Happy Valentine’s Day!
While the blogosphere blows up with desserts, here is a fun way to add even more chocolate to your meals. Cocoa jerk tofu tacos. No stranger to brightly flavoured jerk foods (e.g. Jamaican Jerk Plantain Soup and the ever classic Jamaican Jerk Tempeh Wraps), I have never seen it with the addition of chocolate.
The recipe is courtesy of Superfoods for Life, Cocoa which is a vegan cookbook devoted to adding more chocolate to your meals. The book explains the health benefits of chocolate and shows you ways to incorporate it into your breakfast, lunch and dinner, including desserts (obviously). Sweet and savoury.
This has been my favourite recipe so far, and I probably would not have tried it had Sayward not raved about it. The perfect balance of tangy, spicy (not too spicy) with flavourful spices (allspice, oregano, cinnamon) and the raw cocoa powder merely lent a deeper flavour. This did not taste like chocolate. It was also really simple to put together, with a quick marinade mixed in a baking dish which was then baked altogether. I served it as tacos with a spoonful of mashed avocado but Matt also recommends eating it with a side of rice, beans and/or plantains. Rob doesn’t like onions too much, so if you are like him, reduce or replace the onions with more bell peppers.
It took me awhile to review this cookbook because I quickly realized it is hard to eat chocolate so often. Even with the savoury meals, sometimes I got tired with my leftovers prematurely so I had to space them out. I will also admit was not that adventurous to try all of Matt’s suggestions yet (bana ghanoush with cocoa powder, cocoa coleslaw, choco-spinach lasagna). However, it just goes to show you how novel some of these recipes truly are.
I wish the cookbook was organized more intuitively for finding the recipes, but I cannot determine the method to their madness. I think they are organized based on health benefits (ie, preventing stroke, diabetes, etc). The chapters are labelled as such: Heart-Healthy Cacao: Little Bean, Lots of Benefits and Cacao on the Brain: From Stroke Prevention to Cognitive Function.
Here is a sample of the recipes shared elsewhere:
Thankfully, the publisher allowed me to giveaway the cookbook to a reader living in the United States or Canada. To be entered in the random draw for the book, please leave a comment below telling me about your favourite unusual way to enjoy chocolate. The winner will be selected at random on February 22, 2015. Good luck!
PS. I am sharing this with Vegetable Palette.
After nearly 10 months in Houston, you’d think we have settled in.
I (only slightly) notice when people say “y’all”. The humidity is slowly building up past my Toronto summer thresholds. All in a regular Texan day.
And then, a few months ago, we spotted a new-to-us animal. Half-turkey, half-duck, we had no way to ask locals about it other than “Have you seen the turkey duck?”.
I have a feeling I am getting the same look from you right now. Turkey duck??
Rob snapped this photo. Tell me you do not agree:
The crazy Canadian Canucks following the ducks.
My googling suggests these are Muscovy Ducks and are rather invasive, almost pest-like. Probably similar to Canadian geese. I don’t get excited about them, either, but I am sure tourists love feeding them.
Rob and I are also starting our purging of the pantry/fridge/freezer.
Rob is better at experimenting but he ran with my crazy idea. He wanted a veggie-centric stir-fry and I helped him with the sauce.
He wanted tamarind, obviously.
And for some reason, it hit me. What better pair for sour than a sweet chili sauce for a spicy-sweet kick? YES! Rob added lemon pepper seasoning, too.
Even though this was a crazy-fun kitchen experiment, I obviously wouldn’t be telling you unless it was a crazy-good experiment. The sauce ingredients are a guesstimate of what Rob added so feel free to adjust it along with your own tastes. We always go heavy on the tamarind compared to most people. :)
Have you seen a Muscovy duck before? Do you have any exotic pests where you live?
Tomorrow is also the day to sign up for Cycle Oregon. After mulling over our options, we decided to scrap the Houston-Austin MS 150. Instead, Rob and I will be training for the 1-day 100 mile Shiner GASP (Great Austin to Shiner Pedal) ride this spring. For many reasons, we switched allegiances. I always prefer the first day of the long cycling rides and this will allow us to enjoy some time in Austin afterwards. (Free beer from the Spoetzle Brewery once we finish doesn’t hurt, either). And yes, it is only a stepping stone. Our master plan (provided we snag a porter) is to do Cycle Oregon this fall.
