Vegetarian [kind of] meets BBQ

I guess you could say I was a little out of my element? The BBQ and I aren’t exactly the best of friends…

A few months ago the Recipe Redux theme was ‘Start Smoking in the New Year’ – (yeah, I’m getting in a little late) hence the BBQ idea popping up:

The New Year is heating up with smoke and spiciness. From boldly flavored smoked salts to actual smoking techniques, subtly smoked food is on-trend. The same can be said for spice as we savor heat from harissa, sriracha and smoked paprika. Show us the healthy dish you’re heating up with smoke and/or spiciness.

My first thought was my Vegetarian Chilli but then I thought I should try something new. I follow a few American nutrition and food blogs and quite often see a recipe call for ‘Liquid Smoke’, but I have never been able to find it anywhere in Oz. So the cheat’s way was out…then I wondered how I would go about doing it the proper way. But how to smoke food without a barbecue? This just opened up a can of worms..and a trip to the hardware store… and a house smelling like ribs. Got there in the end.

Smoked Tofu, Almonds & Green Beans.

Once upon a time I found a block of smoked tofu in a health food shop. It was delicious, and expensive, and I never bought it again. So here is an attempt to recreate it! And an impressive option for all you vegetarians and vegans going to summer barbecues, only to face a sad bowl of ice berg lettuce and bread rolls with tomato sauce. I feel ya. Take this and everyone will want to be your friend. I mean, it’s not going to pass as sticky ribs anytime soon, but who wants to have to eat with their fingers and get sauce all over their face anyway? 

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Get your smoke on.. 

1 x block of tofu, cut into slices

1 x cup wood chips (I used hickory)

1 x aluminium baking tray

a lot of foil

Soak the wood chips in water over night. Layer the bottom of the tray with the wood chips and a little bit of water, then sit an elevated tray inside the aluminium tray for the tofu slices to sit on. Wrap well in foil. Place in the oven and leave it in there for 3 hours.

SIX HOURS later and I took my tofu out of the oven.

To be perfectly honest, I was really disappointed that it wasn’t ‘smokier’. Seeing as how I had committed half my life to this recipe, the tofu was a bit of an anti-climax. Ahh well, you live and you learn. The end result was delish – read on for the saviour – the tahini dressing and green beans are a win for sure.

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And the rest…

2 cups green beans

1/2 cup roasted almonds, chopped

100g fresh rocket leaves

2 TBS tahini

1 TBS lemon juice

salt & pepper

Top & tail the beans and saute them in a bit of olive oil. Add them to a big bowl with roasted almonds, rocket and tofu.

Combine the tahini, lemon juice and s & p in a small bowl and then pour it on over. I added a little warm water to the dressing to thin it out a bit, but whatever goes.

(I will certainly not hold it against you for saving six hours and not trying this one at home).

The end x

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Rice Paper Rollin’

I heard that the weather was BEAUTIFUL today. I only caught a few minutes of the sunshine walking from work to car (about 500 metres), and yes, the sunshine was perfect.

I was hungry as usual. Sunshine + hungry = rice paper rolls. What else?

I’ve probably mentioned before that Vietnamese is my favourite cuisine, so rice paper rolls always go down well. Only problem is I find them really time consuming, mainly because my knife skills leave a lot to be desired, so I usually only make them when other people are around to eat too. Lucky I have willing house mates.

There is a bit of an art to rollin’. Like sushi. First time you do it they will probably be a mess, don’t worry! I have been making these for ages and mine still look shocking. Who cares what they look like though, right?

So I went to get all my ingredients and find brown rice vermicelli noodles! Woo! I may be a little over-excited but this is totally new for me, so looking forward to trying them. Not a huge difference nutrition wise, which I was surprised about, though they are higher in dietary fibre (only slightly!). Protein, fat and carbohydrate are all pretty much equal in comparison to the regular white vermicelli. For all my gluten intolerant friends though, rice noodles are gluten free, happy days 🙂  If you are following this recipe and very sensitive to gluten, just watch out for the soy sauce!

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Two hours later –> they were ok. Just ok. I found them a little chewy and tough. You can’t notice it in the rice paper rolls because there is a lot of other stuff going on, but I think I would avoid using them in a soup or stir fry. I think I will stick to the regular white kind..I have only just converted to whole wheat pasta after all, baby steps..

Vegetarian Rice Paper Rolls

1 x block firm tofu

1 x tsp oil

1 x TBS soy

1 x love garlic, minced

1 x inch piece of ginger, minced

1/4 x cup dried shitake or other dried asian fungus (soaked in hot water for 20 mins)

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1 x carrot, thinly sliced into matchsticks

1 x cucumber, thinly slice into matchsticks

1 x capsicum, thinly sliced into matchsticks

1/2 x packet vermicelli rice noodles, soaked in hot water

rice paper roll sheets

ice burg lettuce, shredded

mint leaves

Dipping Sauce

1 x TBS hoisin

1 x tsp soy

1 x tsp lime juice

1/2 tsp chilli sauce

Heat oil in a fry pan and fry the ginger and garlic for one minute, then crumble in the tofu.

Cook until the tofu looks golden, about five minutes, then stir through the soy and soaked mushrooms and put to one side.

Cut up all your veggies. Make it as organised as possible to make rolling a little less annoying.

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Get a bowl of warm water and dip in your first sheet of rice paper, lay it flat on a bench and wait for it to soften so it’s easier to work with.

Layer your ingredients at one end of the circle, veggie sticks, lettuce, noodles, mint and tofu mixture. Be careful not to fill it up too much!

Start rolling the side with the mixture, then wrap the top and bottom sides and tuck it all in.

(I apologise sincerely for this method, I never realised how hard it would be to describe how to roll a rice paper roll! )

rolls

I’m not going to lie, they probably won’t look neat and tidy, but they will taste amazing!

To make the sauce, just mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Dip away.

Zucchini Ribbon Spring Salad

We have had some beautiful days in Melbourne so far this Spring. And I’ve been lucky enough to just come back from a weekend in far north Queensland. The anticipation of summer is increasing!

This is the ultimate cool down salad for those days when it’s too hot to eat anything heavy. The zucchini is full of water for a start, a good thing for hydration levels (we get fluids from foods too, not just when we drink water) – and lots of mint to keep it really fresh. Mint contains menthol, which is what gives it that cooling sensation. Use the other half of the bunch to make fresh mint tea, or add it to a jug of cold water with some lemon slices. (This salad would be equally good with cucumber too.)

Tastes best when eaten in the sunshine!

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Zucchini Ribbon Spring Salad

 

2 x zucchini, cut into ribbons

1/2 bunch fresh mint, finely shredded

2 spring onions, chopped

100g feta cheese, diced

1 x tin chickpeas, drained

1/2 x cup dried freekeh

1 x TBS olive oil

1 x TBS lemon juice

S & P

Place freekeh in a saucepan with 1 1/2 cups of water and bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, then drain

While the freekeh is cooking, prepare the rest of the veggies

Throw everything into a bowl and toss with olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper

Easy peasy

zuc sal