Archive for the ‘Vegetarian’ Category

Honestly speaking, I had always associated a vegan being Buddhist. Call me ignorant, but you will forgive me after reading the next paragraph *wink*

My first exposure of a full-fledged vegan meal was when I did not know I had a vegan meal at all! How ironic was that? Then again, it was eons ago. I was a little girl sitting at a big round table, surrounded by adults I could vaguely recollect their faces except for my late Dad and an aunt or two and an adopted cousin and her biological family. Everyone was speaking Henghua, and Mandarin and a smattering of Hokkien and Malay. I remembered eating a cold plate as starter and mains consisting of lo han chai, braised mushrooms with broccoli, yam basket with pieces of ‘meat’, slices of ‘meat’ in orange sauce that tasted like duck meat, whole fish with edible bones. All the dishes were intricately and artistically presented. I was not a good eater when I was a young girl growing up, but I remembered those dishes were simply sublime. Although the tastes seemed quite linear throughout, the textures were rather interesting: chewy, meaty, spongy, sweet, savoury, tangy, tasty; and yet there were no real meats, only mock meats! Yup, that was my first intro to a vegan meal, prepared for a group of people who were mostly Buddhist at the time.

>> Fast forward anno 2013, Belgium >>

On 5th June, 2013, the United Nations celebrated World Environment Day (WED). The company where I work, co-celebrated the year’s theme “Think. Eat. Save”.  A colleague who is a vegan was the best ambassador to present that year’s theme at one of the meetings.

And guess what? I was not being introduced, but more so, re-introduced to yet another full-fledged vegan lunch, albeit on a different level! I must say the vegan burger was a surprise discovery. I have written a post about it, here.

In case you are wondering, nope, my colleague is NOT a Buddhist. She became a vegan due to both dietary and ethical reasons.

Vegan is the New Black!

This phrase is inspired by the opening title of Netflix’s hit show Orange is the New Black. While the 2nd part of the phrase, “the new black” is very common in pop culture, the first part of the phrase, “Vegan”, is the suddenly trendy thing that is happening of late. If you don’t already know, being vegan is not at all a new thing. It was founded in 1944 !!

Loving the Loving Hut

Ever since I had my first bite of that vegan burger, I was on the lookout for that restaurant in Leuven. Loving Hut is a vegan restaurant chain with several outlets worldwide. I’m glad Leuven is one of them! I have brought my younger son there with me on several occasions and he likes the food there, so much so, that it becomes a domino effect. In turn he brought his friends to lunch there, too.

Here’re what I had with my son during one of our visits to Loving Hut. All organic and vegan burgers with vegan “bitterballen” and “calamares”

Awesome!



My favourite remains the refreshingly colourful and tasty, neptunus salad.



Oh by the way, it was at Loving Hut that I got to know of Dr RM, a Kerala born doctor in Ayurveda and yoga therapy. Although I have never been to any of her yoga classes, I have enjoyed a good Ayurvedic full body massage from her.

During one of the massage sessions with Dr RM, she mentioned about giving an Ayurvedic Vegan workshop (yes, she called it a workshop) when the weather was warmer. She sounded extremely enthusiastic about it and even sharing her plan with me. Lucky for her, I’m a good listener 🙂

And doubly lucky for her, I told her to count me in when the workshop day arrived, as I was game – for the food, in particular. Lol!

Workshop Day

28th May arrived. It was a lovely sunny day. I drove to Dr RM’s house where the workshop was. It was my first Vegan workshop, hence, I had not the clue what to expect.

Although I have been to Dr RM’s house on several occasions for the Ayurvedic massage, I have never been into her living room, let alone, her kitchen. It felt like walking into another dimension with our bare feet et al. The living room was unadorned and pure minimalistic, definitely not in a negative sense.

Yoga Before Vegan

We were a small group of 4 participants. Dr RM gave a brief explanation of yoga after which she recited a simple mantra to anchor our attention to our breathing while the calming and Zen meditation music was playing.

A-U-M!

We “woke up” with a pleasant serving of aromatic mug of freshly brewed warm Ayurvedic chai. We were in comfort zone, literally speaking.

Ready? Steady…. Cook!

For the next 2 hours or so, I took down mental notes of the vegan cooking process through the photos I captured from my iPhone.

