Vegetarian Series: Orange Chocolate Cheesecake (Vegan)

We were wrongDSC09404

We were wrong when we pitied vegetarians and ESPECIALLY vegans for not being able to partake in our oh-so-often omnivorous spread of devilishly delectable desserts! We were wrong when we dismissed the thought of going vegetarian or vegan because we simply couldn’t do without dessert!  And we were wrong when we thought that all vegans ever eat are dry, characterless seeds and roots and leaves!

Just when I started thinking that this vegetarian series was going to be boring and personality-less, I googled “vegetarian desserts” on a whim and, as if by kismet, I was led to this picture on this Pinterest page. I followed the trail and eventually came across the recipe here, compliments of fettlevegan (check out her blog and try some of her recipes… such insight, such innovation!).

Anyway, since then, my life  hasn’t been the same!

Somehow, in the blender, DSC09379the individual cashews died and were collectively resurrected as a smooth, creamy, thick, rich ‘batter’, that, with a splash of OJ, orange extract and agave syrup, and just a breath of cocoa powder, attained the gastronomical equivalent of sainthood.

It’s like nothing I’ve ever tasted before! Next time I make this -because, there will be a next time- I think I’m gonna replace the cashews with hazelnuts, or at least toss a couple of ’em in there. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up inventing my own vegan ‘nutella’ cheesecake recipe! In fact, you know what, I think I just might do that!

As it turns out, vegans aren’t necessarily missing out on all the fun!

Vegetarian Series: Aloo Jeera

Spicy, aromatic, simple! Manjula was absolutely right! DSC09285

We’ve always been partial to Indian food largely, we think, because we grew up in a country where the majority of the population is East Indian. But to be able to replicate that authentic flavour and even aroma, in our own kitchen, no way! Right? WRONG! With Manjula’s help we were able to do just that!

The kind folks at Manjula’s Kitchen walked us through this recipe step by step.

As usual, there were some substitutions: instead of green chillies, we used Scotch Bonnet peppers (because they’re locally sourced and we’re big on that), we couldn’t find, much less pronounce the asafetida, so we went without it, and as per Manjula’s suggestion, we replaced the mango powder with lemon juice.

And if we can be so bold as to make a suggestion ourselves, we think it would be a superb idea to boil the potatoes in salt water instead of adding it later (it tends to hold the flavour a bit better that way).

Find the recipe here and try it yourselves. If you like spicy, aromatic dishes which couldn’t be simpler to make, we have a feeling you won’t be able to get enough of Aloo Jeera!

Recipe #31: Mom’s Homemade bread

And last but not least, we rounded out 2012 with Homemade Bread which traditionally accompanies Pepperpot 0n Christmas Morning in Guyana. Since this is my mother’s recipe, you won’t find proportions like tablespoons or measuring cups. Instead, my mom estimates everything using regular utensils like eating spoons and coffee mugs. Who am I to argue with deliciousness? This recipe is as much a tribute to her as it was a gift to us!

Ingredients:

  • 3 packets of Fleischman’s Yeast
  • 8  eating spoons of sugar (NOT measuring spoons but actual eating spoons, the sugar should fit in a heap on the spoon). Use spoons that you would eat soup with.
  • 2 regular sized coffee mugs filled with warm water
  • 4 eating spoon tips of salt (heap the salt on the tip of the eating spoon ONLY. Do not fill the spoon)
  • 4oz butter
  • Flour

Instructions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine yeast and 6 eating spoons of sugar into a sugar and crush the yeast in the bowl with the back of the spoon.
  2. Add 1 warm water to the yeast mixture and cover and set aside for raising. Feel free to set this aside next to the stove so that warm currents can aid yeast activity. This process is called “setting the yeast”  and you may avoid this step if you use “instant yeast”..  When my mother grew up, bread makes had to test the efficacy of the yeast before adding the flour – an entire batch of bread could be spoiled by impotent yeast. So by force of habit, my mom usually sets the yeast before proceeding.
  3. When the yeast mixture has risen, looking fluffy and foaming a bit, uncover bowl and add salt.
  4. Add the remaining two more eating spoons of sugar. Adjust the salt and sugar amounts to taste – some people like saltier breads as opposed sweeter.
  5. Add butter.
  6. Add 1 more mug of warm water. In this step, if  you add an extra cup of water here, add another 2 oz of butter in the step above.
  7. Add enough flour to make a dough.
  8. Knead, Knead, Knead and Knead some more until a smooth elastic dough is formed into a large circle (or until you’re exhausted ?:)). If you are using whole wheat flour, mix the whole wheat flour with white flour in 50-50 proportions to ensure an elastic dough. Whole wheat tends to be heavy and tight so balance with white flour.
  9. Cut a slit on the top of the dough and cover and set aside for more raising in a warm place. Uncover when the dough has doubled in size.
  10. Grease several bread pans while the dough is rising.
  11. Form dough into even sized smaller circles (or plait the bread if that’s what you like) and place into greased bread pans.
  12. Let the dough rise in the pans for about 20 to 30 minutes. This improves the shape of the dough and final product.
  13. Bake in a hot oven (375F) for 15 minutes on the middle shelf.
  14. Reduce the heat to 350F and bake for another 30 minutes.
  15. To test if the bread is finished, rap the bread with your knuckles. It should sound hollow. Of course, a lovely golden brown color is a good indication that it is finished.
  16. Extract from oven and brush loaves with butter. This removes any white flour that may have settled on top of the loaf. Alternatively you can sprinkle loaves with water BEFORE putting it into the oven.
  17. With that, you are finally ready to serve and enjoy!

