I’ve read a few things here and there (nicely summarized in this article) questioning whether beans should be soaked before cooking from dried. This kind of article seems to gloss over the reduction in cooking time as unimportant whereas for those worried about fuel costs and/or without a sufficiently large oven and reliant on the stovetop method it is worth it to halve the cooking time even if you have to wait longer overall. In addition, longer cooking time using the stovetop means more steam, so more condensation which is annoying to deal with sometimes.
Despite my misgivings I decided to try the no soak route with some pinto beans. It could be that my beans were just old, or not a good variety, but the results did not impress me. I got some beans bursting while others were still very firm, and the skins are the toughest I’ve experienced in a long time. Maybe I’ll give no-soak another go down the line, but for now I’m happy to do what I’ve always done, which is why I put 1kg chick peas in my preserving pot this morning, covered in plenty of cold water and won’t boil them up until later on tonight. Then I’ll portion them up and freeze most of them.
Still, I have lots of tough-skinned pinto beans to get through right now, unsuitable for stew-like uses, so I thought I’d try making some rustic crackers where the texture would add to the pleasantly munchy effect instead of being a chore.
1 3/4 cups cooked, drained pinto beans
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup porridge oats
3 Tbs nutritional yeast (optional. I’m not sure this adds much but it was sitting around on the counter…)
1/2 tsp yeast extract (e.g. marmite), or miso paste would also probably be good.
1tsp mixed herbs (I used Italian mix which included dried peppers)
1-2 cloves of garlic or a pinch of garlic powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
Line baking sheet and lightly grease with oil.
Put beans in a food processor (I used the mini chopper that came with my cheapo stick blender) and add 1/3 cup water. Pulse until a rough paste is formed, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary. Add seeds and blend for a minute or so, stopping and scraping down again. Add oats and blend. Add rest of ingredients and blend. You should have a dough that is a bit sticky but that you can scoop up and roll into a ball-shape in your hands.
Taste a little pinch of the unbaked mix for seasoning. Obviously they’ll taste better once they’re baked and the flavours will concentrate a bit, but if they seem too bland for you then add more herbs or salt or maybe a dash of mustard or something.
Leave the dough to sit for about 20 minutes so the oats absorb excess moisture.
Take walnut-sized balls of dough (about a tablespoonful) and flatten them a bit with your hands, then place them on the baking sheet. Although they won’t spread, leave a gap because once they’re in place you can flatten them down further with the palm of your hand. I rubbed about 1/3 tsp olive oil across my palm before pressing down to get a nice smooth finish. You want them to be about 3mm (1/8 inch) thick.
Bake in a moderately hot oven (around 195c/380f/a bit above gas mark 5) for about 15 minutes (check they’re not burning after 10 mins. I don’t have fan assist and I haven’t checked my oven temp for a while!). Carefully flip them over and bake for another 5-10 minutes until they’re just starting to get a tinge of brown around the edges, so they’ll get nice and crunchy.
Cool on a rack and store in an airtight container. They’d probably freeze pretty well too.
Makes around 15 crackers.
There are still plenty of chickpeas in the 5kg sack I bought back in December, so I’ve been keeping a look out for interesting recipes to use them in. One that continuously cropped up was for something called Burmese tofu, while many more people raved about pudla (kinda Spanish omelette made from chickpea flour with veg in the batter from what I can make out), and then I saw a few recipes combining those into a quiche, notably The Gourmet Vegan’s vegetable quiche which is based on the I-40 kitchen’s quiche idea, which also gives a recipe for the tofu. In the comments on that post, Hilda from Triumph of the Lentil commented that she had been experimenting and reduced the timescale of the original tofu recipe, and since I’m all for less hassle and more delicious food as quickly as possible I decided to try her method, divided in half to make the straight tofu and also a crustless quiche type affair. I made the process even simpler by just combining whole chickpeas with about half the water in my Vitamix, whizzing them on high speed until there was a smooth batter then pouring that straight into the remaining water once it was at a boil.
For the quiche, I chopped up about three red onions and sautéed them with a pinch of Herbamare in a little olive oil until soft, then added that to the remaining chickpea mix after pouring out the plain portion once it had got thick and cooked through. I threw in a pinch of kala namak salt for a whiff of egg (although I was actually never a fan of the egg taste. I bought a huge bag of this salt though, so am trying it out in a few things), then poured the mix into a baking dish I’d greased with a bit of olive oil and smoothed a dribble more oil over the top, then baked it in a medium-hot oven until the top was starting to brown.
I tried some of that warm and thought it very reminiscent of onion quiche of yore (though it’s got to be 17 years or more since I last had eggy quiche, so who knows how accurate my taste recollection is?), but not interesting enough to eat a whole pan of as is, probably mainly because I’d undersalted it, so treated the quiche as a tofu-like/polenta-ish substance as well for my lunch today, sprinkling with salt and pepper, pan-frying in olive oil and serving with the last of the red cabbage which was lightly cooked with half a carrot and a splash of balsamic and just enough water to stop it scorching.
