Food Wank: Episode I

I’m normally too impatient to create artwork on a plate, but the thing is… I’m capable of it. And so are you. It’s not practical for every day eating, but for special occassions, why not treat yourself (and others) to a fun, frivolous meal?

I’ve decided that a few times a year, I’m going to go all-out and create something special like this for you guys – something that looks incredibly fancy, but is really easy to put together, given some organisation and patience.

Food Wank: Episode I

There’s a few elements that you should consider making the night before: the polenta, orange balsamic reduction & salted mango cream. The latter two don’t need to be made well in advance, but it’ll make your life easier when assembling the dish. The polenta, however, will need at least 8 hours to set in the fridge.

You’ll have left overs of all these elements – be creative and create your own “food wank” with the excess! I’ll try to refer back to the individual elements of this dish in other posts to give you some ideas.

Polenta
Close up of a polenta disc after being removed from the silicone mould.

Rosemary Polenta

1 C Polenta
800ml Stock (your choice)
200ml Orange Juice, freshly squeezed (2 oranges)
1 T Fresh Rosemary Leaves, chopped
1/4 t Tumeric

  • Place all ingredients into a pot, stir on low heat until thick.
  • Pour into silicone moulds and leave in the fridge for 8+ hours to set. I used two large muffin moulds and a mini cupcake mould – the mixture will yield 12 of each size.

*You may find that you need to trim your polenta discs a little when you pop them out of the mould. Don’t worry – it’s still far less wasteful and time consuming than setting it all as a rectangle and trying to cut individual circles out of it with a cookie cutter.

**Excess discs can be frozen for use at a later date.

Orange Balsamic Reduction

Spiced Orange Balsamic Reduction

1 C Balsamic Vinegar
3/4 C Orange Juice, freshly squeezed
3 t Raw Sugar
1/4 t Allspice
3 Pinches of Cinnamon
1 Pinch of Nutmeg

  • Simmer on low heat for 25-28 minutes. You don’t need to pay much attention to it until the last 5 minutes – make sure it doesn’t burn. if it starts to bubble up too much, remove it from the heat momentarily. When it settles, pop back over the burner.
  • When ready, it’ll be the consistency of maple syrup when warm but will thicken and become fairly sticky when it cools.

*Use a rubber spatula to get this out of the pot with minimal mess.

Salted Mango Cream

Salted Mango Cream

1 C Raw (steamed), Unsalted Cashews
1/2 C Water
1 Mango, flesh only
1/4 t Salt

  • Soak cashews in water for an hour.
  • Blend cashews and salt in a food processor. Slowly add the water in a thin stream to make a thick paste.
  • Add all the mango flesh, chopped, and blend until smooth. Use as much of the mango flesh as possible, not just the cheeks.
  • Store in a container in the fridge. When ready to use, give it another quick whiz in the food processor. It’ll look a little grainy, but it’ll taste fine. If you have a high speed blender, use that for the second blending. Pictured above is the food processor only version – I didn’t want to put off anyone who doesn’t have a high speed blender!

*If you can’t think of anything to do with the excess cream within 24-48 hours, you can freeze it in a silicone muffin/cupcake mould and defrost individual discs in the fridge when needed.

You’re almost there…

    • To finish off the polenta, heat up a griddle pan on medium heat with a spray of oil. Grill the first side for 5 minutes, flip, grill the second side for 3 minutes. Your discs will have beautiful black marks and just a hint of charred taste. Each serve will require two large discs and two small discs.
    • Roast 1 red capsicum by following these directions – or – cheat and use some from a jar! Slice them into thin ribbons. Each serve will require 1/4 of a capsicum.

Blanched Broccolini

  • Blanch your broccolini® for 2-3 minutes. You’ll need 4 stalks per serve.
  • Lightly toast a handful of flaked almonds in a dry skillet. If you don’t toast them, they’ll be a little chewy. They work best in this dish when crunchy! Each serve will use 4 flaked almonds.

Assembly…

Food Wank: Episode I (layout)

Here’s an aerial view of the plate. Start by placing a dollop of salted mango cream on the imaginary left third of the plate. Gently press a spoon into it and smear it to the right. Place 2 long stalks of broccolini® on top. In the thickest edge of the mango cream, wedge in a few of your toasted flaked almonds.

