Ingredient Profile: Tomatoes

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Vegetable Profile: Tomatoes Origin of Tomatoes Tomatoes are native to Central America and had been brought to Europe by the Spaniards. However, Europeans initially thought that they were poisonous so they did not gain popularity for quite some time. They … Continue reading

How to Put Together a Cheese Platter

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How to Put Together a Cheese Platter Entertaining? How about putting together a cheese platter? Gathering around a delightful cheese plate and some wine is becoming more and more popular these days. So this post is all about how to put … Continue reading

Turkish Stuffed Zucchini or Kabak Dolması

Turkish Stuffed Zucchini or Kabak Dolması

I order our fruits and vegetables –along with some other pantry items –through Harris Farm to be delivered to my door every week. They now have this “imperfect picks” option. Basically, your usual fruits and vegetables that don’t look good on the outside. The ugly guys, so to speak. However, they taste good and are cheaper as well.

We’re having friends over for dinner on Friday night. So I put together a menu after I talked to them if they were allergic to anything or if there’s anything they don’t like –standard dinner party procedure. Based on what I’ll be cooking for them and our weekly menu items, I put my order in. Luckily, the ugly zucchinis I ordered happened to have large bottoms! That means, they are large enough to stuff!

Turkish Stuffed Zucchini Kabak Dolması

A note on vegetarian mince: I used Quorn vegetarian mince in this recipe because I can’t get Linda McCartney’s mince anymore in Australia and I really don’t like Sanitarium’s mince. The other alternative to vegetarian mince is The Redwood VegiDeli Gourmet Meat Free Mince but I find it quite expensive and not so easy to get. Quorn mince, on the other hand, can be purchased from Woolworths or Coles, depending on the branch.

A note on an absent ingredient: The traditional Kabak Dolması has rice in the stuffing mix and we have it with plain buttered pasta as a side dish –very German/Austrian, I know. I didn’t use rice this time because I was planning on making a rice pilaf as a side dish and didn’t want things too rice-y. Well, I didn’t make the rice pilaf in the end but dolmas were already cooking when I made that decision. Let’s not talk about it, shall we?

Turkish Stuffed Zucchini or Kabak Dolması

Ingredients:
4 large pieces zucchini

For the Stuffing Mixture:
4 tablespoons Quorn vegetarian mince, thawed (see note above)
½ small brown onion, chopped finely
1 small tomato, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon Turkish pepper paste (hot)
A drizzle vegetable oil
A large pinch Turkish dried mint
Salt to taste
A pinch ground sweet paprika

For Garlic Yoghurt:
4 tablespoons Greek style plain yoghurt
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 twig fresh dill, chopped

Method:
• Peel and carve out the fleshy part of zucchinis.
• Mix together the vegetarian mince, chopped onion, chopped tomato, Turkish hot pepper paste, vegetable oil, chopped dill, dried mint, salt, black pepper and ground paprika.
• Fill the hollow parts of zucchinis with the stuffing mixture. You will have some extra stuffing mixture.
• Place the extra stuffing mixture in a saucepan and lightly cook. Carefully transfer the stuffed zucchinis into the saucepan and fill up the gaps between dolmas with boiled water. Put the lid on and once it starts to boil, reduce the heat.
• Meanwhile, prepare the garlic yoghurt by mixing together yoghurt, crushed garlic and fresh dill weeds. If it’s too thick, add a few drops of water until you reach the right consistency –it should be a little runny. Set aside.
• When stuffed zucchinis are fully cooked, serve immediately with garlic yoghurt. Afiyet olsun!

Turkish Stuffed Zucchini Kabak Dolması

Turkish Pepper Paste (Biber Salçası)

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Turkish Pepper Paste or Biber Salçası Some like it hot, some like it sweet. Whichever you prefer, Turkish Pepper Paste (Biber Salçası) is the ultimate ingredient of every Turkish pantry. Turkish Pepper Paste (Biber Salçası) –also called kırmızı biber salçası … Continue reading

A Middle Eastern Classic: Babaganoush

A Middle Eastern Classic BabaganoushA Middle Eastern Classic: Babaganoush

Babaganoush is a Middle Eastern classic and it is one of those mezes I learnt from a neighbour back in Turkey. Thank you Asiye Teyze!