As noted on Triumph of the Lentil, don’t expect this to have the same texture as tofu, although I think the longer process does produce a slightly silkier product. However, this is a tasty protein-rich food which I can see having a lot of applications.
For the remaining three days of the challenge I still have just over £4 left. The cabbage is gone now, so I’m going to see what’s cheap at the market tomorrow. I’ve also got no washing powder left, and am running out of clean socks. I hope I can get some greens and laundry supplies with the remaining funds!
Quite a while back, I put in an order for six kilos of assorted chocolate chips from Plamil foods, a company with a dedicated dairy-free facility. Now, I don’t care if something “may contain traces” of dairy, I’m not severely allergic and it’s the intended ingredients that concern me, however I know it’s a big deal for people with allergies or just preferences not to have their chocolate cross-contaminated by unintended dairy, so I like to support this company, and a big plus for the budget-conscious is that they offer free postage over a certain spend, and their bulk packaged chips work out to a very reasonable price, especially if you catch them during one of their special offer periods.
My order was mainly for dark chocolate of varying cocoa content, however I thought I would give their alternatives to milk and white chocolate a try, so ordered a kilo of each. I’d been hoping to use them for truffles, however they didn’t behave quite as I’d expected them to upon heating. I was able to use the milk-chocolate chips in cookies and brownies in the end (rather than melting for couverture purposes, the rice-milk content makes it a bit too grainy/fudgy textured for that) but the white chocolate seemed to disintegrate when I tried to use it in cookies, leaving puddles of toffee-like goo in their place – perfectly tasty but not what I was expecting, nor very aesthetically pleasing.
In consequence, I’ve had nearly a kilo of white chocolate sitting around unloved for many a moon, and now I’m almost out of dark choc chips I thought some more about whether I’d be able to use the white ones for anything. As it turns out, they work brilliantly in a custard pie/cheesecake type application! I’m not over my pie jag yet, and have eyed up nearly all of the remaining ingredients in my cupboard with a view to pressing them into a pie dish. Being out of nuts (apart from cashews and about a tablespoon of walnut pieces), but discovering some dessicated coconut I thought I’d see how a coconut oat press-in crust would work, which resulted in a very rich tasting pie-crust which holds together surprisingly well.
This recipe is very much a work in progress which I hope to refine, but I was very pleased with the texture of the custard, which is thick and luscious.
Vegan white chocolate cardamon tart
1 cup oat flour
3/4 cup dessicated coconut, whizzed halfheartedly in a blender (that stuff is difficult to turn into flour! Too light, it just flies around the container!)
3 tablespoons marmalade (I expect maple syrup or agave or golden syrup would work pretty well, maybe better)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon water.
Pinch of salt (maybe 1/4 teaspoon)
Pie filling ingredients:
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups soya milk
1/2 cup marmalade
1/2 cup cashews
2 tablespoons custard powder
2 or 3 green cardomon pods (Just use the seeds if you’re not sure how well your blender will cope with the husks)
Pinch of salt.
Put the oats and coconuts into a mixing bowl, add the marmalade, oil and water and cut in with a knife until a crumbly dough is formed. Press into a pie-dish or individual tartlet cases and blind bake for about ten minutes in a moderate oven 180/350. This seems to burn quite easily so keep an eye on it to check it’s not getting too done. N.B. I don’t have the ratio of crust to filling quite right yet! You will probably end up with extra crust unless you make it very thick or have a wide but shallow pie dish.
Put all the filling ingredients in a blender and whizz them up until smooth. If you don’t have a high speed blender you might want to soak the cashews for a couple of hours, or boil them for a few minutes to soften them up, and just blend those with some of the milk to start with until they’re a smooth paste.
Pour the custard mix into the pie crust and bake for about another 20 minutes, until just beginning to get a golden top in spots. Keep an eye on it and reduce the heat a notch if it looks like it’ll start burning. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before slicing. The flavours develop after chilling for a while, so make the day before eating, if possible.
Remember I got given a monster pumpkin way back in October (as well as a very large one)? Well, I finally hacked it open over the weekend. I got three 600ml boxes of chunks into the freezer for soups or smoothies, made two different large quantities of curry (coconutty and tomato-y), and roasted two panfuls of chunks to make pumpkin puree, some of which I then used to make pumpkin pie.
EDIT: it’s a few hours later and I just used the last big slice of pumpkin in place of carrots to make a huge tub of coleslaw. Works really well! And then I ate a bowlful of coleslaw, at 11.40pm, because I am wild and fearless. Oh yes.
Haha, I bet you thought all the bloggers had stopped posting pumpkin-related stuff! What can I tell you? I’m either behnd the times or exceptionally forward-thinking!
