Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The Chocolate Banana Friendship Cake

There comes a time when friendships are tested, and it's often through cooperation.  Can two friends cooperate and succeed in a task together?  

I don't usually cook with people.  Well, now I'm getting better, ever since this cake, really.  See, I had made a cake once together with a friend, for my other friend's birthday.  It was a disaster. We were yelling at each other and basically it took a toll on our friendship.  We had to stop talking to each other for awhile.  So when my best friend, Jess, had suggested that we make a birthday cake together for our friend, Lawrence, I was worried.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Blueberry Lemon Macaruffins

What? Macaruffins?  These were so good, it was one of those shameless moments where I was just eating one after the other, complimenting myself aloud.  I was very impressed with myself.  Maybe that's why my dad thinks I'm arrogant.  You know what, my current degree, Economics and Psychology, are eating me alive, so I need to feel good about myself with something, and damn do these boost my confidence.  They're some of the best cookies I've made!

Friday, 26 April 2013

Carrot Saffron Risotto with Carrot Chips and Toasted Almonds

Another dinner party. Yes, this is what I do at university.  This is what my planner is filled with - 3, 4 dinner parties a week.  What do you do at university?

I like dishes that have different textural components to it.  So this has soft velvety risotto that you eat against the crunchy carrot chips and almond flakes :) 

Do you like the way it looks?  I'm trying, Masterchef is inspirational.  Speaking of which I'm like 4 episodes behind, I'm so scared that by the time I"ll have time for Masterchef they will have deleted them off iPlayer.

I'd also like to share with you some useful advice: when you can't find a cork screw, as you might often do, and you find yourself facing a bottle of wine.  Worry not, there are ways.

Coathanger? No.  Doesn't work.

Get a wooden spoon, bang on the cork and you can push the cork down.  It may be dangerous.  Actually, don't take my advice.  I don't want you to hurt yourself.  Just get a cork screw.  It's worth the investment. 

It took ages to open up that bottle of wine for the risotto. 

Carrot Chips
Olive oil

1 small white onion, finely chopped
2-3 medium carrots, finely chopped
1/2 glass white wine
400g arborio rice/barley
1 tsp ground saffron
2L Vegetable stock

Toasted almonds

for the carrot chips:
Preheat oven to 180C.

Peel the carrots, and holding them lengthwise, shave into thin strips with your vegetable peeler.  Toss with olive oil and salt.

Put the strips in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Do not let them overlap and bake for about 5-10 minutes, until just starting to brown.  Don't worry if they seem slightly soggy, they'll dry up a bit more once they are out of the oven. 

for the risotto:
Make the risotto by frying the onions and carrots in a bit of olive oil until softened but not browned.  Add your rice and toss, make sure everything is coated.  Add your wine and cook until evaporated.  Continue stirring until the wine evaporates (ie the rice is dry) then add a ladle-full of stock.

Stir until all the stock is evaporated and then add another ladle-full.  Continue this process for about 40 minutes, you may not need all the stock.  Taste the rice/barley to see if it's up to your standard (note: barley will always remain a bit al dente).  Stir in the saffron. 

Serve with carrot chips and toasted almonds. 

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Mango Avocado Crayfish Salad

 I sometimes share too much on this blog.  If you read regularly you'll know quite a bit about my life.  It's cool, no shame, nothing to hide, but I try to be nice and not mention too many people -- just in case they actually read this.  

So I made this salad for a dinner.  First of all, I had been dreaming about these flavor combinations for a long time, but in the form of a crab salad.  No crab anywhere in town and thus I had to resort to crayfish.  I honestly think this will taste better with crab meat.  Ok take the recipe with a pinch of salt, I understand that it's not very clear, but just remember to keep tasting as you go along, so adjust the quantities of the ingredients.  Taste as you go along guys, I can't believe some people don't do this.  I'm watching Masterchef now and there are always contestants that are criticized for not tasting as they go along.  Why would you not do that?  If it's good you'll want to taste as you go along.  You gotta love your food and love the process of it.  That's why I'm usually full before dinner even begins. 

