Monday, May 30, 2011

Vegan Moussaka

Puy lentils are wonderful and I particularly like them as an alternative to minced meat in dishes such as lasagne, shepherds pie, chili and moussaka. They hold their shape on cooking and absorb the flavour of the sauce that they are cooked in which make them perfect for these baked recipes. This is my lighter on the calories version of the classic moussaka dish. By using lentils, not frying the aubergine and using a yogurt topping with no cheese you can save some calories and enjoy a fibre and vitamin rich meal. Saving enough spare calories for dessert, maybe?

There are many different versions of this classic dish from ones that only use eggplant/aubergine, to only using potatoes in the layering. The top can be different too with some using a B├ęchamel sauce and others an egg enriched savory custard. This version is close to one I ate in Dubrovnik, Croatia during a wonderful holiday a few years back and has both eggplant and potato and the topping is a egg and yogurt mix. The great news for vegans is that soy yogurt works just as well and can be thickened with cornflour instead of egg. I prefer the yogurt topping as it makes it lighter and the tang of the yogurt cuts through the richness of the tomato sauce. If you can eat cheese then a handful of grated cheese on the top works well although I never bother. If you need this dish to be gluten free then make sure the yogurt is gluten free as wheat can be used as a stabiliser in some low fat or dairy alternative yogurts.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Zesty Courgette, Edamame and Spinach Salad

Ok, so I am still on my legumes are great rant. This one uses fresh soyabeans, edamame as a different way of eating pulses. Beans don't always have to be dried and require lots of soaking this dish shows that they can be fresh and light. This salad can be a side dish or jazzed up with steamed chicken or fish or grilled halloumi to make a light lunch or supper.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tasty Italian Style Beans

It is National Vegetarian Week in the UK (23rd -29th May) and I this got me thinking about recipes that epitomise a healthy and balanced vegetarian diet. I have been vegetarian for 18 years now (wow writing that makes me feel old!) and I am healthy and thoroughly enjoy the food options I eat and very rarely feel that I am missing out. When I first became veggie I was what I would class as an unhealthy vegetarian. I ate exactly what I used to eat except that I substituted real meat with fake meat e.g quorn, fake bacon and textured vegetable protein products. Now, I am not against these products at all, they are tasty, convenient and help ease some vegetarians and vegans into their chosen dietary regimes. In fact, I have had a few mock meat meals in Singapore that have been outstanding in terms of the effort that has gone into making these dishes look like the real thing (I mean who needs their fake prawn to have the exact colouring and pattern of a real prawn!). However, for me personally, my diet improved dramatically when I stopped trying to make my meals like those that I had had as a carnivore and started  using vegetables, beans and lentils as the starting point for dishes. After all, all heavily processed foods should really only feature ocassionally in our diet and fake meats are no exception. What's more lentils and beans are generally low GI, low in fat and a good source of dietary fibre, protein and vitamins and minerals.  Pulses are, for me, an important part of any diet but particularly a vegetarian diet and deserve to be used more and loved a lot. I will be trying to convert everyone to loving lentils and beans with my next few recipes. Have I won you over yet?

If you are not convinced about beans or lentils yet, here is a very easy and tasty recipe to hopefully get you into this wonderful and very useful food group. It is basically a grown up version of baked beans. It can also be used as a canape or appetiser spread on thin toasts or blitzed in the blender to make a tasty dip to serve with veggie crudites. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Gluten Free Lemon Pudding with Black Pepper Strawberries

This pudding is basically strawberries marinated with sugar and black pepper and sandwiched between two thin lemony sponges. This is a real summery dish which makes me think of bbqs and sunny afternoons in the park. Serve with cream or a dairy free cream substitute. If you have a thick cream you could mix the strawberries with it before sandwiching between the sponges. Now all you need is a sunny day with beautiful blue skies and a gentle breeze to chase the clouds and mental cobwebs away.In fact I think I have posted this a month too early and I should have waited for Wimbledon to start before sharing this recipe. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Gluten Free Sweet Potato Gnocchi

I have wanted to make gnocchi for a long time but had heard that it was fiddly and as you can buy gnocchi in the chilled cabinet of most supermarkets in the UK I hadn't felt the need. But since coming to Singapore I haven't eaten gnocchi once. That was until we went to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. Who would have thought that I would have the best gnocchi ever in Thailand! These little pillows of potato (if they were pillows they would be duck down ones) were heavenly with an asparagus and ricotta sauce and inspired me to create a recipe for gluten free gnocchi,which the whole family could have, a try. Now these are not as good as the ones I had at Pulcinella da Stefano, which I think had ricotta in to make them extra soft and delicate, but they really are nicer than the ready made ones and gluten free to boot. If gluten isn't an issue then I have provided amounts for using an all purpose wheat flour in the recipe.

