Lentil and Cauliflower Curry

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There are very few savoury dishes on this blog. Even fewer are vegetarian. Oh, some of them only have a bit of bacon or ham, and for several years I was under the misapprehension that that was ‘close enough’. But my delusion was soon to be shattered, as my husband informed me that he does not relish eating bacon, ham, or any other type of processed meat for that matter. He wondered whether perhaps I could put some truly vegetarian dishes on the menu. I accepted the challenge to widen my repertoire, and this unassuming, mild vegetable curry was the first to get the thumbs up.

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Neither Alex nor Theo enjoy the spicy curries I prefer. Their attitude to spice brings back a favourite memory from when I lived in Thailand. Of the staff at our office, half were Thai and half were ‘farang’ (foreigners). Most days we would buy a plate of noodles or whatever curry was on offer down the street. But this day my Thai colleagues voted to buy lunch from the market. The market was five minutes’ walk in the midday heat, and two of them offered to take orders and bring them back. Everything was made to order, even down to how many chilies (one, two, three, many) you wanted.

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I thought they would have known me well enough by then to know that I liked my curries quite hot. But they had forgotten, and assumed a level of spiciness commensurate with less adventurous farang. Once they arrived back, we all huddled around the small lunch room table and proceeded to dig in. “Aroy mai?” Is it delicious? They asked, as they did every day at lunch. Usually I would respond politely with “Aroy! Aroy mak” Delicious, very delicious! but today my response was to tease them with a Thai saying. I replied, “Mai aroy. Mai pet, mai aroy”. Not delicious. If it’s not spicy, it’s not delicious!:)

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How about you? Are you a big fan of spice, or do you prefer your curries mild, like this one?

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Red lentil and cauliflower curry
This curry may not be spicy, but we think it’s delicious!

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients
1 tablespoon oil or butter
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 leeks, sliced
1 teaspoon curry powder, more to taste
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
500g cauliflower, cut into small florets
125g green beans, chopped into 1-inch pieces
125 (¾ cup) fresh or frozen green peas
1/3 cup red lentils
1 large vegetable stock cube, crumbled (I used Massel brand)
2 cups boiling water
1/3 cup raisins or sultanas
1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander, plus more to serve
1 fresh lime, cut into quarters, to serve

Method
Heat oil or butter in a large heavy based pot, add garlic, leeks, curry powder, cumin and turmeric, cook for about 2 minutes or until leeks are just soft.

Add cauliflower, beans, peas, lentils, stock cube, water, raisins and coriander to leek mixture. Bring to boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender but not mushy.

Serve over steamed rice topped with extra chopped coriander and a squeeze of lime.

Notes

Wacky cupcakes with maple buttercream icing {vegan, gluten-free}

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Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The Road Not Taken
By Robert Frost

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Sometimes you take the road less travelled, and sometimes you just take the looooong road. Like with this recipe; I had a goal in mind, but took several detours to get there. The journey began at Easter, when the shops were closed and we were all out of eggs. I wanted to do some baking but you really need eggs to make banana bread… or do you? Without too much thought or preparation, I  made my melt and mix banana bread without eggs. And ended up with something resembling a rock.

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Fast-forward a couple of days, and I am madly doing research on vegan banana bread. With a tweak here and a tweak there, I have a recipe that looks like it might work. There’s chocolate on chocolate on chocolate – how could it not be delicious? Sure, you might think that with double chocolate banana bread you can’t go wrong. But believe me, you really can! It was a very oily batter, and heavy even as I spooned it into the pan. I had a bad feeling about that cake, and you guessed it: Flop-central!

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Although temporarily beaten, I was determined to succeed. Like Thomas Edison, I said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” A quick search on the internets, and I discover a recipe that might work. Noting the use of vinegar, I suddenly remember a recipe my mum used to make. Wacky Cake used no eggs; only flour, sugar, bicarb, cocoa, oil, vinegar and water. Ditch the bananas; let’s make Wacky Cake! No eggs, no gluten, no dairy, no nuts. Am I excited? Just a little.

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Wacky cupcakes with maple buttercream icing {vegan, gf/df}
Defying all odds, we have made a cake without the usual suspects… and it’s delicious!

