Archive for the ‘Menus’ Category

Cold and rainy night… We’re having a very traditional winter meal. A homemade seitan roast stuffed with a carrot, leeks & mushroom brunoise, with oven roasted maple glazed root vegetables, potato purée and a simple pan juice & amontillado sauce. We’ll pair this with a simple musclum salad with dill & lemon zest and a lemon & olive oil dressing. And we’ll end things with an apple crisp, my favourite ordinary desert!


roast meal



For the seitan

  • 225 ml (1 cup) wheat gluten flour
  • 175 ml (3/4 cup) white mushrooms
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) porcini mushrooms
  • 1 small onion
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) olive oil
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) powdered onion soup
  • 2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) rosemary
  • 2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) thyme
  • 2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) smoked spanish paprika
  • 1.25 ml (1/4 tsp) nutmeg
  • 1 glove garlic
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) strong vegetable stock
  • 2 litres (8 cups) strong vegetable stock for poaching

For the stuffing

  • 1 carrot
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) white mushrooms
  • 1 leeks (white part only)
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) vegetable oil

For the veges

  • 4 carrots, quartered lengthwise
  • 1 small rutabaga, cut in 1 cm wide sticks
  • 4 parsnips, quartered lengthwise
  • 2 small onions, quartered
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) maple syrup
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) olive oil
  • salt to taste

For the purée

  • 1 kg (2¼lbs) potatoes
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) salt
  • 200 g (7 oz) cold vegan butter, in small chunks
  • warm vegan milk, to taste

For the sauce

  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) amontillado wine
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) vegan butter


roast stuffed & tied

roast stuffed & tied

roast & veges ready to go in the oven.

roast & veges ready to bake
roast & veges ready to bake

To make

First make the seitan. In a large food processor finely chop the onions, garlic and mushrooms. Add flour and seasoning and pulse a few times. Add just enough stock to get a very firm dough. Process until smooth. Reserve.

Make the stuffing. Brunoise all the veges. Heat the oil in a sautéing pan, sauter the carrots for a minute, add leeks and mushrooms and sauter a minute more until vegetables are tender and golden. Reserve.

Roll out the seitan into a large rectangle about 1 cm thick. Stuff, roll and seal the edges with water. Tie the roast well.

Poach the roast in a large pot of strong vege stock for 10 mins. Remove and drain.

Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F)

Place roast in large roasting pan, brush with oil and seasoning.

In a bowl toss the vegetables with oil, maple syrup, crushed garlic and salt & pepper to taste. Arrange the veges around the roast. Bake for 45 mins or until veges are done and roast is golden brown.

While roast is baking, make the purée. Peel, slice and rinse the potatoes. In a large pot of water simmer potatoes until soft. Drain and rice the potatoes over a bowl containing the cold butter. When you are ready to serve reheat the purée very gently while gradually whisking in a little warm milk.

When the roast is ready, remove it and the veges to a serving plate. Put the roasting pan on the stove, medium high heat, and deglaze with amontillado, scraping the pan with a spoon to dissolve all the fond. Reduce by 1/3. Remove from heat. Adjust salt and pepper. Add butter a little at the time, stirring well after each addition to incorporate it. Keep warm.

Plate and serve.

Serves 4

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Steamed artichokes with a mustard vinaigrette

Shaved fennel, blood orange and black olive salad
Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2007

King oyster mushroom “osso bucco” over orecchiette drizzled with truffle oil
Cantina dei produttori Nebbiolo di Carema, Carema Riserva 2005


Sorry for the radio silence, I will put up real updates in the coming days.

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Here’s a simple Japanese inspired dinner tonight. I’ve posted variations of most of these recipes before. They’re all very simple and quick, perfect for week night.

The menu:

Baked shiitake & pleurote w sesame oil, garlic and lemon juice
Spicy sautéed green beans
Fat and tender okra roasted with yaki glaze
Cold cha soba w garnishes and dipping sauce

We paired this with Akitabare koshiki junzukuri “Northern skies” saké  which went very well with the mushroom dish but something sweeter would have been better the beans and okra.

Spicy sautéed green beans


  • 30 ml (2 tbsps) peanut or canola oil
  • 500 gr (1 pound) green beans, trimmed, washed, dried
  • 3 dried hot chilis, cut up
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) ginger, minced
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) chili with garlic sauce
  • 10 ml (2 tsp) rice wine vinegar
  • 60 ml (4 tbsps) mirin
  • 10 ml (2 tsp) sugar
  • 45 ml (3 tbsps) tamari
  • 15 ml (1 tbps) toasted sesame oil
  • salt to taste
  • 30 ml (2 tbsps) toasted sesame seeds, to garnish

In a wok on high heat, heat 30 ml oil until hot. Add the dried chilis, garlic and ginger. Stir briskly for about 30 seconds. Add the string beans and cook 4-5 minutes until done but still crispy. Then add the vinegar, wine, sugar, chili sauce and salt, and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the soy sauce and sesame oil, stir, and serve sprinkled with sesame seeds.

