Monthly Archives: January 2011

New Kettle: Philips HD4671/20

New kettle

If you live in England than you know that a kitchen isn’t complete without a good kettle. We use ours at least twice a day (morning and afternoon tea), usually three times (night time tea, coffee, pasta water, etc.).

A couple weeks ago our Kenwood Turin SJM400 Kettle, 1.7 Litre (Brushed Metal) bit the dust. It was sad – we liked the look of the kettle but we were more than a match its crappy on/off switch that completely fell to pieces. So the search for a new kettle began, and I ended up with the Philips HD4671/20 Energy Efficient Kettle Brushed Metal 3.0KW 1.7L.

I don’t usually write product reviews, but I’ve been so pleased with the new Philips kettle that I feel compelled to extol its virtues:

  • One cup brewing. The Philips kettle has a minimum fill capacity of 1 cup. By contrast, the Kenwood had a minimum of 0.7L, totally overkill for a single cup of tea. Now I can boil less water at a time, using less electricity – three cheers for energy efficiency!
  • Right/Left Water Indicators. In other words, there are fill markers on both sides of the kettle which makes it easy to read no matter what hand you’re holding the kettle with.
  • Smooth interior. That is, there aren’t any bits on the inside for limescale to stick to. This should make the kettle easy to descale when the time comes.
  • Massive easy-to-open lid. Enough said.
  • Quick and quiet. Need I say more?
  • Price. At £23.49 on Amazon, this is on the lower end of the price scale, and cheaper than the Kenwood (£28).

Flaws include ugliness and a stupid base with rounded edges which make things seem terribly unstable when returning the kettle to its station. But worst of all is the blue-light-special happening on the switch. I think Tim said it best:

The blue LED light (a relatively recent technological development, becoming widely available in the late 90s) has become the nastiest piece of tack the naughties have produced. I cannot fathom why anyone would want anything they own to glow blue, but leaving aside aesthetic preferences for now its application to kettles is just asinine. For a long while we’ve had a useful water related colour coding system: blue tap = cold, like the colour you turn when you’re, uh, cold and red tap = hot, like, uh, fire. Surely if you’re going to make a kettle glow any colour it should glow a fiery hot, angry red, like lava. Sure, if you are making an electric water cooler, make it glow blue, that would make sense. But not a kettle.

But hey, for £23.49, I feel like I got an awesome kettle. And now, I think it’s time for a cuppa tea (just one).

Nut roast: the accidental veggie burger?

Demuth's Christmas Roast Redux

Last Friday I attempted to make the Christmas Roast recipe posted on Demuth’s Restaurant’s website. I’ve been eyeing the recipe since, well, Christmas, as its list of whole-food, vegan ingredients really appealed to me: nuts, seeds, carrots, parsnips, tofu, mushrooms, plus zesty spices like coriander and cumin. But as I embarked on the recipe, I realized why this dish was delegated to Christmas – the effort involved is epic!

The basic premise is this: Make a batter out of veggies, nuts and tofu, and spread it out on a layer of finely sliced strips of zucchini. Then saute a bunch of mushrooms and scatter them in a strip across the middle of the batter, then roll the whole thing up to make a big roll that you bake in foil.

Demuth's Christmas Roast in Progress

I’m not sure where I erred, but the result was a bit more mushy than I would have preferred (the never-ending plight of veg-based loaves, roasts and burgers). I decided to start over and deconstructed the whole thing, forming smaller burger-shaped patties with a small pocket of mushrooms in the middle. I baked this for a good long while and what came out was a completely different dish. Still a little soft but delicious.

Demuth's Christmas Roast Redux

But the evolution of the roast doesn’t end there. After refrigerating the leftovers overnight, I went back to the burgers again – they evolved even more! This time they were even firmer, with a brilliant texture from all the nuts and seeds, and excellent “bite” from the mushrooms. In fact, the result would make a darn fine burger, not far from the ultimate veggie burger I yearn for.

