Frivolous Friday: vegan foodporn of the Pacific Northwest

Happy Frivolous Friday! I’ve been on holidays for the last two weeks- doing some heavy-duty relaxing around the Pacific Northwest. I even got to spend a couple of days with a very familiar face (and a couple of familiar kitty faces!) who’s every bit as delightful IRL as online.

Remember how last month I wrote about deciding to go vegan? While that’s been really easy when I’m at home cookin’ up some yums, try and have lunch outside and it gets.. tricky. At least, back at home it does. If you’re very very lucky there’ll be one option. If that happens to be covered in things you can’t stand (my nemeses: onions, cilantro and mushrooms) you’re outta luck. Hope you’ve brought something with ya.

So when I opened up a menu to be told that every single item could be adjusted for omnivores, vegetarians or vegans? Oh myyyy. Yes please.

A few minutes later, this tempeh Oly Cheesesteak arrived. It did not survive much longer than it took to take the picture. Continue reading “Frivolous Friday: vegan foodporn of the Pacific Northwest”

Frivolous Friday: vegan foodporn of the Pacific Northwest
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Bloody hell, I think I’m going vegan.

Photo of a small dog- a bichon frise- lying on a person's legs.
I do make friends with dogs a lot, though.

I have a friend whose conversion to veganism reads like a Road to Damascus moment. She met a cow one day. They had a moment of connection within which she realised- or felt, deeply- that that cow was as curious about my friend as she was about her. She says that in that moment she realised that her and the cow were both people, equal in dignity and worth. From that moment on, she was a vegan.

My story is far more prosaic. I’ve never made friends with any cows, chickens or sheep. I live in the city! Dogs, cats and crows are the only animals I tend to meet. And while I did make friends with a crow last year (more on that one another day) I’ve never been in the position of looking my future dinner in the eyes. I’m not a vegetarian because of an epiphany or any strong emotional experience at all. I’m a veggie because, given my circumstances, removing my support from the meat industry felt like the right thing to do.

Continue reading “Bloody hell, I think I’m going vegan.”

Bloody hell, I think I’m going vegan.

Let’s talk tea: An essential guide for visitors to Ireland.

As I am every bit as busy this week as expected, have this wee snippet for your reading entertainment:

Descartes had it all wrong. I think, therefore I am? Whatever. Round these parts, I prefer: I drink tea, therefore I am. Or even: I am Irish, therefore I drink tea.

It has become clear to me recently that some people not from around here (I’m looking at you, Americans) have a misconception or six about my country’s beverage of choice. This cannot be allowed to continue, so let’s put the kettle on and sort this out, shall we?

Misconception the First: Irish People Drink Guinness

Continue reading “Let’s talk tea: An essential guide for visitors to Ireland.”

Let’s talk tea: An essential guide for visitors to Ireland.

Comfort Food: Crispy Slow-cooked Chicken Wings

‘Round this hemisphere, winter has been setting in. With the nights getting long and the air turning chilly, thoughts in my house turn to comfort food. Things that are warming, wholesome, filling and delicious enough to make up for an inhospitable outside.
Oh, and in a house with one broke person and one gluten-free, comfort food’s gotta be edible by everyone- because what’s worse than getting in to a warm home on a cold night and not being able to tuck in?- and not break the bank. Without further ado, then: Crispy Slow-Cooked Chicken Wings. Melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Gluten-free. Not too pricey. Win!

Ingredients

  • A packet of chicken wings. Thighs are good too, if you prefer them.
  • Stock- check to make sure these are gluten-free, if that’s something you need. I normally use chicken or vegetable cubes for this- but fresh stock is always incredible if you can get it.
  • Chopped garlic to taste. I love garlic, so I use at least 4-5 cloves.
  • Chopped ginger to taste. Again, I love ginger so I go for a good 2-3 square inches of the stuff.
  • Tamari soy sauce. If you don’t need to avoid gluten, by all means use regular soy!
  • Sweet chilli sauce.
  • A little bit of oil. I tend to have olive oil lying around, so I use it for most things. I’ll bet that sesame oil would be amazing for this, though.