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This is my default country vacation meal.

As much as I love cooking, when I’m in the country I rarely go all out as I’m usually too busy building, planting or fixing something to take the time to make a gourmet meal. So I usually just slice up some fresh vegetables and season them up simply before tossing them on the BBQ. A green salad, some good bread and of course wine, rounds it up.

Grilled veges drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt.

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I’m not a big fan of store-bought vege burgers. I find they have no taste and the list of ingredients frightens me. When I feel like digging my fork into something “meaty” I make my own variation.

Tofu burger with roasted garlic and mushrooms, shallots-Jerez jus, sautéed spinach and oven fries.

This is my recipe for vege burgers. For approx the same price of a box of boring store-bought stuff you’ll get something homemade and toothsome.


  • 454 gm (16 oz) extra firm tofu, mashed
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) vital wheat gluten flour
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 240 ml (1 cup) mushrooms, sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) smoked Spanish paprika
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) freshly grated nutmeg
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) fresh rosemary, minced
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) Jerez wine
  • sea salt to taste

Heat a sauteing pan on medium-high heat, spray with oil, add onions, garlic and mushrooms and cook until brown. Deglaze the pan with Jerez. Remove from heat and cool.

In a mixing bowl, combined above mixture with tofu, vital wheat gluten flour, chipotle peppers, paprika, nutmeg, rosemary and salt. Mix by hand until all ingredients are combined. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

Heat oven to 200°C (400°F). Form 8 patties with the tofu mixture. Put on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 40 minutes turning once.

Serves 8

Tofu burgers just out of the oven

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I had some leftover fire roasted Piquillo peppers in the fridge and instead of eating it straight from the can and then drinking the juice (it was very tempting) I decided to make a simple lunch of it.

I made a tostada with good crusty bead, toasted and spread generously with a roasted garlic purée, then I layered on the peppers and Dr Cow aged cashew cheese and drizzle with good Spanish olive oil. Served with a simple green salad, it made for an awesome lunch.

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I was in the mood for a Calçotada but being short of Calçot (they just didn’t have them at the Union square market today), here’s the menu for our Catalan spring feast.


Olives &  Marcona Almonds
Pa amb Tomàquet (bread with tomato)
Xampinyons a l’all (sautéed mushrooms with garlic)

Espinacs a la Catalana (spinach with raisins and pine nuts)
Arròs a l’Empordanesa
Crema Catalana

Arròs a l’empordanesa

Could this look any more like a shot from a 1970 cookbook?

This rice dish “in the style of Emporda” (a region in north-east Catalunya), is similar in style to paella. Traditionally, the main ingredient are rovellon mushrooms which grow in that area and are pretty much impossible to buy elsewhere, but other flavourful wild mushrooms will do. The addition of almond and pimentón give a smokey richness to the dish.


  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onions, thinly sliced
  • 115 gr (4 oz) wild mushrooms, sliced
  • 115 ml (1/2 c) dry white wine
  • 3 cloves of garlic, made into a paste with a mortar and pestle
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, grated
  • 25 gr (1 oz) almonds, toasted
  • 60 ml (1/4 c) fresh parsley, chopped, plus more to garnish
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • pinch Spanish saffron
  • 350 ml  (1 1/2 c) Bomba rice (substitute good short-grain rice if unavailable)
  • 600 ml (2 1/2 c) vegetable stock
  • 115 ml (1/2 c) fresh peas
  • 115 ml (1/2 c) white beans, cooked
  • 60 ml (1/4 c) pimientos del piquillo, julienned
  • 3 artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
  • salt to taste
  • lemon wedges, to garnish

Serves: 4-6


Pre-heat oven to 175°C (350°F).

Heat the olive oil in a large paella pan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and onions and sauté until golden brown, then add white wine and cook until nearly completely reduced.

Add the garlic paste and tomato. Let simmer for 15 minutes, season with salt to taste.

Using a mortar and pestle, make a paste with the almonds, parsley, paprika, cayenne and saffron. Reserve.

Add the rice to the pan and stir, cook for 3 minutes. Add the paste to the pan and stir.

Finally, pour in enough sock to cover the whole dish and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and place in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes or until most of the stock is absorbed and the rice is al dente.

Scatter with peas and white beans, add peppers and artichoke over the rice.

Return dish to oven and turn off the heat. Continue cooking until the rice is tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Garnish with more parsley and lemon wedges.


There were a few… And I have to say I have a slight headache this morning, wouldn’t have been a proper Catalan party without.