Phew! Are you exhausted by just reading those steps? Trust me, it is worth it. Here is how ours went :

So there you have it. 31 recipes completed in one year. Hopefully in 2013, we’re able to write up posts as fast as we make dishes 🙂

Recipe #30 : Mom’s Pepperpot

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PepperPot, typically eaten with bread for breakfast on Christmas morning

Most people wake up on Christmas morning anxious to open presents. Breakfast, if a special thing at all, is merely a pit stop on the way to the presents or a way to bring everyone down from the high of receiving all that fab new stuff!

Well, for Guyanese (at least these Guyanese), breakfast is the destination NOT the journey to the presents or a stop on the way back from the presents. Christmas breakfast is pretty much all we can think about the night before, and that’s all due to a favourite dish of ours, Pepperpot.

It’s impossible to spoil us on this dish as it’s only prepared once a year in most Guyanese kitchens, and that’s at Christmas time. Pepperpot (NOT this) is a dark, meat stew and sauce mixture, flavoured with cinnamon, clove and other spices. In fact, just about the only main ingredients are meat (usually pork or beef), cinnamon sticks, cloves, salt, whole peppers (when in Guyana we use wiri wiri peppers, when in Jamaica we use Scotch Bonnet peppers), and cassareep which gives it its signature dark colour.

It most closely resembles a soup and is eaten by hand with thick chunks of homemade bread – the bread is ripped from the loaf, dipped into the spicy stew, soaked and devoured. It gets better folks, Pepperpot improves with age, so while it may be at its freshest on Christmas morning, it’s definitely at its best closer to New Years!

Here’s how our mom does it:*

  • Season meat with salt, onion and fine leaf thyme.
  • Spray bottom of pan and heat seasoned meat.
  • Add water to cover the meat.
  • After it boils a bit, add clove and cinnamon sticks. Let boil for 15 minutes.
  • Put in a whole pepper (or a few =)). 15 minutes more of boiling
  • Add cassareep until the liquid turns black, not brown.
  • When the meat is tender (or you find yourself suddenly beating people off with a stick because they’ve begun descending on the boiling pot seemingly from out of nowhere!) you’re done!

* Disclaimer : this is our mother’s version (no animal faces or ears or blubbery, fatty pieces of things). Please refer to What’s Cooking in Guyana for versions which may be more… authentic =)

Recipe #29: Mom’s ‘BBQ’ Chicken

The final three recipes done in 2012 are what we call ‘Mom’s recipes”. Being  home for the holidays gave us a chance to learn a few dishes and tips from our Mom. So Recipe #29 is Mom’s ‘BBQ’ Chicken – the term BBQ being used loosely :).  This is my mom’s go-to seasoned chicken recipe that we just happen to call BBQ Chicken. It is tasty enough to be part of your dinner party menu yet simple enough to be made before work on a weekday and savored throughout the week. All ingredients are added to taste so there is no way to get it wrong!

Ingredients

  • Chicken
  • Apple cider Vinegar
  • Any Smoked/Honey BBQ sauce
  • Any mixture of spices  for example, I used Herbes de Provence, Chinese Five Spice, Garlic Powder, Salt, Crushed Red Pepper

Instructions

  1. Thaw chicken and separate into serving sized pieces (leg, thigh, breast etc). Soak in Vinegar.
  2. Drain and lay out pieces in a shallow oven-safe pan.
  3. Generously cover the meat with all of the spices one at a time.
  4. Generously pour BBQ sauce over the seasoned meat and use a spoon to spread across the entire surface. Don’t be shy with the sauce. Once baked, the seasoning-infused sauce will do nicely if poured over rice.
  5. Flip each piece of meat so that the seasoned side is on the bottom and repeat steps 3 and 4. Alternatively, you can cover the bottom of the pan with the sauce and seasoning mixture to avoid having to flip the meat. Clean the sides of the dish for a neater look if you’d like to serve this directly out of the oven.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes
  7. Serve and enjoy!

Here is how it went: