Archive for January, 2007

We’ve been operating on a tight kitchen these days and having bought a kilo of tomatoes yesterday I decided it was time to try and make some homemade tomato sauce. I consulted The Silver Spoon and The River Cafe Cookbook and came up with an adaptation as I wanted to use fresh tomatoes, not the canned sort. The result: a very tasty and rich, thick sauce incomparable to anything store-bought. Putting in a food processor for a bit of a whiz would produce a wonderful uniformly thick sauc

Sugo di Pomodoro a Fuoco Lento (Slow-Cooked Tomato Sauce); makes 2 entree-sized serves

5o0g fresh tomatoes
2 small cloves of garlic, cut into thin slivers
75g onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp olive oil
1 spring parsley
salt & pepper
150g dried penne, cooked

1. Cut an “x” shape at the base of each tomato. Blanch in boiling water for a few seconds, then peel, seed, remove core and dice.
2. In a fry pan heat oil and fry onions over low heat until very soft. About 5 minutes before end of cooking add garlic and parsley spring. When onions have reached maximum softness remove and discard parsley.
3. Add tomatoes to pan and use a wooden spoon to break them up. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Simmer on low heat until the sauce has darkened and no liquid remains.
5. Place a metal sieve over a clean bowl. Transfer the sauce and press with the back of a wooden spoon to break up the mixture as much as possible. A small amount of liquid will be pressed through.
6. Using a spatula transfer both the liquid and the mixture to a clean pot. Stir in cooked penne
7. Serve with finely grated dry cheese of choice. ( I used Pepato) and season again, if needed.

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Jam Fingerprint Biscuits — scoring high on the cute factor

We had a late start this morning and didn’t get around to breakfast until almost mid-day. The most productive thing I did was collect a parcel at the post, which was my last Christmas gift to myself: Vegetarian Supercook by Rose ElliotI spent way too much time “oohing”, “aahing” and squeaking with delight at Cute Overload; a website that exists for no other reason that to display cute objects, mostly animals. I decided to make some really small biscuits that I could call cute and gobble up. I modified this recipe and used wholemeal flour instead. They were so good we ate them almost immediately after the jam had cooled enough to not scorch the roofs of our mouths. It’s a rather simple recipe that produces one yummy treat. Dinner for today consisted of these jam biscuits and oven roasted paprika potato wedges — we ate the wedges before I could take their photograph. Rather yum as well.

Jam Fingerprints (makes 12 very small biscuits)

55 g Flora or butter
35 g raw sugar
1 egg yolk
75 g wholemeal flour
24 g jam, any flavour of choice

1. Preheat your oven to 190ºC. Cream the butter, egg yolk and sugar in a bowl until smooth. Slowly add the flour while mixing until everything is combined. The dough should be slightly sticky and smooth. Divide the dough into 12 portions, roll into balls and place on an oiled baking tray. Use your index finger to form a small indentation in the centre of each ball. Fill each indentation with 2 g of jam in your flavour of choice and bake for 10-12 minutes. Transfer to a baking rack too cool and enjoy!

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I needed to entertain myself this morning by channeling my anger and frustration over work (or lack thereof) into something positive. So, I challenged to hijack a recipe and turn it into something I could make using ingredients I had on hand. Using the Cranberry-Orange bread recipe from What do I know?, I created a delicious Banana-Orange Piñon Bread finished with a very light drizzle of honey. The result: a perfectly sweet, moist bread where all three flavours are winners — nutty undertones, a burst of citrus and the natural sweetness of the banana. At about 100 calories per slice and 100% wholemeal, one can’t go wrong with this sweet bread.

Banana-Orange Piñon Bread (makes 10 tea time slices)
150 g plain wholemeal flour
65 g raw sugar
3 g baking powder
2 g baking soda
1 g salt
15 g pine nuts, roughly chopped by hand
3 g orange zest
60 ml of freshly squeezed orange juice
85 g banana, mashed
22 g Flora Light brand table spread, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract (imitation is OK)
40 ml soy milk
honey, for drizzling

1. Preheat your oven to 180º C. In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. In a smaller bowl, add the orange zest and table spread and put in the microwave until melted. Stir the mixture and add the mashed banana, soy milk and vanilla until thoroughly blended.
2. Add the banana-orange mixture to the dry ingredients and stir with a flexible spatula so the bits of banana can be mashed into the mixture until smooth. The batter should be fairly thick.
3. Pour the batter in a greased loaf pan using the spatula to ensure that the batter is covering the entire bottom of the pan.
4. Bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the centre of the bread.
5. Allow to cool slightly on a cooling rack and then lightly drizzle with honey vertically, horizontally and diagonally.

