Thursday, September 30, 2010
Fall Comfort Food
In my previous post, I mentioned this tasty curry dish I made last night. It was a combination of vegetables I had on hand and that I was hoping to use up before traveling. As I didn't have heating in the apartment when I first started thinking about dinner,  I also wanted something spicy to warm me up. This turned out even better than I expected - it was the perfect, flavorful comfortfood. Like most of my recipes, this is very easy and fast to make (by fast I mean the short time spent in the kitchen; you can do other things while the food simmers... like read a good book ;)).

Sorry about the bad/unnatural light in my dinner photos. I'll have to find some better lighting solution to this. ;)

Winter Squash, Potato and Chickpea Curry
(Feeds a hungry family of four)
  • 1/2 large or 1 small winter squash, seeded and cubed (I used hokkaido/kabocha, as it is the easiest to find here; however, you can use acorn squash, butternut, or any other type you like)
  • 4 potatoes, cubed
  • 1 large apple, cored and diced
  • 1 red chili pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 gloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small can coconut milk (175 ml/5.6 oz)
  • 2 tbsp yellow Thai curry paste*
  • about 3 c water
  • 1 15 oz can or 1-1/2 c cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 c pumpkin seeds
Heat a wok pan or a large skillet over medium heat. Add the curry paste, ginger, garlic, and half of the coconut milk. Cook for a couple of minutes. Mix in the rest of the coconut milk, squash, potatoes, apple and chili, and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to simmer. Cook until the squash and potatoes are tender, checking every now and then, and adding more water if necessary. In the end of the cooking process, there shouldn't be much liquid left. Don't panic if this sticks to the pan a little: as long as it doesn't burn, this will only add flavor and a wonderful "crust" to the veggies. A few minutes before the vegetables are done, mix in the chickpeas, and cook until they are throughly heated. Turn off the heat, and fold in the pumpkin seeds. Serve hot.

*There are thousands of variations of yellow curry paste - and you can even make your own. If you prefer a mild version of this dish, use less curry paste than given above, or omit the chili pepper. The brand I use has some coconut milk and enough salt and other spices in it; but if yours doesn't, you probably want to add some salt or soy sauce in the end. You can also add a tablespoon of sugar, agave, or apple juice, and squeeze in some lemon/lime juice if you wish.


As you have probably noticed by now, yellow curry paste is one of my favorite go-to spices. I use a fair amount of green and red curry pastes as well, but as many of those are not vegan and I don't always have the ingredients (or time) on hand to make them from scratch, yellow curry paste is often a practical choice. I also like the mild flavor and creamy consistency of it. The jar above is the brand I use most of the time - it can be found in some ethnic groceries around Copenhagen.

Being by myself, I'm probably going to be eating this food for the next couple of days, and might try freezing down a portion as well. Previously, I have frozen coconut-based curry sauce without problems, so I wonder if this shouldn't be okay, too?

Have a good night! :-)
 
posted by Seglare at Thursday, September 30, 2010 | Permalink | 2 comments
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
I Can Smell Fresh Bread
When I was in college, I used to bake most of the bread myself. It saved me quite a bit of money, and I thought it was fun. Since moving to Copenhagen, I haven't baked anything with yeast (or a rolling pin, for that matter). While my current apartment is much bigger than my college apartment, the kitchen is a typical city kitchen with hardly any counter space at all. Sometimes, I find myself standing with a hot pot in my hands, and literally not having any place to put it down. I kept getting cold shivers just thinking about kneading a yeast dough and then trying to clean up the mess afterwards. Instead, I always ended up going to a bakery or buying bread in a grocery store. This may not have been ideal financially, but otherwise, one thing I love about Copenhagen are all the bakeries. There are several organic and even vegan bakeries, and one in particular makes amazing spelt walnut bread (unfortunately, it is super expensive, too!). The same bakery has some melt-in-your-mouth vegan pastries. I do my best to steer away from that street on Sunday mornings. ;-)

Anyway - this morning, I woke up around 05.30 AM to some guys drilling on the street right below my bedroom window (hello, I wonder if they're on a wrong time zone?!). As I opened the window to look what was going on, the scent of freshly baked bread lingered up from a bakery somewhere nearby. I thought about running to the bakery to get a fresh roll for breakfast, but some brave part of me whispered in my ear that I could make it myself, too - even if my kitchen was the size of a cupboard and my oven so small it can only fit in 9 cookies at a time. I decided to give it a try, and told myself I'd never need to do it again, should it end in a disaster.


