Friday, April 1, 2011


"Meat" Pies
Aussie Burgers
Chocolate Crackles
Tropical Fruit Plate
Coopers Ale

Want to know what they eat in Australia? Ask an Aussie. That's what I did anyway. My trusty Brisbane buddy filled me in on all her back home faves. And what better day to prepare an Australian meal than January 26th - Australia Day. I decided to host an Aussie Day celebration - no boomerangs or dilly bags - just a pile of good eats, down under style.

With an authentic Aussie guest to cook for the pressure was on. Damper is about as authentic as it gets. Invented by stockmen who traveled in remote areas for weeks at a time, this soda bread is made up of only a few basic ingredients that they could carry with them, and was traditionally baked over a camp fire. Some of us had it with vegemite, that I have concluded is an acquired taste (which I have yet to acquire). I opted to slather mine with macadamia nut butter, a nut native to Australia.

The Meat Pie, served with tomato sauce (ketchup in North America), is an iconic Australian take-away food. It's the local food of choice while watching football. Some even consider the Meat Pie to be the national dish. After eating a few, I can see why.

We got buns for the Aussie Burgers from Cobs Bread, a local franchise of popular Australian owned bakery, Bakers Delight. The traditional way to eat a burger in Australia is with "the lot". I'm not sure who decided to throw so many toppings on an Aussie Burger but they certainly knew what they were doing. The unique pile of goodies is a gooey mess of deliciousness that includes pineapple, beetroot, and a fried egg. Perfect on a hot day with a cold Cooper's Ale.

If you love coconut and chocolate - and let's face it, who doesn't - you will love the two desserts we chose.
Lamington's are individual sized vanilla-coconut cakes dipped in chocolate icing and rolled in coconut. They are traditionally baked in a rectangular cake pan and cut into squares. Using cupcakes saves a little time and makes less crumbs. If you have a square cupcake pan use it for authenticity. But don't worry, round ones will be equally delicious. Chocolate Crackles are the Australian answer to Rice Krispie treats, kicking it up a notch by using cocoa and coconut. I dare you to eat just one.

We ended the meal with a refreshing Tropical Fruit Plate featuring Australian exotics such as sugar cane, pineapple, papaya, banana, passion fruit, grapes, mango and lychees. It was a laid back day of good food and good friends - authentically Australian indeed.

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup water

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
2. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl.
3. Add water to form a soft dough.
4. Knead lightly on a floured surface until smooth.
5. Shape into a round loaf.
6. Bake on a flat sheet or round baking pan for 30-40 minutes.
7. Damper is ready when you tap the surface and hear a hollow sound.
8. Serve with macadamia nut butter, vegemite or your favorite Australian topping.
(adapted from ABC)

"Meat" Pies

1 tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, finely diced
2 pouches of Yves Ground Round (312g each)
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/4 cup vegan chicken stock
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 vegetable stock cube
Soy milk for brushing
24 frozen tart-sized pie shells, thawed
Black pepper

1. Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat.
2. Add onion and saute for 3-4 minutes until soft.
3. Add Yves Ground Round and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring and breaking up with a wooden spoon until warmed.
4. Dissolve cornstarch in 1 tbsp vegan chicken broth. Set aside.
5. Add remaining vegan chicken stock, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and vegetable stock cube to ground round. Stir well to combine.
6. Add cornstarch mixture and stir. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 8 minutes or until thick.
7. Remove from heat and cool.
8. Preheat oven to 425 F.
9. Remove 12 of the tart shells from their foil and set aside as pie tops.
10. Fill remaining 12 tart shells with "meat" filling. Brush rims with water.
11. Place pie tops over filling. Use a fork to seal edges.
12. Brush tops with soy milk.
13. Place pies on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until golden.
14. Serve with ketchup.

(adapted from

Aussie Burgers
4 bread rolls
4 Veggie burgers (I used Yves)
4 vegan cheese slices
4 Fried tofu omelettes
4 veggie bacon slices, fried crisp
4 pineapple rings, grilled

Toppings (as much as you want on your burger):
Iceburg lettuce
Tomato, sliced
Onion, sliced and grilled
Sliced beets

Fried Tofu Omelette

2 garlic cloves
1 lb silken tofu, lightly drained (or soft tofu)
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp fine black salt (plus more for sprinkling)
½ cup chick pea flour 1 tbsp arrowroot or cornstarch

1. Chop garlic in food processor
2. Add tofu, nutritional yeast, olive oil, turmeric, and salt. Puree until smooth.
3. Add chick pea flour and arrowroot and puree for about 10 seconds, until combined.
4. Preheat griddle to medium high.
5. Lightly grease with a thin layer of oil – I brush it on.
6. Pour the batter on in 1/4 cup increments, spreading to 3-inch circles.
7. Cook for 3-5 minutes (top should be dry and matte yellow when ready to flip, bottom should be speckled brown)
8. Flip and cook 1-2 minutes.
9. Cover with foil until ready to serve.
(adapted from Vegan Brunch)

Before assembling the burger:
Make sure you have all your ingredients ready, toppings sliced, hot items (pineapple, onions, vegan bacon, fried tofu omelettes) keeping warm under foil.

