Back in Business!

I haven’t been blogging for a while now. There are several reasons, including the fact that I’ve been pretty busy and haven’t felt particularly inspired, but the main problem with this blog has been my depressing lack of a functional camera. After all, what is the point of a food blog without photos?! My camera screen’s backlight has been broken for months, possibly even years at this point, but I’d never got round to getting it fixed or replaced.

However, this morning I got an email which made me realise I will be getting a small unexpected* windfall soon, and I decided to spend it on getting myself a new camera. We’re not talking anything fancy here; I just want to be able to see what I’m photographing and maybe zoom in a bit to show detail! However, it seems that cameras have come a long way since I bought my first, and up until now only, point and shoot – for the same amount of money that it would cost me to get the backlight fixed, I can get an entirely new camera with almost three times the zoom, more than twice as many megapixels and a larger screen. My understanding of those things is somewhat hazy but I know enough to realise that my new camera will be better than my old one ever was! Within 3-5 working days, the glory of photography will return to this blog.

This is particularly exciting because I am cooking a lot of new things these days. Last week a friend came over for dinner and I gave her the choice of vegan pizza or vegan queasdillas. She went for the quesadillas, but I whipped up a pizza anyway and stuck it in the freezer along with two more portions of pizza dough which I made using my KitchenAid for the very first time (I’m sure this is old news to the rest of the world but stand mixers are AWESOME). I’d made refried beans in advance and also improvised a guacamole recipe using whatever I had lying around (white onions, cherry tomatoes and a bit of paprika, along with the obvious avocado).

I’ve got a list as long as my arm of things I want to try, drawn from various vegan cookbooks which I’ve been trawling through looking for recipes that use ingredients I’ve heard of and result in things I’d want to eat – it is surprising how many don’t meet both these thresholds… The list includes a few different types of burger, courgette “pasta” and cauliflower “rice” which are two ways of using vegetables I’ve heard of but never tried, and a few veganised versions of my old favourite meals.

I finally took the plunge and cancelled the fruit and vegetable box delivery, because it simply wasn’t working for me. The idea of getting a week’s worth of produce delivered to my door seemed perfect, but unfortunately I never seemed to have the right ingredients for what I wanted to make, and any recipes that would use up what was in the box required a long list of things that weren’t. Added to the fact that I keep chucking stuff out because it had gone off within a day or two of it arriving, it just didn’t seem worth keeping going. I made my first ceremonial trip to Aldi last week and have rediscovered the novelty of being able to confidently plan my meals without having to desperately scrabble for a way to use up yet another head of kale.

I’m also keen to do some baking. Every so often I think “oh, I’ll make muffins this week!” or ponder the idea of banana bread for breakfast, only to realise that I don’t have the right tins or trays. Somehow I seem to have accepted the absence of a muffin tray from my kitchen cupboards as being a simple fact of life, a scientific truth over which I have no control. It is not so! I have the power to BUY a muffin tray, and even maybe some muffin cases! Muffins will very soon be within my reach.

So that’s a quickish update on what will be coming up on Faint with Hunger over the next few weeks. Hopefully this will be the last unillustrated post for a very long time!

 

 

* When I say windfall, what I actually mean is three months’ unpaid wages that I hadn’t noticed I wasn’t getting. I am appallingly bad at keeping track of my finances – if I don’t seem to have much money, I just become even more frugal, and never stop to think “wait a minute, when was the last time I actually got paid for X job?”. I’m a little less slapdash in my role as treasurer for the local community shop, fortunately!

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Moroccan-Style Stew

This is another variation on my most recent recipe. I made it while I was in Norway and for some reason decided to make it a little more interesting by adding spices. It was a resounding success! Even the omnivorous members of the family, in a decidely carnivorous country, enjoyed it which was encouraging.

I don’t really give a lot of thought to the “authenticity” of my cooking; in my view, if I made it instead of just heating it up, then it’s authentic. But I couldn’t in good conscience call it Moroccan Stew, because I haven’t the faintest idea whether it resembles anything ever eaten in that country. (I have to admit, I’m not even sure I could point to Morocco on a map – I get it mixed up with Monaco.) I simply drew inspiration from a list of spices which are apparently the ones usually used in Moroccan tagines, and added whatever I had from that list. Today that meant cumin, paprika, white pepper, mixed spice containing cinammon, coriander, dill, ginger, cloves and nutmeg, and a pinch of sugar because my tinned tomatoes are pretty acidic. I hope to improve my spice selection, but at the moment my Lidl herb and spice rack supplemented by two or three other basics seems to suffice!

This really is one of the easiest things to cook. You chop up an onion and fry it gently until soft (this time, I attempted to caramelise my onion but I don’t have enough patience for that sort of thing so it ended up soft and goldish), add a tin of tomatoes and either sugar or salt, or both, as needed, then mix in your spices. Once it’s all simmered for a while, chuck in some chickpeas – usually, about half a tin will do – and once you’re happy with the flavour and consistency of the tomato mix, add some couscous, cover the pan and leave it to simmer for a few minutes while the pasta soaks up the liquid. If it looks like there might not be enough liquid, add some water but be sparing or it’ll take forever to get back to the lovely thick consistency of a stew.

