Monday, 16 July 2018

Kumara patties - easy, vegan and a triumph!

I made these last night for a friend who wanted something made with kumara (sweet potato), and without dairy products, wheat, sugar or beans.  That stripped back the vegetarian possibilities quite considerably and I had to think hard about what I could do.  Most of the recipes I use and share are derived from those of other people, but this recipe I can truly call my own. 

With patties I'd usually expect to include breadcrumbs, flour and egg, but these worked perfectly and the flavour and texture were excellent. 

The patties, although needing to be handled carefully when turning, showed no tendency to fall apart, and the cornmeal coating did not stick to the pan at all.  The result was a deliciously crisp-on-the-outside, moist-on-the-inside combination, which could be eaten with the fingers almost as well as with a fork. 

Ingredients and method - very simple:
I'm sure these would freeze perfectly well - prepared and uncooked.  Defrost before frying though, to ensure they heat through evenly while the outside crisps and browns:
  • Kumara - 250 grams - about 1 and a quarter cups - cooked, left to cool, then mashed
  • Rice - white Basmati - 125 grams - about two thirds of a cup - a little overcooked and cooled
  • Parsley - a tablespoon or two - very finely chopped
  • Walnuts - 50 grams - coarsely chopped
  • Salt to season
  • Cornmeal / polenta / corngrits, fairly finely ground but still a bit grainy - about a quarter of a cup.  Put the cornmeal into a dish in which the patties can be lightly pressed to coat them.
  • Mix all the ingredients exept the cornmeal thoroughly and shape into patties using a spoon and your hands.  It's not a sticky mixture. 
  • Once they are the size and shape that you like coat the outside with the cornmeal.  Mine were about 4 cm in diameter, and the mixture made 14 patties. 
  • Shallow-fry in vegetable oil until lightly browned and heated through.
Here is a batch ready to go into the freezer:

I served the patties up with a tomato sauce which I relate here as an experiment I might refine another time.  It was made from  finely chopped and sauted onion and capsicum, and basil, a tin of tomatoes, about a cup of water, seasoned with kikkomen and salt, then thickened with the same fine cornmeal.  I wasn't sure about the quantity of cornmeal to use and added a bit much, resulting in a rather porridgy sauce, which might have been better as the base for a soup!  It was okay though. 

The patties didn't really need the sauce however, and another time I think would be better teamed up with salad. 

Although I've only made these patties this one time our household has firmly raised the flag of triumph and they will now be part of my everyday repertoire - easy, delicious and nourishing - yay!!!

Here is a photo of the cornmeal to give you and idea of it.  It's not a particular clear one though.  The spoon is a teaspoon: 

My other recipes and food articles can be found here:
Looking for other ideas about what to serve for your vegetarian meal?  Here is my list.  Some are vegan:

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Tofu marinade ~ and baked vegetables

Oops!  I see I published this by mistake, when it was still at the point of being Notes to Myself!  Oh well, since it's there it might as well stay there and I'll tidy it up sometime soon! 

The marinade is a very good way of preparing tofu and raises it from the status of what many people consider to be a strange white mass to really delicious food!  I don't object at all to a good quality tofu being simply heated in combination with other ingredients of a stir fry but this really does vastly improve it, and I wish I'd learnt how to do this years ago - hats off to you, Gary, and thank you!!!

As I've said before, the best place I know of to buy tofu - most delicious, very reasonably priced, and made on the premises, is Asian Groceries, in South Dunedin, which I've written about here.
They also stock lots of intesting beans and grains, including cornmeal (polenta or congrits) in varying degrees of fineness. 

For the marinade I use:
Ratios of
Kikkomen or soy sauce - 2 Tablespoons
Cider vinegar or lemon juice - 1 Tablespoon

Gary in addition uses 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of sesame oil.
Minced fresh ginger is also good.
Chopped chilli can be added for those who want it hot!