1. Grill the burgers.
2. Place from the bottom up - bottom bun, cheese, burger, omelette, bacon, pineapple, onion, tomato, beet, lettuce, ketchup, top bun. Serve.


1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups plain soy milk
2 1/8 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/8 cups sugar
1/2 cup oil
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp coconut extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. Grease 12 muffin cups. Set aside.
3. Mix the apple cider vinegar with soy milk. Stir well and set aside to curdle.
4. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
5. In another mixing bowl whisk together the soy milk mixture, canola oil, vanilla, and coconut extract.
6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and beat until smooth using a hand-held mixer.
7. Fill each muffin cup with 1/4 cup of batter.
8. Bake for 20 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.

Let cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then move cupcakes to a wire rack. Let cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate Icing
3 cups powdered sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
½ cup nondairy milk
2 tablespoons nonydrogenated margarine
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
Shredded coconut (about 2 cups)

1. Have a large shallow bowl of finely shredded coconut ready.
2. Mix the powdered sugar and cocoa powder together in a medium bowl and set aside.
3. Melt the nondairy milk and margarine in a double boiler or a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.
4. Add the powdered sugar and cocoa mixture and vanilla.
5. Whisk until completely smooth.
7. Dip each cake into the icing and coat all sides, letting the excess icing drip off.
8. Roll the cake in coconut to coat completely.
9. Transfer to a wire rack (line with waxed paper to reduce mess) and repeat with the remaining cakes. Tip: Work quickly or keep the icing over simmering water as you work to keep it soft.
10. Let the icing set for about 15 minutes, then transfer to a covered container and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

(adapted from Cuisine Junction)

Chocolate Crackles
2 cups Rice Krispies
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 tbsp cocoa
4 oz white vegetable shortening/coconut oil
1 cup icing sugar
6 drops vanilla

1. Set out 18 mini paper cupcake liners on a tray
2. Mix icing sugar, Rice Krispies, coconut and cocoa and set aside.
3. Gently heat the shortening/coconut oil, but do not let it boil.
4. Pour into dry ingredients, add vanilla and mix very well.
5. Spoon into paper liners and allow to set.
(Emailed to me from an Australian friend)

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Domatesli Pilav (Tomato Pilaf)
Sis Kebabi (Shish Kebab)
Turkish Delight
Apple Tea

When I think of Turkish food I think mezes, pilaf, kebabs, and of course Baklava. So that's what we did.

I chose a dish called Shaksuka as our meze, or side dish, because eggplant is a major player in Turkish food. Fried vegetables like potatoes, eggplant and peppers are common in mezes - this one had it all. It can be served cold but we all preferred it warm.

Tomatoes are another key ingredient so I made Domatesli Pilav (Tomato Pilaf) to accompany our
Sis Kebabi (Shish Kebab). To replace meat on the kebabs I modified my favorite seitan recipe, incorporating Turkish seasonings into the dough and broth, to give it an authentic taste. I think too many ingredients in the dough made it a bit challenging to work with. It was much crumblier than usual and a little messy looking, but it was packed with flavor.

Baklava is one of my all-time favorite desserts. It always seemed too complicated to make but it's actually much easier than it looks - and it turned out awesome. A little patience and a lot of layering and you're done. We finished with a store-bought rosewater Turkish Delight and Apple Tea that a friend brought me back from Turkey. Overall a simple and lovely meal.

1 medium sized eggplant, peeled and diced
1 large potato, diced
1 cubanelle pepper, diced
1/3 cup sunflower oil (I used grapeseed)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 gloves garlic, minced
Salt to taste
3 medium sized tomatoes, peeled and diced

1. Soak the eggplant in salted water for 20 minutes.
2. Blanch, peel and dice tomatoes while the eggplant soaks.
3. Squeeze the eggplant to remove excess water.
4. Toss eggplant, potato and peppers in grapeseed oil.
5. Pan fry until cooked through. (I roasted them in the oven).
6. Saute garlic and salt in olive oil in a large pan on medium heat.
7. Add tomatoes and cook for about 10 minutes.
8. Stir in fried vegetables and heat for another 3 minutes.
9. Serve at room temperature.
(adapted from Binnur'sTurkishCookbook)

