4

Roasted Capsicum And Tomato Pasta Sauce

roast capsicum tomato sauce pasta

I had a kitchen full of red capsicums and tomatoes, thanks to raiding the discount trolley at a nearby supermarket. People of Melbourne (possibly Australia wide), check with your local Woolworths supermarket to see if they bring out a discounted produce trolley during the day! I know of a few that do this, though times and days may differ. The basic gist is that for a limited period (half hour usually) a big cart comes out with produce that would otherwise be binned the same day. You get one of the regular fruit-veg bags and fill it with whatever you like, mixed items allowed, and it costs you $4 per bag. I’ve heard some supermarkets in the western suburbs charge $3. The trick is to stuff as much as you can in the bag before securely tying it. The produce varies daily and if you’re lucky you can bag (har har…) some great bargains. I once calculated that I saved $36 on red capsicums, when they were about $9 per kilo. I ended up roasting most and made lots of meals to freeze. I’ve also saved about $25 on kale, even compared to cheaper small markets. Sometimes you see blergh fruit and veg mixed in but on the whole, the produce has been great quality. I also like to load up on pears that are ripe, then turn them in to pear sauce at home to use in place of oil in some recipes.

Okay, that’s the history there. So I roasted up the red capsicums, then when they were blackened I put them in a plastic bag to steam and then later removed the skins– your standard way of roasting peppers. As I like to avoid using oil wherever possible, I roasted these plain. For the tomatoes, I simply cut them in half and roasted them plain, making sure to later keep all that lovely liquid!

roasted tomatoes

With a little garlic, onion and basil, this was all turned in to a tasty, simple pasta sauce on the stove. I used a teeeensy bit of oil to fry the garlic and onion, added in the chopped roasted tomatoes and peppers plus the liquid from the tomatoes, then served with some capers and olives.

I won’t write this up as an official Veganopoulous recipe cos this is the kind of recipe that’s been done a bazillion times by people all over the world (like my mum). But in general, this is what I did:

– Halve your red peppers, take out the seeds and roast peppers in a moderate oven until well blackened and all collapsed softie like. Put the cooked peppers straight in to a plastic bag and tie it up. When cool enough to handle, remove the skins and discard (unless there’s something you like to do with them).

– Halve your tomatoes, place them cut side up on a baking tray (sprinkle with salt, add some garlic or herb sprigs if you like– mine were totally plain). When done, remove to a bowl along with any cooking juices.

РChop up the cooled peppers and tomatoes, taking care to keep the juices.

– In a frying pan, sautee some chopped garlic and onion (oil or water/broth, your choice). Add in the chopped peppers, tomatoes and any juices and heat right through. I was impatient and cooked this until it was hot, but if you want to gently cook it longer, go ahead. This was more a quick meal for me.

– Turn off the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste and fresh chopped basil and whatever else you’d like. Your favourite vegan Italian sausage would be welcome I’m sure. Generously plop the on your pasta and go for it.

roast capsicum tomato sauce

Simple, delicious and oil free if you want it to be! Whoops, just realised there’s a black bit of pepper skin in the photo that looks like a spider. Anyway. The sauce tastes better the next day too ūüėÄ

0

My Vegan Karithopita – Greek Walnut Cake: Experiment 1 is a Slight Bust

Karithopita (“karithi” is walnut) was always one of my favourite Greek cakes. ¬†I’d tried making it a few times over the years using different recipes. ¬†Some recipes called for flour and others said breadcrumbs. ¬†Some said whole eggs, some said separated eggs. ¬† The walnuts are pretty much a given at least. ¬†Like just about every Greek thing you could make, if you had ten karithopita-makers and their karithopita in the room, you’d most likely have ten different versions and lots of debate. ¬†Maybe even a bit of Smackdown! action.

The recipe I used today is one I found in my mum’s old recipe collection. ¬†It’s so old that not only is it typed by typewriter, it has no author or method listed nor size of baking tin or oven temp or how long to bake for. ¬†Just the ingredients. ¬†Hardcore old school or WHAT. ¬†Or just plain annoying? ¬†Anyway, Mum says that many years ago, she was told that a good karithopita should always be made with breadcrumbs, not flour.

So this ancient recipe I found calls for 8 eggs. ¬†8 eggs! ¬†Far out. I opted for egg replacer for 3 large eggs worth and about 5Tbs of home made walnut butter. ¬†With absolutely no freaking idea about anything. ¬†I’ve used nut butter in some recipes before as a sort of egg replacer and it’s worked beautifully.