Cycle Oregon is not for the faint of heart: 2200 cyclists. 7 days. The route changes every year and this year it is over 400 miles and over 30,000 ft in incline. The hilly route mimics a portion of our beautiful roadtrip from Portland to Burning Man. This time, it will be by bike instead of by car.
Having a goal is a great way to stay on track. Even though we haven’t started training in earnest yet (blasted knees!), reading Gena’s snippet in No Meat Athlete about raw foods, reminded me why it is good to incorporate a variety of foods into your diet. Cooked or raw. And raw definitely does not need to be a salad. In the winter (even Houston’s winter), it can be hard for me to eat salads.
Filled with veggies, this is a fun twist on chili, done raw-style. A hybrid of my raw chili dip and chili salad wraps, this is a fun high-raw hearty chili. Red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes spiced with chili powder, tamarind and cocoa powder (YES!) create a smooth sauce that coats more veggies and beans. I used cooked pinto beans to make this a filling dish (and in my experience, easier to digest than using sprouted beans).
Is anyone else planning to do Cycle Oregon? We hope to have a small Cobra* contingent.
*Cobras are the name of our biker gang. We are a very inclusive bunch. Join us!
PS. This is my submission to Anyone Can Cook Vegetarian Food for tomatoes.
I spoke too soon. It was cold but now it is warm.
Houston felt the “Polar Vortex“. The “Arctic Invasion” that froze Niagara Falls (!!) (on the American side) brought Houston to lows a bit below freezing. With the 90% humidity, -4ºC was quite chilly but nothing compared to what the rest of the country was feeling. But this weekend, the humidity and chills disappeared. It was a balmy 26ºC with (only!) 25% humidity and Rob and I celebrated by wearing shorts, visiting the beach and kayaking in the Galveston area bay. Yeah, it was summer once again.
People at work wonder why I am so happy, but even small victories like this make my heart sing. Every time I cycle to work, I am ecstatic. Instead of hurricanes, Houston was hit by a drought this year. I have cycled to work every day, safe 3 days so far in the past 6 months. Snow, ice and rain will keep me off my bike, not cold weather alone.
Soups like this also make my tummy sing. It is filled with all great things: red lentils as a solid base, kabocha squash and coconut milk for a creamy backdrop, spiced with ginger and chile flakes, tempered by tamarind and lime juice with a lemongrass twist. The flavours meld perfectly and this is a soup that will definitely warm you up during a cold front.
Were you hit by the cold? I heard the vortex may return again. I am thinking warm thoughts for you.
If you like this soup, you may also enjoy these:
I have been very fortunate to grow up in an environment where brains were valued over beauty. None of my friends were ever on diets. If I made New Year’s Resolutions (I doubt I did; my last decade has been more of a daily self-evaluation), they were short-lived vow to be nicer to my brother. My mother (and brother) may not believe me.
It was only after I started reading food blogs, did I encounter the dizzying world of detoxes, cleanses and diets. Not that I have ever condoned detoxes. Barring liver disease or overdoses, our liver does a great job “detoxifying” our body every.single.day. Imagine my surprise when not one, but two of my friends in Houston told me they were eating 100% raw shortly after New Year’s, spurred by Kristina’s 21-Day Raw Challenge. I love the creativity that comes from cooking/uncooking/eating raw foods, but they complement my cooked vegan eats. Let’s be honest, even in Houston, winter is not the ideal time to go all raw.
My friend hosted a potluck to kickstart her first day on her raw diet and this is what I brought to share. I used it as an opportunity to make something from a new cookbook, Balanced Raw. Raw sushi is easy to share at a party, so I tried the new recipe. I have made raw sushi before, and the recipes are quite similar, but I decided to share this version, too, mainly because Rob took some impromptu sushi rolling action shots. Using a placemat makes sushi rolling very easy. Parsnip rice is spiced with a bit of chile powder and filled with an assortment of vegetables.
A note about the cookbook, though. The recipes are built around a 3-week vegan “cleanse” with a meal plan for every day. The recipes span both raw and cooked meals, but they seem to follow a low-fat 80/10/10 vegan diet. While Kristina is good about mentioning the need to eat enough calories, the meal plans in this book look woefully inadequate calorically. However, the recipes are interesting and would be a useful adjunct to whatever your typical eats may be. There are ideas for vegetables beyond salads. I use raw foods to enhance my vegan diet. It is a great way to eat more vegetables and fruits.
The publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom (YES!). To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me what you think about cleanses and detoxes. Have you done one? Are you doing one? I will randomly select a winner on January 20, 2014. Good luck!
Balanced Raw recipes elsewhere:
PS. There is still time to enter my giveaway for Superfood Smoothies here.
Not because I came up with the fabulous idea to mix together roasted eggplant, tamarind and chickpeas, but because I kind of ran with a taste in my mouth and help from a friend.
One of my co-workers is vegan and recently invited Rob and me for dinner. He went all out with multiple salads, curries, biryani and dessert. Served on a weekday, at that. I was blown away. By all of it.
The dish that I enjoyed the most was the tamarind roasted eggplant with chickpeas. I asked how it was made:. He said it was easy, just roast the eggplant with masala spices, then cook it with tamarind and chickpeas. Easy, peasy, right? Not really.. a bit too vague for my liking for me to recreate it. ;)
I figured my Baingan Bharta with Chickpeas (Roasted eggplant and tomatoes with chickpeas) was a good starting point, though, and after reading it over, my friend gave me some tips:
1. No ginger, more garlic to enhance the eggplant (I happily obliged)
2. No cilantro, and if so, just add it at the end (I just omitted it – it was better without)
3. Heat the chickpeas and slightly mash them, so that they can better absorb the flavours from the rest of the dish (great idea!!)
4. Add some turmeric (done!)
5. Remove or limit the coconut (removed!)
With a bit of trepidation, I set out to recreate this dish. I got my eggplant roasting and re-read my instructions. Sauteed onions and a good dose of garlic. Ground coriander, cumin and garam masala…
It has been a long time since I’ve cooked with eggplant (over 2 years, if you excuse my Raw Eggplant Bacon from last year as that was not technically cooked). Roasting it is definitely my preferred cooking method. It may take a while to cook but the results give you a silky base. Here, the fragrant Indian spices contrast nicely with the sweet/tart tamarind, floating in the silky eggplant peppered with chickpeas. The photos don’t really do it justice because it looks kinda of chunky when it actually wasn’t. Definitely one of my favourite dishes this year.
Have you ever been really excited by your own culinary creation?
Eggplant, chickpeas and tamarind elsewhere:
Eggplant, Chickpea and Tamarind stew at The Guardian
Tamarind Spiced Roasted Eggplant Soup at Everything in the Kitchen Sink
Tamarind Eggplant and Chickpeas at Relish
Eggplant, Tomato, Chickpea Tamarind Stew at Allotment 2 Kitchen
Eggplant Curry with Tamarind & Mint at Veggie Num Num
Next on my hitlist of grocers to try was Canino’s. It is billed as a farmer’s market but I am not sure how much of the produce is local and sold by farmers. However, it doesn’t mislead you that fruits and veggies are at the forefront of this store. There are 2 components: the front portion and the back alley peppered with stalls selling mostly Mexican produce. The back alley is more akin to a farmer’s market and where the better deals lie. Come early and you can snag super specials. Like 4 bunches of kale for $1, 5 bunches of collards for $1, 30 limes for $1, 4 broccoli crowns for $1, 4 heads of cabbage for $1. BOOYAH! I liked how you could even mix and match the 4 for a $1 items so you weren’t swimming in produce. But if you know me well enough, you will know that yes, I bought 4 bunches of kale and 5 bunches of collards without a clue as to what I’d make.. in addition to the broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes and fresh black eyed peas.
Fresh black eyed peas were new to me. I’ve tried dried black eyed peas before but trust me, there is a reason they call them black eyed peas. And no, I am not talking about their cute black mark. I am talking about the pea business. THEY TASTE LIKE PEAS! I never captured that flavour from dried or canned varieties. Not entirely sure whether this was a seasonal fresh bean, I snagged a bunch and ultimately decided to try this Goan black eyed pea curry. The tomato-coconut milk infused broth was tantalizing, spiced with ginger, coriander, cumin and tamarind with a bit of sweetness from maple syrup (use jaggery for a more authentic flavour). Exotic yet light, I served it with brown rice. Since fresh black eyed peas were new to me, I pre-cooked them beforehand (~30 minutes) but I think this recipe would lend well to cooking the fresh black eyed peas in the broth (adding the tomato to the end since it is acidic).
