Short considerations after my 7th Veggieversary

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With the new month come new tasks and responsibilities; I’m trying to be organised and make it all work out so that I can still work full time, cook, spend time with real life people, my cat, study, clean… Can time be stretched? 24 hours are not enough. I guess this is one of the issues with living a modern lifestyle in a large city like London. There’s always something to do and not enough time for it.

Anyway, I’ve officially been veggie for 7 years. What I would like to say is that I regret not being 100% vegan sooner. I had a really hard time, first with my family in Italy and then when studying in Spain, I was fighting every day to be accepted as a veggie. Taking it to the next level would have been a big task for me.

The question was: am I still going to be loved? Some people thought I was weird and relations were threatened. But the other big issue was, am I really going to be ill? People tried to scare me with B12, iron and protein issues. Some took my side but I had enough work by just keeping it together.

How I wish I had more materials back then to read independently and refute those arguments! If there is one thing I’d recommend to anyone transitioning is: read, read, read. Supplement if you have to but be prepared with valid arguments. A healthy well-informed vegan is a good advert for the vegan cause, whereas ill-informed choices will not do any good to the individual nor to society.

My favourite book is definitely The China Study because it opened my eyes and made me wonder “why didn’t I know this before?”. With Whole, Dr Campbell proposed a new strategy for spreading a whole foods, plant based diet. Not from the top down, but from the bottom up.

We are the people and well-informed choices and how we spend our money have the power to influence the industry and its behaviour. What we buy every day at the supermarket can change the world. What we read and how we choose the sources of our information is very important and cannot be neglected. Don’t allow other people to choose for you.

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Stuffed Courgettes en Fleurs Tempura

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I am beyond excited! For the first time in the 4.5 years that I’ve been in London I’m cooking with courgette flowers 😱
They are usually very expensive because they are available only during a brief period in summer, and for some reason they seem to be something quite rare or unusual here. Anyway, yesterday I went to the farmer’s market and I found a bag of six which was the cheapest deal I’ve seen in London. So courgette flowers it is!
I made three stuffed flowers but with one potato you can easily stuff four flowers. I would recommend these as a starter (one each) or as a snack, they are quite filling because of the potato and because they’re fried.

Ingredients:
For 4 stuffed flowers

• 4 courgette flowers
• 1 small potato
• 1 dollop vegan butter
• about 50gr flour
• ice water
• 1/2 tsp baking powder
• 1 handful fresh basil, chopped
• salt
• black pepper, ground
• 1 squeeze of lemon
• vegetable oil, for frying

Method:

Start by washing the potato. I always use the skin in cooking but it’s up to you if you want to peel it. Once you’ve done this, peeling or not, chop it in cubes and boil it in salty water until very soft.

Drain and add about a tbs of vegan butter or spread to make the filling nice and fluffy. Add some black pepper, a squeeze of lemon and the basil. Add salt if needed. Make sure the mash is even and leave on the side.

In a pan, add about an inch of vegetable oil and set the heat to medium. While the oil heats, open the courgette flowers delicately and use a teaspoon to stuff them with a little mash.
Try to make the petals stick to the mash so that the flower is neatly “sealed”.

When the flowers are stuffed, melt a couple of ice cubes in a little water; add the baking powder and the flour little by little until the batter is reasonably thick but not heavy enough to destroy the delicate flowers.

By this time the oil should be hot. Quickly dip the stuffed flowers in the batter until completely covered and place in the pan leaving enough space between them.

Let cook for about 3 minutes on each side until the batter is crispy and golden.

Remove from the pan and let rest on kitchen towel for a couple of minutes to drain the excess oil.

Serve them straight away when they’re crispy outside and melty in the middle.

Chocolate Microwave Cake

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I am a microwave snob and I never thought I would do this but I have, so I may just as well share it with you. I ran out of basic ingredients including milk, babanas and tofu. It was a challenge and I accepted it.

