the market doesn’t have much to offer the vegan, with an excess of meat stalls, and a couple of cheesemakers. They even have leaflets on the market information stall from the Meat Marketing Board promoting industrially-produced meat! But it’s not all unhealthy stuff, don’t worry.

Phantassie organic vegetables

Phantassie organic vegetables

Phantassie is an organic vegetable farm in East Lothian, and they are at the market a couple of times a month. This time round I bought red spring onions, smoked garlic, pea shoots (a green leafy veg), broad beans, white turnips and shiitake. Another regular is East Coast Organics, another East Lothian farm, who are at the market every week. Their stall provided me with a bunch of onions, another of carrots (carrot greens make good soup), one of radishes, a knobbly cucumber (good for Japanese recipes), a red kohlrabi and yellow courgettes. Meanwhile, my partner bought some fantastic plum tomatoes on the vine, and some baby plum tomatoes from the adjacent J & M Craig (one of the last remaining Clyde tomato growers) stall. The aroma from them is fantastic.

A couple of my favourite stalls weren’t there today. Ardnamushrooms grow shiitake and other fungi, and were the source of our organic shiitake block, an experiment in very local food we’d be glad to repeat some time. Carrolls Heritage Potatoes are only there on the first Saturday of the month, when tatties are in season, but they produce potatoes that I like — ones that taste of something. They have blue potatoes, purple potatoes and loads of flavoursome spuds from days of yore. I note they are now selling online, though, and have a stockist in Leith (if I can bear going into a fishmonger — I might have to send himself).

Cheery staff at the Good Soup Group.

Cheery staff at the Good Soup Group.

All that shopping can be hard work, so we had a couple of snacks whilst there. I ignored him having his pig in a bun (which he complained wasn’t very good – ha!) and chose a spicy noodle soup from the Good Soup Group — the noodles were rice noodles, making the soup both vegan and gluten free. Special dietary requirements seem to be a particular concern at the Good Soup Group, and they try to source everything locally wherever possible. And then there’s The Chocolate Tree, lurking ready to ruin all of your healthy eating intentions. They do a massive range of chocolate bars, vegan chocolate hazelnut spread and vegan chocolate sorbet. The cones for the sorbet are not vegan, but they are more than happy to serve it to you in a cup instead. Messy, and delicious, afterwards my face resembled that of a three-year-old after a bath in cocoa. And I don’t care!

03/04/2009

German bean soup

Filed under: Recipes and techniques — Tags: , , , , — Feòrag @ 17:07

I needed a quick tea, so I just had a go at veganising a German soup. It seems to have come out okay.

1 litre water
1 can cannelini, haricot or other white beans.
3 carrots chopped.
2 onions, chopped.
1 block smoked tofu, cut into small thin slices.
1 tbl vegan beef-style stock (or use yeast extract)
1 tbl ajwain (celery seed)
1 tbl dried parsley, or fresh equivalent.
1 pack taifun tofu wieners, sliced.
Olive oil for frying

Bring the water to the boil and add the beans, carrots, ajwain, parsley and stock powder. Turn the heat down to low and simmer.

In a separate pan, heat up the olive oil and stir fry the tofu. It doesn’t matter if it breaks up – it’s going into soup – and you want it to be a bit crispy. Once the tofu starts to go crispy, add the onions and turn the heat down. Continue to fry slowly.

When the carrots are cooked, blend the soup. Add the contents of the frying pan and the sliced sausages. Heat through and serve – you should be able to feed two as a meal and four as a snack or starter.

Korean-style spicy tofu

Filed under: Ingredients, Recipes and techniques — Tags: , , , , , , — Feòrag @ 13:46

This is one of my staple recipes, based on a dish you could get at the Korean food stall in the late, lamented Oriental City mall in north London, and a few recipes from around the internet.

2-3 tbl olive oil
At least 5 cloves garlic, sliced.
1 medium carrot, sliced.
1 medium onion, sliced.
1 sweet red pepper, or equivalent other vegetable of your choice.
1 block tofu, 300-400g.
4 spring onions
2 tbl water

For the sauce:
3 tbl kochujang
2 tbl rice syrup or 1½tbl sugar
2 tbl soya sauce

Options:
Fresh red chillies to taste
Up to 1 tbl sesame oil

Mix the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. You’ll have to stir it well to get the kochujang to blend with the soya sauce. Add extra chillies if you want.

Using a wok or a large frying pan, fry the onions, garlic and carrots for a few minutes in the olive oil. You want them to soften, but not to start turning brown. Then add the peppers/other veg, the tofu and spring onions and gently stir in the sauce until all is well-coated. Add the water, stir again, cover and simmer for a few minutes until the vegetables are cooked through. Optionally mix in some sesame oil just before serving. Serve over rice.

Notes:
Kochujang (sometimes transliterated gochujang) is a Korean paste which is basically a hot and spicy dark miso. It comes in bright red plastic tubs and is available from most Chinese supermarkets. A similar, but non-spicy, bean paste comes in tan-coloured tubs, should you not want the heat.

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).

31/12/2008

My ozouni.

