Monday, January 28, 2008

Chocolate Mousse on Caramel with Red Nettles

My entry for Art You Eat #1- Chocolate. Ok, this is probably the least creative idea there is when the task is to create edible art with chocolate. So I didn't get any more creative than chocolate mousse. But then I have never had good VEGAN chocolate mousse. I mean, making something that usually consists of copious amounts of eggs and cream with a little chocolate drizzled in using plant-based ingredients only... Creative in my book. Adventurous at least... I was curious to see if I could do it.

And the caramel net? I'm a big fan of Bridget Jones's Diary and laughed my heart out when Bridge tried to make something or the other in sugar cages for her birthday. I had never tried to make sugar cages and just wanted to tackle it.

The results? The sugar turned out quite caramelized which gave it a nice dark sheen. And the mousse... my oh my... I have a new vice...

Did it beautify my blog? Well.... My food photography skills are not very refined yet. But I had fun. And a new and oh so simple vegan dessert to show off with.

The Caramel Net

There are fancy ways to do this, with a candy thermometer and all sorts of things I don't have. I just melted 1 cup regular sugar over medium heat until it was all liquidy and caramelized, then jacked up the heat to high and let it bubble for a minute or two. Then I put a bowl into the sink (lest it would break and spill its contents all over my kitchen) and poured the hot hot hot caramel into it to prevent it from burning in the hot pot. This had the added advantage that I could just pop it into the microwave for a few seconds everytime it got too cool to work with.

I let the sugar cool for a few minutes, testing every once in a while if it would already form strings. Then I dipped the prongs of a fork into the sugar and let it drip in long thin strands onto some parchment paper to form a grid. Then I just let it cool and went shopping for vegan cream and chocolate.

The Chocolate Mousse

1 cup dark chocolate, melted
1 cup vegan whipping cream (I used Soyatoo)
1 tblsp cornstarch
1 teaspoon confectioner's sugar

I had never had vegan mousse nor tried to make any. The recipes I googled all used tofu, something I cannot come by easily. So I decided to give Soyatoo, an amazing vegan "whipping cream" a try.

The chocolate I used is an equally amazing organic fair-trade chocolate. Its only ingredients are cocoa mass, cocoa butter, and raw cane sugar. 85% of it is cocoa, that means it only contains 15% sugar. No added fats, no added nothing. Amazingly chocolate-y.

I melted the chocolate in a bowl in a pot with hot water, making sure the chocolate didn't get too hot, then let it cool to room temperature. I whipped the Soaytoo with the starch and the sugar until it was whipped-creamy, then added the chocolate, whipped it some more, transferred it to a nice bowl and trusted it to my fridge.

Onto the plate

I had envisioned my mousse on a glass plate, garnished with mint leaves and raspberrries. Unfortunately, my supermarket was out of mint plants but on my way home I found some edible, non-stingy red deadnettles. They normally blossom in spring and summer but this winter so far has been more like spring anyway so they were already out and blooming. Beautiful.

I placed the caramel grid on a glass dish. Then I used two spoons to form little oval "nockerl" and lovingly arranged them on their caramel bed. I had some raspberries join them and some red nettles to keep them company. And then I highjacked the whole plate to take pictures of it.

After the photo session I sat down with a nice cup of rooibos tea and enjoyed my piece of art. My verdict? As Saint-Exupery put it: "What is essential is invisible to the eyes." It was delicious :-)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Spring Rolls with Chili and Ponzu Sauce

Wow, what a week. In September, I started business school and this past week truly lived up to expectations. We had class from nine to seven, even on Saturday, and loads of reading to do at home. Plus, it takes me two hours to get to school. And when I was riding the train I would think about the things I'd like to cook but when I got home at nine in the evening I simply couldn't be bothered...

Yesterday, Saturday, was the last day of this marathon. And you know how after your last day of something very exhausting you suddenly have lots of energy because you know you can sleep in the next day and relax? I finally had energy left to cook and I had a craving for spring rolls, something I last had years ago back in my omni days. Fatty fried foods give me a hard time so the challenge was to make them vegan and as fat-free as possible.

