Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Specials Board: Courgette "Cheese"

Courgette "Cheese" and Vegan Mofo Day 17
I had such a great success with my Broad Bean "Cheese" recipe that I decided to try something similar with other vegetables. As I have a glut of courgettes and pattypans I decided to use them to experiment with.

As courgettes can be quite bland especially when they are larger, I tried to give it a cheese like taste, tricking your taste buds! Now, I wouldn't say this was as successful as my broad bean cheese but it turned out OK. The cheesiness wasn't overpowering and when I make it again I would add more flavour. I based the flavour on my healthy mac 'n' cheese sauce, which also uses a pattypan for the base of the sauce. Vegetables in disguise!

The texture isn't like a hard cheese either, if I'm honest its more like a blancmange texture, so if you're fussy about textures this may not be for you. The recipe makes enough mixture to fill 2 ceramic blocks which hold 300ml of liquid each. The recipe could easily be halved or you could just fill one container. I filled two as I wanted to add another ingredient to the second container to see if it made much difference, and it did! See below for my notes.

The recipe could easily be adapted to suit other flavours or indeed other vegetables, give it a whirl and let me know about your tweaks and experiments.

Ingredients 

500g Pattypan/Yellow courgette, diced
(weight after seeds have been removed)

3 Tbsp Nutritional yeast (heaped)
1 Tsp Mustard powder
½ Tsp Turmeric
¼ Tsp Herbamare
20g Cashews
200ml Almond milk (unsweetened)
2 Tbsp Agar agar flakes

Method
Add the pattypan squash or yellow courgette to a saucepan along with 100ml of water and cook for 10 minutes. You could use a steamer instead if you have one. Drain well and transfer to a blender

Add the nutritional yeast, mustard powder, turmeric, herbamare and cashews. Leave, do not try and process the mixture.

In a clean suacepan add the milk and sprinkle over 1 Tbsp of agar agar flakes. Slowly bring to a boil without stirring. Once the milk has reached boiling point stir and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes stirring every now and again until the agar agar flakes have dissolved.

Pour the milk mixture into the blender and blend at full power (remembering to put the lid on) for a couple of minutes making sure that everything has been incorporated and you have a smooth liquid.

Transfer back to the saucepan and sprinkle over the remaining agar agar flakes. Bring the mixture back to a boil and reduce the heat so the mixture is simmering. Stir to mix in the agar agar flakes and simmer for another 10 minutes or until the agar agar flakes have dissolved.

Pour into containers and leave to go cool before transferring to the fridge. Leave over night before turning out onto a board.

NOTES:
Before pouring the mixture into the second container I added 1 Tsp of garlic powder and ensured it was well incorporated. The taste completely changed and I think I preferred this version if I used the 'cheese' to top crackers.

I also think that chilli flakes would make a great addition and a clove of garlic instead of the garlic powder would work well too. The addition of porcini powder would also be nice and give the 'cheese' a little more depth. See, there are so many concoctions to try, go and have fun with it! 

I'll definitely be making some more varieties and it is a healthy alternative for snacking on.




As well as eating the courgette 'cheese' to top crackers I also tried it on pizza and I was pleasantly surprised with the results. It got a little messy when I grated the 'cheese', but it did grate. I also tried slices of the 'cheese' to top a pizza, which also worked well. The cheese doesn't melt like regular cheese, it holds its shape but does go softer. 

It added that creaminess of cheese to the pizza and I'll definitely be using it again for a pizza topping, I'm guessing its a lot less calorific than vegan cheese too as its based on vegetables. I can't wait to experiment further with this!




Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Specials board: Runner Bean & Rosemary Soup

Runner Bean & Rosemary Soup and Vegan Mofo Day 16
At the start of Vegan Mofo I posted a recipe using my runner beans, but I told you I was a bit disappointed with them as some of them were a little stringy, probably because my seeds are too old. If I'm honest it did put me off them a little although if I keep picking them regularly and when they are young they aren't stringy at all! But on the days where I have forgotten to harvest or have just run out of time I kick myself as one day too many on the plant they seem to become stringy. 

Today I had quite a handful and some weren't young enough for me to eat as they are. As I wondered what I could do with them, I hate to throw out (compost) good food, a light bulb went on above my head. Soup! I bet they would blend down nicely into a silky smooth soup and I wasn't wrong.

I decided to pair the runner beans with a herb and once again I decided this had to be rosemary. The fragrant smell of the leaves is almost like the plant is saying pick me, pick me! So I did!

Ingredients - serves 2 
 
300g Runner beans
(215g prepared weight)

1 Garlic clove
500ml Boiling water
2 Tsp Vegetable bouillon powder
1 Bay leaf
3 Sprigs of rosemary
2 Tsp Fresh rosemary, chopped
1 Tbsp Lemon juice

Method

Put the prepared beans and garlic in a saucepan. Mix the vegetable bouillon powder with the boiling water and pour over the beans and garlic. 

