Easy Aloo Gobi

When you think of Prince Edward Island, you probably don’t think of curry. Which is wise of you, because PEI isn’t really a curry kind of place. 

Unless you’ve been hanging out with me and my parents in Little Pond on the Island’s east end, in which case you’re probably well and truly sick of all of the cumin, garlic, ginger and onions we’ve been frying up over the past week. But, since I know you haven’t been hanging out with us (I was there, after all), I’ll elaborate. 

We tried new things, like this delicious coconut collard green concoction, and a tasty Indian take on scrambled eggs. And we revisited old favourites too, like chana masala, mulligatawny, and aloo gobi.  

curries.jpg

My sister and I have been making this aloo gobi since we first watched Bend It Like Beckham and discovered that the movie ends not just with credits but also with a demonstration of how to make a tasty potato (or ‘aloo’) and cauliflower (‘gobi’) dish. 

The original recipe is a bit vague, not specifying quantities for things like ginger and garlic (presumably you’re meant to add as little or as much as you’d like) and giving very loose cooking times. 

And so, over the years, we’ve tweaked it. But just a bit, because it’s delicious as is, and simple too. The greatest challenge comes in stirring the raw chunks of potato and cauliflower around in the tomatoey sauce (which can truly be a pain if you use a small pot, so don’t!). Otherwise, it’s just chop, fry, simmer, eat.

I’m painfully short on food photos this week – we made the aloo gobi on my last night on the Island, so there was visiting and packing and cat snuggling to do. I’ll get some more photos up just as soon as I make another batch, but like I said, it’s easy, so don’t wait until then to give it a try!



Aloo Gobi
From food.com, where it was sourced from the movie Bend it Like Beckham (where I first came across it) 
Serves 6-8 as a side 

Ingredients 

1/4 cup of canola oil or ghee
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 medium jalapeño, finely chopped (if you want to keep it mild, get rid of the membranes and seeds before chopping)
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger 
3 tbsp fresh cilantro stalks, finely chopped
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
16 oz can of chopped tomatoes
1 medium head of cauliflower, washed and cut into florets (about 5 cups worth)
3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup water
2 tsp garam masala
To serve: Cooked rice & fresh cilantro leaves 

Directions

Heat the oil in a large (I emphasize: LARGE) pot over medium heat until hot. Carefully add the onions and cumin seeds and sautee, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add to the pot the jalapeño, garlic, ginger and cilantro stalks and sautee for just a minute, taking care that nothing burns. Stir in the turmeric and salt and fry for 30 seconds more, again making sure that nothing burns. Decrease the heat to low here if need be!

Add the tomatoes to the pot and stir just until the onions and things are evenly dispersed through the tomatoes. 

Add the cauliflower, potatoes and water and stir until the veggies are evenly coated with the sauce. Bring to a boil (once the sauce bubbles, you’re there), then cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 25-35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are tender. Stir in the garam masala. 

Taste the sauce, adjust the seasoning, and serve with rice and fresh cilantro. 

Update from...

orange.jpg

Well, Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in North Carolina anymore.    

boulder-duo.jpg

More from the land of snow cakes and icicle carrots soon!

Vegan Chocolate Pie

If you’ve ever spent an exciting afternoon reading recipe reviews online, you’ll know that ingredient substituting is a popular pastime. In the name of dietary restrictions, health improvements, pantry limitations and preferences, cooks tinker. 

Duo.jpgSome of these substitutions are minor: a spoonful of coconut oil steps in for a pat of butter. Other times, recipes are so transformed that the final ingredients list is a distant relative of the original. Crackers are used in place of apples to, say, create an abominable version of pie. Which, incidentally, isn’t far off from what I’m about to do.

Because today’s chocolate pie is made with, and please be patient with me here, tofu. Yes, it sounds weird. And yes, it feels a little weird to make too. And no, it’s not healthy per se, though it skips the butter, eggs and cream that are called for in a more traditional chocolate pie. 

tofu.jpg

So, why bother? 