To fill them I used whatever I found in the fridge and pantry but I bet they'd be great with vegetables only. I'm thinking bean sprouts, carrots, and broccoli.

Ponzu Sauce

3 tblsp reduced sodium soy sauce
3 tblsp lime juice

This is a very simple version of my favorite Asian dipping sauce. It is almost not a recipe, too easy to be spelled out and yet too good to not mention it.

Spring Rolls

24 rice sheets for spring rolls (diameter ca. 6 inch)

3 carrots
3 scallions
1 cup Chinese cabbage in thin stripes
ginger garlic chili to taste

1/2 cup small TVP chunks
1/2 cup hot double-strenth vegan broth
1 tblsp reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tblsp balsamic vinegar

1 tblsp dark sesame oil

Reconstitute the rice paper in batches: let some water run over the sheets and place them on a wet kitchen towel. Mine took forever to soften so you might want to do this first.

Reconstitute the TVP chunks in the broth with the soysauce and the vinegar. Stirr once in a while to make sure the chunks a the top also get soaked. Cook them in a skillet for a few minutes. I'm not sure this is necessary but I didn't want to eat these raw.

Peel and shred the carrots and the scallions. Add them together with the cabbage to the pan and give them a quick sweat. Season generously with ginger (I was lazy and used the powdered version) or whatever strikes your fancy.

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Place two sheets of softened rice paper on top of each other. Place some of the filling in a row in the center. Fold the sides over and then roll them up.

Lightly lightly coat the rolls with some sesame oil using a brush (or lightly spray them) and place them sealed side down on a sheet lined with parchment paper and bake them until crunchy. Mine took 15 minutes but this will depend on your oven. Makes six rolls.

We had these with ponzu sauce and with sweet chili sauce I made (but so far have not managed to take a decent photo of).

I was really happy with how they turned out :-)

Serves 4 as starters or two as main course.

Fat-free depends on the use of fat-free ingredients.
Glutenfree depends on the use of gluten-free ingredients.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Broccoli-Cauliflower Yin-Yang Soup

Two cruciferous vegetables cooked in aromatic homemade vegetable stock wich reduces the amount of salt needed - ultimate heart-healthy luxury. Um, did I mention that it is delicious as well? This soup is one of my contributions to HotM. Joanna promised me I could enter more than one soup - that sure got me cooking.

Broccoli-Cauliflower Yin-Yang Soup

1/2 head cauliflower
1 head broccoli
1 cup soycreamer (or soymilk or leave out to make it fat-free)
vegan stock (preferably homemade)
nutmeg, pepper, sea salt to taste

Cut the broccoli and cauliflower into florets, you should have more or less an equal amount of broccoli and cauliflower. Place the broccoli in one small saucepan and the cauliflower in another saucepan. Cover with stock and cook until tender. Add half the soy creamer to both pots. Blend. Add stock until the two soups have about the same consistency. Season the cauliflower with a generous pinch of nutmeg, the broccoli with some freshly ground black pepper.

Take some aluminum foil and fold it to a stripe. Place the stripe upright on the plate marking the yin-yang-dividing line. Then very slowly and carefully start pouring the two soups from the two sides onto the plate. When the plate is filled, carefully remove the stripe. Spoon a drop of white soup on the green round and vice versa.

It only took me about 30 minutes total - 15 minutes cooking time and 15 minutes for bringing the soup onto the plates, so this is the perfect make-belief-its-fancy dish.

Simple and easy to prepare but quite impressive. For more simple yet impressive soups check out Roasted Pepper Soup with Cinnamon and Ginger.

Serves two.

Fat-free depends on the use of fat-free ingredients.
Gluten-free depends on the use of gluten-free ingredients.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Caldo Gallego a la Scarborough Fair

During my time at university I spent almost a year in Spain. I was living in Galicia in Spain's beautiful north where the hills are green and the winters cold and where you will see snow almost every winter. To keep warm during the colder months, the people in Galicia, gallegos as they call themselves, cook up a rich and warming stew, the Caldo Gallego.