Makes 12 cupcakes

Ingredients
1 cup plain (all-purpose) GF flour
½ cup brown rice flour
¾ cup soft brown sugar, firmly packed
4 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch salt
¼ cup sunflower oil (coconut oil could also work)
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
¼ cup applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup water

Maple buttercream icing
½ cup vegan butter (Nuttelex), softened at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups pure icing sugar, sifted
5 teaspoons pure maple syrup
Few drops rice milk

Method
Preheat oven to 180degC/350F. Line 12 regular (½ cup) muffin tins with muffin papers. Sift together dry ingredients over sugar in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Whisk together oil, vinegar, applesauce and vanilla extract in a separate bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry and then pour 1 cup water over everything. Stir gently to combine until flour streaks disappear. Do not beat.

Spoon batter into muffin papers and bake for 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Cool for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the buttercream, combine softened butter and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Using a handheld mixer or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat until creamy. Gradually beat in the icing sugar. Slowly beat in the maple syrup, then add milk until it reaches desired consistency. Continue mixing until the icing becomes thick and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Top cooled cupcakes with buttercream and decorate as desired. Serve immediately!

Notes

Adapted from All Recipes

If you don’t have or can’t find vegan butter, a maple glaze will suffice. Maple Glaze: 1 cup powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons maple syrup, 2 tablespoons milk. {thank you, Joy the Baker}

Swiss chard, feta cheese and egg pie

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Did you ever win the lottery? No? Me neither! But I did receive an exciting phone call the other week telling me that my application to The Great Australian Bake-off had been successful, and would I bring in two of my favourite bakes to an audition next week? Would I what? Of course! What an honour and a privilege. I met so many lovely people also vying for a place on the show. All were amateur bakers, some more adventurous than others, but all eager to show off their skills and have a chance at fame.

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Only four were selected to go on to the next stage, and I was not one of them. Although unsuccessful on that front, the whole experience has made me reflect on my habits as a baker. Am I content with easy dishes that provide no challenge, or am I prepared to go out on a limb and learn new skills that will take my baking to the next level? There were several bakers at the audition who had made their own pastry, and regardless of their skill level, impressed the judges with their can-do attitude.

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After seeing what they had attempted, I was inspired to try my hand again at making pastry from scratch. I found this vegetarian tart recipe in a left-wing political mag while at a march protesting the government’s treatment of asylum seekers… but that’s another story. For now, this tart is everything; the buttery crust, the slightly bitter chard, the salty feta… For a relative newcomer, the pastry is fool-proof. Don’t miss your chance to win the lottery – make your own pastry! You won’t be sorry.

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Swiss chard, feta cheese and egg pie
A soft, crumbly pastry that melts in your mouth, topped with wilted chard, salty feta and eggs.

Serves 6

Ingredients
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red onion, sliced
500g Swiss chard (silver beet), cut into 2-cm pieces
4 eggs
200g feta cheese, crumbled
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pastry
250g (1 ½ cups) plain flour
150g unsalted butter, cubed
2 egg yolks
2-3 tablespoons iced water

Method
To make the pastry, place flour and butter in food processor bowl and put in freezer for 10 minutes. Pulse ingredients a few times until just combined. With the food processor still running, add egg yolks and just enough iced water so that the mixture is on the verge of coming together. Do not over beat, as this will make the pastry tough. Remove from bowl and use lightly floured hands to quickly form dough into a ball. Flatten into a disc, wrap in cling film and let rest in fridge for 30 minutes.

Put 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan set over high heat, add onion and garlic and cook for 2 minutes, until soft and just flavours the oil. Add Swiss chard to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until it wilts and softens. Season well with salt and pepper, leave in the pan and set aside to cool. (I like to place it in a metal colander at this point, just to let the excess moisture drain away).

Preheat oven to 220degC/430degF/Gas 7. Line a rimmed pizza tray (diameter 30cm) with baking paper. Roll out pastry on a sheet of lightly floured baking paper to form a circle about 35 cm in diameter, trimming away any uneven bits. Transfer pastry circle to lined baking pizza tray. Roll the edge over to form a 1 cm border, then roll over again.