This whole experience reflects a trend I’ve noticed with veggie burgers – the leftovers are almost always better, especially when they’ve been baked for a good long while in the oven.

It makes me wonder if I’m simply making my burgers way too moist, hence the mush?

This Friday is burger night once again. I think I will take some lessons from this roast experience and make my burgers ahead of time. That is, unless, I opt for having leftover roast for my Friday night burger instead, which wouldn’t be a bad thing at all.

Recipe: Demuths Christmas Roast

Veg Chef Daniel Acevedo on Ultimate Veggie Burgers

NewImage.jpgDaniel Acevedo (pictured with his partner, Sarah Wasserman), is head chef at Mildred’s vegetarian restaurant, famous for, among other things, its constantly changing (and always vegan) “burger of the day”.

Mildred’s beetroot burger remains one of the best veggie burgers I’ve ever had, and their kidney bean and olive burger was a close second. I wrote about these elusive burgers last year when I described my quest for the ultimate veggie burger and asked: just what are these burgers made of?

Serious about my quest, I went straight to the source, Daniel himself, and spoke to him about how they make the burgers at Mildred’s. Daniel was kind enough to entertain my burger fancies, and even shared a mouth-watering recipe for their popular beetroot and fennel burgers. Turns out, the secret is in the “Sosmix”.

Mildred's Awesome Veggie Burger

The burgers at Mildred’s rock my world. Are they your own recipe?

Our burgers have been on the menu about 15 years, and I’ve been in the kitchen about six. We have a standard recipe we follow but we change the vegetables and ingredients to flavour them differently. The burger mix changes every two or three days.

What are the fundamental ingredients that go into a cohesive burger?

It begins with Sosmix, the main binder of our burgers, which is a dehydrated soy mince that you can buy at shops like Whole Foods and some grocery stores. There are a few different brands but they’re all fairly similar.

To this we add vegetables, fresh herbs, dried herbs, tinned tomato or water, and a bit of gram (chickpea) flour to hold it together. The vegetables and herbs vary depending on what flavor we’re after. For example, today I made a red pepper, caper and courgette burger, to which I added parsley, oregano and black pepper.

Finally, we add chopped tinned tomatoes or the equivalent amount of water to bring it all together. The amount depends on how much water the sosmix is going to absorb and the types of vegetables we’re using.

I’ve seen bean burgers on the menu – where do those fit in?

We use the same formula and treat beans like one of the vegetables. But you must remember, cooked beans have lots of liquid so you won’t need to add as much water or tomatoes to the mix.

It seems like there’s an art form to achieving the perfect moisture balance – how do you know when the burgers are just right?

With the tomatoes and water, it’s not something you can really measure – start with a little and add it as you need it. And if you are adding beans or juicy carrots, add less liquid.

Mildred's Vegetarian Restaurant

What about texture? Do you choose certain ingredients for texture?

We generally choose a theme and base our burger around that. So, if it’s Italian then we’ll add black olive and basil. If it’s Mexican, spices. Asian, coriander. Sometimes we put seeds and nuts in the burger but not too often because we deal with a lot of nut allergies.

Do you have any advice for people who want to make a veggie burger at home?

The main thing is not to rush the process. If you’re using our method, you really need to left the burgers sit 30-40 minutes. Then you need to test the mixture. You want a mixture that you can grab in your hands and form into a burger, but doesn’t leave your hand messy. It should be dry enough to mold into a burger shape, but not so dry it crumbles apart when you cook it. It’s an in between thing. Trial and error. Be patient with it.

Mildred's Vegetarian Restaurant

Check out Mildred’s blog to read about Daniel’s recipes and food experiment with his comrade Sarah Wasserman. And if you’re in London, book a table at Mildred’s for lunch or dinner. You won’t be disappointed.