For the pie, I used my favourite press-in almond pie crust from the Post-Punk Kitchen website, with oat flour (which I had to up to a cup and a half even without adding milk – think I maybe mismeasured the oil! Still worked though) as I’m totally out of plain wheat flour now. For the filling, I went with Dreena Burton’s soy free, vegan pie because I had nearly all the ingredients and because most of the comments are so positive. And deservedly so! I had to make one or two tweaks, but I’m very pleased with the ease and taste of this pie. I wasn’t sure if my pumpkin would be wetter than commercial stuff, so I used 2 cups (a 15oz can apparently is 1 3/4 cups) and didn’t bother to add the milk. I used sugar instead of maple syrup and instead of arrowroot and vanilla I used 3 tablespoons of custard powder (I like my custard-pies on the rubbery side, as opposed to sloppy. I think 1-2 tablespoons would probably have been adequate). I also added some zest from the lemon – since I paid more for unwaxed it seemed a shame to waste it. This recipe made 2 small pies and 8 bite-sized ones, so should provide teatime treats for several days!
On the money front, I’m not doing so well. I haven’t broken the budget but I’ve got a lean week ahead. I had to buy some DIY tools unexpectedly, and I finally got so fed up with my hair that I took a step I’ve been meaning to for ages and had it drastically shortened by a barber.
This is obviously not how I wore it to work today! I did have a lot of fun playing with borrowed styling products over the weekend though! The cut only cost £5 (plus tip), at the cheapest place I’ve seen in Leicester, at the top of Welford Road. The guy obviously doesn’t get many, if any, women in there, and seemed a bit nervous about cutting my hair but was fine after I assured him I wanted it short and showed him pictures of men whose hair I thought was the right length.
Also, I went out for pizza. Even though I had vouchers, we ordered over the value of those.
So, although I should only be up to a maximum of £26 out of the total £62 by day 13, I only have £20.32 to last me for the rest of the month. What the heck, I don’t care! It makes the rest of the month even more of a fun challenge, right?
Wow, it is windy out! I meant to go shopping today for some form of cabbagey thing as I’m total out of green veg, but I’m really not liking the way the trees are thrashing around!
While I’ve been watching the weather I’ve been cooking up a batch of chickpeas that had been soaking overnight. However, having been recently reminded that it is possible to cook pasta by bringing it to the boil and then turning off the heat and just leaving for about the same cooking time you’d normally give, I wondered if the same thing was possible with chickpeas. So, I brought them to the boil and let them bubble at that temperature for a couple of minutes, then turned off the heat, put the lid on and went to do something else for 40 minutes. The result is firm, but definitely cooked chickpeas. I’ve had undercooked chickpeas before, but these are cooked through, just pleasantly al dente. Result!
(This is a very good batch of chickpeas though. I think results might vary according to how big or old they are. Also, you shouldn’t do this with kidney beans, they need boiling for ten minutes at least for safety.)
I fried up an onion with some cumin seeds, added some of the chickpeas and most of a tin of tomatoes and some bouillon powder. While that was heating through, I blended the last of the roasted medium-sized pumpkin (since I think I did that last Sunday, so it definitely needed using up!) with a red chilli pepper, seeds included, and a bit of water and poured the resultant puree into the pan to make a vibrant orange-coloured sauce. Pretty nice, though a squeeze of lemon might have been a good addition. This was garnished with a few surviving leaves of the reduced-price coriander plants I bought about 9 days ago.
No money spent so far, so the current total spend for this month is still under £19, however all that could change this evening, as some friends have offered to cook dinner, but they’re quite a way from my house. I might just about manage a walk there, but not back as well, so that means either trying to get a lift (still waiting to hear from a friend who has also been invited), or getting a taxi. If I have to get a taxi both ways that’s at least a tenner gone. That’s for one evening out.
…having just typed all that out, my boyfriend has now sent me a text message to say that if I don’t hear from our friend then he will drive. The problem above has been stressing me out for a good couple of hours though. It can be pretty isolating to be on a very tight budget!
I did at least have a very pleasant lunch of carrots, savoy cabbage, onion and peas in a spicy carrot and peanut sauce with some rice noodles.
I fried up an onion in a medium sized saucepan, added a sliced up carrot, and a handful of frozen peas for extra texture and protein, then some sliced up leaves of the cabbage I bought yesterday. Added a sprinkle of salt, some five spice powder, and a little bit of bouillon powder for good measure, then poured over some sauce.
As a lazy so-and-so, I make most of my sauces by shoving ingredients into the Vitamix. That means I don’t have to bother peeling garlic, as the Vitamix just pulverizes everything into a smooth texture. This sauce contained 3 small cloves of garlic, half a red chilli (still working through the ones I got given), a carrot, a handful of peanuts, a knob of root ginger and a slosh of soya milk for added vitamins (I get Basics longlife soya milk, which is fortified with calcium, B12 and I think one or two other things).
While I was waiting for the sauce to heat through and the carrots to finish cooking I bunged some rice noodles in a pan. I bought a bulk pack of noodles from one of the local Chinese shops, and they only take 3 minutes so they’re great if you forget that you actually have quinoa you could have made in only 15 minutes, if only you’d thought of it until just before the rest of your meal was ready!
I had half a lemon leftover from yesterday’s overnight oats so I squeezed some of that over my bowl of food. It was pretty good, and I was glad to be eating fresh veg. I miss soya sauce though. I’m going to have to pony up for some of that stuff.