Spoon the Swiss chard mixture over the pastry. Crack eggs into a bowl and prick the yolks with a fork. Pour eggs over Swiss chard so that they are evenly distributed, then scatter feta over the top.

Drizzle remaining oil over pie and cook in oven for about 20 minutes until the pastry is golden and the top of the pie is just starting to turn brown. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before cutting into slices to serve.

Notes

Recipe from the Green Pages, Lifestyle Winter 2009

Flourless Pear and Chocolate Cake {gf/df}

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Sunday afternoons are for baking, am I right? At least it’s been that way for me since primary school. In boarding school, all children under the age of 11 had to take a nap on Sunday afternoon. There were only a handful of us older than that, and we stayed up. Oh, what mischief we got up to! Not that we meant to, of course. It’s just that when one is unsupervised and one is boiling toffee, the toffee tends to stick… and burn! I lost count how many pots I ruined burning toffee on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

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One afternoon recently wasn’t quite what I would describe as lazy. In fact, I found myself volunteering at our church’s charity arm, helping to sort and pack the cartons of fruit, vegetables and bread that had been donated from several grocery stores in the area. A program called Second Bite makes sure that there is an avenue for stores to pass on their surplus produce to local churches and charities so that it can be shared with those in need. Most of the stuff is good, and only a fraction is thrown out.

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As well as sorting crate loads of tomatoes, making sure the lemons weren’t mouldy and checking for rust on lettuce, we made up hampers for needy families that were expected the next day. Then, after three solid hours of work, we didn’t leave empty-handed! The boss piled us high with bags of salad, frozen berries, and pears that were badly bruised. I stewed most of the pears, and saved the good ones to go into this flourless pear and chocolate cake; perfect for baking on a lazy Sunday afternoon!

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Flourless pear and chocolate cake {gf/df}
Serves 8

Ingredients
100g unsalted butter or coconut oil, plus 1 tablespoon extra for tin
2 tablespoons caster sugar, for coating tin
100g gluten-free dark chocolate (70%), broken into pieces
1/3 cup (75g) brown sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup
3 eggs, separated
1 cup (110g) almond or hazelnut meal
1 tablespoon Dutch process cocoa powder
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon baking powder
3 very ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into half, lengthways
Icing sugar, for dusting

Method
Cut a circle of baking paper to fit the base of a 20cm (8-inch) cake tin. Melt 1 tablespoon butter or coconut oil and brush the inside of the tin, then line the base with the paper and brush again with more butter/oil. Spoon in 2 tablespoons caster sugar, swirl it around to coat the base and sides, then tip out any excess.

Heat oven to 180C/350F. Add almond meal, cocoa powder, baking powder and allspice to a large bowl, and whisk lightly to combine. Melt the chocolate and butter or coconut oil in a bowl over a pan of hot water, remove from the heat, leave to cool. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and golden syrup in a large bowl until pale and thick; fold into the melted chocolate with the almond mixture.

In a separate bowl, with a clean whisk, beat the whites until they reach a soft peak (try not to whisk them too stiffly or you’ll have trouble folding them in). Stir a spoonful of the whites into the chocolate mix, then carefully fold in the rest of them in 2 additions. Spoon into the prepared tin. Level, then arrange the pears over the mixture, cut-side down.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the pears are soft and the cake is cooked all the way through. Leave to cool in the tin overnight, and then remove by upturning onto a plate, and then in turn onto a wire rack or cake platter. Dust with icing sugar and serve with crème fraiche.

Notes
Adapted from BBC Good Food

If you don’t have golden syrup, increase brown sugar to ½ cup.

The Lazy Cook’s Buckwheat Brownies {gf}

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My son is going through a phase where he is making healthy choices for snacks, much to my bewilderment! Despite my best efforts to create a cake-loving child, the only snacks he asked for today were raw, not baked. Indeed, he informed me just yesterday that his favourite foods ‘in all the world’ are celery and orange juice! I blame his father. Despite a serious sweet tooth, Alex tends to model good food choices to our son. When either of us want to indulge, we do it when Theo isn’t looking.