Polenta stack

The stack on the left is a large disc of polenta with 2 heads cut from broccolini® stalks, a few slivers of roast capsicum and a flaked almond. You’ll probably need to dip the bottom of the almond in some salted mango cream to make it stick.

Polenta stack #2

The stack on the right is another large polenta disc with a more generous pile of roast capsicum and a couple of short lengths of broccolini® stalk on top. Cut the stalk ends on an angle for a fancier look.

Food Wank: Episode I

The third polenta stack is simply 2 small discs – one flat and another leaning on it.

The orange balsamic reduction is dotted on two areas of the plate. You should be able to do this with a spoon but if your reduction is particularly sticky, use a syringe (without the needle).

Max Polenta
Max, our friendly neighbourhood magpie thieving some polenta when I was trying to take photos.

Recent Smoothies

You won’t find many breakfast recipes on this blog because when it comes to getting a good start to the day, I’m a complete smoothie fiend. I always keep a full drawer of chopped fruit in my freezer and if I’m running low, I quietly start to panic. Here are some of last week’s concoctions:

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Banana, spinach and orange blended with water. Always remove the peel and pith from your oranges or they’ll be really bitter and you might find some stringy bits in your drink. Eew.

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This one was after a couple of dog walks – banana, orange, raspberry, AtV cashew sour cream, cinnamon and agave blended with water.

If you click that link, it’ll take you to the recipe for the cashew sour cream. I always keep some on hand – it’s a staple in my kitchen, just like my cashew béchamel. The best part about these two creamy wonders is that they’re both freezer friendly! You can use a regular ice tray to freeze them, but I only have funny shaped ones (whose novelty have worn off), so I use a silicone mini cupcake tray for freezing. When they’re done, I pop them all out of the tray and store them in a container or zip lock bag in the freezer.

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And finally… My all time favourite! I call this “The Elvis”.

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Peanut butter & banana blended with water, a pinch of salt and sometimes a little squeeze of agave.

Another Raw Lunch!

Yet another recipe from Addicted to Veggies – this is the Loaded Creamy “No Pasta” Salad. I made a half batch, marinated my broccoli for 4 hours in the zip lock bag and skipped the optional pickle relish. The tenderising technique Sarahfaé has come up with is brilliant – I thought the broccoli seemed very lightly blanched. If you like cooked broccoli, don’t be afraid to leave this in the fridge overnight.

Loaded Creamy No Pasta Salad

I don’t know if you can really call healthy food “badass”, but I’m going there. This meal kicks butt.

Even half a batch of the original recipe was pretty huge – I’d say about a third of the full recipe would be one serve for me. Towards the end, I was at that point of knowing if I kept eating I was going to feel sick, but it just tasted so damn good that I couldn’t help myself! Yep. I finished it. Deeeeelicious. This might end up being a semi-regular lunch for me. Not only is broccoli my favourite vegetable EVER, but it really wasn’t that hard to prepare this. I already had some AtV sour cream on hand; the rest of the work was just chopping and storing ingredients in separate layers of my tiffin, ready for a quick assembly at lunch time.

Mustard Tofu

Here’s the third recipe, using my cashew béchamel, as promised! This is a vegan version of the “mustard chicken” recipe from Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals. Please excuse my dodgy night time photos – the lighting in my kitchen isn’t that great and I don’t have a very schmick camera.

Mustard Tofu Finished1
Serves 4

1.5 TBSP Canola Oil
500g Firm Tofu*, cut into 4 “steaks”
2 Sprigs Rosemary, leaves only, finely chopped
4 tsp Yellow Mustard Powder
1 Leek, finely sliced
1-2 Cloves Garlic
Decent swig of white wine. I used a sparkling that had gone flat in my fridge!
1 TBSP Wholegrain Mustard
1/2 C Cashew Béchamel
Up to 1/2 C Water (as required)
S+P

  • Mix together mustard powder & rosemary. Rub onto tofu steaks.
  • Mustard Tofu Rubbed1

  • Heat the canola oil in a sauté pan or deep frying pan. Add your tofu steaks and cook for approx 4 minutes on high heat (they will be a little blackened). Flip.
  • Add the leek and garlic to one side of the pan. This is where you’ll build your sauce. Agitate as it cooks, approx 2 minutes.
  • Mustard Tofu Leeks1

