Sweet Savoury: Why You Need Chutney + a Rant About Feelings

December 15, 2013 § 4 Comments

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I’ve been having a magical time lately, in no small part thanks to a visit from my always inspirational London-based friend Natalie (of Magic Surrounds fame). She vibes flowers and beauty and scent and well-cut clothes, but, most importantly, ideas.
I have plans people.
Watch out.

And yes they involve food, of course. But really, it’s been so long since I’ve felt any kind of space to FEEL. That creative energy you get when you’re full up with inspiration, when you can’t stop taking notes, when your mind races at night for all the ideas. Oh brain fade, sure, that’s a given when you’re parenting young children full-time on little sleep; trying to maintain a steady train of thought or finish a sentence is the first thing you learn to say goodbye to. But I’d forgotten about the loss of feeling, that independent, wholly your own creative imagination that makes everything sparkle and the right things stand out. I’m not sure I even mourned it’s passing, it just left and I was too tired to notice.
For now I’m holding tightly, however long it lasts. And my pantry is reaping the rewards. I got rather obsessed last autumn with buying all the organic fruit seconds that appeared at my local store – sticky, almost too late bags of pears and apples and tomatoes and stonefruits – as well as the baskets full of feijoas collected from under trees at my secret foraging spots. After slicing and scooping and coring and freezing there they sat, taking up room for months. But not any more. I’ve been on a chutney-making binge and I’ve perfected the most delicately balanced combination of sweet, savoury and spicy ready to dollop on top of a plate of dhal and rice or serve alongside these wonderful gluten-free samosas or spread onto salad-stuffed sandwiches, and sometimes, when my kids aren’t looking, as a dip for a bag of corn chips.

This recipe makes enough for two 300ml jars, so if you’d like to make extra for gifts you will need to double it at least. Please note if you use tomatoes I would add an extra half cup of sugar.

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Fruitful Chutney (vegan, gluten free, oil-free)
4 cups chopped fruit (tomatoes/feijoa/pear etc)
1 onion, chopped
1 cup coconut sugar (or sugar of your choice)
1 cup apple cider vinegar (or another plain vinegar)
1 cup raisins
2 cloves garlic, crushed (opt)
1 tsp sea salt (opt)
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp allspice
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp cayenne (depending on taste)

Combine all ingredients in a large pot and simmer on low for 1-1.5 hours, stirring regularly to prevent burning, until thick and brown. Spoon immediately into sterilised jars and seal. I don’t have a jar rack for sterilising so I just boil a big pot of water and put the jars and lids in for a couple of minutes before filling.
Keeps well if bottled properly. Refrigerate once opened.

Easy and Delicious Lemon Pizza (with a simple gluten free base)

July 29, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Pizza is probably one of the trickiest dishes for non-vegans and new vegans to wrap their heads around – after all it’s supposed to be dripping in gooey cheese, right? Long before I was vegan I lived in Melbourne and became obsessed with this roasted garlic pizza from Bimbos in Fitzroy – it was simple and perfect, with no cheese! Just tomato sauce, basil, chilli and a healthy smattering of whole roasted garlic cloves. Torture to recall, man it was good. Ok next pizza idea right there.

Anyway, my point being, let go of your preconceptions about what pizza should be and roll with this. I guarantee you a good time. The lemon idea is another revolutionary one, and courtesy of another excellent pizza joint, Epolitos in Auckland’s One Tree Hill. They serve it with marinated artichokes and the first time I ate it blew my mind.

As for the base, I love thin-crust pizza. The thinner the better. None of that doughy, bready intestine glue thankyouverymuch, it should simply be an elegant vehicle for saucy sauce and zingy toppings. I usually use corn tortillas as they’re gluten free and easy, but I wanted to come up with my own version. Mine are a little thicker than a tortilla but thin enough for my liking. Perhaps not elegant, and definitely not chewy and smoky like a proper gluten-filled woodfired effort, but the kids and I enjoyed them nonetheless.

The tomato sauce is a great way to get a bunch of veges into the kids too, and I haven’t left this one completely devoid of the salty tang of cheese – I have three vegan options below.

