Sunday, June 23, 2019

Ottolenghi birthday feast

May 26, 2019


I had a big birthday recently and hosted a shindig at one of our old favourite pubs with a bunch of mates. I finished the night loaded down with presents, including a stunning set of Global knives from my work colleagues. They supplemented the knives with a box full of produce, providing the key ingredients for three (3!) different Ottolenghi dishes. I had left Sunday completely free, so I spent the day working my way through all of them. 

There were a couple of pretty easy dishes: cauliflower, pomegranate and pistachio salad from Simple and roasted pumpkin wedges with chestnut, cinnamon & fresh bay leaves from the web. The cauliflower was pretty excellent - a mix of grated raw and tender roasted cauli, with the classic Ottolenghi additions of pomegranate and a variety of herbs.


The pumpkin was a bit let down by our inability to locate fresh bay leaves and a general ambivalence towards chestnuts - the maple and sage roasting mix worked well though. 


The final dish (pictured at the top) was the most complex: butternut squash with ginger tomatoes and lime yoghurt from Nopi - we used the version on Ottolenghi's website. There are a lot of steps to this - roast the pumpkin, roast the tomatoes for two hours with a spice paste and make up a yoghurt sauce. None of it's very hard, but it's a time consuming affair - you really need to have most of the day free to make this work. It's worth the time though - the ginger tomatoes provide a sharp, acidic burst that cuts through the sweet pumpkin, while the yoghurt smooths things out and the peanuts and shallots give you some crunch. It's a showstopper of a side dish.


Butternut pumpkin with ginger tomatoes & lime yoghurt
(slightly adapted from a recipe on Ottolenghi's website)

1 medium butternut pumpkin, unpeeled, halved lengthways, seeds removed, then cut into 1 inch slices
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 tomatoes, halved lengthways
3cm piece of ginger, finely grated
1 red chilli, seeded diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons palm sugar
salt and pepper

120g Greek yoghurt
zest and juice of a lime
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

small bunch coriander, roughly chopped
1/2 cup roasted cashews
10g crispy fried shallots

Preheat the oven to 240°C.

Mix the pumpkin with two tablespoons of the oil, two teaspoons of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Spread them out on a baking tray and bake for 40 minutes until golden-brown. Set aside.

Turn the oven down to 170°C. Pop the tomatoes on a baking tray, skin-side down. Sprinkle each of them with salt, drizzle with the rest of the olive oil and cook for 80 minutes.

While they're baking make up your paste - mix together the ginger, chilli, garlic, sugar and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt into a thick paste. Spoon this mixture on top of the tomatoes and bake for another 40 minutes, until it caramelises. 

Stir the lime juice, zest and cardamom through the yoghurt. 

Spread the pumpkin slices out and top with the tomatoes, lime yoghurt, nuts, coriander and crispy shallots and serve.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Serious Eats vegan brownies

May 24, 2019


I can always rely on Serious Eats for a thoughtful but complicated way around vegan food, and so it was with their vegan brownie recipe. Calling for cocoa butter, soy milk powder and dry malt extract, I had to move beyond my own pantry and even my local shops to ready myself.

Though I'd never bought cocoa butter before, I knew it was achievable, and I was keen to bring another chocolate-based product in for the fatty component. Dry malt extract was harder, and I ended up settling for a syrup. Soy milk powder proved impossible, and I had some memory of seeing coconut milk powder around the place. Out of desperation I bought creamed coconut and this was a big mistake. My first batch of these brownies oozed with oil, and it solidified into a white tide mark around the cooled squares. 

Nevertheless, they tasted great. Very, very chocolatey but also complex with that malt and a pinch of coffee. And there was this slightly elastic chewiness to them that I was into, like a thick caramel. I wanted to make them work. 

The clue was in reading the recipe through a couple more times. It was designed to be packaged up as a dry mix to store in the pantry (just add boiling water and vanilla!) but that wasn't necessarily what I needed. Why use soy milk powder and boiling water when you could just use... soy milk? And how about melting the chocolate instead of processing it until it was "as powdery and fine as flour"? I rearranged the ingredient list, thinking about how brownies are typically made, and came up with the streamlined version that has worked best. I made a new, more successful test batch, and then a double batch for Michael's birthday, and then some more to use up the cocoa butter and share at a crafternoon.

This recipe and this brownie won't be everyone's favourite. It's got fussy ingredients, it's very intensely flavoured, it's barely cakey and the edges can even be tough if overbaked. But it's my kinda brownie, and it's going to take a lot to shift my allegiance to another recipe. 


Serious Eats vegan brownies
(adapted from this recipe)

2 1/4 cups icing sugar
1/2 cup plain flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup cocoa butter
1 generous tablespoon malt syrup
1/2 cup soy milk
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1 generous teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat an oven to 180°C. Line a 20cm-square baking tray with paper and lightly spray it with oil.

In a medium-large bowl, sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa, salt, espresso powder and baking powder.