The main ingredients are white beans, potatoes and two leafy greens I cannot come by in Germany, namely rapini and collard greens, these can be perfectly substituted with curly kale. Alas, the original also contains copious amounts of that-which-must-not-be-named but I chose to just ignore that. This soup is not to be confused with the similar Portuguese Caldo Verde. Caldo Verde does not contain beans and is more on the light side, served as a starter. Caldo Gallego however is a thick, filling soup that is usually served as a one-pot meal.

I fell in love in Spain - with this creamy, rich, aromatic stew and after going vegan this was the first thing I tried in its all-vegetable version. I had been planning on making this my contribution for HotM. While I was making the soup, I was humming the tune of Scarborough Fair. It was then I realized that I happened to have fresh parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme on hand. So in order to give this recipe a twist and make it even more heart healthy I added the English touch to this Spanish stew - the Scarborough fair herbs.

Caldo Gallego a la Scarborough Fair

1 cup uncooked white beans
1 onion
3 cloves of garlic
2 bay leaves
vegetable stock (ideally homemade to make it super heart-healthy)

2 cups potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 cups curly kale, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 sage leaf, chopped
1/2 teaspoon rosemary, chopped
1/2 teaspoon thyme, chopped

sea salt to taste
extra virgin olive oil

Soak the beans overnight. Cook them the next day with the bay leaves and the diced onion and garlic until tender. Do not add salt (or salty instant stock) before the beans are tender.

When the beans are done, remove the bay leaves and add the potato cubes and the kale. Cook until tender, around 15 minutes. If you are using homemade stock, you need to add only very little salt since the broth will be very aromatic already, an added heart-healthy bonus. For serving, sprinkle each plate with some of the herbs and give it a drizzle with your finest extra virgin olive oil.

Serves two.

Fat-free depends on the use of fat-free ingredients.
Gluten-free depends on the use of gluten-free ingredients.

Homemade Vegetable Stock

I love soups, always have. Back in the pre-veg days I used to make my own stock from that-which-must-not-be-named. After quitting meat I resorted to shop-bought vegetable instant stock. The results were never as satisfying as the stock I was used to. One day a fellow veg*n told me he was making his own stock. An idea started to form in my head.

Back home, I chopped up some veggies, threw in savory things like bay leaves, allspice, and dried mushrooms, and let it simmer. When I tasted it after 30 minutes I was disappointed. The stock tasted like - well, like plain water. I left it on the stove for another 30 minutes, and - oh miracle - there was the faintest hint of taste in the broth. After three hours I could hardly contain my joy: I had a rich, smooth, aromatic stock that I drank on the spot - it tasted like the best consomme.

So, the trick is to cut the veggies in as tiny morsels as you can manage and leave it on the stove simmering for a few hours. You do not want it to be boiling because then the liquid will evaporate. Once I left the veggies cool in the pot overnight before straining the stock and it turned out even richer.

If you do not want to waste veggies for just stock you can simply save the bits and pieces left over from peeling veggies, this is what I often do.

Homemade Vegetable Stock

1 carrot
1/2 leek
1/2 celeriac (or celery stalks)
1 onion
some allspice, pepper, parsley, bay leaves
sea salt to taste

variations: other root vegetables, garlic, tomatoes, mushrooms ginger, sherry, soy sauce...

Chop the veggies finely and simmer with the other ingredients for at least two hours. Do not let it boil too much or else the liquid will evaporate. Strain and add salt to taste. Enjoy in soups, stews or straight as consomme.

You can adapt this any way you like. Adding more carrots makes it sweeter, using the outer leaves of Brussels sprouts makes it very rich and slightly bitter, adding more onions gives it a great flavor, more mushrooms make it earthier and richer, garlic gives it an amazing zing... In summer I like to throw in some tomatoes as well. You can't go wrong, just experiment to create your ideal broth.

Fat-free depends on the use of fat-free ingredients.
Gluten-free depends on the use of gluten-free ingredients.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Roasted Squash with Wasabi Mashed Potatoes

Ok, maybe this is a little off-season. Just before Christmas I saw the first (probably this season's last) acorn squash I had ever seen in my life and bought it - only because it was so beautiful. At least I think it is an acorn squash. It is kind of an orangy brown with a blueish hue. Beautiful. We were gone over Christmas for our honeymoon, and I returned with a nasty bug that upset all that is inside me so I couldn't hold down anything for another two weeks. But yesterday the beautiful squash was finally able to shine.

