Mushroom, Quinoa, and Cashew Stuffed Delicata

Delicata squash has a dense, rich flesh, and a thin edible skin, and it needs only a little salt to bring out the flavor, which is excellent. In my opinion, it is at its best when meltingly soft. I first came across it at a wonderful little diner called Our Bar in Washougal, Washington, where they baked the stuff, and tossed cubes of it into breakfast scrambles and vegetable fried rice.


Stuffed Delicata Squash with Roast Potatoes and (vegan) Creamed, Garlicky, Cruciferous Veggies.

Stuffing the delicata turns them into a vegan, formal dinner center piece. Both my girls gave it the thumbs up … they are very partial to formal dinners with roast potatoes, orange and cranberry sauce, and cashew gravy.

The moist, herby, mushroom stuffing can be made the day before and stored in the fridge until required: a useful trait when there’s a lot of cooking to do! It must be about as damp as you’re going to want to eat it, as it doesn’t dry out much in the oven (and you wouldn’t want it to: quinoa tends to get a bit crunchy and stuck between your teeth if it dries out. Not so good.) If you have any extra stuffing left over after filling the delicata shells, mould it into 3″ round patties, and cook them along side the squash, to eat later as burgers.

Serves 6-8
1 recipe of the stuffing for Cashew and Mushroom Bake
3-4 delicata squash
oil as needed (~1 tsp per squash)
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

Preheat the oven to 350-400F (depending on what else you have cooking in the oven).

Wash the squash, then use a hefty knife to cut them in half from stem to blossom end. Use a spoon to firmly scrape out (and discard) the seeds, rub oil over all surfaces, sprinkle lightly with salt, and place (cut side down) on an oiled cookie/baking sheet.

Cook the squash for about 30-40 minutes (or until a fork can pierce the flesh), then turn over, stuff with the mushroom mixture, cover lightly with baking parchment to avoid drying, and continue cooking until the nut mixture is hot (15-30 mins).

Crusty, Vegan, Gluten Free Bread

Cut loafAfter having been in temporary accommodation for exactly a year now, with half to two-thirds of my kitchen in storage, we’re finally looking at moving into a permanent house in a couple of weeks’ time. I’m so looking forward to being able to play in the kitchen again. Amongst other things, I managed to put into storage all my bread tins, so have been experimenting with some glass cookware (that I rarely used before, but somehow ended up taking with us).
Making gluten free bread with eggs is now pretty straight forward, but getting a good rise out of a vegan bread mix has been more challenging.

slice of bread

This slice was cut before the loaf had fully cooled, but note the lack of unleavened bread at the bottom of the loaf!

I was toying with my copy of Gluten-Free and Vegan Bread by Jennifer Katzinger (with which I’ve had limited success) a few months ago, when I realized that the logic that she was using for not waiting for the dough to rise before putting it in the oven, could be applied to what I used to do sometimes with wheat bread. Sometimes, I would only wait until the dough was mostly risen, then put it in a cold (but heating) oven so that the slowly rising heat from the oven caused the yeast to go mad, right up until the point that it got hot enough to cook. Jennifer puts her bread straight into a hot oven, but I wanted to experiment putting the dough into a cold oven, so that it only had 15 minutes of rising before cooking at a reasonably high temperature. It seems to me that we still need a certain amount of yeast action to raise the loaf, but (according to Jennifer) we don’t want enzymes to have time to break down the structure, so we’d best be using lots of first generation yeast instead of waiting for successive generations to build up the CO2 in our loaf. This means that I’ve used far more yeast than I would normally use in a loaf …. and at this rate, using individual sachets of yeast is an expensive proposition. I buy my yeast in 1 – 2 lb bags in Costco for about the same money that I’ve seen charged for a 4 oz jar in other supermarkets.