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I’ve made what might be my best wholemeal loaf yet! It was what my photography professor called “happy accidents” — accidents that happen unplanned, but turn out being really good things in the end. I was following an adapted recipe from The Bread Book, making sure to put half of everything and substitute the white flour for wholemeal flour, and I accidentally put in more water than necessary. I had actually added 50 ml more of water than I needed, which resulted in a very sticky dough, which required that I add more flour during the kneading process. I also added a bit more quick-action yeast than the recipe required because apparently the low gluten count of wholemeal flour and the dryness of the flour requires a bit of tweaking.Up until now I have only adding enough flour to produce a rather dry dough that only softened slightly after 10 minutes of kneading — perfect for focaccia and pizza crusts, but not for other breads. I decided this time to leave it a bit more moist and pliable. After having kneaded it for about 5 minutes, just enough time to reduced the stickiness, I let it prove for and hour, knocked it down again and finally put it to rest in a square baking pan for 30 minutes. Using one of the technique in the book, I sliced the dough into pie slices so that the bread would be easy to pull apart after baking.

The result: Very fluffy, wholesome portions of wholemeal bread. No toughness or dryness included.

Sage & Pepato* Bread
200g wholemeal flour
20g Pepato cheese, finely grated
1 tsp ground dried sage
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp fast-action dried yeast
1 tbs olive oil
2 tsp honey
150 ml water
extra Pepato for dusting1. Put the flour into a large bowl. Stir in the cheese, sage, salt and yeast. Add the oil and honey, then gradually mix in enough water to make a smooth soft dough, it should be moist as well.
2. Knead well on a floured surface for about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. This can be check by pulling off a small portion and stretching it to check for “stretchy strings”.
Return to its bowl, drizzle a bit of olive oil on the sides of the bowl and roll the dough around the bowl so it is covered in olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to prove for 1 hours or until it has doubled in size.
3. Knock the dough down to its original size and knead for a couple minutes. Place the dough in an oiled square baking pan and roll it out so that it fills out the pan. It’s not essential that the dough fills the corners. With a knife slice the dough in half, then into quarters with the final result ending in 8 slices. Sprinkle with salt and cheese, then leave the dough to prove again for 30 minutes.
4. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 220 C for 14-16 minutes until golden and the bread sounds hollow when it’s surface is flicked.
5. Place the bread on a cooling rack and allow to cool slightly before breaking apart.
*Parmesan cheese can be used here, but Pepato is a slightly more moist cheese that doesn’t contain rennet of animal origin.

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Mini Wholemeal-Banana Muffins

For some reason or another I’ve been in the mood to make things, so I made some wholemeal banana muffins just a while ago after finding a recipe at Pinch My Salt. I modified it a bit, as usual, because I don’t like adding nuts to anything that I eat or bake, I don’t cook or bake with proper butter (I use Flora or Nuttelex) and I always feel the need to be a bit creative. I, of course, put aside my creative juices when working in someone else’s kitchen with someone else’s recipes.

Regardless of not following an exact recipe, they came out well. Moist, full of banana flavour and just the right amount of density considering they are 100% wholemeal. I reduced the amount of sugar, added a bit more banana so I wouldn’t have to throw any of it away and added a bit more vanilla for taste. They are fabulous to enjoy with a cup of chai or green tea, or any tea, really.

100% Wholemeal Mini Banana Muffins
50g Flora light
50g raw sugar
1 egg
140g mashed banana, about 1 medium-sized banana
1 tsp vanilla extract
120g wholemeal flour
1 tsp bicarb soda (baking soda)
1/4 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 200C.
2. Mix all wet ingredients and sugar together, except for the banana. When a creamy mixture has been formed add the banana and mix in.
3. Add dry ingredients and mix well.
4. Divide the batter between 12 muffin baking cups and bake for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the muffins comes out clean. I have a convection oven, so it might take slightly longer in a conventional oven.

Approx. nutritional value per serve: 83 calories, 3 g fat, 2 g protein, 185mg sodium, 20 mg cholesterol, 1 g fibre; courtesy of Calorie-Count.

I’m a real advocate of using whole grains versus refined flours. Most recipes suggest using a 50/50 measurement of whole grain to white flours to avoid a very dense end product, but I’ve haven’t had too many issues just yet. I made my pizza crusts with wholemeal flour, even a chai cake. Foods made with whole grain flours need extra ingredients for moisture control. When I make pizza dough I have to knead it a bit more to achieve the same results as I would with white flour. Plus, whole grains keep you fuller for longer and if you can eat cakes and sweets while getting at least some sort of nutritional advantages, then why not?

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Brown Lentil Salad with Baked Ricotta

Roasted Butternut Squash and Pinto Bean Enchiladas

Babaghanoush, Basil and Tomato Pizza on a Wholemeal crust

Will and I went to the library so that I could pick up a copy of Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. I’ve been meaning to read it for some time now. I also found a copy of The Accidental Vegetarian and one of Rose Elliot’s earlier books, Vegetarian Kitchen. The Accidental Vegetarian caught my eye after I read a short interview by the owner of Greens Vegetarian restaurant in Manchester, England. He bought an established vegetarian eatery without being vegetarian or knowing anything about it. Very interesting story; it can be found here. Rose Elliot has quickly become one of my favourite cookbook authors after I got her vegetarian entertaining book for Christmas.Out of all the things I cooked last week, I enjoyed the Brown Lentil Salad with Baked Ricotta the most. It was one of those summer days when the sky was clear and it wasn’t terribly windy on our balcony. We had lunch out there and had a fresh tomato salad to go along with the lentil dish. I adapted the recipe from the vegetarian book of the Health for Life series cookbooks by Jody Vassallo.