Raventós I Blanc L’Hereu, Cava Brut Reserva
Producer: Raventós i Blanc
Varietal: 60% Macabeo, 20% Xarel-lo and 20% Parellada
Vintage: NV
Region: Cataluna, Spain
D.O.: Cava

A really great Cava at a decent price. Bright and lively with tiny, persistent bubbles and refreshing acidity. Aromas of lemon, green apple and mineral.

La Gitana Manzanilla
Producer: Bodegas Hidalgo
Grape: Palomino Fino
Vintage: NV
Region: Andalucía
D.O.: Sanlúcar de Barrameda – Jerez
$18 for 500 ml

A Classic in Spain’s tapas bar, this is the most popular Manzanilla and one of the finest. Ideal with tapas but also works great as a table wine.

Pale straw color, bone dry yet rich, salty, seaside flavor with a hint of nuttiness and mineral.

Check the bottling date on the back label and drink within a year of bottling (at max.). Leftover wine, kept in the fridge, is fantastic for cooking.

Gessamí Gramona
Producer: Bodegas Gramona
Grape: 50% Muscat of Alexandria, 20% Muscat of Frontignan, 25% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% de Gewürztraminer
Vintage: 2008
Region: Cataluña
D.O.: Penedés

Pale golden-green colour. Very aromatic and fresh with notes of jasmine, fennel and citrus.

Camins del Priorat 2007
Producer: Alvaro Palacios
Grape: 50% Cariñena, 40% Garnacha, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
Vintage: 2007
Region: Cataluña
D.O.: Priorat

If L’Ermita doesn’t quite fit your budget (it certainly doesn’t fit mine!) you might want to try this much better priced wine by the same superstar maker.

Bright and fruity with aromas of plum, red berries and pepper. Its ripe tannins and silky texture make it a great food wine.

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Saturday night, after a little excursion to Mitsuwa, we had a Izakaya style dinner. Lots of small plates to go with several different sakés. Sort of like Japanese tapas.

On the menu was:

  • Miso soup with tiny cubes of melt-in-your-mouth tofu
  • Takuan,  ume + cucumber, avocado + yamagobo sushis
  • Cucumber, wakame, tororo sunomono (seaweed  salad)
  • Cold cha soba with garnishes
  • Nasu dengaku (grilled eggplant with miso glaze)
  • Robata Yaki okra, asparagus and scallions
  • Maitake, bunashimeji and shiitake mushrooms baked en papillote with sesame oil, sake and garlic served with a squeeze of lemon

Mitsuwa has a massive selection of sakés… We went a little nuts! They were the main attraction at dinner of course and though we didn’t quite polish off these 4 bottles we never the less over indulged.

Junmai Daiginjo Nama
Ehime, Japan
500 ml
Aromas of ripe tropical fruit. Off dry.

Shirakawago Sasanigori
Junmai Ginjo Nigori
Gifu, Japan
300 ml
As all Nigori, this saké is unfiltered which gives it a cloudy white look with a sweeter, mild and fruity aroma.  Floral and apple notes. Would also be great with spicy dishes.

Tokubetsu Junmai
Yamagata, Japan
720 ml
Full-bodied, medium-dry. Notes of apricot and almond.

Rin Draft Saké
Fukushima, Japan
500 ml

Brewed from 100% organic rice. Rich, creamy and buttery aromas.

All were served chilled.

Starting at the beginning, here’s a recipe for dashi, the base of much Japanese Cuisine.

Vegan Dashi (Soup Stock)


  • 1 liter (4 cups) water
  • 15 cm (6″) piece of kombu
  • 3 dry shiitake mushroom
  • 45 ml (3 tbsp) mirin
  • 30 ml  (2 tbsp) shoyu


Rinse off kombu if necessary. Put the water in a pot, add kombu and shiitake and soak for 1 hour.

Bring nearly to the boil, simmer gently for 20 mins. Remove kombu, add remaining ingredients and simmer for 2 more minutes. Remove shiitake and reserve for other use.

That’s it. Now you’ve got a tasty dashi.

Next we’ll use this dashi to make miso soup.

Miso Soup with tofu and scallions


  • 750 ml (3 cups) dashi soup stock
  • 150 gr (5 oz) silken tofu
  • 60 ml (4 tbsp) miso paste
  • 3 scallions, thinly chopped


Put dashi soup stock in a pot and bring to a boil. Cut tofu into small cubes and add them to the soup and simmer for a few minutes. Remove from heat. Dissolve the miso in a small amount of hot dashi and add to the soup. Add Scallions, stir and serve.

Remember never to boil the soup after the miso is added or you will kill all the good stuff.