Feel free to jazz it up however you like – chilli flakes, tomato slices, aforementioned roasted garlic or marinated artichoke. The world is your pizza.

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Lemon Pizza (gluten free, vegan)
4 mini pizza bases (see recipe below)
Tomato sauce (see recipe below)
1 lemon
Handful fresh basil or rocket
Vegan parmesan (recipe below) or almond feta, or this lovely local brand of the bought stuff

Preheat oven on grill setting to 220degC with your pizza stone or tray under the grill. While it’s heating up, slice the lemon as thinly as possible. Once oven is hot, place pizza bases on the stone or tray and grill for 5 minutes (or fewer, keep checking so they don’t burn). Remove once a little crispy on the edges and flip. Cover in the tomato sauce and lemon slices (and almond feta if using) and put back in the oven for another 5 minutes or until crispy on the edges. Serve with parmesan sprinkles and fresh basil or rocket.

Pizza Base
1/2 cup chickpea flour
1/2 cup buckwheat groats
1 cup water
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp salt
Pinch each of dried thyme and basil (optional)

Grind the buckwheat groats in a coffee grinder, spice grinder or high speed blender until it makes a flour. Combine with chickpea flour in a bowl with the salt and herbs and gradually pour the water in, stirring constantly to make sure all the lumps are smoothed out. Add melted coconut oil and stir well to combine. Once you’re happy with the consistency, set aside for 20 minutes to thicken up a little.
Once thickened, heat a little oil in a medium frying pan/skillet and pour about 1/3 cup of the batter into the pan, using the back of the ladle to smooth it out so it’s around 3mm thick – it should be a small pancake size. In order that it doesn’t stick, make sure your oil and pan are hot enough before you pour. Once it starts looking dull on top, with lots of bubbles, flip it and cook the other side. Place cooked ‘pancakes’ on a wire rack to cool. This recipe should make 4.

Pizza Sauce
1 tbsp cooking oil (I used avocado)
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 cup other veg – eg finely chopped broccoli, kale, spinach etc
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried sweet basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 jar tomato passata (680ml – or two cans/jars of tomato puree, or two cans of chopped tomatoes)

Heat oil gently in a large heavy frying pan or pot and add onion and carrot. Saute until onion in translucent, then add the other veg and the garlic. Saute for another minute or two, then add herbs and then passata. Add another cup of water and bring to the boil, then turn right down and let it simmer for about an hour, until sauce becomes very thick, all the watery liquid has gone and the vegetables are soft. Set aside.

Vegan Parmesan
3 brazil nuts
1 tbsp nutritional yeast (I like Bob’s red Mill)
1/2 tsp salt

Using a microplane, grate the brazil nuts into a small bowl. Add yeast and salt and stir to combine. Adjust seasoning to your taste. Store in a sealed container in the fridge.

4-Ingredient Super Spread (nut free!)

July 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

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In the ongoing saga that is my son’s health we are now removing all nuts. This is a tragedy as we all love them in our house. However, as with all restrictions, it’s also an excuse to get creative. This is a halva-like spread using tahini (I know sesame seed allergies are not uncommon, so sorry to those who can’t have sesame) which is a great source of calcium, and to bump up the nutritional value I added chia seeds and flaxseed, both great sources of omega-3, and dates as the sweetener as they are healthier than any other according to Dr Greger (you can use something else but you might need to adjust the ratios if you do – and yes it does need sweetener or the tahini is too bitter).

You can make your own tahini by grinding sesame seeds but to keep things simple I just used some of the bought stuff.

As for Roman’s health issues (poor digestion, chronic cough, low immunity), we have completed a raft of tests and will be sitting down with his lovely (vegan) doctor on Thursday to go over everything and hopefully formulate a plan. I will share what I learn.

Superseed Spread (nut free, gluten free, vegan, soy free)
3 heaped tbsp tahini
1/2 tbsp chia seeds
1/2 tbsp flaxseed
1/4 cup very soft dates (medjool)
Pinch salt (optional)

Grind the chia and flaxseed together in a coffee or spice grinder. On a plate, mash the dates with a fork until it makes a paste. In a bowl, combine tahini, ground seeds, salt and date paste and mash together with a fork until completely combined.
Use to spread on crackers, bread, toast, muffins, or dollop on muesli or porridge. Store in a clean jar in the fridge. You can double the recipe if you’d like more – this recipe makes about half a cup.

