Entertaining: Introduction to Vegetarian Barbecues

barbecues

Australia Day, Queens birthday, public holidays or any sunny day is a good excuse for Australians to fire up their barbecue or barbie as they call it. When you think about it, we are blessed with good weather at this part of the world so that the barbecue season can be extended for as long as we want.

Even though, barbecues are prone to be meat-centric –thanks to some abusive ads on the TV—it doesn’t have to be that way. There are so many delicious vegetarian barbecue recipes that give us vegetarians the pleasure to enjoy some alfresco meals, especially during balmy Australian summers.

It’s not that difficult to put together a vegetarian barbecue, either. With a little bit of imagination and a vast variety of vegetables, fruits, tofu, burgers, patties, veggie sausages and cheese, you can transform all of these into a mouth-watering vegetarian menu.

Most people think that vegetarian barbecues consist of just grilled mushroom kebabs. In fact, you can use almost any vegetable for barbecuing: zucchinis, cauliflower, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, mushrooms, onions, asparagus, and eggplants.

Vegetarian barbecue is also a healthy way of cooking simply because we use so little oil and our ingredients do not contain too much fat like flesh foods. On top of that, because barbecued food is cooked very quickly and is exposed to intense heat, the food quickly becomes crispy on the outside and the outer crust seals in the moisture and prevent it from drying out. This helps retain the nutrients in vegetables, especially minerals and fat-soluble vitamins which can be diminished by boiling, frying or roasting.

Good things happen in the flavour department, too! The delicate taste of eggplants and zucchini is enhanced by the slightly blackened skins when barbecued; the natural sweetness of colourful capsicum is revealed; and the robust flavours of root vegetables, onions and garlic are stronger and more pungent.

As I mentioned before, there are so many tasty and interesting vegetarian dishes that can be cooked over hot coals. But before we get there, I’d like to talk about barbecue equipment, ingredients, marinades, flavoured butters, barbecue preparation and barbecuing and cleaning tips. So, stay tuned for my next posts.

Product Review: Gardein Mandarin Orange Crispy Chick’n

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We seem to be a huge fan of Gardein products and Gardein Mandarin Orange Crispy Chick’n is no exception. This one in particular has a unique flavour that we so like. Gardein Mandarin Orange Crispy Chick’n Ingredients Water, soy protein … Continue reading

Restaurant Review: Manjit’s at The Wharf

Manjit’s at The Wharf is overlooking Sydney’s darling: Darling Harbour. They do a modern Indian cuisine style of food here which means they have a contemporary take on classic Indian dishes. It’s open kitchen so you get to see where your food is cooked and how it’s cooked. I must admit, it was quite an experience. Here’s how the night went for us:

First, we ordered our drinks as Manjit’s is not BYO. We both had TWR Toru which is a blend of Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Gris. It’s from a certified organic, biodynamic producer in Marlborough, New Zealand. It was a great choice as it complimented spicy food very well.

The service at Manjit’s is quite friendly. We had more than two different waiters and they were all happy to wait on us, talk to us and explain all the dishes.

As for starters, we ordered Gol Gol Gappa and Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Khumb.

Gol Gol Gappa
A contemporary twist on a classic street food delight. I believe it’s pani puri. They are tiny, crunchy, puffed bread filled with spiced chickpea, potato, onion, herbs and flowers. It’s served with tamarind and amchur (mango powder) caviar. You pour it into the puris and eat it all in one go. It was very fresh and spicy. It tickled the back of my palate. Just the way I like it.

Manjit's

After Gol Gol Gappa, we were served complimentary poppadums and they were rolled! Please refer to the photo below.

Manjit's

Our second starter of the night: Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Khumb
Grilled whole organic mushrooms filled with paneer, spiced corn and water chestnut.

Manjit's

As for the mains, we shared Phool and Kaju Ki Sabzi. Vegetarian dishes are marked with a V on Manjit’s menu and Kaju Ki Sabzi is one of their vegetarian signature dishes.

Manjit's

Phool is described as cauliflower pan cooked with coriander seeds, served on potato espuma and toasted cumin on the menu. Espuma is Spanish term for froth or foam, by the way. So, if you are expecting aloo gobi kind of dish here, you are in for a surprise.

Kaju Ki Sabzi (Signature)
Kaju Ki Sabzi is described on Manjit’s menu as “a preparation of cashew nuts sautéed with mixed spices, served with caramelized onion” but there is a surprise there. This sabzi is topped with a spinach kofta stuffed with paneer. It looks like a saag paneer scotch egg!

