With limited time, I have been trying to multi-task. Studying on the subway to work… picking up groceries after my weekend work-out… and even combining social activities with cooking. While still cooking the majority of my meals on the weekend, I have invited friends to come over and help cook. Cooking + friends = fun times! Leftovers are good for me, too! While I usually make 2 dishes and a dressing each week, I try to pare my menu down when friends are over. One dish only. Preferably a recipe I know tastes good.
This is another one of Rob’s Repeater Recipes. Whenever we see cauliflower on sale, this is what tugs at our tummies. Red lentils envelope chunks of cauliflower in this quick curry. Of course, what separates each curry is the specific spice blend and this uses Bangladesh’s signature spice mix: panch phoran (Bengali 5 spice mix). You might remember it from my Bengali Quinoa and Spinach Bowl with the simple combination of cumin, fennel, nigella, fenugreek and mustard seeds. For this version, I stole some cauliflower to make (Baked!) Lemon Cilantro Pakoras and swapped in additional zucchini.
I love it when Rob helps out in the kitchen, and he has really taken to sharing his Indian cooking tips with my friends. We’ve also made Dal Bhat and the Split Pea Dal with Ginger and Lime at other times, highlighting simple and tasty Indian home cooking. These are all lessons from Indian Cooking 101.. what will Indian Cooking 102 include?
It wasn’t until I became a vegan that I started worrying about the nutritional content of my food. I had no idea how many calories I should eat, how much protein I should consume or how to create a balanced meal.
Now I know better. I aim to create meals that are properly nutritionally balanced, aiming for more than 50g/d. Knowing that my major sources of protein are from beans, leafy greens, whole grains and a smaller amount from nuts and seeds, a meal feels incomplete without them. Where are my beans?? Where are my vegetables?
So you may be scratching your head, wondering why the heck I would post a recipe for pasta with a rose sauce, the seemingly antithesis of what I eat on a daily basis. However, this dish is packed with all good things.
First, the sauce is a zippy tomato-based creamy vegan rose sauce. All of the vegetables are roasted to create a lovely, creamy backdrop: roasted cherry tomatoes, roasted cauliflower, roasted garlic and roasted shallots. I sprinkled Aleppo chili flakes overtop to add a nice zip to the sauce. The cheesiness of a standard rose sauce is achieved with nutritional yeast, without being overpowering and cashew butter as a thickener. Throw it into your blender for an easy, delicious sauce.
But what to pair it with?
I recently picked up a package of red lentil pasta. Beans hidden in pasta form! Made by Eco Chefs, the only ingredients are red lentils and water and thus pack a nice amount of protein compared to other pastas. While I often use zucchini as a pasta substitute, it was nice to be able to have fusilli-shaped pasta. My spiralizer can’t do that to any zucchini.
Next time, I may try blending in white beans, like in my High-Protein Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Alfredo Pasta or add in more greens.
Half-way through January.
Have you been affected by the January Joiners?
A congested gym as people begin their journey to health through exercise.
Surprisingly (or not), I haven’t been affected. Same thing happened last year as well. Nothing really changed. The same regulars keep returning.
I shouldn’t give away my secret: I like going to the gym at 6:30am in part, because it is less busy. Even if I show up late, I can still find a spot at my favourite spinning or weight lifting class. (*except one crazy hard-core gym where the spinning classes are filled by 6am!)
I have been trying to be a bit more punctual for my morning work-outs, but now that I am at the mercy of the transit, things are even less predictable. The benefit of my gym is that there are lots of locations. Last week, I realized I wouldn’t be on time for the 6:30am class, so I detoured to the 7am class at a different location. Arrived 15 minutes early, only to find out the instructor was sick and it was cancelled. Another location had a spinning class that was just starting, so I rushed over and joined in 15 minutes later. Something is better than nothing.
Science says so, too. Combined short routines are as good as longer work-outs. Too long is not as good, though. Leisurely runners outlive the runners who ran twice as much. Moderate-paced runners also lose more weight than those who were more active. As you exercise more, fatigue sets in; hunger reigns.
Since I’ve stopped cycling my crazy commute, my energy levels have improved, my mood is better and my eating is under control. Sounds like I need to work on my balance. More isn’t necessarily better. More exercise, at least.. more rest could be better.
