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The Ballad of Narayama film posterOn Wednesday I made my first bento in almost two months… I had a movie date in Amsterdam with my friend Loes. We went to a special viewing of the classic 1983 Palm d’Or winner The Ballad of Narayama (Narayama bushikô), a film by Shohei Imamura. Last week was the Dutch première -yes, after 30 years!- and there are only a handful of screenings.

The film tells the story of Orin, a 69 year old woman in a rural hamlet of late-1900s Japan. It’s tradition, or rather law, that inhabitants reaching the age of 70 go to the top of the mountain (Narayama) to commit obasute: death by starvation, to limit the amount of mouths to feed. The eldest son is supposed to carry his mother on his back to her resting place. But Orin is still very strong and healthy…

The Ballad of Narayama is an unusual movie: at the same time pretty much “in your face” as well as burlesque — the latter possibly to soften the hardships of life that are shown. But it’s also something I’ve come across before in Japanese cinema. Isn’t the sometimes caricatural play not reminiscent of kyōgen theatre and kabuki? Anyway, I enjoyed myself regardless of the slow pace. The many images of nature are gorgeous and it’s interesting to witness how life in a poor Japanese country village may have been in another age. I was touched by the way Orin’s son was torn between his unwillingness to let his mom go, and not wanting to shame her by refusing to go along. His difficult journey into the mountains felt like a period of mourning and Orin’s first-born carrying her to her death mirrored the process of her giving birth to him. The cycle of life.

Title roll Ballad of NarayamaThe title of the film refers to a song about Orin’s life stage made up by her grandson in the beginning of the story (wintertime), recurring several times until The End, on the threshold of another winter.

Contemplating this I seem to have a theme going in my life at the moment. My current book is Wild by Cheryl Strayed, relating of her experiences hiking the Pacific Trail Crest (PCT) in her early twenties, a few years after her mother died. I’m totally absorbed in the story and can’t wait to read on.

But first it’s time to get back to the subject of this post. I was travelling to the cinema at dinner time so I’d eaten a hearty lunch earlier that day and made myself a simple dinner bento to have on the train.

Ballad of Narayama Bento (06-03-2013)

From top to bottom

  • Aubergine caviar with corn kernels, Italian crackers and walnut spread.
  • Lemon macadamia cupcake with lemon frosting (recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World), more crackers, dried apricot and baby fig.
  • Cucumber salad with mini plum tomatoes, olives, radishes, chives, a cheezy dressing (recipe from Bryanna Clarke) and hemp seeds sprinkled over.

It was GOOOOD! I hope to have more bentos and nights like this. :)

Submitted to What’s for Lunch Wednesday #145 and Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking.

Modern Moroccan Cinnamon-scented Chickpea & Lentil Soup

After keeping myself on a leash for a while I finally joined Swap-bot late last year. I already told you about some food-related swaps in my previous Weekend Cooking post. Today I want to talk about another one: the Cookbook Challenge #1, hosted by Carmen of the Gastronomery Group. Like many of us she has several under-used cookbooks and she wants to tackle them with the help of fellow swappers. She made the challenge vegan-friendly so of course I had to join — never mind that I have a pile of books of my own… ;)

For this first ‘cookalong’ Carmen chose some recipes out of Modern Moroccan by Ghillie Basan and posted them on the group blog. The idea was for us to choose one recipe, test it, document it and send the (virtual) results to our swap partners; in my case our hostess herself. So Carmen, here’s my pick!

Cinnamon-scented chickpea and lentil soup

Serves 4-5.

Ingredients

Preparing Modern Moroccan Cinnamon-scented Chickpea & Lentil Soup

Don’t let the long list scare you: it’s not as much as it seems and most of these ingredients are fairly common in a foodie household. If you look at the preparations you’ll see this recipe is a breeze!

  • 1.5-2 tbsp olive oil (see my tweak among the modifications below)
  • 1 onion, halved and sliced
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger (djahé)
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric (kunjit)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of saffron threads
  • 400 gr can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp sugar (I used raw cane sugar)
  • 80 gr brown or green lentils, washed (I used Puy lentils)
  • 950 ml vegetable stock or boiling water & 2 bouillon cubes
  • 400 gr can cooked chickpeas (265 gr drained)
  • 150 gr cooked broad beans (I used 175 gr frozen peas)
  • small bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • small bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • salt ‘n pepper to taste

Preparation

Chopping cilantro & flatleaf parsley for Modern Moroccan Cinnamon-scented Chickpea & Lentil Soup

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onions until soft.
  2. Stir in the spices (ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, saffron), tomatoes and sugar.
  3. Add the lentils and pour in the vegetable stock or water and stock cubes.
  4. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for about 25 minutes or until the lentils are tender (check the instructions on the package).
  5. Stir in the cooked chickpeas and beans and bring back to boil, cover again and simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
  6. Mix in the fresh herbs and season to taste.

