Risotto with Shiitake Mushrooms, Sundried Tomatoes and Peas

A couple of days ago I finally received my copy of Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen. I didn’t even know Chloe Coscarelli had written another book, but as soon as I found out I added it to my Amazon order. I have a been a long time fan of Chloe and have previously bought and cooked recipes from her other books, Chloe’s Kitchen and Chloe’s Vegan Desserts.

I am really excited about this new book because it combines my two favorite things, italian food and guilt free delicious vegan recipes. You probably noticed on my blog that I have many Italian inspired recipes that are recreations of the food I grew up with and other traditional dishes that I have eaten in Italy or always wanted to try. So I am so excited to get some ideas on how to better veganise my favourite recipes.

You can see a sneak peak of Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen on Amazon and Google Books.

Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen: My Vegan MoFo Cookbook of the Week

This recipe below was adapted from Chloe’s White Wine Risotto with Shiitake Mushrooms and Peas from Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen. I used dried shiitake mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes in mine. Both have really strong flavours that really shone through. Marco was a bit scared when he saw the shiitake mushrooms, but he ended up being really happy with the taste of this risotto and wanted to have the leftovers for lunch the next day.

DSC03179Risotto with Shiitake Mushrooms, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Peas (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)


6 cups vegetable liquid stock

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 onion, finely diced

1/2 cup dried shiitake mushrooms (soak for 10 minutes and slice in strips if large pieces)

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes

1 cup arborio rice

1/2 cup white wine

1/2 cup frozen peas

1/4 cup chopped fresh italian parsley

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

ground black pepper to taste


1. Take medium pot and heat the liquid stock.  Leave it on a simmer while you start cooking the rest of the recipe.

2. Take a large skillet and heat olive oil on medium to high heat. Then add the onion and shiitake mushrooms. Saute until the onions have softened and are translucent.

3. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and garlic. Saute for 1 minute so that the garlic is fragrant.

4. Add the rice and the white wine. Stir through and cook until the white wine has been absorb.

5. Begin to ladle about one cup at a time of liquid stock into the skillet. Stir frequently. Add another ladle of liquid stock once the first has been absorbed and continue until the rice is cooked and there is no more stock. This should take about 20-25 minutes.

6. Add the peas, italian parsley, sea salt and ground black pepper. Stir through until the peas are warmed through. Adjust seasoning if you need and then serve.

*Serves 4

DSC03183So far I have made a couple more dishes from my new favorite cook book. Last night I made Lemon Herb Cannellini Beans (Cannellini all erbe e limone) with Spinach and Mash Potatoes with Garlic and Sea Salt (Purè di patate con aglio e sale marino).  This was the most delicious creamy, cheezy bean dish I have ever had and was really simple and quick to make. The main ingredients are cannellini beans, garlic, nutritional yeast, plant milk and lemon juice. The Mash Potatoes were also really creamy and delicious thanks to the fresh garlic and plant milk.

For dessert I made Olive Oil Pancakes (Frittelle all’olio di oliva). I’ve never cooked pancakes with olive oil and I usually don’t use that much baking soda, but they came out so fluffy and delicious. For a recipe with only 5 ingredients I was really happy with the results and so was Marco. Usually he lathers his pancakes with nutella, but was content with natural maple syrup. Can’t wait to serve this the next time the mini-Marco’s come to visit.


Winter Warm Risottos

Unless your living in Brisbane you probably don’t believe me that I am freezing right now. Winter in the sunshine state is has become bone chilling. To stay warm I’ve been drinking lots of herbal teas and warm meals of roasted vegetables, soups and risottos. These are a couple non traditional risotto’s that I have been enjoying over the past week.

I’ve never added quinoa to a risotto before. But I often cook a quinoa brown rice blend which is delicious and a pain to clean out of the rice cooker. Quinoa gives an extra protein kick to this risotto and doesn’t compromise the taste at all.


Roasted Pumpkin and Quinoa Risotto (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)


1/4 kent or butternut pumpkin, sliced into thin pieces

1/2 large or 1 small head of garlic

olive oil

1 cup arborio rice

1 cup quinoa

1 medium onion, diced

1/2 cup white wine

1 litre vegetable stock

2 cups baby spinach

1/4 cup nutritional yeast (optional)

sea salt and black pepper to taste

italian parsley to garnish (optional)


1. Preheat oven 200 degrees.

2. Place pumpkin and garlic head in an baking tray and drizzle about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Roast for 30 minutes or until both are soft.  Once both are cooked well place in a small bowl and mash with a fork. Keep it aside to add to the risotto.

