Vegan Sense-sations

Today after a hard day of renovations, Marco, his father and I sat down to some delicious Vegan Sense-sations pies. These pies are made by Health Sense-sations. They are a vegetarian Queensland based company and their products can be found in various health food shops and small supermarkets in QLD and NSW. Until this morning I had never heard of them before. But we decided to try them after they were recommended to us by a lovely staff member at the Green Edge. I got the Thai Curry Pie and Marco and Victor got the NFB Mince & Veg Pie and the NFB Pepper Pie.

I bought the pies frozen in single packaging. Then I baked them for about 50 minutes at home. I served them with Roasted Kipfler Potatoes and Rainbow Carrots.

The boys loved their pies. Especially Marco’s father, who is a meat loving Serbian from way back. Although he has been embracing vegan home cooking in recent times. I only tried Marco’s Mince and Veg pie. It really did have that meat pie taste, but with out the grizzly bits. For me it tasted very meaty, but Marco said he could still taste the difference. As for Victor’s, well he was very happy with his Pepper Pie, but didn’t elaborate. My Thai Curry Pie was delicious! It had roasted pumpkin and sweet potato and some light spices. The pastry was also really lovely and flaky.

I would definitely recommend these pies as a vegan substitute or just for a easy prepare home meal. They are probably the best vegan store bought variety that I have tried.

Have you tried them? What did you think?

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Labor weekend recipe roundup

Happy Labor Day weekend fellow Queenslanders! The heat has finally arrived! This weekend has been hot and humid, but really breezy as well. I spent this long weekend with house hunting and spending time with the Mini Marco’s. Below are some of the meals I have prepared over the week.

I finally tried some recipes from Crazy Sexy Diet over the weekend. I adapted her Cornmeal Banana Walnut Pancakes. Since I didn’t have any banana or walnuts, I used dairy free choc chips, which of course the kids loved. I really loved the batter for this recipe. The polenta/cornmeal really gives the pancake a crunch. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to get any photos. Another recipe I tried was her Tofu Country Scramble. Marco and I really loved this. After a year on a plant based diet and I was yet to make a tofu scramble. This tasted really similar to a real egg scramble, but better.

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We also visited The Green Edge with our Living Social Lunch Vouchers. I got Spicy Seitan Burger and a Peanut Butter Milkshake. Marco got the Satay Tofu Burger and Chocolate Milkshake. It was all so good, but I ordered far to much.???????????????????????????????

While I was there I bought a couple of new vegan products. Sweet Freedom Natural Sweetener is made of apples, grapes and carob. Its a great substitute to maple syrup and much more cost effective. Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon powder is an organic dry vegan stock, which i really makes a really flavorsome stock and is the best one I have tried. It is also a lot more cost effective then buying liquid stock.

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Over the past couple of weeks when I haven’t felt like cooking I have been bring home takeaway from Vege Rama on my way home from work. For a less then $10 you can get the most delicious vegan thai, indian curries or even a lasagna, which is big enough  for two. Tonight I tried to recreate one of my favorite dishes from there.

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Easy Thai Pumpkin Curry (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 small onion, chopped

1 tablespoon ginger, diced

1 garlic cloves

3 tablespoons thai red curry paste

1 small red capsicum, chopped

4 cups pumpkin, chopped

2 cups carrot, chopped

2 teaspoon vegan vegetable stock mixed with 2 cups of water

400ml coconut cream

1 tablespoon soy sauce

Method:???????????????????????????????

1. Heat coconut oil in a wok, then add onion, ginger, garlic and curry paste. Saute for 3-4 minutes, until the oil separates from the curry paste. Then add 1/4 cup coconut cream and heat for few more minutes.???????????????????????????????

2. Add capsicum, pumpkin and carrot and saute for a 5 minutes.

3. Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes.

4. Add coconut cream and soy sauce and cook for a further 10 minutes or until the pumpkin is soften.

*Serve with brown rice or another other gluten free grain, or some wholemeal roti

Ever wondered how asparagus risotto gets that beautiful green color? I found this tip in an Italian cook book, to blend the stems of the asparagus spears with the liquid stock before cooking the risotto. I always find that I need more then a litre of stock, so added some of the steamer water to make use of the vitamins that get lost in the water. I haven’t made risotto in so long, so this was a nice treat.

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Green Spring Risotto (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1 bunch asparagus

1 bunches of broccolini

1 litre vegan chicken liquid stock

1 tablespoon vegan butter (I used nutlex)

2 cups risotto rice

1/2 cup white wine

1 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, diced

1 cup frozen peas

sea salt and black pepper to taste

Cashew Parmesan/vegan parmesan (optional)

Method:

1. Cut the woody ends off the asparagus and the broccolini. Then cut into each spear into 4 parts.

2. Place the asparagus and broccolini in the steamer, except for the tops of them. Leave them to the side for later. Steam for 5 mins or until tender.???????????????????????????????

3. Place steam asparagus and broccolini in the blender with the liquid stock and blend until smooth. Then place on the stock to boil, so that it is ready for the risotto.

4. Heat butter in a large pot, then once its melted add the risotto rice. Toast for a few minutes.

5. Add white wine, onion and garlic to the risotto and allow it the wine to absorb into the rice.???????????????????????????????

6. Now begin adding boiled liquid stock, a ladle at a time. Allow it to absorb into the rice, until adding more. Stir the risotto continuously.

7. About 5 minutes before the risotto is ready, steam the tops of the asparagus, broccolini and the peas. If you need more boiling water for the risotto, you can used this steam water once your finished with it.

8. Take the risotto off the heat and add in the steamed asparagus, broccolini and peas, and season with sea salt and black pepper.

9. Serve with some home-made vegan parmesan.

*Serves 4 main serves, or 6 entree serves

I love eggplant, but I find I don’t it as much as I like because I need to use so much oil to cook it. This recipe is a bit lighter on the oil, but is just as flavorsome. Its also really easy to prepare and is gluten free.

