A good excuse and pasta sauce

7 Apr

Okay, I know that I said that I wouldn’t further neglect the much neglected TTK, particularly for the (very poor) excuse of not liking my kitchen.  Well, I have a good excuse for having done so lately and it involves spending an entire week being able to stomach nothing but cereal.  Yep – I’m up the duff.

Thankfully, I seem to have passed into the second trimester mostly unscathed and am starting to feel significantly more like eating food that is, well… not either cereal or tomato sandwiches.  So, I’m going to try and begin again in earnest.  Particularly now that I can start thinking about what kinds of wonderful wholesome foods I need to put into my body now that I’m growing a tiny human.

Add to this the fact that we are moving (hooray!) and our new place will have a kitchen.  I don’t just mean some stock bench-space, a hob, an oven, a sink.  I mean an entire room devoted to cooking.  A whole room – with some wonderful bench space – that I can lock myself into and devote to food creation.

And to celebrate, here is something which is specifically for my friend B.  While she was still living in London we talked about how to create something like this and I said that I would organise some kind of recipe for her.  Of course, I never did – but here it is.

A stock standard home-made tomato pasta sauce

What you need:

– slightly overripe tomatoes.  I used cherry tomatoes for this, but you can use any kind.

-good quality olive oil

-herbs of your choice (I use basil)

What you need to do:

Skin your tomatoes.  The easiest way to do this is to cut a little cross into the bottom side of each tomato and submerge it in boiling water.  Once you pull it out you should be able to just peel the skin away – if not, just dunk it back into the water.

Put all your tomatoes, along with a little drizzle of olive oil, into an oven proof dish.  If you’re using big tomatoes then cut them up into quarters or eighths, cherry and baby tomatoes you can just put in as is.  Put them into a moderately hot oven, something around 200 should be fine.  Leave them for about half an hour.

Pull the dish out and smush them up with a fork.  Be careful!  You might get squirted with some very hot tomato seeds and other assorted innards.  Smush as much as you can.  Pop them back in the oven for another 15-20 minutes.

At this stage, I like to transfer the tomatoes into a pot and put them on the stove – covered – to simmer down a bit more.  This is also a good time to add in some chopped up fresh (or dried, if you like/that’s all you have) herbs.  This stage is a bit more up to you.  If you don’t mind a chunky sauce, you won’t want to leave them simmering for too long.  If you want something a bit smoother you will want to cook them down a little bit more.  If you are so inclined you can wizz your sauce up for something a little bit smoother.

Now – you can either use this sauce as is.  Or, you can add things – soy milk, cream, cheese is fine, if you are so inclined you can add some cooked brown lentils or TVP to make something closer to a bolognese.  At the ‘transfer to the pot’ stage you can start by adding some finely chopped onions or leeks, carrots or celery also go really well.  Before you finish, throw in a dash of red wine for something a bit richer.   You can really do anything you like with it.  It’s also freezable, so you can make a huge batch and freeze it off.

And then, obviously, you eat it.  (Although the days of final-dish photos with a huge glass of red wine are over for me for a while, please feel free to have one if you are devouring this sauce!)


Saturday Morning Scrambled Tofu

29 Jan

aka – best hangover cure known to mankind

Many years ago BV (Before Vegan) I used to cook up huge platefuls of scrambled eggs with onions on Saturday mornings.  We ate them with buttered toast, coffee, and orange juice.  It was one of the best ways to start the day.  Except it wasn’t because the way egg-laying chickens are treated is horrific.  Yes, even so-called ‘free-range’ chickens.

Even PV (Post Vegan) I was always a little hesitant to try scrambled tofu – even though I love tofu – because I didn’t want it to compare to those early morning, hung-over, scrambled egg breakfasts.  But, I was wrong.  I was wrong not to try the mighty scrambled tofu earlier than I did because it is far superior to scrambled eggs in every way.