Method

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Finely chop or grate the ginger and garlic. Add them to a pan with a smallish dollop of oil. Fry them over a very, very low heat for a couple of minutes, stirring all the time, until they soften.
Add a crumbled stock cube, a few tablespoons of soy sauce and of sweet chilli sauce, and the chicken wings to the pan. Mix them around until the chicken wings are well covered with the sauce. Add enough boiling water to cover everything.
Bring everything to the boil, then cover and reduce to a very gentle simmer. Simmer for as long as you can stand it. It’s gonna start smelling really yummy after not very long, but if you can manage to leave it for an hour or two, I promise you won’t regret it. Stir it every so often- every 15 minutes or so should be fine.

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When you truly can’t deal with the deliciousness anymore, distract yourself by preparing things to go with your chicken wings. I love them with rice, peas and roasted root veggies like carrots, parsnips and Jerusalem artichokes. They’d probably be almost painfully yummy with mashed spuds as well.

Heat up your grill. (Now, I am aware that what Americans call a grill is not what I’d describe that way. Here in Ireland, a grill is something that gives intense, non-contact heat from above. It’s normally a setting in your oven. So if you’re American, turn on the thing that turns the heat at the top of your oven on. And then leave me a comment letting me know what you call the dam thing. If you’re from somewhere that Proper English is spoken, just get the grill on.)

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Take the chicken wings out of the delicious liquid- and oh yes you are gonna be reserving that tasty chicken juice- place them in a baking dish, and pop them under the grill. Keep an eye on them! They’ll go crispy within minutes. Turn them around and repeat.
Fill up your plates with beds of delicious rice (or mashed potatoes) and veggies. Put the chicken wings on top. Ladle some delicious, delicious juice on top of them. Eat amazing chicken wings while falling hopelessly in love with your tastebuds.
Marvel at how something so easy can be so tasty. Leave me comments telling me all about it.

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One little hint: make more of these than you need. They are every bit as ludicrously tasty heated up the next day.

Comfort Food: Crispy Slow-cooked Chicken Wings

Roasted Root Vegetable Soup With Cumin, Thyme and Rosemary

One of the great things about being money-poor and time-rich in this part of the world is that you get to spend a lot of time cooking with fresh, tasty, seasonal foods. Doing it when there’s an internet about means you’re also never short of inspiration!

These days, ’round these parts, you can pick up a bag of parsnips, a great big turnip, or a bag of carrots for around 50c, and spuds are €1 a kilo. I don’t know about you, but in my world that means one thing: soup time!

Here’s what I’m making now. It’s ridiculously easy to make and incredibly adaptable- just substitute the veggies and herbs for whatever you’ve got around that looks like it’d be delicious.

Roasted Root Vegetable Soup with Cumin, Thyme and Rosemary

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 medium-large potatoes
  • 2/3 of a turnip
  • 2 parsnips
  • 3 carrots
  • vegetable stock
  • a couple of cloves of garlic
  • olive oil
  • Cumin, thyme and rosemary. Fresh is great, but dried is fine too.

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Preheat the oven to a low-medium heat- around 170C should be fine, if you’ve a fan oven. You want to roast the veggies slowly.

Chop the turnip, parsnips and carrots into nice chunky pieces a little under an inch across. Small enough to not take too long to cook, but big enough that there’ll be lots of soft, sweet roast veggie in between the crispy outsides. Arrange them on a baking tray big enough that you don’t need to pile them on top of each other. Give them a good sprinkling of freshly-ground cumin and a nice dollop of olive oil. Pop them in the oven for a half-hour or so.

Chop the potatoes into inch-sized squares as well. Put them into a big-ish pot. Grate the garlic over them, add a little olive oil. Toss them over a low heat- barely hot enough to sizzle- for a few minutes to bring the flavour out in the garlic.

Boil a kettle of water for 1L or so of stock. Probably more. Add the stock, as well as a generous pinch of rosemary and thyme, to the potatoes and garlic and simmer until soft. Remove from the heat until the veggies are done roasting.

When the veggies are soft through, add to the potatoes. Add more stock if you need to, and simmer for a few minutes.