First, it’s simple. The crust and the filling are made almost entirely in a blender or food processor. But a lot of good, tofu-free desserts are easy to put together, so let me share a few more of its virtues. 

crust-and-stuff.jpg

Second, it can accommodate just about any dietary restriction in the book (dairy-free, vegan, gluten-free, nut-free and so on), making it easy for you to accommodate your dietarily-restricted pals. And that’s awfully nice.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly in the case of pie made with tofu: the taste. As a regular tinkerer, I consider a fair result to be one that makes up for any loss in taste with whatever’s gained by the substitution (convenience, healthfulness, friendship, etc.). A good result bumps the tastiness quotient to be on par with the original. And then, on occasion, there’s alchemy: An end result that’s so delicious a new creation that you’ll make alongside, or instead of, the original.  

untitled-22.jpg

There, in the class of alchemy, lies the chocolate pie. It’s cool, smooth and intensely chocolatey. An unsuspecting eater would never know that it contains tofu, though that’s what’s responsible for its impossible lusciousness. Good chocolate is the key to a good result, since it supplies the bulk of the flavour. But feel free to tinker (of course) and incorporate other flavours as you see fit. Coffee and citrus wouldn’t be amiss. But the tofu, well, that’s non-negotiable. 



Vegan Chocolate Pie
Makes 1 9-inch pie
Adapted from food52.com and foodnetwork.com, and introduced to me by Jess

Note: The silken tofu that I found came in 3/4 lb packets. If you don’t want to have to buy two packets to make up the full pound called for in the recipe, you can scale all of the filling ingredients down by 25% (making for 3/4 lb tofu, 1.5 cups of chocolate chips, 0.75-1.5 tbsp maple syrup, 3 tbsp almond milk, 1.5 tsp vanilla extract). It’ll result in a slightly less full pie, but not detrimentally so! 

Ingredients

2 loosely-packed cups of chocolate wafer cookies (or 12 single graham cracker squares)
1 tsp brown sugar
1 large pinch of salt
2-3 tbsp coconut oil, melted

2 cups (12 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 lb of extra-firm silken tofu
1-2 tbsp maple syrup (to taste)
1/4 cup almond milk, cold espresso or orange liqueur
2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions: Crust

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. 

2. In a food processor or blender, pulse the cookies, sugar and salt until you’re left with fine crumbs. Drizzle in the coconut oil and pulse again until the mixture is evenly moistened. 

3. Dump the cookie mess into a 9-inch pie plate. With your fingers or the back of a spoon, firmly press the crumbs so that they evenly cover the base and walls of the pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until it looks dry in the centre. Remove the crust from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Now turn off your oven – you’re done with it!

Step-1.jpg

Directions: Filling & Assembly

1. Melt your chocolate in a heat-proof bowl set over a small pot of simmering water, until completely smooth. Let cool. 

2. In a food processor or blender (make sure it’s crumb-free!), pulse together the melted chocolate, tofu, maple syrup, almond milk (or whatever you’re using) and vanilla extract until smooth.

3. Pour into the cooled crust and let chill for 2.5-3 hours, or until the filling is firm (if you’re low on patience, pop it in the freezer for an hour instead). Slice and serve! 

Step-2.jpg

Coming Up: Pie!

Friends! I made this tasty chocolate pie to share with you (and, obviously, to eat). But alas, it’s late, and I haven’t yet found the words to do it justice. 

untitled-20.jpg

I’m leaving North Carolina at the end of the week, which means I’ll be spending the next few days finding my things, packing said things, and heading on as many little adventures as I can pack in between the packing of things. But pie’s important too, so expect to see a recipe soon!

bamboo-apricot.jpg

In the mean time, to tide you over, here are a few photos from a trip that a friend and I took last week to Raleigh’s arboretum. They’re not quite as tasty as chocolate on chocolate, but they sure do smell delightful. More soon!

apricot-spikey-thing.jpg

An Unsung Baking Hero + Cocoa Brownies

Poor cocoa powder. Of the three main offspring (or rather, products) of the cocoa bean, it’s the obvious ugly duckling. 

_MG_6355.jpg

First, there’s cocoa butter, that rich, luxurious stuff we associate with the texture and fattiness of chocolate. It’s loved. Adored. Eating it isn’t enough, so we slather it on our hair and our bodies. We are one with cocoa butter. 

Then, there’s cocoa mass – a roughly equal mix of cocoa butter and cocoa powder. We don’t think much about cocoa mass at all. But it’s often the first ingredient in good chocolate, so if we knew about it, we’d probably love it too. 

And finally, cocoa powder. Dry, dusty and bitter, the thought of eating it by itself can make us shudder. 

trio.jpg

But cocoa powder, too, should be loved. Because cocoa powder cares for you, in its own inanimate way. It delivers more good stuff than its siblings – minerals and flavonoids and other mysterious, healthful things – without all of the saturated fat. It contains a happy hit of caffeine. It’s cheap. 

And it’s accessible. Cocoa butter and cocoa mass are hard to track down, typically showing up on commercial shelves as chocolate, where they’ve been mixed with other stuff. Cocoa powder, on the other hand, is everywhere, often in its pure form or processed simply with an alkalizing agent that makes for a less acidic, darker powder (“Dutch process”, it’s called, after the Dutch fellow who came up with the idea). So when you use cocoa powder, unlike chocolate, you get more control over the flavours that make it into your final dish.   

final-final.jpg

Today, in celebration of this under-loved ingredient: my favourite brownie recipe, a cocoa-heavy concoction that calls for elemental sorts of ingredients like unsalted butter, eggs, vanilla and pecans. In fitting with the simplicity kick, it’s a one-bowl affair that comes together quickly and bakes up to produce a brownie at its best: rich, dense, chewy and intensely chocolatey, even though there’s no real chocolate in sight. Make them, for the love of cocoa. 



Best Cocoa Brownies
Adapted from epicurious.com, where it was source from Alice Medrich’s BitterSweet
Makes ~25 brownies

Notes: Dutch process cocoa (the darker stuff) and natural cocoa (the lighter stuff) will both do the trick here, the former making for a dark, mellow brownie and the latter for a lighter, more fruity and flavourful brownie. If you like your brownies a little salty, sprinkle the unbaked brownies with a bit of flaky salt, or swap the 1/4 tsp of table salt with a slightly heaping 1/4 tsp of flaky salt. 

Ingredients

1/2 cup + 2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch-ish pieces
1 1/4 cups white sugar
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large, cold eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup pecan pieces (optional but delicious)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 8x8 square pan with parchment paper or tinfoil (I’m currently without an 8x8 pan, so I used two 8x4ish loaf pans).  

Put the butter, sugar, cocoa powder and table salt in a large, heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a large skillet of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the ingredients have melted together into a grainy mush that’s hot to the touch and there are no bits of butter visible. (Alternatively, you can melt the ingredients together in the microwave, stirring every minute or two, until everything comes together.)

Let the grainy chocolate mess cool until it’s warm but no longer hot to the touch. With a wooden spoon, stir in the vanilla extract, then stir in the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until the egg is fully incorporated.  

step-1.jpg

Stir in the flour until it’s no longer visible, then give the mixture another 40 strong stirs. Add the pecan pieces, if using, and stir just until they’re dispersed through the batter.

Pour the batter into your prepared pan and gently spread it until it’s level and reaches the edges of the pan. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20-35 minutes (it’s a big range, I know!), or until a knife inserted into the centre of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Let the brownies cool completely on a wire rack. Remove the brownies from the pan and cut into 25 little squares (remember to peel off the foil/parchment!). Store in an airtight container in the fridge for ultimate chewiness.  

step-2.jpg

For Chilly Days: West African-ish Peanut Stew

Last week, North Carolina played host to a small apocalypse. 

snow.jpg

The skies opened up and bucket loads of slushy snow fell (even by Canadian standards), freezing to the road. Less than an hour after the onslaught began, the streets were skating rinks. Drivers pulled over and abandoned their vehicles on the side of the road to walk home instead. In nearby Raleigh, a car burst into flame as it tried to make its way up an icy hill. 

ingredients.jpg

We walked to the nearby grocery store, police lights flashing in the distance at the scene of an accident. At 1PM on a Wednesday, the place was packed – “the busiest day next to Christmas”, the checkout girl told us – with people stocking up for the end (us included).  

pair.jpg

So what does one make in the face of a wintery doom? I went for West African-ish peanut stew (more on the ‘ish’ in a second). Why? It’s stick-to-your-ribs hearty, with two kinds of protein and the goodness of sweet potatoes and dark, leafy greens. It’s warming, thanks to a heavy dose of ginger and chiles. And it makes tons, which means that, so long as you’ve got a Canadian cooler (that being a chilly snowbank), you’ll eat well even in the event of a scary ice-induced power outage.  

ingredients-text.jpg

I can’t vouch for the authenticity of the dish, and though my snowstorm companion has in fact eaten peanut stew in West Africa, he can’t vouch for it either, thanks to a hazy memory (hence the ‘ish’). But a bit of research tells me that so long as you have the peanuts, tomato, onion, chile and some sort of protein, you’re off to a good start. Add in a hearty starch – couscous, sweet potatoes, rice and fufu are standard – and you’ll be ready to be snowed in, happily, for a few days. Just like us.  