3. Take a pot and fill with the vegetable stock and leave to boil, then place on a simmer.

4. In the meantime take another large pot and heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Then add the onion. Cook till it softens

5. Add aborbio rice and quinoa to pot and let it toast for a few minutes.

6. Add the wine to the pot and cook until its been absorbed.

7. By this time the liquid stock should have boiled. Begin by ladling a spoon full at a time of the hot liquid stock to the rice and constantly stir. Once one spoon full has been absorbed into the rice, add another spoon full. Continue for  cooking for 15 mins or until the rice and quinoa is cooked

8. Add the mashed pumpkin and garlic. Stir through and then add baby spinach. Continue to stir until the baby spinach has wilted.

9. Take off the heat, then add the nutritional yeast and season with extra seasalt and black pepper. Serve with some chopped parsley.

*Serves 4


Cauliflower has historically been one of my most hated vegetables from birth. My mum use to steam or microwave it with cheese and bechamel. I never liked cheese and always found cauliflower to be strange in texture and bland in taste. But I have a new love for cauliflower now. I love using it in Italian pasta dishes to coat pasta. It also tastes amazing in soups, on pizza, roasted and in a pie.  Here are some of my favourite cauliflower dishes that get the Marco tick of approval.

Pasta al Cavolfiore

Penne al Cavolfiore

Cauliflower Red Onion and Garlic Pizza

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

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Roasted Cauliflower Steak

Broccoli & Cauliflower Pakoras

Spicy Roasted Cauliflower and Corn Soup

Cauliflower Cheezy Thyme Pie

For this Cauliflower Risotto I used both the stalks and florets of the cauliflower.  I diced the stalks and sautéed them with the onions and added the florets to the vegetable stock which I ladled to cook the risotto. I stole this idea from Jamie Oliver’s Cauliflower risotto (Risotto ai cavalfiori). Its a great way not to waste any of that cauliflower goodness.

Oh and by the way in case you haven’t tried Kale with Pine nuts and Raisins put it on your to do list. The bitter, sweet and nutty flavors make it one of my favourite side dishes and goes great on top of this Cauliflower Risotto.


Cauliflower Risotto topped with Sautéed Tuscan Kale with Pine Nuts and Raisins 

Cauliflower Risotto (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)


1-2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups arborio rice

1 medium onion, diced

2-3 garlic cloves, diced

1/2 medium cauliflower, dice stalks and chop the florets, keeping each separate

1/2 cup white wine

1 litre vegetable stock

handful italian parsley leaves, diced

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

sea salt & black pepper


1.Take a pot and fill with the vegetable stock and cauliflower florets and leave to boil, then place on a simmer.

2. In the meantime take another large pot and heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Then add the onion, garlic and diced cauliflower stalk. Cook for a couple of mintues.

3. Add aborbio rice and let it toast for a few minutes.

4. Add the wine to the pot and cook until its been absorbed.

5. By this time the liquid stock should have boiled. Begin by ladling a spoon full at a time of the hot liquid stock with the cauliflower florets to the rice. Stir constantly and mash the cauliflower florets as it cooks. Once one spoon full has been absorbed into the rice, add another spoon full. Continue for  cooking for 15 mins or until the rice  is cooked

6. Take off the heat, then add the nutritional yeast and italian parsley. Season with extra sea salt and black pepper.

7. Serve with Sautéed Tuscan Kale with Pine Nuts and Raisins (recipe below)

*Serves 4


Sautéed Tuscan Kale with Pine Nuts and Raisins (vegan, gluten free, soy free)


1 tablespoon olive oil

1-2 garlic cloves, diced

bunch tuscan kale, chopped into ribbons

1-2 tablespoons golden raisins

1-2 tablespoons pinenuts


1. Heat olive oil in a pan. Then add the garlic cook for about a minute

2. Add the kale, raisins and pine nuts. Saute until the kale has wilted.

3. Serve on top of the Cauliflower Risotto or as a side dish.

*Serves 2-4 as a side

For more risotto recipes check these out:

Sweet Potato Sage Risotto with Hazelnut ‘Parmesan’

Green Spring Risotto

Risotto alla zucca (Pumpkin Risotto)

Risotto ai funghi porcini (Mushroom Risotto)

Red Wine Barley & Brown Rice Risotto with Mushrooms & Spinach

Sweet Potato Sage Risotto with Hazelnut ‘Parmesan’

Now that I know the secret to making a good risotto it is one of my favourite midweek meals to make. I have never made it with sweet potato or sage before and to be honest I was a bit worried how it was going to turn out. However this has to be one of the best risotto’s I’ve ever made. I was worried that the sweet potato would be  too sweet, but it rather completed the risotto rather then overpowering it. The sage also gave the risotto a really nice aromatic flavour. With the addition of hazelnut ‘parmesan’ it was a winning combination.