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Whizz it up in a blender until smooth. Realise it’s way too thick, make up some more stock, add more stock. As with most soups, this is even more delicious the next day. So make a bunch of it, leave it to sit overnight, and bung it in the freezer for delicious, warming soup anytime.

While I think this is delicious enough to not need jazzing up, if you would like a little more excitement in your soup I think it would be delicious with a dollop of soured cream or yogurt, or crispy chorizo bits for the omnivores. Chicken stock instead of/as well as veggie stock would probably be lovely as well, if that’s how you roll. This recipe is gluten-free as long as you use GF stock- there’s loads available and they’re yummy.

Enjoy!

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If this looks good to you, check out the rest of my recipes! They’re almost all veggie and almost all either gluten-free or easily adaptable to be, while being easy on the budget.

Roasted Root Vegetable Soup With Cumin, Thyme and Rosemary

A Long-Awaited Lentil Moussaka

There’s a friend of mine who’s been asking me for my lentil moussaka recipe for months now. Tonight, I finally gave in, and figured I might as well share with You Lot as well. Also, it’ll make up for my having posted a non-veggie recipe earlier today, right?

This is a rather edited version of a recipe for lentil moussaka that I found in a Hare Krishna recipe book- the one you can get for around €2.50 in any of the Govinda’s restaurants around Dublin. Edited because they don’t use garlic or onions, and also because my cheese sauce is totally nicer than theirs. Measurements are, I’m afraid, either in imperial or Dollop. So here goes!

Rather Tasty Lentil Moussaka

You’ll need:

  • 3 or 4 aubergines/eggplants, sliced about 1.5cm thick.

For the lentils:

  • 2 cups lentils. They say brown lentils, but I normally use a mix of red and green. Or just whatever I have lying about.
  • Some chopped onion and garlic. However much seems like a good idea.
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • olive oil

For the cheese sauce:

(this one doesn’t have measurements, because I never measure. Dollops will have to do)

  • A good chunk of butter- about two or three tablespoons, heaped.
  • Enough flour to get that to a consistency where it’s still bunching together, but not greasy. To make this gluten-free, just use a gluten-free flour here.
  • Milk- a few cups. Enough to get the sauce to a reasonably thin consistency before putting in the cheese. But not too thin. Like tomato soup thickness, I guess?
  • Grated cheese. I like to use a few different types of cheese for this. I normally have some combination of gouda, edam, cheddar and parmesan lying around, and they’re all lovely. And you want.. enough. Keep grating until it’s nice.
  • Seasonings: I like some combination of nutmeg, soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, and mustard. The nutmeg would go in with the flour, and the rest can just go in whenever. Check the ingredients on your seasonings if you’re gluten-free or veggie! Lea & Perrins worcestershire sauce contains fish, but you can get veggie versions that are just as yummy.
Boiling lentils.
Some things are far tastier than they look.

The first thing to do depends on what kind of lentils you’re using. If they’re the kind that need soaking or an awful lot of boiling? That goes first. Seriously. Quit reading this and get them in some boiling water now if you want to have this moussaka before next year. But if you just have split red lentils, then get the oven on and start roasting some aubergine slices. I normally have enough to fill up two or three trays, depending on how thinly they’re sliced. You can grill them or roast them. I prefer to roast, though. You can do two trays at once, and it’s a little more forgiving when you’re doing three other things at once and forget to check them for a few minutes.

So pop the aubergines on a tray and into a reasonably hot oven until soft. Try not to forget about them.

Layering aubergines on a baking dish
You haven't forgotten them and let them burn, have you?

Next comes the lentil sauce. Start off by boiling the lentils in plain unsalted water until they’re nice and squishy. (If this is the kind of thing that’ll take a while, then you can skip down to the cheese sauce bit while you’re waiting.)

Once the lentils are squishy, drain them and set them aside. Put the oil, onion and garlic in a pan over a medium heat, and cook gently until soft. Add the tomatoes, and then all of the other lentil sauce ingredients. Simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, for about ten or fifteen minutes until it thickens. Set aside. Also, you haven’t forgotten to check the aubergines, have you?

Cheese sauce
It's a pity that consistency isn't apparant from pictures, really.