Domatesli Pilav (Tomato Pilaf)
1 cup rice, washed and drained
1 tomato, diced small
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt to taste
1/2 tsp sugar
2 cups vegetable stock

1. In a medium saucepan, saute olive oil and tomatoes for about 4-5 minutes over medium heat.
2. Add rice and saute for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add vegetable stock salt and sugar.
4. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a low simmer.
5. Cover and simmer till the rice absorbs all the water.
6. Remove from heat and let sit with cover for a few minutes.
7. Stir before serving.
(adapted from Hayriye'sTurkishFood&Recipes)

Sis Kebabi (Shish Kebab)


1 cup vital wheat gluten flour

3 tbsp nutritional yeast

1/2 cup cold vegan beef broth

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, grated

1-2 tbsp onion, grated

Black pepper



8 cups water plus 3 vegan beef bouillon cubes

Onion, remaining from seitan mixture, diced

1/4 cups soy sauce

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 tbsp Olive oil

Black pepper



1 Green pepper, cut into large pieces

12 Cherry or quartered tomatoes

Olive oil

6 Skewers (soaked in water if using wood skewers)

1. Mix all broth ingredients in a large pot.
2. Mix vital wheat gluten flour and nutritional yeast in a large bowl.
3. Mix remaining seitan ingredients in a separate bowl.
4. Add wet seitan ingredients to dry and stir until mixed.
5. Knead with your hands for about 3 minutes until the dough is elastic.
6. Cut in to 3 equal pieces and knead each piece in your hand to stretch them out.
7. Add seitan to broth pot, cover and bring to a boil.
8. As soon as it boils, reduce to a low simmer.
9. Leave partially covered and simmer for 60 minutes, turning seitan occasionally.
10. Turn off heat and let sit uncovered for 15 minutes.
11. Strain seitan pieces and let cool before cutting into kebab sized chunks.
12. Toss tomato and green peppers in olive oil.
13. Prepare skewers: seitan, green pepper, tomato, seitan, green pepper, tomato, seitan.

14. Grill until heated through and you can see grill marks.

(adapted from the Veganomicon)

1 1/4 cup water
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice

454 g Phyllo Pastry (20 sheets), thawed
1 1/4 cup Earth Balance margarine, melted
1 1/2 ground pistachios (not too fine)
1/3 cup soy creamer

13x9x2 inch baking dish
Pastry brush

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
2. Mix sugar and water in a medium saucepan.
3. Bring to a boil and continue to boil for 5 minutes.
4. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
5. Remove from heat and add lemon juice. Set aside syrup to cool
6. Cut Phyllo sheets in half so they are 13x9 inches. You should have 40 sheets now.
7. Set aside half of the sheets.
8. Brush the baking dish with melted margarine.
9. Place 2 sheets of Phyllo in the dish. Brush with margarine.
10. Repeat until you have used up the first half of the Phyllo sheets, brushing the final layer with soy creamer instead of margarine.
11. Spread the pistachios evenly on the cream layer.
12. Layer the remaining half of the on top, 2 at a time, with margarine.
13. Brush the final layer with margarine.
14. With a sharp knife, cut into 24 pieces. Cut through to the pistachio layer, but not past it.
15. Bake for 25 minutes.
16. Reduce heat to 325 F and bake for 25 more minutes or until golden brown.
17. Let sit a room temperature for 10 minutes.
18. Cut the squares all the way through to the pan.
19. Pour the syrup evenly along the cut lines. I used a squeeze bottle.
20. Sprinkle extra pistachios on top.
21. Let rest at least 4 hours for the syrup to absorb.
22. Store at room temperature.
(adapted from Binnur'sTurkishCookbook)

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Avacado & Cucumber Maki
Tofu Udon Stir-Fry

The Japan menu was inspired by food cravings. Basically I thought of all my Japanese take-out staples, combined them with my "I should learn to make this someday" list and we had ourselves a meal. The only downfall to preparing food I have mad cravings for is that in all the urgency to promptly stuff my face, I did not take the time to get the best pictures. But it was a ton of fun so crappy pictures is a fair sacrifice.

We had to start with edamame. I love edamame. In fact, I am an edamame monster. I would say you should see me near bowl of edamame, but the truth is, you really shouldn't. It isn't pretty.

Avocado & Cucumber Maki rolls were surprisingly easier than I expected. I think getting the rice right is a big part of it. Thank you, Cuisinart rice steamer. The same rice was used for the Onigiri, which are basically a rice ball. Forming these was a lot trickier and stickier but once they were done I was pretty pleased with myself.

