I need a schtick.

Not a lot to write about, really. I’m fully aware that most of my recent blog posts are just duplications of instant message conversations I have with Alan at work that I find funny, which – more likely than not – are of no interest to anyone other than myself.

I suppose pleasing myself is paramount.

But I think of you, dear reader. Ever accommodating, me.

So what is there to write about? My day-to-day life is a bit boring; let’s be honest here.

  1. Wake up
  2. Cycle
  3. Yoga
  4. Cycle
  5. Eat
  6. Drink coffee
  7. Work
  8. Eat
  9. Argue with people at work
  10. Find funny shit on the internet
  11. Eat
  12.  Work
  13. Drink coffee
  14. Work
  15. Cycle
  16. Drink
  17. Eat
  18. Watch bad television
  19. Eat
  20. Sleep

I used to cook a lot and originally did food blogging in this space. But, well, BORING. Instead, I’ve started drinking. And drinking? Now drinking is much more interesting. However the cooking+drinking thing is pretty much already taken. And – I could be wrong but – My Drunk Living Room probably wouldn’t be quite as entertaining.

Maybe I’ll just start interjecting lots of yiddish in my writing.

RSS Readers

Me: I don’t understand people who don’t have RSS Readers.

Alan: [non-committal noise]

Me: I mean, I’m going to subscribe to Linzi’s blog now so that I can read it whenever she updates [logging in to Google Reader]. Except I subscribe to a lot of blogs that I don’t read anymore.

Alan: That’s the problem with Readers, I guess. You can get overloaded.

Me: See, like all these vegetarian blogs. I never read them anymore. Because I don’t cook anymore. All I have time for is drinking. [unsubscribe all]

Vegan Autumnal Vegetable Stew

The weather lately has been turning colder.  It seems as if it was just last week when I left the flat wearing sandals and short skirts.  But at temperatures only creeping up to 16C yesterday, a hearty vegetable stew was on the cards for a lazy Sunday dinner.  Passing by the vegetable area at Sainsbury’s, I espied one of my favourite things: swedes (or rutabagas to the Americans).  When I first started cooking with swedes, I was really intimidated by them.  I even went into the supermarket with a grocery list I had constructed while attempting to create a cookbook recipe that called for swedes, not even knowing what they were; and after wandering the produce aisles, I eventually asked an employee where I could find the swedes, pretending as if I just couldn’t, for the life of me, find them.  I didn’t mention that I didn’t know what they looked like.

In any event, now I think they’re lovely.  Sweet and starchy balls of root-vegetable goodness, swedes bring you all the gastronomic brilliance of sweet potato but with a firmer texture that holds up well under slow-cooking conditions.  And they work marvellously in stews.

Autumnal Vegetable Stew

This stew is filled with hearty, stick-to-your-ribs ingredients.  It has no pretences of being a ‘balanced’ meal, carbohydrate-heavy as it is.  But I love it. Plus, the addition of brussel sprouts makes your mother happy.  Except they also make me happy.  I love brussel sprouts.

Ingredients

  • 1 swede, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 10 brussel sprouts, halved
  • 1 large potato (or two small potatoes), cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 400mL water
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp marjoram
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • dash of tamari (or soy sauce)

All right, this recipe is super easy.

Step One Prepare all your vegetable ingredients (chopping).  Heat the oil in a big pot, and throw in all your vegetables at once.  Stir over medium heat for 3 minutes.

Step Two Add your water, tomato paste, marjoram and bay leaf; stir to combine.  Raise the heat until you bring the mixture to a boil.  Immediately lower your heat to the lowest setting and cover.  Allow to simmer for at least 20 minutes, until all vegetables are tender (specifically the potato and swede pieces).  But, better yet, transfer your pot to your smallest burner; turn the burner on to the lowest setting; and allow the pot to simmer while covered for as long as you can stand it (the smell will start to entice you and make you hungry).

Step Three Once you can’t stand it any longer, turn off the heat and allow the pot to sit for at least another 10 minutes.  Butter some bread and ladle your stew into a bowl.  Splash your stew with a few dashes of tamari.  Eat stew with buttery bread.