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Stuffed Eggplants with Sun dried Tomatoes & Pine nuts (vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Ingredients:

1 Italian eggplant

olive oil

2 small red onions

3 garlic cloves

10 sun dried tomatoes

2 tablespoons pine nuts

small handful of basil

2 tablespoons quinoa crumbs (or gluten free bread crumbs)

sea salt to taste

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.???????????????????????????????

2. Slice eggplant in half, then use a pairing knife and a spoon to scoop out most of the flesh from the eggplant, just leave the shells.???????????????????????????????

3. Brush the eggplant shells with olive oil, then place in the oven for 20 minutes.

4. In the meantime chop the eggplant flesh into small pieces and dice the red onion, garlic, sun dried tomatoes and basil.

5. Heat a pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and saute the onion and garlic for a few minutes, until they start to soften.???????????????????????????????

6. Add the eggplant flesh to the pan and saute for 5 minutes, until its cooked. Add another tablespoon of olive or water if the eggplant is too dry.???????????????????????????????

7. Take off the heat and add the sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts, basil, quinoa crumbs and sea salt. Stir through till combined well.

8. Take out the eggplant shells from the oven and fill with the eggplant stuffing.

9. Bake the eggplants for 20 minutes.

* Serves 2 to 4 depending on the size of the serve.

What to do when you have heaps of canned pineapple leftover from pizza night? I made this delicious dressing for my work salads. Well it only turned out to be one work salad, since I accidentally poured most of this dressing on my kitchen bench.

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Pineapple Poppy seed Dressing (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1 cup pineapple pieces

3/4 cup pineapple juice

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

3 tablespoon olive oil/other mild oil

sea salt to taste

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Method:

1. Place all the ingredients, except the poppy seeds in a high speed blender.

2. Stir in the poppy seeds last and serve with salad.

*Makes 250 ml

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Spring Cleaning

Hi all, hope you had a lovely weekend. I can’t believe its over again. My weekend has been very quiet. Plans with friends were cancelled twice, so I decided to stay home and get a few things done that I have been wanting to do. So I spent most of the weekend cleaning up my house while mum has been away.

Beside spending an exiting weekend doing housework, I got a chance to start reading my two new books that arrived this week! Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Kitchen and Crazy Sexy Diet!! I first saw Kris on the Hungry for Change documentary. If you haven’t heard of her before, she was an actress  and photographer in New York that got the wake up call of her life, when she was diagnosed with a rare cancer incurable cancer back in 2003. Since then she has become a survived cancer and a wellness activist.

I haven’t seen her original documentary, but I have been following her on her website for a while. I finally subscribed to her website last week and got a sample copy of both her books (below). I was so enthralled by them that I had to find out more. Luckily I only had to wait a few business days for their arrival. I haven’t been able to put Crazy Sexy Diet down. If you curious I recommend subscribing to get a sneak peak inside. You will also get to see inside her Crazy Sexy Kitchen recipe book as well and get a copy of a few of the recipes. The recipes are beautiful and really healthy, but at the same time something that I think omnivores would also find appealing.

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Other important development this weekend was that I finally tried out my Vegg. This is a vegan 100% plant based egg yolk replacer, which I bought ages ago and left it in the back of my pantry. When you scroll down later you will see how I could forget about it. I ended up making a vegan quiche with leeks, mushroom and roasted capsicum. It wasn’t exactly a successful quiche. My wholemeal spelt crust didn’t work out and the moisture from the roasted capsicum let out too much moisture, so not even my puff pastry would crisp up. With a splitting headache, it was just a bad night all round. I tried to salvage what I could and below is what we ended up with, which looks deceivingly good. But actually it was not set at all. It wasn’t the fault of the Vegg, it was mine for trying something new without consulting a recipe. Anyway back to the Vegg, I can’t believe how much it smelt like fresh egg yolk. Marco also was amazed by it. When I combined it with soft tofu and became like an omelette batter and heated it was like scrambled eggs. The only difference is that it wasn’t rubber like an egg, it was much softer. I really want to try making a traditional Spanish omelette when I get some more tofu. Fingers crossed I have better luck.

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I have been really trying to eat more sprouts. They are so healthy and nutritious that I don’t know how I lived so long without them. Marco wasn’t a fan, but slowly I have managed to increase his intake of spouts, that he now doesn’t mind them. I juice them, put them in smoothies and add them to salads and sandwiches. I have yet to try and spout anything yet. So when I saw this Seed Sprouter Kit at Aldi for $7 I had to get it! I assembled it this yesterday, so not sure how many days it will take, but don’t have to water it for another 2 more days. Do you know if you can sprout anything else in something like this? Next I think I will try sprouting chia seeds. I have never tried them but apparently it can be done.

Seed Sprouter Kit

So what I spend the bulk of my weekend doing was doing the washing, cleaning my computer room, tidying my bed room (a little) and arranging the pantry and other food storage areas. This is something I have been wanting to do a lot long then I like to admit. I think I must of been a horder in another life, because I get so overwhelmed with clutter and I don’t like to throw anything out. But after I chuck out the junk I actually feel really good.

As you can see from my pantry we have a little to much food. My mum likes to bulk up on anything from Aldi and stuff for the home stay students and I just keep buying new ingredients, use them once them chuck them at the back of the pantry. You have to be really careful when you open my pantry that something might jump out at you. Most of this stuff doesn’t include my secret stash of super foods and other vegan ingredients. I have been storing things in my desk and a travelling cardboard box, since there was just no more room in here.

