Celeriac-pear soup

dav

Pears? In soup? No, I’m not kidding. At all. Fruit in soup is not as extraordinary or weird as you might think. The lentil soup I often cook has apple in it, curried apple-tomato soup is also a treat, and apart from that, I once even made a banana soup which was pretty awesome.

But back to pears! And celeriacs! Those two food items have only the whitish colour of their flesh – in common. , but apart from that, they’re rather each other’s opposites: Knobbly, irregularly shaped and earthy and sharp tasting versus shapely, smooth and super sweet. Yet, throw them both in a soup pot in you’ll end up with a wonderful silky sweet soup you’ll absolutely want to make again. And the best part of it: you only need a handful of ingredients. This is as quick as it gets.

Celeriac-pear soup.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped up
  • 1/2 cup celery root cubes (so you peel the celeriac first, discard the knobbly skin, and then cube the flesh)
  • 2 pears, peeled and cubed
  • 3 to 4 cups vegetable stock (depends on how thick you want the end result to be)
  • salt and looooots of cracked black pepper
  • optional: a splash of plant-based cream
  • optional, for variation or extra taste: sage, parsley, chives, ginger, or even some cardamom pods.
  • For garnish: parsley, chives

 

Instructions

Sauté the onion in some oil until translucent; add the pear and celeriac cubes, fry for some more minutes and then add the vegetable broth. Let simmer until the pear and celeriac cubes are tender, then puree the soup using an immersion blender. Bring to taste with salt and pepper. Lots of black pepper, in fact.

dav

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Teriyaki dinner platter.

dav

Lately, a bag of quinoa had been accusingly staring at me each time I grabbed for one of its neighbours on the shelf: a package of spelt flour, corn flour, basmati rice, oatmeal, whatever, you name it, but it never was the quinoa which was eligible for one of our meals. So this week I decided that it indeed had been way too long since we had had quinoa. It must have been months – and I can’t really name a reason why, so I decided to finally put an end to its lonely shelf life.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I am not fond of plain quinoa. Don’t get me wrong, I do like quinoa, and so do the others here in the house, but there should be some seasoning or other key ingredient providing extra ‘zazz. One of my favourites in this case is a teriyaki blend which is added to the boiling quinoa. The end result may not look super inviting – it’s a drabby shade of brown – but damn, tasty it is! Teriyaki quinoa is one of Dreena Burton’s — wait, wait, you don’t know Dreena Burton? You should! Time to change that! — recipes from eat, drink & be vegan (to my friends: yes, you can always come and borrow my copy) which works splendidly when subbing the quinoa by rice as well.

So I decided to go for the teriyaki kind of quinoa, which over time has in our house become pretty good friends with both sesame sprinkled broccoli* and smoky grilled tempeh (I always use smoked tempeh, by the way, so the end result is extra smoky!). The latter is an Isa Chandra Moskowitz recipe which I won’t copy/paste, but you can find it over here. Whilst leafing through Veganomicon, I came across a sesame dressing which sounded pretty nice, so I sliced up half a cucumber with a vegetable peeler, added the dressing and some spring onions, and that made for a very nice side salad. And whilst I was at it, I grilled some eggplant (in a grill pan), only using a splash of teriyaki sauce and toasted sesame oil, but that absolutely did the trick.

The result? A very satisfying Japanese-style dinner platter, without too much work. Seems like the quinoa, tempeh and broccoli have gotten two new sidekicks, because I will definitely be making this combo again. Won’t serve it on a green plate next time, though. There’s only so much greenness and brownness one can put up with – visually, at least :-). So no more bichromic photographs, I promise.

 

*put some broccoli florets in a skillet or bowl with some oil and some tbsp of water, simmer or microwave for a couple of minutes, and sprinkle with sesame seeds, gomasio or this

dav

Vegan kung pao.