I’ve noticed an increased interest in my detox salad over the past few weeks. It reminded me how good it was but decided to go for a different twist. This kind of salad is perfect with hard crunchy veggies. Like the veggies leftover from platters. Cauliflower and broccoli always seem to linger behind. Save the veggies! Like my Raw Thai Pineapple Parsnip Rice Salad, I use my food processor to chop up cauliflower, broccoli and red pepper into small pieces. Currants add a subtle sweetness. Hemp seeds add fat and protein. And the dressing? A sweet tangy curried mustard concoction. I love how salads like this only improve with a longer marinade. Leftovers, for the win!
The summer is winding down and this will be the last of my Raw Thursdays. Not because I won’t be cooking, or uncooking raw foods. Because I feel I like be concentrating a bit more on work and three posts a week seems better for now.
One reason why I started adding an extra raw recipe each week was because I wanted to highlight how easy and tasty they can be. Indeed, I have posted raw recipes even when it hasn’t been a Thursday post. Summer just brings out the best raw cuisine.
However, I know not everyone likes raw. I feel bad for my buddies in Vancouver. Whenever I visit, I drag them to yet another raw restaurant. My experiences seem to be better than theirs, despite being at the same restaurant. The first time, my friend was sick afterwards…. Me? I went back a second time and enjoyed my meal again! The next time I visited, we tried another raw restaurant. I liked my meal. My friends, not as much, even though they picked cooked options. My friend confided to me that she finds raw cooking pretty bland.
Honestly, I find raw cuisine to be the complete opposite. This is why I keep hoping to convince them otherwise. I love how inventive and flavourful raw cuisine can be. However, I know that is not always the case. I try not to order veggie burgers, pates, hummus or falafels because I am usually disappointed. Sometimes the flavours can be muddled. Instead, I gravitate to hearty salads, Mexican dishes like tacos, or Italian meals like vegetable lasagna. However, in restos, these can be quite heavy and filling meals from the use of nuts. At home, I can make it my way!
No stranger to zucchini used as pasta, I finally decided to make a raw lasagna when I found one nearly entirely made from veggies. No nuts. A bit of seeds. After preparing a couple of sauces, this was a simple dinner to put together. Instead of making a huge tray of lasagna (remember the Mexican zucchini lasagna?), I opted to make individual servings instead.
Layers of thinly sliced zucchini are alternated with a cauliflower-based creamy cheese sauce and a flavourful tomato marinara sauce. A basil pesto works well to tie this into an Italian masterpiece.
A common complaint is when raw lasagnas are served chilled, so feel free to throw it into a dehydrator for 30 minutes to warm it up. Delicious!
This is my submission to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Ruth, to Raw Food Thursdays, to Healthy Vegan Fridays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and to My Kitchen, My World for Italy.
Although I loved my foodie adventures in Colombia, eating away from home had me craving some serious salads upon my return. And a bath, a nice, long bubble bath. Withdrawing slowly from the plentiful tropical fruits and reintroducing my favourite vegetables. With a quick trip to the grocery store under my belt, I was able to fix my salad cravings.
While I don’t believe in detoxes, this is a spin off of Whole Food’s Detox Salad. Like my Raw Thai Pineapple Parsnip Rice Salad, broccoli and and cauliflower form the vegetable base that is pulsed into small pieces. Grated carrots add more vegetables and a lovely orange! Currants confer sweetness, sunflower seeds supply crunch and protein and while the original salad uses a lemon-parsley dressing, I went with a cilantro-lime route instead. The other twist in the dressing comes from dulse granules. Whole Foods uses kelp granules, but I had dulse, another kind of seaweed, so I used that instead. This salad needs to be marinated for best flavours, and keeps really well as leftovers.
I am pretty proud of myself for eating through my cupboards. I ate my last carrot and wondered whether I could hold out for a month until we moved to replenish them. Completely foolhardy. We’re moving within Toronto, so there’s no reason to be completely devoid of food. So I bought more carrots.