What’s your favourite ingredients to add to Risotto?


Sweet Potato Sage Risotto with Hazelnut ‘Parmesan’ (vegan, gluten free, soy free)


3 medium sweet potatoes (about 3 cups), peeled and roughly chopped

2 tablespoons hazelnuts

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

sea salt to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups risotto

1 large brown onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, diced

1/2 cup white wine

1 litre boiling vegetable stock (I used steamer water and Marigold Swiss Bouillon Powder)

20 sage leaves, roughly chopped


1. Steam the sweet potato. Once it is cooked set aside and mash.

2. In the meantime place the hazelnuts and nutritional yeast in a coffee grinder. Grind into a flour and add sea salt to taste.

2. Heat olive oil in a large pot, then add risotto. Toast the risotto for a minute, then add the onion and garlic. Saute for another minute.

3. Add the white wine and allow it to absorb into the rice. Stir continuously.

4. Ladle spoons of boiling vegetable stock into the pot, one at a time. Allowing the rice to absorb the stock and before adding another ladle. Stir continuously. After you add a couple of ladles of stock, add the sage leaves.

5. Once the rice is just about cooked, add the mashed sweet potato and stir through. Adjust the seasoning with sea salt to taste.

6. Serve the risotto topped with a generous couple of spoons of the Hazelnut ‘Parmesan’

*Serves 6


To complement the risotto I made a great big salad with fresh organic lettuce, kale, pea sprouts, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and red onion. To dress it I used my homemade Sun-dried Tomato Basil and Almond Pesto.

Pesto is also my new weekly obsession. Every week when I go to the Farmers Market I get a big bunch of basil and just blend it with olive oil, nutritional yeast and what ever nuts I have on hand. It’s great to use as a spreads, salad dressings, to add to sauces, etc. Actually tonight I used the remaining pesto to give my homemade burgers an extra kick. I am too tired to post that recipe tonight, so it will be coming out soon.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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


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)


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.


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


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


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.


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


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


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


Mushroom Risotto

I’ve been wanting to make this dish for a while, since I bought dried Porcini Mushrooms from Melbourne on my last visit. But I have been waiting for a night when Marco was out. He is not a fan of mushrooms at all. But last night I decided I couldn’t wait any long. As usually he begged me to reconsider, or to make something else on-the-side (which means something else), so I made a small salad. Luckily enough he actually liked this mushroom risotto. He has started to warm up to mushrooms more lately, but he didn’t consider the taste to over powering in this dish, which was strange considering it was all mushrooms. Its really true what they say, if you eat something enough times you start to like it.

This recipe is slightly adapted from The Food of Italy: A Journey for Food Lovers. Unlike most risotto recipe, there is no wine used. Instead the porcini mushrooms are left to brew in hot water, and this stock is used instead to absorb into the rice, before liquid stock is added. The porcini mushrooms add a more earthy flavor, which is not achieved with just fresh mushrooms. Instead of parmesan cheese, I used a fresh batch of Cashew Parmesan, which helped give that creamy salty flavor, but you can omit if you prefer.


Risotto ai funghi porcini (Mushroom Risotto) (vegan, gluten free, soy free)


20g dried porcini mushrooms

4 cups vegetable or vegan chicken liquid stock

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon vegan butter (I used Nutlex)

1 small brown onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, diced

1 3/4 cup risotto rice

200g fresh swiss brown mushrooms, sliced

pinch ground nutmeg

1/2 cup vegan parmesan (Cashew Parmesan)

3 tablespoons diced parsley

sea salt & black pepper to taste???????????????????????????????


1. Soak porcini mushrooms in 2 cups of boiling water for 20-30 mins. (Remove and slice porcini mushrooms if they are too large, keep liquid).