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I often feel very blessed to live where I live. That does not only go for my current whereabouts, where I’ve been living, off and on, for a total of 12 years, and where I, in all likelihood, will spend the rest of my life as well, but also for the places I called my home, be it temporarily, in earlier times. The splendid medieval town where I grew up, bombed to pieces a century ago, but stubbornly rebuilt. The magnificent capital of a bygone imperial era which carries the architectural grandeur of a glorious past as oversized clothes which suddenly no longer fit a shrunken frame. The medieval university town with meandering streets lined by 5-storey high Fachwerk-buildings that expand level after level and house many bookstores and anecdotes of eminent poets and philosophers. The nordic capital where the nearly lilliput size of its stock exchange, parliament and national theatre remind of a humbler past – especially compared to what its historically more powerful neighbours can boast of – but which slowly but steadily adapts to its rapid growth and current status as the world’s best place to live in by expanding its skyline with exciting architecture (which simultaneously turns the city into the world’s best place for young architects to find employment). THE other nordic capital, Scandinavia’s undisputable cultural hub and tourist magnet, booming as well, yet preserving its essential greenness and persisting on family-friendliness and an overall high quality of living in all areas of life.

All of these places I was happy to call my home at one point in my life, and all for a multitude of various reasons. And of course I love to revisit them – both in my memories and during short trips.

One of the many reasons I am happy to live where I am living – again – right now (although of course I could name plenty of issues which I find disagreeable here too, but that’s life: the ideal world is an eternal utopia – ha, utopia!) is a pretty down-to-earth and practical one: places where I can eat and buy vegan items have been continously popping up over the last few years, and this makes day-to-day life as a vegan WAY easier than it used to be. There are, for instance, TWO Loving Hut restaurants nearby, both run by a hands-on, extremely entrepreneurial and sympathetic vegan young woman, and one of these restaurants has KUNG PAO on its fixed menu.

I have started to LOVE this dish, which I previously never had heard of. I haven’t been able to convince the restaurant owner to share the magic recipe with me yet (to be honest, I haven’t directly asked her for this one yet), but I think I have come pretty close in recreating the dish at home.

Essential ingredients are broccoli florets, bell peppers and cashews, but in order to please my children’s palates too, I have added some peas and string beans (an overabundance of broccoli and bell peppers would have been too off-putting for them, although my eldest this time actually told me over his plate that he LIKED the red bell pepper pieces).

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Vegan kung pao.

Serves 4.

Ingredients

For the sauce:

  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp vegan “oyster” and mushroom sauce (lucky for me, they sell this at one of the local Loving Hut restaurants) – if you don’t find this, replace by an extra tablespoon of soy sauce and a tablespoon of tomato ketchup.
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1-2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 5 tbsp water
  • salt and pepper

For the rest of the dish:

  • 2 x ca. 200 grams of tofu or some vegan strips (I used the beef-style strips from the Vegetarian Butcher. Their chicken-style chunks would of course work well too here). When using tofu, I can definitely recommend this recipe from the Buddhist Chef.
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 – 1,5 bell pepper, diced (red and yellow look nice in this dish)
  • 1,5 cup broccoli florets (or cauliflower might work well here too)
  • 1 – 2 carrots, sliced or diced
  • some peas and/or green beans: optional (as explained above, I added these to please my children :-))
  • 2-3 scallions
  • a handful of raw or toasted cashews

Serve over rice

Instructions

  • For the sauce: Dissolve the arrowroot in a bowl with some water and mix in all other ingredients for the sauce as well. Keep at hand for the step below.
  • For the actual dish: Fry the beef-style strips or tofu in a skillet and set aside. Heat some oil in a skillet and add the shallot, carrots and the diced peppers. Cook for 3 minutes. Add the broccoli florets and and cook whilst stirring occasionally for another 5 minutes until the veggies are almost fork-tender. Add the cashews and the sauce and cook for 1 minute over high heat or until thickened. Add the vegan strips or tofu back to the skillet. Add the spring onions and serve over rice while still warm.Sprinkle some sesame seeds over the dish for garnish.