Then I had the additional challenge of how the heck to mix it all together. ¬†Did the original recipe intend for the eggs to be separated, beaten, whatever? ¬†Who knows. ¬†So I just mixed up the dry ingredients first then in a small bowl I carefully mixed the egg replacer mixture (made according to packet instructions), the brandy and the walnut butter. ¬†Because I made the walnut butter myself beforehand, I made sure it was easy to work with as the store bought nut butters I’ve tried are really thick and hard to incorporate evenly.

Okay, so this is a cake that has two major components: the actual cakey bit and the syrup. ¬†I was always taught that when you have a syrup that is to be poured over the cake, one thing must be hot and the other cool, so the cake is cool and the syrup hot or vice versa. ¬†I don’t know the exact scientific hocus pocus reasons for this but when my grandmother wagged her finger in your face, you didn’t ask questions about thermal conductivity and all that nonsense.

For this recipe I used freshly made breadcrumbs because that’s all I had. ¬†I would have preferred using stale bread but will try that next time. ¬†I know I could have toasted the bread a bit first but I was impatient.

Okay so then I made the walnut butter, which was about two scant cups of walnuts thrown in the food processor and whizzed until they were buttery.  I did add a good teaspoon of olive oil to make it a little smoother.

I’m happy with the way my first vegan karithopita turned out. ¬†Not bad for a first attempt but I’d make some changes next time. ¬†Like reducing the sugar by much more. ¬†I’ll put in my recipe notes at the end.

UPDATE, TAKE NOTE, BEWARE, ETC:¬†¬†This turned out really thick and dense. ¬†My mum said “the flavours are really good and are exactly right but it’s a little on the gluggy side and needs to be lighter, but not fluffy-light”. ¬†So that’s my next challenge.

Still, I have tasted some versions which were like this and really thick, which is why you only eat a very small piece ¬†ūüôā

The Veganopoulous Vegan Karithopita v1.0- the really dense version

(1 cup equals 250ml)

For the cake:

* 3 cups of crushed walnuts

* 2 cups of breadcrumbs

*1 teaspoon cinnamon

* 1 cup sugar

* 1 teaspoon baking powder

* Egg replacer to make about three large eggs worth

* 5 generous Tablespoons of soft walnut butter (soft enough to mix up)

* 1 Tablespoon brandy (optional)

For the syrup:

* 3 cups water

* 2 cups sugar

* 2 cinnamon sticks

To make the cake:

* Preheat your oven to about 180C (moderate oven temp).  Prepare your cake tin/dish (see notes).

* In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, crushed walnuts, baking powder, cinnamon and sugar:

karithopitamix

* In a small bowl, make up your egg replacer mix for three large eggs. ¬†To it, add the walnut butter and brandy. ¬†Whisk it up so it’s all evenly mixed (this is why the walnut butter needs to be soft enough to blend well).

* Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir, then use your hands to thoroughly mix everything. ¬†I squished the mix between my fingers. ¬†The mixture shouldn’t be a typical cake batter. ¬†You should be able to roll soft balls of it, and it is okay to have it be slightly sticky to the touch, without being a wet batter. ¬†Sorry, forgot to take a photo.

* Put the cake mixture in to your prepared tin/dish (see recipe notes) and flatten it gently so it’s all level.

* Put it in the oven until really nice and browned on top and a toothpick comes out clean. ¬†Mine was in the oven for about 45 minutes. ¬†When it’s done, cut it in to diamond or rectangle (or square) shapes while it’s still in the dish/tin (don’t remove it!). ¬†Let it cool while you make the syrup. ¬†Remember, leave the cake right there!

For the syrup:

* You can make this in advance. Put the syrup ingredients in to a medium saucepan.  Mix well, bring to the boil, then simmer about ten minutes.  Stir now and then.  Remove from heat:

karithopitasyrup

Final assembly:

* With one thing hot and the other cold, get a ladle and pour half the syrup gently over the cake. ¬†The cake should be cut and still be in the dish/tin you baked it in! ¬†If you feel the cake needs more syrup, go for it but today for this cake I found I only needed half the amount in this recipe. ¬†I guess it’s one of those “it just depends” things ¬†ūüôā

Let the cake sit and be completely cool (about an hour at least) to soak up the syrup.  You can keep it in the cake tin/dish or move it to a nicer looking serving plate. Eat!  It tastes even better the next day and the day after that.

Recipe notes:

* This is sweeeet. ¬†Well, for me anyway. ¬†And I really don’t like sweet desserts like this anymore. ¬†Greek sweets are usually served alongside a Turkish coffee (so you appreciate the sweetness more). ¬†Next time I make this I’m using a different (and far less sweet!) syrup.