Then I spotted this recipe for mouth-watering malai kofta, Indian veggie meatballs in a creamy curry sauce, that seemed perfect for guests. I immediately decided they would be perfect for our Indian Easter – a company-worthy dish. Leanne’s recipe called for chaat masala which I didn’t have. Having disappointed myself by buying curry powder, I was adamant to make my own version. While there are many versions of chaat masala, my newest cookbook, 1000 Indian Recipes, had an intriguing recipe using amchur (mango powder), mint, black salt, cumin and asafoetida. It also included ajwain, citric acid and tamarind powder… of which I had none. Currently living so close to Little India, instead of shunning new purchases, I decided to use this as a time to harness my Indian spice prowess.
While looking for cheap hazelnuts, we scoured Little India for our new spices. Ajwain and citric acid were easily located but tamarind powder was nowhere to be found (I also checked out Bestwin and Sunny’s). Sadly, I also discovered what a treasure-trove BJ’s Supermarket is. While it has always been Rob’s go-to place for a variety of rotis, naans, parathas, etc as well as Indian spices, I also discovered it stocks Kombucha (from Crudessence!), has reasonably priced Mary’s crackers ($3.99/box) and a wide assortment of reasonably priced Stash teas ($2.99/each). Almond Breeze is also regularly priced at $1.69. Who would have known? Of course, I only discovered this a month prior to moving away.
Undeterred by my lack of tamarind powder, I made my chaat masala with it omitted. This was probably the first time I could honestly say my house smelled like curry. I blame the ajwain since it is the newbie!!
When deciding what to make for our guests, I liked Leanne’s strategy of making this partially in advance and then throwing the rest of the sauce together just prior to serving. We ended up making it all the same day, so that works too. This is more involved than the other curries I’ve made because you need to make the kofta, but this was very well received by everyone. The flavours were complex and delicious with big vegetable “meatballs”. Baked, not fried. The sauce was creamy without being heavy. While you could simply omit the chaat masala from the malai kofta, I liked the extra depth of flavours imparted likely from the black salt, ajwain and mint.
While still delicious and enjoyed by all, my meatballs were a bit more mushy than I had anticipated. I substituted sweet potatoes for regular potatoes but I don’t think that changed much. I am not sure if I underbaked them, or overcooked the veggies beforehand. My only exposure to koftas in restos have been heavy and dense fried balls, that I figure are filled with ground nuts and coconut. These are veggie-based and lighter. Rob assured me he’s had kofta like these before. I also used my food processor for the sauce, but since we used cashews as the creamy portion, next time I would use my Vitamix for a smoother consistency. I just didn’t want to dirty yet another container at that moment. Soaking the cashews could also help, so I added that into the directions.
How many of you are weather watchers?
Now that I am biking to work again, I watch the forecasts closely. On rainy days I track the radar throughout the day to figure out when it would be best to bike. Hourly forecasts, too.
But please, how many of you watch the weather to determine your weekly menu?
I am pretty good about making the majority of my meals on the weekends and scooping out leftovers all week. But sometimes I don’t want to eat what I’ve already made. Sometimes I don’t want salad.
Case in point: Wednesday. 30% chance of rain in the afternoon. I’ll take my chances, thanks. By the time I was finished at work, it looked wet outside but it didn’t look like it was raining. I consulted the radar: the rain had ended and it had just skirted the city anyhow.
But I walked outside and it now it was lightly raining. I pummeled home on my bike, when it rained even harder. I was cold and wet by the time I make it home. The last thing I wanted was salad.
I wanted something warm and cozy. And quick.
So I did what everyone turns to in such a panicked state: breakfast for dinner. Not wanting to eat my latest breakfast oats, I went with a savoury twist. I boiled my oats with vegetable broth, threw in some leftover cooked peas and carrots, stirred in some nutritional yeast and miso and I was in heaven. I’ve done the savoury oats thing before, but I had forgotten how lovely it was. Plus, I never ate it for dinner, with the vegetables thrown in for good measure.
While this was great the first night, I found myself craving it throughout the rest of the week, too. Nooch plus miso works so well here and you can throw in all your leftover vegetables. I tried it with uncooked carrots, but they weren’t able to lose their crunch by the time the oats were done, unfortunately. Just throw in cooked vegetables. The peas worked really well. Not sure where else canned mushy peas would be so awesome… (other than the Malai Koftas from Easter, recipe forthcoming!).
So before this weekend’s round of cooking, I looked at the forecast. It was pretty grim: rain today and early in the week. Rob made a nice cocoa chili (a bit too spicy for me) and I opted for a curried red lentil soup and a Mediterranean chickpea salad. I am sure I may have these cheezy oats once again as well.