Babaganoush showcases smoking eggplant (aubergine) over flame and this is where that distinctive smoky flavour is coming from. However, you could do the same thing with barbeque. The recipe below covers both cooking methods.

A Middle Eastern Classic: Babaganoush

Ingredients:
1 round eggplant (aubergine)
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons tahini paste
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Salt to taste
Ground sweet paprika, to decorate
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling (optional)
Pitta bread, to serve

Method:

To smoke eggplant (aubergine): Prick eggplants a few times with a fork or tip of a knife. Over a gas flame, evenly char the skin of eggplant, turning regularly. Transfer to a plate and when cool enough to handle, peel the skin. Drop the eggplant into a bowl filled with cold water. Wait for a few minutes and then squeeze out excess water with your hand.
• Chop smoked eggplant finely and transfer into a bowl. Add lemon juice, tahini paste, crushed garlic, cumin and salt. Stir until smooth and well combined. If the mixture is too thick gradually add a little water. Drizzle with olive oil if you like and serve with pitta bread.

How to Barbeque Eggplant (Aubergine)
The rules are the same as smoking eggplant: Prick the eggplant a few times with a fork or tip of a knife. Place the eggplant directly over the flame and barbeque, turning to char on all sides until the skin blisters and the eggplant is completely soft. Remove from the heat with a pair of tongs. Allow to cool and peel off the blackened skin. After this stage, follow the recipe.

Savoury Herbed French Toast, VegFusion Style

Savoury Herbed French Toast, VegFusion Style is a savoury version of French toast; a total contrast to its sweet cousins. They make excellent lunches so I make them for me and my husband during the weekends. They are also a great way of using stale, left over bread. I always serve them with a little bit of raw salad as it freshens things up a great deal. In this recipe, I used fresh tomato salad but you can use whatever you have in your fridge at the time. Green salad is another alternative or even coleslaw would go well.

You may have noticed the fact that the recipe does not have much in the way of measurements. The reason for that is because I never use measurements for a recipe like this myself while making savoury French toasts.

The recipe below serves 2 hungry people.

Savoury Herbed French Toast, VegFusion Style

Savoury Herbed French Toast, VegFusion Style

Ingredients for Tomato Salad:
1 large tomato, sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
Lemon juice

Ingredients for French Toast:
2 eggs
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Dried oregano
Dried mint (spearmint)
10 slices French stick (stale works better than fresh)
Oil for pan-frying
Fresh chives

Method:
To make the tomato salad: slice the tomato and place on serving plates. To make the salad dressing: Whisk together extra virgin olive oil, salt and lemon juice. Drizzle over tomato slices.
To make the French Toast: Crack the eggs in a bowl. Beat the eggs with salt, freshly ground black pepper (if you want, you could use white pepper instead), dried oregano and dried mint (spearmint). Set aside.
• Slice the bread into 10 even slices. Set aside until the frying oil is ready.
• Heat the oil in a heavy-based, large frying pan. Dip the bread into egg mixture and drop them into hot oil. You could do them in batches. Once one side of the bread is golden brown turn them over and fry the other side too.
• Drain the slices on paper towel.
To serve: Arrange French toast on serving plates next to the tomato salad and sprinkle all of them with fresh chives. Serve immediately.

Big Bites Pure Vegetarian Restaurant, Singapore

Big Bites Pure Vegetarian Restaurant, Singapore
Big Bites Pure Vegetarian Restaurant is located on a busy Serangoon Road in Little India, Singapore. The place is not far from famous Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple and that’s how me and my husband ended up at Big Bites in the first place. We were just visiting the area and suddenly hunger kicked in.

The Food
Big Bite’s incredibly extensive menu –including a section for children—seems to have pretty much every example of Indian food from idlis, chaats, dosas, oothapam, sizzler dishes to biryani. Indian bread section includes roti, naan, chappati, pratha and kulcha. Even the dosa section in their menu has a large variety of dosas which I have never come across anywhere else before. North and south Indian thali are also available although they call them meals.

Big Bites Pure Vegetarian Restaurant Singapore

Although they call themselves pure vegetarian, it’s just vegetarian from what I observed. However, they have a sign saying “Jain preparation is available upon request” and that means they are capable of preparing vegan food. Jain food in India although being lacto vegetarian excludes dairy if animal cruelty is involved. So, vegans should be catered well hereat Big Bites Pure Vegetarian Restaurant.