Manjit's

Desserts from Manjit’s
The dessert menu is actually a lot bigger than most restaurants offer. They do rasmalai, mango pistachio kulfi, kaala jamun, shahi tookra and more. When I saw jalebi on the menu, my decision was made. Even though, I was warned that it wasn’t like the classic jalebi, I still wanted to take my chance and hire the fat girl. It was different! I could taste jalebi but it was different. It’s actually made of thinly sliced green apple, dipped into jalebi mixture and fried and stacked up. At the top, there is a ball of white chocolate with rose cream inside.

Manjit's

Apple jalebi was my dessert, John, on the other hand, decided to have chai creme brulee.
Crispy green apple fritters coated in a fragrant saffron and rose flavoured syrup.

Chai Creme Brulee 
A soft, creamy creme brulee with a delicate hint of spicy chai finished with a caramelized crunch of toffee.

Manjit's

Manjit’s at the Wharf can be found at this address:
49 Lime Street, King Street Wharf
Sydney, NSW 2000
Phone: 02 9279 3379
Email: info@manjits.com.au
Website

Kumera & English Spinach Gnocchi from Harvest Vegetarian

Kumera & English Spinach Gnocchi from Harvest Vegetarian Cookbook is an incredibly time consuming recipe but it’s worth the effort.

The recipe below yields quite a bit of gnocchi but don’t fret because gnocchi freezes well. Just lightly dust them with flour and freeze them in a bag.

If you don’t have time or energy to make your own gnocchi, you could buy ready-made gnocchi from chiller section of your supermarket and bake it with Lemon and Garlic Cream Sauce.

English Spinach Gnocchi

Kumera & English Spinach Gnocchi from Harvest Vegetarian
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 6

Gather:
500g (2 cups, 1.1 lb) desiree or pontiac potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
250g (1 cup, 8 oz) kumara (sweet potato), peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons salt pepper to taste
1 bunch lemon thyme, leaves only
90g (3 oz) English spinach leaves (wash, chop and wash again)
2 tablespoons fresh basil or oregano, finely chopped
500g (2 cups, 1.1 lb) plain flour

Lemon and Garlic Cream Sauce
300ml (1/4 cups, 10 fl oz) cream
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Juice of 1 lemon

250g (1 cup, 8 oz) parmesan, grated

Create:
• Boil potatoes until just cooked-when a wooden skewer can just be inserted, do not overcook. Drain. When cool, peel and return to pan to dry off well. Mash until smooth.
• Boil kumara until just cooked. (Do not cook with potatoes as each has a different cooking time.) Drain and mash.
• Combine potato and kumara mash, salt, pepper to taste, lemon thyme leaves, chopped spinach and basil or oregano. Add flour to thicken and mix thoroughly.
• Wash and oil your hands and roll a teaspoon of gnocchi mix into a ball. Place on a tray and continue until all the mix is rolled. You will need to wash and oil your hands as you go.
• Roll each ball in the seasoned flour and roll in clean, floured hands for up to two minutes each, to help develop the gluten and allows the gnocchi balls to maintain their shape when cooking. Place balls on a clean tray and continue until all the gnocchi is rolled and ready to cook.
• Drop 6-8 balls at a time into a saucepan of lightly salted boiling water. They rise to the top when cooked. Remove and place in sauce. (Or, prior to placing in sauce, you can keep in refrigerator for two days or freeze for later use.)
• To make the Lemon and Garlic Cream Sauce: Combine cream, garlic and lemon juice in a saucepan bring all ingredients to the boil then simmer until thick. Stir frequently. Place gnocchi in sauce and stir to coat.
• Transfer into an ovenproof serving dish and cover with grated parmesan then grill until golden.