Monday, 22 April 2013

Aubergine and Tomato Sandwich

I discovered my passion for cooking in my first year of university.  I had always loved food, but back in high school my culinary skills extended from Betty Crocker cupcakes to sandwiches (on a side note, fun fact: Betty Crocker is actually William Crocker, he just thought Betty sounded more "homely".  True.  I wouldn't trust William Crocker's double chocolate brownies).  I didn't even really experiment with too many sandwich fillings, there was really just one that I was really proud of.  And still am.  I used to call it the Maria Sandwich.   This was for two reasons: a) yes, duh, my own invention, but also because b) it consisted of both Italian and Chinese ingredients.  It was a fusion harmony.  It had a thin layer of mayonnaise on a toasted bread, which was used also as an adhesive to the Chinese pork floss on top (if you don't know what it is, wikipedia it, it's more appetizing than it sounds).  This was aped over by a fried egg, followed by thin slices of Italian prosciutto, and a couple of sliced baby tomatoes.  Another piece of bread was then pressed on top of it and there it was.  I haven't made it in such a long time that I don't know if it's as good as I remember it, but hey, look at all the ingredients, they all seem to work together, right? 

I do love for making sandwiches.  It's nice, I like it because for me it's along the same lines as salads and stir-fries in that you just use whatever you have lying around.  Maybe not as exciting as the Maria Sandwich, but it was still pretty tasty.  This is kind of Lebanese with the aubergine and tahini, but then there's the Maria touch with the Chinese spring onions and Italian sun-dried tomatoes (which you can pickle them yourself here). 

Serves 1
1/2 small aubergine (cut lengthways)
1/2 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 sprig spring onion, chopped
Tahini, to taste
2 slices of sun-dried tomatoes in oil, sliced
1 small tomato on the vine, thinly sliced
sesame seeds
olive oil
Good bread

Pierce the aubergine all over with a fork, wrap in tin foil and put it in the oven at 200C for 40-60 min.

Scoop the flesh out, chop and mix along with garlic and tahini.  Season lightly, be careful since the sun-dried tomatoes will be salty.  Put on toasted bread, then put on the sun-dried tomatoes and fresh tomatoes.  Drizzle with olive oil, top with some toasted sesame seed and voila. 

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Vegetarian Haggis Filo Loaf

I'm not discriminate towards different cuisines.  I don't believe there's a bad cuisine.  Yes, there are some I prefer more than others, but it's unfair and just rude to disrespect a particular cuisine.  Including the Scottish one.

Now, Scottish cuisine has a horrible reputation.  Yes, it is not the best, and at first I was hesitant.  The thing is, unlike Italian cuisine for example, you can't find good stuff everywhere.  In Italy, I find that unless you go to the tourist traps, food ranges from good to you've-just-changed-my-world.

Now, Scottish cuisine, from personal experience, ranges from from one extreme to the other, with the mode towards the left side of the scale.

Haggis is uh.  Well, you know what it is right?  If you don't, let me enlighten you - sheep organs cooked in sheep stomach.   Appetizing, eh? 

It's not that bad.  With a little bit of whisky over it, it's decent.  I don't go crazy for it, but it's not as awful as it sounds.  But then I was introduced to vegetarian haggis. It's essentially oats and beans and veggies with the same spices as a normal haggis.  It's fantastic.  This along with beautifully smoked fish and rich puddings, Scottish cuisine proved its place in my heart.  You can argue that it's not proper Scottish cuisine, but goodness, I'll consider variations and improvements to still be Scottish cuisine.  I gotta give them a chance. 

I've looked at a range of recipes, got some ideas, and wrap the vegetarian haggis up with filo.  Try it out, adjust the seasoning and spices if you want, and tell me what you think :)

Serves 4
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 medium carrot, shredded
1 cup button mushrooms, finely chopped 
1 cup red kidney beans, cooked
1 cup green lentils, cooked
1 cup pinhead oatmeal, soaked for an hour
Soy sauce (to taste)
Freshly ground pepper (to taste)
Filo pastry 
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Sautee the garlic, onions, and all the spices in a pan with some oil until soft, don't let the onions color.
Add the mushrooms and carrots and cook until softened.  Add all the other ingredients (for the oatmeal you can add some of the soaking liquid as well), and check seasoning.  Cook for a couple of more minutes, adding water if dry.

Keep your filo pastry under a damp cloth as you work.  Take one sheet, brush with some olive oil, then lay another one on top. Brush with more olive oil and finally lay the last sheet on top.

Put the filling in the middle and wrap the filling up so it's all closed and you form a loaf.  Brush with some more olive oil on top, and if you wish, an egg wash (1 egg beaten with some water). 

Put on greased and lined baking tray and bake for about 30 minutes or until golden on top. 