Add the bay leaf and prigs of rosemary. Bring to the boil and reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf and sprigs of rosemary and transfer to a blender. Add 1-2 Tsp of fresh rosemary and the lemon juice and blend until silky smooth.

As I was blending my soup I also added a couple of teaspoons of the cream 'cheese' with rosemary that I made yesterday just to add a touch of creaminess.



Monday, 15 September 2014

Specials Board: Cream 'Cheese' with Rosemary

Cream 'Cheese' with Rosemary & Vegan Mofo Day 15
We're half way through September and I haven't posted any recipes using herbs from my garden so I thought I should rectify that today. Currently in my little herb garden I have rosemary, sage, curry plant, oregano, thyme, lemon balm, mint (garden & Moroccan), basil, parsley, perilla and tarragon. 

I love the smell of rosemary, you just have to brush past it and you can smell the fragrant leaves. It makes me feel hungry every time I smell it! This is perfect for a snackage and a great filler for a lunch wrap or used as a dip.

Ingredients
120g Cashews
500ml Water
2 Tsp Fresh rosemary, chopped
1 Garlic clove
2 Tbsp Nutritional yeast
1 Tsp Lemon juice
¼ Tsp Herbamare
60ml Water

Method
Soak the cashews in the 500ml water for at least 1 hour. If you haven't got a super fast blender I'd soak them for longer even over night. Drain the cashews and rinse well.

Transfer the cashews to a blender along with the remaining ingredients and blend to a smooth paste. Transfer to a small bowl, cover and chill.



Sunday, 14 September 2014

Specials Board: Damson Gin - Ready for Christmas!

Damson Gin & Vegan Mofo Day 14
The other day whilst out walking with Marco, I came across a secret sloe berry hideaway, purely by chance. Marco was off sniffing something and after following him through a small wood which was pretty rough underfoot in places I came across a beautiful sloe tree full of lovely sloe berries. Straight away I thought no-one else knows about this! There was no footprints or trails through the undergrowth to suggest someone had been there before. My luck was in! After a closer inspection I thought the sloe berries needed another week or so on the bush, they were a little on the small side and they didn't quite yield when the berry was lightly squeezed like they would if they were fully ripe. They are early this year, you normally have to wait until October or after the first frost. If the sloe tree was in a place where people would walk past I would have picked the berries but as I had found it purely by accident and there was no sign that someone had been there before I decided to leave them and come back in a week or so. 

BIG MISTAKE!!!!

I've since been back, I even drew myself a little map so I could find them again and I was devastated to find that the tree had been stripped bare! I could have cried, even Marco picked up on my disappointment. There wasn't a single berry left on the tree, not even near the top. Whoever had found the tree after I had, hadn't picked to the foraging code, you never ever strip a tree, bush or even an area of its produce. You should only take a small amount for your own consumption. I was heartbroken, full stop, and I could have kicked myself for not taking just a few when I first found it.

Thankfully I had managed to get some damsons on an earlier visit to the community orchard where my parents live. So instead of making Sloe Gin I have made Damson Gin. I've made Damson Gin for quite a few years as I am lucky enough to have a friend with 3 damson trees who is more than happy to give me some big bags of damsons and in return I make her some jam. If you make this now it'll just be at its peak for drinking at Christmas, and it makes an excellent Christmas present.

Ingredients
520g Damsons
130g Granulated sugar
1 Litre Gin

Method
As soon as you pick your damsons, wash and dry them and freeze straight away. Freezing the damsons saves you the mammoth task of pricking each fruit so it releases the juice into the gin. Its a massive time saver and I thoroughly recommend it. Its the first year I have done this as I've only just bought a freezer, but I really don't know how I managed without it before. When I've pricked each damson in the past it has taken me hours!

On the day you decide to make the Gin, remove the damsons from the freezer and defrost. As they defrost you will notice that the bowl you are defrosting them in starts to show some of that lovely pink juice.

Once the damsons have defrosted, add a few damsons to a large kilner jar that you have sterilised. Top with some sugar and repeat until all the damsons and sugar have been used.

Top the mixture with gin, fasten the top and shake so that the sugar starts to dissolve. For the first day keep shaking the gin every couple of hours or so, then shake once every day for the first week. By the end of the first week all the sugar should have dissolved, but don't worry if you can still see some, keep shaking once a day. 

For the next 4 weeks turn the jar upside down and back upright every morning. Keep the jar in a cool dark place for up to 3 months. Then strain into sterilised bottles and seal.

If you make this now it'll be a great tipple for Christmas!

Layer the damsons and sugar
Add the Gin!
Damsons bathing in Gin
A Christmas Tipple