  • Toss in a swig of white wine, and allow it a minute to cook off, then stir in the wholegrain mustard and cashew béchamel. You’ll need to slowly add water to get your desired consistency. The cashew béchamel will thicken very quickly – and if you’ve made it in advance/refrigerated it beforehand, it will already be quite thick – so you’ll have to use your own judgement in regards to the amount of water you require.
  • Mustard Tofu Sauce1

  • Voila! You’re ready to serve. I love this with quinoa and steamed greens; in the photograph I’ve used broccoli, but it’s also really delish with steamed choy sum or kale!

*Not all tofu is created equal. Organic is always best, but beyond that, if you don’t have a favourite brand, you’ll be flying blind here. I recommend using the Pureland one for this recipe, as it’s fairly solid. I often buy the Nutrisoy tofu as well, but that’s a little softer and has an “eggy” texture, which can fall apart and thus is more suitable for making a scramble.

Mustard Tofu Tofu1

Cream of Cauliflower Soup with Tangy Chive Oil

Today’s recipe is another one that will require my cashew béchamel sauce. Soup may not seem that exciting, but to get a soup this rich and creamy and vegan (and soy free!) is quite an accomplishment. Brace yourselves, chefs and other dairy enthusiasts – because this concept will knock your socks off.

Cream of Cauli Soup2
Yields approx 2.8L

1 TBSP Oil
1/2 Brown Onion, diced
1/2 C Potato, peeled & diced (not the waxy kind)
3 C / 5 Stalks Celery, roughly chopped
1kg / 1 head Cauliflower, stalks & florets, roughly chopped
2 Bay Leaves
1 1/4 C Cashew Béchamel*
4 C Vegetable Stock (low sodium)
2 C Water

  • Place a large pot on medium heat with the oil in it. Once hot, add the onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the potato & celery. Sauté for a further 4-5 minutes.
  • Turn the heat up to high and add the cauliflower, stock, water & bay leaves. Bring to the boil and cook with the lid on for 15 minutes.
  • Remove the lid and cook for a further 10 minutes to reduce the soup.
  • Remove the bay leaves and prod a piece of diced potato with a fork to make sure it’s tender. If it’s not, cook the soup a little longer. The smaller you dice your potato, the quicker it’ll cook – so try not to throw in large chunks.
  • Blend the soup with the cashew béchamel in batches, return to the pot and stir over low heat to combine and heat through.
  • Serve, or let it cool and portion it out into containers for your freezer!

*If you’ve made this in advance for the previous recipe and stored it in the fridge, it’ll be fairly thick. In this case, use 1 heaped cup with a couple of TBSP of water blended together.

 

Tangy Chive Oil

Up close
Yields more than you’ll need but will keep in the fridge for use with other dishes.

Now, for the tangy chive oil! Don’t bypass this if you can help it. The herby, lemony tang cuts through the creaminess of this soup superbly. My only caution to you is that you use a good quality (and preferrably organic) olive oil – and if you don’t like the taste of olive oil, use something more neutral like canola oil – because you’ll definitely be able to taste it.

1/3 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil (organic if possible!)
1/2 C / 10g Fresh Chives
2 Scant tsp Lemon Juice
Salt (a couple of pinches)

  • Blend all ingredients except oil in a small food processor. Add the oil in a thin stream until all ingredients are well blended. you may need to scrape the sides of your food processor down with a rubber spatula. If some visible pieces of chives remain, don’t panic.

*If you don’t have a small food processor, you could use a magic bullet style blender, or even have a go at doing this manually in a mortar and pestle – just be sure to chop/mince the chives as finely as possible beforehand to make your life a bit easier.

Vegetable Tart with Cashew Bechamel

Hi Everyone!

Apologies for my unexpected hiatus.

During my absence, I enjoyed an intimate afternoon tea at my house to celebrate my birthday. Here I am, shamelessly enjoying a “vagina” cupcake from Mr. Nice Guy and a home made strawberry daiquiri with Polish vodka! Whoever says being vegan isn’t fun clearly hasn’t tried it.

