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Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand - Mother Teresa

EDAMAME & COCONUT RISOTTO

When the days are short, and cold temperatures demand a down-filled coat to survive the jaunt between heated rooms and the car, only warm food satisfies. Preferably warm food that requires a lingering by the stove, while savouring the aroma of vegetables and herbs as you chop and stir. Warm food that fills and nourishes. Warm food that’s a delight to cook as you sneak a taste during the prep. Warm food that is so delicious, guests ask for more.

This risotto relies on the taste combo of coconut milk and vegetable broth for its appeal. The taste will vary slightly depending on which vegetable broth you use: home made, a store bought broth or made with a powder stock like Massel. The edamame provides life-giving nourishment. A cup (155 grams) of cooked edamame provides around 18.5 grams of protein. Edamame is a young soybean that has been harvested before the beans have had a chance to harden. You can buy them shelled or in the pod, fresh or frozen. In Australia, they are available in Woolworth in the frozen goods. Since edamame beans aren’t mature, it’s easy to cook within a short period of time, unlike mature beans. It is better to boil with the pods to ensure that all the nutrients remain intact, because this is the main reason for consuming edamame. Since the pods are tender, their removal is not necessary. After boiling, the beans can be removed by gently squeezing the pods. This is a better method than tearing the pods apart.

Health benefits:

·       Edamame is naturally gluten-free and low calorie, contains cholesterol and is an excellent source of protein, iron, and calcium. It is an important source of protein for those who follow a plant-based diet.

·       Edamame helps in managing weight, aids in improving the digestive system, reduces risk of cardiovascular diseases, aids in strengthening the immune system and is beneficial in improving lung function.

EDAMAME & COCONUT RISOTTO

V, DF

Serves 4 mains

 

155-310 grams (1-1½ cups) edamame beans, cooked & shelled

1 onion, finely chopped

350 grams (1½ cups) arborio rice, risotto rice

2 garlic cloves, minced

200 ml coconut milk

1.250 ml (5 cups) vegetable broth

fresh thyme

1 shallot onion, charred

200 grams baby corn

Himalayan salt

ground black pepper

Bring half a saucepan of water to the boil, add the edamame beans in the pod and boil for 3-4 minutes. Take off the stove, drain the water and set aside to cool for a few minutes. When the pods are slightly cooler, remove the edamame beans by gently squeezing the pods, place in a bowl and set aside.

In a large saucepan, sauté finely chopped onion in olive oil until translucent, add arborio rice and minced garlic, and heat for several minutes until the arborio rice is translucent. Meanwhile, prepare the vegetable broth and stir the coconut milk into it. Add 1 cup of coconut-vegetable broth at a time, constantly stirring until almost absorbed. The amount of broth is approximate as you need to test the arborio rice until the texture is done to your satisfaction. After two-thirds of the cooking time, add the edamame beans to the risotto. When the risotto is done, serve with charred shallot onions, baby corn spears and fresh thyme. Finish with a sprinkle of Himalayan salt and ground black pepper.

Enjoy!

RAW CITRUS CHOCOLATE SLICE

In Australia, the wattle trees have begun to flower, hinting our winter is coming to an end. Winter means hibernation for me, less walking as we leave for work in the dark and come home in the dark. Luckily, I can walk at work between classes. Winter’s citrus fruit, especially mandarins, remind me of sunny weather because of their cheerful orange coloured flesh. I wished to hero their sweet flavour in a mid-winter dessert, one that was quick to make and stored easily in the freezer for weekend meals with family and friends. The sweet citrus slice is chilled, but our houses are warm and you can serve just a bite size. When making these slices last weekend, I realised tiny wattle flowers would enhance its beauty when placed with mandarin segments and shaved chocolate. So on our drive home, we stopped on the verge and snipped an armload of wattle. Placed in vases, it’s delicate scent filled our dining room for several days, reminding us spring would come.

I favour sweet juicy Imperial mandarins, which I used in this recipe, although I’m sure other varieties would be equally suitable. If you wish to make this slice and mandarins are out of season, I’m sure oranges or tangerines would also be tasty. It’s best to use macadamia nuts instead of the usual cashews for colour as macadamias give a creamy white hue to the citrus mixture.

Health benefits:

·       Mandarins like oranges, are rich in vitamin A and B. Also vitamin C, that helps combat free-radicals as it contains antioxidant.