My challenge? To replicate the Vegan lunch in the comfort of my own kitchen *wink*

Okay, just let your imagination run wild with you, with the following photos…

It was supposed to be an interactive cooking workshop but due to time constraint, it ended up with Dr RM preparing and cooking all the dishes herself!

She whipped up 4 vegan recipes while explaining the choice of ingredients used – Ayurvedic mung bean soup, Ayurvedic Chapatis or Rotis, Ayurvedic chutney and kheer or rice pudding with saffron, cardamom and cashew nuts.

What a Feast!

It was worth the wait. A simple, unadulterated vegan meal that’s fresher than FRESH! Couldn’t get any fresher than that.

What more can I say!

My Challenge…

After seeing Dr RM toiling away with the mixing, stirring, kneading and cooking, I thought, “nah, too time consuming!“, so I opted for the extreme alternative.

Yup, I turned to my Thermie for help 😉

With the mental notes in my head, I converted the drudgery of preparing the Ayurvedic vegan lunch into an expeditious culinary journey in the comfort of my own kitchen.

Vegan Sunday with a Twist


My Ayurvedic Chapatis

  • 1 kg potatoes (I used “Jazzy” creamy potatoes)
  • 750 g organic wheat “atta” flour (I used organic spelt flour plus extra for kneading)
  • 1.5 tsp nigella seeds
  • 40g chopped fresh coriander
  • 1-2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tsp Himalayan rock salt


I boiled the potatoes (skin on) as per the BCB and peeled the skin when still warm but not hot. Then I set them aside to cool before mashing the potatoes to the texture I wanted. Then I added the flour bit by bit, nigella seeds, 1 Tbsp coconut oil and salt. I mixed the mixture until a dough is formed. I turned the dial to “knead” for 2 minutes, and added 1 Tbsp coconut oil if too dry, or more flour if still wet. The key here is trial and error and stop when you are happy with the consistency you want.

Next, I tipped the dough onto a floured bowl and leave the dough to rest for at least 30 minutes. After half an hour, I kneaded the dough again by hand on floured surface. For the amount of dough mixture, I was able to make 25 equal-sized balls. I flattened each ball with a floured rolling pin and rolled each ball into disc.


I used two green pans to speed the roti making process. Each pan was pre-heated and drizzled with a tiny bit of coconut oil on medium high heat. The Chapatis were cooked when they puffed in the centre. I just flipped the roti over to cook on both sides until little brown specks became visible. As you can see, my rotis were not of uniform sizes and form. I like it that way as it looked more home-style 😀

My Ayurvedic Chutney

  • 180 g raisins secs
  • 180 g raisins blanc
  • 200 g x 2 dates
  • A palmful of fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Himalayan rock salt


I soaked the raisins and dates in water overnight. With the amount of raisins and dates (water removed) and mint I dumped in the TM bowl, I made sure not to go above speed 5 to avoid the TM blades from getting stuck. You can continue by using a wooden spatula to free the area around the blades. Continue blending until you reached the desired texture. I prefer my chutney with a bit of texture.

For smoother puréed-like texture, blend in smaller batches.


Dates and raisins are sweet, so you know the drill. Pep it up with some freshly milled Himalayan rock salt and cayenne or paprika powder. Et voilà!

My Ayurvedic Soup

  • 400 g split mung beans
  • 1,500 g water plus 500 g water
  • 5 g turmeric powder
  • 5 g garlic (sorry, I can’t go without this herb!)
  • 80 g onion (ditto)
  • Ginger
  • Lemon juice from half a lemon
  • Himalayan rock salt, to taste
  • 25 g Coconut oil


Tempering

  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • Roughly chopped Spinach leaves
  • Coconut oil


Garnishing

  • Chopped coriander leaves
  • Crispy fried onions (optional)

Wash the mung beans in several changes of water until the water runs clear. Soak the mung beans for at least 4 hours or overnight


Mince the garlic, onion and ginger upto speed 5 for 3 seconds. Add coconut oil and sauté with turmeric powder for 3mins/ 120 C/ speed 1.