Vagina Cupcake

I’ve also been sewing up a storm for a close friend who will be launching a new range of skirts this Friday, the 1st of June – please show your support by visiting the Betty Le Bonbon web page and/or web store later this week and checking out what’s on offer!

>>

Now – today’s recipe. I wanted to show you all some ways in which you can use my cashew béchamel sauce – so the next few posts are going to involve it. One batch should cover all three recipes. This vegetable tart is made with store bought puff pastry, which is a quick and easy option. I left mine to defrost on the bench tonight while prepping the other ingredients, lighting a fire, washing some dishes and bathing my two stinky dogs. You don’t need to waste the “inactive” time of any recipe.

At some point, I’ll re-visit this for all my celiac readers with a gluten free, polenta based crust option. I just haven’t had the time to work on that yet – but rest assured, it’s on the horizon.

Vegetable Tart
Serves 4 – I recommend serving with a side salad of leafy greens such as rocket and parsley, massaged with my dijon dressing

2 Sheets Puff Pastry (Borg’s low fat one is vegan)
2 tsp Tomato Paste or “Pizza Sauce”
1 C Cashew Béchamel
2-3 Field Mushrooms, sliced
10cm/4″ Section of Zucchini, thinly sliced
15 Kalamata Olives, pitted & halved
10 Cherry Tomatoes, halved
Dried Oregano
Spray Oil
Rice Milk (or other non-dairy alternative)

  • Pre-heat oven to 180C. Defrost pastry at room temperature for approximately 30 minutes. While you wait, prep/slice the vegetables.
  • Spread 1 tsp of tomato paste or pizza sauce onto the puff pastry, leaving approx 1″ bare around the edges (you’ll be folding them over at the end). The amount may seem small – don’t panic. You only need a little scrape of this for flavour. Add 1/2 C of cashew bechamel on top of this and spread evenly, still leaving the edges bare.
  • Evenly scatter your vegetable toppings across the top of both tarts.
  • Fold the bare edges over and brush with non-dairy milk.
  • Spray the vegetables with some oil so they don’t dry out, then sprinkle with dried oregano.
  • Bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes or until the crusts are a nice golden colour.

 

Coming soon…

My vegan version of Jamie Oliver’s “mustard chicken”! Stay tuned.

Teaser Mustard Tofu

Coconut-Cashew Vanilla Ice-Cream

I’ve been in the mood for a sweet treat this week and banana soft serve simply wasn’t cutting it. I wanted something creamier, richer and fattier. Thus, I’ve come up with a coconut-cashew vanilla ice-cream recipe for you! It’s quick to throw together, but you’ll need to devote about 6 hours to being close to your freezer unless you use an ice-cream maker (don’t worry, most of it is inactive, so you can go about your business doing whatever you need to get done at home). The texture of this is smooth and creamy. Many cashew based ice-creams use water and this causes them to form icicles as they begin to freeze – you won’t have that problem here.

Coconut Ice-Cream
Yields approx 750ml

2 C Coconut Milk (use a good quality one without preservatives if possible)
1 1/2 C Raw Unsalted Cashews
1/4 – 1/2 C Agave Nectar (to your taste – 1/2 C will be VERY sweet)
2 t Vanilla Extract

  • Blend all ingredients together in a high speed blender until smooth. I normally give it about a minute.
  • Pour into a 1 litre air tight, freezer friendly container and place in the freezer with lid on.
  • Stir/mix/agitate every 2 hours for 6 hours with a miniature whisk. You could also use a fork if need be.
  • Leave in the freezer overnight/8 hours, then dig in when you’re ready! Serve with some dessicated coconut if you’re feeling fancy.

Recipe Notes
If you don’t have a high speed blender, you can use a food processor – but only a top notch food processor will work. I would make the following recommendations to make sure your ice-cream isn’t grainy:

  • Soak the cashews in the coconut milk for an hour or two before doing any blending.
  • Start by grinding only the cashews in the food processor, then slowly adding in the wet ingredients. This will encourage your food processor to create a smooth paste and will avoid grainy bits.
  • Follow the remainder of the instructions as written above. You may need to process a few more times as it starts to freeze.

Simple Raw Corn Chowder

As the warm weather approaches here in Australia, I’ll be including less comfort foods and more light, fresh meals on this blog. Today’s recipe is no exception!