Ochazuke is a dish I discovered at a little restaurant called Manpuku. It's one of those hidden secrets that is so good you want to tell everyone, but also so good you kind of want to keep it to yourself. The Ochazuke starts with Onigiri which is pan fried with soy sauce. The Onigiri is normally prepared with fish in the centre but the awesome folks at Manpuku make them up for me with tofu instead. Add a few garnishes, pour green tea over it, and you've got delicious soup.

The Yakitori was a tribute to my friend Luke who has extensive knowledge of all things Japanese. Actually Luke is my go-to guy for his knowledge of pretty much everything (but he isn't vegan so clearly there is still some stuff for him to learn). Luke always orders Yakitori which are marinated chicken kebabs. I basted faux chicken skewers in a sake, soy, mirin and sugar sauce, then threw them on the grill. They were just as good as Luke's. I don't have a recipe for these because I pretty much winged it. In fact all the recipes up to this point are essentially guidelines with a lot of winging it.

Gyoza are another one of my weaknesses. Irresistible crispy little dumplings of deliciousness. Note that a small batch of filling goes along way. But don't worry about making too many, they freeze brilliantly.

The final item was going to be a Tofu Udon Stir-Fry. By now we were all way too full so I came up with the idea to have an udon showdown. I divided up the ingredients (udon noodles, bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, fried tofu cubes) and sent them home with two of my friends. They each sent me pictures of their creations. I have to call it a tie - both look fantastic!

We finished the meal with an assortment of snacks and candy that we picked up at a local Japanese grocer. They all come in ridiculously adorable packaging but the hit of the evening was definitely the Super Lemon. Oh! Powerful candy.

Avocado & Cucumber Maki
4 cups steamed sushi rice
1 Cucumber
1 Avocado
1 package dried nori sheets

1. Slice cucumber and avocado into thin strips.
2. Cover the bamboo mat with plastic wrap.
3. Place a rectangular sheet of nori on the mat (half sheet).
4. Spread an even layer of rice on top of the nori. Wet your hands to keep the rice from sticking.
5. Place the avocado and cucumber strips horizontally across the centre of the rice.
6. Fold the mat forward and apply pressure to shape the maki.
7. Fold the mat forward once again and apply more pressure.
8. Wet the tip of your knife and cut the roll into six even pieces.

4 cups steamed sushi rice
2 sheets dried nori
8 fried tofu cubes
Teriyaki sauce

1. Lightly brush tofu cubes with teriyaki sauce.
2. Cut the nori into eight 1-inch wide strips.
3. Put about 1/2 cup of rice in your palm. Wet your hands to keep the rice from sticking.
4. Make a dent in the centre and add the tofu cube.
5. Sprinkle a pinch of salt on your hand and form into a ball.
6. Flatten to a disc using your palms.
7. Wrap with a nori strip. Serve chilled.

4 onigiri (remove nori strip)
Soy sauce
Vegetable oil
4 cups hot green tea

Rice crackers or okaki
Shredded nori strips
Scallions, chopped

1. Heat oil in frying pan.
2. Brush onigiri with soy sauce.
3. Pan fry onigiri to get a crisp sear on both sides.
4. Place one onigiri in each bowl.
5. Add toppings.
6. Pour 1 cup of green tea over each.
7. Season to taste with salt or soy sauce.

40 gyoza wrappers (wonton will work too)
1 cup dry TVP, small granules
2 cups boiling water
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 cup mushrooms, minced
1 carrot, grated finely
3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
3 tbsp soy sauce
1-2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
Oil for frying

Dipping Sauce:
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper

1. Place the TVP in a bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Stir and let sit until softened.
2. Heat sesame oil on medium and saute the mushrooms, onion, carrot and ginger until soft.
3. Add the TVP, soy sauce and vinegar.
4. Raise the heat to medium-high and stir frequently until most of the liquid is gone. Let filling cool before assembling gyoza.
5. Put a large pot of water on to boil.
6. Place a teaspoon of filling in the centre of a wrapper.
7. Use you finger to wet the edges of the wrapper with water.
8. Fold in half into a crescent shape.
9. Press and pinch the edges together until sealed. Repeat until you run out of wrappers or filling.
10. Place gyoza in boiling water for about 2 minutes, until wrapper is cooked (you can also steam them).
11. Pan-fry until browned on each side in a heavy bottomed pan.
12. Keep warm in 200 degree oven until ready to serve.
13. Mix dipping sauce ingredients and serve.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Apparently German chocolate cake is not actually German. Sadly, my coconut frosting dreams were shattered by Bobby Flay one night while I was watching Throwdown. The true origin of the 'not-so-German' German chocolate cake is a rather disappointing tale so I'll leave it to those curious enough to Google it. Anyhow, we turned to the next most brilliant thing that actually hails from Germany - gingerbread. In my books any excuse is a good excuse to stock up on candy, so in the spirit of Christmas and German tradition, we made gingerbread houses. I found the recipe on Vegan Dad and it was incredibly simple. I can't really say these were part of the meal since they are still on display (although we snacked enough on everything and can assure they are super yummy) so the real menu starts here.