Serve hot!

Modern Moroccan Cinnamon-scented Chickpea & Lentil Soup

Mr Gnoe and me enjoyed this soup on a cold February night accompanied by (store-bought) bake-off buns and couscous salad.

Couscous Salad

The result?

I only made half of the original recipe on the Gastronomery Cookbook Challenge #1 page and that was amply sufficient for four diners. Especially served with accompaniments like ours. This soup is already plant-based (and chock-full of proteins!) so no veganizing was needed, but still the recipe got slightly tweaked.

  • I took the easy route and used a 400 grams can of chickpeas (= 265 grams drained) instead of dried beans that would have needed to be soaked overnight.
  • Dried broad beans are not commonly available over here (although it’s not impossible to get them in a city like Utrecht) so I had wanted to use frozen but forgot to add them to my grocery list. So I took 175 grams garden peas from my freezer stash instead. Together with the chickpeas that roughly summed up the 400 grams of cooked beans I needed.
  • I made vegetable stock with one bouillon cube instead of two and spiced it up with salt and pepper at the end. I’m still not sure whether I’d use two cubes anyway next time… (if there is a next time?)
  • I didn’t use olive oil for frying the onions but used leftover sunflower oil from a jar of sundried tomatoes in oil.
  • The original recipe said to fry the onions for about 15 minutes… It took me 2-3 to get them soft. ;) If you’re supposed to caramelize the onions then 10-15 minutes would be right but it just says “until soft” so I believe the time publicized to be an errata.
  • I added one celery stalk, just because it was lying around in the fridge. Not necessary at all.

Has the Jury reached its verdict?

This chickpea-lentil soup is certainly a hearty dish, but it didn’t tickle my taste buds. I’ve had bean and lentil soups before, some of which were much more special.

I couldn’t discern a specific Moroccan flavour and I don’t think using broad beans would’ve changed that. Do you? Maybe adding a spice blend like ras el hanout would be a good idea; there’s a recipe for that in the book -and on the Gastronomery blog- as well. But I also just can’t appreciate the combination of multiple legumes: lentils and chickpeas and peas. I do like vegan harira (Moroccan/Algerian chickpea-lentil soup), but this modern version is too much of a mismatch mishmash for me.

So. If you’ve had these kinds of soups before, this recipe is not very exciting. But if you haven’t – this is a good place to start! Common ingredients and little work bring a filling winter stew to the table.

Further ruminations

Blogging pal Uniflame also participated in Cookbook Challenge #1 and got me for a swap partner. She tried the Casablancan couscous with roasted summer veggies and shared her version of the recipe on She Likes Bento. In winter I regularly make oven-roasted root vegetables but I always forget to do something alike in summer. Gotta remember!

February has been a super busy month so I didn’t get around to cooking two other recipes from Modern Moroccan that I like. So there are still a vegan version of grilled sweet zucchini with spices and harissa on the menu.

Now if you feel like trying another Moroccan soup, how about this sesame soup recipe I posted before?

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Join Beth Fish’s weekend cooking with a food-related post!

Beth Fish Weekend Cooking logo

Beth Fish Weekend Cooking logoThis Weekend Cooking post is a hotchpot of food-related topics that have been left stewing the past weeks. I’m focussing on bentos and swaps.

Bentos

Bento making has gotten a bit neglected lately; the following, hastily filled boxes are the only lunches I have to share.

Buckwheat Pancake Bento #205

Buckwheat Pancake Bento #205

Rabbit food:

  • buckwheat pancakes from Vega Dutchie (which I found too gritty, even more when eaten cold like this)
  • cranberries
  • Lithuanian dried plum “cake”
  • treacle for pancakes in the small container
  • cucumber
  • corncob
  • carrot-cabbage salad with walnuts


MiL Bento #206

MiL Bento #206

The brown rice with ratatouille in the round blue thermos is a leftover from dinner at my mother-in-law’s the night before. The small lock & lock box contains red cabbage coleslaw with apple, raisins and an orange dressing. Two sandwiches in the butterfly bag and clementines for dessert.

