Kitchen fun lately

Happy Monday to all long-weekenders and working-week-starters alike!

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Last week I mainly worked really hard at reducing the amount of thinking I’ve been doing. I submitted the coursework for my Dietary Assessment module last Sunday evening, with a bit of an anti-climax as the finished product didn’t come anywhere close to reflecting the amount of effort and thought that I put into it, so it was hard to totally unwind with any sort of satisfaction. Rather, the tension in my neck and the buzzing in my head ebbed away slowly last week, and a relatively warm and gorgeously sunny day off on Friday left me feeling more relaxed than I can remember being this year. And if a long bank holiday weekend isn’t the time to embrace that, then I don’t know what is…

Turns out that my go-to ways to stop thinking are: train relatively hard; do all the housework; and cook. Only one of those is really any fun to read about, I’m guessing, so let’s get straight into how dusty skirting boards can get when you’re not paying attention.

Kidding. I’m obviously here to talk about food.

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Let’s start with turnips, because that is what was giving me the evil eye every time I opened the fridge, but then I promise I’ll talk about chocolate. I consider myself pretty a unfussy eater: as long as there is no animal involved in the production of my meal, I will eat whatever plants you give me. But I just couldn’t get excited enough about turnip to make that instead of the sweet potato, white potato, broccoli, aubergine, or any of the other vegetables that arrived in our vegetable delivery (we use Farmaround), so the turnip got wrinklier and wrinklier and pushed ever further back in the fridge. I even went so far as to peel and chop it, ready for roasting, before the faintly cabbagey smell put me off and I put the prepared turnip cubes in a plastic container and pushed it to the back of the fridge again.

I even Googled “how to make turnip taste good” but that didn’t bring up anything novel. I have roasted turnip many times, thank you, and it still tastes distinctly of turnip.

So I can’t tell you how I came to the idea of a curried turnip loaf, but that doesn’t matter because the important thing is it was delicious. I may never make turnip any other way again.

I rarely use recipes for anything, so I can’t give you one for this, but this is the gist:

  • turnip, cubed and lightly sautéed in a pan with oil from a jar of sun-dried tomatoes (I hope you’re not throwing that stuff out!)
  • turnip transferred to baking tray (or loaf pan to save washing up), covered in vegetable stock, and left in a warm (180ºC ish) oven while you get on with more fun kitchen tasks like making vegan creme eggs – stirring occasionally is recommended
  • softened turnip transferred to food processor with remainder of an open can of chickpeas and the majority of the aquafaba, a bit of cumin, pinch of turmeric, as much curry-flavoured salt as seems reasonable, and some of the white pepper that you never use, and blended until scraping the processor down becomes too tedious
  • a sprinkle of oats mixed with the textured turnip-chickpea mash to absorb excess moisture, and some frozen green peas for colour
  • everything smashed firmly into the previously used loaf tin and returned to the oven for as long as you have to spare, or until the top dries out slightly

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To be honest, I had planned for many other add-ins, or at least a mango chutney glaze, but I liked the mixture so much straight out of the food processor that I decided to leave well enough alone for once (though this does taste great with mango chutney, or any chutney, I would imagine). Grated potato would probably work well to firm the mixture up, and some cashews would undoubtedly be a nice pairing. Parsnip and/or lentils would be great too – in fact, I keep referring to this as my “parsnip-lentil loaf” when it contains neither parsnips nor lentils. Either way, let’s not avoid cooking with turnip forever.

Right, I promised chocolate!

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Everyone seems to be making vegan creme eggs these days, and on the eve of my seventh veganniversary I wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity to add another treat to my repertoire.

Ignoring the first attempt in which I mistakenly thought I could somehow substitute granulated sugar for icing sugar in the fondant recipe, I based mine off this one, but added way less icing sugar because I just got a bit scared of adding any more (though I’m not entirely sure, as I didn’t measure because… I’m not sure why). I also didn’t bother with the yellow portion of the fondant, because we all know it’s not a real egg. I also didn’t roll and dip my fondant because it didn’t firm up enough – presumably because I didn’t add enough icing sugar – so I used our previously never used chocolate mould and made about half a dozen batches of teeny little creme egg cubes over the course of two days. And a couple of freeform splats where I got too optimistic about the firmness of the fondant.