2. Heat olive oil and butter in a large heavy-based pot.???????????????????????????????

3. Add onions and garlic and cook for 3 mins or until softened, but not browned.

4. Add risotto and reduce heat to low. Add sea salt and coat in the onions and garlic.???????????????????????????????

5. Add the fresh mushrooms and nutmeg. Saute for 1-2 mins and reseason if you need.

6. Add porcini mushrooms and there liquid. Place on a higher heat and let the stock absorb.

7. Once stock has absorbed now add boil vegetable stock, one ladle at a time, until it has absorbed into the rice, then add another ladle. This should take about 20 mins and then the risotto should be cooked.

8. Take of the heat, add vegan parmesan, parsley, sea salt and black pepper. Stir through then serve.

*Serves 4-5


Risotto alla zucca, Brazil Nut Parmesan, Zucchini Fritters with Mint and Banana Blueberry Overnight Oats

Good evening or morning guys. Tonight I made another Italian traditional dish. In the north, pumpkin is plentiful and in the past was typically eaten by the poor farmers. In Mantova this dish is very popular. I have previously made some dishes from this city, including Tortelli di zucca and Sbrisolona in past posts.

I veganised a recipe from the Italian website Giallo Zafferano. Instead of using rosemary, I used thyme, which gave it a beautiful fragrant flavor. I topped it with Brazil Nut Parmesan. This Parmesan was just as good as Cashew Parmesan. It is really creamy and savory. I am addicted!

I also made these zucchini fritters. Marco didn’t like the mint, but I think it gave it a really nice fresh taste. If you don’t like mint, add basil or italian parsley. There are no eggs needed in this recipe. The moisture from the zucchini, flour and touch of soy milk is enough to bind the fritters. These can be made gluten free by just using gluten free plain flour.

This afternoon we went to the Rocklea Markets and got this delicious loaf of Organic Spelt Bread. We also heaps of vegetables. I can’t believe for $17 I managed to fill a whole box of food. So if you live in Brisbane I really recommend doing your food shopping here and see how much you save.

Lastly, I wanted to share these delicious overnight oats I had for breakfast. Our bananas have been going nearly off, as no one has been eating them, so this was a perfect way to use them. Overnight oats are really filling and a perfect quick way to start the day. For more flavor ideas check out my Recipe Index.


Risotto alla zucca (vegan, gluten free, soy free)


3 tablespoons vegan butter

1 brown onion, diced

350g pumpkin cut in small cubes

500g arborio rice

1-2 tablespoons thyme leaves

1/2 cup white wine

1 litre vegan chicken/vegetable liquid stock

vegan parmesan


1. Heat vegan butter in a pot, then add onion. Cook for 4 mins or until the onion has soften.???????????????????????????????

2. Add pumpkin and cook for 5 mins so it has softened.

3. Add rice and thyme cook for 10 mins. Constantly stirring. While it is cooking boil liquid stock.

4. Now begin ladling hot liquid stock, one spoon at a time. Constantly stiring. Continue adding stock till all has been absorbed and rice is cooked.

*Serve with vegan parmesan

Serves 6


Brazil Nut Parmesan (vegan, gluten free, soy free)


1 cup brazil nuts

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1/2 teaspoon sea salt


1. Grind all the ingredients till ground.

*Makes 1 cup


Zucchini Fritters with Mint (vegan, gluten free option, soy free, nut free)


1 large zucchini

2 garlic cloves

1 handful of mint

1/2 cup wholemeal (or gluten free flour)

1 tablespoon unsweetened plant milk (oat or rice; soy or almond if you can tolerate)

sea salt to taste

olive oil to fry???????????????????????????????


1. Grate zucchini and garlic. Chop mint roughly.

2. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well so all the flavour goes through.

3. Make small patties and fry in hot oil. Cook patties for 1-2 mins on both sides or until browned.

*Makes 10


Banana Blueberry Overnight Oats (vegan, raw, gluten free, soy free, nut free)


1/2 cup instant or rolled oats (preferably organic)

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

2 whole overripe bananas

1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

1 tablespoon maple syrup (I used blueberry maple syrup)


1. Combine all the ingredients in a container and stir through.

2. Cover and place in the fridge over night.

*Serves 2 or 1 big serve

Red Wine Barley & Brown Rice Risotto with Mushrooms and Spinach, Vegan Parmesan and Turkish Bread Pizzas

Good evening guys, hope you had a good weekend. We just caught up with friends and finally celebrated our engagement with my parents. So didn’t do a lot of cooking. I have been feeling really tired lately. It’s not as hot as it was, but still a bit sticky. I have been finding myself craving meat, chicken mostly. Its strange because I really don’t want to eat it and it’s been the only thing I think I haven’t even tasted since I stopped eating it all together. I am still eating a bit of fish, but I know my body is craving whole grains and fresh greens. So I have been trying the past couple of days to get back on track.