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Even then, my chocolate cravings are rare. Not to say that I go without sugar… far from it! Every day my main addiction – caffeinated tea – is sweetened with honey. But my need for chocolate mirrors my mother’s – I can be given a bar of chocolate and ignore it for a month. We used to tease her about it, and now I’m doing the same. Except the other night. I wanted brownies, and I wanted them stat! When it’s that desperate, I know exactly where to turn; The Lazy Cook’s Melt and Mix Cocoa Brownies.

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They are a one-bowl affair, which means no extra dishes created by me or for me. They are also easy on the hip pocket, and make a lovely little batch, more enough to satisfy one’s sweet tooth, and enough to share with well-meaning friends who invite you over for a game of late-night Scrabble. This time I wanted to see how buckwheat flour would go in brownies. Having used it before in pancakes and muffins, I knew that it’s flavour could overwhelm. But mixed with cacao, you would never know!

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Brownies, previously:
Black Forest Brownies
Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies
The Lazy Cook’s Melt and Mix Brownies
Raw Brownies
Orange and Almond Brownies
Trevor G’s Very Dark Chocolate Brownies
Double Chocolate Raspberry Brownies

The Lazy Cook’s Buckwheat Brownies {gf}
Buckwheat, cacao and hazelnuts meld to create a dessert that no-one will ever guess is gluten-free!

Makes 9 large brownies or 16 small

Ingredients
1/3 cup (80g) coconut oil
1/3 cup (40g) unsweetened cocoa powder or raw cacao powder
2/3 cup (145g) caster sugar – I used ½ white and ½ brown
2 eggs
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon (65g) organic buckwheat flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
½ cup (100g) dark chocolate chips
½ cup (75g) toasted hazelnuts, for sprinkling

Method
Preheat oven to 170 C (338F/ Gas 4). Grease and line base and two sides of a baking tin 20 x 20cm (8 x 8 inches) with baking paper, allowing excess paper to hang over 2 sides of the pan, making the brownies easier to remove.

Melt the coconut oil in a large saucepan, then stir in the cocoa and sugar. Add the eggs, whisking to combine.

Sift the flour and baking powder into the saucepan, then stir to combine. Add salt and chocolate chips and stir until just combined. Do not beat.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, sprinkle with chopped nuts and extra sea salt and bake for 18 minutes, or until shiny and set. Don’t be tempted to leave these longer in the oven. If they are still slightly squidgy, this is good.

Allow to cool in tin overnight, then remove to a board and cut into squares to serve.

Adapted from The Lazy Cook’s Melt and Mix Cocoa Brownies

Vegan Chocolate Zucchini Cake

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I was a teenager when I first tasted and fell in love with zucchini muffins. Muffins were not a big thing in Australia when I was a child, so it was only when I was older, and attending an international school with a largely American cohort, that I was introduced to my first muffin crush! Zucchini muffins – as moist and sweet and you could imagine. I have long wanted to introduce them here, but the truth is, Elise at Simply Recipes has already blogged the recipe on her site, and why reinvent the wheel?

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I was ready to move on and try something new… a vegan version. Then we were invited to a friend’s place for lunch, and I volunteered to bring dessert. The only catch was that the wife couldn’t eat eggs. Do you know how hard it is to find a dessert recipe that doesn’t include eggs? I found one eventually, and we were very happy with the result, but it got me thinking. I’ve tackled gluten-free recipes (there are many on this site) and dairy-free as well, but vegan isn’t something I’d given much thought to.

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Turns out it’s not actually that hard to bake an egg-free cake… but you do need to know about substitutions. I was going to adapt my own Lime and Coconut Cake when I discovered this recipe, and adapted that instead! Perfect timing, as it’s the tail-end of summer and zucchini plants are producing like their lives depend on it! I have made mine with regular wheat flour (because I can!), but if you are cooking gluten-free, drop down to the Notes section for tips on how to adapt the recipe to suit.

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Vegan Chocolate Zucchini Cake
It’s a marriage made in heaven when chocolate meets zucchini in this luscious, egg-free quick-bread!