From the overnight-soaked mung beans, weigh 500g of the soaked beans and transfer to the TM bowl. Add 1,500g water. Cook for 20 mins/ 120 C/ R/ Spoon/ Half MC

After 10 minutes, watch out for the foams floating on the surface. Pause and remove the frothy surface. Reduce the temperature to 100C/ Half MC. Cook further until the mung beans are soft and tender. Transfer the soup to a bigger soup pot. Add 500 g water. Boil for another 5 minutes.

And of course, season to taste!

Prepare the tempering by heating some coconut oil and mustard seeds in a frying pan. As soon as the seeds start popping, add the cumin seeds and roughly chopped spinach leaves. Gently pour the tempered ingredients into the soup. Season to taste before serving. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and crispy fried onions (optional)


Our Vegan Lunch was ready to serve!

My Verdict?

I loved Dr RM’s Chapatis. Her rotis puffed up beautifully in the centre. She used plain wheat flour while I used organic Spelt flour. That could be the reason why my rotis did not puff too much and a bit more dense, too. The mixing and kneading in the TM were a breeze but it was the rolling out of the dough into discs and the waiting time to get the rotis cooked went by at annoying snail speed. With my boys popping in and out of the kitchen and incessantly asking “is the food ready yet?” didn’t help one bit at all 😦

I loved my Ayurvedic soup the most. Could it be the un-vegan ingredients of minced garlic, onion and crispy fried shallots that made the world of difference? That’s the Twist, I meant 😉

The guys in my household are not fan of beans and lentils, but surprisingly, they liked the soup.

To be honest, Dr RM’s soup was very bland. It could do with some pinches of extra salt but we were all too ravenous, and gulped all the soup down. Lol!

Our Ayurvedic chutneys were on par. Hers was extremely smooth, more like purée and mine was more relish-y. I prefer my chutney with some texture, hence by not pulsing on high speed for too long was, for me, perfect. If you’re wondering if the chutney was too sweet because of the dates, well, it was on the sweet side but not overly sweet due to the overnight soaking. The slight tartness from the raisins and the cool and refreshing mint, Himalayan salt and cayenne or paprika powder balanced the flavour of the chutney quite flawlessly.

I asked the 3 participants what their favourite dish was. All 3 pointed to the Ayurvedic chutney and the Chapatis 😉

By the way, I did not replicate Dr RM’s dessert as that was my least favourite dish. Her rice pudding did not set in the fridge and it turned out pretty soupy. The flavours were alright.

Will I make these again? Yes! Without a doubt, but on a smaller scale. I will use plain atta flour for the Chapatis. The Ayurvedic soup will be on a future lunch menu. Bookmarked! I will make the Ayurvedic chutney 2 ways – puréed and relished and will add some chilli flakes and a squeeze of lemon juice for extra tartness.

If you have never had an Ayurvedic vegan meal before, you may consider trying this out and judge it for yourself.

I’m not a Vegan but I loved it, however, it’s not something I will eat everyday. Too many restrictions and it’s just not possible for me to abstain from a good bowl of kolo mee or char siu pao 😀

Oh by the way, Dr RM gave away a try-out sample pack of the Ayurvedic chai after the workshop.

I brewed it immediately when I got home.

Mmmmm…. yummy!

Zen….

This masala chai is a keeper 😉

Have a Blessed Sunday!

Cheers!

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Larb is one of the iconic dishes of Laos and Isaan region of North Eastern Thailand. It is a warm salad of ground meat, with ground pork as the more common protein used, however chicken, beef, duck and fish make great substitutes.  

Little Thailand in Zaventem 

3 weeks ago, I was introduced to a little Thai takeaway by a colleague. He chanced upon the little takeaway joint when he was driving along the narrow street somewhere in Zaventem during lunch break. The tiny shoplot is not particularly an obvious sight unless you actually explore that street and pop your head in the shop to check.  The “Takeaway” sign is rather misleading as the tiny shoplot could miraculously accommodate 12 people at the most.  A business lunch dish is priced at Eur 9. Two types of dishes are prepared daily, spicy and non spicy. À la carte order is more expensive depending on the choice of protein – chicken, beef, pork, tofu, prawn or fish. 

In just 3 weeks, I have sampled their Panang Curry, Pad Grapao (holy basil stir-fry), Pad Thai, Pad See Ew (soy sauce stir-fry), Green Curry and Larb Gai (spicy chicken salad). I was completely Thai-away!