Carrot Salad
Hot Potato Salad
Bavarian Sausages with Saurkraut & Fried Onions
Seitan Schnitzel
Black Forest Cake

My well-traveled friend, Nicole, has made me drool on many an occasion with her tales of all the pretzel stands in Germany that she could readily stuff her face at. So, bang, pretzels (or as the natives say "Bretzels") had to be made. We ate them warm and happily stuffed our faces too.

It just wouldn't feel German without some sort of slaw. I found so many tempting recipes for coleslaws but in the end chose the Carrot Salad for the citrus and fresh dill. It was sweet and tart and crisp and absolutely lovely. A potato salad was another must. I picked this up from my old personal trainer who was of German decent. He would talk about how great his mom's Warm Potato Salad was to the point where he would absolutely have to have it. The second our session was over he would be on his cell phone calling home about dinner. I purposely looked for the recipe that sounded the most like his mom's. I admit I used to think his cravings odd, but now not so much.

Yves makes a Bavarian sausage so I figured what better time to give them a try. I served them with sauteed onions and saurkraut. Not rocket science, but tasty. The Seitan Schnitzel was the real main - and the show stealer. I had never made my own seitan before so I was a bit terrified. I used a recipe from the Veganomicon but any seitan will do. It was much simpler than I expected and now I'm hooked. I think the matzo might be the secret to the delicious breading. It was perfectly crispy.

Mr. German and his misleading name were not going to keep me from having cake. Black Forrest Cake is actually German! Hurray! I know that there is a vegan whipped cream available out there, and that my cake could have been a little more authentic if I could have gotten my dirty little hands on some, but no such luck. I chose frosting as an alternative and no sweet tooth was left unsatisfied. Take that Samuel.

1 1/2 cup warm water
1 1/8 tsp active dry yeast
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/8 tsp salt
1 cup bread flour
3 cups regular flour
2 cups warm water
2 tbsp baking soda
coarse salt
4 tablespoons Earth Balance (melted)

1. Sprinkle yeast on lukewarm water in mixing bowl; stir to dissolve.
2. Add sugar, salt and stir to dissolve.
3. Add flour and knead dough until smooth and elastic. Let rise at least 1/2 hour.
4. While dough is rising, prepare a baking soda water bath with 2 cups warm water and 2 Tbsp baking soda. Stir often.
5. After dough has risen, pinch off bits of dough and roll into a long rope,about 1/2 inch or less thick, and shape.
6. Dip pretzel in soda solution and place on parchment lined baking sheet.
7. Allow pretzels to rise again.
8. Bake in 450 oven for about 10 minutes or until golden.
9. Brush with melted Earth balance and sprinkle with salt.
(recipe from cdkitchen)

Carrot Salad
1 lb fresh carrots
1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 oz vegetable oil
1 1/2 oz white vinegar
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
1 1/2 tbsp agave nectar
salt and pepper to taste

1. Peel and grate carrots.
2. Mix all ingredients together and let marinate for 1/2 hour at room temperature to let the flavors blend.
(adapted from Wikia)

Hot Potato Salad
5 slices Yves Canadian bacon, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp prepared mustard
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
4 cups diced cooked potato

1. Heat oil in pan over medium heat.
2. Saute "bacon" until slightly crisp.
3. Blend in flour, sugar, salt and mustard.
4. Gradually add vinegar and water, stirring constantly until smooth.
5. Continue cooking over low heat, stirring, until thickened.
6. Add potato and heat through, gently stirring to mix.
(adapted from

1/2 cup flour (if using self-rising flour, omit baking powder)
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp egg replacer
5 tbsp water mixed together
1 cup unsalted matzo meal (or bread crumbs)

3 seitan cutlets
canola oil for frying

1. Mix flour and baking powder in one dish.
2. Mix egg replacer and water in a second dish.
3. Place matzo meal in a third dish.
4. Place a cutlet in the flour, coating it well.
5. Next dip it in the egg replacer mixture.
6. Coat both sides in matzo meal.
7. Pan fry each side in until golden brown.
(inspired by

Black Forest Cake
2 round 9 inch chocolate cakes (recipe below)
1/2 cup simple syrup (recipe below)
1 recipe vanilla frosting (I used Vegan Fluffy Buttercream from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World)
1 can cherry pie filling
8 candied cherries for decoration
Chocolate shavings

Chocolate cake:
2 cups sugar
6 heaping tbsp cocoa
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
3 cups flour
3/4 cup canola oil
2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp vinegar
2 cups cold water

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans
3. Mix dry ingredients in one bowl.
4. Mix wet ingredients in a second bowl
5. Add wet mixture to dry and mix until combined
6. Divide evenly into cake pans
7. Bake for 30 minutes or until done (use the toothpick test)

Simple Syrup:
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar

1. In a medium saucepan combine sugar and water.
2. Bring to a boil, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool.

1. Once cooled, slice each cake in half so that you have four 9-inch layers (you will only need three)
2. Place one layer on the bottom and brush generously with simple syrup
3. Apply a very thin layer of frosting
4. Pipe a thick ring of frosting around the perimeter of the bottom layer to create a barrier
5. Fill the circle with cherry pie filling - not too much or it will leak.
6. Pipe a very thin layer of frosting over the cherry filling
7. Place second layer of cake on top, and brush generously with simple syrup
8. Apply a layer of frosting
9. Place third layer on top
10. Frost top and sides of cake
11. Pipe 8 rosettes around top of cake
12. Sprinkle center & bottom half of sides with chocolate shavings
13. Place a cherry on centre of each rosette

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Congo & Zambia

Nshima (Zambia)
Gbegiri (Zambia)
Wali Wa Nazi (Congo)
Corn on the Cob (Congo)
Golabjamoun (Zambia)
Fruit Salad (Congo)
Ginger Beer (Congo)

Not long ago I saw a documentary called Where Are We Go at the Bicycle Film Festival which follows a group of cyclists along the route of the Tour D'Afrique. Starting in Cairo and ending in Capetown, the film takes you on an incredible and breathtaking journey through many of the eastern countries in Africa, including Zambia. I had already drawn Congo & Zambia and was inspired to get cooking.

I started with Nshima, a cormeal dish similar in preparation to polenta, because it is a staple in Zambia. It's a quick and easy substitute for bread, eaten by tearing off small pieces and dipping them into a stew or soup. Next I needed a stew or soup. My love of black eyed peas extends beyond my love of Will. i. am so I had to try the Gbegiri (Black-Eyed Pea Soup). This soup was thick enough to qualify as a stew - I figured I had it covered. Best of all it was cheap, easy, and soup-er tasty. The ingredients are all staples at my place. I just threw it all in a pot and 30 minutes later - delicious soup!

Wali Wa Nazi is rice cooked in coconut milk. Paired with the Nshima, the coconut added another layer of sweetness which really complimented the tomatoes in the soup. For some crispness I chose corn on the cob as our third side. In the Congo they generally grill it in the husk and top it with cayenne pepper, salt, and lemon juice before serving.

We served the Golabjamoun along with the meal even though it is actually a dessert. I pan fried the fritters just enough to get them crispy on the outside and then baked them through. No real reason other than the fact that I needed to free up a burner on my stovetop. The sweet potato and cinnamon gave them a real southern flavor - sort of like bite-sized sweet potato pies.

A popular Congo drink is ginger beer. Carribean Bistro, a great little roti place in my neighborhood, carries a fantastic one but sadly they were closed the day I needed it. I picked up an all natural ginger ale as a last minute replacement and it worked quite well.

We ended the meal with the Congo Fruit Salad. I was really excited preparing this, chopping (and sampling) this amazing variety of delicious fruit. I had never used avocado in a fruit salad and decided it was simply genius. I stirred in the coconut - it was awesome! I added the mint - hated it. It may work for some folks, and it was brilliant in the fatouche salad from Senegal, but personally I am in no rush to toss mint leaves into tropical fruit again any time soon.

1 1/2 cups cornmeal
3-4 cups water
Salt to taste

1. Mix cornmeal with 1 cup of cold water.
2. Bring 2½ cups water to a boil, add salt.
3. Stir in cornmeal and cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly until thick.
4. Continue cooking about 5 minutes. Add more boiling water, a little at a time, until of desired thickness. It should be fairly stiff.
5. Turn out into a serving dish.
(adapted from Wikia)

Gbegiri (Black-Eyed Pea Soup)
1 19 ounce/540 ml can black-eyed Peas, drained
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 796 ml can diced tomatoes
2 cups vegetable stock

1. Heat oil in pan over medium heat.
2. Saute onions until soft.
3. Partially mash the black-eyed beans using a fork or potato masher.
4. Add the mashed beans, tomato paste, tomatoes, stock, and salt & pepper. Mix well.
5. Lower heat and let simmer for 30 minutes.
(adapted from Wikia)

Wali Wa Nazi (Coconut Rice)
1 cup long grain white rice (such as basmati)
1 414 ml can coconut milk, plus water to make 2 cups
1/2 tsp salt