This one is not very fancy – it’s some diced and grilled onions, tofu mushed up with some soy sauce and some Tabasco, thrown through the frying pan and served, sans toast due to my laziness, with a very tiny amount of salt and pepper.  And a big glass of water and a mug of green tea.

So long, hang-over!

P.S Make sure you buy non-GM tofu (actually, non-GM everything!).  A horrific amount of soy is genetically modified – according to GMO Compass more than half of all soybeans planted worldwide are from genetically modified crops, that includes 85% of American soybeans and 98% of Argentinian soybeans.  It’s not cool.

There is a really good Q-and-A over at the World Health Organization about GMOs, for those interested in looking into GMOs a little bit more.  It’s here.

Vegan Carbonara and the end of grieving

23 Jan

I have been grieving for my kitchen.  Not the physical kitchen – the bench, the sink, the oven.  But, the things that make my kitchen, well, my kitchen.  My amazing food processor (how did I ever live before this?!?), my wonderful Tupperware measuring cups and my Happy Chopper.  My bowls, my marble rolling pin, my baking trays.  I know that this isn’t an excuse for having – without any warning to you – let TTK fall by the wayside.  Well – no more!  I must get over it, I have sufficiently re-stocked my kitchen (albeit with less expensive things…)  And, so – to welcome back TTK I give to you my amazing no-soy, no-fake chesse Vegan Spaghetti Carbonara.

Okay – it doesn’t look super amazing, but it passed the S-taste test, and that is good enough for me.

While you’re spaghetti is cooking, throw one finely chopped onion and half a finely chopped leek into a frying pan with a little bit of vegetable oil (I personally use rapeseed oil) and start making a basic white sauce in a medium sized saucepan.  The amount of sauce you make will depend on how thick you like your cabonara, but my base was about 1 1/2 cups of rice milk and something around 1/4 cup of organic white flour sifted and whisked in, then stir though about 1/3 cup of oat cream until the sauce is a nice consistency – you’ll want it to be thick but still runny (if you cannot find oat cream, you can you Soyatoo or similar).  Add in a dollop of a mild yellow mustard (dijon or similar, or if you prefer something a bit different play around with seeded mustards) and some pepper to taste.  Take this off the heat and add in a handful of roughly chopped green beans, and your nicely-browned leek and onion mix.

Drain your spaghetti, stir the sauce though, serve with (as always) a lovely glass of red!

In other news, tonight S and I were feeling particularly lazy so we had microwave dinner (well, not really as we don’t have a microwave, but you get the idea…) consisting of Amy’s kitchen mac-and-cheese, which I bought from Wholefoods this afternoon.  Now, S had the ‘regular’ kind and I (obviously) had the vegan version.  The exciting thing about this is Amy’s kitchen vegan meals use a Daiya vegan cheese.  You can’t get it in Australia, and I haven’t found packs of it in the UK, though I’m not sure if it’s available or not.  It is apparently the most ‘realistic’ vegan cheese on the market, so I had been keen to try it.  It was nice – rich – but not like I remember cheese to taste.  I would certainly be happy to have it again, and maybe find some to try and cook with, but I’m not in the hugest rush.  I think I have said before that I am not the biggest fan of the fake-cheese products, but they are nice every so often.

One more thing, quite quickly.  Last week S and I went to see Jonathan Safran Foer do a q-and-a at LSE.  You probably know JSF as the author of (among other things) Eating Animals.  It was really wonderful.  It was great to hear how frank he was about his struggles with veganism, raising his children vegetarian, coming to terms with the research he did for the book.  Admittedly, this talk wasn’t aimed at me, and his book wasn’t aimed at me – I had already been vegan for quite a while when I picked it up – but it was great to hear such a truthful account of his struggles.  I think S took a bit more away from it than I did.

S feeding ducks in the Seine


Vegetable Soup

10 Oct

Here is my tried-and-true trusty no-fuss vegetable soup.  It’s cheap.  It’s easy.  It’s delicious.  This recipe makes 2 HUGE serves, or 4 regular serves.