Ingredients
1 cup plain (all-purpose) flour
½ cup wholemeal flour
¼ cup raw cacao powder or unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon arrowroot powder (tapioca starch) (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or allspice
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup brown sugar, packed
½ cup applesauce
½ cup coconut oil or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chia or flax seeds
3 tablespoons brewed coffee, cooled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ¼ cup (8 oz./225g) grated zucchini

Method
Preheat oven to 170 degrees C (338 degrees F). Grease and line base and two sides of a 21 x 11cm (8×4-inch) loaf pan. Add chia seeds to 3 tablespoons brewed coffee and set aside for 15 to 20 minutes until coagulated.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa, arrowroot, baking soda, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt in a bowl until evenly blended; set aside.

Whisk together the sugar, applesauce, oil, chia seeds and vanilla extract in a bowl until smooth and then add in the zucchini.

Combine the dry and wet ingredients and mix well or toss all ingredients into a high powered blender or food processor until a smooth batter. Pour batter into prepared cake tin.

Bake in the preheated oven for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.

Adapted from All Recipes

Notes
My attempts at making a gluten-free version of this cake have been rather disappointing to date, so while I am still recipe testing, here is a link to one made with Teff flour.

¼ cup of pureed fruit = 1 egg
1 tsp. flax seed plus 3 tsp. water = 1 egg
1 T chia + 3 T water = 1 egg

Roasted Strawberry Almond Crumble {gf/df}

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With all the fresh fruit in season throughout summer, it would be fair to say I’ve been a little overwhelmed… what to cook, what to share, what to feature on the blog? Cherries, peaches, or plums? Apricots, mango, or strawberries? Yes, how about strawberries? Strawberries are awesome, not least because you can get them year round. In the end the decision was made for me, when, in the very last week of the school holidays, we went strawberry picking and brought home the bounty. Sweet!

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Fruit snob that I am, I made sure to pick only the very best berries; red and ripe, shiny and bright. Perfect for snacking, and perfect for bribing a certain toddler who doesn’t want to eat his dinner, they aren’t too bad roasted, either. I hadn’t actually roasted strawberries before, though I had wanted to for some time. And I’m so glad I did. This must be the easiest dessert out there (apart from fresh fruit, of course)! Just hull the strawberries, sprinkle with sugar and mix up your favourite crumble topping.

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Although sorely tempted to add oats and coconut, I was restrained and chose an easy, shortbread-like crumble this time, because it complements the jammy fruit so well! Simply mix together flour, sugar, butter and almonds, cover the sweetened strawberries, bake for 30 minutes, and eat without guilt. There’s very little fat or sugar here… okay, there is some… but I’m guessing not more than your favourite boxed cereal. There – that was all the excuse I needed – I’m having leftovers for breakfast!

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Roasted Strawberry Almond Crumble {gf/df}
Red, ripe strawberries are roasted till just tender and topped with a buttery, crisp crumble topping.

Serves 4 (apparently!)

Ingredients
375g (13 oz) strawberries, hulled, halved
2 tablespoons caster (super-fine) sugar
1-2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
½ cup brown rice flour or other gf flour of choice
2 level tablespoons (35g) Nuttelex (dairy-free spread)
2 tablespoons flaked almonds

Method
Preheat oven to 180degC (160C fan forced). Lightly grease a 16cm x 26cm shallow roasting pan. Add strawberries and half the caster sugar. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and toss to coat.

Combine flour and remaining sugar in a medium bowl. Add Nuttelex. Using fingertips, rub Nuttelex into flour mixture until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add flaked almonds. Stir to combine. Sprinkle over strawberry mixture, pressing together with fingers to make small lumps.

Bake for 30 minutes or until strawberries are fragrant and crumble topping is golden and crisp. Serve with vanilla custard or yoghurt.

Notes
Variations: Use any kind of nuts you like, including walnuts, pecans, macadamias and hazelnuts.
Divide mixture into 4 x 1/2 cup (125ml-capacity) ramekins to make individual crumbles.
Add a can of pie apple for extra fibre and sweetness.
If you don’t have a 16cm x 26cm pan, a 9 x 9-inch pan will suffice.

Adapted from Taste.com.au