I have earmarked the fresh purple hull beans for my next visit. Rob doesn’t mind going to Canino’s because it is right next to a delicious Mexican bakery: El Bollilo. I get my fresh beans and he gets some fresh churros!
PS. I also love that Canino’s opens at 6am nearly every single day (the back stalls apparently have their own random schedule). It is great for us early birds! :)
Not only for New Year’s Day, other black eyed peas recipe here:
As I shared earlier, slowly, Rob and I are exploring different ethnic grocers in Houston. Each weekend, we have been heading to a new place. Last weekend was a bit of a whirlwind, though.
We wanted to go to Little India but everything was closed when we were there early in the morning (yes, we are the early birds). Chinatown was our alternate choice. Since it is more of a big box store Chinatown that necessitates driving between stores, the dilemma was figuring out which grocer to hit up first. I had 3 stores starred. I picked the one that we knew was open early, the one that also happened to be the closest and the one that had great online reviews.
The parking lot was empty but we ventured in. Let’s just say it was a sad store. I picked up some snow peas and bean sprouts. We left a bit sad. I always gauge a store by the state of their produce. I was hoping for better quality produce and to be honest, much cheaper prices. Whole Foods was better priced, which doesn’t say much.
Uncertain what the rest of Chinatown would hold, we figured we would check out another grocer. The next on the list was Welcome. This time, though, the parking lot was nearly already packed for an early Saturday morning. Definitely a better sign. Their produce section was busy with so many people, snapping up the best produce, clamouring for the cases of mangos or picking the best greens. Good prices and good quality. Now I was a happy camper! Chinatown had been vindicated.
I still had the snow peas and bean sprouts which Rob and I put to good use by making pad thai. I was the sous chef as Rob made pad thai for me, complete with kelp noodles and snow peas. He slipped the fresh pad thai onto my plate. It was so pretty, I had to take a photo.
I don’t photograph many dishes twice. Especially if it is a regular in our kitchen and Rob’s signature dish, at that. But these photos turned out much better than my first post. We tinkered with the recipe only slightly, mainly by adding more tamarind. However, that’s because we had a new brand (Swad) and it doesn’t seem as potent as what we were used to (Tamicon or the blue top one). This version turned out so well though, so if you prefer things less tart, try to find this brand of tamarind. Otherwise, 3 tbsp of concentrate may be tamarind overload! :)
Do you re-photograph your pretty meals?
Pay attention, dudes: the secret to capturing someone’s heart lies in their belly. Who wouldn’t like a man who knows his way in the kitchen?
One of Rob’s cooking specialties has always been pad thai. One of my favourite meals at restaurants has always been pad thai, but only if done right. Not tomatoey, certainly not filled with ketchup, and to be honest, I never understood why pad thai recipes in the raw community were made from nut butters (certainly a delicious coleslaw, though).
When we first were dating, I brought Rob to a restaurant, raving about their “authentic” pad thai. Only after I sat down and both of us received our orders of pad thai, did I worry Rob would find it below his high expectations. Thank goodness, he loved it, his recipe is a dead knock-off AND he loves making it!
Robbie-style cooking is usually a lot more low-key than mine, especially after he has made the dish a few times. Reading his original recipe leaves a bit to the imagination, but we have also modified it throughout the years. For me, he now omits the egg and swaps Bragg’s for the soy sauce/fish sauce. For the longest time, I tried to find a substitute for the rice noodles. I’ve tried quinoa and zucchini noodles, both with ok results. However, my preferred version is with kelp noodles which hold up well to the tangy sauce.
What doesn’t change is the strong emphasis on tamarind. I’ve talked about tamarind before, but it is worth highlighting again. It truly makes pad thai sing. For those who love sweet-sour as much as I do, tamarind also falls into the love category. Rob likes to remind me that fresh tamarind pods look like poo, but you can’t tell by looking at the pulp or concentrate. There are a few ways to buy tamarind. The blocks of tamarind pulp are cheap ($1) but you need to soak and strain it before you use it. Rob and I have converted to using tamarind concentrate ($2-3), though, since it is easier to use and more consistent in its taste.
Rob learned how to make pad thai in a cooking class while travelling in Thailand and his second tip for glorious pad thai, after using tamarind of course, is to make sure you cook each meal to order. It works well for customization of spice levels, but the flavours are spot-on, too. The problem is how to do this for a big group. We will prep all the ingredients at the same time, customizing each meal as we go. If the group is big, we don’t usually eat at the same time, but it is perfect for 2.