I have also been trying to get back into exercising. Six months ago I was walking every where all day and all night. Now I have been barely walking, except for the occasional dog walk. It’s started to cool down as I said so there is no more excuses for not going for more walks and started back up with pilates. I went for a couple of walks today and it was really nice to get out by myself. The sun stays out till 6.30 and there are lots of people about walking. I won’t take the dogs by myself again, after what happened a couple of days ago. My dogs went crazy at a woman who walked too close to us, then they saw a cat, then a man walking a baby, then two people walking two boxes, then another couple walking a dog. They were out of control. I still have sore arms and blisters on my hands from them trying to pull away from me and attack all these ‘threats’. It was very embarrassing and scary situation. They were scared and they knew I didn’t have full control of them. But it is not their fault, so more walks are needed for them to get more social and for me to get back in shape.

Tonight I wanted to make something with a little bit of barley I had in the cupboard. I didn’t have enough so I also used brown rice to make a risotto. I adapted this recipe, Red Wine Barley Risotto with Silverbeet & Mushrooms, from Madison. I was a bit scared using merlot in the cooking, so I used a bit less then I could have, but it turned out lovely with a mild hint of the wine and gave the grains a beautiful color. Although not a traditional risotto, the vegan butter really brought a creaminess to it at the end.

Since I couldn’t use parmigiano, I looked for a vegan alternative. I found this lovely recipe for a Vegan Parmesan Cheese from Veggieful. It is made from cashew nuts and nutritional yeast and it tastes amazing. I actually never liked parmesan. Even my Nona knows not to put parmesan on my pasta from when I was a little girl. I always thought it smelt like throw up. But this parmesan is delicious! It is soft, with a creaminess to it and a bit of a cheesy salty taste. I really recommend it, even if you don’t like parmesan either.

Lastly, I put in a simple recipe from the night before. We weren’t going to have dinner, since we had such a late lunch. We made turkish burgers with Fry’s Traditional Burger patties (can’t get enough of these). But after a long walk with the dogs we got really peckish late that night. So this is what we came up with.


Red Wine Barley & Brown Rice Risotto with Mushrooms & Spinach (vegan, gluten free option, soy free, nut free)


4.5 cups (1 Litre) vegan chicken or vegetable liquid stock

1.5 cup filtered water

1.25 cup merlot

1 cup pearl barley (use another cup of brown rice instead to make gluten free)

1 cup brown rice

4 tablespoons olive oil

20g dried skiitake mushrooms, soaked & sliced if not already

5 white mushrooms, sliced

4 garlic cloves, diced

1 red onion, diced

200-300 g baby spinach, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons parsley, diced

50g vegan butter

sea salt & pepper to taste

vegan parmesan to serve (optional, recipe below)


1. Take a large pot and bring to the boil the liquid stock, water and wine. In the meantime rinse the barley and brown rice.P1000605

2. Once pot comes to a boil, add the barley and rice and let that come to a boil. Then let it continue to boil uncovered for 30 mins. Most of the liquid should be absorbed during this time. Remove any excess material from the top of the liquid as it cooks. Once it is finished take off the heat and put the lid on it and leave it for at least 5 mins before adding the rest of the ingredients.

3. Take large pan and heat the olive oil on medium heat. Then add the red onion, garlic and all the mushrooms. Cook for 10 mins. P1000606

4. Add the baby spinach and parsley to the mushrooms and cook for 2 mins or until spinach has wilted.

5. Then add the barley, rice and any extra liquid from the pot to the large pan and stir through.

6. Add the vegan butter  and season with sea salt & pepper. Heat through on a medium heat for 1-2 mins

* Serve with vegan parmesan

* Serves 5-6


Vegan Parmesan (from Veggieful) (vegan, raw, gluten free, soy free)


1 cup cashews

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1 tsp sea saltP1000604


1. Whiz in the processor or grinder until it becomes a powder.

* Makes about 1 cup

* Store in the fridge in air tight container. Should last a few weeks.