This is my submission to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend.
This is another dish we test-drove before our Indian Easter feast.
Pakoras are veggie-based fritters common across South Asia and are a popular snack or appetizer in India. Walk into any store in Little India, and you will see them: 2 for $1, although I have no clue who would want to buy cold deep-fried snacks. Lemon Cilantro Pakoras is a recipe from Tess, so we knew it would be scrumptious. However, we wanted to figure out how to make them without deep-frying. Here, we mix finely chopped cauliflower and onions in a lemon-cilantro-cumin studded chickpea flour batter. Akin to a souped up chilla, in ball form, oozing with lemony cilantro goodness. Like naan, these tasty fritters are best fresh, warm straight from the oven.
I will admit that we didn’t do a double-blinded randomized control trial for this cooking experiment. We made the batter and cooked them 3 different ways: a) in my aebleskiver pan; b) in a non-stick skillet; and c) baked on a silpat. The hardest part was keeping the pakoras together as we cooked and flipped them, so we also did a batch with extra chickpea flour on the skillet. I took photos of each version, but they kind of looked the same, so I will spare you the repetition.
I will get right to the unanimous verdict:
Baked pakoras for the win!
First of all, they were definitely the easiest: smush into a ball and bake. Although I flipped them half-way while baking, and then dusted with some oil, they are fairly hand’s off: no need to tend to them over the stovetop, roll them about, fiddle with additional oil, etc. Secondly (although most important), they tasted the best. The extra oil needed for the aebleskiver pan didn’t help them not stick and definitely made them taste heavier. The silpat was also easier to clean. Rob and I both preferred the lighter, refreshing taste from the baked pakoras. Out of everything we served at Easter, this was also the unanimous dish loved by all (including my hard-to-please father).
I feel like a real gourmand telling you all about pakoras, but the truth is I had no clue was a pakora was until last weekend. Rob, my resident Indian cuisine connoisseur, assured me this tasted authentic and better than what he has eaten at restaurants. He liked these more because they were lighter and healthier. Considering these are basically chopped up veggies slathered in a chickpea flour batter, they seem like a quick, guilt-less snack to me! We enjoyed them with tamarind and mango chutneys, but cilantro chutney would be paired with them more often.
Another note, I wanted to give a shout-out to Justa who recently tagged me with a Sunshine Blog Award as an Inspirational Blog. Her description of my blog had me nearly in tears:
This blog is my secret obsession. I’ve spent so much time over there I almost feel like a stalker! Janet is Vegan and while Mr. Foodie and I sometimes struggle to get a day’s worth of veggies, we are trying to eat more meatless meals and more healthily. Her blog is amazing to me and often intimidating but I don’t let that stop me. I read it like I’m studying a book, probably because I can’t pronounce half the stuff she makes and have no idea what the ingredients are so I end up googling them and learning so much about new foods and food combinations. She also provides lots of links to other blogs so the amazing food journey never seems to end. If you want to learn more about healthy recipes this is a good place to start.
I am thrilled to know I have been able to keep her inspired to try new ways of incorporating veggies into her meals. Part of why I blog is because I hope to inspire others with easy, healthy cooking and connect with other like-minded people. I also post about my cycling adventures because cycling was a big positive change in my life two years ago. I went from walking 30 minutes a day to/from the subway as my only exercise to building myself up to bike 361 km over 2-days last summer. Even though I now go to the gym regularly and have returned to biking to work, I still don’t consider myself athletic! There is something magical about biking: anyone can do it with a proper bicycle.
I don’t consider myself to have any innate athletic skills (I am possibly the most non-athletic person), nor do I have any special skills in the kitchen. My secret to capturing kitchen bliss is to know what I like, push myself in new directions to keep things interesting, maintain a well-stocked pantry and use fresh ingredients whenever possible. I love trying out new recipes but usually tweak them to my tastes.
I am still learning how to do the cycling thing better, but my tips are: a) wear a good helmet to protect your head; b) ride a comfortable non-cruiser bicycle; c) use a good lock so your bicycle doesn’t get stolen; d) incorporate cycling into your daily activities; e) padded cycling shorts + chamois butter are essential for long rides; f) gradually build up distance to cycle the long rides, taking breaks as you need them and g) have no shame in using your granny gear (ie, your lowest possible gear) for the big hills.