Oh by the way, the Larb Gai was not one of the dishes for business lunch, so I had to pay as per à la carte price. The portion was huge and came with steamed jasmine rice.


Fresh, Fast and Simple 

Methinks paying Eur 13.50 for the Larb Gai was daylight robbery because making Larb is not rocket science. It’s really simple to make.

I have made Larb several times but have not found the time to blog about it. Recently I made Larb again but with a twist. It’s a vegetarian Larb using minced Quorn. Quorn is gluten-free mycoprotein. I pan-fried the minced Quorn for 8-10 minutes with small amount of oil.

Looks like ground beef… well it’s vegetarian mock meat


The next ingredient is unique and a must-have in making Larb, ie toasted rice powder. Originally glutinous rice is used, however, jasmine rice is a great substitute. I used jasmine rice in this recipe.

The rice is dry-roasted on medium high heat until a deep golden brown colour is achieved. It is advisable to make as much as you need at a time.  I used about 2Tbsp jasmine rice for 200 g minced Quorn. 


Once the rice turned a ravishing brown colour, I transferred it to a stone mortar. The rice was ground to the consistency I wanted, not too powdery or flour-like but still fine with bits to bite on.  The smell of ‘popcorn’ emitting from the freshly pounded toasted rice was awesome.

Before assembling the Larb, I prepped the fresh herbs of mint, coriander and spring onion. Then I thinly sliced a shallot and a yellow chilli. For colour, I halved 8 cherry tomatoes.

Next I combined palm sugar, nam pla (fish sauce) and juice of 1 lime to configure the trinity of Thai marinade. Chilli flakes were sprinkled, all to taste. (Note, fish sauce can be substituted with light soy sauce to make this dish vegan)

Finally, the assembling of the dish!  My favourite part. After all, it’s an all-in-one-pot dish. Easy peasy!


And there you have it… My version of Vegetarian Larb. Scrumptious!


The extra sprinkle of the toasted jasmine rice powder was the pièce de résistance of an exquisite or almost authentic Larb dish. 

My Verdict?

I was glad I made good use of the 200 g minced Quorn. It was lying in my fridge for at least 2 weeks. I had wanted to make a vegetarian bolognese sauce for my boys after work in the evening but I never got round to making it. Well, my procrastination paid off. Hubs and the boys loved the refreshingly light vegetarian Larb. To be honest, Quorn is a rather dry ingredient, unlike chicken, pork, duck, prawn or beef when the technique of “Ruan” (cooking meat with water without a drop of oil) is used. I’m glad I added cherry tomatoes and the juice of 1 lime really perked up the dish and tantalised our palates. 

I’m linking this post to #CookBlogShare May 24-30 hosted by Hayley at Snap Happy Bakes

Have a great weekend!
Cheers!

Pisang goreng or kinchio kueh … These were the familiar outlandish words I grew up calling that moreish deep fried banana fritters.

Choice Enough

My late Dad seemed to know his banana fritters’ stalls absolutely well. He used to buy his favourite pisang tanduk (plantain) fritters and brought home generous quantities, much to everyones’ delight. The batter that coated each banana slice was lusciously crispy with the sweet and a hint of sour and succulent inner side. Dreamy!

Where I grew up, the choice of bananas were endless. The tastes and textures also differ from one type of banana to another.

Here in Belgium, I only know of one type of banana ~ the Chiquita Banana! It’s a good banana (no choice, really) which I have used in my bakes and of course, just eating as is.
 

By the way, I have never fried banana fritters here in BE, but have always longed to eat one. People who know me will know I never deep fry my foods in my kitchen. That’s why I tend to skip a recipe that calls for deep frying.  Which reminds me of my previous post which I experimented in my kitchen, Baked Crispy Snail Nibbles *wink*

And then I saw someone posted “Banana Fritters’ Batter” recipe on FB not too long ago. I read mostly positive comments of the result of using the recipe.



I was curious and thrilled, so to speak, so I jumped on the bandwagon! I caught the kinchio kueh fever. LOL!

My initial thought was to bake the banana fritters, but knowing that Chiquita bananas do not hold their form when cooked or baked too long, ie they become mushy, but very sweet, so still edible. Uh-uh, I scrapped the idea of baking and went for a milder form of frying. I pan-fried the bananas!! It may look paler than deep-fried, but I was blown away by the crispy batter.