(I have leftovers for lunch today.  Writing about this stew has made me hungry well before lunchtime.  Damnit.)

Yields 2 really big servings or 2 good-sized servings and 1lunch-sized serving.

Spaghetti with Red ‘Pesto’ Sauce

I made this recipe from Leah Leneman’s Vegan Cooking for One the other night, and I was really pleasantly surprised with it.  While Leneman suggests it as a main meal, both Red and I agreed that it wasn’t quite substantial enough as a main but that it was simple and easy enough to justify making it as part of a component meal.  You see, usually I’m anti-component meal because I’m lazy on weekdays and the idea of orchestrating more than one dish with multiple ingredients and steps doesn’t appeal.  And Red is anti-component meal because it requires him to do more washing up at the end of the night.

Anyway, so like I was saying, this was tasty and simple.  I will definitely make it again in the future alongside a component protein dish.

Also, I put pesto in quotes above because the recipe isn’t actually a pesto at all, as it doesn’t use pine  nuts or real parmesan.  But its substitutes are perfectly tasty.  And, really, it’s close enough.  Plus, I’m more likely to have almonds in my pantry than pine nuts.  Especially since I would probably only use pine nuts if I bought them for making pestos.  And I’m not known for my pestos or anything…
Spaghetti with Red Pesto Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 red pepper
  • 2 servings’ worth of dried wholewheat pasta
  • 2 spring onions, chopped roughly
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 sundried tomatoes in oil (or soaked in boiling water and drained if dried)
  • 30 g toasted slivered almonds
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp vegan parmesan
  • 1 tbsp water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh chopped basil, to garnish

[Yields 2 side servings]

Step One Deseed and halve the red pepper.  Place under a hot grill and cook until well charred.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Step Two Cook the spaghetti according to package instructions.

Step Three Once the red pepper has cooled sufficiently, rub off its skin with your fingers and then chop it roughly.  Add all of the ingredients (excepting the cooking pasta, obviously) to a food processor or blender.  Blend thoroughly.

Step Four Drain the spaghetti when it’s finished cooking and return it to the pot.  Chuck the pesto sauce you just made on top of the spaghetti.  Mix the pesto with the spaghetti over the lowest heat on the hob until everything is well combined.

Mmm.

Return to Form – Vegan ‘Beef’ and Mushroom Stroganoff

Okay, so we’re pretty much all moved in and settled.  The kitchen is (almost fully) stocked, much more so than my pantry/refrigerator ever was back in the studio flat in Bloomsbury, at least.  I’ve started trying to grow some potted herbs; right now I have basil, coriander and hot chilli.  We’re still waiting for some furniture from Ikea and to unpack the last of the boxes once it gets here, but this flat is starting to feel like home.  Well, it felt like home the moment we moved in.  I love our new flat.  Once we have the rest of the furniture, have unpacked and have hung the television and computer monitor in the sitting room, I’ll take some proper pictures of the flat and post them for all you voyeurs.  Plus, even though our landlady describe this place as ‘a hot flat’, it’s so not hot! After living in the sauna room that was 5C24 International Hall on Lansdowne Terrace in Bloomsbury, this place is like a fucking ice box.  Yay for cooking whatever I want in the middle of summer in my fabulous kitchen!

I’ve cooked various things in the new kitchen, but nothing new or particularly exciting simply because I haven’t got into the swing of things.  I’ve made some cookies, though.  Baking FTW!

Last night I cooked a mushroom stroganoff off the cuff.  I followed no recipe and just threw things in that I thought would be tasty and complementary.  But Red was going to a Yelp poker night near Victoria and then I decided to join him at the last second.  This meant that the stroganoff had time to sit and ferment, if you will.  And then it got to sit in the refrigerator for a day.  And then it was reheated for dinner tonight.  This gave the flavour a lot of time to develop, so it tasted great!  I’m sure it would have tasted good freshly cooked as well, but keep the developing time in mind if you ever choose to make something similar.  Stews and stroganoffs only taste better when reheated/eaten as leftovers.

mushroom stroganoff

Ingredients

  • 4 Portabello mushrooms, chopped coarsely
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 servings of soya mince (more or less to your preference)
  • 110mL soya cream
  • big dollop of soya sour cream
  • 150-200mL red wine
  • several splashes of vegan worcesteshire sauce
  • several splashes of liquid aminos
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • water as needed
  • salt and pepper to taste

Step One Caramelise the onion in the vegetable oil over medium-low heat (15-20 minutes) in a big pot.  Add the mushrooms, coating them with the onion mixture.  Add the red wine and sautee until mushrooms are soft and liquid has seeped from them.