Turkish Bread Pizzas (vegan, nut free)


1/2 whole turkish bread

olive oil

cherry tomatoes

garlic, crushed

roasted capsicum

marinated buffalo-style tofu mozzarella (or store-bought vegan mozzarella)

baby spinach, chopped

fresh basil or parsley

sea salt to taste


1. Preheat the oven to grill.???????????????????????????????

2. Slice the turkish bread in half, lengthwise.

3. Combine the tomato, garlic and olive oil in a small bowl. Then spread onto the turkish bread base. Then add roasted capsicum, tofu/vegan cheese, baby spinach, herbs and sea salt.

4. Grill in the oven for 5 mins or until the bread is toasted

* Serves 2


Il festino lombardo

Morning guys. Last night I finally made a couple of the dishes that I learned in Milan, when I was doing my Cuisine course last year. It was a really challenging course, which included 6 cooking lessons at Teatro 7, with Chef Gualtiero. My Italian wasn’t very good, but I still really enjoyed the cooking lessons. I also really liked that after we finished the lesson that we would eat our creations. Since didn’t eat dairy and there were a few vegetarians in the class, I usually had a dairy free and/or vegan meal.

On our first lesson we made Mondeghili, Risotto allo zafferano, and Sbrisolona. Mondeghili is Milanese polpette (meatball) and is typical dish of the poor. It uses all different cuts of meat, which is cooked off and then processed and then shaped into patties, crumbed and fried. Clearly not a vegan dish, but if you are a meat lover this was probably the most delicious meatball I have ever tasted. It is full of flavor and very delicious. I am satisfied I have tried it, but knowing all the meat that is needed to make this dish, is enough for me be content not to have it again.

Risotto allo zafferano is also a typically dish of the Lombardia. This dish dates back to 1574, when a Valerio da Perfundavalle, Flemish master of glass making, was called to Milan to work on the magnificent Duomo. He came with family and his apprentice, who was nicknamed ‘Zafferano‘ (saffron). He was nicknamed this because of his talent of mixing yellow powder from saffron to create brilliant golden tones. Zafferano fell in love with his master’s beautiful daughter, who was already betrothed and on her wedding day (8th of September 1574), Zafferano was so jealous that he put saffron in the wedding risotto. Instead of being a catastrophe, it was praised because of its beautiful golden color and the strong aroma of the saffron. Since then this dish became a staple of Milanese cuisine and saffron became one of the most widely used spices in the Middle Ages. Today there are many variations of this dish, which use mushrooms, seafood, sausages or beef shanks. One of the more famous variations, which is often confused with this dish is Risotto alla Milanese or risòtt giald , which you will find in many restaurants in Milan. The this variation uses beef marrow and doesn’t use white wine.

I love both Risotto allo zafferano and Risotto alla Milanese. In class Chef Gualtiero didn’t add the butter or Parmesan to  dish mine so it was dairy free. Although a simple modification, I had trouble asking for that from restaurants in Milan, so I usually just ate it home or with family. I did however share the Risotto alla Milanese and the Cotoletta alla Milanese, with Marco on his first week in Milan. We wanted to sample the regional dishes of every city we visited. On this particular day it freezing as it was in the was the middle of winter and it was snowing outside. It was so nice to have a hot meal in a warm restaurant in Cairoli. Although it was more expensive then having lunch in a trattoria, it was a nice experience. As you can see they were very generous with the portions and the Parmesan. Below is also a picture of  my aunt and I in front of the Duomo, on my first day in Milan.


La Cotoletta alla Milanese


Il Risotto alla Milanese


Duomo in Milano

So for dinner I tried to recreate the Risotto allo zafferano. I served with Funghi trifolati (mushrooms sautéed) and a Fry’s Schnitzel. It’s not exactly a Cotoletta, but it was the closes thing I had. I had to use imitation saffron for this dish, since the only saffron I found was $14 for 5 g from Coles and I thought it was a bit too much to pay for a few threads of saffron. So it didn’t have the aroma, but it did give it the beautiful golden color and it tasted amazing. For dessert I made Sbrisolona, which you can see below.


Risotto allo zafferano (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)


3-4 tablespoons vegan butter (I used Nutlex)

1 cup diced onion

500g aborbio rice

1 cup white wine

1 -1.25 litre vegan chicken or vegetable liquid stock

few saffron threads or 1/4 teaspoon imitation saffron



1. Take a large pot and fill with the liquid stock and leave to boil, then place on a simmer.

2. In the meantime take another large pot and melt butter. Then add the onion. Cook for 3 mins.???????????????????????????????

