Saturday, 15 March 2014

Christmas 2013

Yes, I know. It’s mid-March. But I have only just got round to transferring pictures from my iPhone, itself a complete novelty for me, and found these.

It was a relatively warm Christmas in 2013. My mother avers that Christmas in Melbourne is always 25˚C and overcast, but we’d had a spell of hot weather and it was a bit more summery than that.

Neither of us is particularly bothered about Christmas, and we’ve never done it conventionally. Turkey etc has only appeared if we went to relatives’ homes for Christmas, and I’ve not eaten meat since I was about 13 anyway. Moreover, quite a few Christmases have been spent with other vegetarians.

My proposal for the 2013 Christmas was plant-based dishes, and some meaty/cheesy accompaniments for my carnivorous mother, in a kind of mezze-ish arrangement.

As usual, the inner North came up trumps for interesting and reasonably-priced provisions. On the (vegan friendly!) plate are:

Organic baby spinach + organic orange salad;

Organic heirloom radishes (purple, red, white) with Mount Zero salt;

Tomato, red onion, avocado;

Roasted Japanese eggplant with pomegranate arils;

Roasted asparagus (which was a ludicrous 25c a bunch) and roasted chopped almonds.

Plus gigantic Macadamia nuts; Edwards pumpkin seed sourdough; fruit loaf (can’t remember which bakery - either Philippa’s, La Madre or Zeally Bay, courtesy of the Brunswick IGA).

For Madam Carnivore, Chianina bresaola and Fromager d’Affinois with truffles (from DOC Delicatessen), plus butter from Isigny Ste-Mère.

Dessert for the omnivore was Pavlova. I bought half a kilo of cherries from the Vic Market, paid a (relatively) scary sum for red currants, and got some wildly cheap strawberries (not cheap in taste, fortunately). The pavlova recipe was nothing special - Google will yield many, all basically the same. I might have used ACV instead of white vinegar, but otherwise no fiddling there. The cream was vanilla bean cream, though I had originally planned to use marscapone.

I gorged myself on cherries, nearly (but not quite!) sickening myself of them in the process. 

I think the most significant lesson from this was that the odd luxury item, like a pomegranate, can make an enormous difference to a dish. Realistically, a couple of dollars on the odd special ingredient shouldn't be kept only for Christmas. So I will probably make the eggplant dish more often. 

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Echt Apple Pie

This, I apologise, is not remotely vegan, but easily veganised.

I spotted Bramley apples at one of the Vic Market’s organic stalls last week, and promised my mother that the next time I visited I would make a proper apple pie. Happily, when I went to get said apples, I saw that new season Cox’s were also available. Hurrah for freedom from the tyranny of Royal Galas (my particular bete noir) and other mainstream apple varieties.

According to St Delia, and others, the best apple pies involve two sorts of apples: Bramleys, which are unpleasant raw but turn into velvety fluff when cooked; and Cox’s. (Incidentally, the Wiki page needs correcting - it’s not the case that Cox’s are unsuitable for cooking.)

Pleasingly, Delia’s recipe (in her Winter Collection) uses parsimonious quantities of fat and sugar, and a colossal quantity of apples. Intriguingly, she also uses Cheddar cheese in the crust.

I made a number of variations to her recipe.

For the pastry, I used all butter, rather than half butter and half lard. I omitted the cheese, because the only cheeses in the house were completely unsuitable. I also substituted about 80g of the plain flour with lupin flour, because it was there and because I could. (This ups the protein content slightly.)

For the filling, Delia recommends scattering semolina over the pastry base before alternating layers of sliced apples with sugar and studding with the odd clove.

I mixed together apple cake spice (Gewurtzhaus), sugar, vanilla sugar, cardamom pistachio sugar (Gewurtzhaus again!), ground linseed/flaxseed.

It was appallingly steamy in Melbourne, so I had to work quickly with the pastry. Fortunately it rolled out beautifully. Just under half was used to line a glass pie dish (though metal would be better), and a scattering of the ground flaxseed mixture went on top, followed by layers of apple and the flax/spice/sugar mix. The remaining pastry was rolled out, draped over the top, sealed and covered with egg wash.

In view of the weather, the pie was refrigerated while the oven heated up.

I had to ignore the cooking time, since my mother’s oven is markedly cooler than it pretends to be, and it was well over an hour before it was ready. 

And obviously vanilla ice-cream was mandatory.

What was good about this recipe is that, apart from the tedium of peeling, coring and slicing the apples, the rest was dead easy to assemble. No blind baking. No pre-cooing of the apples. In general, not a lot of faff.

I’ve yet to try vegan pastry making, but presumably it would be easy enough to veganise with appropriate non-animal fats.