(Lady Sunshine and Mr. Moon: fall's last squash and spring's first tulips.)

After so much pumpkin soup, pie, muffins, etc. in fall I wanted to try something different. I'm glad I did. Roasting the squash elevated its flavor to a level I had never expected from this somewhat unexciting vegetable that is unvariably adorned with powerful spices to make it interesting. Roasting it, the squash's very own aroma was brought out. Alas, my active English vocab is not comprehensive enough to describe the rich, smooth, intensive taste of this orange beauty when roasted.

To go with it I made wasabi mashed potatoes. Not that this is a novelty, its just something something I had never tried before. Ooooooh, spicing up the mash was just as good as roasting the squash, and the two things went together perfectly.

The best thing about it: this was easy as (pumpkin) pie. No, easier. I peeled a chunk of squash, cubed it, lightly coated the cubes with olive oil, sprinkled them with sea salt and dried garlic, and roasted them for 15 minutes at 400 F - and voila, they were done already. For the mashed potatoes, I made them as usual and added 1/2 teaspoon wasabi powder per serving. Easy-peasy as Jamie Oliver says. But good. Very good. Comfort-food good.

Fat-free depends on the use of fat-free ingredients.
Gluten-free depends on the use of gluten-free ingredients.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Arugula with white beans, cherry tomatoes, and red onions

This salad is one of my favorites. Crisp arugula (rocket), tender beans, fruity cherry tomatoes, and aromatic red onions kissed by smooth-tasting extra-virgin olive oil, subtly sweet balsamic vinegar, and fine sea salt. We always keep a can of white beans in our pantry just for this salad.

I never measure what goes in the salad. And measurements aren't that important here. It will turn out nice with more beans and less tomatoes or the other way around. However, what is really indispensable here (as in any other salad) is high-quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Three years ago in Japan I discovered that sea salt also really makes a difference. I was on one of the Japanese tropical islands and bought a small bag of locally produced sea salt. Back home in Osaka I regretted forever that I didn't buy a larger bag. This salt was still moist which really surprised me. When I tasted it however, it was unlike any other salt I had ever tried before. It had a taste of its own apart from being salty. It feels like shop-bought bone-dry sea salt is never quite as tasty so we brought back a BIG bag of moist sea salt from our honeymoon on the Cape Verde islands.

So, anyway. On topic again. A wonderful salad with only four main ingredients which still looks impressive and tastes great :-).

Fat-free depends on the use of fat-free ingredients.
Gluten-free depends on the use of gluten-free ingredients.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Brussels Sprouts and Tomato Curry with Gnocchi

Last night I ran into the same problem Susan over at the Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen once described*. The food was good. But how do you photograph it so that it looks good on a blog??? A uniform, yellowish curry... So you just have to take my word for it - this was delicious! And it contains a cruciferous vegetable to boot. Especially Brussels sprouts haters might wanna give this a try since the curry and the spices take off the edge of the taste so many people don't like. I love Brussels sprouts in all forms and this is one of my favorites :-)

Brussels Sprouts and Tomato Curry With Gnocchi

1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic
4 cups Brussels sprouts
1 cup dried tomatoes
1 pack ready-made gnocchi (or other gluten-free pasta to make it gluten-free)
2-3 cups of water
1 cup soy creamer (mine has 17% fat, substitute soymilk or coconut water to make it fat-free)
ginger, curry powder, chili and salt to taste

Heat a little oil in a skillet. Add the garlic and onions. Cover with a lid and let sweat until the onions caramelize. Be careful not to burn them. If they start browning too much, add a tblsp. water.

Remove the outer leaves from the sprouts, trim the stems, and cut them into quarters. Cut the dried tomatoes into thin stripes. Add to the onions. Add the water, the soy creamer, ginger, curry powder and chili. Simmer until the Brussels sprouts are tender. Add the gnocchi directly to the pan and heat them in the sauce.

I used real Italian sun-dried tomatoes I get at the local farmers market - in their dried form, not reconstituted and packed in oil. They are quite salty so I didn't add any salt to my curry, but if you can't find dry dried tomatoes you might have to add salt.