The resultant bread is mildish in flavor (but not bland) with a crunchy crust, and a soft, moist mie the texture of REAL bread (as opposed to the pointless, fluffy-white-nothing of mass-produced ready-sliced modern wheat bread, of which I was never particularly fond). The tapioca starch keeps the texture of the mie soft; the almond flour gives a mild but nutritious aspect; the bean flour is great for nutrition and structure (but tends to be rather strongly flavored which is why I’ve diluted it with other flours), and the teff flour is also nutritiously superior, but with a warming, mellow flavor. I think it’s the teff that gives the slight molasses (not sweet) flavor that my daughter noticed. All in all, I really like this loaf. It isn’t as calorie dense as my much loved almond bread, but has good structure and flavor and isn’t reliant on eggs.

2 tbsp chia seeds
6 oz (1 1/4 cups) tapioca flour/starch or arrowroot
2 1/2 oz (2/3 cup) almond meal
2 1/2 oz (1/2 cup) garbanzo/garfava bean flour
5 oz (1 cup) teff flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp instant yeast
2 tbsp maple syrup

Measure the chia seeds out into a small container, add 4 fl. oz (1/2 cup) of water and put to one side to swell. (Minimum 15 mins. Hot water speeds up the process.)

Into the food processor, put the starch, almond, bean, and teff flours. Add the salt, xanthan gum, oil, and yeast.

Teff doughInto a jug, measure 1 cup of water and the maple syrup.

Once they’re ready, add the soaked chia seeds to the processor (the mixture will have thickened). Start processing the mixture and slowly (~10 seconds) add the water/syrup mixture. Process until the ingredients are fully amalgamated (~60 seconds). Add another tbsp or two of water, if your processor is having a hard time mixing this.

Heavily grease a 2lb loaf pan, scrape the dough into the pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Cover loosely with a sheet of baking parchment (not foil which increases the cooking time) to avoid over-browning.

Place the wannabe loaf in the oven, then turn on the oven to heat up to 340F and cook for 2 hrs (from cold – this timing is for a glass loaf pan; metal ones apparently lengthen the cooking time).

When cooked, the loaf will have pulled away from the side of the pan slightly. Tip it out, and allow to cool (ha ha … I never manage this bit) before slicing.

Creamy, Spicy, Carrot and Coconut Soup

Spicy Carrot and Coconut SoupThis soup was inspired by the Thai curry that I’ve been making recently, at a time when I was considering making carrot soup. In keeping with that, I think garnishing it with fresh basil or cilantro (fresh coriander) leaves is an apt idea. It’s rich, smooth, and spicy hot, with deeper notes courtesy of the ginger. The 1/2 tsp of crushed red chile that I used made it as hot as I care to eat it, and hotter than daughter #2 appreciates, so adjust to taste.

1 tbsp coconut oil
1 lb carrots, scraped and chopped into dice (the pre-peeled baby ones make this dish pretty quick).
1/2 large onion, diced
1 tbsp ground coriander seed
1/4 tsp ginger powder
pared zest of ½ a large or 1 small lime
14 oz can of light coconut milk
½ pint of water
1 tsp lime juice
1 tbsp brown sugar (depending on how sweet your carrots are)
1/4 -1/2 tsp crushed, dried red pepper (or to taste)
1/2 tsp salt

Melt the oil in a wide pan, add carrots, and fry over a medium heat for about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the onion, and fry gently until both are slightly browned. They should start to sizzle instead of steaming, after a total of about 15 minutes.
Stir in the coriander, ginger, and lime zest, and warm through for a minute.
Add the remaining ingredients, and allow to simmer gently until the vegetables are perfectly soft (~10 minutes).
Blend in a high speed blender, or puree and pass through a chinois to make perfectly smooth.

Make up to 40 fl oz with more water (or to make it the consistency you like). Adjust seasonings, reheat, and serve.

Mushroom and Pecan Pate

Pate in lettuce

Vegan Mushroom Pate

This is a seriously easy recipe which makes a pretty sophisticated dish. It’s quick to make and then sits in the fridge happily for a few days, which makes it excellent for dinner parties. The texture starts off a bit fluffy, but firms up nicely after a day or two, giving that firm, squishable texture that pate has. The flavor is deeply savory.