These little dumpling are slightly sweet and can go with pretty much any sauce although punchy varieties might over power the delicate flavor. The classic sauce is to use butter melted with sage leaves fried until they are crispy and the butter has browned, then served with grated Parmesan. I made a dairy free version using spinach sauteed in olive oil with black pepper, grated lemon rind, fresh thyme and a squeeze of lemon juice as I am still working on a dairy free creamy asparagus sauce similar to the Chiang Mai one.

I think I will get better at these in time but I don't think they turned out too bad for a first attempt! I might try adding some potato flour instead of the cornflour next time to see if that is any better. The trick to gnocchi seems to be to add only as much flour as needed to keep the gnocchi together during cooking as too much will make it more akin to a bullet than a pillowy dumpling. You also need to use  floury potato varieties as you don't want the mixture too wet as you will have to add more flour to get a workable dough.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Vegan Ngoh Hiangs/Loh Bak or Chinese Sausage Rolls

Happy Vesak Day! Today is a public holiday in Singapore and the event is pretty much the biggest celebration in the Buddhist calender. It is a celebration/remembrance of Buddha's birth, his enlightment and passing away. It is common to eat vegetarian food at this time as a way to show compassion for all living things. Therefore, today's recipe is vegan and suitable for strict buddhist vegetarians who don't eat the 5 pungents. However, I add a small amount of leek as I had it in the fridge but omit if required. Even better, this dish is gluten free which all my recipes this week will be as part of the Coeliac UK's Awareness week.

I love these little beancurd skin rolls which are really quite meaty and tasty. They are called Ngoh Hiang in Singapore after the five spice powder used to season them and more commonly called Lor Bak in Malaysia. The first time I tried one it was under the guise of a vegetarian sausage roll which is kind of how I think of them now. This recipe owes a lot to Rasa Malaysia's recipe for vegetarian Loh Bak but with extra ingredients to make it closer to the versions I have tried in Singapore. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Eggplant & Black Bean Siew Mai

After potstickers I think these are the easiest dim sum items to make although I find them a little tricky to make them look pretty. Mine kept slumping on the plate as if the they had all the worries of the world on their shoulders. Luckily, I ate them and put them out of their misery. Next time I make them I will chop the filling more finely to hopefully make a sturdier siew mai.

These Siew Mai are traditionally made with minced pork but I got this vegetarian version off the Vegetarian Times website which has a whole page on veggie dim sum. If you want to make this recipe gluten free I think it would be better to use rice wrappers and make these into steamed dumplings rather than the siew mai shape which requires a sturdier wrapper. They will taste just as good and will be a lot easier to eat with chop sticks. If you need this dish to be gluten free make sure that the sauces and seasonings used in the mixture are also gluten free. These dumplings, like the potstickers from earlier in the week, can be frozen after assembling and steamed from frozen.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Spring Onion (Scallions) Pancakes

These crispy pancakes are a popular dim sum dish and make a great snack/appertiser that can be made from just a small number of cupboard standby ingredients. There are versions that are made from a yeast risen dough but given the difference in time required for rising I prefer these no rise one. Although called a pancake, it is closer to a fried bread and is best served with a dipping sauce. This scaled dough recipe can be used to make other dim sum dishes by making pockets of dough stuffed with a variety of ingredients such as tofu and veggies and then fried to make a kind of chinese pasty.

These pancakes can be frozen before frying and then cooked from frozen in a frying pan which is ideal as this recipe makes 6 large pancakes.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Steamed Radish Cake

This dish is a popular dim sum offering that normally contains dried shrimp, chinese sausage or bacon. The mixture is first steamed to set it and then can be cut into slabs and fried to a golden brown crust.  I think it is best served with spring onions/scallions, sliced chills or chilli sauce and sweet soya sauce. 

Here I have added mushrooms and onion but have kept it fairly plain but if you want a more varied filling for these cakes then you could try this recipe at Just Bento. I wanted it plain and authentic as I am looking forward to making the oddly named carrot cake (chai tau kway), which is a popular hawker dish here in Singapore. Needless to say it most definitely is not related to the classic British carrot cake

Once again this is a recipe that can be frozen in slabs after the steaming process although they will need defrosting for a few hours before frying to ensure that they cook through.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tofu & Cabbage Potstickers

Continuing on from yesterday's bao/buns is the potsticker. A dumpling that is both pan fried and steamed at the same time resulting in one crispy golden side and one gooey side. These are one of the easiest dumplings to make and were my first attempt at dim dum. 

These little dumplings can be made up to the point of cooking and then refrigerated for up to a day or frozen and cooked straight out of the freezer.