West African-ish Peanut Stew
Adapted from allrecipes.com
Serves 6-8, with rice

Ingredients
1 tbsp peanut oil (or vegetable/canola/olive/etc.)
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 cloves of garlic, minced 
1 tsp hot chile flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (~3 cups)
5 cups of water
3/4 cup natural peanut butter (chunk or smooth)
1/3 cup tomato paste
1.5 cups of cooked chickpeas
5 cups loosely-packed collard greens  

To serve: Rice or quinoa, cilantro, dry-roasted peanuts

Directions

1. Heat the peanut oil over medium heat for a minute or two, just until it’s hot. Toss in the onion and fry until it’s translucent and beginning to brown (about 5 minutes), stirring occasionally. 

2. Add in the ginger, garlic, chile, salt, sweet potato and water, and give it a stir. Bring everything to boil over high heat, then immediately turn the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until the sweet potatoes are almost tender when stabbed with a fork (this’ll take anywhere between 5-15 minutes, so be sure to check the potatoes for doneness every now and then). 

3. Bring the heat back to medium, add the peanut butter and tomato paste, and stir until the two have dissolved into the broth. Taste and add more salt and chile as you see fit. 

4. Add the chickpeas and collard greens and cook over medium-low for another 5 minutes, or until the greens are cooked but still brightly coloured.

5. Serve over cooked rice or quinoa, and top with a sprinkling of cilantro and peanuts.  

steps.jpg

Coming Up Tomorrow

pink.jpg

Something warm and comforting to combat the strange weather we’ve been having in North Carolina!

green.jpg

A Sweet Freebie: Photo-themed Valentine's Day Cards!

Friends! Valentine’s Day is nearly here! Last year, to help you spread the love, I designed some silly, food-themed cards for you to print off and share with the sweet and spicy people in your life.

This year, in honour of the occasion, I teamed up with the folks at Photography Concentrate to design a new set of cards, inspired by the perforated drugstore valentines of our younger years. The theme of this year’s set of cards is photography. So if you’ve been looking for a way to let someone know that they, say, increase your shutter speed, look no further! 

all-designs.jpgTo get the goods (they’re free!), head over to Photography Concentrate, pop in your email address, and you’ll be emailed access to a printer-friendly version of the cards. Or, if social media is more your thing, simply save the digital files to your desktop directly from the linked page above and post away, no email address necessary. 

valentines-photo.jpg

You can also still grab last year’s food-themed Valentines here. The download (a zip file) will give you a ready-to-print file containing the full set of cards, plus individual images of each card in case you want to tell everyone that they’re the peanut butter to your jelly

food-valentines.jpg

I hope your day is sweet!

Click here to get your free, photo-themed valentines.

Download your free, food-themed valentines here.

Easy, Australian Muesli

You might think that having a website dedicated to food would push you to step up your game, culinarily speaking. Sure, sometimes you may get ambitious and, say, attempt to tackle your fear of yeasted dough or make a recipe that requires more complex steps than ‘simmering’ and ‘stirring’.   

muesli-duo.jpg

Other times, you (read: I) look for shortcuts. For ways of making tasty eating take less time and effort. And not in the name of healthfulness or world peace, but simply because you want to dedicate a maximum of three minutes to preparing breakfast. 

Three years ago, I got the ball rolling by showing you how to turn cooked oats into a week’s worth of interesting breakfasts. Then came the granola, taking the morning cooking out of the equation. Follow that with bircher muesli, where cooking was dropped altogether and an overnight soaking stepped in to plump the oats to edibility.

muesli-bits.jpg

Today, I add to the FoodHappy repertoire a recipe that completes my descent into lazy morning meals: muesli, the Australian way. No cooking. No soaking. Just oats mixed with nuts and dried fruit, and served with milk, like cold cereal. This time next year, you’ll find me eating raw oats by the fistful, straight from the bag. 

muesli-text.jpg

The muesli idea was odd to me at first; raw oats are so chewy. But my travelling companion and I were in need of convenient things to take camping around Australia’s southeast coast, and the plethora of premixed bagged muesli on the grocery store shelves suggested that it was edible and maybe even enjoyable, so we tried it. It was wholesome, satisfying and fast. And best of all: no pots to clean!

making-muesli.jpgNowadays, we keep homemade muesli on hand for near-instant breakfasts, cooking it on cold days, and otherwise eating it raw, with milk, fresh fruit, yogurt and honey. Ultimate lazy homemade breakfast: achieved.



Muesli, Australian-style
Makes 5 3/4-cup servings (in other words: your weekday breakfasts are covered!)

Note: Feel free to substitute in other nuts, seeds and dried fruits of your liking. Just keep the ratio of 2 cups of oats, 3/4 cup of dried fruit and 1 cup of nuts and seeds, and your mix will be tasty! 