·       Mandarins are rich in minerals like iron and fibre, yet low in fat.

·       Interestingly, mandarins help reduce aging signs like wrinkles, fine lines and blemishes.

RAW CITRUS CHOCOLATE SLICE

V, SF, GF, DF

Makes a 22 cm (8½ inch) square cake

 

Almond base:

1½ cups almonds

½ cup shredded coconut

10 medjool dates, pitted

2 tablespoons rice malt syrup

 

For the chocolate layer:

¼ cup coconut oil, melted

3 tablespoons rice malt syrup

¼ cup cacao powder    

 

For the citrus layer:

1 cup macadamia nuts, soaked for at least 2 hours

½ cup mandarin juice

¼ cup coconut oil, melted

¼ cup rice malt syrup

2 mandarins, peeled

pinch Himalayan salt

Mandarin segments, peeled

Shaved sugar-free dark chocolate

 

Soak the macadamia nuts for at least 2 hours, or overnight if you wish a creamy texture. Cut a length of baking paper to fit the baking tin, cutting out a square at each corner, and fit into the tin. Place almonds, coconut, dates and rice malt syrup into the food processor and process until combined. Press into the base of the baking tin and smooth flat with the back of a spoon. For the chocolate layer, melt the coconut oil in a saucepan, add the rice malt syrup and cacao, and stir until combined. Pour over almond base, and place into the freezer. For the citrus layer, add macadamia nuts (drain water), mandarin juice, melted coconut oil, rice malt syrup, mandarins and salt into a blender, and blend until smooth and creamy. Adjust sweetener to your taste, noting when the mixture is very cold, more sweetener is needed. Remove baking tin from the freezer, and pour the citrus mixture over the chocolate layer. Place into the freezer to set for at least 4-6 hours. Remove from the freezer when you wish to serve, cut into slices, decorate with mandarin segments that have been cut in half and sprinkle with shaved chocolate. Place slices on the serving dishes, you may wish to thaw the slices for about 10 minutes. Serve.

Enjoy!

SCRAMBLED TOFU TARTS W LEEKS AND MUSHROOMS

I see autumn before I feel it. The leaves in the vineyards turn colour while we’re still basking in temperate days, cardigans draped on our shoulders at midday. My wish for forest foraging of mushrooms usually waits until a chilly morning air creeps into the ranges, quite a distance from our coastal home. In my childhood, mushrooms popped between folds of soil in the paddocks surrounding our valley home after showers of rain. My sister and I donned gumboots to ward off dewy grass and tramped to patches of mushrooms to gently pluck the stems and place in our buckets. At home, Mum carefully tested our prized morsels checking if each one was edible, not poisoned fungi. She sautéed our treasures that we ate with slices of toast.

Unlike many restaurant inspired dishes, this recipe came from a desire to change something I’d eaten at a café that was too heavy in tamari, mushrooms and parsley. I wondered if I could hero the spices in the tofu with the leeks and mushrooms supporting their flavours. Taste preferences are as individual as people are different, so feel free to experiment with the amount of spices and types of herbs used. Scrambled tofu is typically eaten for breakfast or brunch as a vegan substitute for scrambled eggs. This recipe could be eaten thus or made into small tarts for lunch or dinner.

Health benefits:

·       Tofu is a good source of protein and contains all eight essential amino acids. It’s an excellent source of iron and calcium and the minerals manganese, selenium and phosphorous.

·       Also, tofu is a good source of magnesium, copper, zinc and vitamin B1.

SCRAMBLED TOFU TARTS W LEEKS AND MUSHROOMS

V, DF

Makes 6 small tarts

 

Puff pastry, vegan approved like Pepperidge

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon tumeric

½ teaspoon paprika

¼ teaspoon chilli (to taste)

1-3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon water

salt and pepper

1 leek, finely sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

8-10 mushrooms, finely sliced

400 grams firm tofu

handful flat leaved parsley, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 180’C/350’F/Gas mark 4. Grease the tart tins with coconut oil. For the tart casings, cut the thawed puff pastry into a square, about 1 centimetre larger than the tart tins. Place the puff pastry in each tart tin and fold the pastry edges inward. Place baking paper over the pastry and fill with baking beans. Bake the tart cases for 20 minutes.