I have been honoured with a few other blogger awards, and had planned to do a dedicated post gushing over my favourite bloggers akin to my favourite cookbooks post. I will save that for another day, though. In the meantime, try out these healthy pakoras and let me know what you think. Don’t let the wacky name intimidate you.
A new month, a new hospital.
Yesterday I was (slightly) complaining about my upcoming commute from our new home. After today, a 10-12 km one-way commute seems like peanuts.
A last minute change in scheduling has me rotating at a hospital outside the downtown core for April. My total commute yesterday was 37 km. Almost 2 hours on the bike. The day’s schedule was a bit more erratic than normal, but basically my cycling looked like this:
8 km from home to downtown gym (0700 spinning class!)
10 km from downtown gym to uptown hospital (UPHILL!)
10 km from uptown hospital to downtown hospital
8 km from downtown hospital to home
Thank goodness it was broken up over the course of the day, but it was likely the spinning class that had me sore by lunch.
Considering I just started cycling to work last week, this is quite the lengthy commute. While I have been going to the gym ~5x week throughout the winter, I always find new muscles when I hop back on my bike in the spring. I made sure to wear my padded cycling shorts.
I decided to make Sunday my rest day from the gym to give me a fresh start on Monday. While Rob went to a spinning class, I was in the kitchen making this high-protein alfredo sauce with white beans, soy milk and roasted cauliflower. I bookmarked the original recipe from Jess but finally made it after Johanna also had success. My changes were roasting the cauliflower, onion and garlic with some hazelnut oil and combining that with the beans and soy milk. The lemon juice, miso, nutritional yeast and smoked paprika added extra flavour that worked well with the simple additions of baby spinach and sun-dried tomatoes to the sauce. This is a nice, comforting creamy dish. Creamy in the non-oily, non-heavy, guiltless sense, though. Perfecto! I tossed this with kelp noodles, but feel free to use your favourite pasta.
Why do I call this high-protein? Assuming you use the entire batch of sauce for 4 people (it makes a ton of sauce!), each serving has: 245 calories, 33g carbs (11g fiber), 14g protein and 8g fat. Gotta love the 2:1 carb:protein ratio! Perfect following all this cycling.
Two years ago, I never would have thought I would be doing commutes like this. When I started biking to work, my (one-way) commute was 4 km. Because I was essentially sedentary, I thought that was far. When I switched to a downtown hospital, my commute was 7 km, at most. When I moved out East with Rob, my commute was 8 km. When I move out West, it will be 10-12 km depending on the hospital. Having the gradual increase in distance has made this become second nature, instead of daunting. It is definitely my preferred way of traversing the city – a fun way to exercise, a great way to de-stress, faster than transit, and better for the environment. Jen recently shared this fun pic about commuting with me, which definitely reinforces why I don’t drive a car to work.
With all this cycling, I imagine I will be ready for our cycle to Niagara Falls in no time, although I am trying to figure out a better way to combine my time at the gym and commuting to work so I am not on my bike 2 hours every day!
This is my submission to this week’s Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Ruth, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this week’s Potluck Party with high-protein vegan meals, and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.
While I didn’t make any resolutions for the New Year, one thing I am trying to improve in the kitchen is to become more flexible. Rob is good about perfecting a few key recipes or whipping up impromptu stir-fries whereas I prefer to keep trying something new. I realize this isn’t the most sustainable practice when life gets busy, so I am looking more into sauces that make the dish along with an assortment of vegetables with a grain or bean.
In this case, the sauce is a toasted sesame orange teriyaki sauce from Radiant Health, Inner Wealth. It was easy to put together, and with freshly squeezed orange juice, the orange flavour was light, not dominant or ooky sweet. It can’t really compete with my salmon teriyaki, but it is nice in its own regard.
Tess suggests serving the sauce with a stir fry of veggies including garlic-infused shiitake mushrooms, broccoli, cabbage and carrot along with tamari-marinated baked tofu and rice. I added in some cauliflower to make up for my lack of broccoli and substituted quinoa for the rice (see, I am becoming flexible…). A sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds seals the deal for this simple weeknight meal. Use any combination of vegetables with your favourite grain, top with this teriyaki sauce and you have a fool-proof dinner. You could also stir-fry your veggies with the teriyaki sauce but I preferred its bright flavours as a sauce.
