Friday, February 26, 2010

"I can't believe its vegan " Chocolate Cake

This recipe I found in a great wee cookbook called "the great new zealand vege road trip" ... it is full of recipes from cafes around New Zealand. This recipe harks from the Eutopia cafe in Kaiwaka which is an unlikely have for organic and vegan food, mainly because of the success of Kay Baxter's Koanga Gardens.

Anyway, I have made the recipe largely as per the instructions, although I find a smaller banana makes the recipe more chocolately. I also added in a splosh of very strong espresso because I love that kind of flavour.

I have made it as a whole cake, but actually prefer it as cupcake, in which case this recipe will make about 18 - 24.

I baked some as cupcakes for a bunch of committed carnivores, including a large policeman friend of mine, and he actually couldn't believe it when I told him (after he had eaten several) that it was vegan.

3 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup cocoa
2 cups sugar
1/ 2 cup rice bran oil
2 Tbsp vinegar (I used apple cider but white would be fine too)
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 cups cold water
1 small-medium banana, mashed
2 Tbsp strong coffee, optional

1 Tsbp olivani or other dairy free spread
2 cups icing sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1 Tbsp vanilla essence or strong coffee
1 Tsbp approx boiling water

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius fan bake.
Grease a 23 cm cake tin and line with baking paper, or grease 2 x 12 hole muffin tins.

In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients. Make three wells in the mixture and in each place the vanilla, oil, and vinegar. Pour cold water over, add the banana and coffee if usig. Mix well and then pour into prepared tins.

Bake for 45-50 minutes (15 minutes for cupcakes) until a skewer comes out clean.

For the icing place all the ingredients in a pyrex dish and mix well. Add a few drops more water if needed. Ice cakes once cool.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Italian Bean Stew

This is the ultimate comfort food - a rich broth and creamy beans, full of late summer vegetables.

Italian Bean Stew

1 large red onion, finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 large eggplant, peeled and cubed
2 courgettes, finely sliced and then chopped
1 - 2 red or yellow capsicums (bell peppers) cored, deseeded and chopped
2 tins of chopped Italian tomatoes
1 cup vegetable stock
1 Tsbp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar
1 cup dried white beans, soaked overnight (cannellini beans are lovely)
1 tsp mixed spice
8-10 basil leaves, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan coated in spray oil saute the onion, garlic and eggplants until they soften. Add the remaining ingredients except the basil, and cook for approximately 2 hours, until the beans soften. (will be less if you are using tinned beans). Taste and season, stir through the basil and serve.

This is ideal over spaghetti or polenta, and freezes very well.

Mushroom and Spinach Lasagne

Yet another use for pureed tofu ... this makes a seriously yummy, ultra low fat lasagne. It freezes well and looks beautiful for entertaining.

Many mainstream brands of pasta are made with just semolina flour and water, but obviously if you are vegan check the labels!

Mushroom and spinach lasagne

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large red onion
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 cups button mushrooms, washed
1 packet of soft tofu
1 large handful of basil leaves
1 cup of frozen spinach, cooked and squeezed out
2 tins of tomato passata
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg (or dried is fine too)
large pinch each of salt and pepper.
1 packet of lasagne sheets (egg-free pasta is fairly easy to find)
a large handful of grated cheese (or cheeze) for the top

Get out your food processor and finely chop the onion and mushrooms. In a large saucepan heat the oil and then saute the onion, garlic and mushrooms. Season with the nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir in the spinach.

While these are cooking puree the tofu and basil leaves in the food processor.

In a large lasagne dish sprayed with spray oil place one layer of lasagne, then top with half the mushroom mix, then half the tofu mix, then half the passata. Place another layer of lasagne and then the mushroom, tofu and passata again. Finish with a layer of lasagne, top this with some leftover passata (brush it across the pasta, especially the edges) and some grated cheese.

Bake for 30-40 minutes in a moderate oven.

Hummus in a hurry

"Hummus is to vegetarians and vegans what air is to the rest of humanity" Veganomicon

You really don't need a recipe for hummus, but I find myself writing this one down for people quite often. Certainly, you can buy some great hummus at pretty much every supermarket even in the most rural parts of New Zealand - but nothing beats home made.

I like my hummus quite thick for sandwiches. I particularly love a wholegrain roll with hummus, sliced avocado and tomato - it is my favourite lunch at the moment.

If you prefer a thinner hummus you can add water - start with 2 Tbsp and go up from there. I tend to be quite light on the tahini and heavy on the lemon juice - its all about personal preference. I use a 'whizz-stick' (immersion blender) as I can never be bothered dragging the food processor out, but the food processor or a full blender would make it much smoother.


1 x tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp olive oil
juice of a large lemon
1 Tbsp tahini paste
1 clove garlic, minced
Large handful parsley or coriander
Salt, pepper and chilli flakes (to taste)

Place all ingredients in a large bowl, and puree using an immersion blender.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Eggplant and Brown Rice Bake

I made this today for our family lunch ... it managed to feed 10 hungry people and seemed to please everyone from hard core vegans to staunch carnivores.