1. Mix rice, coconut milk , water and salt in a saucepan.
2. Cover and bring to boil.
3. Reduce heat and simmer until liquid is absorbed and rice is cooked through, approximately 20 minutes (add more water if needed until desired doneness).
(adapted from CongoCookbook)

1/2 cup soy milk
500 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Oil for frying

1. Boil sweet potatoes in milk until soft
2. Mash sweet potato mixture.
3. Add ground cinnamon and flour.
4. Knead into dough and shape into small balls.
5. Pan fry in oil over medium heat.
(adapted from Wikia)

Congo Fruit Salad
1 avocado, peeled and seeded
1 banana, peeled
1 grapefruit, peeled and sectionned
1 orange, peeled and sectionned
1 papaya, peeled and seeded
1 peach, seeded
1 Pear, cored
Mint leaves, finely chopped
1 cup grated coconut

1. Cut fruit into bite-sized pieces.
2. Combine all fruits in a glass bowl.
3. Add the mint leaves. Stir gently.
4. Cover the fruit salad and allow it to stand for a half hour before serving.
5. Top with grated coconut immediately before serving.
(adapted from Wikia)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Spain & Portugal

Patatas Bravas (Spain & Portugal)
Escalivada (Spain)
Tomato Rice (Portugal)
Broa (Portugal)
Citrus Sangria (Spain)
Valencia Orange Pie (Spain)

In Portugal, for obvious reasons, they have fish or seafood in the majority of their meals. Their approach to cooking keeps it simple using locally fresh and available ingredients. It was a bit more challenging to find something suitable for my menu, but I stumbled upon a Tomato Rice dish that I think really represented that simple yet brilliant thing the Portugese do with food. I absolutely loved this rice and admittedly hid all the leftovers so no one else could take any home (sorry guys).

Portugal is also the home of an amazing corn bread called Broa, which I'm sure I could make, but cheated and bought at a local bakery.

It was really easy to find Spanish recipes that were vegan-friendly, especially when it came to tapas. The hard part was choosing which ones to make. So I went with what I already knew: Sangria, Valencia for oranges (thank you Starbucks), and of course tapas.

The first tapas recipe I made was Patatas Bravas which I understand hails from both countries. It is basically like upgrading fries with ketchup from coach to first class. My apologies to the fine folks at Heinz but I have this recipe memorized now and may never turn back.

The second was Escalivada. Escalivada is roasted vegetables. Delicious roasted vegetables. Need I say more?

I absolutely love tomatoes so up to this point I was in love with this meal. I also happen to love lemons so the Citrus Sangria seemed an obvious choice. For those who weren't drinking that day I squeezed the citrus slices into all natural concord grape juice, topped it with soda and served it over fruit and ice. It doesn't pack quite the same punch but you can certainly knock back a few. Sangria however...well that's a whole other blog.

The Valencia Orange Pie just didn't want to set. I ended up putting it in the freezer and that basically did the trick. Unfortunately I had already garnished it so the mandarin oranges froze too. If I were to attempt this recipe again I would reduce the juice, or replace it with extract, or even eliminate it altogether. A little agar agar could also be the solution. If all else fails serve the sangria first, no one will notice the frozen fruit. Salud!

Patatas Bravas
2 lbs potatoes
2 tbsp olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400F
2. Cut potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes.
3. Coat in oil and season with salt (I shake them in a sealed container).
4. Roast on a baking sheet for 20 minutes.
5. Turn over and bake for another 15-20 minutes until crisp and golden.

3 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
796 ml can diced tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp sugar
Salt to taste

1. Heat oil in pan over medium heat.
2. Saute onions until soft.
3. Add garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, and seasonings.
4. Bring to a boil while stirring.
5. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-20 minutes until slightly thickened.
6. Serve over roasted potatoes.
The sauce can be made in advance and reheated. It tastes even better the next day.
(adapted from BBCFood)

1 bulb garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
2 small eggplants
1 bunch scallions (5-7 in a bunch)
2 red peppers
2 large tomatoes
3 tbsp olive oil
Black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400F
2. Cut top off garlic bulb just enough to expose each clove.
3. Pour olive oil over exposed garlic and wrap completely in foil.
4. Cut remaining vegetables into fairly large pieces, similariy sized.
5. Coat vegetables in olive oil and season with salt and pepper (I shake them in a sealed container).
6. Place vegetables and garlic on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper.
7. Roast for 30 minutes, turning part way if needed.
8. If you want to remove the skins, place peppers and eggplant in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam, about 10 minutes, then peel (I only peeled the peppers).
9. Remove garlic cloves from the bulb and toss in a serving dish with the other roasted vegetables.
10. Serve warm.
(adapted from SpainRecipes)

