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Archive for the ‘vegan’ Category

cucumber & mint sorbet

In desserts, gluten free, sorbet, summer, sweets, vegan, vegetarian on 22 December, 2011 at 12:59 pm

I’m only repeating what everyone around me has been saying, but whoa. Where did this year go? I can’t believe we’re only three days out from Christmas. And finally, it seems, after a week of torrential rain and cloudy skies that weirdly got me really down and unmotivated to do anything Christmas-like, the sun’s out. And it looks like it’ll stay. Summer is here!

I’ll keep this post relatively short because I’m sitting barefoot in the grass on my lunch break, squintily typing away while not knowing exactly what’s going on the screen. But I really wanted to share this sorbet before Christmas, you know, just in case you need a couple more things to add to your to-make list (mine is, luckily, pretty light since I’m going to Christmas dinner at my relatives’ place). Yes, you can enjoy a sorbet anytime during the summer (and all year round, if you ask me) but I just had this fleeting thought that this cool green sorbet would be more somewhat Christms-appropriate served alongside a bowl of strawberries, or you know, something bright red and festive.

I’ve been wanting to make cucumber sorbet for a while (Laura of Hungry and Frozen made a luscious-looking cucumber-lychee one earlier this year) but it hasn’t really been a priority: I have a growing list of about 16 different frozen dessert flavour combinations I want to make, and cucumber-mint was just one of them.

But on Sunday I found myself at the market clutching my last 50-cent piece, wondering if I could get one more thing. And then I realised I was standing directly in front of a box of 50-cent cucumbers. And I remembered cucumber-mint on my sorbet list, and my mint plant was getting pretty bushy… done.

Sunday turned out to be the first sunny day in what felt like an eternity but really was about a week straight of rain. Even though it was still a bit chilly I thought it’d be appropriate to celebrate the return of the sun by making sorbet that very day.

I can totally recommend making this too. It’s super easy to put together, and all you need to plan for if you’re making this for a special occasion is the time it takes to freeze (several hours, at least). And the flavour is divine: it’s without a doubt cucumbery, but not in a salady* way. It’s cool and sweet, almost watermelon-like in flavour, with the mint giving it a beguiling herbaceousness that doesn’t jump out at you but coolly sidles in alongside the cucumber. And then, long after the freezing-cold ice thaws in your mouth there’s a hauntingly minty chill. Yes, so refreshing.

Okay! So now that I’ve told you all that I’ve got to get out of the sun and back to work (just in time, too; I don’t think my eyes can squint any more than they already are,** and I’m starting to sweat from the heat of the sun).

Just a quick note – the recipe below makes about (very roughly measured by me, after I’d already eaten some, whoops!) 400ml so if you’re feeding more than 3-4 people I’d make a double batch. Enjoy!

*my goodness, can you tell it’s the silly season, my brain has turned to mush and my adjectives have turned… adjective-y.

**apologies for any typos. I’m really having a hard time seeing the screen!

CUCUMBER AND MINT SORBET
(makes about 400ml)

150g sugar
¾ cup water
handful of mint
300g cucmber, diced*

First, make some mint syrup: place sugar, water and mint in a saucepan and heat gently, stirring a bit to dissolve the sugar, until it reaches boiling point and the sugar has dissolved. Let cool.

While the syrup is cooling, cut up the cucumber and puree it (it’s probably best to use a food processor for this – I used a blender and it didn’t really work because it wasn’t liquidy enough. If you only have a blender, don’t fret – you can get it to a nicer consistency once you add the syrup in the next step).

Add the cooled syrup to the cucumber puree and blend until it’s a nice, smooth consistency. Strain out the pulpy bits using a sieve. Optionally, you could add an egg white here to prevent the sorbet from going all icy in texture, especially if you’re not using a food processor, but I didn’t have any handy so I used a tablespoonful of Hendrick’s gin** for the same purpose.

Freeze. If you have an ice cream maker, great – follow the instructions. I’ve never owned an ice cream maker so instead I just try to give the sorbet regular stirs as it freezes in order to break up the ice crystals that form. Giving it a couple of whizzes in the food processor during the freezing process made this fairly painless, too.

Before serving, let it sit out for a few minutes to soften up and become ultra-scoopable. Delicious!

*you can peel it if you like, but I didn’t bother – I liked the extra-deep green the skin added to the colour, and you strain out the pulpy bits anyway so you don’t need to worry about texture. Plus… more nutrients? Maybe?

*Cause really, does Hendrick’s and cucumber not just scream summer?

Edited to add: I’m submitting this post to the Sweet New Zealand blogging event, started by Alessandra and hosted this month by Bron – you can see all this month’s entries here.

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garam masala & coconut popcorn

In gluten free, snacks, vegan, vegetarian, year-round on 6 December, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Today’s post is not so much a recipe as it is a set of instructions on making one of the best snacks around.

The other night around midnight, after a failed dinner, a failed blogging effort and a failed attempt at sleep, I found myself wide awake with a semi-growling stomach and so I pulled myself out of bed and into the kitchen. Yep, that’s right. Midnight Snack Time.