The batter recipe is adapted from Ellin Chong‘s recipe posted on Thermomix Truly Asian group page on Facebook while I resorted to the method I am comfortable with, id est, while deep frying is the common mode of preparing banana fritters, I opted to pan-frying mine.

Ingredients A –

  • 150 g SRF
  • 100 g Rice Flour
  • 250 g Water
  • 20 g raw sugar (I used organic raw cane sugar)
  • 50 g Cooking Oil (I used Corn Oil)
  • A pinch of salt (I used fleur de sel)
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp sesame seeds (I did not use)

Ingredient B- 

  • 5 Chiquita Bananas

Ingredient C –

  • Oil for frying 

Method –


  1. Weigh ingredients A in the TM bowl. Mix for 30 sec/ Sp 4/ MC. Scrape the side of the inner bowl to mix the small amount of un-blended flour with a wooden spoon. Mix well.
  2. Pour the batter in a clean bowl. Set aside (in the fridge)
  3. Meanwhile, peel B and cut the bananas in any shape and form you fancy. 
  4. Heat some oil in a pan. Note I shallow fried the fritters, hence, not much oil was consumed.
  5. Coat each cut banana in the chilled batter. Pan-fry on medium high heat until golden brown.
  6. Remove the banana fritters with a slotted spoon and transfer them on absorbent papers.
  7. Done!

My Verdict?

I was pleasantly surprised with the result of my shallow-fried fritters. I thought it would take ages for the batter to crisp up but they did not take long at all, with the right heat, of course. Similarly, I thought the texture of the batter would be runnier, like pancake batter, but it was a bit thicker. The right amount of rice flour did a fantastic job in crisping the fritters. My boys loved the C*R*U*N*C*H*Y bits and so did I! I did not change the measurements of the ingredients one bit, except that I omitted using sesame seeds, because I had none that day. That’s not a big deal as I was used to plain banana fritters, anyway.

Will I use the recipe again? You bet! Oh yes, the next ‘victim’ will be the sweet potatoes in my cellar. Ha ha ha …

Ellin, thanks for sharing the recipe with us. I can conclude that the recipe is fully tried and tested in my kitchen as a foolproof recipe for that amazing crunchy result.


 
Happy Tuesday evening!

Cheers!

Let me walk the talk.  As promised in my previous post, Freshly-pressed Fragrant Pandan Kaya, I will walk you through how I extracted the juice from freshly-packed frozen pandan leaves on this post. 

Yup, frozen! 

And I’m not complaining! Infact I’m glad I could buy them here in Europe! Maybe I should start growing this herb in my garden😜

  
What is pandan leaf?

In Malaysia and Indonesia, pandan leaf is called ‘daun pandan‘. Screwpine leaf was the name coined by English traders who travelled to Asia.

Most people associate the use of pandan leaves only in South (East) Asian desserts, cakes and puddings, however, this sweet-scented leaf makes most savoury dishes appetisingly fragrant and aromatic. I have used knotted pandan leaves in my curries (Thereupatic Pandan Chicken Curry),  fragrant rice (nasi lemak) and glutinous rice (pulut panggang).  Absolutely bang on the money!

   

  

Green with Envy

If you’re wondering why most South (East) Asian desserts, cakes and puddings are green, it has nothing to do with St Patrick’s Day. The ‘culprit’ is the juice or extract of the pandan leaves! The juice or extract is used to flavour and colour the food. 

This brings me back to a Cookery program on BBC last year, presented by a popular Chef and Cookery Writer, Nigel Slater. He was pleasantly surprised by the delicious green custard dessert prepared by Helen Goh, a Malaysian residing in the UK. He thought custards were meant to be (only) yellow! Helen’s recipe can be found here. The dessert is commonly known in Malaysia as Seri Muka (beautiful face).  And this dessert is on my to-do list!  Honestly, my list is getting longer by the day.

Since owning the Thermomix, extracting the juice of fresh or freshly-packed frozen pandan leaves is a breeze! 

Note: I did not add a drop of water in the ‘first-press’ of the pandan extract. 

Here’s how I extracted the juice from 20 pandan leaves (washed and patted dry).

Then cut the leaves to desired even lengths (really up to you) with a pair of scissors.