Ingredients:
• 2 tbs flour
• 1.5 tbs coconut oil
• 1 tbs brown sugar
• 1 tbs cocoa
• 1/2 tbs baking powder
• 3 tbs water
• ground vanilla, to taste
• sugar strands sprinkle, optional

Method:

Choose a big enough mug or cup. You need to prevent the batter from overflowing.

Place the dry ingredients in the mug and stir thoroughly. Add the liquid ingredients and stir briefly.

Place the mug in the microwave and cook in on a medium-low setting for 3 minutes. Take out of the microwave and sprinkle with the sugar strands if desired.

Sardinian Style Nut Brittle

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I looked up some nut brittle recipes online and I was horrified: butter, baking soda… WHAT?! I say, back to the roots! Back home we call this gattò or gateau, it’s basically a nut brittle made with lemon juice and without the additional stuff. I can never stick to a recipe 100% so I deviated in a couple of places but it doesn’t matter.

Ingredients:

• 200gr sliced almonds
• 100gr chopped hazelnuts
• 2 small lemons
• vanilla to taste
• 400gr light muscovado sugar
• sugary sprinkles

Method:

Place the almonds and hazelnuts on a tray and put in the oven at 160°C until a delicious smell comes out of it. The nuts should be slightly golden and toasted. Let cool on a side.

Prepare two pieces of greaseproof paper, place one on the table and one on the side.

Place the sugar and juice of the two small lemons in a pan on low heat until the sugar is melted. Raise the heat just a bit and let the sugar thicken while whisking. Add some vanilla extract or pieces to taste. I have a little vanilla grinder that comes quite handy in these recipes and I recommend it. I can tell the sugar is ready when it smells very sweet and it’s almost like caramel. Now you need to act quick.

Pour the nuts on the sugar and stir until all is blended properly. Move to the table and pour the pan contents on the grease proof paper. Place the second sheet on top and using a rolling pin flatten the nut-brittle-to-be to about 5mm thick. Remove the top sheet and let cool. Before the brittle is completely cold, sprinkle some decorations if you like. Some stuff contains beeswax so beware! Read the ingredients just in case ☺

When the brittle is cold and solid and the cat has given up trying to lick it, you’re ready to chop it with a sharp knife and enjoy.

Vegan Scallops – Only 9 Ingredients!

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I tried vegan scallops for the first time in Brilliant Corners, on Kingsland Road. I was fascinated and my taste buds were celebrating. I never tried to replicate the dish, until today.
Yesterday I made a trip to China Town and bought several types of delicious fresh mushrooms and dry shiitake and fungus. You may wonder what the mushrooms have to do with vegan scallops? Some of the mushrooms were used yesterday in a stir fry, and today I used two of the king oyster mushrooms to make the scallops. Yes, this sounds unusual but give king oysters the benefit of the doubt and you’ll be surprised. This is my take on vegan scallops:

Ingredients:
Makes 8 scallops

• 2 fresh king oyster mushrooms
• 300ml veggie stock
• 1 tsp miso paste
• 1 tsp garlic paste or half clove of fresh garlic, chopped
• 2 tbs vegan butter or spread
• 1 tbs odourless coconut oil
• ground black pepper, to taste
• pink salt, to taste
• fresh parsley, chopped

Method

Start by chopping the head and bottom off the mushrooms. Don’t throw them away: they’re delicious, perhaps add them to a stir fry? Then cut the mushrooms in 3cm chunks, I got 8 pieces. Then add some warm water and the miso paste to a bowl. Soak the mushrooms for 30 mins until they absorb a hint of miso flavour and get fluffier. When they’re ready, drain the liquid.
Place a small pan on medium-low heat. Add the broth and wait until it’s hot. Place the mushrooms chuncks flat on the pan. The broth should be around 1 inch deep. Let the mushrooms simmer. They will shrink a bit and become increasingly softer and squidgier. Turn them every now and then. I let the broth eveporate almost completely but I suggest that you check the status of the mushroom texture every now and then until you’re happy with it and if necessary remove them from the broth in advance or add a little extra.
While the mushrooms are simmering, make the garlic sauce. Place the butter and the garlic paste on medium heat and let simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can either use the whole thing (butter and garlic paste) and crush it a bit to make it smoother if needed or you can filter the sauce so you only get the butter infused of all the flavours.