Sleeping is something I don’t normally find difficult, so Midnight Snack Time is hardly ever something I experience (unless you count, of course, those post-revelry takeaway noodles I sometimes find on my bedside table on certain weekend mornings, but those don’t really count; for one, they’re usually eaten far past midnight to qualify as a Midnight Snack).

But Sunday night I was all out of whack, after a week packed with post-holiday catching-up and madwoman running around organising wigs and gowns and celebration plans for that thing I did on Friday*, and then that thing on Friday and then of course the celebrating and then on Saturday morning I woke up at an ungodly hour** for family activities with my visiting parents and by Saturday evening I was in bed, asleep, before it was even dark out (don’t you love that about summer?) and so Sunday I was physically well-rested and mentally drained: not a good combination for trying to will yourself to sleep.

I’m not sure why popcorn and garam masala were on my mind at that hour of the night, but it was lucky I had chosen those two things rather than, say, cereal or yoghurt or hot buttered toast or even leftovers, because as a consequence of my recent Melbourne trip, I’ve had very little money left with which to buy staple foods like milk or yoghurt or butter.

Or… butter. The realisation struck me as I opened the fridge, after I’d gotten out the popcorn and spices. I was completely out of butter (and, as luck would have it, all other cooking oil). I was about ready to add Midnight Snack Popcorn to my list of Sunday failures when I remembered the bag of random goodies (gin, chocolate, conditioner, my old silk scarf, and so on) my parents had left with me as a parting gift. I was pretty sure the bag also contained a jar of coconut oil. I was right.

So, out of desperation came this pretty damn amazing combination of coconut oil and garam masala on popcorn. I’m not going to pretend I’m the first person to discover it, because it’s pretty elementary. But the discovery, for me, was one of my biggest post-midnight triumphs yet.***

Garam masala (or sometimes curry powder, or other spices) on popcorn is an old trick I’ve had up my sleeve since my university days when I needed a quick study snack. But I’d always turn to butter or vegetable oil to cook my popcorn. I should’ve tried coconut oil sooner: the coconutty flavour isn’t that obvious at first, and the aromatic spiciness of the garam masala fills your mouth with each bite. But then, beneath that, there’s a subtle burst of supple, mellow, almost-sweet coconut flavour that melds with the spices, evoking the warm sea breezes and swaying coconut palms of someplace far from here (that possibly exists only in my imagination, but hey).****

This is better than any movie theatre popcorn (or microwave popcorn, or whatever’d otherwise take your fancy). The spices give it a lingering heat that sticks around far longer than the popcorn actually stays warm; for this reason, it’s ideal for prolonged nibbling over the course of a ninety-minute feature film. Or you can scarf it down, standing in the hallway, at Midnight Snack Time. It’s up to you.

Anyway, it was so good that I had it again yesterday afternoon when I got home from work. Still tasted just as impressive. I urge you to try it, especially if you have some coconut oil (or can get your hands on some). If you don’t, I’d just use butter or a neutral-flavoured oil, and maybe toss some shredded coconut in along with the garam masala just to give it that faint, sweet whiff of some imaginary tropics. Go on. (edited to add: if you’re doing this, might be better to add the coconut in at the end to prevent burning. Thanks, Lucia! x)


*!!!!! It was super exciting.

**of course, with a half-eaten box of char kway teow next to my bed.

***not that I have many post-midnight triumphs (for the most part, I’m asleep at that time of night and when I’m not, I’m not sure I’m achieving much), but still. This was definitely a triumph.

****I’m pretty sure the reason why I associate these particular spices with coconuts and tropics is because my mum brought them over to me from Kerala, a place I’ve never been but which exists strongly in my imagination as a place where there might possibly be hot sea breezes and coconut trees.

GARAM MASALA & COCONUT POPCORN

Melt 1 1/2 – 2 tbsp coconut oil* in a saucepan with a lid. Add a couple generous pinches of salt and 1 tsp** garam masala. Add 50g (approximately 1/4 cup) popcorn kernels and cover the pan with the lid. Heat over medium-high heat, giving everything a good shake every now and then to coat the kernels, until they start to pop. Keep shaking the pan over the heat, using a back-and-forth motion, until the popping slows down. Remove from heat and add more salt and/or garam masala to taste; toss and serve.

Devour while hot or make a big batch and pick at it slowly through the course of a movie: it’s up to you.

*bonus: if you get some on your hands you can slather it all over your skin and you will smell delicious. True fact. (If you don’t have coconut oil, cook the popcorn in the oil of your choice, perhaps adding some shredded coconut with the salt and spices).

**or more, to taste

quinoa salad with avocado, radish & lemon

In gluten free, salads, sides, spring, vegan, vegetarian on 9 November, 2011 at 11:35 pm

It’s rather predictable, really, but when spring rolls around all I want to eat is salad. There’s something about that raw crunch, the burst of flavour, the pure freshness of it all that’s missing over the long, dark winter stretch of Cooked Food (sure, you can have salad in winter, but is it ever as earnest as all the young leaves of spring?).