Swap-botting

I’ve recently discovered swap-bot. What I don’t like about that other random mail-exchange ‘program’ Postcrossing is that I often put a lot of thought in what I write on a card, but get the shortest messages in return. Also, although I receive awesome postcards every once in a while, many people send free ad cards or touristy multi-views, both of which don’t interest me. On Swap-bot on the other hand there’s themes you can choose — and people that really like to write! A trip down memory lane as I was a fervent penpal when I was young. So thanks to Uniflame for reacquainting me with S-B! :)

Now what does this have to do with food? I hear you think. Well, the first two swaps I joined are food ‘n drink-centered.

Tea For You And Tea For Me, What’s Your Resolution?

Tea for You and Tea for Me, What's Your Resolution? swap

For the easy Tea For You And Tea For Me, What’s Your Resolution? trade we had to send three bags of tea to our partner plus a note revealing our resolutions for 2013. I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, but I have things that I’d like to achieve this year concerning my health. So I shared those.

Tea for You and Tea for Me, What's Your Resolution? swap

Now the assignment may originally have been quick and easy, it wasn’t as simple as it seemed… My partner Barsook likes green teas — how was I supposed to choose only three??? So I sent her a whole bunch. :)

Tea for You and Tea for Me, What's Your Resolution? swap

Myself, I was pampered with five teas in a lovely decorated envelope: pure rooibos red tea, earthy vanilla scented rooibos, Tulsi sweet rose, apricot vanilla crème and jasmine green. But I won’t tell what JessicaLynn1978‘s resolution is!

Tea for You and Tea for Me, What's Your Resolution? swap

Lovely Vegan Dinner Recipe Swap

Recipe cards seem to be common in the States, but not here in Holland. I very much like the concept though! So I joined the Lovely Vegan Dinner Recipe Swap in which I had to share a virtual meal via recipes for a starter, main course and dessert. All animal-free. Luckily it was okay to make your own recipe cards as long as they had the standard format of approximately A5. So these are the ones I made for lob.

Recipe cards for Vegan Dinner Recipe swap

The recipes that travelled on these are:

Vegan Dinner Recipe swap

Now I got the most AWESOME package from long-time veggie Seaglass! She put a lot of effort in making my parcel extra special — she’s the sweetest!

Vegan Dinner Recipe Swap package from seaglass

There’s recipes for:

  • vegan ‘blue cheese’ dressing
  • potato, sorrel & watercress soup
  • quinoa salad with tofu
  • tofu with snow peas and lemon lime vinaigrette
  • spicy polenta with chili paste
  • Lisa’s vegan zucchini carrot muffins
  • chocolate upside down pudding cake

I have no idea where to start! :D I guess it won’t be the soup though since I have to find out first where to get sorrel (zuring). Any ideas, Dutchies? Should I just go and pick some in the fields? I’m a little afraid of catching tetanus from dog or fox pee… :\

Seaglass also included some empty recipe cards for me to use and a load mouthwatering vegan candy bars — those are hard to get over here! And a packet of California powdered chili for me to compare to its Dutch counterpart: American recipes containing chili somehow always get too hot; even though I can usually handle heat.

I LOVE the paper Lisa (Seaglass) wrote her letter on: it has a heron! So cute!

That’s it for me now. Do you have some foodie news to share for Weekend Cooking?

Logo Veggie ChallengeIn June and July this year, the Dutch youth foundation Viva Las Vega’s organized the Veggie Challenge: a dare to eat less animal produce for at least once a week during a whole month. Depending on their diet, participants would set their own goals, e.g. 1 day vegetarian for omnis, a day vegan for vegetarians, an extra day veggie for flexitarians et cetera. 2000+ people gave it a go! Among them were three people I know — and no, I had nothing to do with that ;) Curious about their experiences, I decided to interview them for VeganMoFo.

We’ve heard from YvonneP and Uniflame and today the spotlights are aimed at JannyAn! Again, Janny is someone I met on-line first at the Boekgrrls mailinglist; I’m not sure how long ago exactly. Soon we saw each other in real life on book swaps and Wandelgrrls hikes. Now we’ve even started a film club together: the Cinephyles! It’s obvious we’ve got lots in common, except maybe that JannyAn is a real globetrotter, and I’m a bit of a homebody. ;)
A jar of Cremisso sandwich spread paprika-chili (Tartex)
Janny discovered Tartex cremisso paprika-chili sandwich spread – she thinks it’s the best alternative to cheese! I agree it’s absolutely yummy. :)

How would you describe yourself before starting the VeggieChallenge?
I was a flexitarian. By the way, there are certain things I really refuse to eat. Those are tuna, lobster, veal, frogs legs. And of course only farm-laid eggs.