Mix marinade and set to one side
Tofu holds quite a bit of water which can be pressed out of it - gently.  To remove the excess wrap the tofu in paper towels, which you may wish to replace a number of times
Place these parcels onto a flat surface such as a board or plate, place a flat board or plate on top of them, and weight these surfaces, say with a block of cheese, or pound of butter, etc.
Change the paper towels every ten minutes.
Once this has been completed the tofu will have become quite a bit drier and somewhat porous, although it might not look like it.  The drier it is the more quickly it will be able to take up the marinade.     
Cube the tofu into the sized pieces that you like and place into a flatish dish or plate and pour the marinade over it.
Leave it to stand from ten minutes to one hour, forking it over from time to time.
Add more lemon if needed.
Consider coating with sesame seeds before putting into the oven.
Dry roast 2 Tablespoons of sesame seeds until lightly brown.  Put in pestle and mortar.  Grind until about half of them are ground, which give a lot of flavour.
Coat the tofu with them and or stir in with the veggies.
Cook for ten minues and then add tofu and cook for another ten minutes, no longer, otherwise it may become too dry.

Vegetables cut to be ready at the same time - including the onion.
Quantity of raw of raw vegetables quite a bit bigger than when baked.
Baked veges:
Cauliflower - as main veg - in clumps anad lengthwise slices
Cut onions (halve them and then thickly slice across)
Tomatoes - halved
Mushrooms - whole
Note - don't use powdered spices.
Cumin - whole seed - 1 Tablesppon - to go with chilli
Consider fennel seed or dried chilli
Add fresh basil at the end
If serving with potato add dill or fennel
Think of courgettes (halved horizontally or sliced)
Toss with juice of half a lemon and soy sauce - optional but good wiht mushrooms - approx 1 - 2 Tablespoons
Combination of mushroom, thyme and walnuts is good.
Preheat oven to 160 - 180 fan bake, and bake for 15 - 20 minutes

Monday, 11 June 2018

Words for winter ~ and warming desserts

Winter is upon us and as the darkest time of the year draws near mood can drop with light levels and temperature.  Good food is a great way to stoke up and make us feel good, as is the lively warmth of an open fire... 

For me finding words, images and rhythms to express inner gloom can also really cheer me up - it's one of those paradoxes with which our good world abounds!  It's like singing the Blues, I guess, or winding up a bit of loud Rock or Heavy Metal!  Or if I'm in the mood for Classical, organ music can work wonders.  Anyway, here is my little effort for the evening:

Sun gone
     light fades,
          mist and chill rise.

I wander the swamp
     tinderbox in hand
          seeking fire.

Darkness and the swamp
     draw me in.
Peat burns below.
     The swamp and I are one.

Phew!  That feels better!

Note: peat can burn underground, as noted here:

Okay, on to three of my favourite winter desserts: 

And it must be about time to make marmalade as grapefruit will be ripening now - don't miss out:

Marmalade ~ my recipe ~ ratios for citrus, sugar and water

Loads of other yummy food recipes can be found on this page:
Keep warm now, and be sure to stoke that inner fire as well.  

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Mushroom pie ~

This pie is a great all-rounder: it's great as a mains dish when flanked by streamed potatoes and vegetables or salad, and is just as good for a light lunch or snack, hot or cold.  It is also good to take to gatherings as it's easy serve and you can eat it with your fingers - no knife and fork to grapple with.  Cut into slices it is easy to freeze and later reheat.

In the pie photographed I had rolled the extra pastry into a 'snake' and placed it onto the pie in the spiral pattern once I'd put in all the ingredients.  Decorating the surface of the pie is a good way to use up scaps of pastry. 

You will need a metal pie tin - 20 to 25cms in diameter, as the pastry simply won't cook crisply in a glass or china pan. 

  • Onion - 1
  • Capsicum - half to one of these.  I think yellow capsicums are best with mushrooms, but other colours are fine.  
  • Oil - just enough to saute the above
  • Mushrooms -  125grams. 
  • Thyme - a pinch - this is the secret ingredient in cooking delicious mushrooms, but don't overdo it!
  • Salt - a little to taste
  • Milk - quarter of a cup
  • Eggs - 2
  • Flour - 1 Tablespoon
  • Mustard powder - half teaspoon
  • Sour cream - half a cup
  • Cheese, grated - from one to one and a half cups.
A single sheet of a standard shop-bought of puff or flaky pastry will do - 20-25 cm pastry square

Or - make your own.  I have made this one but it is fairly rich, so no good for those of us now on cholesterol-reducing diets!  It's a while since I made this, so I can't recall if it makes enough for one pie or two.  I think it's enough for two!  If it's more than you need the extra amount can be wrapped and put in the freezer for the next pie. 