Product Review: Caroline’s Vegetarian Fishless Tuna

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Caroline’s Vegetarian Fishless Tuna looks and tastes like tuna. I’d say very close to the real thing. It is a vegan product which now can be purchased in Australia. It is also very practical: you just open the tin, drain … Continue reading

Water: How to Jazz Up Your Water

Dissatisfaction with the taste of water is one of the factors in increasing the possibility of chronic, mild dehydration. Unfortunately, some people do not like the taste of water. They find it bland, flavourless or simply uninteresting.

water

Here’s some tips to jazz up your water to make it more exciting:

Add bubbles: Sparkling water has more personality than flat variety. This is also my husband’s favourite.
Add colour: Add half a teaspoon of turmeric powder and a pinch of cayenne pepper to your glass. Not only will it look super bright – you’ll get the added antioxidant benefits of the turmeric, and the warming properties of the cayenne pepper.
Add fruit: Citrus such as lemon, lime, grapefruit and orange, blueberries, sliced strawberries or kiwi fruit to your water to enhance the flavour. Just remember; by doing that, you are also adding vitamin C to your water. You can get a fruit infusion bottle easily to do the job like the one in photo below.

water
Add some green: Add fresh herbs like mint or wheatgrass juice to freshen things up a little. Not only does it have a minty fresh taste, it also helps to alkalise and detoxify the body.

In the summer
Have your herbal teas chilled: make a large pot of herbal tea such as rosehip, peppermint or chamomile and allow it to cool. Then you’ll have lots of flavoured water to see you throughout the day. There are some nice blends of fruit teas and the good thing about them is they are caffeine free. I also use frozen berries instead of ice during summer.

In the winter
When it is cold, start your day with a glass of warm water with half a lemon squeezed into it and a tablespoon of natural honey. This also breaks up mucous and helps eliminate toxins.

When you want something warm during cold days of winter, try herbal teas. There are some really nice blends out there to try. They will help keep you warm and hydrated during winter.

How to Create a Habit
It can be tricky to create a habit of drinking water regularly. Here’s a few tips:
• Drink water at regular times every day so you don’t forget. For example, drink a glass of water first thing when you wake up.
• Keep a bottle of water or even a jug of water on your desk or table where you spend most of your time. Somewhere easy to see, basically. It’ll serve as a constant reminder throughout the day.

Restaurant Review: Yellow, Potts Point – Sydney

Restaurant Review: Yellow, Potts Point – Sydney
When I did Bentley’s Bar and Restaurant review, I promised to go and try their sister restaurant, Yellow and tell you all about it. I am keeping my promise.

The Place
Even though it was our first time, Yellow has been around since 2013. However, in early 2016 it became exclusively vegetarian. The décor is quite contemporary with deliberately unfinished areas on the walls. Yellow is in Potts Point. Is there anything yellow in this place, you may ask? Yes. The walls outside.

The Wine
The wine list at Yellow is quite eclectic with a range of natural, bio and organic vintages from around the world. And, they complement the menu nicely.

The Food
The menu at Yellow is exclusively vegetarian. Peter, the assistant manager was kind enough to let me keep my copy of their menu so that I could match my experience with the dishes properly. It always helps when I write about it. Here, I typed in their 5 Course Tasting Menu for you:

5 Course Tasting Menu

Fennel + Fresh Curds + Apple
2014 Weingut Dr Salomon ‘Kogl’ Reisling from Kremstal, Austria
Grapefruit Spritz

Heirloom Zucchini + Pepitas + Juniper
2015 Partida Creus VN Blanco Field Blend, Catalunya, Spain
Turkish Apple Tea

Spaghetti Squash + Shimeji Mushrooms + Salted Egg
2015 Ruggabellus ‘Fluus’ Grenache Blend, Barossa Valley, South Australia
Pear + Yuzu

Forbidden Rice + Butter Beans + Smoked Yoghurt
2014 Moranza Tempranillo, Rioja, Spain
Apple + Beetroot + Carrot

Blood Plum Sorbet + Toasted Buckwheat + Wattle Curd
2014 Domaine Delevaux Coteaux Du Layon ‘Passerille’ Chenin Blanc, Loire Valley, France
Nectarine + Kombucha

Before the menu above was served, our dinner started with complimentary bread and butter, followed by Mexican Cucumber and Baby Turnip in Buttermilk and Toasted Black Sesame Seeds (see photo below).

Yellow

Fennel + Fresh Curds + Apple
This is a contrast of textures with the softness of the fresh curd, creaminess of the sauce and the crunchiness of the fennel and unexpected sweet bursts of cured and fermented apple. The dish was paired with 2014 Reisling from Austria. We are a huge fan of Austrian wines. This one is young and crisp with a touch of acidity and residual sweetness. Quite well balanced and it works well as a great aperitif. Perfect match!