So first things first I took everything out and started looking at the Expiry dates. To help me to figure out what needed to go and what could survive a bit longer I used this helpful website, Eat by Date. It really helps for ingredients that don’t have an expiry or its rubbed off. Then I cleaned out the shelves and started grouping things together. I even got Marco involved by cleaning off the stickers from empty flour containers, so I could store legumes. I would love to have one of those kitchens with large mason jars filled with all my beans and flours, but besides the fact that it would cost my a lot, it just wouldn’t fit. I managed to fit most of my open packets of legumes and grains in a container which can be easily taken out and looked through. The same was done with the nuts. Mum’s snacks are all on the top to keep her away from them, and her nuts are up front and center. All the flours and sugars have been  grouped together by type and put into tupperware containers, so its easier to know what’s inside them before opening. All the half open pastas and rices are also easy to access, so they can get used before full packets are opened. All the everyday ingredients are now more easier to access and keep track of. I hope my mum is happy when she sees this. I’m already pretty strict in the kitchen so now I will be more so. If anyone messes my new system up…

Pantry

Another problem area was this other small pantry. I can’t believe how much tea we have. I’m not a big tea drinker and neither is my mum, but we have just about any tea you can image in here. Herbal blends, Japanese, Chinese, British… I only usually come to this pantry for one thing, the can opener. I’m not very tall and its a real bitch trying to get that thing down. Even though I have a step ladder now, Its still very awkward getting it out. So that had to come down and empty containers went up. Notice the cookies have been put to the back. Mum is also dairy free, but she doesn’t keep to the strict diet rules I do, even though I’m always telling her off. Hopefully she won’t realise they are here.

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Lastly and the place I have been dreading the most, the Spice draw. I have at least two of everything in here, yet I can find nothing. I’m always rummaging through and trying to fit it all in so it will close. I have to admit, I think this draw is mostly my doing. The students do always dump their instant noodle sauces in here, but they don’t use anything else. Plus some of this stuff is from the 2000’s. A while ago I got rid of the stuff from the 1990s, so it wasn’t too bad at least.

When I started taking everything out I got a nasty little surprise. This tiny bit of vanilla extract that I have been saving had gone all through the draw. It was so sticky. Luckily I didn’t find any critters in here. I had to take out the draw apart and give it a good clean, as well as clean a lot of the containers and plastic bags. It was well worth it though. Look how great it looks now. These aren’t all my herbs and spices, but the stuff I don’t use as often. To get rid of the abundance of plastic little bags I emptied them into these old little spice jars I had, that were part of a set. I have been saving them for a while to do this. I just made little labels with pen, paper and sticky tape. Unfortunately I didn’t get rid of all the plastic bags, but most of them are gone.

Spice Draw

While cleaning out my spice draw. I decided to finally try making nut butter with almonds. It was so easy. Just a matter of roasting them for 6 minutes then letting the processor do all the work. It came out so beautiful and creamy. But I still decided to flavor it with some sea salt and maple syrup. I think I should of perhaps of mixed this in by hand after. As the nut butter dried out a little, a bit like when you buy it and its all oily at the top and the bottom is dry harder to spread.

Almond Nut Butter

So I ended up making cookies and bliss balls with the almond butter. Although I made them small they area really filling, since they are only really made of nuts. These are vegan, gluten free, soy free, sugar free and so easy to make.

Nut butter 3 ways

3 Ingredient Salty Maple Almond Butter: 3 ways (vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Ingredients:

1.5 cup whole almonds

2 pinches of sea salt

1-2 tablespoons maple syrup

First make the Salty Maple Almond Butter:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

2. Roast the  whole Almonds for 6 minutes.

3. Place the almonds in the food processor and process. I first used the larger bowl to break down the almonds into a mead, which should take a few minutes. Then I put them in the smaller bowl for the next 10 minutes to break down further into an almond butter.

4. Once you have the desired consistency of the almond butter, add a couple of pinches of sea salt and 1-2 tablespoons of maple syrup. If it becomes too dry add a couple of tablespoons of water.

*Makes 3/4 cup of Almond butter

To make Salty Maple Almond Bliss Balls:

1. With clean damp hands roll the almond butter into small balls and place on a tray.

2. Place the try in the freezer for at 15 minutes, so that they firm up. Then serve.

*Makes 16 balls

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To make Salty Maple Almond Cookies:

1. If your oven isn’t still on, preheat again at 180 degrees.???????????????????????????????

2. With clean damp hands roll the almond butter into small balls and place on a tray.

3. Press lightly on the balls with a teaspoon to flatten them a little.

4. Bake for 5-6 minutes.

5. Immediately place them on a drying rack. If the spaces are too big on the rack then place some baking paper on top of the rack.

6. Let the cookies cool for 10 minutes so that they firm up a little, then serve.

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Falafel, Tabouli, Pita Pockets…

I have been a bit lazy lately with cooking. I have been eating out a lot more on the weekends. So this weekend I wanted to make something healthy and special. I’ve had this bag of Fava beans for a while now, so I wanted to try making Falafel. I have never made it before, so thought I’d give it ago. The Fava beans took nearly 24 hours to soak, as they are very hard and need time for the skin detach from the skin. It took me nearly an hour to peel the skins off 500 g of them, but the results were worth it.

I decided to bake my Falafel so that they would be a bit more healthier. I also filled the mixture with heaps of fresh herbs from my local Asian market. To go with it I made Wholemeal Flax Seed Pita Pockets,  Lemon Cashew Yoghurt and Kale & Quinoa Tabouli. By the time I got our late lunch on the table it was dinner time, so the whole family got to eat with us. Everyone really liked and had seconds or thirds.

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Wholemeal Flax Seed Pita Bread (vegan, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1.5 cup warm water

2 teaspoons instant yeast

1/2 teaspoon raw sugar

1 teaspoon sea salt

3.5 cups wholemeal flour (more for board)

2 teaspoons ground flax seeds

1 teaspoon olive oil

canola spray oil

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Method:

1. Take 1/4 of warm water and add yeast and sugar. Leave it for 10 mins.DSC06658

2. In a large mixing bowl add 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, ground flax seeds and sea salt.???????????????????????????????

3. Make a well in the centre and add the yeast mixture.???????????????????????????????

4. Gradually add more the rest of the flour and warm water until you have a dough.

5. Knead the dough for 10-15 mins, until it is nice and elastic.

6. Brush a bowl with olive oil and leave the dough to rise for an hour or more (the longer the better).

7. Divide the dough into 10 balls. Then roll each ball out into a flat circle shape.

8. Heat a pan on high and spray with canola. Place the flat dough onto the pan and cook it till it puffs up. Make sure you turn it regularly so it doesn’t burn. It should only take 1-2 mins per pita.

9. While the pita is still hot, slice it in half.

*Makes 10 Pita Pockets

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Baked Fava bean Falafel (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

500g fava beans (soaked 24 hrs, then peeled)

6 garlic cloves

1 brown onion

3 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1/2 bunch coriander

1/2 bunch dill

1/2 bunch parsley

sea salt & black pepper

Method:???????????????????????????????

1. After soaking the fava beans, peel off the skin and boil for 30 mins or until softened.

2. Finely chop the garlic, onion and all the herbs.

3. Place the fava beans in a process and make into a paste. Then add all the spices, onion, garlic, herbs and sea salt & pepper to taste.

4. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

5. Make the mixture into balls and place on a nonstick tray. Bake for 20 mins.

*Makes 25-30

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Lemon Cashew ‘Yoghurt’ (vegan, raw, gluten free, soy free)

Ingredients:

1 cup cashews (pre-soaked/raw)

1 cup water

2 garlic cloves

3 tablespoons lemon juice (more to taste)

1 tablespoon olive oil

sea salt to taste

Method:

1. If you haven’t soaked the cashews then boil them for 10 mins.

2. In a Vitamix or high speed blender the cashews. Break them down, then slowly add 1/2 a cup of water. Blend till it becomes creamy.

3. Add garlic, lemon juice and olive oil and blend. If you need add more water to break down into a cream, but not too much, it should be thick.

*Makes 1 cup

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Kale & Quinoa Tabouli (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1.5-2 cups kale, chopped

4 shallots or green onions, chopped

1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped

3 teaspoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 cup cooked quinoa

sea salt to taste

Method:

1. Cook quinoa according to packet instructions. Then strain and allow to cool.

2. Massage the chopped kale with sea salt to break down the fibers.

3. Combine the kale quinoa and all the remaining ingredients and serve.

*Serves 4 as side salad

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Over the weekend we ended up visiting The Green Edge on our way to visit hopefully our future house. I decided to try something different so I ordered the Noodle Bowl. It had soba noodles with twice-cooked pumpkin, served in a soy sauce-miso-shiitake broth. I doesn’t look like much but it was really nice. There was pumpkin all under the noodles as well. The rest of the family had their amazing vegan burgers, chips and salad. This was the first time my mums partner had been there. Of course his response was ‘I can believe its vegan’.

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My new favourite drink at the moment is this Frozen Peach Smoothie. I forgot about all the peaches that I froze a while ago. With the kiwi, banana and milk it tastes just like a peach ice cream.

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Frozen Peach Smoothie (vegan, raw, gluten free, nut free, soy free)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup frozen peaches

1 golden kiwi

1/2 banana

1/2 cup plant milk (coconut, rice or oat; almond or soy if you can tolerate)

Method:

1. Blend in a High speed blender and serve

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Over the weekend I finally tried something else that’s been in my cupboard for a while. Celebrate Health is a new brand that started appearing on supermarket shelves. Their range includes flavoured lentils, quinoa, recipe bases and stock. All their products are Gluten free, Wheat free, Dairy free, Tree nut free, Peanut free, 100% natural and Preservative free. Most are also vegan and Soy free. I had the Indian Marsala Lentil Packet. So I made this with some brown rice and Indian spiced greens. I just followed the packet directions, which were easy to understand. I ended up having to add alot more water, as it dried out quickly. They had more of a bite then I thought they would. Usually when I made red lentils they dissolve a little, but these ones didn’t.

So the verdict? Well they were quite salty and the spices weren’t that strong. They were definitely not as tasty as if I made them from scratch. However, they were quick, convenient and healthy side dish. I think I will definitely try some more of their products for those nights when I am too tired to cook anything fancy.

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Tempeh Tempations

I can’t believe another week has gone by so quickly. I have been counting down the days to my graduation. On Tuesday night I will finally be graduation (after I don’t even want to think about how many years) from university. I will be finishing with a Dual degree in Business and Arts, majoring in Marketing, Italian Language and History & Cultural Heritage. I have also just received an award for Academic Excellence for 2012-13. I am sad that my university days are finally coming to an end, but its nice to get the awards to finally show something for all these years. Not sure how long I will be able to stay away from studying though. I have been spending all my free time at work looking up Honors courses I want to take in the ‘future’ and have been reading anything I can get my hands on.

Will all this free time you would think I would have time to be creative in the kitchen, but actually I am usually very tire after work and have been making a lot of meals that get eaten over days for dinners and lunches. Marco doesn’t like having the same thing more then twice, but the days of having a different meal every night are over. Well at least for the moment. I have been cooking a fair bit with tempeh lately. I really like the chewy texture and the trying different ways to use it. Something I didn’t post recently was a vegan massamam curry with tempeh and potatoes. I wasn’t so sure about that combination. But for making sausages, meatballs, steaks or just to add to a chew texture to a pasta sauce it works really well.

If you don’t know what tempeh is don’t feel silly, I only discovered it a couple of years back when I read about it in my first vegan cookbook. After I while I finally got the courage to use it and now I love it. “Tempeh is a traditional soy product that is originally from Indonesia. It is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form, similar to a very firm vegetarian burger patty. It originated in Indonesia, and is especially popular on the island of Java, where it is a staple source of protein. Like tofu, tempeh is made from soybeans, but it is a whole soybean product with different nutritional characteristics and textural qualities. Tempeh’s fermentation process and its retention of the whole bean give it a higher content of protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins. It has a firm texture and an earthy flavor which becomes more pronounced as it ages. Because of its nutritional value, tempeh is used worldwide in vegetarian cuisine, where it is used as a meat analogue”. It tastes and looks completely different to tofu. There are also many differences, which you can see below (source).

tempeh

My Shiitake mushrooms have been doing really well. I finally have a few that I could try out. I though they would have a really strong taste like the dried variety, but they are actually quite mellow. They are more flavorsome then the regular white mushrooms and have a kind of meaty chewy texture.

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Last night we had the kids over. They all wanted to have pasta so I made them a delicious tomato sauce with red onion and capsicum. For Marco and I wanted to make something a little more interesting. So I decided to make a pasta dish with tempeh, shiitake mushrooms and french lentils. I thought that it would be like a vegetarian bolognese. It didn’t really turn out like I thought, but it was really tasty. I felt a bit bad that the kids was so simple, but that’s what they wanted and I was too scared they wouldn’t like ours. Marco was a bit envious of the kids, until he tried ours. On the side I made some Frys Meat Free Pops. Everyone loved them and they were a good incentive for everyone to finish their dinner. Not that they needed much, all the kids had seconds of the pasta.

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The kids pasta dish

Frys Meat Free Pops

Frys Meat Free Pops

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For this pasta I used an Italian brand of finely diced tomatoes, Mutti from Parma. I am pretty sure this is the same one that we were cooking with when we lived in Italy. I asked my Aunty in Milan what her secret was to her delicious pasta sauce and she told me it was the quality of the diced tomatoes. She showed me this brand that she used and I finally found it in Coles of all places.

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Pasta Shells with Tempeh, Shiitake Mushrooms and French Lentil in a Tomato Sauce (vegan, gluten free option, nut free)

Ingredients:

4 serves pasta shells (use gluten free pasta shells if you prefer)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 red onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, diced

1/2 red capsicum, diced

3/4 cooked french lentils

100g tempeh

3-4 shiitake mushrooms

1 can good quality finely diced tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon raw sugar or more to taste

2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves

sea salt & black pepper to taste

Method:

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1. Heat olive oil then saute red onion and garlic for 5 mins on medium heat. Then add capsicum and saute for another few minutes till all is caramelized.

2. Add tempeh and shiitake mushrooms and saute for a few more minutes.

3. Add the french lentils,  a can of finely diced tomatoes and oregano. Season with sugar, salt and pepper and cook for 30-40 mins (the longer the better).

4. Cook the pasta until al dente and then serve with the pasta sauce.

*Serves 4

After dinner we made New York-Style Crumb Cake from Chloe’s Vegan Desserts. This was amazing! I will be definitely making this again. It tastes store bought but completely vegan. If you don’t have the book, you can see the recipe here.

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During the week I made Baked Rigatoni with Tempeh Sausage. I made a similar combination to the Tempeh Sausages from Sweet Mixed Tomato and Tempeh Sausage Casserole. However I didn’t add any oil or flour to the sausages and just form the mixture into balls. The tempeh gave that meaty texture that I really miss from my mums baked pasta with sausage.

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Baked Rigatoni with Tempeh Sausage (vegan, gluten free option, nut free)

Ingredients Italian Tempeh Sausages:

300g  tempeh

3 tablespoons Italian seasoning

1/4 cup tamari or light soy sauce (more to taste)

Ingredients for Italian seasoning (makes 1/2 cup):

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion flakes or powder

1 tablespoon ground fennel (grinded fennel seeds)

1/2 tablespoon dried thyme

1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 tablespoon ground black pepper

Rest of Ingredients:

500g rigatoni (use gluten free rigatoni if you prefer)

1 tablespoon olive oil

700 ml passata sauce

1 red onion

3 garlic cloves

1 red capsicum

2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves

sea salt, black pepper and raw sugar to taste

vegan mozarella, grated (I used Notzarella)???????????????????????????????

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

2. To make the Tempeh Sausages, cut the tempeh into cubes and steam for 15 mins. Then allow it to cool or if your impatient rinse with cold water. Then break up into crumbs and place into a mixing bowl.DSC06246

3. Add the Italian Seasoning and tamari, add more to make more salty.

4. In the meantime, take a pot and saute red onion, garlic and capsicum with olive oil till caramelized.  Then add passata sauce, oregano leaves sea salt, black pepper and raw sugar. Bring to the boil then leave to simmer for 20-30 mins.

5. While the sauce is cooking bring a pot to the boil and cook the pasta according to the directions on the packet.

6. Take a baking tray and put some sauce on the bottom. Then add the pasta and some more sauce and toss though, so the pasta is coated in sauce.

7. Form balls with the tempeh mixture and place them on top and between the pasta.

8. Lastly top with more pasta sauce and grated notzarella. Bake for 30-40 mins.

*Serves 8

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For more Tempeh recipes check out my Sweet Mixed Tomato and Tempeh Sausage CasseroleLoaded Sweet Potatoes with Spinach and Tempeh ‘Bacon’, Tempeh Pine nut ‘Meatballs’ with Red Wine Tomato SauceFettuccine alla bolognese and Mock Tuna Salad.

Last thing I want to share is the amazing Cherry Pita that I had at Pitstop Pastries and Pizza over the weekend in West End. Best part was that it was completely vegan! I think I am going to have to order some more to keep for mid week morning teas.

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Roasted Cauliflower, Beets, Capsicum and Chickpeas with Tahini Sumac Dressing

As promised another recipe with cauliflower. I just love roasted cauliflower. It doesn’t have that bitter flavor that steamed cauliflower has. I usually make roasted vegetables with potatoes, pumpkins and other root vegetables. But this variation was really nice change and the dressing gave it a bit more zing.

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Roasted Cauliflower, Beets, Capsicum and Chickpeas with Tahini Sumac Dressing (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

olive oil

1 large beetroot, sliced

1/2 large cauliflower, chopped

1 red capsicum, sliced

1 tin chickpeas

handful of italian parsley, chopped

sea salt & black pepper to taste

Ingredients for Tahini Sumac Sauce:

1 whole garlic head

3 tablespoons unhulled tahini

2 tablespoons lemon

handful of italian parsley

1 teaspoon sumac

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup water

sea salt to taste

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

2. Place beetroot in a baking dish and toss with olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes or until tender.

3. Add cauliflower, capsicum and whole garlic, drizzle with more olive oil. Bake for a further 20 minutes or until the vegetables have cooked. Remove the whole garlic once it has softened.