* Use a cake tin or pie dish that allows the uncooked batter to be about 3cm or 1 1/2 inch high. ¬†The cake doesn’t rise much. ¬†I used a square cake tin with base measuring 20cm (8″) and lined it with baking paper.

* I used a combination of finely crushed walnuts and  finely chopped walnuts because I wanted to bite in to little pieces of walnut.  Next time I might try finely crushed all the way.  I used my food processor to chop.

* There are quite a few variations on the syrup used in such cakes. ¬†Some people make a thicker syrup with a little brandy, water and sugar. Others add orange or lemon rind (with no pith). ¬†Others use a few whole cloves in the syrup. ¬†It all comes down to what you like ¬†ūüôā

* Next time I will try using stale breadcrumbs. ¬†And I’m thinking of trying barley flour.

karithopita

Enjoy!

"This cake has chunks in it."

“This cake has chunks in it.”

2

My Vegan Kritharaki

Kritharaki is a dish common to many a Greek home. ¬†It is made using risoni, also known as orzo. ¬†This is pasta in the shape of a large rice grain. ¬†Lots of people assume it’s rice but don’t be fooled!

Husband likes kritharaki and was quite pleased when I sent him email telling him I was making it for dinner:

herc1

Growing up, mum’s kritharaki was one of my favourite meals. ¬†My dad says it’s in his top 5 meals and probably in first place. ¬† For such a simple, humble little dish that only uses stock as flavouring, that’s a pretty big thing.

Mum’s kritharaki is non-vegan most of the time so today I decided to veganise it. ¬†The measurements are ‘rough’ in that I added a bit more-or-less here and there. ¬†You may need to add more or less water for instance, it just all depends. ¬†Sorry, that’s as useless as this attempt to light the stove tonight:

herc3

No, there are no fresh or dried herbs. ¬†This is plain plain plain but for me it’s comfort food. ¬†And don’t forget that if you have fifty Greek yiayias (grandmothers) in the room, you’ll probably have fifty different ways of making kritharaki ūüôā

Okay so this is what I did.  Measurements are metric so 1 cup is 250ml.

You will need olive oil, a packet of risoni/orzo pasta, tomato paste, mild paprika (optional), boiling water, vegan chicken or beef stock flavour, nutritional yeast (optional), salt and pepper to taste.

* have a full kettle boiled and ready to go.  Boil it again until right before adding the water.  Boil about 8 cups worth at least.

* heat 2Tbs olive oil in a medium to large pot.

* add in 1 1/2 cups of uncooked risoni/orzo and sautee it for about 5 minutes on medium heat:

kritharaki1

* add in 2 heaped Tbs of tomato paste (add 4 heaped Tbs for a more tomatoey flavour), stir it around for about a minute:

kritharaki1b

* optional: add a teaspoon of a mild paprika (more or less if you like).

* add in 6 cups of boiling water.  It should look like a really runny soup:

kritharaki2

* add in the vegan beef or chicken stock powder according to your packet instructions.  Stir well.

* Bring to the boil over high heat, stir, put the lid on and simmer until the risoni is tender. ¬†During this cooking period, stir now and then to make sure things aren’t clumping together. Then turn off the heat when you feel it’s done:

kritharaki3

* Add about 1Tbs nutritional yeast (optional, or add more/less according to your liking), add salt to taste. ¬†Stir well (obviously). ¬†* OR leave out the nutritional yeast and add it to the individual bowls when you’re serving

* Put the lid back on and let it sit about ten minutes before dishing it out:

kritharaki4

* Season with pepper:

kritharaki5

When this cools down and is ready for the fridge, it will have thickened up a bit. ¬†It shouldn’t be runny-soupy but it shouldn’t be dry.

And that’s it! ¬†Extremely simple! ¬†Sure you could add in herbs if you like or some veg but my personal preference is to leave this as is. ¬†I won’t even add onion or garlic because this is the only way I ever ate kritharaki (well, I had vegan and non-vegan versions growing up) and for me to add something like garlic just changes the recipe completely. ¬†I do understand that this would easily be considered a horribly bland boring dish by some, but I find it a welcome relief now and then. ¬†This is a dish that is sentimental to me, hence my reluctance in changing it at all. ¬†My grandmother used to say that with enough pepper ¬†it will put hair on your face:

herc4

Review:

Me: “Quick, easy, cheap comfort food. ¬†Pepper pepper pepper.”

Arthur: “this is 90% yuck. ¬†Actually make that 75% yuck.”

DeeW: “yayyy did someone say kritharaki? ¬†Oh I’m so happy!”

Husband:¬†“This is my third bowl. ¬†Yes, it’s good.”

Enjoy!