The Service
I must admit, being an Indian restaurant, the service didn’t even have the smidgen of Indian hospitality or friendliness. We didn’t know that they had a variety of desserts downstairs which were not on the menu. So, we ended up buying sweets on our way out.

The Ambiance
Ground floor has some chairs and tables and a large buffet of Indian sweets. However, you dine upstairs. The dining area upstairs was quite stuffy but they didn’t seem to be using air conditioning. It’s not only you are in a humid climate but also consuming hot and spicy food. I think they should reconsider their cooling plan. Clearly leaving the windows open doesn’t help at all.

Big Bites Pure Vegetarian Restaurant Singapore
The Verdict
While Big Bites seems to be the only sensible choice when you visit Little India, the food is oily, the service is unfriendly and it is quite hot upstairs in the dining area.

Big Bites Pure Vegetarian Restaurant
70 Serangoon Road
Singapore 217975
No website
Phone: +65 6297 6297

Little India and Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple
Little India is the perfect place to buy little trinkets, souvenirs, Indian CDs, movies if you’re into Bollywood and gorgeous saris. I believe the best place for shopping is Little Indian Arcade which is located on Hastings Road. I remember buying incredibly colourful Indian bangles there.

Big Bites Pure Vegetarian Restaurant Singapore

Food is a huge part of Indian culture and the shops around Little India have everything an Indian cook would need from herbs and spices to fresh produce. For everything else, locals go across to Johor Bharu, Malaysia. How do I know this? Because, we travelled to Johor Bharu with a local to buy some string hoppers.

There are a few Indian temples around the area. My favourite one is Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple which is one of the oldest temples in Singapore. It was completed in 1880s and is dedicated to Kali: the goddess of destruction (Kali can be seen in the photo below: the upper right corner).

Big Bites Pure Vegetarian Restaurant Singapore

When we arrived at Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, there was this full-on ceremony happening with live music. You can see the main worship hall in this short video below.

Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple
141 Serangoon Road
Singapore 218042

Stir-Fried Vegetables with Ginger and Cashew Nuts

Stir-Fried Vegetables Ginger Cashew NutsStir-Fried Vegetables with Ginger and Cashew Nuts

My husband and I decided to have a whole Thai week; cooking our favourite Thai dishes for the entire week. He made his famous Pad Thai and Thai Green Curry and I made Roasted Faux-Duck Curry and Stir-Fried Vegetables with Ginger and Cashew Nuts –the subject of this post.

The recipe comes from a vegetarian cooking class we did together in Bangkok. This one was one those dishes we actually cooked during the class taught by May Kaidee. It took me quite a long time to make another attempt outside Thailand but when I did, it turned out to be quite something.

Stir-Fried Vegetables with Ginger and Cashew Nuts

Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 pack prepared tofu
1 small carrot, chopped
½ onion, coarsely chopped
1 small tomato, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 birds eye chillies, finely chopped
¼ broccoli, broken into florets
¼ cauliflower, broken into florets
8 pieces woodear mushrooms, torn into small pieces
12 tbsp water
2 tsp vegan fish sauce
2 tsp sugar
4 tbsp Lamyong Mushroom (Oyster) Sauce
4 tbsp grated ginger
4 tbsp dry-toasted cashews

Method:
• To prepare the tofu, drain the whole pack and pat dry. Place the tofu on a plate with two layers of paper towel on and wrap the tofu up with the paper towel for better absorption. Put another plate on top (upside down) and stack up a few heavy books. Change the paper towel about an hour later and repeat the process until the tofu is dry. Then cut the tofu into small squares. Heat 1 cup of oil in a wok and fry the tofu until golden brown. Drain and set aside. Discard the oil and wipe the wok with a paper towel, getting it ready for the vegetables.
• Heat the oil in the wok and add carrots, onion, tomato, garlic, chilli and prepared tofu. When they are cooked thoroughly, add woodear mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower and water. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.
• Add vegan fish sauce, sugar and mushroom sauce. Once the mushroom sauce starts to dissolve, add ginger and cashews. Carefully stir all the ingredients and serve immediately.