Set the TM5 dials to 20 sec/ speed 10. Transfer the cut pandan leaves through the hole of the lid in 4 to 5 batches until all leaves have been blended. Scrape the sides of the inner bowl and the inner lid if necessary. 

Immediately transfer the pulp to a clean muslin cloth.

  

Squeeze the muslin cloth with your bare hands to extract the pandan juice into a measuring jug. 

 

As you can see, the first-pressed pandan extract from 20 leaves only yielded 50 ml of juice. Note, I did not add any water, hence, what you see above was the most concentrated juice extract!   This extract is recommended to be used to flavour and colour cakes, desserts and puddings.

For the record, I did a 2nd and 3rd ‘pressing’ with the addition of water of 50g*2 @ 15 sec/speed 10 (2 batches). Waste not want not😊
  
The less concentrated juice is used for making soupy desserts, like lek tau suan, bubur cha cha, ang tau t’ng, etc.

  
And by the way, the most concentrated pandan extract from 20 pandan leaves was used recently in my homemade fragrant pandan kaya.  Note, 20 leaves yielded 50 ml and I needed 40 g.

And here’s the result👍


 
Happy Days🤓

Cheers!

I was at a dentist recently ~ last year in December ~ to be precise. While waiting for my turn at the waiting room I was browsing one of several magazines on the mag rack called BodyTalk.  The mag talked about health issues and the human anatomy, etc.  I was intrigued. And I was equally intrigued with the second last page. A recipe corner with healthy ingredients! 

The one that tempted me most was this one!

  
I hope to replicate this tasty looking vegetarian carpaccio at home. 

The only manner to remember the ingredients of the recipe was to take a snapshot of the page 😉

And that I did!

I made this carpaccio as starter for Sunday lunch and my three guys’ eyes twinkled with delight. 

Mmmm… Yummy!

Here’s my version

  

NOTE
: The recipe was in Dutch. I tried my best to translate the words to the best of my knowledge. And by the way, in the original recipe, spelt grain, rockett leaves and Legumaise Toscane were used. I replaced those ingredients with pine nuts, fresh basil leaves and Pesto Calabrese respectively. 

Ingredients

  • 2 plump tomatoes (more than enough for my family of 4 as a starter. Original recipe called for 8!)
  • Fennel 
  • 24 to 30 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 red onion 
  • 2 cups pine nuts (lightly dry roast in a pan)
  • Parmesan cheese, shaved
  • 4 heap tsp Pesto Calabrese
  • 8 Tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp each coarse sea salt and black peppercorns (ground with pestle & mortar)

   
   
Method

  • Wash /clean the fennel and using a mandoline, slice it thinly. Place the fennel in a clean bowl. Add 8Tbsp olive oil and juice of 1 lemon. Spice it up with 3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper and coarse sea salt. Mix and let the fennel marinate in the fridge.
  • Wash the tomatoes and slice them thinly as well as the red onion
  • Ready to serve. Plate each serving plate with the pesto first and then assemble the carpaccio of tomatoes next. Then sprinkle some thinly sliced red onion. Distribute the marinated (pickled) fennel evenly over the spread. Grate some Parmesan cheese and add some fresh basil leaves, 6 to 7 leaves per plate. Sprinkle some  pine nuts and finally drizzle extra virgin olive oil.

   

Smakkelijk
  

The colours were just stunning. Incidentally they’re the colours of the Italian flag! The taste of Meditteranean also came alive, and despite the cold winter temperature outside, the cool and refreshing platter neutralises the acidity and heat of our body.

  
 

Verdict: My first vegetarian carpaccio and definitely not my last. This is a great dish for any season. Trust me! I would consider making this as a main dish during Summer, albeit a bigger plate. I will also make my own pesto Calabrese, and substituting the fresh basil with rockett leaves. 

Hasta la vista... I’ll be back!

I’m thrilled to link my first post of the New Year to Lavender and Lovage’s Cooking with Herbs January 2016: Herbs and Citrus Fruits

  

Happy Weekend all!

Cheers!

Cauliflower and broccoli are both cruciferous vegetables, with very similar nutritional properties and health benefits. They are both low in fat and high in dietary fiber, water and vitamin C. While traditionally, we tend to differentiate cauliflower as white and broccoli as green in colours, it has not been the case anymore. There are few variants of cauliflower with garish-looking colours of orange, green and purple!