Now it’s time to make the cheese sauce. For this, you first put the butter into a pan that’s on a moderate heat. When it’s completely melted, add the flour, stirring all the time (and the nutmeg, if you’re using some). Keep it on the heat as you add the milk slowly, little by little, and don’t stop stirring. At all. If your arm doesn’t hurt, you’re doing it wrong. Once you have the sauce to a nice, relatively thin consistency, grate the cheeses in, then stir some more. Pop in the other seasonings, and stir some more. It’s done when it’s tasty. Oh, and if you have a second between stirring, you are checking the aubergines to make sure they’re not burned, right?

Assembling moussaka in a baking tray
Before anything close to enough cheese sauce had been applied.

After all that? Time to put it all together. Leave the oven on at about 180 degrees (Celcius!) after you take out the aubergines. Place half of the aubergines on the base of a baking dish. Cover them with half of the lentil sauce. Layer the rest of the aubergines on top, and the lentil sauce on top of that. Finally, pour the delicious, delicious cheese sauce on top of all of it. Bake the moussaka for about 50 minutes, or until it’s nicely browned, and you’re done! It’s delicious with loads of different kinds of sides- leafy green crunchy things give a nice contrast, potato and root veggie wedges are nyommy dunked into all the moussaka sauces, petits pois are excellent.

Enjoy!

nyomnyomnyom
Unfortunately I was too busy stuffing myself to remember to take photos of the finished moussaka. You'll have to make do with this.
A Long-Awaited Lentil Moussaka

Lazy food post: pasta with things that were in the fridge.

Today, after several days of dashing about the country For Science (and also delivery of presents to adorable smallpeople), I am a sleepy and lazy thing. I am a sleepy and lazy thing in many respects, covering both the things I blog about and the things I feed myself with.

Therefore, my Lovely Readers, you will all now get to read a blog about some delicious pasta I had for lunch, incorporating things that were in the fridge: some spinach, cherry tomatoes, chorizo, and Aldi’s walnut and ricotta pesto sauce. Classy or what, eh?

Surprisingly Tasty Thingsinthefridge Pasta

This involved:

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  • A handful of halved cherry tomatoes
  • A handful of chopped chorizo
  • nutmeg
  • olive oil
  • spinach
  • penne
  • garlic
  • Aldi’s walnut and ricotta pesto sauce. Or any other kind of walnut and ricotta pesto. Or something else entirely, if you like.

First things first: turn on the oven. Honestly I have no idea how hot it was, but it was decently hot. Chorizo and cherry tomatoes go in a baking dish with a good dollop of olive oil. Bung ’em into the oven. Don’t worry about preheating. We’re being lazy here, remember?

Pop on the penne. I don’t need to tell you how to do this bit, right?

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While all that stuff is cooking, it’s time to cook the spinach. You can’t go wrong with spinach lightly wilted in nutmeg and garlic, can you? I thought not. So sploosh a bit of olive oil into a pan with some chopped/mushed up garlic and a generous dusting of nutmeg, and fry up the spinach a handful at a time. Spinach shrinks a ridiculous amount, so I normally fill the pan up as much as possible, and add more as it shrinks.

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Once the pasta’s done, check on the cherry tomatoes and chorizo. These just need to be a little bit cooked- tomatoes nice and soft, chorizo ever so slightly crunchy, olive oil delicious and red. Put everything else into the baking dish along with a generous few spoonfuls of walnut and ricotta pesto, and give it a good mixing up.

Congratulations! You now have lunch. I now recommend relaxing on the sofa with your tasty pasta and a nice glass of something nice. It is the weekend, after all.

Lazy food post: pasta with things that were in the fridge.

Dinner! Huge giant beanburgers!

Picture of a rather tall beanburger, stuffed with toppings.
It may not fit in my face, but that doesn't mean it ain't tasty.

Dinner today was not exactly what you’d call gourmet, but it sure was delicious. This was the second round of myself and R’s attempts to make delicious beanburgers. The first time we tried it, we used dried black beans. While we’d left them soaking overnight, they still needed to be boiled for ages before they stopped being crunchy. Even with that, the burgers ended up kind-of dry and a little bland. While this is an easy problem to fix with enormous dollops of sauce, it still wasn’t ideal. Also, having to soak beans overnight and then boil them for over a half-hour isn’t exactly convenient.