Brown Lentil Salad with Baked Ricotta (serves 2)
200 g brown canned lentils, drained and rinsed
100 g fresh ricotta cheese, preferably from the supermarket deli and not prepackaged
1 spring onion, diced
1 small tomato (100 g), seeded, cored and diced
1 gram of lemon zest
3 kalamata olives, finely chopped
the juice of 1 medium-sized lemon
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic salt

1. Place the ricotta in a bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper and mix. Divide the ricotta into two equal sized portions and make two flattened mounds on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Spray with cooking spray and grill in oven until the tops have become golden.

2. Meanwhile, combine lentils, spring onion, tomato, kalamata olives, lemon juice, cumin, garlic salt in a bowl and mix ingredient thoroughly. Divide the mixture between two medium-sized ramekins or other oven-proof dish.

3. Top with the baked rounds of ricotta. Garnish with lemon zest and serve with a tomato salad or a slices of a crusty loaf.

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The vegetarian lasagna I make is more vegetable and less tomato and cheese. I guess one could say it’s comparable to a vegetable terrine. Each layer of lasanga is moist and packed with the goodness of grilled vegetables, but not a sopping mess of cheese and tomato sauce. I present the best recipe for vegetarian lasanga: big on taste, low in calories. Caution, this dish is labour intensive. I got out of work early and felt like spending more time in the kitchen.

Pan Griddled Vegetable Lasagna
Preparation time: 1.5 hours
Cooking time: 30 -45 minutes at 220 C

1/2 bag of prewashed baby spinach, about 75 g; lightly steamed in microwave
1 small jar of chargrilled red capsicums (preserved in oil), drained and rinsed with water
600 grams of zucchini
1 pkg of firm tofu, crumbled
650 g of tomato puree
500 g eggplant, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tsp oregano
5 tbs soy milk
1 tsp garlic salt
50 g Vegetarian Edam cheese, grated
4 sheets of ready-to-bake pasta sheets
salt and pepper, for seasoning
non-stick cooking spray

1. Begin by slicing the ends and tops off of the eggplant and peeling the skins off. Once peeled, slice the eggplant into thin slices. In a colander, place a layer of eggplant and sprinkle with salt. Continue to layer the eggplant sprinkling with salt each time until all of the eggplant is used. Set aside and place over a bowl or in the sink to drain for 15-20 minutes.

2. Empty the chargrilled red capsicum into a colander and rinse under cool water until all of the oils have washed away. Set aside.

3. Remove the ends from the zucchini and with a potato peeler, make ribbons of zucchini as thick as the peeler will permit. Discard the first ribbon and the last ribbon, which will be mostly peel. Place ribbons in a bowl and lightly season with salt and pepper.

4. Coat a fry pan with non-stick cooking spray and heat over medium heat. When heated arrange a layer of zucchini ribbons in the pan and flip over when edges begin to brown slightly. When all the ribbons have been pan roasted, set aside.

5. Place the colander of eggplant under running water to remove salt and shake to remove excess water. With an absorbant tea towel or paper towels blot the excess water from each slice by placing a slice in between paper towels or in a tea towel folded over. Repeat the same cooking steps for the eggplant that were followed for the zucchini ribbons and set asside.

6. Crumble the tofu with your fingers into a food processor or blender, then add the oregano, garlic salt and soy milk. Process until a thick paste resembling ricotta cheese has formed.

7. Once all the ingredients have been prepared, the assembling can take place! Lightly coat a rectangular baking dish about 17 cm x 26 cm with cooking spray and cover the bottom with a thin layer of tomato puree. Place a lasange sheet in the centre and spread a layer of tofu around the sheet as best as possible. Next, create a layer of zucchini by arranging the ribbons all in the same direction. Season with salt and pepper and arrange a layer of steamed spinach making sure that the ribbons are completely covered. Arrange a layer of eggplant, season with salt and pepper, and place a lasanga sheet in the centre of that layer. Cover with tomato puree and repeat layering process until only 1 lasanga sheet remains.

8. Place last lasanga sheet in dish and use the last of the tomato puree to completely cover the lasanga sheet as much of the puree with be absorbed during the cooking process. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top, cover with foil and place into a 220 C oven for 30 – 45 minutes until bubbly.

9. Allow the lasanga to sit and cool for 10 minutes after baking to make the slicing process easier. Enjoy.

I’ve recently starting writing down the amounts of ingredients I use while I cook, just in case I want to eat it again and have it taste the same…or share it with others. Once I make this recipe again I’ll know it’s fit for the archives.

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