I also made some of these potstickers gluten free by using the rice paper roll sheets that I made vietnamese salad rolls with instead of the wanton wrappers. They are more fiddly to make as the rice wrapper is harder to handle and need to be cut to size using either a cookie cutter or scissors or even a pizza cutter. They also don't look quite so pretty as they are more translucent and so you can see the filling. However, they do work and hold together and taste just as good as the original. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Vegetarian Steamed BBQ Bun

I decided that this week would be Dim Sum week with all the posts relating to a dim sum dish. All the dishes will be vegetarian and most will also have adaptation to allow them to be gluten free. There will be a range of dishes that will explore some of the most commonly found dim sum methods and components. 

I love veggie dim sum and on our last two trips to Hong Kong we have gone out of our way to eat as much vegetarian dim sum as was physically possible. Yummy! There does seem to be a heavy use of mock meats in some of these places but to be honest I prefer dim sum where vegetables are used for a lighter dish but feel free to include mock meats if you prefer.

First up is the bbq bun which is a vegetarian version of the Char Siew Bao (barbecue pork bun). It has a filling of meaty mushrooms, crunchy water chestnuts and sweet peas all in a tasty bbq sauce. 

There is no denying that making these little treats takes a bit of time. However, the majority of the time required is waiting for the dough to rise otherwise there is very little to do. The process can be cut down by using a bao premix (for which you just need to follow the directions on the packet) but as these mixes aren't always easy to find I have given the classic bao dough recipe. These buns can be made in a big batch and then frozen, making this the perfect weekend project. To reheat all you need to do is take them out of the freezer and steam them from frozen. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Vegetable Koftas with Creamy Coconut Curry

When I saw Barbara's, of Tiger and Strawberries blog, recent post on tender lamb koftas it awakened a cravings for a dish which represents my first foray into Indian food as a young child- vegetable koftas in a sweet korma sauce. This dish from our local Indian restaurant was a perfect introduction, tasty little potato dumplings wrapped in a chickpea batter in a smooth creamy sauce. This recipe is a more grown up version with a bit more heat and spice. It is an adapted recipe from Madhur Jaffery's -Eastern Vegetarian Cooking and I was also inspired by how Manjula made her Cabbage Koftas.

Although this dish is a little fiddly it is worth the effort and what's morethe koftas and curry sauce can be made separately the day before and then heated up together just before serving. Perfect if you are having guests around and curry always tastes better the second day after the flavours have mixed together.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Vegetarian Scotch Eggs

The scotch egg, for those who haven't grown up with this snack, is a hard boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, breadcrumbed and then deep fried. It is traditionally eaten cold at picnics, in a packed lunch or as finger food at parties and I think it is delicious with Heinz salad cream.

In recent history the scotch egg had become a sad orange-crumbed shadow of its former self that could be found in supermarkets, motorway service stations and corner shops to satisfy the hungry & desperate. However, I am glad to report that over the last couple of years there has been something of a renaissance for the lowly scotch egg with artisan varieties to be found at delicatessens, country fairs and food shows. Yippee, is all I can say. It is about time that this dish got a makeover.
This recipe is a basic vegetarian version made with beans instead of sausage meat but once you have mastered the basic technique you can have a go at making some different flavoured ones. How about adding hoisin sauce and spring onions or curry paste and fresh coriander or sundried tomatos and thyme. Or how about changing the standard chicken egg for duck eggs for a real yolky treat or quails eggs for hors d'oeuvre sized scotch eggs. There really is no end to the possibilities for homemade scotch eggs.

This dish can be gluten free by ensuring the seasonings (e.g. stock/boulion & mustard) are gluten free and that the flour and breadcrumbs are substituted for gluten free versions. If you cannot get hold of  gluten free breadcrumbs you can make your own with gluten free bread or rolls blitzed in the food processor and gently baked in the oven until crisp.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ginger Steamed Egg Custard

Some of the desserts found in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong are unusual to European tastes as they cross what I like to call the the sweet savoury divide. By which I mean they use ingredients such as sweet potato, yam, red beans and sweetcorn which are almost always associated with savoury dishes in Europe. It took some getting used to but I have to say I am now a convert and  I won't look at a kidney bean or sweet potato in quite the same way again.One of my favourite desserts in Singapore is Steamed Egg Custard served warm with a ginger jus and I regularly have cravings for the smooth rich velvety texture and delicate flavour. I like this dish for breakfast, weird I know, but don't knock it until you have tried it. I am also looking forward to getting my hands on some rhubarb to poach and serve with this.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Halloumi with Lemon Dressing

I had some halloumi cheese left over from my earlier post for vegetarian fish & chips and one of my favourite quick suppers is halloumi with a spicy lemon dressing. Unlike the fish and chips recipe, this dish really lets the halloumi be the star, retaining its firm squeaky texture. The cheese is dry fried until golden and served with a sweet and sour dressing to cut through the saltiness of the cheese. This can be served over rocket/argula leaves as an appertiser or light lunch or alternatively made into a main course when served with steamed couscous (or quinoa or millet if you need it to be gluten free) and asparagus spears.