Cheese pastry:
  • Flour - 2 cups
  • Salt - half a teaspoon
  • Butter - 100gms
  • Cheese, grated - 50 gms or half a cup
  • Milk - half a cup or perhaps a little more
  • Vinegar - 1 teaspoon
A food processor can be used to put this together.  
Grate or chop butter and whiz with the flour and grated cheese until it's the consistency of fresh breadcrumbs.  Then add the milk and vinegar and whiz briefly to combine.  Do not whiz it until it becomes a ball of dough!  Tip out and gather up the 'crumbs' and chill or roll out as required. 

This pie is baked at 220 degrees Celsius, so make sure you preheat the oven in plenty of time.  
  • Make the pastry, or if using a shop-bought sheet fit one to your lightly greased tin.
  • Grate the cheese and spread it over the uncooked pastry.
  • Beat the eggs, milk, flour, mustard powder and sour cream together and set aside.  
  • Chop up the vegetables, setting aside the mushrooms.
  • Saute the onions, capsicum thoroughly in a little oil.  
  • When they are well cooked add the sliced mushrooms and thyme.  Do be careful not to overcook the mushrooms - they should be tender but not starting to lose moisture into the pan.  This makes a considerable difference: the fully baked pie will be much better in flavour and texture.  
  • Spread the vegetable mixture over the pastry and cheese.
  • Pour the milk and egg mixture over the top of that.  
  • Bake at 220 Degrees Celsius for about 30 minutes or until the filling is set in the centre. 

Removing the pie from the tin:
You don't need to do this before cutting and serving, but I prefer to - but it can just as easily be cut and served directly from the tin.  Here is my method:
  • When cooked lift the pie in its tin out of the oven, loosen the edges of the pastry from the tin by running a table knife around the outside walls of the pastry between the pastry and the tin; place a large dinner plate upside down over the pie while still in the tin and, holding the two carefully together, turn them over.  The pie should now be upside down on the plate, and the pie tin should lift off easily.  Place another dinner plate on the base of the pie and turn it up the other way.  It should now be right side up and ready to cut.  

Notes and tips: 
  • From time to time I've had difficulty with the bottom of the crust not being sufficiently cooked.  If after turning it out you find that the bottom isn't fully cooked slide it onto a metal baking tray or sheet.  Then put it back into the oven for five or ten minutes.  Having it on the baking sheet will enable you to check the browning of the pastry without having to turn it out of the pie dish again! 
  • If freezing it cut into portions first.

To find all my recipes and food articles click the link below:
My list of vegetarian meals options, a large number of which are linked to my recipes, can be found here:

Sunday, 29 April 2018

No shampoo ~ happy hair care easier than I thought

Choosing hair products can be daunting with supermarket and salon shelves loaded with a vast choice of shampoos, conditioners, mousse, gel, 'defining' creams, you name it, row upon row of fancy plastic bottles and tubs each claiming to serve some special purpose.  How to choose has been a hard question.  In addition to the overwhelming choice my not-particularly-discerning nose finds most of them downright smelly!   Why, why, why is the simple task of washing our hair and having it nicely manageable so complicated?

After lengthy experimentation my conclusion is that happy hair care need not be complicated at all, and that I should have listened to my grandmother - who said that she only ever used Sunlight soap and rainwater on hers.  She had beautiful soft wavy hair which always looked lovely, so there was ample proof that it worked for her, but what about me?  Decades after her death and even longer since I'd heard her say this (for she did tell me herself) I decided to try out her way.  The thing about rainwater is that it's 'soft' which affects the solubility of soap and its residues, but I didn't have a handy barrel of rainwater, so what to do?