Zucchini-pea soup with crispy smoked tofu.

dav

The average Belgian kid could would without doubt name tomato soup with meatballs as its favourite dish in that category – I even suspect that might have held true for me once several decades ago (or nearly; it must have held a close second place right behind Knorr’s chicken soup with vermicelli – from a bag! Cringe!). Not my kids, though. They prefer GREEN soup, and whereas one loves alphabet soup, the other delights over soup with vegan sausage bits. So on Monday I had promised them to serve them a soup for Wednesday’s lunch which would live up to the combination of their individual preferences.

So this is what I came up with – and they had two portions each:

Zucchini-pea soup with crispy smoked tofu.

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 broccoli stalk (yes, stalk! – go ahead and use the broccoli florets for a dish in which it fulfils a higher decorative purpose)
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • a small handful of alphabet soup pasta – optional of course
  • 5 large basil leaves
  • some sage, parsley and mint
  • salt and pepper
  • 100g smoked tofu (I used some of the German Taifun brand – the best smoked tofu ever (although I had pretty awesome smoked tofu in the Czech Republic too, last summer))

Instructions

  • Fry the onion until translucent, add the garlic, and sauté one more minute before pouring in the stock. Bring to a boil and add broccoli, zucchini and peas. Reduce the heat and let simmer until the vegetables are cooked, and in the meantime slice the tofu into tiny bits and fry them until nicely browned and crispy. And if you want alphabet pasta, boil those in a separate pot. Add the basil and the remaining ingredients to the soup, blend until smooth, and then finally add the alphabet pasta and then the smoked tofu. Serve!

 

The soup pictured above does contain pasta letters, a whole lot of them actually, but they remained hidden below the soup surface.

Lentil-spinach dal & garlic naan.

dav

I love Indian food. I just love its scents, aromas, vibrant colours. Its versatility. Its compatibility with veganism. Its richness and diversity. And to my dear former colleague from Sri Lanka (I know you will be reading this 🙂 ) : yes, of course I love the sinhalese food you have on occassion and in abundance prepared especially for me – what an honour – too! And you know I’m always open to receiving recipes :-).

Now lentils. Of course in traditional European cooking, especially the mediterranean kind, you’ll find plenty of wonderful lentil dishes. But their rather obscured status in everyday European cuisine is not equivalent to their first rank position they occupy in Indian cuisine, where they are virtually omnipresent.

The dal soup pictured above has become a Saturday staple at our house. Saturday, you know, the day which is crammed with grocery shopping, transporting kids to leisure activities, cleaning and ironing, etc (I think I am repeating myself here, but hell, these Saturdays repeat themselves all the time). Anyhow, to make it easy on myself, I usually cook some kind of filling soup for Saturday lunch, accompanied by some bread variety. And very often, I opt for this dal soup with naan. Sometimes spontaneously, sometimes because my husband hints that this is his favourite. I’ve been making this soup for quite some time, basing myself upon both some dal soup recipe which used to be in the database of a local Flemish vegetarian community (but no longer is) and also upon the curried lentil, squash and apple stew in Chloe’s Kitchen.

Lentil-spinach dal soup.

Yields 4 portions

Ingredients

  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 tsp turmeric (I used freshly grated turmeric in this recipe, as I happened to have it at hand, but more often than not I use turmeric powder)
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • pinch of garam masala (optional)
  • salt and cracked black pepper
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 3/4 cup split mung beans (small, yellow lentils which cook really fast); you can also simply use red lentils instead if you don’t find them.
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 sweet potato, diced
  • 1 apple, diced
  • 100 g spinach or kale, or another leafy green of your choice (I used frozen spinach nuggets this time, but often I use kale, or a mixture of kale and spinach)
  • Optional and for garnish: chopped pistachios and plant-based cream, and/or some sprigs of cilantro.

Instructions

  • Sauté the onion until translucent. Add the garlic, but be careful not to burn it, and also the ginger and the spices. Sauté for a minute.
  • Add the carrots, and after a couple of minutes, pour on the stock.
  • Rinse the lentils and add them to the soup. together with the tomato puree. I usually have the stove on a high temperature during this stage.
  • After 5 minutes or so, lower to medium heat and add the apple and sweet potato. Let simmer.
  • When the sweet potato is fork tender, add the chopped kale.
  • Garnish if you like, and serve.
Garlic naan.

Until recently I usually bought ready-made naan bread to go with this soup, but all too often, lately, this storebought version turned out way too crumbly and dry. So I decided to start making my own. First I reverted to Vegan Richa’s cookbook – one I can definitely recommend; I’m a huge fan of many of her dishes – but I wasn’t entirely convinced by the result. Something was lacking. And then last Saturday I found this recipe, and I am so glad I did! I will definitely be making this again, only adjusting the actual number of naan breads (dividing the dough into 6, rather than 4 pieces, which should make for equally large but flatter naans) and the saltiness (I am not the kind of person to overuse salt, but these naans could use an extra pinch).

I brushed one side of the naan with oil + pressed garlic, and also sprinkled nigella seeds on top. And on some I also had freshly chopped cilantro.

davdav

Red pesto.

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In my previous post on Shepherd’s pie I listed red pesto as one of the ingredients. Now of course one can buy jarred red pesto. The fact that red pesto is so easily available in supermarkets (now well, let’s not exaggerate either, in my case it’s only in organic supermarkets that I can track down a vegan version of this delicacy) might make us forget that it is in fact enormously easy to just blend your own batch. Of course I am beyond thankful that health food stores and organic supermarkets do carry this stuff – there are times when this can come in extremely handy, and I usually have some jars stocked in the pantry – but the recipe below might be a good reminder of its actual simplicity. Do try this, and savour this homemade food which is totally worth making! It – is – SO – good!!!

Red pesto.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup half sun-dried tomatoes, or 1/4 cup half sun-dried and 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 3 tbsp hard vegan cheese, Parmezan style – I use Violife’s Prosociano which is totally delicious (I find – but then I haven’t had real cheese in ages). Vegusto’s No Muh Rezent or Dezent – the two vegan cheeses which are totally and absolutely my favourites, but which are more difficult to get my hands on where I live – would work perfectly well here too. You can of course also make your own. Personally I like this Parmesan recipe from the Minimalist Baker.
  • 1,5 cup densely packed fresh basil
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth, remove the lid, taste, and swoon!

 

Shepherd’s pie with Puy lentils.

dav

Shepherd’s pies come in all kinds of vegan variations, but I am particularly fond of this version with Puy lentils, which I originally came across in a Rose Elliot cookbook. Over time I have stopped reading and following the recipe, but started eyeballing ingredients instead, giving this dish, which is hearty, tasty, filling and a child-pleaser, a slight twist of my own.

Shepherd’s pie with Puy lentils

Ingredients

For the lentil-tomato layer:

  •  1 cup Puy lentils (green lentils with a blackish shade; they retain a good bite after cooking, which is quite essential for this dish).
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp herbes de Provence
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 onions
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1,5 – 2 cups passata (or 1 can cubed tomatoes, or the equivalent in fresh tomatoes, of course)

For the mash:

  • vegetable stock (I prefer not to use too much, so that I don’t need to throw out too much liquid – including vitamins – afterwards).
  • 1,5 cup potatoes
  • 3/4 cup parsnip
  • 3/4 cup celeriac
  • some hint of a smokey flavour: either smokey vegan cheese, smoked tofu, liquid smoke, or smoked salt. Here I used one package of SmokeyRisella, and used it partly in the mash (about 1/3), partly grated on top of the dish (2/3). Previously I have used grated smoked tofu (I especially love the Taifun brand), or added some smoked salt or half a teaspoon of liquid smoke.
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 tbsp red pesto
  • 1 tbsp agave syrup
  • 1 tbsp herbes de Provence
  • salt and pepper

 

dav

 

Instructions

For the lentil-tomato layer:

  • Bring the vegetable stock to a boil, together with the bay leaves and the herbs, and add the lentils. Be careful not to overcook the lentils, so regularly check their texture. When the lentils are fork tender, drain them and set aside.
  • Whilst the lentils are cooking, gently fry the onions in some oil until translucent and slightly browned, then add the garlic.
  • Add in the lentils, when these are done, together with the remaining ingredients. Let simmer for 5 more minutes.
  • Ladle into a casserole dish.