* Help, all you experienced bloggers out there!!! How do I hide a link behind a word??? Sorry, I'm still a total blogging illiterate... Update: Thanks to Paulina's help I was able to solve the problem :-)

Fat-free depends on the use of fat-free ingredients.
Gluten-free depends on the use of gluten-free ingredients.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Amazing antioxidant-rich pancakes

Or should I call them heavenly healthy pancakes? Can't think of a synonym for "healthy" starting with "p" though, that would make the perfect alliteration. Anyways, Sunday mornings I always get this craving for pancakes. Today we happened to have some fresh blueberries and some frozen raspberries so I decided to make berry pancakes. I started frying them like I used to do - in a small amount of vegan margerine. However, when I tried the first one, I realized that I had liked them better the way they turned out last week when I had to fry them without any fat. So I just baked the rest in our non-stick skillet without any fat. The trick is to set the heat relatively low so they don't burn or stick.

When I saw the amount of berries left over after making the pancakes I decided to top my fatfree, almost sugar-free goodies with an amazingly antioxidant-rich berry sauce. I just added a teaspoon of confectioner's sugar to the fruits and blended them with my immersion blender. Both blueberries and raspberries are rich in pectin - a natural gelling agent. The sugar seems to help the gelling process. After only a minute or so of blending, the berries had turned into a deep purple, fragrant, creamy sauce. The perfect compliment for my already not-so-unhealthy pancakes. Even the husband who despises all things sweet (to him, sweet is a synonym for unhealthy) admitted that he would feed these to our kids without guilt AND he ate up his entire stack of pancakes. I mean, THAT is a compliment. I'll remind him once we have kids :-)

Amazing antioxidant pancakes

6 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 heaping tblsp soy flour
1 tblsp raw organic cane sugar
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt
1 1/4 cup non-dairy milk

2 cups raspberries
1 cup blueberries
1 teaspoon confectioner's sugar

Well, you knwo how to do this, right? Combine, whisk in, heat skillet, spoon batter into skillet. Drop some berries into each batter puddle.

Purree the left-over berries with the sugar until they start to thicken and gel. Slather onto your stack of pancakes and dig in. These are heaven.

A note on sugar: I realize that there are cultural taste differences. Americans are used to quite a high degree of sweetness whereas sweets in Germany tend to be comparatively less sweet. (Coca Cola puts more sugar into the coke they sell in the US than into the German equivalent.) Therefore, the amount of sugar I use may not satisfy your palate. Feel free to use much more sugar. Or, start reversing the sugar trend :-) (Truth be told, I added some maple syrup to mine.)

Fat-free depends on the use of fat-free ingredients.
Gluten-free depends on the use of gluten-free ingredients.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Giving up tea

I'm giving up tea. Green tea, black tea, and white tea, that is. I gave up coffee years ago but did love me my cuppa tea in the morning. Or rather, my three or four cups. Let me add that I'm more of a nervous, touchy person. Then, with the diarrhea and bug and all, I didn't have tea for two weeks. And, oh miracle, I've never slept better in my live! Now yesterday and the day before I figured that my insides had recovered enough and it would be ok to have tea again. And let me tell you, I spent two horrible nights. Tossing and turning in my bed, waking up every hour or so.... So, when sleep eluded me for good this Saturday morning at 7am, I resolved to give up tea. Jawohl!
Since I still enjoy sitting there in the morning when the house is still quite (on weekends my hubby sleeps in until noon) and sipping my cuppa tea (or two or three), I resorted to rooibos tea. This Southafrican beverage is supposed to be very good for you: high in antioxidants, cancer-fighting, and very low in tannins which affect the absorption of iron. And hey, it is even a member of the legume family. Talking about eating beans every day :-) So, here it is, my new vice: cups and cups of organic, fair-trade rooibos tea.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Fauxballs and Spaghetti

In our house, Friday night is leftover night. (Across the pond, its Friday night already). We still had some spaghetti left over from yesterday's indulgence and some frozen tomato juice. AND there were these amazing faux meatballs sitting in the fridge smiling at me and whispering, "Yeesss, you want us, you know you do". And indeed, I did.