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Pancakes

Yes, I know, I have too many pancake recipes.

I enjoy my pancakes.  I love pancakes for breakfast.  Pancakes shouldn't be a weekend thing! And pancakes shouldn't be unhealthy and/or plain!  Admittedly, I love those fluffy American pancakes, but those are a weekend thing.  This and the following are everyday things.

Saffron pancakes,  apple pancakes, yeast pancakes, soaked oatmeal pancakes, carrot pancakes

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Chinese Walnut Cookies (核桃酥)

You wouldn't think they were particularly Chinese.  They're composed of your standard Western cookie ingredients and they taste like normal tea cookies, but they're traditional Chinese cookies. They're usually huge, like American cookies, and they're very crumbly - the name, 核桃酥 (he tao su), literally means, walnut crumble.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Almond, Chestnut & Fig Jam Thumbprint Cookies

I have a friend that's allergic to wheat, rice, prawns, corn, dairy - and I think some other stuff.  So... I took up the challenge to make her some cookies. 

These are pretty much allergy-free.  Well, I'm sorry if you're allergic to nuts. 

I shared these cookies with quite a few of my friends, and one of them, Anushi, loved them.  It's people like her that make me feel better.  There are days when I feel like a failure, but then I share my food and some people really enjoy them, and then it's all better.  At least I can make some people happy through food.  She really liked them. 

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Pumpkin Seed Butter

This may be my new favorite thing.

So you know how I make my own peanut butter, almond butter, coconut butter and whatnot? These spreads are my best friends on a vegan diet.  Well, they're my best friends normally as well, but anyway. I like to experiment with these butters and as I had pumpkin seeds I went for pumpkin seed butter and oh.my.gawd.  It's sensational.  Absolutely sensational.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Vegan Saffron and Vanilla Whole-Wheat Pancakes

I don't like cooking for one. 

First, from a practicality point of view, it's sometimes difficult to halve or quarter a recipe.  I could just make it and save the other portion for a later meal, you may say, but no.  My problem is that I eat everything in sight, so that's a very difficult thing for me to do. 

Second, it's lonely.  The whole concept of Happy Belly is that I like making other bellies happy.  I don't even like making my own belly happy that much.  I mean I don't mind.  I like fine food, but I'm not fussed.  I'll eat pretty much anything because I hate wasting food.  I may not enjoy everything, but I'll eat everything.  I just want to cook for other people and make them happy. 
Next year I'm moving in with a dear friend of mine, just the two of us, so I'll share my breakfast with her in the morning.  It's easier with two people.  I'm currently living with 4 other girls, and I can't just make breakfast for one other person - if I do I have to do it for everyone.  

Friday, 5 April 2013

Za'atar Spiced Butter Bean Hummus & Masterchef

Yes, I'm spicing up my vegan diet.  I love love love Middle Eastern food.

Are you keeping up with British Masterchef?  Do you watch any Masterchef?  I remember when I discovered British Masterchef three years ago - now there's Australian Masterchef, Italian Masterchef, Chinese Masterchef - crazy!  But they are all a bit different from each other.  I love Australian Masterchef and British Masterchef.  In Australian Masterchef everyone's just so nice.  In the British one it's professional and all about food.  The American one is more of a reality show with a lot of b*tching and drama.  Not a fan at all.  Plus, never many exciting foods. 

British and Australian are the way to go. 

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Vegan Spicy Spring Pea Pancakes and Vegan Challenge 2.1

And it's Spring!

Well. It's April, it's past Easter, so technically it is Spring, but Scotland seems to disagree.  Scotland doesn't like to work its way around the norms of nature.  It has a different concept of seasons. It's getting there though - it's wonderfully sunny with sunsets at 7pm, it's just a bit chilly.  And by a bit I mean I'm still wearing my down jacket.
It's time to be vegan again.

For longer this time because it makes me feel better.  It makes me feel energetic.  I've been so lethargic lately and I've been yawning in all of my lectures.  I feel rude and unproductive.  So goodbye, meat, fish, dairy, eggs, and honey.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Poached Egg, Avocado, Herbs, & Tahini on Toast, and Beautiful Bloggers

First, Beautiful Bloggers. 

The rules:
• Copy the Beautiful Blogger Award logo and place it in your post.
• Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.
• Tell us 7 things about yourself.
• Nominate 7 other bloggers for their own Beautiful Blogger Award, and comment on their blogs to let them know.
© Design by Neat Design Corner