I always use frozen corn kernels, which are actually blanched before being frozen – so technically, they’re not raw. This is the way I prefer my corn but there are no limits here. If you’e a super strict raw foodie, you’re more than welcome to use actual raw/fresh corn.

Raw Corn Chowder
Serves 1

1 C Water (you can use more or less depending on what sort of consistency you prefer)
1/3 C Unsalted Cashews
1 C Corn Kernels (defrosted or fresh)
1 tsp Lemon Juice
1/2 tsp Savoury Yeast Flakes
1/8 tsp Tumeric
1/4 tsp Dried Dill
1/2 tsp Onion Powder
1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp Salt

To Serve:
1/8 C Corn Kernels (in addition to above quantity)
1/8 C Diced Celery
1 tsp Chopped Spring Onion or Chives
Freshly Ground Pepper

High Speed Blender Instructions:

  • Blend all ingredients except items on the “to serve” list.
  • Pile corn kernels & diced celery on plate, pour soup around it, then garnish with spring onion/chives and freshly cracked pepper if desired.

Food Processor Instructions:

  • Grind cashews first, then slowly add in some of the water in a thin steam to form a thin paste.
  • Add corn kernels & seasonings, continuing to grind/blend with water being added in a slow stream.
  • Serve with “to serve” ingredients as directed above.

Important Note:
This soup needs to be served immediately. If you want to make it in advance, keep the seasonings separate and stir/whisk/blend them in just before serving. I learned the hard way that if you make this and leave it in the fridge for an hour, the garlic/onion/dill flavours quickly start to develop and become very pungent!

Cashew Béchamel Sauce (White Sauce)

This béchamel sauce is pretty close to my heart. It developed as a result of two things: soy milk bechamel being utterly revolting and the raw food world sucking me in with delicious cashew creams and cashew based dips.

There’s a number of ways you can use this very versatile sauce, so please don’t feel limited by my suggestions. My favourite way to have it is baked on nachos (instead of cheese), but it’s also good with lasagne, enchiladas & moussaka. It’s a great creamy pasta sauce base and works well on cauliflower & broccoli. I’ve also used it in a creamy potato bake (scalloped potatoes) which turned out pretty special! You’ll probably see it referred to more than once on this blog. I don’t like to brag, but this is one of my best creations. Make it a food staple in your life; you won’t regret it.

Cashew Bechamel
Makes 3 & 1/4 cups

1 1/2 C Unsalted Cashews*
2 C Water, divided into 1 1/4 C & 3/4 C
1/2 tsp Powdered Stock
1 tsp Savoury Yeast Flakes
1 TBSP Olive Oil Spread or Margarine
Pinch of Pepper

High Speed Blender Instructions

  • Blend cashews and water together until smooth & creamy.
  • Add the cashew/water mix to a pot on low heat and whisk in the powdered stock & savoury yeast flakes. Slowly add in the extra 3/4 C of water until your desired consistency is reached. The longer you leave the sauce on the stove, the more it will thicken.
  • Stir in the olive oil spread and add a pinch or two of pepper if desired.
  • Remove from heat & serve or proceed to use in another recipe.

Food Processor Instructions

  • Grind cashews in food processor and add 1 1/4 C water in a slow, steady stream. It will be a little grainy – don’t panic.
  • Add the cashew/water mix to a pot on low heat and whisk in the powdered stock & savoury yeast flakes. Slowly add in the extra 3/4 C of water until your desired consistency is reached. The longer you leave the sauce on the stove, the more it will thicken.
  • Stir in the olive oil spread and add a pinch or two of pepper if desired.
  • Remove from heat & blend again in the food processor until smooth & creamy, then serve or proceed to use in another recipe.

Notes:

  • Keep in mind that this sauce will continue to thicken as it cools down.
  • The sauce will also thicken a little further when baked.
  • The best thing to use to get this out of a pot without making a mess is a rubber/silicone spatula; the kind you use for baking (not the egg flip sort).
  • This sauce is freezer friendly but will need to be blended again after thawing to ensure smoothness!

*You can use “raw” or dry roasted cashews, it really doesn’t matter that much. I prefer to use “raw” (which are actually steamed), but will often use roasted if that’s all I can find.