Pasta with curried zucchini & mango.

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In one of my previous posts I mentioned how my youngest absolutely adores pasta with a creamy zucchini sauce. However much I like that one too, some variation on the table is wished for, so inspired by a zucchini-curry spread I once bought, I came up with this ‘oriental’ take on it. Zucchini and curry are a good match, and the mango brings on a wonderful sweet complementary tang (and did I mention that my daughter is the major consumer of mangoes in our household?; she eats them before we even get a chance).

Other than ‘regular’ tomato- or cream-based pasta sauces, this curried zucchini one would be a totally off combination with vegan cheese, so I decided to use sunflower sprinkles instead. Toasted sunflower seeds are super tasty and very addictive (give me a bowl, and I’ll empty it in no time), and what’s more, they add a nice crunch and bite. Ever since I had Dreena Burton’s Roasty Toasty sunflower seeds (and that was like over a decade ago; Vive le Vegan! dates back to 2004), I every so often make this treat to have it on salads. But I assure you, these seeds work wonders on pasta too. For optimal flavour pairing, I swapped out the regular balsamic vinegar from the original recipe by apple cider vinegar.

Pasta with curried zucchini & mango.

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 1/2 mango, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 2,5 dl (= 1 cup) plant-based cream (I used soy cream)
  • 2 TB curry
  • 1 tsp mango powder (amchoor), optional
  • 50 g spinach, fresh or frozen
  • 300 g pasta of your choice
  • salt and pepper
  • sunflower sprinkles: 1 TB toasted sesame oil, 1 TB apple cider vinegar or white balsamic vinegar, and a handful of sunflower seeds
  • optional: 150 – 200g chicken-style pieces (I used these from retailer Edeka, which I bought during a shopping trip to Germany, but in Belgian supermarket Delhaize you can find similar ones from Greenway and de Vegetarische Slager). I know some vegans are reluctant to food items that mimic the taste and/or texture of meat, but I do use them, as I don’t associate them with actual meat and its taste at ALL. To me, they are ‘soy pieces’, and that is also what we name them at home. Apart from that, my husband, who is not a vegan, likes these, and our kids who are raised vegan do too. Of course one could  just use tofu here, but I’d  then marinate the tofu in a tangy curry marinade first. Smoked tempeh would even work better than tofu, imho. Also in the tempeh-scenario, I’d marinate the whole batch (a tempeh bacon marinade would be great).

Directions

  • Boil the pasta according to the directions on the package.
  • Toast the sunflower seeds with sesame oil, vinegar, and a dash of salt, and set aside.
  • If using them, fry the chicken-style pieces until golden and set aside.
  • Fry the zucchini in some olive or coconut oil, until the cubes turn nicely golden and browned. Add the curry, mango powder, salt and pepper, mango, spinach and plant-based cream.
  • When the spinach has wilted, taste the sauce and adjust seasoning to taste.
  • Add the optional chicken-style pieces.
  • Serve the sauce over pasta, and sprinkle with sunflower seeds.

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Split pea soup & tofu sausage tornadoes.

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I’d been longing to make split pea soup for quite some weeks and yesterday I decided to finally grab a pan and cook those pulses now that it’s still the right season to do so. Split peas take a while to cook until tender, so Saturday is a convenient day for soups with a long simmering time.

Usually I add tofu wiener slices or bits of smoked tofu with this hearty soup, but I wanted something slightly different today. I recently came across a cooking video featuring sausage tornadoes, and thought this would be something the children would love (given their predilection for everything on skewers). And they did, as they had 3 each alongside a decent bowl of soup.

Yet as my husband is not the person who warms to the idea of wieners (neither the tofu nor the regular kind), I used some of the freshly made pizza dough of the tornadoes to create a couple of handpies filled with smoked tofu, vegan Gouda slices and Dijon mustard. Apparently they were tasty, so mission accomplished.

I will not include a sausage tornado recipe below, as it’s basically just sausages on a skewer, with a spiralling cut that is filled with a swirl of pizza dough. No rocket science, no gourmet cooking. Just fun!

Split pea soup.

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 large carrots
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 250 g split peas
  • 2,5 l (or 10 cups) vegetable stock (optionally, you can sub 1,5 dl of the stock by white wine)
  • 2 TB dried thyme (or half the amount fresh thyme)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Optional: 1 tsp liquid smoke
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

  • Sauté the onion until translucent, then add the rest of the finely chopped vegetables.
  • Rinse the split peas, then add them to the pan, together with the stock (and wine, if using) and herbs.
  • Let simmer until the split peas are soft. This might take a little over an hour. Bring to taste with salt and pepper, and a splash of liquid if you like. If the soup is too thick to your liking, pour in more water (but with 2,5 l added to the soup already, you should be safe).

Apricot-almond bites.

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Raw nut-fruit balls are ideal snacks, because they’re

  • easy to make
  • delicious
  • healthy

What’s more,  they do not require any odd ingredients and the variations are just endless. Any type of nuts or dried fruits will do. Add some flavour (lemon, cocoa, raspberry, almond, vanilla…), add some extra dry ingredients like oats or coconut if you like, or sticky ingredients like maple syrup or nut butters, and wham, you’ve got yourself a nice treat within minutes.

Yesterday I experimented with apricots and almonds. Because I feared those two ingredients’ tastes would be too overpowering, I balanced them out with dates and cashews, and added some orange blossom water (I love that aroma!) and almond essence, together with some cinnamon and cardamom. The taste was quite sweet and mild (next time I’ll give the pure apricot-almond version a go anyway and see what that brings), and my decision to coat the balls with white chocolate turned out to be an extremely good one. Both tastes work wonderfully well together. You can eat the bites as they are, of course, but if you have white chocolate around, you really should add this extra layer of flavour. The proof lies in the fact that all balls – except the ones I saved for the children’s biscuit box for school tomorrow – have vanished within less than 24h.

apricot-almond bites

  • Servings: 18 balls
  • Difficulty: easy
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Apricot-almond bites

Ingredients

  • 80g apricots (about 10)
  • 80g  medjool dates (about 5)
  • 60 g almonds
  • 60g cashews
  • 80g oatmeal
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp orange blossom water
  • 1/2 tsp almond essence
  • 2TB hemp seeds (optional – can also be replaced by other seeds, like sesame seeds, which probably would work even better here, but which I had run out of)
  • 1,5 TB sunflower seed butter (optional – you could also use any nut butter you like)
  • 1-2 handfuls of vegan white chocolate – optional

Directions

  • Add all ingredients to a food processor and mix until you have a sticky dough that can easily be rolled into bite-sized balls. If the dough is too sticky, add more oats.
  • Melt the white chocolate, and roll each ball into it. Place the chocolate coated ball on a silicone mat and let cool (in the fridge, when you want to speeden up the process).

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Belgian bread pudding.

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I am all in favour of maximally efficient food use (not that I am a champion in this – I know some who are – but I try my best). Which means that I aim at buying only those items that I need, that I like browsing the fridge for vegetables on the brink of wilting and then transform them into soup, that I save broccoli stalks and so on (also for soup), and that I always keep the leftovers of dinner. It also means that I freeze slices or chunks of bread that have gone stale. And at regular intervals, when having saved up enough of this leftover bread, which then starts to take up too much precious space in my freezer, I decide it’s time again to make bread pudding.

Converting stale bread into bread pudding is apparently apparently also a practice common outside of Belgium. But I haven’t seen any foreign recipes including vanilla pudding, as we usually do over here. Anyway, bread pudding is quite plainly stale bread, soaked in milk, which is baked again in a springform pan, with some vanilla pudding powder and gingerbread spices and raisins added (and traditionally also eggs, but I leave those out). I like having some chunks of apple in it too, as they add moisture to this dense pudding (which in the dialect I was brought up in is called poting), and I usually go for a decent splash of brown rum as well. Not just rum, really. It’s rum turned into vanilla essence, as I at all times keep some stalks of vanilla soaking (for months, for years) in a bottle of rum, turning this amber-coloured liquid into a vanilla spiked delicacy. The end result is a quite heavy cake, which cannot boast of any delicate qualities, but it’s a reminder of my childhood, and I like its moistness, its sturdiness and cinnamon taste. You can have it at tea time, just as a snack, or you might even eat it for breakfast.

The recipe below is the result of some eyeballing. It’s quite hard fixing this recipe in exact measurements, as the amount of bread one works with varies from time to time, and the type of bread used likewise influences the amount of liquid needed.

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Belgian bread pudding

  • Servings: 12 decent pieces
  • Difficulty: easy
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Bread pudding

Ingredients

  • Ca. 750 g stale bread (could be somewhat less or somewhat more, but I usually take an amount which fills my largest baking bowl to the brim.)
  • Ca. 1 l plant milk (again, this is variable. It’s important to use enough milk to soak every tiny bit of bread, but don’t overdo it, otherwise the bread pudding won’t solidify enough during the baking process).
  • 1 package of vanilla pudding powder (the ones I use weigh 50 g a package); if you want a more vanilla-y taste, you perhaps could use two, but you’d need a bit more soy milk in that case, I guess.
  • 1 TB rum + 1 tsp vanilla essence (or you could just use vanilla-infused rum, like I do)
  • 1 heaped tsp gingerbread spices (or if you don’t have that at hand, just mix in some cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and/or cardamom)
  • 1,5 tsp baking powder
  • 100 sugar (if you really have a sweet tooth, add some more – I like moderate sweetness)
  • a handful each of raisins, chopped apple and nuts
  • a dash of salt

Directions

  • Take a large bowl for the bread and soak the bread for at least a couple of hours, or more easily, overnight.
  • Preheat the oven (180 degrees C)
  • Mix the bread so that you end up with a sticky, even mixture that shows no more traces of bread lumps
  • Add in all the remaining ingredients, mix well, and ladle into a springform pan.
  • Bake for an hour, until the outide is crispy, and the inside has set.
  • Let cool (more or less) completely before cutting.

Tofu satay & peanut sauce.

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Everything that comes on skewers is something children really, really like. It makes dinner more fun. Add some peanut sauce, tofu and rice, and the kids – at least mine – are even more happy. So it’s no wonder that these tofu satays were gone in a flash! My daughter even wispered into my ear I should make this for dinner every single day. I won’t comply with that command, but it’s definitely something we could have more often, as it’s actually not that time-consuming (despite the long list of ingredients).

Tofu satay & peanut sauce

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: medium
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Tofu satay

Ingredients

  • 400g tofu (I used smoked tofu, which is firmer than regular firm tofu; the latter works fine too, but should be drained and pressed before marinating.)
  • 2,5 cm ginger, grated
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 stalk lemongrass
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 TB shoyu (dark soy sauce)
  • 1 TB tamari (or regular shoyu, if you don’t have tamari at hand)
  • 3 TB brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp chili paste (sambal oelek)
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • pinch of salt
  • some cracked black pepper
  • 1 TB coconut oil
  • 2 TB toasted sesame oil

Directions

  • Cut the tofu into longish saté-sized sticks that will fit onto a skewer.
  • Mix all the ingredients for the marinade in a container and add the tofu sticks. Make sure to use a container that has a lid, so that you can shake it to obtain an optimal distribution of the marinade. Let sit for ideally minimum an hour. The longer you can marinate the tofu, the better (especially when using regular firm tofu, which also needs to be drained and pressed before use.)
  • When the tofu is done marinating, slide the sticks onto skewers and grill in a grill pan. You might opt to either pour the leftover marinade over the satés or to add it to the peanut sauce. Both options are great.
  • Serve over rice, with a generous amount of peanut sauce, and with greens on the side (I think broccoli, steamed with some oil, and sprinkled with red pepper flakes and sesame, makes a perfect side here).