Why did you decide to join the challenge?
Because I think it’s better to eat less meat. For my own health, environmental issues and, equally important, because of animal welfare.

What goals did you set and did you achieve them? Was that hard?
My goals were to eat 4 days vegetarian and 1 day vegan. The vegetarian days weren’t that hard to achieve. The vegan days were the real problem. Mostly because I do like cheese a lot. And so many products I usually eat contain butter or eggs.

What was you biggest discovery?
That’s a difficult one. Maybe that I really don’t miss eating meat. O, and I discovered that whole-meal bread with peanut butter and banana is delicious :-)

What was the most difficult or disappointing?
Eating vegan one day in a week. So many products that contain butter, eggs, gelatin, etc. It was even difficult to do shopping, find something that you like to eat on a sandwich instead of cheese, or, how can I replace eggs in a recipe.

What was the best thing you ate or drank during the VeggieChallenge?
Well I really like this pasta with spinach beet, raisins and pine seed

If you’re in a relationship: did your partner join you in the challenge and how did he/she experience it?
No, he didn’t. Sometimes I make a dish without meat and he’ll eat it. And if it tastes good he won’t mind eating vegetarian. But he likes meat too much to become vegetarian. Not to mention eating vegan.

Has anything from the challenge lasted?
I still am a flexitarian, but I now eat less meat/fish and more often vegan.

Would you recommend the VeggieChallenge to nothers ext time? Why (not)?
Yes, I would. It’s good to think about what you’re eating.

The VeganMoFo theme on Graasland is ‘vegan en route’. Do you have a suitable tip to share with us?
Always bring your own peanut butter ;-)

Do you know I’ve never tried banana on peanut butter? I guess I should! Thanks JannyAn, it’s fascinating to read about your experiences in the Veggie Challenge as a flexitarian. I recognize your frustration about how many products contain dairy, eggs or gelatin. As a vegetarian I never paid that much attention to labels, especially E-numbers,and now I’m shocked to find that some of them are not even veggie! So as a vegetarian I have probably been eating ground scale insects (E120), bones (e.g. E542, E640) animal fat (e.g. E470-479) and horse’s, cow’s, pork’s and even human hair (E920). Eew!

Anyway Janny, I hope you know that you can always ask me questions about substituting ingredients?! That goes for anyone, really. :)

Over viewing this series I’m so glad to see that all three participants look back positively! Imagine you’d join the Veggie Challenge next year, what goals would you like to set?

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Join us with a food related post in Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking!

Logo Veggie ChallengeIn June and July this year, the Dutch youth foundation Viva Las Vega’s organized the Veggie Challenge: a dare to eat less animal produce for at least once a week during a whole month. Depending on their diet, participants would set their own goals, e.g. 1 day vegetarian for omnis, a day vegan for vegetarians, an extra day veggie for flexitarians et cetera. 2000+ people gave it a go! Among them were three people I know — and no, I had nothing to do with that ;) Curious about their experiences, I decided to interview them for VeganMoFo.

First to go was YvonneP. Today I’m interviewing Uniflame from She Likes Bento. I think I met her two, three years ago on Twitter — my radar picked her up as a fellow Dutch bentoïst blogging in English about her vegetarian bento lunches. Since then we’ve discovered other similar interests, like reading books and doing challenges. She’s also a loyal participant of WeekendCooking.

Here’s Uniflame’s most recent vegan bento.

Uniflame's vegan Inarizushi Bento (#126)

Uniflame’s Inarizushi Bento

Uniflame wants to be represented by an avocado, though she can’t say why. Well, I know. Avocados are so delicious you just can’t stop thinking about them! ;)

Avocado drawing

How would you describe your diet before starting the Veggie Challenge?
Officially I am a pescetarian because I still eat fish sometimes. However I eat mostly vegetarian.

Why did you decide to join the Veggie Challenge?
I like to experiment with vegan recipes, but some aspects were scary to me. Like vegan baking, for example. Committing to eat vegan for 2 days a week, forced me to step out of my comfort zone so I could experiment.

What goals did you set and did you achieve them? Was that hard?
I chose to eat vegan for 2 days a week and I did archieve that. Other than that I set some mini goals, like try vegan baking and make vegan snacks. I also wanted to eat outdoors as a vegan one time, but the latter goal I failed to do.

What was you biggest discovery?
That vegan baking doesn’t have to be hard at all, if you pick the easy recipes that don’t require to hunt down all kind of special ingredients.