You could also add some cacao/cocoa powder to make a chocolate version – unfortunately this is another banned ingredient for us right now.

The Basics: Nut Butter Tutorial

July 6, 2013 § 5 Comments

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So I’ve decided to have an ongoing series called The Basics, with all of the regular food I make every week – things like fermented foods, nut butters, mylks and the previously posted dairy-free yoghurt.

I’m aware there are a million brilliant tutorials on these already, but over the course of learning how to make each of these I have found my own screaming-child-needs-attention-while-I’m-trying-to-make-food shortcuts approach so I’m going to share these with you. And I’m vain and want a place to admire all my hard work.

This week it’s nut butter, which seems easy but with which I’ve had my fair share of failures. So, to keep this post short and sweet, here are my main tips:

+ Make sure your food processor or blender is COMPLETELY dry, or the mixture can seize and won’t butter up properly.

+ If you want to soak your nuts and seeds first to ‘activate’ them and shut off the enzyme inhibitors, again, make sure you dry them completely in your dehydrator. If using this method you will need to add a little oil when you are processing them in the blender or food processor, preferably one from the same nut/seed. Be aware, if you use something like olive oil, the butter will taste like olive oil. Macadamia oil is my fave.

+ I prefer to roast my nuts instead – this is because currently I don’t have a dehydrator and because it makes the processing part SO much faster (cooking releases the oils). Plus I prefer the flavour. Just 5-10 minutes in a medium oven (around 180degC) should do it – check regularly so they don’t burn. I do this with almonds and hazelnuts, but not the other oily nuts.

+ Almonds make a great base, but it’s fun to play around with different nuts and seeds – I especially love adding walnuts and hemp seeds for the omega-3 factor and Brazil nuts for the selenium. Cashews and macadamias make a very rich, creamy butter, and hazelnuts lend a nutella quality.

+ You will need at least 2 cups of nuts if making in a food processor, and 3 if using a Vitamix or similar.

+ I make my nut butter in a Magimix 3200 food processor. I’ve made it in my Vitamix before but I hate the way you can’t get all the butter out from under the blades, and I quite like the process of the, erm, processor. It takes time, and you have to stop and scrape the sides and give it a couple of rests, but it shouldn’t take more than 10-15 minutes if using raw nuts, and only 5-7 minutes if using roasted ones.  In saying that, length of time will depend on your processor – what you’re wanting is RUNNY butter, with a glossy sheen. So when it starts getting smooth, keep going. Only when it runs smoothly off a spoon like thin pancake batter is it ready. My Magimix is a workhorse and I love it – if you are worried your processor or blender might not be up to the task, please don’t blow it up on account of this post!

+ It will be loud for the first minute or so (I put a double hand mitt over the top to dull some of the sound for this part so the kids don’t cry) but should quieten down fairly quickly. I often get everything set up when my daughter is napping, then turn it on once she’s awake. Poor thing gets woken enough by her brother.

+ If you can, store your nuts and seeds in the freezer. I currently keep mine in the fridge but will soon be setting a freezer up in our basement. They go rancid easily (same goes for whole grains).

+Don’t add the salt until the end, as it may also cause the butter to seize.

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My Favourite Nut Butter (vegan, gluten free, soy free, sugar free)
2 cups raw almonds
1/2 cup raw shelled walnuts
1/4 cup hemp seeds
1/4 cup Brazil nuts
Pinch salt

Preheat oven to 180degC. Place almonds on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 5-10 minutes, checking regularly to ensure they don’t burn. Remove as soon as they start to brown slightly and you can smell them. Combine with all other ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth, stopping a few times to scrape down the sides. Once runny, add salt to taste – I sometimes leave it out, or will do half a jar without for the kids and half with heaps for me, because I LOVE IT. Scoop into a clean jar and store in the fridge. Should keep well for a couple of weeks or longer. Use it on everything. I put mine on toast, pancakes, muesli, in desserts and treats, salad dressings, in/on Nice Cream, eat it straight from the jar….

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