4. In the meantime add all the ingredients to the blender. Also peel roasted garlic and add to the process and blend.

5. Add a tin of chickpeas to the baking dish and cook vegetables for a further few minutes, then remove from the oven.

6. Toss the vegetables with the dressing, parsley and season with sea salt & black pepper before serving.

*Serves 4 as a side dish.

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On the side I made Syndian Asian Bean and Kumera Patties. This was the first Syndian product that I have tried and it wasn’t too bad. It really tasted homemade, which is probably because it had all real ingredients in it. The only thing that it needed was a sauce, as I found it was a little dry, but otherwise not to bad.

(Cookbook Project) Energise Your Life – Aloo Gobi…Sweet Potato Noodle Soup with Tofu, Asian Greens and White Fungus

A couple of nights ago I made Aloo Gobi from Energise Your Life. I have had Aloo Gobi a couple of times in the past and I was really looking forward to making it. However, this recipe was a big disappointment. I don’t know if it is because I eat Indian food out often so I am use to more authentic flavors or this was just a terrible recipe in general.

To make this recipe I had to saute a little bit of turmeric, cumin and cayenne with extra virgin olive oil. Then add peeled tomatoes and maple syrup before adding quartered potatoes. The recipe said that the potatoes only needed 10 mins to cook, but perhaps I had the wrong type, as I only had Brushed. After letting the potatoes cook for a while I found the flavor was far too sweet and didn’t have enough spice. So I added a whole lot of sea salt and some curry powder. Lastly I added some cauliflower, but it didn’t look too exciting, so I added some peas. The end result was very underwhelming and disappointing.

To make things worse I took the advice from the book and tried to pair this dish with Basmati Rice cooked in Coconut Milk, Cumin and Lime. What a disaster. I don’t know why, but every time I try to make Coconut Rice it turns out stodgy and flavorless. This time was no exception. I also had to move the rice from the rice cooker into a pot on the stove since it refused to cook it anymore. It just keep putting it to warm.

So after a few good recipes, this one was not for us. Marco and I really didn’t want to take it for lunch the next day, but we had no choice. In fact there’s still some left over in the fridge but both of us are avoiding it lol.

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Since the Aloo Gobi disaster, our China student has arrived back from China and we also have a new Chinese student. We decided to do pizza night, so we could all make our own pizzas and get to know the new student. I am not sure if the new student has ever had pizza before. The poor thing looked very confused or maybe it was just jet lag.

Last night I thought I might make something she is more familiar with. So I dropped past the Asian grocery store on the way home and got some Sweet Potato Starch ???????????????????????????????Noodles and Asian veggies. I also got some Gold Vegetarian Sha Chao Buns, which are vegan frozen steamed buns. I also tried out some White Fungus in the soup. I first soaked them, but they didn’t soften very much. After I chopped them and discarded the really hard center. Are any of you familiar with White Fungus and how to cook it?

Both the girls seemed to like the soup. It was a bit spicy for our new student, but our other student loves spicy burn your tongue off flavors.They both didn’t touch their Sha Chao Buns. I don’t blame them after trying them. They were terrible. The inside didn’t taste too bad, but the actual bun tasted plasticy. Definitely will be making my own next time.

I didn’t have time tonight to include tonight’s recipe, Tempeh Sausages baked with Cherry Tomatoes…It was the best thing we’ve had all week.

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Sweet Potato Noodle Soup with Tofu, Asian Greens and White Fungus (vegan, gluten free, nut free)

Ingredients:

handful white fungus

250g firm tofu

2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons tamari (more for seasoning)

1 tablespoon chinese cooking wine

3 garlic cloves, finely diced

small nib ginger, finely diced

2-4 small red chillis

1 green onion, sliced

400g sweet potato starch noodle

1 litre vegan beef liquid stock

2 cups of water (or more if you need)

1/2 bunch asian greens, roughly chopped

1/2 bunch enoki mushrooms

15 snow peas, topped and tailed

handful of mint leaves to serve

Method:

1. Soak the white fungus in filtered water. Use just enough to cover. Soak for 10-20 mins.???????????????????????????????

2. Press the tofu then slice it into cubes. Then combine it with sesame oil, soy sauce, chinese cooking wine, garlic, ginger and chili. Leave it to marinate for at least 10 mins.

3. Heat a large pot and add the marinated tofu. Saute for 3 mins.

4. Add sliced onion and saute for a further few minutes.???????????????????????????????

4. Add the liquid stock and water. While its coming to the boil quickly slice the white fungus, then add the white fungus and its soaking water to the soup. Place on a simmer and cook for 15 mins.

5. Cook the starch noodles in boil water, according to pack directions.

6. Add the asian greens, enoki mushrooms and snow peas and cook for a few minutes. Add more soy sauce for seasoning if you need.

7. Add the starch noodles, then serve soup topped with mint leaves.

*Serves 6

Linda McCartney Sausages

???????????????????????????????I have heard lots of other blogs and vegan cookbooks mention that their favorite vegan sausages are Linda McCartney Vegetarian Sausages. I finally got around to trying them tonight and now I can see what everyone is raving about. These sausages are fantastic. They have a very similar texture and taste to real sausages, both on the outside and inside. Both mum and Marco also really liked them as well. ???????????????????????????????

These sausages don’t contain any soy, however they do contain gluten, wheat and sulphar dioxide. Sulphar dioxide often use in processed meats, like salami, sausages and hams.  This is definitely not healthy. I am not sure how much are in these sausages, but considering that I would not eat these regularly. In saying that, as a transitioning food these do hit the spot.

I made these sausages tonight with the leftover Onion Sauce from the Energise Your Life recipe, Spinach Parcels with Onion Sauce. On the side I made Sautéed Broccolini with Potatoes and a Spinach, Alfalfa and Cucumber Salad with Sweet Sesame Dressing.