Ingredients

2 cups of raw oats (the kind that take 10 minutes to cook)
1/2 cup dried raisins
1/4 cup dried, unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup raw, slivered almonds
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup flaxseed 

For serving: milk (or non-dairy alternative), yogurt, fresh or preserved fruit, sweeteners like honey or maple syrup

Directions

Drop your oats, dried fruit, nuts and seeds into a large bowl. Stir until the goodies are evenly dispersed through the oats. Store in an airtight container or bag. Serve, 3/4 cup at a time, with milk, yogurt, fruit and a bit of your sweetener of choice.  

muesli-steps.jpg

Six-variety Apple Cake

Apple history reads a bit like a soap opera. Or maybe science fiction, crossed with a war drama.

At supermarkets and produce stands around the world, apple varieties native to Australia, New Zealand, America and Japan jockey for a bigger slice of the proverbial pie, for market share, for the title of Such and Such Country’s Favourite Eating Apple or Best Ever Baking Apple.

slice.jpgNew varieties, bred by universities and agricultural departments for dominance and stamped with trademarks, take on the old guard, beating out their parent varieties in popularity. Apples with names like Lady Hamilton and Barnack Beauty fall to the Pink Ladies and Galas, descendants of the great Golden Delicious. It’s all very dramatic.

This weekend, I got it in my head that I would experiment. 

apple-text.jpg

I found a recipe that was almost all fruit: a behemoth six-apple cake made with just enough of a vanilla-custardy batter to hold the pieces of fruit together (fruit disguised as dessert, really). I gathered up six sturdy varieties, and plopped each one into its own little section of the pan, cousins and competitors side by side. 

trio.jpg

The idea was to conduct a very official taste test to determine which varieties won out. But shortly after I took the cake out of the pan, I forgot what was where and the experiment died. So, now, all I can say is that the apples were different. Some were soft and mellow, others more firm and tart, others somewhere in between.  

srgb-tint.jpg

But the best bites, they were at the borders where varieties mixed. The contrast between kinds made the cake more interesting, bringing out the qualities of each apple that much more.  

Whether you have access to one variety of apple or a dozen, the cake is worth making for its simplicity and tastiness – it’s a bit like bread pudding, only easier. But if you can, get your hands on a few crisp varieties and mix them up before you drop them in the pan, in the name of deliciousness and reconciliation. 



Six-variety Apple Cake

Adapted from smittenkitchen.com
Serves 8-10

Note: If you can’t get your hands on a variety of apples, opt for the Granny Smith – a bright green variety discovered in Australia over 150 years ago by a woman who was indeed named Smith. It’s tartness and sturdiness are a perfect match for a long turn in the oven. 

Ingredients
6 large, crisp apples of different varieties (Granny Smiths, Cripps Pink, Braeburn, etc.)
3 eggs, preferably organic
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8-1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp icing (confectioner’s) sugar

Directions

1. Position your oven rack in the centre of the oven, and preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the base of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment, then grease the pan and the parchment. 

2. Peel and core your apples, then cut them into 1/2-inch cubes. (Cut your apples in half, cut the halves into 4-6 slices, then cut the slices into your cubes. Easy!). Drop your apples into the springform pan and pat them down until they’re roughly even.

step-1.jpg

3. In a medium bowl, whisk (or beat) together your eggs and sugar until the mixture is thick and creamy, 3-4 minutes. Whisk in the vanilla. Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon just until the batter is smooth (don’t overmix!).

step-2.jpg

4. Pour the batter evenly overtop the apples, smoothing the batter with a spatula. Gently shake the pan to help the batter sink into the spaces between the apples. When you’re done, the batter should be about even with the apples.   

5. Bake the cake for 50-60 minutes, or until the top of the cake is brown and a knife/toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. (Update 02/18/2014: I heard from a friend that in her cool-running oven, the cake took quite a bit longer than 60 minutes to bake through. If your oven runs cool too, prepare to tack on some extra baking time!)

6. Run a knife gently around the edge of the cake, then let it rest in the pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Remove the sides of the pan, and carefully transfer the cake off of the base and parchment and onto the rack to rest for 10 minutes more (a spatula will help here). (Alternatively, you can flip the cake onto a plate to remove the base and parchment, then flip it back onto the rack.)

7. Dust the top of the cake with cinnamon and the icing sugar and serve. The cake is quite sticky, so it’s best eaten day-of. Leftover cake can be stored, covered, for a couple of days.

step-3.jpg