My solution is nearly as simple: Sunlight soap and diluted white vinegar.  See below for the image of all the hair care products I hop into the shower with.  The tumbler of white vinegar is about a fifth or a quarter full, which I fill up with warm water from the shower head when I'm ready to use it.  The tumbler is plastic rather than glass as a safeguard against possible breakage and glass fragments underfoot.  An enamel one would serve just as well.

My method couldn't be simpler: I wet my hair under the shower, rub the soap on to it to get a nice lather, and then rinse it out with water.  It feels a bit 'squeaky' to touch after that.  I then fill up the tumbler from the shower head, and, tilting my head back, carefully tip it over, rubbing my scalp with my fingertips as I do so, and rinse it with water once again.  After that the 'squeaky' feel is completely gone and my hair just feels nice and soft and clean.  Any trace of the smell of vinegar is of short duration, and after drying isn't noticeable at all.

I've found it just as easy to do this over the bathroom basin or kitchen sink with the aid of a large jug.  Although the vinegar water can get into my eyes a bit it easily blinks out in a palmful of clean water, and I wouldn't rate it as more troublesome in this respect than ordinary shampoo.  I asked a chemist if he thought it could be harmful and he that in that low dilution it would be fine. 

And what else?
My hair is like my grandmother's in that it has a nice wave and is very fine, thick and soft, so it can easily go flat and out of shape.  The best treatment I've found is, once again, one I make myself, and similarly easy: a tiny amount of guar gum, which I buy at the supermarket in powdered form (it's a food thickener) mixed with an equal quantity of vegetable oil and a little water.  You can find my recipe for this is here:
Before applying it I comb or brush my wet hair into some kind of order.  To apply the gel I wet my hands under the tap and then scoop a small amount of the gel onto my hands and rub it over my wet fingers to coat them; I then bend over so that my hair is hanging down, and rub it in as much possible around the roots of the hair.  Because my hair is so soft I don't need much.  After that I stand up, finger-comb it into the shape and apply a little more with my fingertips around the crown where I want it to have a bit more body.  As it dries I scrunch and lift it a bit to encourage the waviness and the little bit of extra height and volume that I want.  

It's that easy!  It took me a while to arrive at though, and what suits me may not suit others.  This is because each of us has different hair and skin, so if trying this out you'll probably find that it's worth experimenting with the ratios, frequency of washing and hair management routines.  When I get up in the morning my hair has usually gone fairly flat and shapeless, and I've found that rather than washing it I just need to wet it with wet hands, running them through it a few times, and then comb it into shape.  The tiny amount of gel that is already in it helps it take the shape I want and once dry it's pretty again.  Others might find that periodically wetting it under the shower - without washing it with anything else, works fine. 

Before arriving at the solution described here I had wondered about alternatives to shampoo for years.  I was finally prompted to experiment seriously at a time when my scalp became irritated in patches.  Although a pharmaceutical product gave some relief I realised that a better longer term solution to my usual hair care routine was needed.  The doctor recommended Johnson's Baby shampoo, which is very gentle, but I found that even that was too drying.  I knew that plain, undiluted vinegar can be used as a soothing application for irritated skin, and took it from there.  With regard to soap I tried the very gentle all purpose pure vegetable oil soap that I use even on my face, but found that that was too drying.  Sunlight soap suits my hair best. 

I've used this method for at least a year and these days happily stroll past all those shelves of hair care products with a sigh of satisfaction - I don't need them any more.  

I avoid hair care products even at the hairdressers: I have a very good stylist, who accepts that I wash my hair at home before going in to have my hair cut, and also decline the blow dry and use of any hair care products.  Establishing this early in our acquaintance was also helpful in arriving at a lower than advertised price, so this point can be well worth talking over - before sitting down in the stylist's chair. 
     Last time I saw my stylist I asked for her comment about the condition of my hair, which I had carefully washed and 'dressed' before my appointment.  She took a strand between her finger and thumb and rolled it a bit before complementing me on its condition, and then said "You wouldn't know this but you have exactly the right amount of oil in your hair!"  I didn't let on my secrets, just smiled and thanked her. 