I used fresh yeast just because the store nearby was out of dry yeast. If you can't find fresh yeast (I remember walking into Whole Foods once and being looked at like I was coming from the Moon: "Fresh yeast? What's that?!"), you can easily make the rolls with dry yeast, of course - that's what I use most of the time, too.


Easy Breakfast Rolls
  • 1 c warm water (lukewarm, if you use fresh yeast; a little warmer, if you use dry yeast)
  • 20 g (one 0,6 oz cube) fresh yeast or 7 g (one 1/4 oz packet) active dry yeast
  • 1 tbsp agave nectar or maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 3/4 c rolled oats or unsweetened mysli
  • 3/4 c whole grain spelt flour or whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 c white flour (preferably durum flour)
  • 1/4 c nuts or seeds (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax, whatever you have on hand)
Crumble the fresh yeast in a bowl. Add the warm water and agave nectar, and mix until the yeast is completely dissolved. Mix in the salt, oil, and oats. Add flour gradually, alternating between whole wheat and white, until you have a soft dough - the required amount could be a little less or a little more than given above. Fold in the nuts or seeds. Mix well - preferably kneading with your hands - for a couple of minutes. Cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap, and leave in a warm place to rise for about 30 minutes.

Knead the dough out on a floured surface. Divide into 7-10 equal pieces, and roll them into balls. Dip each roll in or sprinkle with some more seeds, and place on a baking sheet. Cover again with the tea towel or plastic wrap, and let rise for about 20 minutes. You can also let them rise a little less - about 10 minutes or so - and then place them in a cold oven. Turn on the oven. As the oven heats up, the rolls will rise.

Bake in 225 C (about 450 F) for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown, and until the bottom sounds "hollow" when knocked on.


Since I still had over half a packet of yeast left, and as fresh yeast is quite perishable (but most of all, because my kitchen was already a mess ;)), I decided to bake a batch of sweet buns as well. The Danes prefer their pastries, but these buns are extremely common in the other Nordic countries - Sweden, Finland, and Norway. They are also real health food compared to the traditional Danish pastry. ;-)

Scandinavian Sweet Buns
  • 1 c non-dairy milk
  •  25 g fresh yeast 
  • 1/3 to 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp coarsely crushed cardamom seeds (I was out of cardamom, so I just used 1 tsp vanilla + 1/2 tsp cinnamon for flavor)
  • 1/4 to 1/3 c vegan margarine, melted or softened
  • 3-4 c all purpose flour
  • raisins (optional)
  • Agave nectar or sugar + water or non-dairy milk, for brushing
  • Coarse sugar, brown sugar, vegan margarine, chopped nuts or flaked almonds for garnish (or none at all ;))
Heat the milk until lukewarm. In a large bowl, dissolve crumbled fresh yeast and sugar in the milk. Mix in the salt, cardamom, and about 1/3 of the clour. Add the melted margarine and enough flour to form a soft dough. Knead for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle some flour on top, cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes.

On a floured surface, knead the dough for a minute or so. Form into small buns, hide a few raisins inside each bun, and place on a baking sheet. Let rise for another 20 minutes or so.

Before baking, brush with agave/sugar + water mixture or milk, and sprinkle with the topping of your choice.

Bake in 225 C (about 450 F) for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.

*I wrote the measurements in the recipe loosely, as you can adjust the sugar, salt, spices and fat according to your own taste. The more fat you use, the softer - flakier - the buns; I normally go with only 1/4 cup though.

*This is the very basic recipe, and the variations are endless. This makes a perfect blueberry pie crust (I will post the entire recipe for this pie one day), sweet, filled loaf, fruit-filled buns, or cinnamon rolls. :)

I was obviously getting a bit tired by this point - I just dropped the dough onto a baking sheet, which explains the rather misshaped buns... They were perfectly fluffy and delicious on the inside, however. ;)

These tasted great, but I know nothing better in this world than sweet buns or cinnamon rolls made by my Mom - I think the magic is in her hands? :)

The verdict of baking with yeast in my city kitchen? I'd lie if I said it was pure pleasure, and I probably won't do it regularly until I get a bigger kitchen (or maybe some bread forms, which would allow me to make bread that require no kneading on a table?). I used a large Ikea cutting board for making the rolls, but it was still a little unpractical.

However, I will be posting more bread/roll/bun recipes - and recipes that require using a rolling pin - whenever I spend time at home at my parents'. My favorites include pumpkin, apple, walnut and blueberry - not to mention stollen and all the other Christmas treats...

***********
The best news today? This is the sky outside my livingroom window right now:


Our sun is back!!! There's not a cloud in sight, just bright, blue sky. True enough, it's quite freezing outside - but we have sunshine! :)  I'm going to study fast so I can get in a nice, long bike ride or a walk in the sun this afternoon.

Have a lovely day!
 
posted by Seglare at Wednesday, September 29, 2010 | Permalink | 9 comments
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Healthy Fast Food
Most of the time, I eat a healthy diet consisting of vegetables, whole grains, tofu and the like (and the occasional cake ;)). However, I do have my bad habits that kick in sometimes. First of all, I love cereal - and I admit that if I don't need to cook for others than myself, I often resort to eating it for dinner as well (to my defense, not the frosted flakes kind, but some organic whole grain cereal or mysli). The other "bad" food I eat much more rarely, but sometimes I just can't help it. Every once in a while, all I want for dinner is a bowl of noodles or rice - just the plain, white kind, with some soy sauce sprinkled on top. I know this kind of dinner lacks all the nutritients, so I try to only eat it once every few months. Tonight was going to be one of those nights. I was alone at home, I'd been out all day, and the last thing I wanted to do when I got home was cook. My options were cereal, Danish rye bread, or a salad. All those options flew out of the window when I suddenly thought of instant noodles - a dinner in four minutes! The first change to my plan came when I realized we only had whole grain buckwheat noodles. Then I remembered I still had some leftover lentils in the fridge. At the same door opening, I caught the sight of a few sprouting carrots in my crisper. I gave up and told myself I could whip up a healthy noodle bowl in no time, really. I'm so glad I did - it turned out to be such a flavorful meal!


I feel silly even posting a recipe, as this was so simple - but it tasted so good that I think it deserves to be written down. ;) Naturally, this takes some extra time if you use uncooked lentils; but if you have canned or leftover lentils, this meal is ready in no time at all.

The Five Minute Noodle Bowl
  • 1 serving of Japanese soba noodles
  • handful of dried mushrooms, soaked in warm water*
  • 1/3 c (uncooked) green or brown lentils**
  • 3 carrots, grated***
  • 1/2 to 1 tbsp (Hatcho) miso paste
  • 1-2 tsp sriracha or other hot sauce, or red pepper flakes (optional)
Cook the lentils according to package directions. In a wok pan, combine the mushrooms (including the soaking liquid, which should be about 1 c), carrots and noodles. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the noodles are tender. Mix in the lentils, warm through, and turn off the heat. Dilute miso with 1-2 tablespoons of warm (not hot) water, and pour over the noodles. Add hot sauce/red pepper flakes, if desired, and sprinkle some dried seaweed on top.

This made two servings for me - the lentils make it a very filling meal - so now I have a nice lunch for tomorrow as well! :)

*Soaking time will vary - some types of mushrooms require much longer time than others. Mine are small chanterelles, and if added into hot liquid, they don't necessarily require any soaking at all. Unless I'm in a hurry, I usually soak them in warm water for about 15 minutes. You can also replace dried mushrooms with fresh shiitake, wild mushrooms, button mushrooms, or any other type you like.

**I should also add that the lentils I used had been cooked in (weak) vegetable broth. If you use plain lentils, you may want to add more spices - depending on your own taste.


***Feel free to add garlic, ginger, and any additional vegetables you have on hand. I'm sure grated zucchini and finely chopped bell pepper would be wonderful additions.


After dinner, I took my laptop, parked myself on the couch, and found the new episode of Grey's Anatomy online. :) Accompanied with a second take on my Banana Coconut Bread - turned into muffins.


This time, I replaced the chocolate chips with chopped fresh pineapple, and I much preferred this version - it tasted fresh and not overly sweet, like the chocolatey version (which was still good, too!). I also used a more coarse type of spelt flour, which changed the texture a little - though not in a bad way.


I also made another cup of holiday-ish tea today, Yogi Cinnamon Spice. My boyfriend loves this herbal tea and drinks it almost every morning. Most Yogi Teas (this being no exception) are a bit too peppery to my taste and I seem to be a little allergic to some spice (?!) in them, but I love the scent. I left one tea bag on the counter in my kitchen, and the next time I walked in, there was a wonderful cinnamon scent lingering around.


I'm planning to climb into bed with these (ok, I'm lying a little: I don't actually read newspapers in the bed, as the ink sticks to everything. So I should say - I plan on reading the newspaper and then going to bed with the book ;)). The Guardian Weekly is one of my favorite newspapers and has some really interesting articles on world affairs. The book, on the other hand, is a gift I gave to my boyfriend on his birthday last week. He didn't have the chance to read it before his trip, and kindly promised that I could read it before him (I should admit, I was kind of hoping that. Not that I buy him presents I actually want myself, but it's always an advantage if we both like it - right? ;) My Dad read this book earlier and enjoyed it so much I have been dying to read it myself).

The Tivoli Gardens is closing for the season today - to open its doors again at Halloween and Christmas - and as I'm writing this, I can hear that there is a magnificent firework show going on. Unfortunately, most of my windows are facing the other way and the rooftops are blocking part of the view, so I can only catch glimpses of it if I half hang out of my kitchen window. ;) If I'd realized earlier that it was tonight, I might have gone out for a walk to see it.

 Good night everyone. :)
 
posted by Seglare at Sunday, September 26, 2010 | Permalink | 9 comments
Change of Plans
The Danish weather proved true to its reputation and turned out as unpredictable as always. The beautiful sunshine changed into dark clouds, strong wind, and lingering rain. No reading in the park this weekend, either! However, I did manage to have a great biking adventure.

I accompanied a friend to the airport early afternoon, and took my bike with me in the metro (subway). The airport is located only some 7 miles out of the city center, so I was far from the only person who'd brought their bike along:


The ride from the airport to the city is one of my favorite biking routes in Copenhagen. There is a large "man-made" beach a little south of the city, near the airport, and the best part of the beach is that there is a paved biking/running path running the whole way through it.



You enter the beach almost as soon as you leave the airport, and exit just before you turn on the bridge to enter the city again. In the summer, the area is always packed with people - but this time it was nice and quiet. The beach was almost deserted, but some brave souls were still lying on the sand with a picnic basket - reading in their sleeping bags.




I felt I'd hardly started biking when I reached the city, so I continued riding north. On the harbor, a couple cruise ships were setting sail. The one nearer was playing some incredibly annoying and very loud music that kept ringing in my ears for miles after I'd passed the ships. The song was so irritating I later googled it and found out it was this one. I'm a huge fan of 60's and 70's music, but let's just say this particular song didn't quite fall into my favorite songs category. ;-)


I rode up north by the seaside, through a trail in the woods, and back to the city using another route. I loved seeing several old couples on a walk in the woods (it's more like a park, really), holding hands and looking like they were so much in love. I hope I'll be just as happy when I'm 80! :)  assume most of them were residents of a retirement home near the park. 


I probably covered some 20 miles, which isn't a big distance in this flat country, on a good bike - but it was a perfect, leisurely ride, and almost made me forget my ruined plans about reading in a sunny park today. ;) 

Hope you all have had a nice weekend, too! 
 
posted by Seglare at Sunday, September 26, 2010 | Permalink | 2 comments
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Three Months to Christmas
Yesterday, I woke up bright and early, humming Christmas songs. Only three months to Christmas!!!


Those who know me in real life would tell you that I am a huge Christmas person. I am known to shop Christmas gifts in July (but, I have to add, this is a way to avoid the horrible crowds and stress in the stores in December!), and I wish I could keep my Christmas lights on all year. As much as I love the sun, I also like the dark fall evenings, which give me a good excuse to light candles around my apartment. I love Christmas music - and Christmas books - and every year, I eagerly wait for the day I can decorate our apartment for the holidays (despite the fact that I've never spent Christmas here, but always at home with my parents). I still insist on buying an advent calendar each year. Living in the city center,  I also love the day - sometime in late November - when I wake up very early in the morning to a sound of trucks installing Christmas lights above the streets. A couple days from that night, the city sets up a huge Christmas tree on the city hall square and lights the various decorations above the pedestrian streets. Around the same time, a number of Christmas markets and the Tivoli Gardens open for the season.


I love Christmas food - specially the sweet things, such as gingerbread, Christmas buns or stollen, and my Mom's English fruit cake - and the Swedish Christmas drink, glögg (= mulled wine, but I actually much prefer the non-alcoholic version, made with currant juice). I love all the scents, traditions, the atmosphere, the memories, and arriving home a few days before Christmas. I love being able to read a good book for hours, on the couch, without the guilt of "I should be studying instead". I even like the snow - somehow, Christmas doesn't feel 'real' without it - but I really wouldn't mind if everything wasn't covered in it until April..! ;-) 






I have a soft reindeer musical toy that plays the Jingle Bells. I picked him up at a garage sale once, almost for free. Most of the year, he sits tucked away in the back of my wardrobe - but every once in a while, throughout the year, I notice him when organizing laundry. I wind the toy up, watch him play and dance for a few minutes - and then I tell him there's still seven months to Christmas. ;-)


Christmas is my favorite holiday of the year; and these days, it holds an even more special place in my heart, as it is the only real holiday we have during the fall. Halloween in Europe - if celebrated at all - is a lame comparison to the festivities in the US - and Thanksgiving is not known at all. I always set up some pumpkins, however - and if I happen to visit my parents around the holidays this year, they have a giant (150 lbs and growing!!) pumpkin just waiting to be turned into a spooky Jack O'Lantern.

This badly lit picture features two of our Jack O'Lanterns from last year - after a deer (or our pumpkin-loving dog?!) had eaten the hats off both of them!!

One thing I love - perhaps the most - about December is waking up very early and watching the city wake up around me. I like to turn on only my Christmas lights and a candle, put on some music, and enjoy the early hours with a big cup of hot tea. I actually do work in the half-dark - I'm mostly a touch typer, but I'm in love with the backlit keyboard as well! ;-) 


While I'm still going to wait for a month or two to set up my holiday decorations, I celebrated today by enjoying my first cup of Candy Cane Lane tea. I love this tea, but it is so difficult to find here that I only allow myself a cup on special occasions. Oh, was it ever so good!

I realize I'm using the word 'love' a few too many times in this post - but that's just how I feel about Christmas time (and the fall, too!). 


Happy Countdown to Christmas! :-) What is your favorite holiday - and why?
 
posted by Seglare at Saturday, September 25, 2010 | Permalink | 8 comments
Thursday, September 23, 2010
The Cinderella of Leftovers
The rain of early this week has turned into the most beautiful, sunny fall days. The weather forecast promises us over 20 C (70 F) and sun in the following few days! I can see a weekend of reading in the park... ;)


The only thing that tells me it is not summer sun are the long shadows and the leaves that are turning yellow. This branch of an old chestnut tree had changed color just overnight. 


Dinner today was another "throw away or use up" kind of affair.

Given the outrageous prices of nut butters in Denmark, I usually make my own. A few days ago, I just scraped off the last of my Naturally Nutty Vanilla Almond Butter - brought from the US this spring, as I still haven't found anything similar in Europe (or a company that ships to Scandinavia with reasonable shipping rates. If someone knows one, please do let me know! :)). Thankfully, I have found that it is quite easy to make your own nut butters, and that no super expensive appliances are required, either (though they would be welcome ;)). My favorites are different almond butters, without a question: natural, vanilla, maple, chocolate, dried fruit, pumpkin spice...

For years, I have also made different nut/seed butters that are salty and more like sandwich spreads. I certainly haven't come up with this idea myself, as I have shamelessly copied the basic ingredient list out of the side of a jar. I use cashews, sunflower seeds, or whatever nuts or seeds I have on hand - and then usually mix in a little tomato paste, some lemon juice, and a mixture of herbs and spices. This far, the numerous combinations I have tried have always turned out well - that is, until this week. Early this week, I decided it was time to make some sandwich spread again. I followed my usual "recipe", but thought it would be a good idea to add some olives, sundried tomatoes and basil, all of which I had on hand, waiting to be used up.

I am not sure what went wrong, but the result was quite disastrous.


