Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cookbook - The Asian Vegan Kitchen

There are few books dearer to my heart, or my belly for that matter, than The Asian Vegan Kitchen by Hema Parekh.  Packed full of simple and authentic dishes, the pages of my copy are now riddled with scrawled handwriting - mostly involving ‘mmmm’ ‘nom nom’ and ‘aahhhh amazing!’.  This is one good book.

Having lived in Malaysia and China for a number of years, when I left Asia I was mad to find a book with all my favourite recipes, and I was to happy to find many of them among the pages of the Asian Vegan Kitchen.  The book is split into regional sections, including India, Thailand, Malaysia, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and even Burma.

The section which I found the most useful, and that looks the most battered, is Korean chapter.  Recipes for other ethnic dishes can be found everywhere, whereas simple and authentic tasting Korean recipes are not so easy to find.  The book includes all my favourites and are exactly how I remember them.  The entree-like 'Namul' dishes are particularly good, as is the Tofu Kimchi, my absolute favourite recipe of the whole book.  Worth the purchase simply for that!

The Indian recipe section also has a few excellent staples - Aloo Gobi, Chana Masala, Korma - all recipes I go to again and again.  The Chinese chapter is equally splattered with greasy marks and spots of sauce from my many referrals, as are many of the dishes in the Thai section.

The Vietnamese and Burmese parts of the book seem to be the cleanest of the lot, mostly because I am rather unfamiliar with both cuisines and would have no idea if what I have made would taste right.  I think perhaps a trip is in order, but I am most certain that upon my return I will find them to be just as good as the others!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Vegan Cheese Trial

While poking through the fridges at my local health food store I recently discovered that a number of new vegan cheeses had arrived on the shelf.  Not a big fan of vegan cheese, I had been in the past known to call it plasticy muck, among other things, but I thought perhaps this was being too harsh.   With all of these new cheeses on the shelf there must be demand for this stuff coming from somewhere - maybe I'd had it wrong all along?

Not content to let it sit, I decided to buy up some cheese, amass some troops and find out once and for all, is there a vegan cheese out there that you can sit back with, relax and enjoy a glass of wine?

The answer is sadly not too far off my original assumption, and that is 'not really'.  After munching back four different types of Sheese and four different types of Chezley we came to the conclusion that while we wanted them to taste good, not many of them actually did, at all.     And we gave them a good run.  There were grids and there were numbers, I even bought in special pens.   It was a rather serious task, despite the amount of wine that was drunk along the way.  

There was one cheese however that we all agreed was the best of a bad bunch:  Chezley Pepper Jack.  Soft, spicy and tasting the least like plastic, it was concluded that if you ever wanted to have vegan cheese out on the table that people won't turn their nose up at, this was the one.

Chezley Pepper Jack
Sheese Smokey Style Cheddar
Chezley Mature Red Cheddar
Chezley Blue Cheese
Chezley Edam
Sheese Cheddar with Chives
Sheese Blue Style
Sheese Cheshire

In the overall ratings from our humble little group, Chezley took most of the top spots, although Sheese Smokey Style Cheddar snuck into number two once we calculated our scores.  It wasn't all bad news for vegan cheese though.  Not wanting to see another block for quite a while, it was banished from the house to another friend's place where he used it for pizza the next day.  And it seems heat is key, as he came back with nothing but praise.  Vegan cheese, there is hope for you yet.

Basil Pesto Gnocchi

I once attempted to make gnocchi... attempted, and failed miserably.  Which is why I was rather excited today to find that Tesco now stock their own brand of Gnocchi that is vegan!  I took them straight home, whipped up some pesto and have just finished munching down on one seriously good gnocchi dish - my new favourite 5 minute meal!

Basil Pesto Gnocchi


½ packet Trattoria Verdi Gnocchi

2 cups fresh basil
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
3 large cloves garlic
2 tsp Dairy Free Chedareese Powder
walnut oil
olive oil
salt to taste

To make the pesto, simply blitz all of the ingredients in a food processor until very smooth.  Add the different oils until you reach a consistency that you like and then salt to taste.

Bring a pot of water to the boil and add in the gnocchi.  After about three minutes they will rise to the top and they are done.

Simply drain, mix through a few big spoonfuls of pesto and serve.

I like to make pesto once a week and just keep it in the fridge for a quick after work meal.

Notes:  I like my pesto to be really salty and garlicy if I am using it on pasta, so put in less of each if you prefer a milder taste or are planning to eat it on bread as a dip.