On a medium heat, sauté the leeks in a large fry pan until transparent, add the minced garlic and mushrooms and cook until soft. Add spices and nutritional yeast to a small bowl, stir to combine, add water and mix. Mince the tofu using a fork. Add the tofu to the fry pan and stir until combined. Pour the spice mix over the tofu mixture and stir until well mixed. Adjust the flavours, adding chilli, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper to taste. Heat through if eating as scrambled tofu. Add the chopped parsley and mix well.

Remove the tart cases from the oven after 20 minutes, and lift off the baking paper and beans. Spoon the tofu mixture evenly into the cases and return to the oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven when the puff pastry edges are lightly brown. Serve immediately while warm.

Enjoy!

CHOCOLATE FONDANTS W PICKLED RED GRAPE SORBET

Let’s talk lunch for family and friends, especially autumn and winter desserts for lunch. Spring and summer desserts are easy, fresh fruit and ice creams come to mind, but the cooler months beg comfort and warmth in food when the temps are freezing. I enjoy classic desserts, so my quest as a vegan cook often leads to experiment in making these delicious delights without eggs, milk and sugar while using the tried and true methods of cooking. The chocolate fondants fulfil the brief; its chocolaty molten gooeyness is enough to make anyone weak at the knees.

To make the fondants, I used a very small cake mould bought from a specialty cake shop. In previous bakes, I’ve trialled using a ramekin, yet with less success. The fondants are rich, so a very small cake is sufficient. For ease in sliding the fondant from the mould, make sure you follow the tips given in the recipe in preparing the mould and its removal to serve. It is crucial to test the cooking time as each oven temperature often varies, as does the type of mould used.

To accompany the fondants, I’ve created a pickled red grape sorbet inspired by the trend in pickling fruit. Made with red grapes, visually the sorbet is luscious pink in colour. I’ve given an alternative to churning the grape sorbet in an ice cream machine in case you don’t own one.

Pickling vegetables and fruit is easy, but you need to prepare the sorbet the day or night before, allowing sufficient time for freezing it in case you don’t own an ice cream machine. Here are a few essential pickling tips: use fresh firm grapes without wax, cut the grape just before the stem to allow the pickling brine into the grape, use purified water, use distilled vinegar preferably with 5% acetic acid, use pure canning sea salt (not iodized table salt as it may change the colour of the fruit).

Health benefits:

·       Raw cacao powder contains more than 300 different chemical compounds and nearly four times the antioxidant power of your average dark chocolate - more than 20 times than that of blueberries.

CHOCOLATE FONDANTS W PICKLED RED GRAPE SORBET

V, SF, GF, DF

Serves 6 small moulds

 

1 cup vegan chocolate chips

1/3 cup almond milk

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 cup spelt flour OR for GF buckwheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder 

½ cup cacao powder

1 cup coconut sugar

1 cups almond milk 

1 cup macadamia nuts, roughly blended

Brush upward strokes of melted coconut oil over the insides of the small pudding moulds or ramekins and place in the fridge. After 15 minutes, brush more coconut oil over the chilled coconut oil, return to freezer for less than a minute and dust with a spoonful of cacao powder, tip the mould and turn full circle so the powder completely coats it. Tap out excess, and repeat with other moulds.

Preheat the oven to 200’C/400’F/Gas Mark 6. Place a bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water, and melt chocolate chips, almond milk and coconut oil. Stir to mix, remove from heat and set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, cacao powder and coconut sugar. Add the almond milk and stir. Fold in the chocolate sauce a third at a time. Spoon the mixture into the moulds just over half way. Place the fondants on a baking tray, and bake for 10-15 minutes until the top forms a crust, and is starting to pull away from the sides of the mould. When the edge is tested with a skewer it comes out clean, while the centre when tested is covered in chocolate (the fondant will keep cooking when removed from the oven). Remove from the oven, and leave to sit for a minute. Serve hot to enjoy the oozy centre. To serve, move the tops very gently so they come away from the sides. Tip each fondant gently onto your hand to check that it comes away from the sides, place a warm plate on top of the mould and flip it over. Spoon an arc of macadamia nut crumb onto each plate. Add a quenelle of pickled red grape sorbet.

Enjoy!

