Sunday, August 30, 2009

Birthday party food

Last night M had a sleepover/dinner party for her 7th birthday.

She asked if the food could be a make-your-own pizza, followed by make-your-own ice-cream Sundays. That sounded easy, so that was our menu. We also put out some chips (crisps for any non-Australia readers) and had a cake.

I used the recipe from Vegan With a Vengeance for the pizza bases. I made a triple batch. I made two large pizzas for Mr Brisvegan, J and I. I then made 8 little,15-20 cm pizza bases for the children to decorate. It went really well. I put out BBQ sauce, tomato paste and a range of toppings. Each child had their own base, on oven paper with their name on it. They each made their own pizza and I put it in a hot oven for 10-15 minutes (3 to a tray) until it was cooked. I think that next time, I would make even smaller bases, as most of the kids only ate around 1/2 their pizza as they were busy playing and talking. Though they did not eat everything, they loved the idea and happily ate their own creations.

I caved and put out cow cheese, as most of the children are not veg*n and I wanted M's party to go smoothly. The children, Mr Brisvegan and J had cow cheese pizzas, so I did not take a photo for the blog.

I had this one:

It was topped with mediterranean relish, vege dogs, zucchini, yellow capsicum, mushroom, kalamata olives, jalapenos, grape tomatoes and a scattering of Tofutti american cheese slices, broken into little pieces.

They followed the pizzas with icecream (again, cow-milk cased), with a selection of toppings. No-one was game to try the So-good icecream, though my kids are likely to eat it all today. For toppings, I hit the Cruelty Free Shop website last week. We had chocolate buttons, chocolate sprinkles, vegan strawberry jelly, strawberries. We also had supermarket icecream topping. Again, the children loved this idea.

Finally, we had this cake:

M wanted a chocolate cake with strawberries. It was the basic chocolate cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I doubled it. I then used the strawberry filling that Isa suggests for strawberry tall cakes (under the recipe for basic vanilla cupcakes, in the same book), which is basically strawberries with a little maple syrup, let sit for half an hour. I layered the cake with the macerated strawberries and vanilla "buttercreme". I topped it with more "buttercreme," fresh strawberries and some vegan chocolate sprinkles. The buttercreme is based on Rene's Vanilla Frosting from La Dolce Vegan. I used an extra 2/3 cup icing mixture, a good large pinch of salt and less vanilla. I find that the frosting is too soft if you follow the 2 cup recipe.

After a movie (Bedtime Stories) some children went home and some children stayed overnight for a sleepover. The sleepover crew had another movie and giggled and talked until 11pm. There will be several sleepy people in some Brisbane homes today!

M just typed "I loved it."

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Japanese Inspired Dinner

My whole family love Japanese food. Other people's kids whine for lollies at the shops, but for mine, it's sushi. The tasty tofu-wrapped sushi called inari is a perpetual favourite.

In my recent trip to the Asian supermarket at Sunnybank (opposite the old Magic Wok premises), I bought a pack of inari wrappers. Then I was shopping and saw a vegan tempura mix on the supermarket shelves (Trident brand).

So, this meant that a Japanese inspired dinner was on the menu.

Here there are inari sushi, vegetable tempura and caramel tofu.

Inari are small packets of thin flexible marinated tofu wrapped around sushi rice. To make the inari, I used a pack of 40 inari wrappers and an entire Sunrice sushi rice pack, made according to the packet's instructions. Simply insert the rice in the prepared wrappers. Use enough rice in each wrapper to allow the packet of marinated tofu to fold shut at the bottom.

The caramel tofu is made as per my previous post.

The tempura was pumpkin, sweet potato, mushrooms, beans, zucchini and carrot, sliced finely other than the beans and mushrooms. Prepare the vegetables and then simply follow the directions on the batter mix packet. My favourite tempura was the delicious small whole mushrooms.

Everyone loved the inari and tofu, as usual. The two younger children were less enthused about the vegetables, but then they are not vegetable enthusiasts. Mr Brisvegan, J and I loved the tempura. J happily ate some of the other kids' left over tempura (as did I!). This is the sort of food that you can easily feed to the general omnivore public, as they are traditional recipes that are naturally vegan. They don't scan as "weird vegan food".

The remaining inari were used for school lunches the next day. They do well in an insulated lunch box, with a cold brick or two.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My Heart Garden restaurant

Last week I worked late at an event at the University of Queensland at St Lucia (even though that's not my Uni). It was a very well organised student run event and JATL are to be congratulated on their work.

Afterward I called into My Heart Garden restaurant on Hawken Drive. It is a vegetarian, mostly vegan, restaurant. The food is influenced by many cuisines, with some Malay and fusion food, though there are also salads, lentil loaves, wraps and burgers. They also have a good range of sweets. I was lucky to find them still open, as they were packing up when I arrived. However, they happily made me a quick and delicious meal.

I got a burger and a slice of vegan maple pumpkin cheesecake, to go. As I was starving, I wolfed down the burger without taking a photo, though you can see the maple pumpkin cheesecake above. The burger was amazing. It has apparently won a PeTA award for Best Burger 2009 and I can see why. The burger patty was mildly spicy, lentil-based but firm and chewy. It was served on a fresh panini with vegan coleslaw, shredded beetroot and salad. The sweet dressing from the coleslaw perfectly offset the savoury spice of the burger.

For dessert, the cheesecake was good. It had a mild sweet pumpkin, maple flavour. It had a good, though slightly soft texture. There was no strong "cheese" flavour, but that would have distracted from the sweet pumpkin flavour.