And I’d be exaggerating if I said everything I ate over winter was a monotonous succession of homogeneously-textured slop, because I certainly ate well throughout the winter months. But I can hardly remember the details of the stews, the soups, casseroles and curries that got me through. I’m too engrossed in trying all the different flavour and texture combinations within the realm of salads.

And as far as flavour and texture combinations go, this salad, which I’ve adapted only very slightly (and only to reflect the ingredients I had at hand) from Yotam Ottolenghi’s most excellent cookbook Plenty*, is a winner. Nutty, yielding quinoa. Hot, crunchy radishes. Smooth, mild avocado. Sour, juicy bursts in the form of lemon segments. Edamame adds a bit of nubbly texture and, um, more nutty flavour, and the baby mustard greens I used add just a breath of barely-there heat.

I wasn’t sure how it would all work together but I shouldn’t have doubted Ottolenghi. I should really be used to that oh-my-god-so-eye-poppingly-delicious feeling by now, but like every time I try something a little bit new and delicious I did a little personal squeal of delight (quiet enough for the flatmates not to notice… hopefully): all of the FLAVOURS! And all of the TEXTURES! And they all work so well TOGETHER!**

So this is a salad I urge you to try. It’s a little bit substantial, too, thanks to the quinoa, avocado and edamame: plenty of good stuff like proteins and amino acids and monounsaturated fats and whatnot. And it’s got that added bonus of being gluten-free, in case you were wondering. But enough of the health benefits. It’s just good, okay? And it tastes just as good, if not better, when you pack it up and eat it for lunch the next day (though I’d recommend letting it reach room temperature before serving).

Also while we’re on the subject of this salad can I just say I love radishes? Radishes thinly sliced with salt, radishes with butter and salt, radishes with butter and salt and crusty baguette, radishes in salads, radishes cut in wedges, radishes whole, radishes short, radishes long***, I am a girl obsessed. And in this salad the radishes in all their sharp crispness are the perfect foil for the creamy, luxurious avocado, so much so that I don’t know why I haven’t been consciously aware of this opposites-attract combination. And now I’m thinking about radishes, thinly sliced, with salt and avocado in a halved segment of very-fresh baguette.****

*it really hasn’t taken long for this book to become a favourite. Some nights I go to bed with it, waking up at 2am all confused as to why I’m clutching a hard, rectangular object… sad but true.

**cue little shoulder-shrug and cheeky silent excited-smile and resisting the urge to do little handclaps even now, yes, it was that exciting.

***those ones came from the same Wairarapa-dwelling workmate who brought me the bag of Jerusalem artichokes that went into this soup, as well as the freshest eggs I’ve ever tasted. She’s awesome. And the radishes were deliciously hot.

****And now I’m thinking I should end this stream-of-consciousness rant about radishes and get onto posting the recipe. Sorry everyone. I’m very tired and bleary-eyed tonight, and I love radishes. Though maybe not as much as that I-love-cats girl (making the rounds on youtube a wee while ago) loves cats.

QUINOA SALAD WITH AVOCADO, RADISH & LEMON
(from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi, with a couple minor changes)

Serves 2-4, depending on whether you’re eating this as a main course or a side dish, how hungry you are, that sort of thing.

Cook 100g quinoa using your favourite method. Ottolenghi recommends bringing it to a boil in a pan with lots of water, then simmering for 9 minutes, draining, rinsing with cold water and letting it dry. It worked for me.

Meanwhile, cook and shell (or defrost, or whatever you need to do) 250g edamame.* Let cool slightly.

Slice a lemon into segments by first cutting off both ends, then carefully removing all the skin and outer pith, then slicing between each membrane so you get pretty, jewel-like segments.** Do this over a bowl to collect the juices and chuck the segments in there as well.

Cut a small-to-medium avocado into thin slices and add to the lemon juice. Toss very gently just to coat it with the lemon juice, then add the quinoa, 100g radishes cut into wedges, the edamame, a handful of baby mustard greens***, a clove of crushed garlic, 1/2 tbsp ground cumin, 2-3 tbsp olive oil and a pinch of chilli flakes. Season with flaky sea salt and cracked black pepper and toss with the gentlest touch you can manage.

Garnish with some more baby mustard greens. Serve into bowls and eat with all the wide-eyed joy of a child discovering all the different flavours and textures at once. (Okay, maybe a little child would turn its nose up at this salad. But you get the picture).

*the original recipe used broad beans. If this is something you have in your garden right now, don’t hold back. USE IT. I just had no broad beans handy, and plenty of edamame in the freezer.

**Since first trying this technique when I made this salad (also roughly based on a Plenty recipe) I’ve become more convinced of its utility, despite the extra time. Not only do the citrus pieces look beautiful, they’re also free of the tough membrane you so often find in lemons.

***I was conveniently needing to thin the pot of mustard greens I’d planted some time prior to making this salad, and was glad, because I had none of the purple radish cress Ottolenghi lists in the recipe. If you have neither baby mustard greens or purple radish cress, don’t let it stop you from making this salad. Bits of peppery rocket would do, or any microgreens or baby greens would work, as would leaving them out altogether.