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For the love of…Dinner Parties (Part 2)

So yes, I’m still in a funk. And this weather doesn’t really help. And when you tell someone you’re in a funk in the vague hope they cheer you up, it backfires. So I really have to bring myself out of this funk. But I don’t know how.

So I started thinking about mum’s potential dinner party again. And I started thinking about chocolate again. (My best friend has realised I have a chocolate craving every 15.5 seconds which combined with the funk lead to a considerable consumption of chocolate during my working day in less than 10 seconds…but we won’t mention that). Moving on…

Where was I? Oh yes, mum’s dinner party and chocolate, which then got me thinking about these amazing chocolate pots my sister had brought back from waitrose one evening and it was the tiniest little chocolate pot but the most heavenly and the most satisfying and one little pot was all I needed to completely satisfy that craving. So, if my sister could buy it from a supermarket, then why couldn’t I make the equivalent at home for a dinner party? It would be IDEAL…make in advance, set in the fridge until ready to serve, no hassle no fuss right? But I don’t have a recipe. It surely can’t be as simple as melting chocolate with a little cream and/or  butter and pouring it into a pot?

You’re right, it’s not. But here is a pretty simple recipe:

Ingredients

1  14 oz can of full fat coconut milk

200g soy chocolate (your fav kind, could even be some kind of raspberry chocolate..seriously..ANY chocolate you like..)

1 tsp Vanilla Essence

pinch of cinnamon

pinch of nutmeg

– Break the chocolate up into pieces, put it into a food processor with the vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon

– Bring the coconut milk up to a simmer on the stove, and then pour it over the ingredients in the food processor

– Blend everything together until smooth and creamy, pour into espresso or sake cups or even shot glasses and chill (takes about 5 hours for them to be firm and creamy) before serving.

See..then I started thinking some more (don’t you just love how I involve you in my thought processes these days?) and I thought how about some kind of ginger-chocolate pot dessert thing? So what would happen if I grated some fresh ginger into that? I’m not entirely sure, I’ll have to try it out and let you know…

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Posted by on June 24, 2010 in Chocolate, Dessert, Dinner Party, Indulge, Recipes, Vegan

 

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For the love of…Dinner Parties

I’m still searching for inspiration and creativity. I’m in a funk. A food funk. An emotional funk. I don’t crave food anymore. What is wrong with me? I’m definately in a funk. My cousin asked me today “are you excited? About life in general?” No, right now I’m not.

I need to find something to excite me. Food used to excite me. I need to find that again, I was happy, I was motivated. Where did it all go? Now I just feel like i’m an angry mess.

My mum keeps insinuating that she wants to have some sort of dinner party in the not so distant future. I’m taking that as the foundation of my inspiration. The opportunity to create. Mum’s dinner parties are usually buffet style meals with copious amounts of appitisers, main courses and several desserts. All of which scream comfort food. All of which are PERFECT for those family gatherings which start in the late afternoon and end during the early hours of the morning. But recently she’s been saying that she wants to do something different. So I’m thinking. What could be different? Something that doesn’t quite scream comfort food? Something a little more sophisticated? Yet something that is absolutely BURSTING with flavour.

So as I’ve been hunting for creativity I was thinking about appetisers. Something simple, sophisticated and bursting with flavour and I thought about cherry tomatoes. Not just ordinary cherry tomatoes on a plate, but stuffed cherry tomatoes, with pesto. Ok ok so traditionally pesto has parmesan in it, but you can use your favourite vegan substitute, i’m sure you all have one by now, if not – just ask and i’m happy to make suggestions!

Since you all know me, it wouldn’t be my recipe if I didn’t add some sort of twist to it so here goes & let me know what you think:

To make the pesto:

  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated soy cheese 
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • salt, to taste

 Place all the above incredients in a food processor and blitz until its a spreadable consistency.

Cut the tops off your cherry tomatoes and de-seed them (i use a tea spoon, but I guess it depends on the size of your tomatoes).

