We had a long overdue get-together over the weekend and being the amazing girls that they are, they all made vegan meals so that we could all eat to our bellies content.
All of them cooked vegan recipes that they had never cooked before, and it all turned out amazingly yum. This just goes to show, that there's nothing to be scared about when it comes to vegan food. In fact, it's probably easier and less time consuming than waiting for a roast to cook, or making sure you don't overcook the scallops, e.t.c.
I must admit though, vegan food can take some preparation, specially when making raw meals. Otherwise, I think it's pretty simple. But don't let me tell you that. Give it a go and see for yourself.
I'll start with my dish because I've been flogging it since it was made for me. This recipe was inspired by my neighbour, she is a self-described non-cook, but she made me the loveliest, most moorish salad I've had in a long time. I've used the base of her recipe and added some plump juicy figs that I thought really worked well with the flavours. Thanks Leanne for the idea, I think you're a great cook :)
I made the grains and legumes the night before and stored them in air-tight containers. This meant that I could assemble it quickly the next day and not worry about being stuck in the kitchen the whole time. In fact, you can prepare all the ingredients ahead of time and just assemble when you are ready to eat. Perfect!
Protein Power Salad
serves 8 as a side
1 cup brown rice
1 cup quinoa
1 cup french lentils
1/2 Tbs coconut oil
1 1/2 cup fennel diced
1/3 cup raw almonds
1/3 cup sunflower seed and pepita mix
1 cup fresh mint chopped
6 figs quartered
1/2 lemon juiced
sea salt and cracked pepper to taste
Cook brown rice, quinoa, and lentils separately and to packet instructions. Remember to always rinse your grains and legumes, especially quinoa, as the rinsing removes the bitter taste you can get otherwise.
Heat up your coconut oil in a frying pan and add your fennel, heat gently until fennel is soft. Put aside to cool.
Heat the frying pan again, this time no oil is needed, and roast your almonds until golden.
When they are cool enough to handle, chop them into slivers.
Rinse your grains and lentils once they are cooked. About 20 minutes for quinoa, 30-40 for brown rice, and 30 for the lentils.
To make the salad, you just toss all the ingredients together in a bowl, adding the figs last so that they don't break apart when you are mixing it.
Check your seasoning and adjust as required, same for the lemon juice. I like mine zingy but everyone is different.
The following recipe is by the lovely Natalie, and it's one she got from here. It was really delicious, and so colourful and the dressing is THE bomb. I have made the dressing since then and have added it to other salads and also the rice salad and i'm happy to say that it goes really well with just about anything. You could even use it as a dip, it's that good.
The next dish was made by the sweet Angelica. She's little, she's Italian, and she makes the best pasta this side of Sicily. And would you believe it, she made egg-free pasta for us! There was no left-overs of that one, otherwise, we would've all been fighting for the last perfect little ravioli.I'm still to get the recipe for this, but patience is a virtue and I will practice it.
The ravioli was filled with a mixture of baked pumpkin, garlic and spinach and it was divine! I could have eaten the whole platter.
Ange tells me that it was really simple to make, just flour, water and some olive oil for the pasta. But I have never made vegan pasta before and I'd rather have the right amounts before I go covering myself in flour and oil.
The sauce itself was outstanding too, so I will post up this little gem as soon as I get it.
As you can see, there was no real theme for our lunch, just that it had to be vegan. This next recipe was so yummy and for some reason, silky comes to mind when I'm remembering the textures.
This dish was cooked by a crazy Indonesian girl called Dea, and it was just delish.
It was a delicious blend of enoki mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, tofu, and chinese greens with a vegetarian oyster sauce. A side of soba noodles, the perfect accompaniment. You can get the recipe here.
Of course, every good kitchen needs a good prep chef, and we had that in the lovely Briana aka Jazzy. Thanks lady for the cheese (yes, the non-vegan kind for the non-vegans) and for your assistance in making the dishes happen.
And last but not least is the dessert I made.
I must admit, this was a first for me. Not the dessert making, but this recipe. I was initially going to make a salted caramel and chocolate tart and I still did make that but it just turned out different to what I initially had in my head. I was aiming for a dulce de leche type tart that I was going to cover in melted dark chocolate so that I would have a hard chocolate top with a soft caramel centre and a crumbly base. However, the dulce de leche was an experience in itself and I thought that it would be too rich to have the caramel and the hard chocolate on top, so instead, I made a more creamy chocolate topping to go with the salted caramel. Enjoy.