What was the most difficult or disappointing?
The most difficult was to not give in to cheese cravings. It can be difficult staying committed if your house still is full of non vegan stuff. Also: I hate the fact that a lot of stuff isn’t available in the supermarket, and that I have to hunt stuff down in a lot of different stores. Like vegan bread for example. You have to make most things yourself and with my poor health, I just don’t have enough energy to keep doing that.

What was the best thing you ate or drank during the Veggie Challenge?
I can’t choose between the lemon poppyseed muffins and the cashew and bell pepper spread that I used to make vegan sushi with. So I will just mention both ;)

If you’re in a relationship: did your partner join you in the challenge and how did he/she experience it?
He did join partially. He isn’t a vegetarian but we just cook the same main dish for dinner. So on my vegan days, he ate vegan together with me. And because I made more vegan snacks, like the muffins mentioned above, he also had those. But if he wanted a grilled cheese sandwich, he just ate one.

Has anything from the challenge lasted?
Yes, I try to make more vegan recipes now than I did before. And I also made my blog more vegan friendly, like listing in my recipe index which recipes on my blog are vegan. My stack of vegan cooking books has grown and I love requesting vegan titles from NetGalley as well to review on my blog.

Would you recommend the Veggie Challenge to others next time? Why (not)?
Yes, I would. It is fun to have a reason to think out of the box. And even if you only go vegetarian or vegan for just one day a week, it makes a huge difference.

The VeganMoFo theme on Graasland is ‘vegan en route‘. Do you have a suitable tip to share with us?
Always be prepared. If you want to stop at a certain lunch room, call ahead to see if they have options or are willing to create something. If not, make sure to have something delicious with you. To me nothing is as frustrating as to not be able to have a good meal while I see my omni friends eating away and all I have is a mediocre tasting salad. Then I rather make my own. ;)

Thanks Uniflame! I’m glad it all went well and I love how you set yourself some extra mini challenges — very creative! It doesn’t matter that you didn’t accomplish them all. I had expected you to share an avocado recipe with us though… But there’s plenty of those on your blog and with the vegan-friendly makeover they’ll be easy to find!

- – – – -

Join us with a food related post in Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking!

ExtraVeganza! button

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of book lovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

Last November -that’s almost a year ago indeed- Annemieke from Rozemarijn kookt asked on Twitter who would like to receive her copy of A Vegan Taste of Greece, by Linda Majzlik. Of course I was interested and she kindly sent me the book. Shame on me that I didn’t cook from it until a couple of weeks back!

Now why did I finally pick it up?

Cookbook Challenge ButtonWell.. There’s a PPK Cookbook Challenge on the Post Punk Kitchen forum. A vegan cookbook is chosen each week, and if you don’t have that particular book you can choose another from your shelves. This event coincides with Uniflame’s Cookbook Challenge on She Likes Bento. The difference between the two?

  • PPK: any (vegan) book will do if you don’t have the designated title but you’ll need make at least three recipes from it.
  • She Likes Bento: there’s no set amount of recipes to try (just one will do) but you have to choose an unused or hardly touched cookery book.

Conclusion: I’m making it harder on myself by combining the two. What else is new? ;)

A Vegan Taste of Greece by Linda Majzlik

Cover A Vegan Taste of GreeceA Vegan Taste of Greece was the only vegan cookbook I own from which I hadn’t tried a single recipe — so there really was no other first choice possible.

After a short introduction on the origin of Greek food and its place in society, A Vegan Taste of Greece starts with an alphabetical list of a regular pantry, often including nutritional info. Nice! The rest of the book is divided into chapters focussing on different courses: mezedes, soups, main courses, vegetables, grain accompaniments, salads, sauces and dressings, breads, desserts and baking.

I’ve made 4 recipes from 3 different sections: a main course, grain accompaniment and two salads, one green and one legume (bean). Each recipe indicates the amount of servings; mostly four but since it’s just the two of us here at Graasland, I usually made half of it.

Main course: Briami

Greek Briami, Turkish rice with chickpeas, cumin spiced quick bread and avocado salad

Greek Briami, Turkish rice with chickpeas, cumin spiced quick bread and avocado salad

Briami is a vegetable casserole containing potatoes, courgette, red pepper, mushrooms, onion, tomatoes and a selection of herbs & spices like fennel seeds, rosemary and thyme. Wine and lemon juice provide additional liquid. The dish is finished off with olives and vegan cheese, for which I used a combination of faux parmezan and ‘rawmezan’ (a mix of ground nuts & ‘nooch‘, aka nutritional yeast). Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Despite of all the flavourful ingredients I found the briami rather bland. :( It could have used more sauce and even then I’m not sure it would be really good. Maybe my expectations were too high? Mr Gnoe thought it was okay.

It’s an easy recipe to make but it does take some time preparing because of all the ingredients required. And then it has to go into the oven for about an hour. Oven dishes that can be prepared in advance are great when having guests for dinner, but I don’t think I would dare serve this. Don’t want to confirm a possible prejudice that vegan food is tasteless! ;)

Grain accompaniment: Minted bulgar with leeks

Leek bulghhur with seitan stroganoff

Seitan stroganoff with minted leek bulghur

The bulghur was… nice, but once more a bit dull. Admittedly I forgot to garnish with fresh mint. But I could hardly taste the dried peppermint that was also in it, and the leeks were so overcooked that they’d lost most of their flavour. I like leek, so it was another disappointment. I would consider making this again though: as an idea it’s more exciting than just wheat, it’s easy to make and a great way to add more vegetables to a meal. Next time I’d bake the veg separately until just done and combine everything at the end. It was a good combo with the seitan stroganoff though!

Green salad: fennel and avocado

Greek fennel salad with avocado

Greek fennel salad with watercress & avocado

I’ve got this surprisingly good fennel-tomato salad recipe and avocado is one of my favourite fruits, so I was eager to try a Greek recipe combining them. The biggest differences between the two are that the fennel is cooked first in the new recipe and it doesn’t have basil & black olives but watercress (and avocado) instead.

You can probably guess by now… Another flavourless dish. I expect Mediterranean food to be tasty! Furthermore, all ingredients were soft (not to say mushy) and I rather like a crunchy salad. My ideas for improvement? Keep the fennel raw, add olives & basil and maybe a little ouzo or other anise-flavoured drink. Of course having alcohol with your meal decreases the body’s ability to absorb vitamins, but sometimes there’s something to say for taste too. ;) But to be honest, I think I’ll stick with my regular fennel salad recipe.

Bean salad: chickpea

Greek chickpea salad

Chickpea salad

The last recipe, chickpea salad, was a small hit — the best of the bunch anyway. Especially considering it’s rather basic: a mix of cooked garbanzos, cucumber, a variety of peppers, red onion, black olives and a dressing made of skinned and finely chopped tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, crushed garlic, fresh thyme and black pepper. I added a little salt as a flavour enhancer too. Yes, I will make this salad again when I have an open can of chickpeas!

The verdict

It will come as no surprise that I’m not really enthusiastic about A Vegan Taste of Greece. I’m considering discarding it, but first I’d like to try some recipes from other sections, like…

  • A mezé ~ walnut-stuffed mushrooms? Yellow split-pea spread fava? Courgette critters? Or jumping into the deep end with gyros made from scratch, finally using that bag of seitan starter I purchased?
  • Dessert ~ baked nectarines or orange glazed peach slices, almond & apricot pastries… They make my mouth water. :) But all require the purchase of a new ingredient: orange flower water.
  • Baked goods ~ sesame cookies, almond cakes, semolina & lemon slices… No? ;)
  • And the baked beetroot in the vegetable chapter sounds like good too.

So there’s more to explore before the curtain falls. I’d like to try one each from the categories above before my final judgement. Still, there’s a whole series of A Vegan Taste of… (France, India, East Africa, et cetera) by Linda Majzlik. Getting me to try another would require a copy to literally fall into my hands again.

I hardly dare finish with one more flaw of the book.. :\ I think it’s partly a regional problem and doesn’t apply to Americans. MANY of the recipes use vegan cheese or yoghurt. I haven’t been able to find a good cheese substitute and feel reluctant to buy and use the varieties available here. In the US there’s Dayia… Reviews are raving so I’d love to get my hands on that!

And soygurt… It lacks the sour freshness of its animal equivalent, which cannot be fully compensated by adding (extra) lemon. I just purchased a tub though, so I do plan on trying one of the recipes containing yofu too.

To be continued?

If you’ve got one of Majzlik’s books I’d love to hear you think!

- – – – -

Join Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking with a food-related post!

Logo Veggie ChallengeIn June and July this year, the Dutch youth foundation Viva Las Vega’s organized the Veggie Challenge: a dare to eat less animal produce for at least one day a week during a whole month. Depending on their diet, participants would set their own goals, i.e. 1 day vegetarian for omnis, a day vegan for vegetarians, an extra day veggie for flexitarians et cetera. 2000+ people gave it a go! Among them were three people I know — and no, I had nothing to do with that ;) Curious about their experiences, I decided to interview them for VeganMoFo.

First up is YvonneP from Loisirs et Plaisirs. I met her on-line 14 years ago (!) when I joined the Dutch Boekgrrls, a virtual book club by mailinglist, exclusively for women. :) Later I got to know her in real life on book-related outings (swaps!).

YvonneP’s asked to be represented by this colourful picture of red, blue and purple fruit. That doesn’t surprise me, as she once initiated a summer theme on the Kookgrrls’ blog for which she made a pink blackberry-yoghurt pudding/blob. I wonder if it can be veganized..?

fruit and berries

Before the Veggie Challenge (VC) I was maybe a flexitarian. I ate very little meat (don’t like most meat), sometimes fish, some cheese, but I love eggs, yoghurt and soft cheese (kwark). So that could be the hard part of the vegan thing.

When I read about the VC I thought it was the best I could do, because of all the alarming news about food. I am really worried about the way food is produced and the way we are not told the truth about production mistakes, etc. Though I am not the sentimental type about animals I do not think it is right the way they are treated to serve as food.

So I decided to eat 2 days vegetarian and 2 days vegan. The other 3 days I would try to slow down eating ‘wrong’ things. Well, I ended up by doing the challenge for 2 months and now, we still eat vegetarian, very, very little fish, eggs and cheese. Even our way of shopping has changed. No supermarkets anymore, no ‘grootgrutter‘, but we buy our food at EkoPlaza. So, in fact, everything from the challenge lasts. I am still refining… :-)

In the beginning I did not know what to eat my bread with on the vegan days. But then I discovered all kinds of spreads and now, long time after the challenge we never buy anything else. Those spreads were my biggest discovery! And because it was sometimes very hot I made loads of strawberry (!!) basil ice and melon mint ice! Just blend the fruits and put them in the freezer. Love fruits, love strawberries, love blueberries, love myrtilles (don’t know the English word for it).

I can not decide what was the best we ate. I ate one recipe from the Provamel publication 20 Winnaars met smaak (shared below) with tofu and oranges that was extremely tasteful, but then again: so much was so tasteful.

My partner joined me in the challenge and he is now addicted to lentil curry spread. Does not want anything else on his bread. I do not know what he eats when he is traveling for business, but at home he eats what I make and he likes it…

I have told enthusiastically about the VC to others, but everyone has to decide for themselves whether they do it or not. I liked it very much, but maybe because the time was right for me…

Wow. I’m very impressed how YvonneP (and her partner!) went way beyond her goals while she’d expected it to be difficult. It’s had a huge impact on their lives; a real success story! That’s several animal lives saved a year — yay YvonneP!

Tofu Curry with Orange

Serves: 4
Estimated time: 45 minutes
Recipe by Great Baten
Source: Provamel publication 20 Winnaars met smaak p.20-21

Ingredients

  • 225 g tofu
  • 250 g apple-green tea flavoured soygurt (Provamel)
  • 1 organic orange
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 tbs raisins
  • 2 tbs almond flakes
  • 2 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 tbs 100% vegetable margarine
  • 1 tbs curry powder or curry paste of choice
  • a bunch of fresh cilantro
  • salt ‘n pepper

Preparation

  1. Wash the orange and grate some of the skin until you’ve got half a tablespoon of orange zest.
  2. Squeeze the juice from the orange, add the raisins and et them soak until needed.
  3. Shortly toast the almond flakes in a non-stick pan. Don’t take your eyes of them! ;)
  4. Chop the cilantro and onion (keep them separate).
  5. Cut the tofu into small blocks.
  6. Heat the oil and margarine together in a pan. Add the curry (powder or paste) and stir for 1 minute.
  7. Add the tofu and onion. Stirfry on high heat.
  8. Add orange juice & raisins, orange zest, apple-tea yofu, plus salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Garnish with almonds and cilantro and serve with rice.

Sounds like an easy recipe that I must try sometime! Personally I would insert a step #0 to drain the tofu first (how to do this is described in steps 1&2 of the Faux Feta recipe on Graasland). And maybe add some cinnamon which, to me, seems to go perfect with this dish. What do you think?

Next week:Uniflame from She Likes Bento.

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dijon

Last week I started a series of posts called Les Vacances de Mme Gnoe, about how I fared as a vegan on a recent holiday in the South of France. Obviously I survived. ;) It may help other newbie vegans going on a journey — or those worrying about going to the land of bouillabaisse, fromage and cassoulet.

Vegan Month of Food buttonIn the first post I related what to eat en route. Today I’ll write about our first dinner in France, when we spent the night in Dijon.

As a vegan it’s wise to be prepared when going on a trip. So if you’re not sure you”ll connect to the internet, do some homework before you leave!

HappyCow's Compassionate Healthy Eating Guide

My first ‘stop’ was at Happy Cow.net: a worldwide database of vegetarian restaurants and grocery stores, also marking them vegan(-friendly). There were two places listed in Dijon: Les Pieds Bleus and Le Shanti. The first was one being described as “simple family type cooking, buffet style, in a typical French canteen atmosphere” — sounds great! So we dropped off our luggage in the hotel and set off in the direction of Place Emile Zola.

Alas… The restaurant was closed for vacation and would reopen the next day when, of course, we had travelled on! This was a surprise to us as in the Netherlands restaurants do not usually close during tourist season. This holiday we were about to learn that the French do things differently. ;)

So we went to search for option #2, Le Shanti, window-shopping and making pictures of the medieval city on our way. This time we found the venue open. There were yummy things on the menu like veggie burgers, wraps, soups and salads. But… you get the picture? More like a place to have lunch or a just quick bite, not for a special occasion like your first holiday dinner!

Back to the city centre it was, where wecould pick from a choice of restaurants on the aforementioned Place Emile Zola. Considering Lebanese first, we felt more like having Japanese and ended up at the Sushi King, “retaurant Japonais” (and that’s not my typo ;).

Menu of Sushi King Dijon

Here they served a vegetarian sushi menu consisting of miso soup, salade de choux (cabbage tsukemono) and three kinds of maki rolls: cucumber, avocado and daikon radish. The usual condiments: soy sauce (sweet or salty), pickled ginger and wasabi condiments. Since I’m a sucker for chuka wakame I ordered an bowl of salade d’algues as well. For dessert I enjoyed a whole pot of Japanese green tea.

Miso soup
Cabbage tsukemono
Sushi
Chuka wakame

We had dinner outside, cozy among other establishments on the city square. The food was good but nothing special and, aside from plain or vinegar rice, these were the only vegan/vegetarian dishes on the menu. I haven’t asked whether the fried noodles with vegetables were (or could be made) vegan and it didn’t really seem like the place to serve food off the carte.

Green tea (Japonais)The waiters were fairly quick and friendly, except for one young man who managed to whisk away our plates a little too early first and ignored us when we wanted to order another drink afterwards. He probably didn’t have his day. ;) We did.

So. If you like to have a decent meal but aren’t too demanding, I can certainly recommend the Sushi King for a vegan dinner in Dijon!

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The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of book lovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

Months ago, it must have been somewhere in spring, I suddenly had enough. I haven’t told you (really didn’t mean to keep it a secret! ;) but I quit all the challenges I’d subscribed to for 2012. Just like that, cold turkey, after having been an addict for years! ;)

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Then came October… autumn. And Uniflame announced a two-month Cookbook Challenge inspiring people to cook from under-used cookbooks — who doesn’t have some of those hanging around? Of course I had to join. :) So Gnoe’s back in business!


Since it’s VeganMoFo this month, I’ll concentrate on vegan cookbooks. Starting of with A Vegan Taste of Greece by Linda Majzlik, that was passed on to me earlier this year — and until now I hadn’t tried a single recipe. I’ll probably share my experiences with the book next Sunday Salon.

Cover Vegan Taste of Greece (Linda Majzlik)

Other vegan cookbooks on my shelf that qualify:

  • Non-fish-a-licious and
  • (maybe) Lisette in Luilekkerland, both by Lisette Kramer.

Vegetarian nominees:

  • Yogi food (Jet Eikelboom & Seth Jansen),
  • The Art of Tofu (Akasha Richmond),
  • Living Among Meat Eaters (Carol J. Adams),
  • Koken in McDonald’s kitchen (Andy McDonald).

One omni cookbook that I’ve had for two decades, haven’t cooked from and still fail at getting rid of: Aan tafel met Yvonne Keuls, a collection of family recipes from Yvonne Keuls, a Dutch writer with Indonesian roots.

Which cookbooks have you hardly used?

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Yay for VeganMoFo! Not only did my readers suggest wonderful pear desserts, one of them ‘clicked’ with a recipe I’d just come across at one of my fellow MoFo-ers, Have Cake, Will Travel!

Here’s the pear with chocolate syrup and sliced almonds I had for afters last night. It was awesome!

Untitled

It would have been lovely on a pear tarte tatin as well. ;) But that was too much work for a Friday night.

I made 1/3 of the original recipe -which is SUPER easy- and still have plenty left to experiment with this week. Ideas: chocolate milk, banana split adaptation, fruit or (speculoos) cookies dipped in chocolate, chocolate soygurt… I can go on and on! ;) A new favourite for sure. Try it!

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