No Meat Week3: Saturday. Red veggie curry



red veggie curry, originally uploaded by dogpossum.

A very simple, ordinary recipe:

– Fry a brown onion with 1-2 tbsp red (Thai) curry paste (use a good one, not a rubbish Masterchef version or something), in some oil until the onion is ready (ie transparent or a bit further done. Don’t burn it!)

– Add a can of coconut milk. Mix thoroughly. Use a good brand (not shit like Masterchef), and don’t waste your time with ‘light’ coconut milk. Coconut milk should be rich, creamy and full of delicious fats. If you’re worried about ‘getting fat’, just don’t eat too much of it (good luck with that) or don’t make the dish too often. But the fats are important for carrying the flavour of the complex spices.

– Let this simmer for a little while – you kind of bring it to the boil. This is where the flavour gets big, so be careful with this stage.

– Add a series of veggies, allowing the appropriate amount of time to cook (ie add the long-cookers first). We used: baby corn, red capsicum, snake beans, cauliflower, sweet potato. Snake beans are handy because they can stand a lot of cooking. Unlike green beans or ‘French beans’ which really aren’t at their best after a heap of cooking. But undercooked snake beans are a bit rough. You can use all sorts of veggies, whatever’s in season. Plain potato is delicious, you could go the broccoli, eggplant, add some gai larn, whatever you fancy. Just be careful with cooking times – you don’t want stuff turning to slop; you want textures. It’s also a good idea to add some tofu. We forgot. I like to use a firm tofu (ie not the ‘silken firm’ tofu you get in Chinese grocers, but the ‘very firm’ or ‘traditional firm’ tofu from Chinese grocers, or the ‘firm’ tofu you get in skip supermarkets). A pre-fried tofu is even better, and is easily found in Chinese grocers. Let it cook a while in the sauce, as tofu is a delicious little sponge.

– Add 5 fresh kaffir lime leaves (these can keep in your freezer if they’re hard to find). If you have green peppercorns (they’re fresh, not dried, come on a stem like a little stick of bananas, and they’re hard to find in Ashfield), add them. Green peppercorns add a really delicious layer of flavour.

– Cook it for 20mins or so, or until the veggies are done. Don’t use the 20mins time arbitrarily, test your veggies for done-ness regularly instead. The trick is to keep the range of textures in the veggies as well as the richness of the coconut/spice sauce.

– Add 1tbsp lime juice, 2 tbsp fish sauce, 2tsp palm sugar, stir it in. Again, use fresh lime juice (these seem expensive when they’re out of season, but they taste so much better than bottled lime juice, and you can use the zest for all sorts of delicious things). Palm sugar is also a good thing to use (you can find this easily in Asian grocers), but if you don’t have it, use brown sugar. It’s not a big deal to substitute, but palm sugar has a slightly different flavour. Taste it. If it’s too ‘chilli hot’ for your palate, add some more sugar, carefully. The coconut milk also cuts the chilli heat. Sprinkle some bruised Thai basil over the top and sort of fold it under. If you don’t have Thai basil, just use sweet basil, it’s ok.

This is a really delicious meal, and is actually very simple to make. It can also be a very cheap dinner. Just use a heap of in season, fresh vegetables and herbs. Herbs and greens (gai larn, spinach, choy, etc) are stupid cheap in Asian grocers – $1 each at the most, and make sure you have a jar of curry paste, fish sauce, palm sugar and a can of coconut milk in the cupboard. Fish sauce and palm sugar are a staple in Thai cooking – you’ll use them again with stir fries. Same goes for basil and lime juice. Even the curry paste can be used for other things, like pumpkin soup. Green peppercorns are really hard to find in Ashfield, but that’s because this is a very Shanghainese Chinese area. You would do better in a Vietnamese/Thai/’pan-Asian’ grocer. You can do without them, though. If you buy these things in an Asian grocer, they’ll be heaps cheaper than a mainstream supermarket. And better quality.

No Meat Week3: puttanesca


I stole this image from the internet.

Well, No Meat Week 3 has included some meat. I ate ham and eggs on bread for lunch and then BBQed potato scallops on Monday (exchange faire. Don’t ask). Tuesday we had take away Thai that included duck, as I got home late from the airport, and bloody exhausted. Wednesday we had leftover spinach and ricotta canneloni. Last night we had roasted veggies with poached egg.

Tonight we had puttanesca with fettucini. Now, puttanesca actually involves meat – anchovies – but we are both a bit crook and grumpy with it. We had intended a curry, but that was too hard. We should have had vegetables with it, but we didn’t. We’ll probably get scurvy and die.