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 spanish onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 leek, finely diced
  • 1/2 swede (or turnip if you wish), diced
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1 medium potato, diced
  • 1 medium parsnip, diced
  • 3/4 cup of ‘soup mix’ (it’s a mix of different beans and legumes, you can get it at most supermarkets with the other dried legumes – otherwise you can just use borlotti beans, or red kidney beans, or any other beans you like), soaked overnight and drained
  • 2 stock cubes (or homemade stock equivalent to water)
  • 2-4 cups of water (depending how brothy you like it)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

Sautee the leek and onion in a big pot with a little oil until translucent.  Add about 1/4 cup of water (no need to be precise) and add in all the other veges.  Stir around for a few minutes, then add the soup mix and leave for another few minutes.  Add in about 2 cups of water, in which the stock cubes have been dissolved.  Turn the heat right down, pop the lid on and let it simmer away until the veges are soft.  Right at the end, stir though the tomato paste and add any extra water to get the consistency you like.  Turn the heat up to a rolling boil for the last three-ish minutes.  Serve immediately with a crusy roll.

You can make this soup in advance – stop just before you put the tomato paste in.  Then, when you’re ready to serve heat the soup back up, add the tomato paste and boil it in a bit.  Easy.

Having found Parmazano (vegan ‘parmasan’) in our local supermarket for 69p, I sprinkled a bit on the top.  Given that the only time I found Parmazano in Melbourne it was around the $9.00 mark, I wouldn’t have done it.

And, before you ask – yes, that is red wine in a mug.


3 Oct

The all-new (literally) Thoughtful Kitchen Kitchen!  Yes, it is a corner – but it does contain an oven (hooray) and a four burner stove top (electric, which I will have to get used to!)  Last night we bought a baking tray from a store called Poundland (as you can probably guess, everything costs £1) and so, tonight culinary creation begins.

However – I have made a few things since moving in, and I wanted mostly to show you the very first cooked meal that this kitchen produced (don’t get your hopes up, it’s quite underwhelming):

Yes – it’s pasta.  I also just used a jar of sauce and added some generic veges to it.  See.  Very underwhelming.  At least you get a nice photo of Rupert The Honeymoon Duck as well.

But, I also wanted to gloat a little about how WONDERFUL food labeling in this country is.  It’s just sensational.  I haven’t had any problems at all, and many things even say very clearly on the packet ‘Suitable for Vegan.’  Also, I found out that my local Waitrose supermarket has Rice Dream.  And, it is awesome.

I was actually dreading having to ‘start fresh’ – I mean, S and I pretty much know what we like, what brands are good and can get in and out of the supermarket pretty easily, but that all changes when you arrive in a new country.  However, after realising how good the labeling is, I am quite looking forward to trying everything possible and finding the good stuff again!

So – there will be many more cooking wonders coming out of the tiny corner kitchen, but in the mean time S and I are writing a blog about our time in London, so feel free to read if you wish: W148BD.wordpress.com.

2 Oct

Rounding Up Old Kitchens (2)

30 Sep

Seriously, who doesn’t love the kitchen in which they learned to cook?!?

I don’t have a great photo of the kitchen, so instead, here is a photo of the two (very spoilt) cats who inhabit it:

The thing that I don’t like about this kitchen is the oven.  The hot spot is at the back in the middle, but even cooking requires constant turning.  And, that is not something I like to do.

The stove top is wonderful, though.  As is the plentiful bench space.

This kitchen brought you such culinary wonders as:

As I type, we have just moved into our new place in London.  I am looking at the new kitchen which, from tomorrow, will hopefully produce some wonderful, healthy, cruelty-free foods.  It has a brand new oven and a brand new (electric) stove top (which is called a ‘hob’ here…) which you will soon be introduced to: in sum, The Thoughtful Kitchen has a brand new kitchen…  let’s just hope it’s a good one!