Today’s beanburgers worked out way better. We used tinned beans and were far, far more generous with flavourings, and they ended up yum. Even if I made mine a bit taller than my mouth is big. But still, who ever said that burgers were supposed to be a delicate, sophisticated food?

Very Nice Indeed Beanburgers

A slightly less overwhelmingly tall burger than the first picture.
This was as squished as it got.

As usual, we’re going with the Dollop Scale here. You’ll need:

  • A slice or so of breadcrumbs.
  • An egg
  • As much chopped onion and garlic as you like.
  • A tin or two of beans, depending on how many burgers you’re making. We used two tins of kidney beans, which made two massive double-burgers with plenty to spare for tomorrow. We also chucked in a bit of leftover refried beans which we had lying about in the fridge.
  • Seasonings! We used a very generous dollop of marmite, a good bit of vegan worcestershire sauce, a few shakes of paprika, some pepper, and a fearfully cautious dolloplet of Extremely Hot Sauce.
Eating a rather delicious burger.
Nyom!

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Smoosh and mash them up until they’re a nicely squishy consistency- I mashed them with a potato masher, but I’m aware that not everyone in the world knows what one of those is. Shape them into burgers, and then grill ’em, fry ’em, barbecue ’em, or do whatever it is that you do to make your burgermix into burgers. Enjoy!

Dinner! Huge giant beanburgers!

Lunch! Toasty quinoa with raisins and almonds. Yum!

As some of you may know, a few weeks ago I moved house. In the process of moving house it became clear to me that while I am by no means a rich or wealthy person, I appear to have become someone who is the proud owner of an abundance of quinoa, and only a vague idea of what to do with it. Luckily, I am also a person with access to an astonishing repository of information at my very fingertips, so with a bit of googling, poking around in the cupboard and taking some inspiration from a recipe or three online, I ended up with this:

Almondy raisiney quinoa

Stupendously Tasty Toasted Almondey Raisiney Quinoa

As for how to make it? Well, nice that you asked! Since I can’t quite remember the precise amounts, so I’m going to go with the Dollop scale, instead of metric or imperial.

  • You’ll need some quinoa, a stock cube or so, some almonds (possibly other nuts like hazelnuts might be nice instead?), some dried fruit, a weensy bit of oil and a bunch of your favourite sweet spices.
  • You get a decent bit of quinoa- a handful or so, depending on how hungry you are- and soak it for about 15 minutes in cold water. Ten, if you’re in a hurry or hungry.
  • Put the kettle on and make up a few cups of stock- enough for your quinoa.
  • In the meantime, pop a bunch of flaked almonds* into a pan with a weensy bit of oil. Get ’em good and toasty- toast ’em till they’re lovely and golden and smell like toasted almonds. Take the almonds out of the pan.
  • Drain the quinoa, and pop it into the pan with just the water that remains in it, as well as a generous shake of whatever sweet spices you have lying around. Cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and/or cardamom are lovely for this. You might fancy throwing in a bit of ginger while you’re at it. Whatever seems tasty to you. Have fun! Toast the quinoa like this until it seems toasty enough. Then pour in the stock and a good handful of raisins. Or whatever other dried fruit you have. I had raisins. I think that dried dates and apricots would be yummy as well.
  • When it’s cooked, mix in the almonds. Then eat up!

I had it today with some chilled chopped carrots and sugarsnap peas, and a generous handful or two of the spinach, watercress and rocket salad you get at Tesco. The chopped carrots and peas were too delicious to be sullied with a dressing. For the salad, I made up something involving honey, ginger and lemon juice. It was.. okay, but not spectacular. I’m still a novice at making dressings, since I was only recently converted to eating green stuff. But the rest of it? Awesome.

*I didn’t have flaked almonds so I made some out of whole almonds. It was perfectly lovely, and also it is very fun, if a tiny bit messy, to bash almonds with a meat tenderiser. Then I remembered that I did, in fact, have flaked almonds after all.

Lunch! Toasty quinoa with raisins and almonds. Yum!