Set a medium-large saucepan over low-medium heat. Melt the cocoa butter in it; whisk in the malt syrup and soy milk. When the mixture is well-combined and hot, turn off the heat and stir in the chocolate chips, continuing to whisk until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients and then the vanilla, until the batter is smooth. 

Pour the batter into the baking tray. Sprinkle something over the top if you like: there are pomegranate seeds in the pictured ones; I've also left them plain, dropped frozen raspberries in, and marbled peanut butter through other batches. Bake for around 35 minutes, until the edges are firm and the centre is a little bit wobbly.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Jamie Oliver's vegan brownies

May 18, 2019


When I put the call out for everyone's favourite vegan brownie recipes, a helpful person in a facebook group pointed me to Jamie Oliver's recipe. I liked that it was based on the kinds of ingredients I always have at home, and that the batter included both cocoa and melted dark chocolate for a deep chocolate flavour. There's some extra chocolate chips and pecans folded in at the end, too. Though I'd normally be very keen on the nuts, I thought it'd be fairer to skip them as I compare recipes.

As you can see in the photo above, this brownie is certainly fudgy rather than cakey! But without anything to replace the eggs that form such a key part of non-vegan brownies, the texture was a bit... paste-y. I could definitely see myself making these again on a raid-the-pantry whim, but they weren't my One True Brownie.


Jamie Oliver's vegan brownies
(slightly adapted from a recipe on his website)

200g dark chocolate chips
170g self-raising flour
3 teaspoons cocoa
180g caster sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup soy milk
1/3 cup sunflower oil
1 teaspoon vanilla


Preheat an oven to 180°C. Line a 20 cm square baking tray with paper and lightly spray it with oil.

Melt 150g of the chocolate by your preferred method (I use a double boiler-type set-up), and set it aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour and cocoa. Stir in the sugar and salt. Stir in the soy milk, oil, vanilla and melted chocolate until everything is well combined. Fold through the remaining chocolate.

Pour the brownie batter into the baking tray and smooth over the top. Bake the brownie for 20-25 minutes until the edges are cooked but the centre is still wobbly.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

BBQ beans

May 4, 2019


Tash contributed not one, but two, recipes to my lab cookbook. After the excellence of the shortbread cookies, I knew I'd be onto a good thing here. These BBQ beans have a slightly longer ingredient list that the biccies, but a short weeknight-friendly method: all the sauce ingredients go straight into a blender, and then the sauce is simmered with drained canned beans for 15 minutes. Done-diddly-un.


That leaves plenty of time to get arrange them into something dinner-shaped. I commenced with vegan nachos, and a day or two later I moved on to toasties. These beans are sweet and a bit smoky, not nearly as spicy as I feared they'd be: a natural fit for burritos, bowls, and big breakfast cook-ups.


BBQ beans
(a recipe shared by Tash,
who credits it to Thug Kitchen)

1/2 onion, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cloves garlic
4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1/4 cup vege stock
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon tamari
2 x 400g cans black beans

Place all of the ingredients except for the beans in a food processor, and blend them to form a smooth sauce. Pour the sauce into a saucepan over medium-low heat. Drain the beans and stir them into the sauce. Simmer everything until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Jenny's apple cake

April 28, 2019


We missed Simon and Noni's housewarming, but we invited ourselves over for tea soon afterwards when they adopted puppy Arnold. There was plenty of time in the morning to bake a welcome-to-your-own-neighbourhood cake. For the task I picked out Jenny's apple cake, actually shared by Jane in the lab farewell cookbook.

This cake has exactly the ingredient list you'd expect of a traditional apple cake, although the technique and proportions are a little skewed! There's no electric beater here, just a thick dough brought together in a saucepan, and barely enough of it to bind together the large quantity of apples. In her notes Jane assured me "the mixture is soft and breaks but it still works", and she was right. It's exactly the homely afternoon treat you'd imagine, sturdy enough to strap onto the back of a bike, and perfect with a cup of tea once it arrives at its destination.


Jenny's apple cake
(a recipe shared by Jane)

6 apples
2 whole cloves
120g butter
120g sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice (I used ginger, cloves, cardamom)
1 egg
1 1/2 cups plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat an oven to 180°C. Line a round springform cake tin with baking paper and spray it with oil.

Peel, core and coarsely dice the apples. Place them in a medium saucepan with a splash of water and the cloves and cook them over low-medium heat, stirring often, until the apples a just cooked through: they should have softened a little but still be holding their shape. Set aside to cool, and remove the cloves.

In another saucepan, melt the butter and then turn off the heat. Stir in the sugar, then the spices, then the egg. Finally, stir in the flour to form a dough. Scoop just over half of the dough into the cake tin and spread it evenly over the base. Turn all of the cooked apples into the cake tin and spread them out evenly. Dot the top of the cake with tablespoons of the remaining dough, filling in the gaps without being too fussy about it (see pic above).

Bake the cake for 40 minutes, and leave it in the tin for a further 30 minutes before serving.