PICKLED RED GRAPE SORBET

V, SF

Makes 6 quenelles

 

2 cups red grapes

¼ cup rice malt syrup

¼ cup water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

pinch salt

Turn on the ice cream machine to chill according to manufacturers instructions. Wash the grapes well. Cut the grape just before the stem and place in a bowl. Combine rice malt syrup, water and lemon juice in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Set aside to cool. Combine vinegar, 2/3 of the grapes and salt in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Set aside until vinegar cools and begins to become red in colour, about 5-6 minutes. Transfer the grape mixture to a blender with the remaining 1/3 of fresh grapes and process until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve into a clean bowl. Add the cooled rice malt syrup to the grape liquid and stir until combined. Pour into the chilled ice cream machine and churn until set. Transfer sorbet to the freezer until ready to serve. To chill without an ice cream machine, pour grape liquid unto a container, and put into the freezer to partially set. Take out of the freezer and mix well with a spoon. Return to the freezer until ready to serve.

Enjoy!

BANANA PEANUT BREAD

I’d have to say I’ve eaten more bananas than any other fruit; an influence of my father’s occupation, my mother’s thrifty cooking style and the fruit’s versatility. My father owned a banana plantation during my childhood years, and the only fruit we ate were bananas and a seasonal crop of lemons and plums from our backyard orchard. It seemed like we ate bananas endlessly until of course I protested to my mother, why can’t I eat an orange!

Bananas are a versatile fruit, and my mother was up to the task to showcase their adaptability by making bread, pancakes, milkshakes, cakes, muffins, pies, cheesecakes, biscuits (cookies), porridge, all with bananas. The family favourite banana dessert, though, was mum’s rectangle banana galette: moist, succulent and with the perfect balance of sweetness that cooked bananas give. We never tired of it. Years later, my mum uses bananas almost exclusively for eating fresh, smoothies and nice cream, as not only has she eaten a vegan diet for over 40 years, she keeps up with food trends though in her 80’s. With such a heritage, it’s no wonder I use bananas every day in my diet.

My banana bread has been created as breakfast bread or for afternoon tea. It takes about 20 minutes to put together, yet needs a fair while in the oven. I make it two ways: sometimes with just Coyo yogurt (coconut yogurt) and other times with half Coyo yogurt and almond milk. The later is moister and is my favourite. The dates are optional, as is the topping of peanuts, yet I like their roasted crunchiness with a bite of bread. If you’re in a hurry, forgo the sifting and separate mixing of wet and dry ingredients, and put all the ingredients together and mix. The reason I separate the wet and dry ingredients is to avoid lumpy coconut sugar. Another variation is to include ½ cup of either GF rolled oats, millet flakes or desiccated coconut and use only 1 cup of flour. This would really make the loaf breakfast bread.

Health benefits:

  • Bananas combat depression, counteract calcium loss, protect against muscle cramps, aids digestion, relieves morning sickness, protects against kidney cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, and blindness.
  • Strengthens your blood and relieves anaemia with the added iron from bananas.
  • High in potassium and low in salt, bananas are officially recognised as being able to lower blood pressure and protect against heart attack and stroke.
  • Bananas are high in antioxidants, providing protection from free radicals and chronic disease.

BANANA PEANUT BREAD

V, SF, DF, GF option

Makes a 24 x 14 cm (9 x 5 inches) loaf

 

1½ cups wholemeal spelt flour, sifted

OR for GF - 1 cup brown rice flour + ½ cup buckwheat flour

½ cup almond meal

½ cup coconut sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons vanilla powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

pinch Himalayan salt

2 tablespoons linseed, milled in blender

8 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped

½ cup coconut oil, melted

1 cup Coyo yogurt (coconut)

3 bananas, mashed well

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1 banana, halved

½ cup roasted peanuts

 

Preheat the oven to 160’C (325’F/ Gas Mark 3). Sift flour, vanilla powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt into a large bowl and stir to mix, add almond meal, sugar, linseed meal, and chopped dates and mix to ensure there are no lumps. In a small bowl, combine coconut oil, yogurt and bananas, and whisk until combined. Add to dry ingredients and stir to combine. Whisk in the apple cider vinegar. Pour the batter into a greased loaf tin. Press 3 halved bananas on a diagonal into the mixture, and top with peanuts, gently pushing them in to adhere. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes until the skewer comes out clean when inserted in the middle. Set aside to cool a few minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely. Slice to serve with banana slices and drizzles of rice malt syrup.

Enjoy!