Tuesday, September 29, 2009

September 27, 2009: OMG omelettes with hash browns

Michael could not stop thinking about the chorizo-style vege sausages that Kristy brought to the T-house potluck. And with a few dollars still left on a gift voucher for a local bookshop, I did not need to be coerced into buying the chorizo source, Vegan Brunch. This is the latest cookbook from Isa "Veganomicon" Chandra Moskowitz and it's stuffed with reasons to spend the weekend's mornings lounging round the kitchen or to eat breakfast for dinner - alongside the scrambled tofu, hash browns and pancakes I expected are polenta rancheros, pierogi, dosas and *gasp* omelettes.

I didn't really expect the omelette to be up there amongst vegans' most missed foods but there are 11 versions of this usually-eggy dish right up front of this book and a few rave reviews amongst the blogs I read. Given that we're currently suffering from some kind of gluten flour drought, I set the sausage recipes aside and hoped that an omelette filled with capsicum and store-bought sausages would compensate. And, oh, how it compensated! Managing omelettes and omelette fillings and hash browns, toast and cheesy sauce got a little harried (OK, it actually got a lot cursey and cranky and oh-why-can't-Michael-just-fix-this) but the results were SPEC. TAC. U. LAR.

So how do you make an omelette without breaking a few eggs? Unsurprisingly, you start with a food processor and some silken tofu. A pinch of turmeric for that yellow colour. Garlic and nutritional yeast are standard seasonings for such vegan savouries, and then things get interesting. Chickpea flour, for example. It adds a little something that you probably wouldn't recognise in a blind taste test but it's there and it's awesome. Then there's the black salt. Ever heard of this stuff? You can buy it from Indian groceries, either in dark greyish-pink rocks or ground into paler pink powder. It's salty, of course, but it has this sulfurous quality that is distinctly eggy. When I dipped an enquiring finger into the batter all I could say was "Whoah". When Michael, the veteran eater of eggy breakfasts, dug into his plateful his first words were, "It's so weird that this is vegan".

The cheesy sauce that we poured over the top deserves a little "whoah" of its own. Perhaps the recipe won't shock or exhilarate the accomplished vegan cook, but it's a thick white sauce with some character and some room for variation and I'll definitely use it again. Finally, I trialled the individual baked hash browns. The potato grating and squishing reminded me of the Hungarian potato pancakes we've previously made, though I didn't get my hopes up that this oven-baking, oil-spraying job would earn us anything with such a crispy golden crust. But what do I know? These were perfectly crispy-golden out, with a generous creamy centre. Another keeper!

If getting a good cafe breakfast around here weren't so easy and cheap, a book like this could have me swearing off them entirely. As it is, I'll simply swear that Isa's a genius, and very likely swear at my delusional ambition when I try to cook three of her recipes simultaneously.

Oh, and one last tip for the omelettes. The first one I made ended up scrambled 'cause I couldn't flip it over. My advice is to go against Isa's; use a lot of oil to keep it from sticking and cook it for waaaaaay longer than the recommended 3-5 minutes on the first side. You need that sucker cooked right through, 'til it's firm even on the top side, before you even think about flipping it over.

OMG tofu omelettes
(based on the recipe in Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz)

In a food processor blend together 300g silken tofu, 1 minced clove of garlic, 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast, 1 tablespoon olive oil, a generous pinch of turmeric and 1/2 teaspoon of black salt. When the mixture is smooth, add 1/3 cup chickpea flour and 2 teaspoons arrowroot (or cornflour) and blend again, scraping down any mixture from the sides to ensure even mixing.

For the filling, roughly chop 2 garlic chives, half a capsicum and 3 vege sausages. Heat a teaspoon or two of oil in a frypan and saute the chives, capsicum and sausages until the capsicum is tender and the outside of the sausages crisps up a little. Set the filling aside.

Heat a further tablespoon of oil in the frypan. Pour about half the omelette mixture into the frypan and use a spatula to gently spread it out into a flat circle. Cook the omelette until it has firmed up all the way through (I found this took ~10 minutes, not the 3-5 minutes estimated in the original recipe). I tend to gently shake the pan a couple of times along the way to make sure the omelette hasn't stuck. Only when you're sure it's ready should you attempt to flip the omelette! It will take only a minute to cook on the other side. Set the first omelette aside, keeping it warm, and repeat with the remaining mixture.

To serve, place the omelettes on plates, arrange the fillings on half of the omelettes and fold over the other half. Pour over some cheesy sauce if you're in the mood for it.

Cheesy sauce
(based on the recipe in Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz)

In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup water, 1/2 teaspoon 'chicken' stock powder and 1 tablespoon flour.

Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a small saucepan and gently cook 1 minced clove of garlic for a minute or so. Add a pinch of dried thyme, a pinch of salt and a few shakes of pepper. Add the flour-stock mix, a pinch of turmeric and 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast. Whisk and cook the mixture constantly for about 3 minutes, until it thickens. Stir through a teaspoon of champagne vinegar (or lemon juice) and 1/2 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, and season it to taste.

Baked hash browns
(based on the recipe in Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz)

Preheat the oven to 200°C and spray a muffin pan with oil.

Peel and grate 500g of waxy potatoes. You need to squeeze as much water as you can out of them; Isa did this by bundling them into cheesecloth but I just used clean hands and a colander. Transfer the squished potato to a bowl, and stir through 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon cornflour and generous pinches of salt and pepper.

Spoon the potato mixture into the muffin pan, filling them up to the top (I think I made about 8). Bake the hash browns for about 30 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and crunchy.


  1. mmm I love a good brunch at home - this looks excellent = would be curious to see if I liked the vegan omlette more than egg omlette

  2. I miss omelettes and also scrambled eggs a bit - it's hard to replace that texture and taste. Scramfu is awesome but it's not quite the same... will definitely be trying out some eggy brunch dishes from the book when I get it. BREAKFAST POTLUCK!

  3. Johanna, I likewise wonder if you would like these; I certainly enjoy the tofu/chickpea flour mix more than the standard egg one.

    Lisa, that's interesting... I guess I'm not a big egg eater and would generally prefer a silken scramfu anyway. This black salt might just provide the flavour you're after!

  4. Currently having a bit of a love affair with tofu and nutritional yeast. Must be lacking in B vitamins, but anyway, I'm going to give this a go on Saturday, Cindy. YUM. Book sounds good, too.

  5. Me too! I quite like the 'cheesiness' of a nooch/tofu mix. If you track down the black salt you'll be floored by the resemblance to eggs. If not, you're still in for a treat. :-)