Puttanesca:

2 or 3 cloves of garlic, chopped up finely
generous tbsp of chopped flat leaf parsley
tsp chilli flakes

-> saute all that in some olive oil.

Then add these things:
tbsp of capers, chopped
handful of black kalamata olives, choopped
3 or so anchovy fillets, chopped
1 can tomatoes

Let it all simmer for a while, til it thickens. Do the salt and pepper thing if you like. Serve it on pasta, but don’t drown the pasta. The source should be kind of rubbed over the pasta. Use a long pasta like spaghetti.

I like this served with steamed broccoli, but we couldn’t be arsed as we are both crook. We’ll never get better at this rate.

This dinner is really easy to make, and can be quickly made from stuff in the cupboard. If you keep anchovies, olives and capers in the fridge in large jars from the Italian supermarket, it’s quite a cheap dinner too.

No Meat Week3: roasted veggies with perfect poached egg

Yes. We had it for dinner AGAIN. Once again substituting a poached egg (c/o Dave the Brilliant) for grilled haloumi.

Roasted veggies:
– eggplant
– carrot
– dark green zucchini
– red capsicum
– cherry tomatoes
– baby white onions
– 1 small potato
– orange sweet potato
– mushrooms

Dressing
– lemon juice
– olive oil
– chopped flat leaf parsley

Mix some salad greens in with roasted veggies, pour over some dressing, Mix.
Plop egg on top.

No Meat Week2: Tuesday

Tonight: steamed veggies and lasagne.

This is usually a total win dinner, but not so much tonight. I was all ‘WIN!’ because I had a bunch of red slop in the freezer from the Borlotti Bean Moussaka so I could just do all the layers and put it in the oven. But there were problems.

1. We are SICK and TIRED of that particular red slop. I should have made a fresh one with fresh flavours.

2. I didn’t have enough of the red slop to really layer the layers. The red slop is really important for cooking the lasagne sheets.

3. I put the wrong thing on the top layer. I just had slices of tofu with cheese on top. WRONG. It should have been slices of fresh tomato and basil the way we usually do it, but I’d forgotten that.

4. The layers were dull. Baby spinach, slices of firm tofu, red slop, sweet potato. I did the order incorrectly. It was all a bit dry and not so great. I didn’t approve.

But we ate it.

This is where the wheels could come off this thing. A few dud meals, a few boring meals, and we’ll get bored with the whole exercise and fall back on old dinner plans. I think it’s time Dave did actually make those stir fries. That’s his special ninja power.

Other dishes we haven’t made yet:

– Nachos. This is one of our favourite dinners, with a beany sauce (onions, canned borlotti or some bean other than kidney as I don’t like them much, canned tomato, chilli, ground coriander and ground cumin, garlic), decent corn chips (not shitty Doritos), a good salsa (tomato, onion, garlic, coriander, lime juice, etc), a good gaucamole.

– Stir fries of different types.

– Red Thai veggie curry.

– Other Indian curry options, including egg cury.

– Pasta. I’m thinking puttanesca, even though it has anchovies in it. But I love it. Chilli, rich.

Can you see a theme here? Yes. Too many canned tomatoes, you’re right.

…actually, I can’t remember the other dinner ideas. But there were more. We need to get it together in this house, STAT!

No Meat Week2: Monday


(Jalebi, my superfavourite sweety)

Today I forgot to have breakfast. Then I had take away Indian for lunch. YUM. Ashfield is brilliant for quick lunches: 2 or 3 Nepalese joints (there’s quite a strong Nepalese community here), Chinese of course (mostly Shanghainese, and lots of dumplings and noodles), Vietnamese, Thai, Indian, Malaysian and now a couple of new Japanese joints. An Oporto’s has just opened, which would worry me, if it wasn’t for the fact that two Japanese, one Nepalese and one Indian/Nepalese joints opened in the same month in the same block (for real). There’re also a few rubbishy places in the food court of the Smashmall (Ashfield Mall), but I wouldn’t eat there.

Though you can get badass bubble tea at a couple of joints, there is a distinct lack of coffee and European baked bread action in Ashfield. There is a ‘European’ bakery, run by a Lebanese/Indian couple, but the coffee is rubbish and the cakes are meh. They don’t sell bread. There are a couple of Vietnamese bakeries, but I don’t like that sweet white bread. There’s a Bread Top, but that’s very sweet and not really European style bread. There’s a Baker’s Delight in Smashmall, but it’s totally shit. There is one ‘cafe’ further down Liverpool Road, but it’s actually a Chinese cafe, and not really good for coffee. There is one cafe in the Smashmall, but it’s not good for coffee.
The newest cafe is an internet cafe, opened just next to the Station on our side of the tracks. It’s run by an Indian family, has a coffee machine, and while one side of the cake cabinet is full of ‘European’ cakes, the other half is full of amazing Indian sweets. You can score cheap pirated Hindi language films there too.

