Sunday, 25 January 2015

Vegan Tacos

Over the holidays, I went on a bit of a Netflix food documentary binge, which started with renting Fed Up. This is an excellent movie, and I totally recommend it for anyone who is interested in the way we eat, particularly if processed food is something you want to know more about. From there, I ended up watching about six more documentaries, including Vegucated, GMO OMG, and Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. By the end of it, I was ready to declare a crusade against sugar.

But since it is a new year, and the time is ripe for resolutions, I did start thinking about our relationship with eating animals. I mean, I’m not a full vegan or anything yet, I ate ostrich carpaccio on Friday night, but I do think that we’ve certainly pushed the limits with meat. We’re talking about a society in which bacon is its own cultural touchstone here, people. The excess is now. We’ve put a whole new meaning to “worshipping the flesh”.

I’m not going to give you stats about health and meat-eating, watch one of those documentaries if you want to learn more, and I’m certainly not going to get preachy and post animal torture videos, but I do want to urge you to think about how we consume meat, and at least consider that we are eating an animal. That may or may not have had a nice life, depending on where you bought it, but it was a thing that was once alive, and now you’re eating it. So eat it, it’s cool, but let’s just give it more than a second’s pause to think about what we’re doing.

This is difficult, I get it. I still want to eat meat, and I still want to enjoy it, which after watching all the animal torture videos I did makes me think I may have an attachment disorder, but anyway. But I have decided that eating less meat, and really valuing the meat I do eat, is a step in the right direction. (I may able to separate my meat love from animal torture videos because PETA’s history with women is just so awful.) So in the spirit of less meat, more veg, I made vegan tacos! Yay! They actually turned out pretty fine, so try them and let me know what you think.

Start with some firm tofu, and crumble it. In a hot pan, sauté some onions in oil. Add some cumin, coriander, chilli powder, salt and pepper. I also had some mesquite powder, so I added that. Don’t be shy, because we are seasoning tofu. And, by the way, it will be similar to beef, and it will be nice in that sense, but it isn’t beef, so keep your expectations reasonable, mmmkay?

Great. Now add your tofu, and brown the edges in the pan with the spices and onion. Give it a taste and add more seasoning if you need to. You could just use taco seasoning here, but after watching Fed Up, I’m extremely wary of pre-packaged anything. So making your own taco seasoning is delicious and easy, and far healthier. Good for you! Think about the Insta-hashtags you can use when you post it! #Instahealthy #InstaVegan #InstaSuperior! Add a bit of water to the pan and let it simmer while you get your toppings organized. Obviously you want an avocado in there, plus tomatoes, lettuce, and maybe a jalapeno or two!

Now, the other great part of this is your vegan sour cream! Tacos need sour cream right? Well the healthy bitches over at “Oh She Glows” came up with a cashew sour cream for us to use. This is extremely easy; you just soak raw cashews over night, and then blend with lime juice, apple cider vinegar, and some water. It’s not EXACTLY sour cream, but it is creamy and it is sour, and so there you go. Close enough.

I actually ate this as a taco salad, rather than in shells, but just treat the tofu like beef or chicken, and load up or shells or soft tacos or greens! Bonus- without a shell, it’s gluten-free too!

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Crème Brûlée

Oh dear. I've been downright neglectful of the blog. I haven't posted in far too long. So here's yet another terribly difficult dessert for all you masochists out there….(Just kidding! It's deceptively simple! Banana cream pie, this ain't).

To make creme brûlée, it's going to be pretty useful to have a kitchen torch. I got one for Christmas which is was propelled me forward on this journey. It's possible to do with a broiler as well, but it's trickier. Invest in a kitchen torch, because like, why wouldn't you want to feel like a badass welder?

Here's what you need (and since my first attempt failed and I ended up having to make this twice, I recommend buying double just in case):
- 6 to 10 egg yolks. It varies because if you use organic eggs, like I did, the yolks are much smaller and you'll need more. I used six the first time and it was trouble. The next time I used 8 and it was great. 10? I think it would just be that much richer.
- 2.5 cups of heavy cream. I used whipping cream.
- Half a cup of white sugar
- Teaspoon vanilla
- Other seasonings/liqueur to taste. For instance, I added a splash of spiced rum, some star anise, and some cardamom.

Start by simmering your cream over medium heat. This is when I threw in the anise and the cardamom pods, and almost let it steep like a tea. Alton Brown says that you can scrape in a vanilla bean, but chance I would find a vanilla bean in this one horse town! Grand mariner, kahlua, frangelico….all of these would be delicious.

While it's simmering, whisk your egg yolks and sugar together. This is called creaming. Whisk quite a bit until it turns light and fluffy. By now, your cream should be just below a boil. Don't let it reach a full boil; remove it from the heat. Scoop out any seed pods.

Verrrrrry verrrrrrrrrrrry slowwwwly add a drizzle of hot cream into your eggs, whisking all the while. You do this very slowly so that the eggs don't scramble. Add another ladle-ful and keep whisking. When the egg mixture is basically the same temp as the cream, you can reverse the pouring and pour the egg/cream into the just-cream. Keep whisking. You'll probably get some froth and foam on top of the custard (that's what it is now) at this point. Scoop it off if you can with a spoon.

Heat your oven to 375. In a roasting pan or deep casserole pan, set your ramekins on a wet kitchen cloth (this is so that they don't slip around). Pour the custard into the ramekins, until about a little over halfway full. Next, pour hot water all around the sides of the ramekins like a bath. The hot water should come about halfway up the ramekins. Shove it all in the oven and walk away for about 30-40 mins. They're done when they jiggle a little in the middle: Jello jiggle, not liquid jiggle. Pull the roasting pan out and let them cool for 15 mins in the water bath. Then move them to the fridge for the next few hours.

When ready to serve, sprinkle the top with a generous coating of white sugar. Turn your torch on and make small circles over the ramekin to melt, turning occasionally to let the molten sugar coat the whole surface. It'll smell like burning but don't be afraid. Let sugar harden for just a moment or two before serving. How do you know you've succeeded? Knock on the top with a spoon. You should hear a tap-tap sound before a delicious crack!