Peanut sauce

Ingredients

  • 1,5 cup coconut milk (you might want to add more if you want to thin out the sauce)
  • 5 TB peanut butter (use peanut butter containing 100% peanuts – no palm oil)
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 TB brown sugar
  • 2 TB soy sauce
  • 1/2 TB lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Directions

  • Bring the coconut milk to a boil, and add the peanut butter. It will take some time for the peanut butter to completely dissolve, so don’t despair and just be patient for the lumps of peanut butter to blend into the sauce. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for a couple of minutes.
  • You might want to add the leftover tofu marinade to the sauce for an extra rich and flavourful peanut sauce.


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Spaghetti al ragù.

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You may or may not have noticed, but in the recipes I have posted thus far one ingredient generally highly overrepresented in vegan and vegetarian cooking is missing: mushrooms. The reason I haven’t included any mushroom-based recipes is quite uncomplicated. I do not like them. The fun in funghi is totally absent to me, however incomprehensible this might sound to the majority out there. There’s something both about their taste and texture which does not appeal to me.

I do eat them on occasion, though, for two main reasons. The first reason being that they are so common in vegan cuisine. So more often than not it happens that at parties – where I am usually the only vegan to be detected within miles – a special plant-based meal has been prepared solely for me, so at times like those I just get over it. The second reason: my husband loves funghi. So every now and then I buy some for him. The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, right? Or so at least the proverb goes.

A couple of weeks ago I again purchased a box of mushrooms, and decided to use them in a simple, red wine-infused pasta sauce. And to my absolute surprise, the sauce was simply delicious, an absolute winner sauce even with the mushrooms (yep, I made two batches…: one with, and one without).

You can definitely eat this spaghetti al ragù as is,  but I decided to serve the pasta topped with Gardein meatless meatballs (which are not usually available in Belgium, but luckily I happen to live nearby a Loving Hut restaurant which carries them). That decision was a vey lucky shot. It was the first time we had these vegan meatballs – which are hands down the best ones I ever had (and better even than any meatballs I can remember from my pre-vegetarian/vegan days), but their flavour beautifully complemented the ragù. If you can get hold of them, do give this combo a try. I promise you won’t regret it.

Spaghetti al ragù

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ragù

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup mushrooms
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 carrots
  • 1/2 zucchini
  • 250 ml (= 1 cup) red wine
  • 700 g passata (one large bottle of approximately 1 l or 4 cups)
  • 375 ml (= 1,5 cup) water
  • 1,5 tsp Italian seasoning / herbs
  • approximately 1 cup vegan mince of your choice or finely chopped walnuts (I used TVP here, and started out with 3/4 cup dry TVP – recipe below)
  • pasta of your choice
  • optional: (Gardein) meatless meatballs

Directions

  • Sauté the onions, garlic and the mushrooms in olive oil until nicely browned. Add the chopped vegetables and sauté for some more minutes. Pour in the wine and simmer a couple of minutes before adding the water and the seasoning. Turn down the heat and simmer until ready. In the meantime, sauté the mince. When the vegetables are fork-tender, add in the mince.
  • Serve over pasta.
  • Optional: add vegan meatballs.

TVP-based mince

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup TVP mince
  • 1 TB soy sauce
  • 1 TB vegan Worcester sauce
  • 1 TB liquid smoke
  • 1/2 TB ground cumin
  • 1/2 TB nutmeg
  • 1/2 TB garlic granules
  • 1 TB sweet paprika
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  • Bring water to a boil. Pour the boiling water over the dehydrated TVP-mince. Let sit for at least 5 minutes, then press out as much of the liquid as possible (I usually pour the mince into a strainer and press it with the back of a bowl).
  • Heat olive oil in a pan and sauté the mince, together with all the other ingredients listed.

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