Sophie and Mango have got into the pleasing habit of trying out vegan recipes together on a Wednesday evening. This is not exactly a recipe blog, but a catalogue of trial and error, showing our successful and less than successful cooking adventures.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Glaze of Glory

This follows on from Sophie's post with the lovely photos, but I had to get that title in so I've started another post.

We had invited our friends Josh and Flo round (as well as a bedraggled refugee from Titnore Woods tree protest camp who I met at work but who didn't make it round) and as usual were wondering what to cook. I got a couple of free butternut squashes from work and some cheap beetroots, asked Sophie if she had any ideas, and she immediately replied, "glazed and roasted." She sent me a link to VeganDad's recipe for bourbon-glazed squash. I thought it was a bit unwise to buy a bottle of bourbon when neither of us drink, and suggested...

Blood Orange and Maple Syrup Glazed Squash
2 medium butternut squashes
2 blood oranges
Generous splosh of maple syrup
Olive oil
2 tbsp cornflour

I peeled the squashes and cut them into medium chunks. Squeezed the juice out of the blood oranges and sliced off some of the rind, which I finely chopped. Mixed the rest together and whisked in the cornflour.

I had heated the oven to gas mark 5, and put the squash in the oven in a tray with about 1/3 of the glaze. Roasted for about 15 minutes, then stirred in some more glaze, and kept doing this til it was cooked.

Along with that we had beetroots roasted with rosemary and thyme, and the Basic Broiled (=grilled in British English) Tofu and Diner Home Fries (what a strange name - something you make at home that's supposed to taste like something they serve in a diner that's supposed to taste like something you make at home) from Veganomicon.

To top it all off perfectly, our friend Flo brought round a wonderful chocolate tart with an avocado-based topping.

A successful and enjoyable evening, with lovely food and conversation - a very satisfying Wednesday Night Kitchen Thursday Meal.

For your viewing pleasure...

... a tantalising trio of 'tubbles... tangy tender tofu... and tremendously tempting tart... But you'll have to wait for the full write up - because it is DEFINITELY Mango's turn to contribute!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Extremely belated Christmassy cake/snack pics

I've just about recovered sufficiently from the trauma of the festive season to post these rather belated photos of my culinary efforts during said time. No, ok, that's a poor excuse for just having not got round to it yet.

This is only a taster of the various goodies I produced to see myself through the holiday (my family having not really caught on to the concept of veganism - in consequence I spent many a troubled hour planning and preparing my Christmas goods, lest I be forced to survive on slices of stale bread for the week). A brave few deigned to sample them and were, I hope, pleasantly surprised.

On the right, sprinkled delicately with icing sugar, we have my own variation on the mince pie, mince pie cupcakes - for which I adapted Isa Chandra's excellent jam doughnut (well that's not quite how she's put it, but I just can't bring myself to use the phrase 'jelly donut') cupcakes. It's a fairly basic vanilla cupcakes, with - and here's the genius - a dollop of mincemeat placed on top of the batter before they go in the oven. Like some kind of gastronomic wizardry, the filling gently sinks into the cake and winds up somewhere in the middle. Incredible, but delicious.

On the left, an absolute marvel that was pulled together with the addition of lemony cream 'cheese' icing - gingerbread cupcakes, again Isa Chandra's recipe. I wasn't sure about these when I first made them (my complex scheme involved making the cakes ahead of time and freezing them til the night before), my un-iced test cake being somewhat...lacking. Fortunately the icing on the cakes was, well, the icing on the cake, and topped with a few raisins came together to form a not only visually delicious but really rather tasty creation.

These immaculately wrapped golden filo parcels are a take on the Greek snack spanakopita - I'd made the recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance (I do have some recipe books not written by Ms Moskowitz and Romero, honest!) before, but less successfully, and faced with a much leftover filo pastry, spinach, silken tofu and a rare glimpse of that precious metal, the pine nut, I knew there was only one way to go. Having totally winged it I thought they came out rather nicely. My folding technique has definitely improved if nothing else.

This last one has nothing to do with Christmas, except that they were made in December, but I thought they looked so cute I wanted to publish them anyway. This is the pumpkin and chocolate chip cupcake recipe from, you've guessed it, Ia Chandra's Vegan Cupcakes take over the World. I adapted it a little and used raisins instead of choc chips - the first time I did it according to the recipe and although nice, along the the pumpkin (I used a Kuri squash, actually) they were just a little bit cloying for my taste. Raisins added a little more bite and a fruity zing. Cinnamon icing and sliced fresh banana on top for the extra je ne sais quoi.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Cracking the crepe conundrum

In October, I became the proud owner of a carbon steel crepe pan. Such a wonder this thing is that I cannot tell you - perfect pancakes, almost without fail, almost without oil. So why has it taken so long to blog about it? Not through lack of delicious dishes, that's for sure - possibly more through the embarrassment of having eaten very little else since its arrival.

But wonderful as it was to eat meal after delicious meal rolled into soft, fresh pancakes - vegetable curry with chutney, veggie sausage and tomato with white sauce poured on top, Isa Chandra's sweet potato crepes with coriander-tamarind sauce (the recipe that began the whole debacle) - for me, there was something missing from the equation.

I grew up in a house where, when frying pancakes, the aim of the game was thinness. Thin, crisp, golden brown pancakes (and to clarify, I use the word pancake here as in a British or French pancake, what Americans call crepes), wafery, crinkled at the edges, and not a hint of doughyness. It was this that eluded me. Mango, the non-believer, perfectly content with the crepes of average thickness that we were rolling off the pan week after week, told me again and again that it simply wasn't possible to get the same level of thinness in an eggless pancake. And I was almost ready to believe him. I was so close to giving in and settling for second best.

Until today. Yesterday, we made up a mix on the fly for brunch - I more or less melded two recipes from the Veganomicon and VWAV. The one in VWAV is tried and tested, but savoury - and today we were aiming for sweet, but the Veganomicon offering was over-complicated. So I took a little from each and winged it. Disaster nearly ensued. The first pancake stuck a little, refused to be turned, and wound up as a sticky, partially cooked mess on the plate. Mango thought the mix was too watery, and added more flour and a bit of oil. It worked after this, but the product was a little thick, though tasty. The mix went back in the fridge after we'd eaten our fill, and I brought it out again at dinner, after Mango had gone home. I decided to try to achieve the desired crispness. I turned the heat up under the pan a little more, used a little less batter, got some good swirly wrist action going - and the end result was in fact much improved. There were the beginnings of laciness at the edges, and a slightly more toothy bite to the outer layer.

But when I revisited the batter for the third time this morning - that's when the magic happened. I decided to go completely mad, and thinned the batter down a little more so it was almost back to the original consistency. By now the starch would certainly have swelled enough to be able to handle a bit less saturation. Again I turned the heat up higher than normal, wiped the pan with the barest coating of oil, and swirled in the mix. There it was - the delicate, almost translucent crepe I'd been hoping for. But could I lift it and flip it without incident!? Yes! Once the edges had begun to pull away from the pan, I gently slid the spatula twixt steel and crepe... Ta da! And the proof was in the eating. Crisp, wafer thin, spread with a little apricot jam and a few raisins - delicious.

Admittedly this isn't really an easily replicated recipe as it went through several alterations, but I think the key was in the long refrigeration - giving the ingredients time to bind, thereby gaining that all-important stretchyness. It's certainly going to be worth experimenting with! Now I know it can be done.