So Ashfield is not a good place for ‘European’ food. This is a big change from Brunswick. It’s also been a very good change for my belly, as I eat far fewer sweeties, as I just can’t hack the hardcore sugar in Indian and Chinese sweets. We do travel over to Haberfield for bread and cake and coffee on the weekend, but we are Smashfield people. But Ashfield is a brilliant place for cheap, interesting lunches. Just not so great if you’re looking for a sandwich. One of the things I have noticed in Ashfield, is that sitting down to a meal of shared dishes at lunch is a very common thing for this Chinese community. Everyone does it – from high school kids to mums with sprogs or oldies in a gang. It’s nice.

Tonight, at our little flat in Ashfield, we revisited last Thursday’s roasted veggies dinner. This time we did the dressing without oil, just with lemon. It was a bit sharp. We also added some fennel to the roasted veggies, but it wasn’t really a good place for fennel. I think I’d stick with what we did last time, perhaps. Dave’s poached eggs were as brilliant as last time. He has a talent. He should take it on the road.

No Meat Week: Saturday and Sunday

Saturday morning I had porridge. That shit is so boring. I prefer weetbix.

Saturday we went to lunch with friends specifically to have dumplings. The joint we go to has a large vegetarian dumpling menu, but we ate meat dumplings.

…incidentally, I count fish as ‘meat’. Fishes are living, moving animals. So they have meat. They’re not some sort of floating plant. If you’re a vegetarian, you don’t eat fish. Or chicken. Or the flesh of any animal. I’m not a vegetarian. But I’m not a hypocrite, either.

We had leftover borlotti bean moussaka from Friday with a big stack of steamed vegetables for dinner.

Today we had wholemeal pancakes for breakfast, then borlotti bean moussaka for lunch AGAIN. And tonight we are having the same cauliflower dish we had Monday. I think we’re having it with spinachy rice again.

Over all, No Meat Week has gone well. We like it and are going to do it again next week. We have lots more recipes to make, so we’re not bored with our meals yet. We’ll keep going til we’re tired of it, then we’ll revise our plans. Veggie meals are just like meat meals: if you’re a boring cook, you’ll make boring food and then you’ll be a bored eater. The next goal, of course, is to take meat out of our lunches. The goals, though, in all of this, is to eat ethically, so Cristy’s approach is useful. Here, the point is to eat food that’s farmed sustainably, ethically. That might include meat. So I guess we eat meat when we can buy organic, sustainably farmed stuff. But otherwise we eat veggies. When it comes to lunches, it can be harder to source organic meat. I guess that’s the challenge, really. Leftovers for lunch, or decent other decent stuff.

Generally, I think we need to eat more salad or steamed veggies with the main dinner dish. Or do I? I think I need to learn more about this. And I haven’t been to the shops enough this past week to get fruit. Mandarins! Grapes! Apples!

Other things I want more of: fennel. Dave is also primed for stir fry, and we’ll have veggie lasagne this week because he adores it. He’s also very keen for leftovers for lunch, so that’s a useful thing to remember.

Challenges:
I’ll be away at a dance event next weekend, so my meals will be all mixed up, and I’ll really only be eating two meals per day. I usually make them a sort of lunch and a dinner. And I usually take a bunch of fruit with me to late night dances, and often a muesli bar. It’s difficult to eat enough over exchanges, but I am usually very strict about eating well. It’s too easy to get ill over the physically intense, sleep deprived weekends, so eating well is important. I usually favour pasta, salads and things like ham or cheese. I find it almost impossible to get through weekends with low-carb meals. I need to eat proper carbs at all meals if I don’t want to get starving. I also tend to eat chocolate a bit. I will often have a meal or two out, but I avoid junk food, and go for good stuff like Lebanese with lots of salad and good bread, or chinese with lots of veggie dishes.

We’ll see how it all goes. I’m sure we’re going to have a good week of fewds.

No Meat Week: Friday

Well, breakfast was cheesy bread. Boring. I’m not very good with breakfasts, but it’s when I’m hungriest, so I like to eat big, filling things.

No fruit today, except some apples I’m going to attack in a second.