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I mentioned a failed first attempt involving granulated sugar (in my defence, I did attempt to process it into powdered sugar first, but didn’t have much success and decided to plough on anyway). It’s important because that failed start turned into one of the best cakes I think I have ever made (not an overstatement; I just don’t bake very much and I certainly don’t bake very well).

I wound up with a big bowl of creamed vegan buttery spread (1/4 cup), golden syrup (1/2 cup), and granulated sugar (about 3 cups), and wasn’t about to throw it all out. It sounded like the beginning of a cake, as opposed to cookies or muffins, and having just rearranged the cupboards (which seems to be an essential part of my baking process) I was confronted with a ridiculous amount of rosewater for people who don’t consume any rose-flavoured treats. Pistachios were an obvious pairing, and we happened to have a huge bag of them that an Iranian client had gifted us. I had recently read Amey’s annual NoRouz post and I guess it all clicked into place.

Drawing very loosely on Audrey at Unconventional Baker’s recipe, I added rosewater, vanilla extract, the juice of a clementine, some mixed spice, salt, baking soda, and plain flour. I also added a little extra rosewater, and a generous pinch of saffron, but I had no cardamom. I shelled pistachios until my thumb blistered and then ruptured, and I decided that was enough pistachios. It took about half an hour, or a generous 1/2 cup, in case you’re wondering – so if you have any recipes calling for more than that amount of pistachio, I would recommend purchasing the shelled variety (or getting somebody to help).

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Since my version was so different from Audrey’s, the actual baking was a bit of an anxious time, but it worked! It tastes elegant and not overpowered by rosewater, with a light crumb and just the right amount of pistachio. This would taste excellent with cardamom-scented whipped cream, and maybe a coffee on the side.

Earlier in the week, I had some carrots to clear out, so I made Dana at Minimalist Baker’s carrot apple muffins. I used chia eggs instead of flax eggs, grated apple instead of apple sauce, and I replaced the nuts with sultanas to be more Ben-friendly. These turned out pretty great!

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In non-cake-related news (but very much in clearing-out-the-cupboard-related news) I also made seitan for the first time! I’ve had an packet of vital wheat gluten sitting around for years, and I’ve been meaning to make the sausage from Vegan Brunch ever since the last time I made it, but I kept just not doing it. I had just made a batch of Zsu’s savoury broth mix from Everyday Vegan Eats so it seemed like perfect timing.

I loosely followed the Post Punk Kitchen instructions because I trust Isa Chandra Moskowitz on all things seitan, but with excess broth because I decided halfway through the process that I would only make a half batch (i.e. when I had actually found the vital wheat gluten and realised I only had enough for a half batch), with apple cider vinegar instead of lemon juice, and without the minced garlic because I had just noticed we were out of garlic. Miraculously (after after a LOT of squeezing excess fluid out) it worked out perfectly! Admittedly, the two pieces I ended up with look a lot like brains – hence no photos – but when you slice them they are firm and solid and were absolutely perfect in yesterday’s stir-fry.

Last but not least… I had some leftover melted chocolate so I took the liberty of covering Ben’s chocolate chip cookies with it. Oh my goodness.

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That is all. Have a happy week!

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2 thoughts on “Kitchen fun lately

  1. ameyfm says:

    Oh my goodness, what an amazing post! I am always so in awe of people who cook without recipes. After all these years, I am increasingly confident with modifying recipes… but I wouldn’t know what to do without a recipe as a starting point. Like, who on earth thinks up a curry turnip loaf??? How cool and creative. AND you just made up a cake?! Your NoRouz inspired cake sounds really delicious… but sorry you had to destroy your thumb to get it. 🙂 Happy Springtime to you!

    • greatveganexpectations says:

      Aw thanks Amey ❤
      I actually had you in mind making the cake (obviously) and wished I could send you a piece to try!
      Haha would you believe I got another turnip in my delivery two days after posting that? And I have just made a fresh curried turnip "loaf" which I guess speaks volumes! To be honest, my default setting for any tricky root vegetable is to smother it in curry and cook the hell out of it and it's usually fine 😉
      Hope your Spring is proving to be a happy time! xx

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