Yellow

Heirloom Zucchini + Pepitas + Juniper
Zucchini, zucchini flowers: all the best of the zucchini family. Zucchini flowers are the male ones and the stem was used in this dish as well, not just the flowers. They were cooked to perfection; totally melted in my mouth. The dish was paired with 2015 Partida Creus VN Blanco Field Blend from Catalunya, Spain. And, it’s an interesting one. It is quite funky on the nose, almost like an orange wine. It is cloudy because the wine maker does not like filtering his wines very much. Fully biodynamic winery and this one in particular, almost sulphur free. Glen, the manager, told us that the little amount of sulphur which is added is in there for the sake of lasting the journey. This was my favourite wine of the night; it is vibrant, fresh with complex flavours. I will be talking about this wine for many days to come. However, our waiter, Ryan, was kind enough to give us the details of the wine company’s importer so we may be able to get some.

Yellow

Spaghetti Squash + Shimeji Mushrooms + Salted Egg
With this dish, you are moving on to more savoury notes and the portions are getting bigger, too. It is also the time that you feel you need to slow down. I absolutely loved the salted eggs and the sauce in this dish. It was paired with a blend of Mataro, Syrah and Grenache from Barossa Valley, South Australia. The first Australian wine of the night and the first red wine of the night, too. With its 13% alcohol, it is almost like Pinot Noir. And it complemented the savouriness of the dish very well.

Yellow

Forbidden Rice + Butter Beans + Smoked Yoghurt
This was quite filling and rich. The dish has black rice crisps on top (which you cannot see in the photo because I ate them) and cabbage powder around.

Yellow

Because the dish is quite rich, it was served with a palate cleanser: Heirloom Tomatoes + Grains of Paradise + Fresh Basil (photo below).

Yellow

The dish was paired with a 2014 Tempranillo from Rioja, Spain.

Yellow

Blood Plum Sorbet + Toasted Buckwheat + Wattle Curd
As you can see in the photo, this is the dessert of the night. It was quite refreshing after two savoury dishes. I personally loved the contrast of textures. It was paired with a 2014 Domaine Delevaux Coteaux Du Layon ‘Passerille’ Chenin Blanc, Loire Valley, France.

Yellow can be found at this address:
57 Macleay Street
Potts Point NSW 2011
Website
Phone: 02 9332 2344

How to Store Fresh Fruits and Vegetables in a Nutshell

store

Our markets and supermarkets are overflowing with delicious and healthy fruits and vegetables. This little guide below brings together basics of storing fruits and vegetables to maintain their quality, colour, freshness, flavour and nutrient value.

Green leafy vegetables and salad vegetables (salad greens) are incredibly perishable and therefore should be consumed as soon as possible. They should be stored in the crisper or vented plastic bags in the fridge (plastic bags with holes). Too much moisture is the enemy when it comes to green leafy vegetables and salad greens. So, you shouldn’t wash them at all before you store them as it can cause spoilage.

Apples and pears are best stored in the fridge.

Tomatoes should not be refrigerated. Keeping them at room temperature until needed is the most convenient. Keep in mind that under-ripe tomatoes will ripen best at room temperature. Take tomatoes out of plastic bags to avoid the growth of bacteria. Keep them away from sunlight as it destroys vitamin C. Store in a single layer unless you want the tomatoes to ripen quickly, as heat causes ripening, not light.

Berries, stone-fruit, melons, grapes, kiwi fruit
Berries, stone-fruit, melons, grapes and kiwi fruit should be stored unwashed in the fridge. Just keep in mind that these fruits tend to bruise very easily.

Bananas
Store at moderate room temperature. If hot, keep in a cool place but do not refrigerate.

Mushrooms
Mushrooms can be stored in the refrigerator, but should be wiped clean and placed in a brown paper bag. This way they will keep in good condition for three to four days. Do not store them in plastic because they will begin to decay quickly.

Root vegetables – carrots, turnips, beetroot, parsnips
Store these root vegetables in sealed plastic bags or the crisper compartment of the fridge.

Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Onions and Garlic

Potatoes should not be refrigerated. To store potatoes, remove from plastic bags and place in a hessian or paper bag. Keep them in a cool, dark, dry place with good ventilation. Sweet potatoes, onions (except for spring onions) and garlic should be stored in the same manner. For garlic, you can buy terracotta containers with holes that are designed specifically for garlic.

Product Review: Gardein Golden Fishless Filets

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Gardein Golden Fishless Filets are an absolute life-saver in the kitchen. They are so practical; I stopped making my own vegetarian fish and chips from scratch. There is nothing fishy here, just great taste and 0mega-3s without cholesterol. Dip in … Continue reading