Mildred’s Beetroot, Fennel & Dill Burgers

Mildreds' Beetroot and Fennel Burger

Sosmix is a dehydrated soy mince that you use for making veggie sausages and can buy in health food shops. A similar product is Granose Meat Free Sausage Mix. You might also get away with using TVP and breadcrumbs, in which case, be sure to add a bit of salt to your mixture! Many thanks to Daniel Acevedo for the recipe!

Ingredients

  • 2 med beetroot, peeled and grated
  • 1/2 bunch dill, chopped
  • 1/2 Tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 small fennel bulb, washed and finely diced
  • 400-500ml water
  • 1 litre Sosmix

Method

  1. Saute the diced fennel bulb with some olive oil until tender; add the beetroot and continue cooking for a couple minutes until the beetroot is cooked but still has texture (al dente).
  2. Mix the sauteed vegetables with the remaining ingredients. Let the mixture rest for at least 40 minutes, then form into burger patties.
  3. To cook, heat non-stick fry pan on lowest heat, add a touch of oil and fry burger on each side for 4-6 min until golden brown.

Italian Eggplant and Zucchini Bake

Vegan Eggplant Bake

Last night I was hankering for something Italian that involved eggplant (aka “aubergine” here in the UK). Eggplant parmesan was the obvious choice, but I did not feel inclined towards the effort nor the calorie bomb that such a dish requires. Still, it obviously inspired me.

It’s simple: layer eggplant, zucchini, crumbled tofu, sliced tomato and tomato sauce in a pan. Top with more crumbled tofu. Bake.

This random creation was just as satisfying as eggplant parmesan. And, more importantly, “delicious” according to Tim, who tends to shorten the length of his praises the more he enjoys something.

For my next trick, vegan moussaka?

Italian Aubergine and Courgette with Tofu

I have a hunch this would be delicious with almost any kind of veggie, though spinach and mushroom particularly come to mind. Next time I might try all eggplant. Serves 2.

Ingredients

  • 1 eggplant, sliced 3mm-thick lengthwise
  • 1 zucchini, sliced 3mm-thick lengthwise
  • 1 tomato, sliced 3mm-thick rounds
  • 200g tofu
  • 1 tsp Italian herbs
  • 3-4 cups tomato sauce
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. If you think of it, freeze and thaw the tofu before making this dish, squeezing out all excess water – this will give the texture of a breadcrumb-like texture.
  2. Brush both sides of the eggplant and zucchini lightly with olive oil, then grill on high heat for about 2-3 minutes on each side, until soft (you could also bake them instead, or skip this step altogether and bake for longer at the end, but I think the grilling gives the veg a nice flavor).
  3. Crumble the tofu in a bowl and mix with the italian herbs, salt and pepper.
  4. In a small baking dish, add a bit of tomato sauce. Then layer the veggies, tofu and remaining tomato sauce. This is how I did it, but you may want to adjust depend on how it fills out your pan: tomato sauce, eggplant, tofu, tomato sauce, zucchini, tofu, tomato, eggplant, tomato sauce, tofu. End with a layer of tomato sauce and tofu on top.
  5. Baked at 350 F / 180 C for about 30 minutes, until the tofu has browned a bit and everything is all bubbly and delicious.

 

Easiest No Knead Bread with Variations

Volcanic No Knead Bread

My mother is putting together a family cookbook, a compendium of family favourites from across the generations. Many recipes, from matzo ball soup to Grandma’s favourite cheese ball, have made the cut, and I’m proud to list my no knead bread among them.

Of course, this isn’t really my recipe – it was originally made popular by Mark Bittman’s 2006 New York Times article about baker Jim Lahey. I’ve been making versions of this loaf ever since with various combinations of flours and seeds. I love it so much I can’t seem to do without it, so on visits home, my family has become accustomed to me taking over their kitchen and their house with dough balls, flour and yummy bread smells.