We served it with a big salad (thanks Kate!), some crumbled feta and some ciabatta bread.

Eggplant and Brown Rice Bake

2 cups brown rice
1 large onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large eggplant, peeled
3 large red capsicums, cored and sliced
1 tin chopped italian tomatoes or passata
1 cup vegetable stock
1 cup frozen spinach, cooked and drained
2 packets tofu, or if you are not catering for vegans try 1 tofu and 1 feta
large handful of basil
pepper, salt and chilli

Firstly, boil the brown rice in a large saucepan of salted water for 30-40 minutes until just tender.

In a food processor finely chop the onion and garlic, and then cook these in a large frypan coated with spray oil. Using the food processor again (you don't need to clean it out obviously) chop the eggplant and capsicums, then add these to the frypan. Cook over a moderate heat.

Meanwhile use the food processor to puree the tofu (and the feta if using) and basil.

In a very large casserole dish or lasagne pan place the brown rice, the frypan mixture, the tofu mixture, the stock, the tomatoes, and the seasonings and mix well. You could top it with cheese if you felt so inclined.

(It can be cooked ahead to this point and left overnight)

Bake for 45 minutes in a moderate oven.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

All about quacamole

Its avocado season, which means I can buy them for about 50 cents each and almost always get a beautiful one!

Guacamole is a great way to use lots of avocados. It goes wonderfully with all sorts of foods - obviously its great with mexican (try it with the pinto bean casserole) and I love it in burgers. Its great with potato wedges, or as a dip for raw vegetables.

There are so many ways to make quacamole, but in my not-so-humble opinion the essential ingredients are avocado, lemon juice and a decent amount of salt. Under salted quacamole just won't quite have the same taste I'm sorry to say.

After those 3 ingredients its a question of your own personal taste. Sour cream makes for a creamier dip obviously, garlic and tabasco sauce makes it delicously pungent, you can even mix it with some whipped up light cream cheese (which is the cream cheese/cottage cheese blend).

Here is my recipe for my perfect vegan quacamole.

Gypsy's Quacamole

2 large, ripe avocados
juice of 1/2 - 1 lemon
generous pinch of salt
a few drops of tabasco or a pinch of cayenne
1/2 small garlic clove, minced

Use a fork to mash the avocado until its smooth but not pureed. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Eat immediately. Use your fingers to lick the bowl!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Tofu Stir Fry

As a little girl I used to get the left over tofu from this recipe in my lunchbox ... its suprisingly good. Don't be put off tofu until you have tried this - its delicious and makes for a high protein , low fat, super easy dinner.

Tofu Stir Fry

Tofu Marinade
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp ginger, minced
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp sweet chilli sauce
1 tsp sesame oil

300g packet firm organic tofu cut into 5-7mm slices

Assorted vegetables e.g.
1 large carrot cut into thin sticks
1 large handful mung beans
1 small head broccoli cut into small florets
1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 red or yellow capsicum sliced

Place the sliced tofu in the marinade for at least 1 hour, or even overnight.

Spray a large frypan with spray oil and heat to medium-high. Place the tofu slices (reserve the marinade) and the vegetables that will require longer cooking (carrots, capsicums). Cook for around 4-5 minutes, tun the tofu to brown the other side and add remaining vegetables and leftover marinade.

Serve with rice.

Caramelized Onion Calzone

Calzones are one of my favourite things to eat, being the carb addict that I am. You can fill them with all sorts of leftovers, so they are a great budget dish. In case you don't know what I am on about check out this one at Jamie Oliver's site.

Tonight was the best ever - I filled mine with some canned kidney beans, caramelized onions, feta cheese and mozzarella cheese. Not an exceptionally healthy dinner but great for a treat, and they go well with a huge green salad.

Here's my recipe for calzone dough. This will make enough for four hungry adults!

1 c lukewarm water
2 t active dry yeast
1 t salt
1/2 t sugar
3 c flour - a mix of wholemeal and white is lovely
2 Tbsp olive oil

In a bowl, combine the water, yeast, salt and sugar, and stir to dissolve. Set aside in a warm place for 15 minutes, then add the flour, and mix until smooth. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for 5 minutes, adding more flour if necessary.

The dough should feel smooth and elastic. Lightly oil a bowl, pop the dough inside and cover. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Cut the dough into 4 pieces, and roll each piece out into a large circle. I use a small dinner plate and cut around it to get a neat calzone. Place the filling in the middle and fold over, using your fingers to pinch the dough together. Use a fork to pierce some holes for the steam to escape, and then bake for 20-25 minutes.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Seriously scrummy lentil and brown rice patties

I've said it before that lentils and brown rice don't deserve their appalling reputation. Make these delicious patties and serve them with a huge salad ... a really wonderful balanced meal. You can even use them for burger patties.

This is a big quantity - it makes 18 muffin tin sized patties easily. They freeze really well - just spray a patty pan with olive oil, pop the mix in and freeze. Then pop them out and put them in a large zip lock bag.