Unfortunately, this tasted just as bad as it looks. As I hate wasting food, I put it all into a small container and left it in the fridge - but deep inside, I knew I was never going to use it on a sandwich of any kind. By the end of the week, time was running out from this spread. I took it out, tasted it again (and never again!!), and considered dumping it all into my boyfriend's lunchbox. There is, however, one thing that can save almost any leftovers: burgers. Since this was a thick paste, I knew it would work quite nicely in a burger patty. It also just happened that I had some leftover boiled green lentils in my fridge. I combined this weird mixture with the lentils, added some breadcrumbs, some more spices - and suddenly, I had the most delicious tasting mixture! I could have eaten the whole thing with a spoon. Who would have thought adding lentils and doubling up the spices could make such a difference?


These were quite possibly the best burgers I have ever had. Unfortunately, I didn't measure anything, so I can't write a real recipe - but I will certainly try to make these again. It would be something like 1/2 to 2/3 c sunflower seeds, a few sundried tomatoes, some olives, handful of fresh basil (=all pureed in a food processor), salt and pepper + 1 c lentils (uncooked amount), 1/3 c spelt breadcrumbs, a tablespoon of yellow curry paste, hot sauce (I used sriracha), soy sauce, a tablespoon of tomato paste or ketchup, herbs and a pinch of garlic powder. Any other spices and herbs you like. Mix everything up, form into burger patties, and bake in the oven (about 225 C/450 F) about 20 minutes or until golden brown, flipping half way through.

I just dropped the mixture onto a baking sheet with a spoon and flattened it, hence the ugly shape - but the paste was firm enough so you could have formed it into beautiful patties, too.

I guess the lesson learned is that even the most hopeless, tasteless leftovers can have a new life as a wonderful meal, with the addition of some fresh, flavorful ingredients. ;-)


What is your favorite way to use up leftovers? Is there something you have a hard time using up?

For me the most problematic food is probably soup, at least every now and then. I always manage to make too much of it, and since our freezer is very small, we end up eating it for days. Finally, we both agree we never want to have soup again. Naturally, this problem could be solved by making a smaller amount (I don't know how I always end up with a whole pot?!), or getting a bigger freezer - which I'm sure our next, more permanent home will have. :-)

Have a great weekend!
 
posted by Seglare at Thursday, September 23, 2010 | Permalink | 0 comments
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Cabbage Head
Today, I gathered up my courage and decided to tackle the half of a cabbage head that was lurking in my vegetable crisper. My problem with some vegetables - cabbage, beets, parsnips, potatoes... - is that they are often sold in such big amounts that I have a hard time using them all up before they start growing long sprouts or smelling funny. I may need beets or cabbage for some recipe, but then have no idea what to do with the rest. This half a head had been asking to be used up ever since I made that Ethiopian cabbage stew, but I had tried my best to ignore him and kept pushing him in the farthest back corner of the crisper. Today, I decided I either had to use the head up, or to throw it away - and, as I hate throwing food away, I decided it was to be our dinner.

 [image source]

This is one of the dishes that doesn't photograph well and looks very boring (and in fact, quite ugly), but tastes amazing. Even my boyfriend - who usually claims to be allergic to any form of cabbage (specially brussels sprouts, which he says he is deadly allergic to) - loves the dish and keeps asking why I don't make it more often. The dark, sweet molasses go perfectly with the strong cabbage, and you get your whole grains and protein in the same dish, too.


Cabbage and Lentil Casserole
  • 1/2 head of white cabbage, cut into 1-inch-pieces
  • 2 c water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic (optional; I didn't use any)
  • 3 carrots, sliced thinly
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 c lentils de Puy OR brown lentils
  • 2/3 c rice (I used brown basmati rice)
  • 1/2 to 1 tbsp blackstrap molasses*
  • 1 tbsp packed brown sugar*
  • 2 tbsp tamari (or other soy sauce)
  • 3/4 to 1 c non-dairy cream or milk (I used half rice cream, half unsweetened soy milk)
  • handful of fresh oregano, or 1-2 tsp dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
Cook the lentils and rice according to package directions, and drain any excess water.

Preheat oven to 175 C (350 F), and lightly oil a casserole dish.

In a medium pot, bring the water to a boil, and add the salt and the cabbage. Reduce the heat to simmer, and let the cabbage cook for a few minutes, while you prepare the other ingredients.