Do you have a signature dish for special occasions? Any favourite recipes for tamarind? We also really like tamarind lentils.
I used to want a mango tree in my backyard. Scrap that.
Now I want a mamey tree.
I ate a lot while I was in Colombia. A lot of fruit, I mean frutas. Fruit au naturel and lots of fruit as juice. Not bottled juice. Jugos naturales: fruit + water in blender and strained. Pure bliss.
I had a few foodie missions while in Colombia. I definitely succeeded in exploring the different fruits. I even tried familiar fruits in case they tasted different, fresh from the South.
I think I lost track of everything I tried.
From the more obscure, I tried: curuba, feijoa, lulo, guanabana (soursop), anon (sugar apple), pitaya (dragon fruit), zapote, mamey and mamoncillo. Passion fruit: maracuja, as well as the purple gulupa and the smaller sweet granadilla. Oh, and açai, too, in a smoothie. Apparently we missed cherimoya (custard apple) and pomarrosa. We obviously need to go back (although I think I spotted both of them at my nearby grocer for $5/lb).
Then there are ones I already knew… and was won over by the sweetness of fresh fruit. Papaya has never been so lovely. Tons of bananas. Smaller bananas, too, bananitas (or banana bocadillo). Mangoes (mainly Tommy Atkins but they had smaller ones, too). Pineapple (did you know there are red pineapples? They had pits! Yes, pineapples have pits!!). Avocados. Starfruit. Young green coconut opened for us with a machete. Strawberries, blackberries (mora), watermelons, oranges and even apples.
I remember ordering a drink at a restaurant with a new-to-me fruit: sandia. The waiter described it as a fruit with a green skin, a pink inside with black seeds. I was excited to try something new! Only to find out it was in fact… watermelon. But still, it was a tasty watermelon and the watermelon jugos naturales really hit the spot.
My favourite? Well, it is a toss up between guanabana, anon, mamey and zapote. And lulo… and granadilla. OK, I can’t pick only one. Each one different than any fruit I’d had before. I’d love to plant a tree of each one in my backyard. Sadly, I don’t live in Colombia. Who thinks I can find a mamey tree in Texas for next year? I’d rent the place in a heart beat! ;)
In any case, as much as I’d like to think it was back to normal upon my return, I really had to wean myself off the fruits. While I mostly ate them plain and in juice form in Colombia, here I’ve opted for a more filling main course salad courtesy of Ottolenghi.
Thai-inspired, the star of this dish is the creamy coconut-based dressing infused with lemongrass, Keffir lime leaves, ginger and shallots, balanced with a touch of tamarind, fresh lime juice, toasted sesame oil and soy sauce. All of the flavours are enhanced through the reduction of the coconut milk. It is probably one of the more elaborate and lengthy dressings to make, but easy none-the-less, and can be made in advance. The original recipe calls for canned coconut milk, but I opted for the coconut milk beverage (great idea from my spicy coconut-braised collards) instead which still produced a lighter dressing after the reduction.
Here, the dressing is used to bathe a kelp noodle salad with chopped mango, cucumber, lima beans (I used smaller Jackson Wonder lima beans) along with mint, cilantro and cashews. Add the dressing just prior to serving. The flavourful dressing worked well with the contrasting sweet mango, creamy beans and crunchy cucumber. Enjoy!
This is my submission to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring leafless salads, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday, to this week’s Potluck Party, to Ricki’s Weekend Wellness, this week’s Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Simona, to this week’s Summer Salad Sundays and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.
It may be a good thing that Sunny and I live further apart.
I won’t get into as much trouble with my grocery shopping.
You see, we needed to get more chickpea flour and tamarind. No better excuse to head out to Sunny’s one last time. I scope out my weekly meals based on the produce that is on sale. I knew oyster mushrooms were on sale, so I planned to make mushroom dal. Green beans were also on sale, so I had planned a meal for that, too. I still meander through the produce section to see what else is available, though.. and that’s when I get into trouble.
Unadvertised specials: Two bunches of broccoli for $1. Huge collards for 79c/bunch. Hard-to-find green mangoes were spotted. So. Hard. To. Resist. I am weak against fresh, cheap veggies. I succumbed. I contained myself, though, when I saw a huge amount of mixed baby greens on sale for $3 (it must have been a bag of 20 lbs, I kid you not), though. My weekend menu gets turned upside down. Now I am not entirely sure what I want to make.