Tomato Rice
1/8 cup olive oil
1 tbsp margarine (I like Earth Balance)
1/2 a large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
796 ml can whole tomatoes
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup long-grain white rice
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Drain the tomatoes. You will only need about 5-6 tomatoes, chopped (I save the liquid and extra tomatoes for soups).
2. Heat oil & margarine in a saucepan until melted over medium heat.
3. Saute onions until soft.
4. Add garlic and saute another minute.
5. Add chopped tomatoes, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
6. Add broth and bring to boil.
7. Add rice, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, until cooked.
8. Salt and pepper to taste.
(adapted from WorldRecipes)

Citrus Sangria
Step 1:
26 oz bottle dry red wine
1/2 cup Cointreau
1/2 cup brandy (we used cognac because we had it on hand)
Juice of 1 large orange
Juice of 1 medium lemon
Juice of 1 medium lime
2 tbsp confectioner's sugar

Step 2:
1 small orange, sliced thin crosswise
1 small lemon, sliced thin crosswise
1 small lime, sliced thin crosswise
Club soda to taste

1. Mix ingredients from step 1 in a large pitcher and refrigerate overnight.
2. Right before serving, add fruit slices, club soda. Serve over ice.
(adapted from SpainRecipes)

Valencia Orange Pie
1 prepared chocolate cookie crumb pie crust
2 x 227g packages soy cream cheese
4 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp orange juice
Small can manadarin oranges
Chocolate shavings (I used orange infused chocolate)

1. Beat cream cheese, sugar & orange juice until combined.
2. Pour into pie crust and refrigerate for four hours (I put it in the freezer).
3. Decorate with mandarin slices and chocolate shavings.
(adapted from SpainRecipes)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Senegal & Guinea

Poulet Yassa (Senegal & Guinea)
Fatouche Salad (Senegal)
Ginger Drink (Guinea)
Mangoes (Guinea)

I should explain that the map we bought is in fact a puzzle and, since they are neighbours, Senegal and Guinea fell on the same puzzle piece. We figured why not represent them both in one meal.

Both countries have a chicken dish called Poulet Yassa. I believe it was originally Senegalese but has become popular throughout Western Africa. And if folks all over Western Africa were eating it then we had to check it out. The dish is supposed to simmer for about an hour but, because I replaced the chicken with a soy substitute, I simmered the sauce by itself and added the "chicken" strips at the end just to heat through. I imagine the original recipe has a much richer sauce. Our version had a tart, mustardy flavour with a bit of sweetness.

The Fatouche Salad was the perfect combination of crisp, crunch, and zing. The mint and lemon added such a refreshing touch.

We found one Guinean recipe that called for mangoes to be boiled with a little salt until mushy. We had every intention of giving that a try but as it happened the day we planned the meal turned out to be an exceptionnaly hot day. It was a unanimous decision devour those delicious mangos as they were. I'm fairly certain this happens in Guinea too.

The Ginger Drink was the star of the meal. It was an intense citrus and ginger blend brilliantly combined with cinnamon and clove. The process takes a while but it was worth it.

Leftover ingredients from this meal also inpired one of my favorite smoothies. Blend a mango, the juice of one orange, and the juice of half a lemon with a spoonful of dulce flakes. Delish!

Poulet Yassa
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 purple onions, chopped
2-3 tbsp Dijon mustard
Black pepper
2 dried chilli peppers
Juice of one lemon
2 packages Yves Meatless Chicken Strips
2 medium tomatoes, diced

1. Heat oil in pan over medium heat.
2. Saute onions until soft.
3. Lower heat and add mustard, pepper, salt, chillis, and lemon juice.
4. Simmer for about 30 minutes, adding water if sauce gets too thick.
5. Remove chillis and add "chicken" until heated through.
6. Stir in diced tomatoes before serving.
7. Serve over cous cous.
(adapted from Kariborders)

Fatouche Salad
1 piece of whole wheat pita
1 cup cucumber, diced
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, chopped
4 tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
Juice of one lemon
3 tbsp olive oil

1. Toast pita and tear into bite-sized pieces.
2. Mix all ingredients and chill.
(adapted from Kariborders)

Ginger Drink
3 cups boiling water
1/2 cup ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp clove, whole
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 cup lime or lemon juice, fresh squeezed
1/2 cup orange juice, fresh squeezed
4 cups cold water

1. Place ginger, sugar, clove and cinnamon in a non-reactive pot or bowl (glass, stainless steel, enamel)
2. Add boiling water, cover and set aside in a warm place for an hour.
3. Strain liquid and add juices and cold water.
4. Set aside in a warm place for another hour.
5. Strain liquid again, but keep sediment at the bottom.
6. Refrigerate in a non-reactive container.
7. Serve chilled with lime. Dilute with ice or water if desired.
(adapted from FriendsOfGuinea)