No knead bread may not be as long-standing a family tradition as pumpkin pie or lazy pierogi, but I’m hoping it goes the distance for generations to come.

No Knead Bread Perfect No Knead Bread Four-Seed No Knead Loaf Cross Section: 100% Whole Wheat No Knead Bread

“What makes Mr. Lahey’s process revolutionary is the resulting combination of great crumb, lightness, incredible flavor — long fermentation gives you that — and an enviable, crackling crust, the feature of bread that most frequently separates the amateurs from the pros…The loaf is incredible, a fine-bakery quality, European-style boule that is produced more easily than by any other technique I’ve used, and will blow your mind.” – Mark Bittman, New York Times

Here is the recipe as I make it, along with a few variations I like.

Easiest No Knead Bread with Variations

I don’t buy store-bought bread anymore because this is so easy and so much better. And you can easily adapt it to your liking by mixing up the flours, adding seeds, whatever. The recipe is based on Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread technique, made popular by a 2006 Mark Bittman article in the New York Times. The article is well worth a read, as is watching his video demonstration of the technique.

Ingredients

  • 470g bread flour (white, whole wheat or a mix)
  • 10g salt
  • 1/4 tsp yeast
  • 350ml water
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (optional, but I’ve found that a bit of oil in the dough helps it toast better)

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl to achieve a wet, shaggy dough ball. If you’re using whole wheat flour, you will need to add more water – don’t be shy, wetter is better. The dough should be wet enough that it “oozes” a little bit in the bowl.
    no knead bread dough
  2. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest for 12-24 hours.
  3. Sprinkle some flour on a clean countertop. Turn the dough onto the countertop – I use a spatula to scrape / pour the dough out of the bowl. It will be very sticky, so coat your hands with some flour before handling the dough.
    No knead bread in progress
  4. Pull the dough at either end to form a strip. Fold this strip into thirds, like a business letter. Give the dough a quarter turn and fold it in thirds again.
    No knead bread in progress
  5. Oil an oven-safe pot with a lid (I use an $8.99 Ikea medium/1lb saucepan, but ideal is a cast iron pot or dutch oven). Put the dough inside of the pot with the fold-seam UP. Put the lid on the pet and let it rest for 1-2 hours.
  6. Put the lid inside of a cold oven and turn it up to max. After 30 minutes, turn down the oven to 200C / 390F and bake for another 25 minutes. Remove the lid and bake another 5 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned.
    Small pot no knead bread
  7. Remove the dough from the pot and let it cool on a wire rack completely before slicing.
    Check out that rise!

Variations

Mixed Grain No Knead Bread

If you don’t have an oven safe pot with a lid.

Use a regular bread pan. The lid helps keep the moisture in and improves the bread’s crust. To achieve the same thing with a regular bread tin, do the following: about 5 minutes before you put the loaf in, put a metal baking tray into the bottom of the oven and boil the kettle. Right after you put the bread in the oven, tip the boiling hot water from the kettle into the pan and close the oven door. Alternatively, use a spray bottle to spray the top of the loaf with water once at the beginning, and once in the middle of baking.

100% whole wheat no knead bread. Whole Wheat No Knead Bread with Almonds and Pumpkin Seeds

Use all whole wheat bread flour. Use more water, starting at 350ml and adding more as you mix until you get a fairly wet shaggy dough ball. Make sure you oil whatever you bake it in really well as this has a tendency to stick.  Bake an extra 10 minutes.

The original no knead bread. Volcanic No Knead Bread

The original recipe requires a bit of coordination, but produces an even better loaf of bread (according to some). After step 4, place the dough ball into a well-oiled bowl with the seam side DOWN. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest for 1-2 hours. At least half hour before you bake the bread, put the covered pot into the oven and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Remove the (hot!) pot from the oven, take off the (hot!) lid, and a bit of oil or butter and swish it around so that the inside of the pot is covered. Now, take the bowl with the dough and flip it over the pot so that the dough lands in the pot with the seam side UP. Put the (hot!) lid back on the pot and return to the oven. Baked for 45 minutes, then remove the lid and back another 5 minutes or until the loaf is nicely browned. Finally, let cool on a wire rack.