In the end, I made the sushi roll edamame collard wraps earlier in the week with the collard greens. By the end of the week, I wanted to try something cooked instead. Continuing on my current Indian kick, I turned to 660 Curries and I was shocked to find a recipe using collards: Roulade of Collard Leaves with a Tomato-Mustard Sauce! Collard leaves are used to envelope a savoury chickpea flour batter, drizzled with a tomato-mustard sauce. The authentic Indian version uses taro leaves but Iyer insists that collards are a nice, if somewhat chewier substitute. My curiosity was piqued instantly.
My Indian repertoire consists mainly of bean-based curries, so it was nice to try something completely different. This is an appetizer, but it is hearty enough to be a main meal if you eat enough. Here, you make a delectably savoury filling based on chickpea flour spiced with coriander, cumin, chile flakes, ginger and tamarind. Please stop to taste the filling, it is very good. Just don’t eat too much of it because it is then thinly spread overtop collard leaves. With around one tablespoon of batter per leaf, I had my doubts whether this would all stick together in the end. You stack 4 collard leaves on top of each other and tightly roll it together and secure it with a toothpick (or string). Next, your collard roll is steamed until tender and the chickpea batter is cooked. After a bit of cooling, you slice them, then pan-fry them until brown with mustard and cumin seeds and then briefly stew them with some tomato and cilantro to create a quasi-sauce. Dust with some coconut and you have some seriously flavourful collard bites. The collards are meltingly tender, the chickpea filling so tasty and the nibbles are eerily creamy. The extra flavour from the tempered spices make this sing. My tomato-mustard sauce never really delivered, as I may not have had a big enough tomato, but the little smattering of tomato-cilantro was nice in moderation.
I know it seems so complex, but it is fairly simple to make. I’d bust this out for my next Indian fest, though, as it is best when fresh and very impressive, while still pretty easy to make. Iyer says these can be prepared in advance and frozen, which would be a delicious treat to have stored for a rainy day.
For some ingredients, I do a little happy dance every time we empty a container and put it to rest. White flour, please, I do not need you. Pasta, I loved you once before, but not now. Some ingredients just do not need to be replenished and those we celebrate empty containers!
Other foods have become staples. If we run out, I feel a bit antsy.
On the weekend, I inadvertently finished the last of our tamarind concentrate while making this salad. I also realized that we are awfully low on chickpea flour, due to Rob’s (healthy) weekend obsession with Besan Chilla. We also have no nondairy milk left.
These ingredients can be a challenge to find at reasonable prices, so I feel compelled to restock my pantry before we move. I know, terrible idea. We have hired movers, so it couldn’t be too bad, right? Actually, with my collection of beans and cookbooks, I am slightly worried that the 2 movers won’t be enough. Anyhow, before we move, I plan on fortifying our stocks. We will have tamarind and chickpea flour once again. ;)
Now about this salad: It is a light yet hearty Indian-spiced chickpea salad from 1000 Indian Recipes that I first spotted on Lisa’s blog. Her high praise for 1000 Indian Recipes was one reason I picked it up, despite my embargo on new cookbooks. Lisa described this as a great salad for those not used to fiery hot dishes, which sounded right up my alley. Here, the chickpeas are mixed with sweet and creamy mangoes, sweet and sour tamarind, and tart and sweet pomegranate arils doused in a savoury dressing with ginger, tamarind and chaat masala. Cilantro, used both cooked and fresh, adds a brightness to the dish.
It was refreshing to break free of my typical Indian curries and savour such a nicely balanced salad.
I know you raised an eyebrow when I posted the recipe for Banana Naan. Bread flour, what?!
I had been eyeing Sarah’s Mulligatawny Soup ever since she posted it in January. My Mom told me not to stress about the meals, so I scoped out recipes that I could make with the produce I already had (we happened to be fortunate that cauliflower was on sale for $1/head for our pakoras). Almost everything else had been squirreled away in my freezer, or living without a purpose in my fridge (I was looking at half a celeriac and half a kabocha squash!). While Sarah also provided the recipe for the Celeriac and Pumpkin Curry, they don’t taste remotely similar.
Mulligatawny is a British Indian curry-flavoured soup and literally means “pepper water”. However, recipes seem to be so varied that anything goes. Tess‘ version of mulligatawny is primarily red lentils, lemon and cilantro, whereas this is a creamy, tomato-spiked vegetable curry-soup brightened with tamarind. The leftovers were definitely more of a curry consistency.