Both my husband and I were quite taken with this, but neither of my kids liked it. I think their palates are too young, and having always been vegetarian, they’re not used to the deeper notes that you’d get from a meat pate, so I’ll keep this for the adults! If you want a more kid friendly mushroom pate, try this one.

1 tbsp garlic infused oil (or olive oil and 2 cloves minced garlic)
8 oz mushrooms, cleaned
1/2 tsp dried thyme
5oz firm tofu
4 oz (1 cup) pecans
2 tbsp Braggs or other GF soy sauce
1/4 tsp black pepper

Break the mushrooms into rough chunks, and process in a food processor until roughly minced.

Add the remaining ingredients, and process to a coarse pate (a few small pieces of nut are OK).

Decorated pate top

Decorated pate top

Press into an oven proof serving bowl (~6″x6″ and at least 2″ deep), and optionally decorate with thin slices of another mushroom pressed into the surface, and cook at 350F for 45 minutes.

Allow to cool and firm up completely, and chill uncovered, preferably for a day or two, until required.

Serve stuffed in lettuce leaves or celery sticks, on toast, or in sandwiches.

Vegetable Thai Curry

Curry! Wonderful stuff. Thai curries feel easier to make than the Indian ones, and they seem to be fresh rather than rich, which makes a lovely change. They also gravitate towards using coconut milk and oil rather than cream and butter, so making them dairy free is less of a stretch.

Thai Vegetable Curry

Traditional Red Thai Curry is made with dried red chilies, and Green Thai Curry is made with fresh green chilis. However, the amount of chili required to give a red color to the sauce would be way too spicy for my family, so I substitute the chilies with the appropriately colored fresh (non-spicy) peppers. The 1/2 tsp dried red chilies that I use here gives a heat that we can enjoy, though if I’m making it for daughter #2’s school lunch, I rely only on the ginger to give the required heat; adjust to your taste. Increase the red chili:bell pepper ratio, if you like yours hotter.

The non-sauce vegetables can be varied depending on what you have available. Substitute similar weights, and have the veggies more or less cooked by the time they are introduced to the sauce. For the most part, I select white/yellow/orange/red colored vegetables or tofu for this curry, as I think it looks more harmonious.

For the sauce:

2 tsps coconut oil
1/4 large onion, roughly chopped
~5 oz (1 large) fresh red pepper, de-seeded and roughly chopped
2 lemongrass, chopped

1/2 tsp crushed, dried, red chili
1″ cube (err on the generous side) fresh ginger, skinned
6 garlic cloves, skinned

1 lime (zest of whole lime + 1 tbsp juice)
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh mint
1 tsp tamarind paste
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 can (~14 fl oz)  light coconut milk, divided

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf

For the veggies:

8 oz (1 large) potato, 3/4″ dice
1/2 small head (8-10 oz) of cauliflower, cut into florets

coconut oil, as needed for frying
2 large carrots, sliced thinly on the diagonal
1/4 large onion, chopped into large dice
1 large red/yellow/orange pepper, de-seeded and cut into medium sized dice
8 oz mushrooms, cubed

cooked jasmine rice, to serve

Warm the coconut oil in a saucepan, and gently fry the onion, peppers, and lemongrass until soft (~10 minute).

Add the chili, grate the ginger and mince the garlic, and add those too.

Use a microplane to add the lime zest to the mixture.

Stir in the ground coriander, cumin, salt, mint, tamarind, lime juice, and brown sugar, and warm the lot for a minute.

Scrape this mixture into a blender; use 1/2 of the coconut milk to rinse the saucepan out into the blender, and blend until smooth. If the sauce still has small strings in it, pass it though a sieve or chinois, and return to the pan to warm. Rinse the blender out into the saucepan with the remainder of the coconut milk (through the sieve, if necessary).

Allow the sauce to simmer gently for 10-15 minutes.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, and use it to cook the potato and cauliflower until they are just soft. Drain and put to one side.