You are happy with the mushroom texture and your butter is nice and garlicky, what next?
Place the same pan on medium heat, add a dash of mild veggie oil or odorless coconut oil. Quickly crispen up the edges of the scallops and remove from heat.

Now, when both mushrooms and sauce are ready, quickly place the scallops on a tray or dish, pour the sauce over them and sprinkle with a little pepper. Add the parsley and serve right away 😋

Shiitake Mushroom Stroganoff (variation)

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This is another mushroom stroganoff; why is it different? Well, first of all these are shiitake mushrooms. I am in love with their texture! Secondly, I made the sauce using chickpea flour as a thickener. Let's see what happened:

Ingredients:

(Serves two)

• 150 gr pasta
• 500 ml warm water
• 1 heaped tbs egg replacer
• 1-2 tbs chickpea flour
• 200 gr shiitake mushrooms, chopped
• salt
• pepper
• 1 heaped tbs nutritional yeast
• chives, chopped, a handful
•1 tbs soy sauce

Method:

Cook the pasta according to packet instructions. In the meantime, place the egg replacer in a medium pan. I used the egg replacer as an extra precaution but chickpea flour is also a good thickener. Feel free to try a version without the egg replacer if you wish so.
Add a couple of tablespoons of warm water and whisk until you get a thick paste. Add the chickpea flour; the more you add the thicker the sauce! Add the rest of the water little by little while stirring continuously. Add salt and pepper (you decide how much!)

Place the pan on the stove on medium heat. Bring to the boil and decrease the heat to a minimum. Whisk from time to time. By this time the sauce should be quite thick. Add the soy sauce, the mushrooms and nutritional yeast. What you can do before this is to quickly stir fry the mushrooms prior to going in the pan. It adds extra flavour but it’s optional. Let cook until you’re happy with the mushrooms’ texture. Add half of the chives and wait for a few minutes. Adjust with salt and pepper to taste if needed.

Remove the pan from the stove, give a final stir and pour the stroganoff on the pasta. Top the pasta with the remaining chives. Et voilà!

Mac and cheese chickpea style

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I read a thread last night about the best recipe for vegan mac and cheese. There is the cashew one, the potato one, then I thought that I myself even made one out of thickened soy milk with nutritional yeast…  And everybody seems to have a different opinion on which one is the best. So, to make the topic even more complicated, I decided that if you can make it out of potatoes, you must certainly be able to make it out of chickpeas?

This is the very first time I make this sauce so I don’t have the exact grams of everything because it happened on a whim 🙂 The most important thing is that the basic ingredients are 3 only and it’s really easy to make.

I had already cooked some pasta and I needed something quick. No soaking of cashews, no boiling of potatoes, no cooking of the milk. How about blended chickpeas?

I had about two small portions of pasta and I put approximately 120gr of cooked chickpeas in the blender. The softer they are the easier it is to get a nice smooth texture. So I started blending the chickpeas and adding a little soy milk a little at a time, until I reached the desired texture. If you don’t like soy, I would recommend oat milk instead.

When the mix was fairly smooth I added a pinch of pink salt, a pinch of turmeric and a flat tablespoon of potato starch (to get it super creamy). Other thickeners or egg replacer will also do. Then I blended more until everything was uniform, smooth and delicious! Other seasoning you can add to the mix can be black pepper, paprika, onion powder, garlic, up to you really.

Let me know if you try this recipe and what you think. Tag #veganquake on instagram so I can see your version! I hope you enjoy!