Nac Mac Vegan: adventures in rabbit food

31/01/2011

Caffè Nero Red Pepper Penne

Filed under: Eating out — Tags: , , , — Feòrag @ 18:29

I’m at London City Airport awaiting a flight home. It’s usually a desert for vegans (except those excessively fond of fruit), but I noticed Caffè Nero had a pasta dish labelled as being vegan.

Caffè Nero Penne

I was hungry enough to give it a go. It scores poorly on presentation, being served in the plastic container in which it is displayed. But, it’s not bad at all. One of the best ready meal pastas I’ve ever had, and better than some Italian restaurants. The pasta was al dente, and the sauce just spicy enough to be worth bothering. The peppers were a bit mushy, though, and the portion size reflects the price – about £3.50 at an airport. Still hungry.

One point – they will offer to put cheese on it for you. If they don’t, ask them not to.

25/10/2010

21/04/2009

Quick springtime pasta

Filed under: Recipes and techniques — Tags: , , , , — Feòrag @ 15:48

I’m on my travels at the moment, and staying with friends who are feeding me really well. Today’s lunch was taken from BBC Good Food magazine, not sure which issue – the original recipe wasn’t vegan, but making it so is completely trivial. It claims to serve 4, but that would be as part of a full meal. It serves about 3 really, or two hungry people who know they’re not going to eat for a bit.

1 tbl olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed (much more was used!)
400g tin chopped tomatoes
(generous) handful fresh basil, chopped
400g spaghetti (4/5 of a standard package)
290g jar chargrilled artichokes, drained and cut into bite-size pieces
(generous) handful flat leaf parsley, chopped

We used the oil from the artichokes for frying, and when boiling the spaghetti.

Put on a pot of water to boil before you start getting everything together.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan (or wok, in this case), add the garlic and cook for a minute until lightly coloured. Pour in the the chopped tomatoes then stir in the basil. Bring up to the boil then turn down the heat and gently simmer for 10mins or, in the real world, until the spaghetti is done.

Hopefully the water has come to the boil by now, so cook the spaghetti according to the instructions on the packet. Drain.

Add the artichokes to the tomato sauce until heated through, then either add it to the spaghetti, or add the spaghetti to it, depending on which pan is bigger! Stir in most of the chopped parsley (leave a bit for garnishing). If the sauce is a bit dry, add a drop of water at this point and re-heat. Serve immediately, garnished with the rest of the parsley.

Possible variation: As my other half almost certainly doesn’t like artichokes, I’m going to try the same technique using wild mushroom antipasto and/or roast aubergines and peppers.

23/03/2009

Bukkake Soba

Filed under: Japanese — Tags: , , , , , , — Feòrag @ 18:19
Bukkake soba

Bukkake soba

Yes, that really is the Japanese name for this dish, and I have no intention of calling it anything else. Even though the word bukkake is just a form of a verb meaning “to splash” or “to sprinkle”, its colloquial meaning is very appropriate for this dish.

Bukkake soba is essentially cold buckwheat noodles topped with a thick sauce and drizzled with tsuyu, a thin dipping-type one. The thick sauce is usually white, too. The version below is based on a recipe from a Japanese-language cookbook and is for a single portion.

1 bundle soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles)

for the thick sauce
approximately ½ cup very soft tofu, such as microwave tofu
50g yamatoimo (about 5cm or 2 inches)
a bowl of water with about 1tsp vinegar added

for the tsuyu
3 tbl water or konbu dashi
1 tbl soy sauce
1 tbl mirin

to garnish
1 small spring onion
a lump of wasabi to taste (optional)

Put the yamatoimo to soak in the bowl of water for at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet, slice the spring onions and make up the wasabi, if necessary.

When the noodles are ready, drain them and plunge into cold water. Drain again, thoroughly, and place in a large bowl.

Put the tsuyu ingredients into a small pan and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and set to one side.

Grated yamatoimo;

Grated yamatoimo


Peel the yamatoimo and grate finely—the finest Microplane is good for this job. It will come out as a sticky liquid. Don’t panic. Stir it into the tofu. It will be slimy. This is deliberate. Pour this mixture on top of the noodles.

Dribble the tsuyu into the bowl around the edges and garnish with spring onions and the wasabi. The wasabi can be mixed into the tsuyu.

Eat and enjoy the expression on your flatmates’ faces—this is one of those dishes that tastes much better than it looks! Then tell them what it’s called.

Notes
Yamatoimo is available from the Japan Centre in London, and in the massive See Woo supermarket in Glasgow. I used the King Soba brand of organic 100% soba this time round, and I’m afraid I was not impressed. They’re not chunky enough, and stick to one another far too easily.

05/03/2009

Ume soba update

Filed under: Japanese, Products — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 21:00

I got a response from the Japan Centre with respect to yesterday’s delivery. As I suspected, it was a genuine error—they were unaware that cochineal is made from insects, and were apologetic. They let me know that they will not only change the web page for that product, but are going to go through all their pink products just to make sure.

Anyone able to recommend a good (European) list of animal ingredients to which I can refer them?