WARNING: This dessert requires you to have a lot of time, and is best to make ahead of time as you will need to soak, freeze and stand in one spot for at least two hours! But well worth it.
Salted Caramel and Chocolate Tart
Makes 20 cm tart
3/4 cup desiccated coconut
3/4 cup walnut and pecans
6 pitted medjool dates
1 Tbsp coconut oil
pinch of sea salt
Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until crumbly but able to hold together when pressed.
Press the mixture into a lined springform tin, using some to come up the sides. Bake in a moderate oven for 10 minutes or until lightly golden. This last step is optional, but I like it because it gives it a toasted coconut taste. Alternatively, you can toast the coconut before you process your ingredients. I just didn't think of that at the time.
Yields about 1 1/2 cups
2 cans of coconut milk full fat
3/4 cup brown sugar
pinch of sea salt
Place coconut milk and sugar into a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat stirring occasionally. When it begins to boil, turn heat down to low and cook for about 2 hours.
Yes, that's not a misprint, 2 HOURS!!
Add the salt at the end and stir to dissolve.
Make sure you keep stirring every few minutes to stop the mixture from burning or sticking to the bottom.
Now this is what happened to mine, I left the stove because I could no longer wait to go to the toilet and when I came back, the mixture had curdled. ARGH! You can imagine my annoyance, having stood in front of it patiently, crossing and uncrossing my legs, for the past two hours! Now what was I to do? My dream of making vegan dulce de leche had gone, just because I had to wee.
But not all was lost my friends. In my desperation to make this work, to not let the past two hours be a waste of time, I did what any self-respecting girl would do. I drained off the liquid that was floating on top, which was just oil after all, and after a little bit more stirring, about 5 minutes, I was left with the most delicious dulce de leche. YEEEAAAHHHH!!
This taught me a very important lesson. Always trust your gut, it'll let you know what to do :)
Pour dulce de leche in a jar or glass container and let it cool in the fridge.
1 1/2 cup raw cashews soaked overnight or for at least 4 hours
1/3 cup coconut oil liquid
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup almond milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder)
To liquify your coconut oil, stand the container in boiling water.
Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until creamy and smooth.
You will need to scrape down the sides a couple of times.
Pour your cool dulce de leche into prepared tart base. It will be considerably more thick than when you first poured it into the container.
Smooth it out to cover the bottom.
Pour your chocolate mixture on top of the dulce de leche and smooth the top.
Cover and place in freezer. Take out of freezer a couple of hours before you are going to serve it. Store left overs, if any, in the freezer and just cut off a slice whenever you fancy.
With the end of the challenge nearing, and feeling pretty confident about eating a plant based diet, I've decided to add a little more challenges to my challenge.
So for the month of October, I will be doing Gluten Free and for November, I will be bidding farewell to my friend Sugar.
I anticipate that both will be, to say the least, um, challenging. But, I'm always up for a hard slog so there you are.
I anticipate that No-sugar-vember will be a tough battle. No sugar means no fruit, which means no green monster smoothies, no berry-chia jam, no chocolate tarts, no vegan dulce de leche, no dried fruit, no stewed apples in my porridge, no banana peanut butter gelato, no raw vegan chocolate......oh dear, the list is endless!!
I have done a no sugar challenge before so I know what lies ahead. The nausea, the headaches, the lethargy, the irritability. Yes, I will be a sugar junkie seriously crashing from a sugar high. I plead with you to keep your treats to yourself and away from my face, or I might eat your face!
But seriously, the bad part only lasts a few days and then it's all good. I'll be on top of the world, feeling smug and silently snickering behind your back when I see you eating a chocolate, feeling rather holy at the fact that I can kick sugar, even for just one month. Maybe I'll have a cat, maybe the cat and I will sit by the window sill and drink liquorice tea and read books and stuff. But hold on, I'm not sugarless yet, why am I delirious? Oh yes, it was just the idea of having no sugar that's sent me loopy. Oh dear.
But then I will become normal again and celebrate, and we can hold hands while we slurp a delicious green monster smoothie, filled with sweet bananas, yay!
What will October bring I wonder? A month of no bread, no cakes, no pasta. It really is the only way I can see to ease myself into dreaded No-sugar-vember. Yes, babysteps indeed.
Til next time lovers, dreamers and cat owners
Peas, love and mung beans
ps, i don't have anything against cats or people who love them. I just prefer dogs.