Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip CookiesAlthough I’m more focussed on savory meals, it does seem wise to have at least a handful of trusted recipes in my repertoire for sweet indulgences.

This makes about 24 two inch cookies.

2 oz cold margarine
2 oz brown sugar
2 oz sugar (3 oz if you like your cookies on the sweeter side)
4 oz blanched almond flour
4 oz all purpose GF flour
1/3 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla (optional)
1 egg
~1 tbsp rice milk as needed
1 cup dark chocolate chips

DSC_0014Pre heat the oven to 375F.

Blend together the margarine and sugar in a food processor (or by hand with a wooden spoon, if you’re still that virtuous) until fluffy.

Add remaining ingredients (except chocolate chips), and process into a coherent ball. Add a tablespoon of rice milk, if needed to get the dough to come together.

Stir in the chocolate chips, and put 1 tbsp quantities onto a parchment lined cookie tray (9 – 12 per tray), then roll gently to 1/2″ thickness with a rolling pin, or flatten with the back of a wetted spoon.

Cook in the top half of the oven for about 15-20 mins until barely golden around the edges. Remove from the pan, and allow to cool.

 

Vegan Cassoulet

Cassoulet is a classic comfort food from France: a thick, bean-y stew which clings to your ribs. I had it as a pre-vegetarian teenager, when we vacationed there years and years ago, and was so enamored of it, that when I turned vegetarian, I wanted to retain the ability to eat it.

CassouletWhen I first devised this veganized and simplified version, I was still eating wheat, and instead of tofu, I used 4 large spiced veggie sausages which were utterly yummy here, but much to my frustration were wiped off my menu when I realized I had to ditch the wheat. It took me a fair few years to get around to figuring this gluten free version.

Now, I should point out that ‘normal’ cassoulet not only has meat in it, it also has everything cooked together for quite a long time to cook the beans, tenderize the meat, and form a rich tasting crust. Tofu isn’t going to be improved by a long slow cook in bean juices! It’s quite tender enough, and if anything, it needs to be firmed up, which is why I bake mine first.

If you want to, you can certainly use 1 1/2 cups (~9 oz) dried beans in this dish. Just soak and cook them up according to packet instructions (along with the bay leaf) beforehand, and retain enough of the cooking liquid to cover them by about 1/2″ when adding to the other ingredients.

The tofu can either be fresh, or frozen and defrosted before use. Defrosted tofu has a different texture to that of fresh which releases its water more easily, and may well have a more acceptable texture for those folks who don’t normally eat tofu.

Serves 3-4 people

2 tsp oil or margarine
1/2 large (or 1 medium) onion, coarsely diced
2 cloves garlic
2 cans great northern, haricot/navy, or other small white beans (not drained)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 tsp pepper
salt to taste (depends on how salty your cooked beans are)

~14 oz firm tofu (regular, not silken), drained
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp pepper
dash of cayenne pepper (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400F, so the beans won’t cool down too much after being put in.

half cooked cassouletHeat the oil in a dutch oven, and cook the diced onion over medium heat until medium brown (~10-15 minutes). Add the garlic, beans, the bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, 1/4 tsp pepper, and enough bean liquor / water to cover by 1/2″. Check seasoning (it should taste slightly under salty at this point). Bring all to a gentle simmer, and transfer to the hot oven (uncovered).

Stir together the tsp of salt, nutritional yeast,  and one of the 1/4 tsp pepper in a large bowl. Add a dash of cayenne, if liked.

Cut the tofu into 3/4″ cubes or chipolata, pat dry with kitchen paper, and use your hands to toss the tofu gently with the seasoning mixture. (Defrosted tofu is particularly delicate.)

Spread the tofu out on a baking/cookie sheet which has been lined with baking parchment, and place in the oven for about 1/2-3/4  hour until starting to firm up around the edges. (This will depend on how wet your tofu is, and how big the chunks are.)

cooked cassouletWhen the tofu is ready (firmed up on the outside and chewy), stir it into the beans, and continue cooking the beans in the oven until the sauce has finished thickening (a total cooking time of about an hour for the beans).

Serve hot with crusty GF bread, and warm fluffy blankets next to a roaring fire.

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.

DSC_0001

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 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
2 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. For the most part, I select white/yellow/orange/red colored vegetables or tofu, as I think it looks more harmonious. Substitute similar volumes, and have the veggies cooked (and preferably hot) by the time they are introduced to the sauce. I think this sauce tastes best if not simmered for long periods of time.

For the sauce:

1 tbsp coconut oil
1/4 large onion, roughly chopped
~5 oz (1 large) fresh red pepper, de-seeded and roughly chopped
2 lemongrass (~16″ total), chopped

1/4 – 1/2 tsp crushed, dried, red chili
1″ cube (err on the generous side) fresh ginger, skinned and finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, skinned

1 lime (zest of whole lime + 1/2 tbsp juice) OR 1/2 tsp tamarind paste
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter (optional)
1 can (~14 fl oz) coconut milk, divided (or 7-8 fl oz coconut cream + ~8 fl oz water)

star anise pieces to make up 2 whole seed pods
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
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 tsps)
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 over a medium heat, and gently fry the onion, peppers, and lemongrass until soft (~10 minute).

Add the chili, ginger and minced garlic.

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

Stir in the ground coriander, cumin, salt, lime juice, brown sugar, and peanut butter (if using), 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).

Add the star anise, basil, coriander, and bayleaf to the smooth sauce, and put to one side.

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 add to the sauce.

While the potatoes are cooking, heat the coconut oil in a large frying pan, and cook the carrot, onion, peppers, and mushrooms until softened. Add these to the sauce, too.

When you’re ready to eat, quickly heat through until hot, stirring gently. Serve with freshly cooked rice.