Dinner was a good one. This is a dish I used to make in Brisbane, but somehow forgot about. I remember it being very time consuming, but tonight it took a lot less time than I’d expected. Which is good, as I am incredibly bad tempered today, and also weepy with random and irritating depressed self-loathing. This sort of craziness smacks of PMS. Great. But it could also be a bit of pre-exchange anxiety. Off to MSF next week, where I’m coordinating DJs. Who are actually all very organised and capable, so it’s not them I’m worried about. Just random travel anxiety probably. Oh, and I’m off to Tasmania a week or two later. Parents. Suddenly, it all makes sense.

Ok, so now that we have that out of the way…. but really, what was I thinking? A complicated dish on a shitty day? Crazy. Crazy.

Borlotti Bean Moussaka. YUM.

These quantities are kind of wacked. Don’t freak if you have extra red slop – freeze it and use it again later. But these quantities need a pretty bloody big dish.

Red slop sauce:
can borlotti beans (I used one can and 1 can of lentils as I didn’t have 2 borlotti bean cans). Borlotti beans are YUMMY.
can tomatoes (I used a big one)
garlic – I used 4 cloves because garlic is the reason we exist
onion – brown, diced
1 cup red wine
2 big tbsp tomato paste
random salad greens
2 big sprigs of oregano

Eggplant layer:
1 big eggplant
1 big zucchini
1 small red capsicum
-> should just have been 2 big eggplants, but I only had one.

Eggy Topping:
4 eggs, beaten a bit
1 cup yoghurt (low fat by accident, but discovering it’s extra sharp and yum = gold)
2 cups milk (use organic whole milk. That shit is SO GOOD)

Cheese. Grated. Intend to use parmesan, but forget and use bullshit tasty instead. Then discover the block of parmesan as you put the tasty away. Sigh in resignation. Fuck you, fromage.

Make the red slop the usual way:
– Saute the onions in some olive oil until they are edging towards brown. This is how you do them for Indian cooking, and that’s how I do them for everything now, as they give a richer, tastier flavour that way. Which could be a bit much if you’re not up for that.

– Saute some crushed up garlic with the onions, but do NOT let it burn.

– Ok, add the tomato. In a sudden rush that leaves the entire kitchen and your favourite jumper splattered in red.
– Stop and have a little weep.
– Get over it.
– Add the beans and lentils. Mix it all in.
– Remember the wine. Add that. And the tomato paste. Just chuck the tomato paste package on the counter when you’re done. Do it roughly, so you feel a bit better.
– Add random salad greens you’ve found in the fridge.
– Chuck in two fairly raggedy looking sprigs of oregano from the garden. Don’t bother looking for grubs. Organic protein is ok.

– Ok, now it’s a bit important to let all this simmer for a while. I didn’t, and it made the moussaka too sloppy. You want it to get thicker. And tastier.

– Put your oven on a moderate heat.

– Grill the eggplant. This bit is annoying. Make sure you brush the slices of eggplant with olive oil. I can’t be bothered salting. But you probably should. Fuck that, hey?
– Grill the zucchini and other capsicum.
– You want them to get brown bits, but not to burn. Except the capsicum. It can singe. Watch it doesn’t spit at you, though.
– When the Capsicum is done, let it sit, skin side down for a few minutes. Or put it in a plastic bag. Then pull the skin off. Get all the black bits off, as it’s bitter and yuck. Slice it thinly.

– Make the topping. I just plopped the milk, the yoghurt, eggs (unbeaten) into a huge jug and then used the stick mixer thing to beat it all up. You’re probably not supposed to do that. Fuck it. I like it to get a bit fluffy, because those air bubbles will be awesome later.

– Now, you have to build this fucker. This bit is surprisingly reassuring.

– Put all the red bean slop at the bottom of a baking dish. I use a deep dish by accident. A wider, shallower one would have been a bit better. 2 inches deep. Maybe 3. A pyrex one is best so you can see it in action. But not necessary.
-Discover that there’s too much red stuff and too much topping. Drink some of the topping, because it is yum.
– Worry about chucking up.
– Get over it.
– Put about half the red stuff in the freezer for later.

– Now you put all the veggies onto the red slop. Lay them all out to make a nice layer with no gaps.

– Now you carefully pour the topping onto all that. It makes a thick layer. I prefer it if it doesn’t seep down past the eggplant. But wtf, it’s no biggie. The eggplant usually floats to the surface. That’s cool. Don’t freak.

– Ok, put this thing in the oven for ages. Until the eggy topping stuff has set. This is where the bubbles are good – it makes a nice fluffy layer. The very top should kind of get crispy, the red slop will be hot all the way through. It takes 40-60 minutes if your oven is shit and you’ve miscalculated the times. You really want the eggy topping set. That’s why it’s eggy. So that it sets. If it’s runny, it’s not so good.