I know this looks like a daunting recipe, but once you make the components – a big batch of quinoa (or your favourite grain), the teriyaki sauce, the baked tofu, and chopped veggies, you can easily whip up a quick weeknight dinner.
Rob is the King of pad thai. The recipe has been perfected. The secret ingredient has always been love…. and tamarind concentrate! It is Rob’s go-to signature dish whenever we have company. He continues to make it with eggs and rice noodles for guests, but I have tried it sans egg with quinoa or zucchini noodles. Not the same, but good for me. I think kelp noodles will be the real winner, although we haven’t tried it yet.
Go to a raw restaurant and I guarantee you there will be a version of raw pad thai on their menu. But it is not anything like the real version. I prefer Thrive‘s version the most but just because it tastes good. Usually one gets a medley of shredded veggies with or without kelp noodles with a spicy nut-based dressing. It marries the sweet-sour-hot-spicy thing but doesn’t have the magical touch from tamarind.
I actually made this dish with Rob in the summer, life before the spiralizer. It was a raw weekend, because we also made the raw Tropical Mango Pie. After spending the morning finely chopping all the veggies, I think that’s when Rob thought the spiralizer would be a great gift.
So why post this now?
How many of you have random photos from your hard drive pop up as your screensaver? I do. Recently, photos of this dish came up and I remembered how good it was even if it wasn’t real pad thai. With a focus on cruciferous vegetables this month, I really had no excuses not to share this pretty and delicious dish, loaded with 3 cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli!).
Raw cuisine (as opposed to raw food) is all about showcasing something different from “ordinary” vegetables. A play of textures without cooking your foods.
Here, you chop, grate, julienne and otherwise manually spiralize a host of veggies. Pick your favourites but some are more sturdy than others: carrot, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, bell pepper, etc. I opted to buy some broccoli slaw to assist with spiralizing my broccoli for me.
Then you coat them in a spicy-sweet almond sauce: ginger and chili flakes give you some heat, dates and agave confer sweetness, balanced by the sour lemon juice and saltiness from soy sauce. And of course, this all lusciously bathes within creamy almond butter. Add enough water to make a dressing and throw it on your salad. A spicy coleslaw. I didn’t want to mislead you by calling this pad thai.
Pan-Seared King Oyster Mushrooms and Baby Bok Choy in a Coconut Tamarind Sauce with a Caramelized Leek and Wasabi Millet Mash
Sorry about the lack of diversity in my month of cruciferous vegetables. I know what it must look like to you: lots of broccoli, some kale with a bit of daikon and baby bok choy. Actually it looked like this: kale, daikon, broccoli, kale, broccoli, broccoli, kale, broccoli, baby bok choy and broccoli, and broccoli with a side of Napa cabbage. I’ll be honest: broccoli was on sale. A few weeks in a row. I’ll try to make my next few posts with different cruciferous veggies.
Which cruciferous vegetables are in this meal? Check all that apply.
b. baby bok choy
d. king oyster mushroom
Have a headache yet? Flashback to an undergrad midterm? SORRY!
I just want you to know your cruciferous veggies..
Don’t be fooled. The answers are baby bok choy, cauliflower and WASABI! Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable but not in this recipe (sad, I know). King oyster mushrooms, leeks and tamarind are not cruciferous vegetables, but still good! While there is a mash here, there are no potatoes in this recipe!
Did you know that wasabi is a cruciferous vegetable? Thought it only came in powder form? Well, wasabi is actually a root vegetable. When I visited Japan, I visited the Daiõ Wasabi Farm outside Hotaka, which is the largest wasabi farm in the world. Not only were there fields upon fields of growing wasabi (pic above), they also had the roots for sale along with other wasabi treats like wasabi soup, wasabi soba noodles, wasabi wine, wasabi lollipops and my favourite: wasabi ice cream! I was a spice novice at that time, and still loved it: the spicy wasabi was off-set by lots of sweetness. The ice cream had a mild background of wasabi and vanilla perhaps, but lovely at the same time.