Erm… I think I’ll stick to my white head for now 🙂

  
 

In Quest for the Best Method

As far as I could remember, my Mum seldom bought cauliflower when I was a kid, as the veg only appeared in the vegetable markets or supermarkets once a year during the Chinese New Year season. The only way I knew cauliflower was cooked then was in stir-fries (mixed veg) the Chinese way. It’s usually a good stir-fry but amazingly, all the other vegetables (broccoli, baby corn, straw or oyster mushrooms, sugar snap peas and carrot) would be gone in a jiffy leaving some white florets behind on the plate, untouched. Kids’re not very fond of the crunchy texture and odd flavour of the cauliflower. That’s what I remembered when I was a child.

Now that I’m not a kid anymore, I re-visted my Mum’s kitchen and cooked up a quick mixed veg stir fry dish for my family. It looked appetisingly good, but amazingly, I went through a déjà vu experience. All the other veg were gone in no time at all but not the poor cauliflower florets! What’s wong??!!

Honestly speaking, my guys LOVE cauliflower, but it was the wrong execution. So, exit, the quick stir-fry method…for the time being, of course 😉

There are several ways to prepare cauliflower ~ oven-roasted, baked, grilled, fried, steamed, boiled and blended in soup or eaten raw. Cauliflower soup with a touch of garam masala has been a winner with my family. So also steamed cauliflower in bechemel sauce. Raw cauliflower is great in dips or in tabbouleh salad, perfect for the summer season.

By the way, with the temperature plummeting of late, something warm is very much desired in my home. My all-time favourite method to appease everyones’ appetite unanimously is oven-roasted cauliflower florets. It’s the easiest and trust me, the tastiest way to prepare a mundane and almost boring looking cauliflower…. from just plain white to something cheerfully exciting!

Like so!

  
 

The warmth of the spices amalgamated in the cauliflower florets with the charred bits were a joy to eat. One whole head of cauliflower was easily gone in one serving for my family of 4! Not a single floret left untouched …

  

 
This recipe is inspired by Erin Gleeson’s, The Forest Feast Cookbook, with my variation of spices, dried herbs and roasting duration. 

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut in florets

Spice-Herb Mix

  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp Herbes de Provence 
  • Freshly-milled black peppercorns 
  • Coarse sea salt, ground ~ to taste

4 Tbsp Olive Oil or any cooking oil

  
  

Method

  • Pre-heat the oven to 230 deg C
  • Mix the ground spice-herb mix  in a bowl and pour in a clean ziplock bag
  • Add the cauliflower florets in the bag of spice mix and shake the bag to coat the florets evenly
  • Place the spiced florets in a baking tray. Add cooking oil and stir to distribute the oil evenly over the spiced florets
  • Bake for 25 minutes
  • After 25 minutes, lower the temperature to 200 deg C and bake for a further 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Ready to serve

   
 

Bon appétit!

Cauliflower is typically an Autumn veg. For this, I’m linking this post to the following October blog-hop cooking events –

Lavender & Lovage’s Cooking with Herbs for Autumn 

  

October Tea Time Treats: Halloween and Bonfire Night Treats hosted by Lavender & Lovage and The Hedgecombers

 
Cook-Your-Books #27 @ Kitchen Flavours
   
Happy Mid-Week! 

Cheers

There was a spell of sweltering whether enveloping several countries in Europe in the first few weeks of July. The Mercury rose to as high as 40 deg C and there was a heatwave which lasted several days!

Of all days, I met up with some girlfriends for a ladies’ day out, on the hottest Saturday in July! Not that we had picked the date on purpose, but my girlfriends and I had been planning a day out for some time already. The last time I met my friends was last summer, and 4th of July this year, was mutually agreed upon as most of us had holiday plans and other personal prior arrangements. 

Chill Out and New Search…

With such uncomfortably hot afternoon, we avoided sitting on the terrace. It was by chance that we walked a bit further and found just the place ~ an air-conditioned bistro somewhere in the centre of Leuven! Cool!