Heat the oil in a large skillet, and add the onion and carrots. Cook until transculent. Add the cabbage (including the cooking liquid), lentils, rice, blackstrap molasses, sugar, tamari, and milk or cream. Taste with salt and pepper, and add the minced fresh oregano or dried oregano.

Pour the mixture into a prepared casserole dish. Bake in the lower-middle part of the oven for about one hour, until the top is brown and crispy. If desired, sprinkle or brush with a little molasses-water or soy sauce midway through the cooking (I never bother ;)).

Serve with a fresh salad and, ideally, homemade cranberry or lingonberry preserves.

*You can replace the blackstrap molasses and brown sugar with 2 tbsp regular dark molasses or 2 tbsp dark muscovado sugar.


 *****************


Since the oven was warm, dessert was the first apple crisp of the year. I can hardly imagine another main course and dessert that look so much alike. ;)


This was just apples, rolled oats and oat bran, a little vegan margarine, splash of soy milk, brown sugar, blackstrap molasses, vanilla and cinnamon. The topping was vanilla soy yoghurt: the brand sold in Denmark (Alpro) is just like vanilla custard!

My boyfriend commented that the picture above looks like pork with melted cheese on top - but I hope you can see beyond that. ;) Blame the bad lighting in my kitchen. 

Good night to you all! :)
 
posted by Seglare at Wednesday, September 22, 2010 | Permalink | 4 comments
Monday, September 20, 2010
Wild Mushroom Harvest Tart
Growing up in a family of outdoor enthusiasts, I spent my childhood camping and exploring the nature. One of my very first memories is sitting on my Dad's back - in a baby backpack carrier - when he was crosscountry skiing on a snowy winter day. I even remember stopping at a ski hut on that trip, where we enjoyed some warm juice and sandwiches. Being able to comfortably fit in and sit in the baby carrier, I must have been about two years old. As we got older, we often spent weekends in the forest or by the sea - going for picnics, hiking, playing, or picking wild mushrooms or berries. Sometimes, my parents would prepare pancake batter at home, take it along in a bottle, and then make pancakes on a campfire. With the years, I learned to love and respect the nature just as much as they do - and recognize many of the delicious, edible wild berries and mushrooms. 


Although my opportunities to pick wild mushrooms here in Denmark are limited - I don't know any Danish mushroom pickers, and living in the city, I have no idea where to look - I love to go mushroom picking whenever I visit my parents during the season. As avid mushroom hunters, my parents also pick such a big amount of different mushrooms every year that they kindly give some to me and my sister - dried or frozen, and ready to use. I have been enjoying mushrooms from last year up until now, and have been saving the last few portions for a special occasion. Now, however, the new mushroom season has started, and since I'm planning a visit home within the next few weeks, I have finally started using the last of my stock from 2009.

 [image source]

This weekend, I thawed a bag of frozen Winter Chanterelle (picture above). This little mushroom is often found in deep fir forests, growing on moss or on decayed, moss-covered logs. It is in season late in the fall - and long into the winter - and blends easily with fallen leaves. Often, you won't notice the mushrooms until you literally stand on them - and then, suddenly, they are all around you.

 This is a typical area where winter chanterelles are found. :)

Once upon a time, I tried to train my dog - a yellow Lab with an amazing sense of smell - into becoming a Chanterelle hunting dog; but although he seemed to learn how to find the mushrooms, I didn't manage to teach him how to indicate that he had found them. When he found a spot with the mushrooms, he'd just jump excitedly all around them, tossing them on the ground - or he would go, find the mushrooms, and return to me, awaiting a well deserved treat. ;-) Although we had an obvious communication problem there and he wasn't of much help with mushroom hunting itself, he was the greatest companion on those trips, and always ready to go. Even last fall, when he was already very old, appreciated his long naps by the fireplace, refused to go out in the rain and walked slowly, he never hesitated a moment if asked "should we go for a walk in the forest?". He seemed to become years younger in the forest, on the soft, moss-covered terrain, and might even run a few steps. Mostly, however, he was excited about all the different smells - other dogs, foxes, rabbits, squirrels, birds, and perhaps even the rare bear - and loved doing his own investigations.