Filed under: Japanese — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Feòrag @ 19:35

Ozouni is a traditional Japanese dish for New Year’s Day. It is generally had in the morning, after having toasted in the sunrise with sake, and is a significant cause of death for old people. There are as many recipes as people, plus a few more. Mine is vaguely Eastern Japan-ish, but vegan. Serves four-ish.

For dashi:
Piece of dashi konbu

For fake fish roll:
about a third of a block of konnyaku
a few drops of red food colouring (yes, there is vegan red food colouring out there)
very strong konbu dashi

The rest:
3 dried shiitake
about half a carrot
a block of firm tofu, cut into big triangular chunks
some greenery (not available this time)
1 tbl shouyu
1 tbl sake
one piece mochi per person
dried yuzu peel

Set the shiitake to soak. Slice the carrots and use a fancy cutter to make them an interesting shape. Bung the konbu and the bits of carrot you cut off into a pan with plenty of water, bring to the boil and simmer for half an hour or so. Drain, retaining the liquid.

Cut round or flower shapes out of the konnyaku. Put it in a small pan with enough strong dashi to cover (I cheated and used instant for this) and the food colouring. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, and don’t forget about it! Strain – no need to reserve the liquid.

Put the home-made dashi back into the big pan, and add the shiitake soaking water, the shouyu, the sake and more water if needed (you know how big your soup bowls are!). Bring back to the boil whilst thinly slicing the shiitake, discarding the stems. Add the shiitake and tofu to the dashi and simmer for 5 minutes, the add the carrots, the fake fish rolls and the greenery.

Continue simmering while you prepare the mochi.

The best place to get mochi is a health food store – I use the Mitoku brown rice ones which Real Foods sell, because I am a Bloody Hippie. Grill the mochi on both sides until they swell up then put one in each bowl. Ladle the soup over the mochi, making sure everyone gets a bit of everything. Sprinkle some yuzu peel over. Eat the mochi carefully – they’re sticky and choking on them is what kills people in Japan.

For a more Western Japanese style, add white miso.

03/02/2008

Yasai Gyoza

Filed under: Japanese — Tags: , , , , , — Feòrag @ 21:32

Spent the day making gyoza and have added about 500 words to the cookbook’s word-count. The filling I have come up with is rather pleasant and is a way of getting my partner to eat green vegetables:

250g fresh mushrooms
2 cups worth of chopped greens – cabbage, spinach etc.,
2 spring onions
1 small carrot
1 or 2 cloves garlic, grated
1 tbl sesame oil (frying)

Chop all the vegetables finely. If you have one, pulverise the mushrooms in a food processor or blender. If not, just chop them as finely as you can. Fry all the filling ingredients except the mushrooms in the sesame oil till the cabbage is limp. Add mushroom and cook through. You are aiming for a filling which holds itself together.

I put mine in home-made wholemeal wrappers, which my partner naturally thinks would work really well with cheese gyoza. The cookbook will not mention this! I also opted for “deep fry the buggers” rather than any more healthy means of preparation.

24/12/2007

Carrots and Parsnips in beer

This is based on a traditional German recipe, and I had it tonight along with bratkartoffeln and nut roast.

3 small parsnips
3 mediumish carrots
1 cup (250ml) dark beer – I used a Czech dark lager
vegan margarine and a splash of olive oil, for frying
1 tsp maple syrup
salt, if you must

Slice the root veg on the diagonal to give long thin slices. Melt the marge in a frying pan and add olive oil. When hot, add the vegetables and the beer. Cover and cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until the veg are done. In the meantime, take the remaining half bottle of beer, pour into a glass and drink. Add the maple syrup (and the salt, if using), mix well and turn the heat up to evaporate the remaining beer and caramelise the syrup a bit. Serve –there’s enough for at least four as a side dish.

22/05/2007

Black Beans and Hijiki

This recipe was adapted from one in Kyoko Honda’s Tofu and Soybean Cooking. The original used soya beans, and used more sweetener and seasonings.

1 can black beans
10g dried hijiki (about 1/3 cup)
3 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 sheet abura-age (fried tofu sheets)
1 small carrot
½ sachet dashi (vegan ones do exist, honest)
4 tbsp shoyu
2 tbsp brown rice syrup
2 tbsp sake
1½ tbsp sesame oil

Put the hijiki to soak in 1 cup warm water; soak the shiitake mushrooms in enough water to cover them. Put on some brown rice.

Rinse the abura-age in hot water to defrost and get rid of the oil. Pat dry in a tea towel and slice into julienne strips. Slice the carrot into julienne strips. Combine the shoyu, brown rice syrup and sake in bowl. Drain the tin of beans.

Go away and read teh internets for 10 minutes or so.

Drain the seaweed and mushrooms, retaining the soaking water. Cut the stalks off the shiitake and bung them in the stockpot (or the bin, depending). Slice the caps.

Heat up the oil in a wok or large saucepan. Add the carrots, mushrooms, hijiki and abura-age and stir fry for a couple of minutes (don’t skip this for health reasons – much of the good stuff in sea veg is oil-soluble). Add the beans, soaking water and dashi powder, bring to the boil. Add the combined shoyu etc – you might have to add a bit of the hot water from the pan to get all the syrup out, then allow to simmer until dry.

Serves 2 as a one bowl meal with rice. Serves lots and lots as a small dish presented as part of a Japanese style meal.

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