Step Two Add the soya mince, soya cream, soya sour cream, worcesteshire sauce, liquid aminos, thyme and stir everything together.  Add water to create a soupy consistency.  Boil over medium heat uncovered for several minutes, until the mixture has reduced to a thick consistency (although still with a bit of watery-ness).  Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and simmer over the lowest heat for at least 20 minutes.  The longer it simmers, the better.  Check on the mixture periodically and add more water as necessary; never let the mixture start to stick to the bottom of the pot.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Step Three A (not necessary but makes it taste better) Remove from the heat and let sit for a couple hours.  Transfer to a container and refrigerate overnight.  Reheat over medium-low to low heat.

Step Three B Serve over cooked pasta of your choice.  (Buckwheat spiral pasta featured in photo)

Yields 2 big dinner portions, 3-4 smaller portions

Beans and Rice (part 1)

I had a ridonculous day today.  It started off well enough viewing flats in Wandsworth, but then when Red went to meet up with his brother who had come to London for the day, I resolved to get something done that I’d been putting off all week: taking back the fan we recently bought at Argos that stopped working.  Needless to say, it was no easy task, and I ended up carrying it for nearly a mile and then taking it on the Tube clear across London when the manager at the Argos near me was being an uber bitch.  For more detail about THAT situation, refer to my poetic rendition of the day already posted on Yelp.

So, after my day of intense aggravation and needless travel on London transportation, I thought to myself, ‘There is nothing I would like more now than an alcoholic beverage’.  So I picked up some cider on the way home and started drinking.  By myself.  After all the scornful walking and hauling ass up stairs on the Underground whilst carrying a cumbersome fan sticking out of its box and dodging tourists, I managed to burn off the paltry caloric intake I’d taken in earlier in the day, so the cider went right to my head.

But, being the kitchen warrior that I am, I perservered and managed to pull off a wonderful dinner in the slightly intoxicated state that I was (am) in.  I should add that I chop things a lot faster when I’m a bit drunk.  Although I do realise that I am lucky to have not lost a finger.

Down-South (American, that is) Beans and Rice of Delicious:

Yum-o-clock

Ingredients

  • 1 green pepper, chopped roughly
  • 1 small onion, chopped finely
  • 1 tin kidney beans
  • 200g chopped tomatoes (I use a small tin or half a large tin)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp hot sauce (or to taste… I would recommend Tabasco, but I’ll be honest and admit that I used Nando’s Hot Peri Peri Sauce)
  • salt to taste
  • 70g firm tofu
  • 3 tbsp liquid aminos
  • water
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • additional oil for deep frying

Step One A Press about 70g of firm tofu, then cut into little bits/strips (to simulate bacon bits).  Marinate for 30 minutes in some liquid aminos and water in a mug.  Deep fry for 3-4 minutes, until crispy.  You don’t need a deep-fat fryer for this, as the quantity is so small that you can just pour about 3 or 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil into a small pot and fry the tofu up in that.  Drain and set aside.

Step One B Cook two servings’ worth of brown rice.  For the absolute best, foolproof way of cooking brown rice, click here.  (After you’ve read the instructions on that link, if you’re wondering the measurements I use for two perfect servings of brown rice, it’s 115g brown rice to 180mL water.)

Step Two Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a pot.  Add your pepper, onion and garlic.  Saute for 4 minutes.  Add your tomatoes, cumin, thyme and bay leaf, cover the pot with a lid and cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Remove lid and chuck in your hot sauce, salt and tofu bits.  Move everything around with your spatula to make it look like you’re doing something important.  Remove the bay leaf, while you’re at it.

Step Three Serve with rice.

Delicious time.

Red said that the tofu bits simulated bacon surprisingly well, which was the goal.  Score 15 for experimental vegetarian cooking.

A Vaguely Asian Dinner

On the menu tonight are adapted ‘Thai’ recipes from various cookbooks I own.  I don’t know where these cookbook authors get off calling these things ‘Thai’, but they’re really nothing of the sort.  I might go as far as calling them Thai-ish, but I’m going to fairly describe this evening’s food festivities as ‘vaguely Asian’ but all-delicious.

First up, Thai-ish Black Bean Tofu Burgers with Peanut-Chive Sauce

Thai-ish burgers

Now,

a) I’ve never heard of a Thai hamburger.

b) There’s no mint OR basil in this, so I therefore don’t understand the Thai categorisation, but wevs.

c) The peanut sauce called for lemon juice instead of lime juice.  I had my suspicions about this but went ahead and followed its instructions.  It probably would have tasted slightly more Thai-like if I’d used lime instead.

d) There are rolled oats in there.  Since when have you heard of a Thai person waking up to nice steaming bowl of porridge?

Despite my qualms of mistaken regionalism, this was pretty tasty.  I obviously changed things around, quartered the recipe, and added and subtracted things as I saw fit. 

Burger Ingredients

  • 125g firm tofu, crumbled
  • half a regular-sized tin of black beans, drained and rinsed (230g is the regular size, so let’s say 115g of black beans)
  • About 30g rolled oats, uncooked
  • half a small red onion, diced finely
  • half a regular-sized carrot, grated
  • 1/2 an inch of ginger, chopped finely
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • vegetable oil for brushing
  • flour for dusting

(Yields 4 small-ish sized burgers.  This ended up being a huge serving for the two of us when served on buns.  It’s an approriate serving for two if you’re foregoing the buns.)

Step One In a mixing bowl, crumble your tofu.  Add the beans, oats, onion, carrot, ginger, soy sauce, sugar, garlic and pepper flakes.  Mash the hell out of everything until has formed a uniform consistency and generally holds itself together pretty well.  Add more oats and repeat aggressive mashing as necessary.

Step Two Mash everything down in a bowl and cut mixture into fourths.  Form each forth of the mixture into a patty.

Step Three Put some whole wheat flour on a dish.  Brush each side of all four patties with some oil.  Then dust the patties on both sides with the flour.  Place all four patties in an oven-safe dish.

Step Four (A) Preheat oven at 200C and bake for 10 minutes.  Flip patties and bake for another 10 minutes.  If your oven is as shit as mine, the underside still isn’t crispy by this point, so you’ll need to flip the patties once more and bake for another 10 minutes.

Step Four (B) While your patties are baking, make your peanut sauce below.

Peanut-Chive SaucePeanut-Chive Sauce Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
  • the juice of one lemon
  • a handful of chives, chopped
  • a couple swigs of soy sauce to taste

Mix everything together in a small bowl.  Voila.

Step Five Everything on buns.  Although, I personally thought the buns detracted/conflicted with the taste of the burgers and peanut sauce.  Hence the earlier Thai-people-don’t-eat-hamburgers comment.  Do what you want.  See if I care.

Served with Mung Bean Sprout and Corn Warm Asian-y Salad

Asian-y Salad

Going along with the disparate theme of the evening, I took some good ol’ Asian mung bean sprouts and added that delightful North American startch that everyone loves: corn.

Warm Asian-y Salad Ingredients

  • a bunch of mung bean sprouts
  • a small tin of corn
  • a small handful of red onion, diced
  • the juice of two limes
  • some grated lime zest
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2tbsp soy sauce
  • freshly ground pepper

Step One Warm up your mung bean sprouts, corn and red onion in a small pot.

Step Two Combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl.  Mix thoroughly.

Step Three Chuck the contents of the bowl into the pot.  Stir.  Warm through and/or cook until the red onions are cooked to your liking.  Some people really don’t like the taste of raw red onions.  I am not one of those people.  Me, I can hack the raw onion unlike you wussies.