Spaghetti to your heart's content, your favorite tomato sauce, and faux meatballs. Again, not a recipe that could be spelled out, since it doesn't really involve much cooking. The star of the meal comes out of a pack... (unless you make them yourself, of course).

Ok, ok, there is this debate whether or not it is wise to use faux products. I usually don't use many, primarily because there aren't that many available in Germany. But a few things I wouldn't wanna miss, and fauxballs are one of them.

Enjoy your weekend :-)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Spaghetti with arugula, garlic, and tomatoes

Yay, this was my first real meal after two weeks of bland diet - if anything at all. And boy did I have a craving for spaghetti. This dish is one of my favorites. It is a cinch to throw together because it is almost a raw sauce that doesn't need much cooking time. If you make that on a weeknight you may want to go easy on the garlic, though.

It is a lovely simple dish, as garlicky as you make it, crisp arugula, fruity olive oil, aromatic tomatoes, and with great colors to boot. Oh, and it is even an original Italian recipe.

Spaghetti with arugula, garlic, and tomatoes

There is not much of a recipe. Cook as many spaghetti as you like. In a skillet, heat a generous splash of some nice and fruity extra virgin olive oil. Peel and chop as much garlic as you like and let it sweat in the oil a bit. Make sure it doesn't get too hot. Chop the tomatoes, throw them in and let them cook for just a few moments, just to soften them a bit. Add the cooked, drained spaghetti. Salt to taste. Add the arugula (rocket in the UK) and let it wilt for a few seconds in the hot spaghetti. Enjoy with your favorite red wine :-)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Roasted rosemary potatoes and garlicky grean beans

Alas, I still don't eat, but my hubby does. We still had beans sitting in our vegetables basket, and so I thought of surprising him with something tasty, garlicky, tangy, rosemary-y. And when I saw the green beans and the yellow potatoes sitting in the dish I threw in some ripe, juicy, sweet tomatoes, just for the color. And sure enough they turned out lovely.

Peel and quarter potatoes, remove strings and ends of beans. Toss with fruity olive oil to coat. Sprinkle with your best sea salt and some freshly ground white pepper. Sprinkle some fresh (or dried) rosemary over the potatoes, and some chopped garlic over the beans. Arrange with the tomatoes in a dish. Roast, stirring occasionally. Roast until the beans are nice and tender and the potatoes have this delicious roasted crunch. Perfect the beans with a nice squeeze of lime juice and some chopped hazelnuts.

The best part of it? No pots to clean :-)

Fat-free depends on the use of fat-free ingredients.
Gluten-free depends on the use of gluten-free ingredients.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Kate and the Magic Vegan

This is great. The very moment I start a blog I get so sick I can't eat. Or cook. Oh well... I guess I'll just have to stick it out. Meanwhile, I found this video on youtube which I thought was hilarious. Enjoy :-)

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Saved-My-Day Pancakes

After a week of nibbeling dry toast and sipping chammomile tea and STILL feeling sick and getting cramps and everything I was ready for something else this morning. When I saw the mouthwatering photo of FatFreeVegan Susan's Golden Spice Pancakes I knew it had to be pancakes. The doctor had told me to abstain from sugar and milk (haha, two things I don't eat much anyway).

Ok, strictly speaking sugar would include maple syrup. The real challenge however was to make them absolutely completely fat-free since I knew that my stomach couldn't handle that for sure. I used a non-stick skilletand set the heat on medium. And - oh miracle - they came out beautifully. Their surfaces weren't sealed by the fat so they absorbed the maple syrup immediately. But for a stomach-impaired person like me they were perfect.

Saved-My-Day Almost-BRAT-Diet Pancakes

1 cup soymilk (mine is slightly sweetened with organic cane sugar)
5 tablespoons all-purpose-flour
1 tablespoon soyflour (or egg replacer of choice)
1 tablespoon organic brown cane sugar
1 heaped teaspoon baking soda
1 pinch of salt

Whisk together and "fry" or rather bake them in a non-stick skillet over medium. Of yourse you can grease the skillet but if your skillet is really non-stick it should work without fat. Drench in maple syrup and enjoy :-)

Fat-free depends on the use of fat-free ingredients.
Gluten-free depends on the use of gluten-free ingredients.