Seeded no knead bread. Seeded Whole Wheat No Knead Bread

“Best loaf yet,” according to Dad. For the ingredients, mix 30g rye flour, 300g white bread flour, 140g King Aurthur white whole wheat flour, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 4 tsp quinoa, 1 Tbsp poppy seeds, 1 Tbsp flaxseed, 1/4 tsp yeast, 350 ml water, 2 Tbsp yogurt. Proceed with the recipe.

Seeded crust. Four-Seed No Knead Loaf

I love this. Follow the original no knead bread recipe, but after you oil the bowl, add a sprinkle of seeds and shake them around the bowl so that they cover the inside. Then add the dough ball and proceed. When you flip the dough out of the bowl, it will be nicely covered in lovely seeds! I usually do a mix of sesame and poppy seeds, sometimes adding sunflower seeds if I’m in the mood.

 

Related links and posts:

Tofu, Mushrooms and Brussels Sprouts

Tofu and Brussels Sprouts Stir Fry

You know how it is: you’ve got some random veggies in your fridge that you need to use up and some tofu that’s a day past its expiry date. Sounds like a stir fry is on the cards. But not the same old ginger, garlic and soy sauce medley. Something jazzier, but just as simple, if not simpler.

The secret to this stir fry is the marinade. It’s delicious and dead simple – no garlic-chopping or ginger-grating required. But you do need some chilli sauce – I had a a few drips of Sriracha sauce that did very nicely (speaking of things to use up in the fridge).

The surprise of this easy recipe is that it comes from Ottolenghi, a brilliant chef but whose recipes typically require more time and expense than everyday meals allow. But like all Ottolenghi jobs, this one is spot-on veggie fair that I will definitely be making over and over again.

This recipe is incredibly versatile. I was short on brussels so I used more tofu. I didn’t have shitake mushrooms so I used chestnut mushrooms (oh but it would be good with shitake I bet!). Served with some steamed savoy cabbage and a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds, I was in veggie heaven.

Tofu and Brussels Sprouts Stir Fry

Tofu, Mushrooms and Brussels Sprouts

This recipe is worth making for the marinade alone – it’s delicious and simple, and would go well with just about any vegetable you felt like serving this with. Adapted from Ottolenghi’s Brussels Sprouts and Tofu recipe.

Ingredients

  • 150g firm tofu (Tau Kwa)
  • 2 tbsp chilli sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 500g brussels sprouts
  • 180ml sunflower oil
  • Salt
  • 100g spring onion, sliced
  • ½ small chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 120g shiitake mushrooms, halved
  • 15g picked coriander leaves
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Method

  1. First, marinate the tofu. In a bowl, whisk together the chilli sauce, soy, two tablespoons of sesame oil, vinegar and syrup. Cut the tofu block into 0.5cm thick slices and then each slice into two squarish pieces. Gently lay in the marinade and set aside.
  2. Trim the bases off the sprouts and cut each lengthways into three thick slices. Take a large, nonstick pan, and in it heat up four tablespoons of sunflower oil. Add half the sprouts and a little salt, and cook on high heat for two minutes. Don’t stir much – you want them almost to burn in a few places and cook through but remain crunchy. Transfer to a bowl and repeat with the rest of the sprouts.
  3. Add two more tablespoons of oil to the pan, heat up and sauté the onion, chilli and mushrooms for a minute or two. Transfer to the sprout bowl.
  4. Leave the pan on high heat and, using a pair of tongs, lift half the tofu from the marinade and gently lay in the pan (be careful: the oil may spit), spaced apart and in one layer. Lower the heat to medium and cook for two minutes on each side until nicely caramelised. Transfer to the sprout bowl and repeat with the rest of the tofu.
  5. Once all the tofu is cooked, remove the pan from the heat and return all the cooked ingredients to it. Add the tofu marinade and half the coriander. Toss together and allow to cool slightly in the pan. Taste and add salt if needed. Stir in the remaining sesame oil (extra, if you like) and serve warm, not hot, garnished with sesame seeds and the rest of the coriander.