Here is my the shopping list for hair care products:
  • Sunlight soap, which comes in a pack of four in a nice cardboard box - no plastic or cellophane
  • White vinegar - 'plain pack' is fine, nothing fancy required here, and
  • Guar gum powder.
As well as being free of strange and unpronounceable chemicals this regime is the ultimate in thrifty hair care!

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      Friday, 6 April 2018

      Potato and asparagus pie ~ self-crusting

      This vegetarian pie is great on the day and freezes well to serve again another time.  Portions stored in the freezer reheat in the microwave within minutes so it's a great stand-by for those got-to-eat-something-substantial-quickly occasions.  As you can see in the photograph it keeps it's shape so is easy to serve and looks appetising.  Furthermore it's a great crowd-pleaser. 

      Please note that you will need a metal or enamel pie dish.  The pie will not self-crust if baked in a glass or ceramic dish.

      • Potatoes, cooked - 350 grams (approximately 2 - 3 medium sized) 
      • Onion - 1 large chopped
      • Garlic - 2 cloves, crushed and chopped
      • Vegetable oil in which to saute onion and garlic
      • Eggs - 3
      • Salt - 1 teaspoon
      • Milk - 1 cup
      • Flour - 1/2 cup of plain flour
      • Baking Powder - 1/2 teaspoon
      • Asparagus, cooked and drained - 200 grams from a 340 gram tin
      • Cheese, tasty or other - 100 grams.  Aim to fill about a cup.  I like to combine Edam with feta cheese.
      Assemble and prepare the different parts:
      • Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius  
      • Cook potato - I steam mine.  Allow it to cool and then chop into dice-sized pieces or similar.
      • Saute onion and garlic and allow to cool. 
      • Drain asparagus and chop into lengths about 1 inch or so long 
      • Grate or crumble whatever cheese you are using
      • Beat eggs, milk and salt 
      • Grease or otherwise butter your metal pie dish. 
      In a large bowl combine, mixing with a fork: 
      • Eggs and milk with onion and garlic.
      • Sift in the flour and baking powder.  Do not over-stir or try to get all the clumps of flour smoothed out.
      • Stir in cubed potato, then finally the asparagus and cheese.
      Pour into the pie dish and bake at 220 degrees Celsius for 20 - 30 minutes or until golden brown.   

      Do not overcook.  It needs to be firm and golden but is best if still slightly gooey in the middle when cut.  This ensures that it will still be deliciously moist after reheating in the microwave.    

      I leave it to stand for about ten minutes before serving it in wedges.  When cool it can be carefully removed from the pie dish in wedges after being loosed with a spatula - see the photograph at the top.    

      • Last time I made this I added cubed tofu, and in place of one of the eggs substituted a tablespoon of chick pea flour (besan) mixed into a paste with a tablespoon of water.  It was the best yet!
      • It can also be made including vegetables other than asparagus.
      My other food articles can be found by clicking on the link below:

      Sunday, 22 October 2017

      Beetroot ~ raw in salad with ginger, orange and mint ~ and cooked by itself

      A reminder about the nutritional value of beetroot prompted me to think back about a recipe for a salad that I hadn't made for years.  I decided to unearth it and try it again.  It was even tastier than I recollected and I wondered why I'd forgotten about it all those years.  No matter, I have it back in use now!

      Before I set out the recipe take a look at the delicious ingredients: grated raw beetroot, chopped orange, chopped crystallised ginger, chopped dates and fresh mint - yum!!!  You'd think that the raw beetroot would be crunchy, but it isn't particularly.  This salad is easy to eat as well as being very tasty. 

      Beetroot salad
      Main ingredients:
      • Beetroot, raw - 150 grams, which is about half of a medium sized beetroot - peel and grate
      • Orange - about 50 grams, which is half of one - peel and chop coarsely.  Reserve the other half for juice to add in the dressing.
      • Ginger, crystallised - 25 grams - chop finely
      • Dates, dried - three - chop
      • Mint, fresh - one generously sized sprig - refer to the photograph for an approximate quantity - chop finely
      • Orange, about a tablespoon of fresh juice from the other half of the orange used above
      • Salt - about a third of a teaspoon
      • Oil - about half a teaspoon.  I don't know why I add this really, probably completely irrelevant!
      Combine these and then pour over the other ingredients.