Sadly, wasabi is difficult to grow and thus expensive. Outside Japan, wasabi is commonly substituted with (cheaper) horseradish, mustard and green food colouring. Have no fear, Eden sells genuine wasabi powder. And yes, Sunny’s sells it for half the price of The Big Carrot.
This meal, which is actually 2 recipes, must have the longest name of anything on this blog so far. These long descriptive names are what have me drooling at restaurants, so I love to point of all the nuances of my dishes, too. The longer the name, the longer the ingredient list, and thus probably the longer it took me to make this. Denis Cotter loves to make multi-component meals, and this is no exception. Adapted from his recipe in For the Love of Food, I increased the vegetables, especially the baby bok choy and decreased the coconut milk. Meaty king oyster mushrooms were pan-fried in coconut oil then stir-fried with ginger and the baby bok choy. A light tangy broth with tamarind and coconut milk rounded out the sauce and offered a nice contrast in flavours.
As an Irishman, Cotter adores potatoes and served this with mashed potatoes spiced with caramelized leeks and wasabi.
I opted to try a different a kind of mash: the monster mash.
I mean, the millet mash. With cauliflower. And caramelized leeks and wasabi, as per Cotter.
The cauliflower millet mash is courtesy of Sarah, and while it doesn’t taste like mashed potatoes, it has a creaminess akin to mashed potatoes. As a blank slate, it can take any flavours you throw at it, including the subtly sweet caramelized leeks and the spicy wasabi. Juxtaposed next to the tangy coconut broth with the vegetables, you have a crazy concoction of cruciferous vegetables.
The fourth curry this week… I am almost getting curried out!
I have never seen Rob so excited about trying a new recipe. I was browsing through my newest favourite cookbook, For The Love of Food, and I spotted a recipe that seemingly used up a lot of the odds and ends in our fridge.
Massaman curry, have you heard of this, Rob? Would I like it?
Turns out it was his favourite curry while travelling in Thailand.
However, as we made the curry together, Rob quickly realized this wasn’t the same Massaman curry he had eaten overseas. The sauce had coconut milk, lemongrass, cardamom, cinnamon and ginger, but no peanuts. No fish sauce nor tamarind.
After slaving and salivating in the kitchen for a while, Rob felt let down when he taste-tested it the first time. The vegetables were good, but the depth of flavour was lacking. He ended up adding all of the spice mixture, as the recipe only called for a couple tablespoons of the mixture. After which, when I tasted it the second time, I told him I wouldn’t be able to eat it for dinner- it was now too spicy! Those peppercorns were likely the culprit but thankfully, it didn’t have that ominous “curry” flavour.
Since I had adored Cotter’s previous recipes, we still trucked on with making the cucumber and coriander salsa. Rob finally sat down to eat it, served with the salsa and rice, with a drizzle of freshly squeezed lime juice. The more he ate it, and accepted it as a non-Massaman curry, he grew to enjoy it.
I then decided to give it a go with the salsa and lime.
While Cotter may have misled us by calling this a Massaman curry, he also said this curry was best with the cooling salsa, and there he wasn’t lying. It definitely made the dish go from something I refused to eat, to something that was genuinely spectacular. Another Janet-sanctioned curry, this time hailing from Thailand.
I am definitely realizing that more complex dishes, where each component is outstanding on its own, can be brought to high levels when combined. The only problem is that it makes for a kitchen filled with lots of dirty dishes. Gah!
An authentic Massaman curry is still on our to-do list, though. But whatever its name, this curry is the bomb, just don’t forget the salsa!
This is my submission to this month’s Veggie/Fruit a Month, featuring cauliflower, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Cathy, to this month’s My Kitchen, My World destination Thailand and to Ricki’s Wellness Weekends.
Curries are actually really varied. Considering curry simply means something has been simmered in a sauce with spices/herbs, it can encompass many different kinds of meals. They are a heterogeneous bunch and hail from India and Nepal to Thailand to Great Britain, Japan and even Trinidad and Guyana. They can be quite different and for those who shun at the sight of curry on a menu or in a recipe (yes, count me in on that), I wanted to highlight beginner-friendly curries this week. Curries for those who do not like curries. Like me. If these are my favourite curries so far, then you can be assured that you will love them, too.