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Sausages with Onion Sauce (vegan, nut free)

Ingredients:

Linda McCartney Vegetarian Sausages/other brand

grapeseed oil/other oil

Ingredients for Onion Sauce (makes about 1 1/2 cups):

2 tablespoons olive oil

225 g onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons flour

400 ml liquid vegetable/vegan chicken liquid stock

100 ml soy milk

sea salt & black pepper to taste

Method:

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1. Heat a griddle pan with oil. The cook sausages according to packet directions. These ones took 15 mins.

2. In the meantime,  heat olive oil  in a pot on medium heat, then add onions. Cook for 5 mins or until soften and browned.

3. Add soy sauce and flour, stir through.

4. Gradually add the stock, stiring constantly. Simmer for 3 mins.

5. Add soy milk and heat through.

6. Season with salt and pepper then serve on top of sausages.

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Sautéed Broccolini with Potatoes (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

4 small potatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves

brunch of broccolini

sea salt to taste

Method:

1. Place potatoes in a pot of water. Bring to the boil, then cook on medium heat for 20 mins or until cooked.

2. In the meantime, slice the garlic and cut the broccolini into thirds.

3. Peel the skin off the potatoes, then slice.

4. Heat olive oil in a large pan on medium heat. Add the sliced garlic and sliced potato. Then cook for 5 mins or until the potato begins to brown.

5. Add the broccolini and cook for a further 5 mins or until its tender. Season with salt then serve.

*Serve 3 as a side

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Spinach, Alfalfa and Cucumber Salad with Sweet Sesame Dressing (vegan, gluten free, nut free)

Ingredients:

50 g baby spinach

handful of alfalfa

1 small cucumber

2 tablespoons vegan soy mayo

1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon toasted black/white  sesame seeds

agave to taste

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

sea salt to taste

Method:

1. Slice the cucumber, roughly chop the spinach and combine together with alfalfa.

2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a small bowl.

3. Add the dressing to the salad then serve.

*Serves 3-4 as a side

Hurom Juicer and Pasulj (Serbian beans)

My Hurom Juicer finally arrived today! I have been madly checking the post tracking ever since I bought it for myself. It is my early graduation present. I bought HU500 ???????????????????????????????after I saw it advertised on the Food Matters website. The demonstration videos looked quite impressive and I really liked that it yields more juice with more nutrients.

The post man was so early this morning that he woke me up, but I couldn’t go back to bed I had to try it out my new baby. Albie took advantage of my sleepiness and impressed me with giving me each paw to shake and then sat with his adorable sad face. He is not well at the moment, he has injured himself so we are off to the chiropractor on the weekend. So while I was madly trying to figure out my juicer, he helped himself to my mum’s leather lounge and took a long nap.

After taking the juicer apart to see where it all goes I put it back together and started chopping fruit and veggies. I only had a pear, small beetroot, few sticks of celery and one large leaf of kale, so I wasn’t expecting a lot of juice. I just place a glass under the spout, like they do in the video and started to juice. Before I got near the pear I already had a full glass of green juice. I had to get another glass to catch the rest. I was really impressed with the dry pulp and I really love the little cap on the spout that the juice comes out of, which makes sure you don’t spill any.

The juice consistency was really nice. It wasn’t too watery or too pulpie. To clean the juicer you just have to rinse it with water and use the brush to get off any excess fruit, so easy. I ended up making juice again after dinner tonight to demonstrate it to Marco. He is in love with it too now. Unfortunately we had to go back to his tonight, so we won’t see the Hurom again till tomorrow.

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While I was enjoying my juice I was watching the Today Show and saw that David ‘Avocado’ Wolfe is here for his Australia Tour! He is  coming to my city in Brisbane next week. Unfortunately I couldn’t convince anyone today to go with me, so I will be going to his evening lecture and day conference by myself next weekend. It is a bit pricey but for the amount of hours it good value. To see a show or do a cooking lesson would cost just as much and thats only 2 hours. I first saw David on Hungry for Change documentary and he really influenced me to get back into juicing. So I can’t wait to see what he says and to learn more about raw food and nutrition.

With such a healthy start to the day I continued with a healthy Mushroom and Baba Ganoush Salad Wrap for lunch. I tried out the new Organic Mountain Bread that I got from Woolies yesterday. It doesn’t have any preservatives, which is great as its hard to find any wraps or lebanese breads that don’t. It also tastes really good and doesn’t have that strange wrap after taste.

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Mushroom and Baba Ganoush Salad Wrap (vegan, gluten free option, nut free)

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large flat mushroom sliced

1 teaspoon diced basil/parsley

2 pieces of mountain bread/gf wrap

2 tablespoons baba ganoush (store bought/homemade)

1/2 small carrot grated

1/2 small lebanese cucumber thinly sliced

1 radish thinly sliced

1 small tomato sliced

small handful baby spinach

1 roasted capsicum

sea salt to taste

Method:

1. Heat olive oil in a pan and add mushroom. Saute on each side, when it starts to brown add the basil/parsley and sea salt.

2. Place 1 piece of mountain bread on a plate, then spread baba ganosh and top with carrot, cucumber, radish, tomato, baby spinach, mushroom, roasted capsicum and sea salt.

3. Close the ends of the mountain bread then roll it closed. Wrap another mountain bread around the wrap.

4. Wrap the mountain bread with baking paper and twist the ends of the paper. Then slice in the middle and serve.

* Serves 1

After lunch I started on dinner. I always get so much done when I am procrastinating my uni work. I really wanted to try make another Serbian bean dish that I tried at ???????????????????????????????Marco’s sisters Slava.  It is prepared the same way as Prebranac, which I made with lima beans. However, is stove cooked instead of baked. To thicken the beans and water into a sauce you just add a mixture of flour and water. She also told me that leeks, carrots and capscium can also be added.

According to an article I read this stove cooked Serbian beans is called Pasulj (Пасуљ) and is more like a thick bean soup. It is traditional dish in Serbian, Bosnia, Albania and other parts of the Balkans. Like Prebranac it is made white or brown beans, onions and sweet Hungarian paprika as well as bay leaves, carrots, leeks and other vegetables. It is often prepared with smoked meats, such as smoked bacon, smoked sausage and smoked joints. But the meat is omitted during times of fasting.