My Heart Garden is a nice little restaurant, with simple outdoor seating and excellent food. It's worth a go, if you are anywhere near St Lucia. I have also been at an event that they catered (apparently their first, which was a surprise) which had excellent food.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pasta with peas and preserved beancurd

I had read a while back that fermented tofu aka preserved tofu aka stinky tofu was a bit like blue cheese. Pregan, I loved blue cheese, especially in pasta sauces or with gnocchi.

A few weeks ago, I went shopping in an Asian supermarket (at Sunnybank, opposite the defunct Magic Wok for my Brisbane readers). There on the shelf, I saw fermented tofu. My mind immediately went "Aha - like blue cheese - BUY IT!" However, I was cautious and only bought the little 150g bottle. I bought the white version, without chilli, as I thought that that would better fit my stinky cheese cravings. It is officially called Hunsty Sze Chuan Preserved Beancurd.

So what is it like? It is bitter and salty, a lot like blue cheese. It has a soft creamy mouthfeel, a bit like soft cheese. Though it is sharper and more tangy, it has an almost "too much" flavour, in the same way that a good blue cheese danced on the edge of being objectionable. It does not taste like a blue cheese, but it has many of the same characteristics for me. I have hit the vegan replacement jackpot. Next time I will buy the big bottle!

I have tried it with bread and liked it. Last night, as the kids had already eaten sushi when we went for a drive to Mt Glorious, I decided to make a quick pasta sauce with the stinky tofu. I have scaled up the recipe below from my single serve.

Pasta with Peas and Preserved Beancurd

Serves 6

1 large onion, sliced lengthways into fine slices
1/2 teaspoon sugar
4 tablespoons good peppery extra virgin olive oil (can be reduced if you don't like too much oil)
2 cups frozen peas
300 g pasta (or more for big eaters)
250g white preserved/stinky tofu, drained (the weight includes with the liquid - reserve liquid for now)
Good bunch oregano (approx 1/2 cup leaves), with a few sprigs reserved for garnish
Salt and black pepper to taste.
  1. Cook pasta, following packet directions.
  2. Cook peas for a few minutes only, until hot but not mushy
  3. While the pasta and peas are cooking, gently fry onion in a large pan with a little olive oil. Add the sugar to the onion while it is cooking. Cook until it is translucent. Remove from heat.
  4. Once the pasta and peas are cooked, stir all ingredients together in the pan with the onion. The preserved tofu should dissolve and barely coat the pasta.
  5. Heat pasta gently, if necessary, to make it hot and to wilt the oregano. Taste. Adjust seasoning. If you wish a stronger stinky tofu flavour, add a little of the reserved tofu liquid (be careful, it's strong).
  6. Serve garnished with reserved oregano sprigs.
This really reminded me of pasta dressed with blue cheese. I loved it. My single serve ended up split with Z, who is a pasta fiend. He pronounced it "great, the best ever" and asked for me to make it again. I offered tastes to the others. J said it was "meh", but he has never liked blue cheese. Another blue cheese hater, Mr BrisVegan said it was "not me", which tends to confirm my impression that it was a good blue cheese facsimile. Miss M refused to try it.

I think that this recipe would also be great with roast pumpkin, pine nuts and sage replacing the peas and oregano.

Possum Proofing

Remember this guy?

Well, apparently he loves snow pea and pea sprouts. This is what he and his family have been doing to my pea plants:

So I am trialling this to try to actually get peas and snow peas past 2 cm high:

I may have left this a bit late in the season considering that today is t-shirt and shorts weather (two weeks from the official end of winter).

If I ever have succulent fresh peas, I promise to make something good out of them. Any suggestions?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Gratuitous cat post

Who has been sleeping in Z's bed?


My week and Peking "Duck"

My poor blog has been ignored this last week. I have had a rather hectic week.

Last weekend I stayed on the Gold Coast. A friend, Tania, hosted a girl's weekend for 4 of us on the Coast. We stayed at the Watermark, had massages, saw a show at the Casino and cruised the shops.

How was the food for a vegan? As I was with 3 omnis, and Tania had prebooked packages, I ate in non-veg restaurants all weekend. The Watermark's restaurants were very happy to make a lunch (pasta with fresh vegetables and a tomato sauce) and hot breakfast (mushrooms, tomato, beans, hash brown, toast and cold buffet items). I also found the buffet at the casino to be willing to cater for a vegan. I asked which items were vegan. The chef indicated the few salad items and then made me pasta with tomato and spinach sauce and steamed veges with no butter. They brought so much food, I couldn't finish it (which is a lot because I can eat a pretty good amount of pasta).

Through the week, I have been working late-ish, so food was pretty boring and basic. Therefore, no pictures.

Last night I called at an asian supermarket on the way home. (The one at Sunnybank, in the carpark, opposite where Magic Wok used to be, for my Brisbane readers.) I bought vegan wrappers and vegan "duck." We had peking "duck" for dinner. It was a very easy dinner, but a bit away from simple pasta.

In the picture, you can see the wrappers, soy-based "duck", carrot, cucumber and thinned hoisin sauce. Each person took some of each and made a little parcel.

We also had spring rolls, BBQ buns, turnip cakes and rice (not pictured, obviously).

We had extra children at our place for dinner, as I was babysitting for my sister. They were omni kids. They liked the vegan spring rolls. The 10 year old had a couple of wrappers. The 8 year old only liked the rice and spring rolls, but he is a bit selective about even omni food.

My family followed the same split. J, Mr BrisVegan and I all liked the peking "duck" in the wrappers with cucumber, carrot and sauce and ate all the sides. The younger 2, Z and M, did not like the wrappers, but ate heaps of the "duck" which they always like. They also loved the BBQ buns, rice and spring rolls.

I think that pre-made wrappers might be good for a party snack.