While I am still averse to eating curries in restaurants, I had a favourite Indian restaurant in my pre-vegan days. It was at Amaya that I fell in love with flavourful Indian cooking. Instead of over the top earthy and spicy dishes, I could taste layers of flavour. I still want to know how to recreate their butter chicken at home (without resorting to chicken, cream and butter, obviously!), but have yet to crack that recipe.
I know there are others like me that quiver when they hear the word curry, not knowing what it will taste like. Will it be hot or spicy? Will it be earthy? Sweet? Creamy? Each component makes a difference and can make me wax from loving a dish to wane and hating it altogether. Remember the 11-Spiced Lentil Salad? You essentially make your own curry powder with all the spices, but had Sarah called it Curried Lentil Salad, I never would have made it. But I am so glad I did, since the flavours were all right up my alley.
For those like me, or for anyone who wants to make a delicious flavourful curry, try this one: vegetable balti. Named after a cooking vessel or the Baltistan area in Pakistan, its origins are debated, hailing from Birmingham in Britain but possibly originally created in Pakistan. Baltis can incorporate lamb or chicken, but in this case, I feature it with tomatoes, cauliflower and spinach.
Regardless, it is the sauce that counts. I hesitate to call it a curry sauce, because honestly it is a deliciously spiced tomato slurry that is the star of the show. With my adapted recipe below, it is more sweet and savoury than spicy but there is a backdrop of spice. Dial up the heat to your taste, but I loved it exactly as written. The dash of garam masala added after cooking was a neat twist. The savoury tomato curry sauce smothers chickpeas, chopped tomatoes, crisp cauliflower and loads of spinach. You could use any vegetables you prefer, including green beans, eggplant, zucchini or sweet potatoes. Balti curries tend to be a bit more soupy because they are supposed to be eaten with bread like naan, instead of rice.
Furthermore, I love how healthy the recipe is with limited oil and loaded to the brim with vegetables. So many tomatoes and onions, it is nuts! I also didn’t think all my spinach would fit into my skillet, but then the magic of wilting occurred.
This recipe actually took a while to make. The sauce alone needed 30 minutes to simmer, but if you make it on a separate day, then yes, this dish could come together in under half an hour. You could even cheat and buy premade balti sauce, in a pinch. In fact, double or triple the curry sauce so that you can freeze it and whip up this curry quickly for a weekday meal. I wish I would have done that the first time as I only had a smidgen leftover.
While my cupboards continue to expand as I experiment with different ingredients, I also have picked up new kitchen gadgets along the way as well. Some a bit more isoteric (takoyaki pan, my $2 tagine from Morocco), but others have become integrated into my daily routine (food processor, citrus squeezer, garlic press, immersion blender, kitchen scale, etc). One of the more recent additions to my kitchen has been a coffee grinder that doubles as a spice grinder. In fact, it only grinds spices because I don’t drink coffee.
Freshly ground spices are key for fresh tasting food. I don’t buy ground nutmeg anymore, and routinely grind my own allspice, cardamom and cumin. I have a mortar and pestle, which served its purpose. For most things, it works quite well. My nemesis were coriander seeds, though, which I learned while making dukkah, a sweet-savoury Egyptian spice blend. Oh my! I never knew such small things could give you such a work-out. This is what prompted me to seek out an alternative for my forearms. The spice grinder has lived up to its potential, and I happily make room for it in my cupboards.
So why I am bringing up dukkah?
Well, as I try to eat my way through my fridge and pantries before I move, I discovered a small container harbouring some leftover dukkah in my fridge (right next to my rediscovered miso, no less!). A sniff taste told me this was still fresh! Slightly unconventional, but incredibly delicious, this Egyptian spice mix is spiced with cumin, with a citrus overtone from coriander, with sweetness imparted from almonds and coconut. Earlier, I found it scrumptious with a poached egg and toast, but I was eager to try it with roasted vegetables.
Inspired by Jaden at Steamy Kitchen, I opted to roast cauliflower along with chickpeas until they were both sweet, nutty and brown. Sprinkled with dukkah, with its earthy sweetness, this paired incredibly well. Gosh, I just love rediscovering old favourites.
How do you like to use dukkah?
PS. Wondering why my cauliflower looks a bit purple? Let’s just say I roasted the cauliflower along with some beets. The beets leaked. On the cauliflower. But truly, I see no problem with purple-tinged cauliflower!