      Toss it all and leave to stand for a bit.  All the ingredients immediately turn various shades of  pink and dark red, so you lose the startling colours shown above, but the taste is so worth it!

      We had ours with slices of feta and spinach pastry roll, which was a very good combination.  

      If you prefer beetroot cooked, steam the beetroot before grating.  It takes about 45 minutes.  Allow it to cool before combining it with the other ingredients.

      When I made this today I made two separate salads exactly the same except that for one of them I used steamed beetroot.  I wanted to find out which I preferred.  The two of us enjoyed both but slightly preferred the raw.  I'm often not that keen on raw vegetables as I find they don't always agree with my digestion, but there was absolutely no problem with this salad. 

      Cooking beetroot:
      Steamed beetroot has a great texture: not crunchy, but distinctive and very nice.  As stated above, steaming takes about 45 minutes.  The recommendation I've come across is to wash the root and cook it whole, and peel and chop it afterwards.  The reason given is that it 'bleeds' more if cut first.  I've done both, and can't see that it makes all that much difference, and the colour of the cooked root is still dark red.  Whether you do or not it's easy to handle.  Either way you get a lot of red moisture to wipe away, so it's best to wear an apron and to use wiping and drying cloths that you're not going to fuss about afterwards.

      The tinned stuff is dismal in comparison: I find it unappealing both in texture and flavour, so if that's all you've had you may be in for a pleasant surprise if you cook your own.   

      The most common way that beetroot is served is in a brine which is almost entirely vinegar combined with a lot of sugar.  As I understand it this makes it a pickle.

      My mother used to make something of this sort which was good, but in looking for an equivalent recipe I found only those with all that vinegar and sugar, which is how you make the aforementioned brine, and I don't want that, so what I'm after isn't pickled beetroot.   

      Beetroot has plenty of its own sugar so why add more?   What I want is to do is enhance its flavour so that it's nice with a meal or in a sandwich.

      It's worth experimenting.  To do a consistent set of tests I first tried it with the vinegar but without the sugar.  It was, quite predictably you may say, inedible!  Even when I added sufficient water to equal the amount of vinegar the vinegar was still overwhelming, and taking a mouthful of that sample sent me into a fit of coughing - impossible!  After a few hopeless efforts I found it was much simpler than that: I steam it just like any other vegetable and then add a bare minimum of seasoning as outlined here:

      The simple solution I have arrived at is to peel, slice and then steam my medium-sized beetroot in a wire basket steamer over water.  Steaming it when sliced is much quicker than if whole and unpeeled.  The water below still becomes bright red, but perhaps there is less bleeding than if simply boiled directly in water.
      Once cooked I added to the water:
      • Salt - 1 teaspoon
      • Cider vinegar - 1 teaspoon 
      • Kikommen sauce - 1 teaspoon 
      I then give it a good stir, decant it into a medium-sized glass casserole dish, add the cooked sliced beetroot, ensuring that there was enough liquid to just cover it, or thereabouts, place the glass lid on the casserole dish and let it cool before storing it in the fridge.  It keeps fine there for three or four days during which I enjoy beetroot, mint and feta cheese sandwiches!  

      Here is a photograph of my effort.  It is decorative!  The colour does continue to leak though, so if I'm using beetroot in a salad sandwich I don't use my customary cloth napkin to wrap it up in.

      In its raw state it's such a non-descript vegetable and a complete contrast to its peeled state!  This one came from the supermarket so is devoid of its leaves.  The leaves are also edible, but I haven't seen roots with leaves attached in the shops, so growing ones own would be an advantage.  Those shopping at a farmers market may have more luck.  

      Nutritional and health benefits:
      Beetroot is a good food in so many ways: it's a good source of fibre, iron, manganese, potassium, vitamin B9, vitamin C, is advantageous to heart and gut health, and much more.  The links below are to articles which give more comprehensive detailsThere are plenty of recipe suggestions included in the first of these two articles:

      My other articles about food and recipes can be found here: