Monday, 15 September 2008

Time off for bad behaviour

My moderately long-distance partner visited this past weekend, this being the first time we'd seen each other in a while for various reasons. It was a good weekend in many ways, some of which I don't feel like sharing on the internet. (For anyone who is still holding out for rude stuff on this blog, get a life or a new search engine...) A couple of things are worth noting, though, from a vegan point of view.

On Friday, I made moussaka for the first time ever.

Ingredients (Four servings - two for Friday night, one for my dinner after Gothling went home on Sunday, one to experiment with freezing stuff that has cheese sauce on):
-One aubergine (this is maybe the one thing that can't be substituted! Except maybe with sheets of lasagna, but that would still be a completely different meal)
-One packet of Redwood's cheating mince (would have been cheaper to use Realeat frozen mince or any brand of dried soy*, but this meal was meant to be a bit special.)
-One onion (red, but a white one would work just as well), chopped
-Two large carrots, chopped (could grate them if you have more than one grater or fancy washing the thing before doing the cheese sauce)
-About half a dozen mushrooms, chopped
-Enough sunflower oil to cook the above ingredients in
-Two tablespoons olive oil for the aubergines
-Black pepper, paprika and some dried mixed herbs.
-Quarter of a large tube of tomato puree (about 50g) (you may like to use less, I suspect I may generally go overboard with this, not least because it looks like pretty red knitting yarn when spurted around the pan)
-Half a block of Redwood's mozarella (any vegan cheese would do though - probably any brand, be it hard or cream or powder - but this happened to be what was in my fridge approaching its use-by date)
-One tablespoon each of margarine and cornflour
-Enough soymilk to make a fairly thick sauce

Equipment used
-Wok (or large saucepan you don't mind cooking stuff in oil in)
-Small saucepan
-Baking tray
-Cheese grater
-Two wooden spoons and a spatula
-Roll of greasproof paper (no, I did not use the whole thing! Jeez!)
-Large, fairly shallow ovenproof dish

-Slice the aubergine (slices about a centimetre thick)
-Place the slices on a baking tray or the grill pan (I was using an oven where the grill doesn't have a separate compartment), drizzled with olive oil. Grill until both sides of each slice are streaked with brown.
-Heat some oil in the wok. Add the mince and vegetables, and stir these together for a bit.
-Add the tomato puree, then pour in some warm water until the presence of liquid becomes obvious. Stir well and allow to simmer.
-While it is doing so, you will probably have time to get on with some other things around the house. (I didn't have much choice since they needed doing!) But what you absolutely NEED to do at this point is make the cheese sauce. To do this,
-Grate the cheese, if you're using the hard variety.
-Melt the margarine. Start it off at the highest notch on your stove, then turn the heat down when it starts to melt.
-Mix in the cornflour until all the margarine is absorbed.
-Add soymilk. Sauce should be fairly runny at this stage.
-Turn up the heat, stir the sauce CONSTANTLY. DON'T EVEN LOOK AWAY FOR A SECOND. EVEN IF YOUR NEIGHBOURS ARE SCRAMBLING AROUND ON THEIR ROOF. (Oh, is that just me?) Keep stirring until it starts to thicken.
-Add the cheese. Stir some more until it melts. If it gets too thick to be stirred easily, add more soymilk. (or water if you've run out of milk. It happens.) At this point, take it off the heat.
-Turn the oven on to 180 degrees centigrade/celsius.
-By this point, the liquid in the mince/vegetable component should be absorbed or evaporated and the aubergine slices should be nice and brown. Now is the time to put it all together!
-Take a large but fairly shallow ceramic dish. Spoon in a layer of filling, then place a layer of aubergine slices over the top. Repeat once. (but don't rinse yet) Top the whole thing with the cheese sauce, making sure some goes down the sides.
-Place the dish on a baking tray (makes it easier to handle later). Put it in the by now preheated oven, and leave it there for about half an hour. It's ready when the top is brown.

On Saturday we went for a very long walk involving dipping into the many and varied alternative/vintage/goth/totally random tat shops on Mansfield Road, and then doing some duck-spotting along the canal towpath. Between these two installments of walking, we stopped off at Dotty's cafe to fill up on sugar and caffiene. Dotty's doesn't have a website (yet?), but a map can be found here and the details are on Vegan Nottingham. It is basically a 50's-themed vegetarian cafe with the normal sort of food you'd expect plus a varying range of vegan cupcakes. In the evening we went to Sumac for some more food and vegan beer.

*Also, I hate using dry/rehydrated soy mince in the oven, as it re-dehydrates rather easily unless you drown it in liquid. I had a nasty experience with that when suffering from a throat infection and penicillin-induced vomiting, meaning that it scratched my throat on the way down and the way up. Delightful.

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