Vegan on Cape Verde

I'm not doing much cooking (or eating, for that matter) at the moment since that bug is still plaguing me. My husband (who, fortunately, can cook really well) makes himself the most delicious meals and then I sit there, drooling over his food and munching away on my dry toast. Fun fun fun...

So, to get another food-related post in here a quick account of feeding yourself on Cape Verde as a vegan. The people on Cape Verde mainly eat vegetables, corn, and squash. The most popular dish on the islands is cachupa: freshly ground corn, beans and vegetables (sweet or white potatoes, tomatoes, squash) cooked together. Unfortunately, in restaurants they only serve this cooked with meat though I'm sure in their homes it is mostly prepared vegan. On every corner there are women selling veggies, but we hardly ever saw people selling meat. Not because they are all vegetarians, but because they simply can’t afford to buy and eat much meat.

This is the how the women and girls carry their produce to the market and home. We even saw a women carrying a stove on her head...
Fortunately, the hotel devoted an enormous (and I mean ENORMOUS) portion of their breakfast buffet to fresh fruits. Fully-ripe, aromatic bananas and sweet, deep-orange papayas (both local) as well as kiwi, apples, oranges and so on. And then there was always bread, margerine and jam. For lunch we usually snacked on the nuts I brought and fruits and bread we took from the buffet.

The hotel also offered buffet-style dinner. They always had a huge plate of steamed veggies, then bread, rice, salads and - again - fresh fruit. I must have eaten a ton of papayas in this week. Maybe what I have is not your ordinary diarrhea but a more serious form of papaya-poisening? Who knows?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

A Glimpse of Cape Verde

Cape Verde - the (not so) green islands off the coast of wester Africa. They were uninhabited until they were discovered by the Portuguese. Portugal then used the archipelago as a stop-over on their way to Brazil.
The Portuguese brought people from Africa to the islands to work as slaves. Later the white and coloured people mixed and a creole culture was born. However, the majority of the population still has a very dark complexion.
Cape Verde gained independence from Portugal in 1975.
The islands have a very peculiar climate. There is an absolutely steady Northeastern trade wind and it hardly ever rains on the islands. Therefore, potatoes and grains don't fare well, and corn and squash are the staple of the poor.
The bustling market of Praia, the capital on the island of Santiago. The women mainly sell vegetables. However much I like this fact, it is nonetheless a sign of great poverty.
On the few islands suitable for growing anything (here Santiago) every inch is planted with corn.
Of course the people who can afford it also keep animals. One day we were driving through a mountain village when I saw a litter of piglets. I had never seen piglets in (relative) freedom. It was amazing. They were running at great speed and gamboling and playing around like puppies. And so agile, too.
I got out of the car and immediately they stopped playing and eyed me curiously. Finally, the boldest of the group cautiously started approaching me, the others followed him (or her? who knows). They inched closer and closer and then suddenly they scurried off, scared by their own courage. This was the cutest thing... Their eyes so intelligent and curious, their lively play, their agility... Everybody ought to see what wonderful creatures pigs really are!
Their mother btw. was pink. Now this leaves room for speculation as to their father, hehe.

One of the few things the archipelago has to offer in terms of products is salt. Here the view of an (almost) abandoned saline. (Other products include real good wine and superb coffee).

Before, when I saw pink bath salts in shops I always thought how corny. But apparently, natural sea salt really has a pinkish hue due to iron oxides (I don't know how well it comes out in this photo.) We were also able to bathe in the saline. With its salt content of some 86 percent we were floating on the water - Heaven!

Sunset seen from our hotel window that was overlooking the bay.

And yet another new beginning

It seems like I'm starting over and over again for a definitely new beginning :-) I had some problems with the blog, couldn't format it, the search bar half hid the title, and so on. So after hours of fruitless fiddeling I decided to just delete it and start over again.

I saved and pasted again my posts, however I must apologize to those who left comments. Your comments are gone, I' afraid. I'm truly sorry. I hope from now on everything goes smooth here.