Although this dish takes a long time to make its really easy and is a perfect comfort dish for cold weather. I had to add a bit of sugar to mine, as my sweet hungarian paprika was a bit bitter. We enjoyed this soup with some crusty sour dough and sauerkraut.

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Pasulj (Serbian Bean Soup) (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

500g great northern beans (soaked/un-soaked)

1/2 cup olive oil

1 large leek, diced

3 onions, diced

2 garlic cloves, diced

2 large carrots, diced

1 red capsicum, diced

2 tablespoons Sweet Hungarian Paprika

3 bay leaves, pinch of raw sugar (if too bitter)

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1/2 tablespoon liquid smoke (optional)

sea salt and black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons arrowroot flour (or other flour)???????????????????????????????

Method:

1. Place beans in a large pot and fill with water. Bring to the boil, then strain beans and remove water.

2. Place beans  in the same pot and fill with water. Bring to the again boil, then strain beans and remove again water.???????????????????????????????

3. This time place beans back in pot with water to cover (about 1-2 finger tips). Slightly cover the pot and bring to the boil, then place on a simmer. Cook for 45 mins to 1 hour, or until beans are quite soft.???????????????????????????????

4. In a large pan heat olive oil and add the onion, garlic, leeks, carrots, red capsicum, paprika, bay leaves, sea salt, black pepper, sugar and liquid smoke. Cook for 1o mins or until onions are translucent and all the vegetables have softened???????????????????????????????

5. Add the vegetables to the beans and stir through.

6. Mix flour with 4 tablespoons water in a small bowl then add to the beans.

7. Cook beans for a further 30-1 hour, so that they break down a little more and become a thick soup. Season and serve.

*Serves 6-8

Pasulj <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pasulj>

Cord Magazine <http://www.cordmagazine.com/images1/pdf/cord77.pdf>

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Here is an update on my garden. My herbs are looking a bit sad and my veggies are getting a few bites, but they are all growing nicely. I have started using the pak chop and lettuce. Any advice natural ways to stop bugs? I am using this natural chili garlic spray. Its only the broccoli, cabbage and brussel sprouts that are getting attacked.

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I’ve also started growing a pineapple plant with the top root. I will have to plant it soon.

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Friendly Fish and Chips with Sweet Chimi Mayo (vegan)

As I have mentioned before, giving up seafood has been probably the hardest thing about going vegan for me. I often end up eating fish or seafood when we go out with friends, because I have no other option on the menu. I haven’t been eating it that much lately, with all the recent controversy surrounding our quality and health of the seafood we get in Australia. However, every so often when I don’t feel like cooking, Marco and I have been buying takeaway fish and chips. It always sounds like a good idea at the time, but I end up feeling really full and sickly after. Our local one doesn’t have the best quality chips and the oil that they promote that they fry the food in vegetable oil. If I wouldn’t use vegetable oil at home because its so unhealthy, why am I buying it from there?

We don’t eat fried food often, but when we do I prefer to make it at home. Occasionally Marco twists my arm, to have fried chips. In fact its one of the only things he can or will make is fried chips. I don’t even have to do anything, which is very convenient for him. So last night when he offered to go get fish and chips, we decided instead we would make our own.

Do you remember on Valentines Day I posted about Kuan Yin Tea House? I ordered Veggie Snow Fish Rice. I was blown away by how great the ‘fish’ was. The texture, the flavor was very fish like. Silly me thought this was something they made in store. I never seen or heard of veggie fish before. However, last week when I was buying up at Green Edge, I was looking in their freezer section and saw Lamyong Vegetarian Chunky Fish. It looked very similar to what I had at restaurant. So I got some to try and yes it was the same thing.

I decided to make my usually go-to battered fish recipe. I used to dip the fish in flour, then into beaten eggs with herbs, then finished off in corn crumbs. I really prefer corn crumbs, as I find bread crumbs are a bit plain in flavor. Instead of using eggs I used whole organic soy (from Aldi) and it works just as well as eggs. The Lamyong Veggie Fish cooked  just as well as my usually fried fish, so it makes a really great substitute. Marco also really liked it and was happy to have this instead of regular fish. The pieces were quite thick and it was very filling, so you don’t need to have too many pieces to be satisfied.

On the side we had the chips, which we have learned from our mothers, that you must soak the potatoes before frying. I never knew why I could never make fries. Now we have no problems and they are cooked all the way through and unbroken. I also made this quick dipping sauce with the left over Chimichurri. Obviously I won’t eat this kind of vegan product often, but it is a nice vegan treat that can be prepared at home.

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Friendly Fish and Chips with Sweet Chimi Mayo (vegan, nut free)

Ingredients for Vegan Fish & Chips:

Potato and/or Sweet Potato (enough for 2 serves)

Canola or Sunflower oil to fry

6 pieces Lamyong Vegetarian Chunky Fish/other vegan fish (defrosted)

unbleached plain flour

whole soy milk (thick)

fresh minced herb of choice (optional)

corn crumbs or other bread crumbs

sea salt to taste???????????????????????????????

Ingredients for Sweet Chimi Mayo:

2 tablespoons vegan mayo

2 teaspoons Chimichurri

agave to taste

Method:

1. Wash and chop the potatoes and sweet potatoes into batons. Then place them in cold water for 10-20 mins. If you haven’t defrosted the vegan fish, place it in water and set aside.DSC04258

2. In the mean time make the Sweet Chimi Mayo, by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl. Add more of each for taste.

3. If you fish is ready (completely defrosted on inside) then you can batter it now. Just dip it in flour (pat off excess), then dip in thick whole soy milk with herbs mixed through (optional), then dip in corn crumbs.

4. To fry the fish and chips just heat the oil in a wok/pan and cook the fish and chips until fish is golden brown and chips are cooked. Then place them on paper towels to drain any excess water, top with sea salt and serve.

*Serves 2

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