Home Coffee Roasting in the Whirley Pop

Whirley Pop Coffee Roaster

This Christmas, by far the most unexpected gift I received was a Whirley Pop popcorn maker from my sister, Stephanie. I’m not the biggest fan of popcorn, so at first I was a little confused. But when I opened the little latch of the popcorn maker bowl and found four sacks of green (unroasted) coffee beans from Coffeemaria, things started to come together.

The Whirley-Pop is a stovetop popcorn maker that is also known amongst coffee lovers as a cheap and cheerful option for home roasting coffee beans.

Green beans

A little background…

The coffee tree is an evergreen which bears red fruits containing green seeds – these are coffee beans! Roasting turns these beans into the the dark, rich coffee beans that we know and love.

Roasting is a chemical process and so there are many variables to control when roasting coffee beans. Despite all this, roasting coffee in the Whirley Pop is surprisingly easy. We gave it a go last weekend and were hugely impressed by the results.

Roasting in progress Temperature drop Still roasting Roasting away

The method was pretty straightforward:

  1. Put the Whirley Pop on the stove, stick a thermometer in it (that goes up to at least 500 F) and turn it up to high
  2. Wait until the temperature is as a hot as it can go – mine levelled off at 450 F
  3. Add the beans
  4. Crank continuously for about 6 minutes total (the beans make crack sounds as the roasting takes place, one first round of cracking, then a second more subtle crack – I took them off right after I started hearing the second cracks).
  5. Cool the beans in a colander (I put them outside to speed up the process)

The whole process took about 10 minutes and wasn’t as smokey or messy as I thought it would be. But how did it taste?

First, the smell of the freshly ground roasted beans was incredible. Like no coffee I’ve ever smelled. And the coffee was great! Tim was highly impressed that “such an imprecise method resulted in something so drinkable.” I, too, was pretty blown away by the results.

Freshly roasted coffee beans

Many thanks to my sister for such a well thought out gift. I love when I receive presents that are something I’d never think to buy for myself. And this was so incredibly perfect, given how obsessed I am with knowing where my food comes from from start to finish. Stephanie loaded me up with a few varieties of beans, regular and decaf, and I’m looking forward to trying them all.

Freshly roasted coffee beans

[UPDATE April 10, 2011]

Have done this quite a few times now and having burnt a couple batches, I thought I’d add some more learnings.

Timing is and isn’t everything…

The amount of beans you roast at a time has an effect on the total roasting time. This seems so obvious now! The method specified above uses about 8oz of beans. I probably wouldn’t roast any more than 10oz at a time. Add more beans, and the roast will take longer. Less beans, shorter time.

This is why it’s important to not really go by the clock, but rather to LISTEN. This whole business of listening to first and second “cracks” doesn’t really describe the situation. It’s a lot like popcorn, really: you heat up the beans, they pop (or “crack”). At first only a few make popping noises, then they all take off.

Here’s my current process: I add the beans, crank for a while until it sounds like lots of beans are popping, and then start checking the beans for readiness. To check, I tip a couple beans out at a time onto a plate as I go. (You have to be quick about it, though, because the Whirley Pop loses heat quickly when you open the lid.)

As soon as the beans turn dark brown with a glossy finish, I tip them all into a colander and put them outside to cool.

Ready vs Not

So has anyone else out there tried doing this? I’m sure others have completely different experiences. I’m working on an electric hob that just doesn’t get that hot. People working over a flame probably have different results / roasting times altogether.

Next time I roast, I promise a video!