The rest of my life hasn't been working out according to plans either this year. I had planned to dish up a new, vegan, yummy, nutritious dish each night when my hubby comes home (I still got off until Jan. 7.) But, alas, the Capeverdean germ I imported (illegally I guess) when we came back from our honeymoon is still plaguing me. I feel sick, haven't had much food myself, let alone any desire to cook.

So no new recipes for the moment. I wanted to post a few pics from the gorgeous Cape Verde islands. Yet I can't seem to insert pics after text. This is weird. All I can do is insert a photo at the very top. Does anyone now how to fix this??? (And I thought blogging here would be easy but no such luck...) Um, please, bear with me and my blogging-illiteracy :-)

Have a wonderful day, evening, or whatever is left of today :-)

Roasted Pepper Soup with Cinnamon and Ginger

This is the soup I made on New Years Eve. It was planned as just the first course with more to follow but then I got sick. We had just returned from our honeymonn on the Cape Verde islands the day before and it seems like I picked up one of the bugs lurking around there. So I couldn't try any of it (and seasoned it by just smelling it) because my stomach wouldn't permit me any food. The husband loved it and ate the whole pot I made. I guess it was THAT good :-)

Roasted pepper soup with cinnamon and ginger

5 large yellow bell peppers
1 large red bell pepper
(the 6 peppers I used together weighed 3 punds)
6 cups vegan broth (or more to taste, preferably homemade)
salt and pepper to taste
a generous pinch of cinnamon
a generous pinch of paprika
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 cup soy creamer (substitue soy milk to make it fat-free or just leave it out altogether)

Wash the peppers and cut them into quarters. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (you'll be glad you did when cleaning up...) and place the peppers on it skin side up. Grill on medium until bubbles form under the skins and they start getting black (depending on your oven this will take around 10 minutes.)

Put the peppers into a plastic bag, close the bag, and let it sit for 20 minutes. The heat and steam will make the skins come off easily, and straight from the oven they are too hot to handle anyway. Peel off the skins, they should come off easily now.

Bring 5 cups of broth to a boil in one pot and place the yellow peppers in it. Place the red pepper in a second pot with the remaining 1 cup of broth. Blend both soups with an immersion blender (or with a food processor or whatever you have and like). Season to your liking with salt and pepper. Add a pinch of cinnamon and paprika to the red pepper and the ginger to the yellow peppers. Let simmer for a few minutes for the flavors to develop. If you like your soup thinner you can always add more broth.

For serving, laddle yellow soup in a plate. With a teaspoon, carefully apply a spiral of red pepper soup on it. Then use anything approx. 1/4" wide (fork grip, wooden spoon, knife blade...), insert it in the center of the spiral and pull it away from the center, crossing the lines of the spiral. Repeat this 4 times at even intervalls. Then do the same movement halfway between the outward lines, this time pulling it inward. The result will be a delicate flower on your plate. Serve with crusty French baguette (or gluten-free bread to make it gluten-free)

Enjoy :-)

Serves 4 as starter, two as main course, or one very very hungry husband :-)

Update: This recipe is one of my contributions to Heart of the Matter.

Fat-free depends on the use of fat-free ingredients.
Gluten-free depends on the use of gluten-free ingredients.

A new Year - A new beginning

2008 has just begun, the perfect time to start blogging. I'm a vegan on and off (at home vegan food only but I'm not at home most of the time...) and I really want to make 2008 the year that I make it, that I finally stick to veganism 100% and don't get tempted by desserts and the like or give in when there are no vegan options available. So I hope that blogging about it will help me stick to my beliefs and not let my stomach get the better of me.

In case my diction or spelling ever seems funny - I'm not a native English speaker so please pardon any weird wording.I'm German and currently living in Germany (where I only spent half of the past ten years, so this is not as obvious as it may seem). Therefore I use the products I can come by in Germany. However, I don't use many faux products anyway since there simply aren't that many available here. It is even hard to come by edible tofu. Germany still has a long way to go to become vegetarian-friendly, let alone vegan-friendly. For the most part I cook with fresh veggies and naturally vegan things like durum-wheat pasta and the like.

I just got married so this is a very new and exciting thing in my life and I'm still in honeymoon-land :-).

So happy 2008 to all and let the blogging begin :-)