– I added the grated tasty cheese about 10minutes before it was done. This way it melts, browns, but does not form calcified lava yuck. The eggplant + this cheese + the borlotti beans + the rich wine taste is the reason we bother making dinner at all. This is utterly delicious.

We served it with plain old steamed broccoli. A big pile of it.

This is one TASTY dinner.

No Meat Week: Thursday

(NB I just found this egg picture online. Ours were actually better)

Firstly, let me just point out that yesterday we had fish cakes with salty eggs and a veggie/tofu stir fry take away from the brilliant Thai joint in Summer Hill. Not entirely meat free, but better.

Today I had eggs for breakfast then got STRANDED in Alexandria and missed lunch, so I ate hot chips in Ashfield on the walk home. I haven’t hot chips in three hundred years, and they were PERFECT.

Tonight we had something a friend made us for dinner last week: roasted vegetables. Boring. No. DELICIOUS.

Basically:
Chop up a bunch of vegetables. Not small pieces, about an inch and a half. Watch out, though, because the potato will take ages longer than everything else, so should be cut a bit smaller.
I used:
– some blue pumpkin*
– a potato
– a spring onion (the type with the little onion at the end bulbing out like a smallish normal white onion, and the long green bits still on it)
– a zuchini (those kids are over, now, but I LOVE them)
– a chunk of eggplant (looking quite handsomely aubergine in its nice, firm skin)
– a bit of red capsicum
– some mushrooms
– a head of garlic broken into its constituent cloves
– and a punnet of cherry tomatoes, chopped. Yes, I know, tomatoes are over. But cherries are kind of ok.

Just splash on some olive oil and some salt and roast those suckers until they’re cooked. 40minutes if you’ve a rubbishy oven like ours. You want it all cooked, perhaps a bit browned on the outside, but don’t over cook them.

Make a dressing: olive oil (not too much!), lemon juice (mostly lemon juice), chopped up parsley (grow your own if you can – YUM), a bit of salt and pepper.

THEN you mix the roasted veggies in a bowl with some salad greens. Baby spinach, rocket, whatever you’ve got. If that’s too exy or rubbish, use some finely sliced fresh spinach if it’s not too tough. Put the salad dressing on and mix it. Put some in each person’s bowl.

Right, now the hard bit. Poach an egg for each person. As soon as they’re done, plop it on the vegetables in people’s bowls. The veggies should be hot or warm, the greens beginning to wilt.

The important bit: the dressing should be quite lemony and parsleyish. If you make it too oily, it’ll be too rich on your vegetables. I’d perhaps even omit olive oil if you’re generous with it when roasting. You really want the zinginess of the lemon and the freshness of the parsley to complement your beautifully runny, rich egg.

IT IS YUM.

Dave discovered, on his very first try, that he is a brilliant egg poacher. His poached eggs were round, firm yet soft, runny in the middle with slightly thicker edges on the yellow, white all cooked. They were perfectly formed, and also deliciously perfectly cooked.

When we had this at our friend’s place we actually had it with grilled haloumi. I love haloumi a LOT, but it’s quite rich, and we had it earlier this week. It’s also probably not a good idea to eat a whole block of grilled cheese too regularly. The friend had poached an egg for a lactose intolerant guest, so it was in my brain. At any rate, I actually think the eggs were a slightly better idea, because of the way the yolk and lemon and parsley got together and made sweet, sweet yum.

*not actually blue – the one with the blue skin. I prefer it to butternut or even Jap.

No Meat Week: Wednesday

1. I had a roast beef and veggies sandwich at the deli while waiting for my doctor’s appointment. I clean forgot about the no meat thing. Dave stated that he had not known that the ‘no meat thing’ was “for lunches too”. Jeez.

2. It’s been raining and raining and fucking RAINING so I haven’t been to the shops in a few days. So when I went to the kitchen to make chickpea curry to eat after dancing THERE WERE NO TOMATOES and I suddenly broke my brain.
We got home from dancing and THERE WERE STILL NOT TOMATOES and my brain was twice as broken and Dave was MAKING THE WRONG SUGGESTIONS so crazy girl suggested take away and then there was Thai take away and it was good.

3. Some days some people are just nuts.

4. I am really really tired of all this carbohydrate action. I do not like the way my belly feels really full. Buggered if I know how to make low-carb veggie meals, though. Perhaps I will figure it out tomorrow…

5. Bloody Dave will make bloody stir fry because it is after Wednesday now, and this is when I run out of shopping and cooking steam.

NO MORE CARBOHYDRATES. MY BELLY IS STRETCHED.