If it was a cool day, I would have ordered the Mussels’ dish, so we ended up ordering some salads and cool ourselves further with ice-creams and slushes. Pure indulgence 😉  

 
We had a great time catching up and filling in the vacuum of so many lost months, oblivious of the super hot 40+ deg C outside sipping into the crevices of the windows and doors of the bistro. There were many people patronising the bistro that day for the same reason – the aircond! LOL!

After our lunch, we walked further down and chanced upon a new Asian Supermarket.  It’s bigger than most Asian stores I have been to in Leuven, hence, I was excited to get my nose around the store 🙂

  

I noticed there were loads of products from China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, India, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia.  Some Singaporean but nothing from Malaysia …

The owner is a Nepalese and the store has been around for a year. 

And guess what? I ended up buying a familiar product from Singapore. Laksa!

  

I haven’t seen this product before. Being the curious me, I bought a packet for try-out 🙂 

And by the way, I haven’t tried the laksa yet, because I have given priority to another discovery.

These!!!

 

My heart fluttered when I saw those nostalgic looking purple brinjals. Gosh, I haven’t eaten that type of “aubergines” in years!  The ones in Belgium have shiny dark purple colour, fat and round at the base, while the ones I found at the Asian store had lighter tones of purple. They were actually Chinese eggplants. They have less seeds which made them less bitter and the skins were thinner. I bought 4. As you can see, they were not super fresh anymore and with the hot weather, the stalks dried out, otherwise they were perfect.

When I saw the brinjals, I knew exactly what to do with it, because I had a recipe in mind!

  

By the way, if you’re wondering why I called the fruit (yes, they are technically a fruit), a brinjal, an aubergine and an eggplant at the same time, well it’s a fruit with 3 names depending on where you are located. Southeast Asians called the fruit, brinjal, while its “eggplant” in Canadian, American and Australian English. British English used the French variation of the word, aubergine, that Belgians are familiar with…

Since I grew up knowing the fruit-veg as brinjal, I called this recipe Spicy-Garlicky Brinjals with Aka Miso (red miso paste).

Why Aka Miso of all ingredients? Well, I happened to have this red miso paste in my fridge for a while and I love experimenting with my cooking 😉

This recipe is like a “Rojak” ~ mumbo jumbo and all mixed up but turned out perfect! 

Ingredients

  • 4 brinjals or aubergines or eggplants washed and cut into 5 cm pieces 
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cm ginger, grated 
  • Fresh coriander, roughly torn 
  • Chives, roughly chopped
  • 1 red bird’s eye chilli (chilli padi), minced
  • 1 Tbsp Aka Miso (Note: this is Red Miso paste which is quite grainy, quite salty and rich in umami flavours)
  • Vegetable oil

   
 For the sauce 

  • 1 Tbsp mushroom soy
  • Balsamic vinegar, to taste
  • 43g palm sugar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp oyster sauce (optional)
  • 1 tsp cornflour 
  • Water

   

 Method

  1. Quarter lengthways each of the 5cm piece brinjals. Soak in salted water to prevent them from turning colour due to oxidation 
  2. In a clean bowl, mix all the sauce ingredients. Set aside.
  3. Drain the brinjals through a colander. Transfer the pieces to a steamer and steam for 8 to 10 minutes. It is recommended to check the texture of the brinjals if they are cooked to your desired texture.
  4. Sauté the minced garlic, ginger, chilli and red miso paste (if you noticed I forgot to include the miso paste in the sautéed ingredients but a wee bit later after the brinjals went in. No worries, because it did not have any impact in the taste at all 😊)
  5. Add the brinjals and stir to coat the ingredients for a few seconds and then add the sauce. Cook for a further 1 to 2 minutes.  Toss in the chopped herbs.
  6. Ready to serve 

   

   

 

Verdict

I love this Rojak-style of cooking, but with ingredients that made complete sense. The fact that I wanted the dish to turn out sweet, sour, salty, spicy, fragrant and umami, it turned out exactly sweet (palm sugar), sour (balsamic vinegar), salty (aka miso and soy), spicy (bird’s eye chilli), fragrant (garlic, ginger and the fresh herbs) and umami (again the aka miso). Totally bullseye, spot on and bang on the money! It’s a very Asian dish with hints of Thai, Chinese and Japanese. I love it LOTS!

To all Belgians, I wish you a fantastic break on 21st July!  

Happy National Feast Day!

Cheers!