04/03/2009

Annoyingly not vegan things

Filed under: Japanese, Products — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 11:44

I had a big box of stuff arrive from the Japan Centre this morning, including the painfully expensive rice and many things containing green tea. One item I got was ume soba—buckwheat noodles flavoured with plum, which the site mentions as being vegetarian. Unfortunately, they’re not, as that pretty pink colour comes from cochineal. I even checked the Japanese ingredient listing in case the importers had got the English language translation wrong (it happens), but コチニール is pretty clear.

Now, it’s hard enough for vegetarians and vegans to keep track of all those little ingredients which aren’t suitable, so I’m not going to have a go at them over the error. They do make more effort than other sites to point out the presence of fish, wheat, egg and all sorts of problematic ingredients. This post is really just to note that it’s there. I have made use of the contact form and politely let them know about it. It would be really helpful, not just for vegetarians and vegans, if they included full ingredients listings, too.

28/02/2009

Odd pasta

Filed under: Products — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 01:57
IKEA moose pasta

IKEA moose pasta

My latest meal involved an odd purchase from IKEA: organic, wholemeal moose-shaped pasta. It proved to be a good, substantial pasta which went well with a spicy tomato sauce mixed with fried mushrooms and chopped up Redwood Foods sausages. Makes a change from pasta willies!

22/02/2009

1913 Nut Galantine

Filed under: Experiments, Historic — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 19:32
The cover of Sidney H. Beard's "A Comprehensive Guide-Book to Natural, Hygienic, and Humane Diet"

The cover of the book from which this recipe was taken

Sidney H. Beard’s A Comprehensive Guide-book to Natural, Hygienic, and Humane Diet was published in 1913 by an organisation called The Order of the Golden Age (note this site uses Javascript menus which do not actually work!), an explicitly religious vegetarian group. Although basically Christian, the influence of Spiritualism and Theosophy is apparent in the Order’s publications. My copy of this book is currently working its way through Distributed Proofreaders (assuming there was a back-up!) and will hopefully appear on Project Gutenberg soon.

This recipe is rather oddly named. Your actual galantine is a deboned bird rolled around a stuffing, poached, allowed to cook and then decorated and coated in aspic. Beard’s galantine is a nut and pasta roast, which he recommends be served cold with a salad, though he also regards it as being good warm. His original recipe isn’t vegan, but is trivially made so:

Take ½-lb, ground walnuts, ¼-lb. cooked spaghetti, 2 onions, 1 small tomato, 1-oz. butter, 1 dessertspoonful of Carnos, a little stock, pepper and salt to taste. Fry the onions and tomato in the butter, and then add the other ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes. Put into a greased mould, cover with a greased paper, and bake in a slow oven for 1 hour. Turn out when cold and serve with salad and Mayonnaise sauce. This dish may be served hot as a roast with red currant jelly and browned potatoes.

The observant will note that there is just not quite enough information there! How should I cut the onions and tomatoes? What size and type of mould do I need? What is a “slow oven” anyway? What’s Carnos? That last question is straightforward—it was a fake meat extract and can be replaced with yeast extract. For the others, I made an educated guess and this is what I came up with:

Ingredients
225g mixed nuts (I had no walnuts on their own)
100-125g pasta (any sort – I used wholemeal macaroni)
2 onions
1 small tomato
a generous forkful of vegan margarine
2 tsp Marmite
approximately ¾ cup water
a big pinch of stock powder
black pepper

Method
Cook the pasta until al dente according to the instructions on the packet. While this is cooking, grind the nuts finely, and cut the onions and tomatoes into 1cm dice. Drain the pasta when ready and put to one side.

Turn on your oven and start to pre-heat to 150°C. Heat up the margarine slowly in a large frying pan and put in the onions and tomatoes. Fry until they are nice and soft then add the cooked pasta, ground nuts, Marmite, water and stock powder. You might find it easier (i.e. I should have done this) to boil the water and dissolve the Marmite and stock powder in it first, before adding the mixture to the pan. Grind as much black pepper as you like into it, and then simmer for 15 minutes.

Grease a 1 Kg loaf tin (I think this is a 2lb loaf tin in old money), pausing to moan at your partner who put it away whilst still wet, causing a rust patch to form. Put the mixture in the loaf tin and cover with greased paper—Waitrose’s own brand baking parchment is siliconised, and doesn’t need greasing. The oven should have heated up by now, so put it in and try to ignore it for an hour.

Not the prettiest of dishes, but it tasted good.

Not the prettiest of dishes, but it tasted good.

Results
It felt quite soft when it came out of the oven, but firmed up a little as it cooled down. It crumbled a little when I got it out of the tin, mostly in the form of pieces of pasta. It wasn’t very photogenic, but I took pictures anyway! It does not slice easily when warm, and I would consider preparing it as individual portions if making it as a roast. The outside was dark brown and crisp, the inside paler and softer. It tasted good though, the pasta giving it a bizarre, slightly chewy texture. A solid, satisfying winter dish which would go well with any sort of vegetable, though a sauce is necessary—I had potatoes and peppers in a simple white sauce, but a tomato sauce, or a gravy would go well.

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