For the mash:

  • Bring the stock to a boil and add the cubed vegetables.
  • Cook until fork tender, drain (keeping the stock), then mash, using some of the cooking liquid, if necessary. Make sure not to use too much liquid, so that the mash doesn’t turn out to soft. When using smokey vegan cheese, like I did here, keep in mind that this also softens the mash. Adding extra oil, vegan cream, or some of the retained vegetable stock is then normally not necessary in this scenario.
  • Spoon onto the lentil-tomato layer
  • Finish the top layer with some grated smoked vegan cheese, or brush with some olive oil.
  • Bake the shepherd’s pie in a preheated oven, under the grill. 15 minutes at 18-200 degrees C will be suffcient to give the dish a nicely browned top layer.

 

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Tofu scramble mix.

dav

A short while ago – when blogging about sweet and sour vegan meatballs with vegetable fried rice – I promised I’d post my recipe for the perfect tofu scramble mix. OK, perhaps I’m exaggerating just a little bit, since perfect does not exist, but this comes pretty close, I swear.

I think I was well into my 8th year as a vegan when I first ate scrambled tofu. Of course, I’d read about it, but something deep inside of me was pretty sceptical. So I did nothing with all the recipes I had around. Until one day, when there was a vegan parent/children meetup and potluck in the outskirts of Stockholm, with lots of children, lots of parents, and lots of delicious food. Someone had brought tofu scramble, and all my previous distrust melted like snow. This stuff was awesome! And so though my daughter, who ate half a plate of it (she 1,5 at the time).

Still I did not make it at home, though. It would take me my next trip to Berlin shortly after to finally make me do so. There, in one of the fantastic Veganz supermarkets, I found a so-called tofu scramble mix: just add some to your tofu, and you’re done. Tempting indeed. But pricey! So I had a look at the ingredients list – hey, I had all of these in my pantry! – and juggled with the quantities. And tadaa, the tried and tested result you’ll find below.

dav

Tofu scramble mix

Ingredients

  • 1/2  cup French fried onions
  • 1,5 tbsp kala namak (black salt, which looks PINK, and has an egglike taste/smell)
  • 1,5 tbsp turmeric
  • 3/4 tbsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chili
  • 1 tbsp potato starch

Instructions

Add all ingredients to your food processor and mix. Ready to use!

When making tofu scramble, just heat some olive oil, crumble a block of tofu into the skillet, add some teaspoons or tablespoons  – according to your own liking – of the above mix, until your scramble looks and especially tastes the way you like it. You may of course add extra salt or herbs, or finely cut veggies. And you can use it plain in this fried rice.

dav

Avocado-chocolate pudding.

 
dav

As with most things in life, also with food items, there’s no use in drawing up strict black and white oppositions of likes and dislikes  (except when garden cress is concerned – I really do not like garden cress!!). Avocados may well fit into a grey zone for many people, and my sister is most likely one of them. For many years, she’s been a self-proclaimed avocado detester, but I think that given the right circumstances, she might actually start developing a certain fondness for this rich and fatty fruit.

Such a grey zone, meaning a context in which you do not actually taste the avocado itself, but nonetheless luxuriate in its lusciousness, would most likely be found within the realm of TREATS! And such a treat, dear all, is avocado-chocolate pudding. My children are not fond – yet! – of eating plain avocado, but mix it into a smooth and silken pudding, together with some cacao, plant-based milk and syrup, and there’s the ideal incentive for having them nicely eat their dinner.

So, dear sister, upon your own request, here’s the recipe for avocado-chocolate pudding. Give at a try, and let this treat open the door an inch for some avocado-loving, even if it’s just within this grey zone.

[This is not a recipe I can get any credit for. It is one of those recipes that has circulated all over the internet for years, but no one has any clue who first came up with it.]

dav

Avocado-chocolate pudding.

For 2 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/4 cup agave or maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup plant-based milk
  • 1/4 cup cacao

Instructions

Add all ingredients to you food processor, and blend until smooth.

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