Heat the coconut oil in a large frying pan, and cook the carrot, onion, peppers, and mushrooms until softened.

When you’re ready to eat, combine everything together, and heat for 10 minutes until hot, stirring gently. Serve with freshly cooked rice.

Bolognese Sauce (Vegan)

Vegan Bolognese

Vegan Bolognese with a gluten free (quinoa and brown rice) pasta.

I’ve been ‘playing’ with a pecan and mushroom pate recently (along with a vegan version of teff bread), and it temporarily morphed into this pasta sauce.

Pecan Bolognese

Paler version using more coarsely ground nuts.

It’s one of those recipes where you more or less throw everything together, and then let it do its thing while you potter around doing yours. The mixture is rich from the nuts, with a deeply savory flavor that I normally associate with meat dishes. If you grind the nuts fairly finely, then the color is also a rich dark brown. This totally threw me when it first happened, as the previous versions had been significantly paler. Note that, if anything, this tastes better the next day. The nuts soften even further, and the flavors marry. It even got the thumbs up from my husband!

1 tbsp garlic oil (or olive oil and 1 clove garlic)
1/2 large red/yellow pepper (~3 oz flesh), sliced/diced
3 medium mushrooms, cut into 1/2″ dice
4 oz pecans/walnuts, coarsely ground
1 cup diced tomatoes (including any juice, tinned OK)
4 spring onions, thickly sliced
2 tbsp coarsely minced sun dried tomatoes
½ tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp Braggs Aminos or gluten free soy sauce
16 fl. oz (2 cups) water
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

Heat the oil in a saucepan, and gently fry the pepper and mushrooms until they have both completely softened.

Add the remaining ingredients, and simmer uncovered until much of the water has evaporated, the nuts have softened, and the tomato chunks have disintegrated to form a sauce thick enough to coat pasta (30-40 minutes).

Check seasoning, and serve under mashed potatoes, in a GF pastry crust, or with GF pasta with parmesano sprinkles, if desired.

Teff Bread

Sliver pictureI know I’ve said this before, but I am still of the opinion that gluten free flours have a tendency to be either nutritionally poor and mildly flavored, or nutritionally good and strongly flavored, and unfortunately, many of the strong flavors are too intrusive and so we have to mix our flours to moderate them, or settle for the less nutritious flours. Teff appears to be a moderate flour; on its own it approaches the nutritional value of whole wheat, and there are no harsh notes. Don’t expect it to taste like wheat bread, but do expect it to taste like a great specialty bread.

This loaf was springy, flexible, and moist; easy to slice and slightly dense, and reminiscent of the malt loaf that I absolutely loved as a kid. It isn’t sweet, however, so it’s fine for savory sandwiches (although I am SO tempted to make a sweet one to toast).

I cooked this at a low temperature in order to get a soft crust, which it obligingly gave me.DSC_0011

10 oz (2 cups) teff flour
5 oz (1 cup) tapioca starch
1 oz (1/4 cup) flaxmeal
1 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp yeast
2 tbsp sugar (for the yeast, not for you)
1 tsp white vinegar
2 eggs
9 fl. oz water


Batter consistency.


Smoothed, unrisen dough.

Put all the dry ingredients in a food processor.
Put all the wet ingredients in a jug.

Start the processor, and slowly (over a period of about 10 seconds) add the wet ingredients to the dry. Process for about 2 minutes to activate the xanthan gum.

Risen dough ready to go in the oven.

Risen dough ready to go in the oven.

Scrape the batter out into a greased loaf pan; smooth the top, and allow to rest somewhere warm to rise by about 50% (~35 minutes depending on liveliness of your yeast and ambient temperature).
Place the pan in the oven, cover with a sheet of parchment or foil, and set the temperature to 330F.

Bake for 65 – 70 minutes (timed from turning on the oven, not from getting up to temperature).
Remove from the pan, and allow to cool (ha ha!) before slicing.