Fill the tomatoes with the pesto mix (either using a tea spoon, or piping bag, or a sandwich bag with a tiny hole cut out of the bottom corner – all of these work perfectly well). Sprinkle a touch of paprika on top or garnish with half a toasted walnut or a basil leaf or even the top of the tomato – it’s entirely up to you! Get creative! Actually, now that I think about it, perhaps I should stuff the tomatoes with some kind of avocado, pine-nut, herb mix? I’ll have to think about that some more…

 

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Blissfully Vegan

Ok, ok, I know I have been terribly slack at posting anything, and that’s honest to goodness because I failed. I’ve been lacking motivation and inspiration and creativity. My world, well, in fact it felt like it got dull. I was fed up with not finding anything in Hong Kong and having to search high and low for the ingredients that I want, eventually finding them and having to fork out an arm and a leg for it all. How come no one ever tells you how expensive becoming a Vegan (especially in Hong Kong) actually gets?

So with my down in the dumps attitude, my best friend sent over Veganomicon, which i was excited about but couldn’t bring myself to cook anything from. Then, another friend introduced me to the Blissfully Vegan blog, a fellow vegan blogger in Hong Kong. What?! I thought I was the only one? Turns out it was exactly what I needed to get some creative juices flowing..but now I just need to gather up some energy and COOK.

Though you guys should check her out: Blissfully Vegan!

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2010 in Cookbook, Exercise, Food, Indulge, Recipes, Vegan

 

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For the love of…Tabouleh

Tabouleh is a middle eastern salad which has a personality of its own. Traditionally Tabouleh is made with bulgar wheat, and many professional chefs will say that it is impossible to marry the flavours which are incorparated in this traditional dish with any other grain. I however, disagree. But please take note, that this is my personal preference – I love making a sort of unconventional tabouleh by using cous cous instead of bulgar wheat. My reasoning is that cous cous takes significantly less time to cook, and is a hell of a lot easier to cope with. I for one cannot cope with having to soak the bulgar wheat before I cook it, nor do I have time to.

So here’s my quick and easy recipe for unconventional tabouleh, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Ingredients

– 1 cup dry couscous
– 1/2 small red onion, diced
– 2 medium plum tomatoes, seeds removed and chopped
– handful of parsley sprigs, chopped
– 5-6 mint leaves, chopped
– juice of 2 lemons
– olive oil (about a tablespoon)
– sea salt and pepper (to taste)

A Method to the Madness

To 1.5 cups of boiling water, add the dry couscous. Turn to low heat and cover for about 3-5 minutes. Couscous is ready when the water has evaporated and the couscous is tender Remove from heat and fluff it around with a fork. Set aside and cool.

When couscous is completely cooled, add onion, tomatoes, parsley, mint and lemon juice. Mix well, removing any clumps in the couscous.

Drizzle in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

This recipe makes about 3-4 hearty portions. My favourite way to eat tabouleh is to load it up in a baby lettuce leaf and roll it up as a wrap. The cool, crunchy lettuce is a perfect match to the tartness of the tabouleh. You could even serve it on endives for a clever party-style canape!

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2010 in Food, salad, Vegan

 

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For the Love of Apples

For me, no meal is complete without a pudding of some sort, and I don’t know what it is about the combination of apples and cinnamon that makes me feel like it’s christmas all year round. The combination forms part of my ultimate comfort food, and it’s most definately on the frequent cravings list. That sugary, gooey, sweetness that completes any meal absolutely perfectly is generally what i’m after.

Ingredients

Apples:

  • 5-6 apples, sliced in 1/4-inch slices or so
  • 1 T. cornstarch
  • 2 t. cinnamon
  • 1/8 t. nutmeg
  • 1/8 t. allspice
  • 1/16 t. cloves
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar + 1/2 c. water
  • Topping:

  • 1/2 c. oats
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. cinnamon
  • 1/6 c. canola oil (or 1/2 of a 1/3 measuring cup)
  • 1.5 T. soy milk
  • 1/2 t. vanilla
  • 1/8 t. salt
  • Preheat oven to about 180.

    In a bowl, mix together the cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, brown sugar and water. Place the apples in a bread-loaf pan and then drizzle the mixture all over the apples.

    In a separate bowl, mix together everything for the topping and sprinkle this mixture on top of your apples. Cover with tin foil–bake for 10 minutes. Remove tin foil and bake for another 20-30 minutes.