A new recipe for an old favourite

I adore chickpeas. I eat them in curry, in risotto, in hummus, sometimes even in pasta. A couple of years ago I discovered a recipe for spiced tomato chickpeas, which are delicious but not quite adequate as a meal on their own. This week I stumbled across a website called Cooking for Vegans. I was actually looking for advice on making white sauce, but I couldn’t resist the link labelled 10-minute meals.  And once I was on the page, of course I couldn’t resist the sound of spicy couscous, tomato and chickpea stew.

chickpea-couscous-stew

It’s simple to make and tastes great! It’s also more filling than I had anticipated; I quickly ate a portion of it for dinner and took the rest with me to university for lunch the next day (it didn’t stay as hot as soup does in my Thermos, but was still warm). Continue reading

White Sauce Failure

Yesterday was a very busy day for me, so I had carefully planned out my meals in advance. I was craving a creamy mushroom pasta sauce; as a child I loved the Sainsbury’s pour-over pots which we had with filled tortellini (the mushroom sauce doesn’t seem to be sold any more, and at any rate isn’t vegan) so I hunted online for a simple recipe which would be quick to make and fill that gap.

This recipe by PETA was the one I settled on, as it looked quite simple and didn’t call for any ingredients I didn’t already have, except for parsley because I hate parsley. Ugh, parsley. Anyway. Once I’d got home I quickly gathered together my equipment – harder than you might think, as my kitchen was slowly disappearing under a mountain of dirty dishes which I am about to start washing once I’ve finished this post – and started loosely following the recipe. As usual I dispensed with the idea of measuring and weighing, and just put a single portion of spaghetti onto boil while I made up the sauce.

White sauce has never been my strong point. I simply can’t manage to avoid making it lumpy! This time, I think I went wrong at the margarine stage, as it very quickly became a lot of dry lumps and when I started slowly adding the soya milk, the lumps got a bit smaller but never vanished. In the end I sieved the sauce so that almost all the lumps had gone, and ate the resulting thin liquid with the garlicy mushrooms. It was nice, but would have been a lot nicer if it had been a thick creamy sauce (and if I’d had time to flavour it properly – I was against the clock after all the stirring and sieving). Apologies for not having a photo but as I said, I was in a hurry and simply wolfed the plate of pasta down before sprinting out of the door.

I will try again soon, because if I can make a good white sauce then a lot more recipes will be available to me! I’ve managed it in the past under direction so it is possible… Next time I might try following these directions, which do things in a different order to the ones I’ve tried before. I’ll keep you posted!

Still here and still cooking… honest!

I’ve made a few things lately that I’ve thought “I should blog about this!” and then never have done so. Do not fear! I will be back with new recipes soon enough – although not quite as soon as I’d have hoped, because due to an administrative confusion I am completely out of vegetables with no certainty of another box arriving any time soon (but on the other hand it could arrive tomorrow… so I don’t want to go and buy anything just in case!).

I will leave you with the news that I had some vegan Christmas pudding ice cream yesterday and it was the most amazing thing I have ever eaten.

Red Pepper and Lentil Pie

In preparation for last week’s dinner party I had bought two 300g packets of ready-rolled JusRol pastry, because the recipe needed 500g. (Incidentally, there are three reasons that I buy ready-rolled pastry: 1 I do not have a rolling pin, or much counter space for rolling. 2 JusRol pastry is vegan, and vegan fat is tricky to work with. 3 I am lazy.) I should have remembered that the last time I bought two packets of JusRol pastry for a 500g recipe, I only ended up using one of the packets – presumably because machines can roll pastry thinner than people bother with, which should be number 4 on my list – but I did not remember that so I bought two.

Red pepper and lentil pie with cabbage, broccoli and potatoes

And therefore I had a packet left over! I also had half a red bell pepper and a whole sweet red pepper, so I googled “vegan red pepper pie” and came across this recipe which looked delicious and didn’t need any ingredients I didn’t already have, except parsley because I hate parsley. Ugh. Anyway. Since I already had the pastry, and I’d actually remembered to take it out of the fridge in advance of wanting to use it so that it would unroll neatly, I set to work. Continue reading

Tiny-Flat Dinner Party

Last weekend I was chatting to my friend after church and spontaneously invited her to come for dinner this weekend, when my dad and Gill were visiting. I enjoy cooking for several people, even though I have a tendency to get flustered at the last minute, and I thought it would be a fun evening. I was delighted when she said yes, and began thinking about what we’d eat.

And then I got home and remembered that I only own two folding stools and my flat isn’t big enough to fold out the whole table and sit around it. Oops.

Continue reading