3. Add aborbio rice to pot and coat in the butter and onions, let it toast for 3 mins.

4. Add the wine to the rice and cook until its been absorbed.???????????????????????????????

5. By this time the liquid stock should have boiled. Begin by ladling a spoon full at a time of the hot liquid stock to the rice and constantly stir. Once one spoon full has been absorbed into the rice, add another spoon full. Continue for  cooking for 15 mins.

6. Add saffron and stir through. The rice should change colour to yellow. Continue to add stock and stir, until the rice is cooked.

*Melt more vegan butter before serving and serve with or without vegan parmesan

* Serves 6-8


Funghi trifolati (Sautéed Mushrooms) (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)


olive oil

2-3 garlic cloves, diced

1 packet dried mushrooms, soaked in water  for 20 minutes, then and roughly chopped

fresh minced basil & italian parsley

sea salt to taste


1. Heat oil in a pan, then add garlic. Saute for 2 mins. ???????????????????????????????

2. Add the mushrooms and saute for 5 mins or until golden brown.

3. Take off the heat and add fresh basil, parsley and season with sea salt.


Sbrisolona or Torta Mantovana Sbrisolona, is a traditional crunchy cake from Mantova (Mantua), Lombardia. It gets its name from the mantovana dialect sbrisciolare, which means to crumble, which is the best way to describe this cake. It is made of white flour, corn flour, almond meal and butter. Traditionally it was a peasants sweet, so they used lard instead of butter and the cheapest nuts, rather then almonds. But since then the recipe has become more refined and has become a famous abroad. This cake is not cut in slices, rather is it crumbed in to pieces.

This cake dates back to as early as the 5th century and was first written about by the Gonzaga court. The House of Gonzaga ruled Mantova from 1323 to 1708, which is relatively long, compared to other royal families and duchies in Italy. The court cooks gave this humble cake a remake, added sugar, spices and almonds. There are many variations that have been developed over time, including using olive oil instead of butter and adding dark chocolate.

When I was in Italy I took a course about Leonardo Da Vinci and Renaissance Art. Da Vinci worked for the Sforza court in Milan, who were allied with the Gonzaga court in Mantova. I was intrigued by the Gonzaga family and the pictures of their magnificent castle. So I went to the city of Mantova, where I found not only the most beautiful castle I have ever seen, but found some amazing dishes as well. We tried the Tortelli di zucca and the Risotto alla mantova. I tried to recreate the Tortelli di zucca in one of my earlier posts. It is one of the most exquisite dishes I have ever tasted. We also tried a small version of the Sbrisolona there, but it was nothing like the one we made fresh in class with Chef Gualitero. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of them or inside the castle.

Pasta and cakes in Mantova

Pastas and cakes in Mantova

Palazzo Ducale, Mantova

Palazzo Ducale, Mantova


Tortelli di Zucca

Risotto alla Mantova

Risotto alla Mantova

For my Sbrisolona I changed the ingredients a little bit so it would be more healthier vegan version. I used coconut sugar and vegan butter. I also used soy milk instead of egg yolks to moist the cake. It still turned out very delicious and crumbly, but I did brown it a little too much. I should of put foil on it while it was cooking in the oven oven, which I didn’t do until the last 10 mins. It is extremely easy to make and a great sweet to have with coffee after a meal.

Sbrisolona (vegan, soy free)


100g tipo 00 flour

100 g corn flour

100g coconut sugar or evaporated cane sugar or raw sugar

80g ground almonds

zest from 1 small lemon

100g vegan butter (I used Nutlex)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

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

30g whole almonds


1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees and prepare a round baking dish with baking paper or take an aluminum pie  pan.

2. Take a mixing bowl and sift the flours.???????????????????????????????

3. Add the sugar and ground almond and stir through.

4. Add lemon zest, vegan butter, vanilla extract and soy milk. Use your fingers to mix the dough. It should be slightly moist.

5. Press the dough into the baking dish, firmly with your fingers. Then push the whole almonds into the top. Bake for 40-45 mins.

Il “risòtt giald” 2013, <www.aismilano.it/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1085:park-il-risott-giald&catid=3:ricette&Itemid=276>

Sbrisolona – The Italian Cookie 2011, <http://mariomatassa.blogspot.com.au/2011/12/sbrisolona-italian-cookie.html&gt;

More Melbourne eats

Hi all, hope you are all having a good new year. I’m still here in Melbourne, but returning on Saturday  Still have a bit less then a week to catch up with family and hopefully do some shopping. Last week after new years I went out a little, but was mainly with family. Didn’t get to go to any vegan restaurants or cafes, but did find some fantastic eats.

Last Wednesday we visited a cousin that recently moved to Carlton, a trendy suburb known for its Italian food. For dinner we went to Cafe Notturno at Lygon Street. It is not the best place alone this strip, but probably one of the cheapest. It was extremely busy, but I wasn’t that impressed with my meal. We ordered Lambrusco to drink, which was nice cheap, sweet red and garlic pizza to start. That wasn’t to bad. Then for my main dish I had Vegetarian Risotto with mushroom, sun dried tomatoes and olives. It wasn’t a real risotto in the sense, as the normal rice was precooked with out liquid stock and then sauce was added. For a vegetarian dish it wasn’t as bland as usually served in this kind of place, but it was not real Italian food in my opinion.

Vegetarian Risotto with mushroom, sundried tomatoes and olives, Cafe Notturno, Lygon Street, Carlton

Vegetarian Risotto with mushroom, sundried tomatoes and olives, Cafe Notturno, Lygon Street, Carlton

For desert we had gelato from Gelatissimo. They have a few locations around Australia and most of their sorbets are dairy free. I had chocolate sorbet. This tasted amazing and was the closes gelato I have had since leaving Italy.

Gelatissimo, Lygon Street, Carlton

Gelatissimo, Lygon Street, Carlton


Choc Sorbet, Gelatissimo

Lygon St, Carlton

Lygon St, Carlton

After staying at my cousins house we spent the day doing light shopping in the city. Light shopping because I didn’t come back with heavy bags. For lunch we went to Central Place in the CBD. This is a small alley way with cafes along the walls. It has always reminded me of Europe and I usually come here when I visit. We ended up not having anything fancy, just toasted focaccie from Cafe No. 5. Although none were vegan, I got them to removed the feta from the Roasted Pumpkin & Rocket Focaccia and had a Soy Flat White. For a pre-made focaccia it was good and cheap eat. I would of probably preferred something else, but I compromised with the others. This cafe is really funky place, staff were very nice and the coffee was good.

Bourke Street, CBD

Bourke Street, CBD

Central Place, CBD

Central Place, CBD

Cafe No. 5

Cafe No. 5

Roasted Pumpkin & Rocket Focaccia, Cafe No. 5

Roasted Pumpkin & Rocket Focaccia, Cafe No. 5

After that we went to the Suzuki Night Markets at the Queen Victoria Markets. I have been to the day market but never the night market. This market is completely different. Its all about the food, rather then the cheap Asian goods and leather jackets. They had fast foods from every country imaginable. Italy, France, Poland, South American, Nepal… I managed to find a few vegan eats. DSC01899

First I had a Chickpea Blaster from the Caribbean vendor. This was a soft herb pastry made with olive oil and served with chickpeas, island mango, cucumber salsa & pepper sauce. Although it doesn’t look like much it was really good and full of flavour. It didn’t taste like anything I have had before and I really liked it.

Chickpea Blaster

Chickpea Blaster

Next I visited an Indian vendor and had Spicy Aloo Chat, which was potato, coriander,  and spicy tamarind sauce. This was also really tasty and not very spicy. Apparently this is a popular Indian street snack. We also had with Homemade Lemonade.

Aloo Chat

Aloo Chat


Lastly, I shared a Traditional Korean Twisted Potato. This was nice but very very greasy. Overall it was a great experience and gave me heaps of ideas. I was a bit jealous that none of my meals came with salad like meat dishes, but flavor wise they were really good. This is not a healthy market, its  a street food market, so expect to feel a bit greasy after.


Since then I have only been out a couple more times. For brunch on Saturday we went to Jimmi Jamz at Lygon Street, East Brunswick. It was near my grandparents place and ended up being a good choice. I had Spicy House-baked Beans with Rocket on Toast, Soy Flat White and ordered Parsnip Chips for the table. I was really happy with everything I ordered. My uncle had paper pasta, which we didn’t realize was cooked on paper in the oven. Other then that this place is funky, tasty and really cheap. In my city I am use to paying $20-30 for breakfast to lunch, so for around $10-12 this was great.


Soy Flat White

Soy Flat White

Spicy House-baked Beans with Rocket on Toast

Spicy House-baked Beans with Rocket on Toast

Parsnip Chips

Parsnip Chips

Hopefully will get a couple more posts in this week in my spare time. So hope you all enjoyed the photos.