    This is perfect served with some soy vanilla ice cream or soy cream, or perfect on its own. For your non-vegan buddies I suggest serving with custard or regular vanilla ice cream!

     
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    Posted by on January 25, 2010 in Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Recipes, Uncategorized, Vegan

     

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    For the love of Breakfast

    Breakfast is said to be the most important meal of the day, and nutritionists have advised that skipping breakfast affects not only your concentration, but your metabolism and your weight too. However, aside from these amazing breakfast banana muffins I made before, I really struggle with finding something other than fruit or cereal with soy milk that suits my needs.

    I’m honestly not a morning person so breakfast for me has to be something easy, that I can prepare in advance or something that seriously excites me.

    One breakfast food I do remember from when I was younger is mum’s french toast. That smell waking up in the morning, of sugary sweetness, is absolutely heavenly. I was determined to find a vegan recipe for this all time favourite sunday breakfast just like my mum used to make..and you know what? I did!

    And it’s SUPER easy!

    ½ cup soymilk
    ½ tsp vanilla extract
    2 tbsp oil
    ¼ tsp salt
    1 tbsp flour
    2 tbsp cornstarch
    2 tsp sugar
    ground cinnamon to taste

    Dip 4 slices day old bread in the mix and fry it lightly on both sides using a tiny bit of oil. See? I told you! Simple!

     
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    Posted by on January 21, 2010 in Breakfast, Food, Recipes, Vegan

     

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    For the Love of Risotto

    If I didn’t convey just how much I loved Tal Ronnen’s cookbook in the previous post, his recipe for Asparagus and Meyer Lemon Risotto should do the trick. I did modify his recipe slightly and instead of using Arborio rice, I used unbleached barley and I cut the quantities down considerably and it took AGES to make, but the end result was so amazingly perfect that it was totally worth the wait!

    The recipe calls for Meyer lemons which you don’t seem to get here – so I simply used the mix of lemon and orange Tal Ronnen suggested and it worked out beautifully!

    Ingredients

    Sea salt

    500g Asparagus – cleaned and chopped into 1 inch pieces

    Freshly ground black pepper

    3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

    2 shallots, chopped

    1 clove garlic, chopped

    1 cup barley alternatively you can use 1 cup Arborio rice

    1/2 cup plus a splash of dry white wine

    6 cups vegetable stock (it seems like a lot but barley needs a lot in order for it to soften)

    Grated zest of 1 large lemon and 1 clemantine

    Juice of 1 large lemon and 1 clemantine

    1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

    Method

    Fill a small pot with water.  Add 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil.  Blanch the asparagus in the boiling water for 1 minute, then chill in an ice bath, drain, and sprinkle with a pinch each of salt and pepper.  Set aside.

    Place a large saute pan with steep sides over medium heat.  Sprinkle the bottom with a pinch of salt and heat for 1 minute.  Add the oil and heat for 30 seconds, being careful not to let it smoke.  This will create a nonstick effect.

    Add the shallots and saute for 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute.

    Add a pinch of salt and the rice and saute for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

    Add the ½ cup wine and cook, stirring constantly, until it has been completely absorbed and evaporated.  Add the stock, 1 cup at a time, cooking and stirring after each addition until all the liquid is absorbed. 

    As you cook the rice, season periodically with salt and pepper, tasting after each addition.

    Fold in the citrus zest, the asparagus, and a splash of wine and continue cooking for 2 to 3 minutes, until the asparagus is heated through and the risotto is thick and creamy.

    Remove from the heat and gently stir in the citrus juices.  Adjust the seasoning as necessary. 

    Serve immediately with a few toasted pine nuts sprinkled on top.

     This risotto turned out perfect, tart but not too tart, creamy without being heavy and I was left feeling completely satisfied.

    The verdict: Definately making this again! And I would wholeheartedly recommend you give it a try!

    NOTE: This is a modified version of Tal Ronnen’s Asparagus and Meyer Lemon Risotto – for the original recipe you will have to reference his book The Conscious Cook, as mentioned in my previous post.

     
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    Posted by on January 15, 2010 in Cookbook, Food, Indulge, Recipes, Vegan

     

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