Preparing a huge batch of soup in advance is a great way to relieve the stressful prep before a large meal. However, I didn’t fully appreciate how much soup I would be making. Sarah suggested it would serve a crowd, and she didn’t lie. We definitely already had enough food to feed an army along with the pakoras, 2 other curries [Malai Koftas, and a Spinach Chana Dal curry], a couscous pilaf salad and dessert. Oh, and we bought naan, too. Those recipes are still forthcoming, no worries!
Why did we make such a feast? 1) To make sure there was something for everyone to enjoy; and 2) No cooking required for the rest of the weekend since we’d be eating the leftovers.
Rob likes to have dinner themes for his birthday parties. Last year, it was Japanese.
We had planned on going Ethiopian this year, as it is the theme of our current neighbourhood. However, we changed our minds at the last minute because I wasn’t in the mood to cook up 5 different cooked dishes.
While I can dream up menus for days on end, they involve vegan dishes. Rob knew that some of our guests might balk at the lack of meat, so he offered to make a Southwestern Pulled Brisket in the slow cooker. With his meal chosen, I crafted the remainder of the menu with it in mind.
Therefore, this year it was a hodge podge of Southern US and Mexican dishes, foreshadowing our next, next move to Texas in 2013. My (not so) discerning palate can’t tell the difference between Texan and Carolina BBQ styles, but I can tell you how delicious everything turned out.
I was initially hesitant, but Rob encouraged me to try my hand at jackfruit carnitas. We had all the fixings for great tacos for the brisket, so why not have another filling, too?
I eventually settled on a recipe for Carolina BBQ-inspired pulled “pork” from Jessica.
Jackfruit is a fruit from Southeast Asia. Rob tells me it tastes like bubble gum. While the ripe fruit is sweet, you can buy canned young jackfruit in brine, which is quite flavourless. It has been used as a meat substitute due to its texture. After being cooked, it pulls apart into stringy bits akin to pulled pork and beef brisket.
While Rob’s brisket took 8 hours in the slow cooker, my BBQ jackfruit pulled “pork” took an hour, tops.
They key of the recipe is the spice blend, and here we used a plethora of spices to capture a Southern BBQ flavour: sweet smoked paprika, Aleppo chili flakes, mustard, tomato and red pepper pastes, tamarind and vinegar for some tang and sweetness from the maple syrup (yes, that’s 4/8 of my favourite ingredients in one sauce!). Such a glorious BBQ flavour with a bit of a kick. Chile heads, again, feel free to use the suggested cayenne, but I though it was plenty spicy without it. Dry frying brought out the flavours from the dry spices, then a slow simmer expanded the saucy flavours. Baking it firmed up the jackfruit so that it was more akin to pork.
As the jackfruit bakes, or if you are more inclined to make the brisket (it had rave, rave reviews, btw, and Rob loved its sheer simplicity to prepare), make some pickled red onions. I know many people shun fresh red onions, and a quick marinade in vinegar with some salt and sugar can really bring out their flavour. We used the recipe suggested by Deb.
Both the brisket and BBQ jackfruit pulled pork was served with an assortment of toppings – shredded Romaine, chopped tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts, sliced cabbage, avocado and the pickled red onions. While we had roti and pitas for guests, I opted to make wraps with Romaine lettuce leaves. The jackfruit was so flavourful that you didn’t need so much per wrap. While Rob’s 3 lbs of beef brisket easily fed 10 people, my 20 oz of jackfruit served more like 2-4 people, depending on how many toppings you added.
I started writing this before Christmas after I wrote my Gift Guide with my Favourite Kitchen Gadgets but never got around to finishing it. I have had quite a few people ask me where to buy Aleppo chili flakes recently, so I thought it would be nice to highlight some of my favourite ingredients in the kitchen.
One of my favourite things to give or receive are new ingredients. I enjoy having a cupboard filled with isoteric ingredients, although it sucks when you will be moving as often as myself. For gifts, though, I have one main caveat: they must be non-perishable (at least until opened) because fridge space is prime real estate in my kitchen. Furthermore, for all those ingredients, I have to know what to do with it! Part of my pleasure is a massive search to find the new best recipe, but if you are sharing an ingredient that you already love, gift it along with your favourite recipe. (more…)