Lentil and Brown Rice Patties

1 large onion
1 large carrot
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 huge handful of leafy herbs - coriander, mint and/or parsley
1 cup brown lentils
1 cup brown rice
1-2 Tbsp each soy sauce and either sweet chilli or tomato sauces
2-4 Tbsp flour

In a large saucepan cook the lentils and rice together for around 45-50 minutes until tender. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a large food processor finely chop the onion, carrot, garlic and herbs. Add the lentils and rice, and then add the sauce and flour as required to make a mixture that is not too sloppy!

Cook either in a fry pan or under the grill for 5-10 minutes a side until slightly brown

Quick Tempeh Curry

This is a real weeknight staple in our house. I have suggested some vegetables, but use whatever you have to hand.

If you have never tried tempeh, you are missing out. Granted, it looks pretty foul but it tastes amazing and has roughly twice the protein of tofu. Unlike tofu, tempeh freezes particularly well, so this curry is a good one to cook in advance and defrost on nights you don't feel like cooking. Serve with rice and yoghurt or raita as you prefer.

Tempeh Curry
Serves 4-6

1 onion, finely chopped
1 cloves garlic, minced
125 grams tempeh (half a packet) sliced 5mm thick
2-3 tbsp red curry paste
1 tin chopped italian tomatoes
1 cup veggie stock
1/2 tin coconut milk
1 red or yellow capsicum, sliced
1 green zucchini, sliced
1/2 small head of broccoli
1/2 small head of cauliflower
1 large carrot, sliced

In a large wok or frypan coated with spray oil saute the onion, garlic and tempeh until the onion and tempeh are slightly browning. Add the curry paste, the tomatoes, stock, coconut milk and cook for about 15 -20 minutes before adding the vegetables. Cook for a further 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the sauce has reduced.

Bliss balls

Its hard to believe that something that tastes this amazing can also be incredibly healthy. Even my 3 year old will scoff them down.

They are also wonderful for using up leftovers as you can put so many different things in them. Use up that last bit of peanut butter or almond butter, the few prunes or cranberries at the bottom of the packet, the chia seeds you bought but don't seem to be using!

They are lovely to serve with a cheeseboard after a dinner party if you are feeling flash, and are a wonderful gift for students in the middle of exam time.

Gypsy's Bliss Balls

1/4 cup tahini or peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
½ cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup dried apricot pieces, or other dried fruit
1/2 cup dried dates
1/2 cup sultanas, or other dried fruit. Cranberries are great!
1/2 cup almonds, brazil nuts, walnuts
1/2 cup seeds e.g. pumpkin, sunflower, chia etc.
Extra coconut for rolling.

Mix all ingredients together in a food processor until a fine, sticky mixture is produced. Use more honey if necessary.
Shape into balls with wet hands and roll in coconut.
Refrigerate until firm.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Quinoa and Chickpea Salad

This is a great lunch or side dish for a main meal.

1 cup quinoa (red or white)
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 large handful each coriander and parsley finely chopped
1/2 each yellow and red capsicum
1 ripe avocado, peeled and diced

juice of 1 large lemon
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
good pinch of chilli flakes or ground black pepper
pinch of ground sea-salt

Firstly, cook the quinoa. Place the quinoa in a sieve and rinse well in cold water, then cook for approximately 12 minutes in a saucepan of boiling water until tender.

While the quinoa is cooking, made the dressing in a large salad bowl, and then add the chickpeas, herbs, capsicums and avocado. Add the cooked quinoa and toss well to combine. Season to taste.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Vegetarian Moussaka

In my very humble opinion this is better than any moussaka made with meat ... and my tofu-phobe husband couldn't pick what was in it. He had some lamb on the side though of course.

It wasn't a massive amount of work, but is more of a dinner party dish than a weeknight special. However, it is a good contender for the freezer. Serve it with a side salad and some crusty bread.

Vegans could easily leave out the feta cheese and instead use a cashew-nut and tofu mix - just mix 1/2 cup of cashews, olive oil, basil and lemon juice in a food processor until creamy and then whizz up the tofu with it.

Now, just a note on handling eggplants. I just cut the top off and peel the rest with a Y shaped veggie peeler. In the bad old days eggplants were complicated by the need to salt them, but modern varieties have been bred to be less bitter.

Vegetarian Moussaka
Serves 6-8

1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced into thin (about 4mm ideally) rounds
2 400g cans of tomato passata, or a large jar of good quality pasta sauce
1 large handful of frozen spinach, cooked and drained
1 portion of tofu mixture (see below)
fresh breadcrumbs made from 3-4 slices of bread
large handful of cheese for topping (optional)

Tofu mixture
1 block of firm tofu
1 200g block of feta cheese or 1/2 cup raw, unsalted cashews
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic
juice of a lemon
pinch of salt
a large handful of fresh basil, ripped up finely

Firstly, make the tofu mixture by blending everything in the food processor until creamy.

Then, in a large lasagne dish, place one overlapping layer of eggplant, then the passata, spinach, tofu mixture, a further layer of eggplant, and the breadcrumbs and cheese.

Bake at 180 degrees celcius for 45-50 minutes.