So - with all these trips to the forest, we can usually enjoy wild mushrooms throughout the year: in soups, sauces, bread, rolls, pancakes, casseroles, and so many other delicious dishes. Earlier this weekend, I had been cleaning my cupboard, and found a box of instant mashed potato, which I never really use. There is one thing, however, where this ingredient goes perfectly: a vegetable tart. You can use leftover mashed potatoes - which I often do - but if you don't have them on hand, instant mashed potato works beautifully. This recipe is taken and slightly adapted from my Mom - but my tart is still a lame comparison to hers. ;-)

Wild Mushroom Harvest Tart

Crust:
  • 3/4 c whole wheat spelt flour (or regular all purpose or whole wheat flour)
  • 2/3 c instant mashed potato powder
  • 1/3 c rolled oats
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 c vegan margarine, softened*
  • 3/4 c cold water
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt
Filling:
  • 3 c wild mushrooms (preferably chanterelle of some kind) OR if you can't get any wild mushrooms, you can substitute about 1/2 lbs button mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, or any other type you like
  • 1 small leek
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1 small bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 hot chili pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 c non-dairy cream or milk (I used half rice cream - with about 7% fat - and half unsweetened soy milk)
  • salt, black and white pepper (and soy sauce) to taste
  • handful of fresh herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, parsley - whatever you have on hand)
Preheat oven to 200 C (400 F). Prepare a 9-inch tart pan (I used a loose-bottom pan).

To prepare the crust:
In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add the softened margarine and enough water to form a firm dough. Add just a little water at a time, until you get the desired consistency (the amount of water needed will depend on the type of flour and potato you use). When ready, the dough should naturally clump into a ball. With your hands, press the dough onto the bottom and about 1 to 1.5 inches up on the sides of the tart pan. Poke with a fork a few times, on the bottom and sides, to prevent bubbling in the oven. Bake the crust in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes, while you prepare the filling.

To make the filling:
Prepare your wild mushrooms, depending on the type you're using (boiling if necessary, or otherwise, frying until the liquid is absorbed). If using regular button mushrooms, skip to the next step:

Heat the oil in a large skillet or a wok pan. Add the leek, garlic, and zucchini, and fry for a few minutes. Add the rest of the vegetables and the mushrooms, and cook until everything is tender (not mushy). Mix in the cream or milk, and taste with salt, pepper, and some mushroom soy sauce (optional). Add the fresh herbs.

Pour the filling onto the crust, and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the crust is golden brown. Let cool for a moment before serving - the tart should be served warm, not steaming hot.

*You can replace the vegan margarine with canola oil. However, I do recommend using (heart-friendly :)) margarine, as it makes a crispier crust and gives it a buttery flavor. 


Don't worry if your crust doesn't look perfect. I promise no one will notice when they taste the tart. ;)
I also forgot to pre-bake my crust this time; but although the tart will turn out nicely even without baking the crust first, I would still recommend pre-baking yours, as it produces a firmer bottom and a crispier crust.

 

I ran out of garlic, so I used some organic garlic pepper to replace both garlic, salt, and pepper (my spice has garlic, black pepper, white pepper, and herbs). I also added a little mushroom soy sauce for flavor.


In the oven, this anemic-looking tart turned into this:


When using a loose-bottom pan, let the tart rest in the pan for a while before attempting to remove it. If you remove the pan when the tart is very hot and not set, chances are that the sides will collapse.

Then enjoy with a big, fresh salad on the side. ;-)


***************
A word of warning: You should never pick any wild mushrooms that you don't recognize 110 %. If you are unsure if a certain mushroom is edible or not, leave it in the forest or ask an expert. There are some mushrooms, such as the Destroying Angel, which closely resemble good, edible mushrooms, but are deadly poisonous. Some other mushrooms are edible when prepared, but poisonous if not properly cooked. If you are new to mushroom picking, it may be a good idea to attend a course, or to accompany a more experienced mushroom hunter. I suggest learning to recognize a few types of mushrooms - those not easily mixed with poisonous ones, such as several types of porcini - and sticking to them. For the last, cultivated mushrooms can be substituted for wild mushrooms in any recipe, and more common 'wild' mushrooms, such as yellow chantarelles or porcini, are widely available in the stores as well.
 
posted by Seglare at Monday, September 20, 2010 | Permalink | 9 comments