Serves 4

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pumpkin risotto

Pan-seared maitake steaks with pumpkin risotto and crispy sage

Last night our menu was:

Tiny oven roasted beets on a nest of sautéed beet tops
with a hazelnut & orange dressing

Pan-seared maitake steaks with pumpkin risotto and crispy sage

Tensley Blanc 2007, Santa Barbara

While this may look like zombie food it is in fact a maitake mushroom. They’re delicious and in season right now. Try them.

maitake 1

maitake 2

For risotto

  • 300 ml (1 1/4 cups) peeled, seeded and diced fresh pumpkin
  • 750 ml (3 cups) homemade vegetable stock (or best store-bought)
  • 115 ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 15 ml (1 tbs) olive oil
  • 350 ml (1 1/2 cups) Arborio rice
  • freshly ground nutmeg
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

For maitake steaks

  • 2 or 3 medium clusters of maitake (aprox 750 gr)
  • 45 ml (3 tbs) olive oil
  • 30 ml (2 tbs) thinly sliced plus 6 whole leaves fresh sage

Make risotto:

Cook diced pumpkin in a medium saucepan covered with water until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and puré in blender. Reserve.

Bring stock to a simmer in a small saucepan and keep warm.

In a medium size heavy saucepan, cook onion in oil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and simmer until evaporated. Add 1 cup simmering stock and cook at a strong simmer, stirring constantly, until stock is absorbed. Continue simmering, adding stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is tender and creamy-looking but still al dente, about 20 minutes total. (There may be broth left over.)

Remove from heat and stir in pumpkin cream. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Cover to rest 5 minutes. Serve immediately after.

Prepare mushrooms:

Clean maitake mushrooms carefully and cut into 2.5 cm (1″) thick slices.

Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the sage and fry until golden and crispy. Careful not to burn it, this only takes seconds. Remove sage from the skillet and drain on a paper towel. Keep the hot oil in the skillet.

Add the maitake to the skillet and sauté, turning once, until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Keep warm.

To serve:

Ladle risotto onto plates, top with maitake steak and crispy sage. Serve immediately, risotto doesn’t wait very well.


Tensley Blanc – 2007

Country : USA
Region : California / Santa Barbara
Varietal : Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier
Price : $25

A Rhône-style blend, fruity and aromatic with notes of ripe peach, green apple and tropical fruit. Hint of floral and mineral. Big, round, ripe and lush fall wine.


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Last night’s menu was:

Crostini of chestnut pâté with caramelised onions,
grape must reduction and a drop of truffle oil

winter stew 1

Winter vegetables stew with turmeric & raisins
and a simple green salad.

Stew recipe


  • 12 small cipollini onions, whole, peeled
  • 4 medium parsnips
  • 6 small white turnips
  • 1 medium ratabaga
  • 2 medium parsley roots
  • 4 medium carrots
  • 500 gr (1 lbs) fingerlings potatoes
  • 5 large chard leaves
  • 45 ml (3 tbs) olive oil
  • 30 ml (2 tbs) flour
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) turmeric powder
  • 250 ml (1 cup) dry white wine
  • 750 ml (3 cups) strong vegetable broth, mushroom and onion is ideal
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • (1/4 cup) large raisins
  • 15 ml (1 tbs) each fresh thyme, sage, marjoram, chopped
  • 45 ml (3 tbs) fresh parsley, chopped


Preheat oven to 175C (350F)

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and blanch the onions. Cool and peel the. Set aside.

Scrub all root vegetables clean, peel only those necessary and cut into chunky bite size pieces. Remove the ribs from the chard and cut into 1 cm (1/2 “) wide strips.

In a large cast iron pot, over medium high heat, warm the oil. Add all root vegetables and sauté 5 minutes. In a bowl mix the flour, salt, pepper, turmeric. Sprinkle the mixture over the vegetables. Cook, stirring regularly, until the flour begins to brown. Add the wine, stir and cook 2 minutes. Add broth, chard, onions, raisins and herbs, except parsley. Cover and bake in the oven until the vegetables are tender, about 45 mins.

Serve garnished with fresh parsley.


Geil muskateller trocken 2007

Country : Germany
Region : Rheingau / Rheinhessen
Varietal : Muscat
Price : $15

A light and crip wine with decent length. Very fruit forward with dominant notes of musky muscat grape of course, also with notes peach, citrus, floral, hint of honey and nutmeg. Slight minerality.

geil muskateller

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eggplant crumble 1

Eggplant & leak crumble

Last night we had a salad of wild roquette, sautéed Bosc pears and lightly candied pecans followed by an eggplant & leek crumble. Here’s a recipe for the crumble.


  • 1 large eggplant cut into 2 cm (1″) cubes
  • 2 medium leeks, white part only, cleaned and sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 90 ml (6 tbs) olive oil
  • 1 block firm silken tofu
  • 15 ml lemon juice (1 tbs)
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 45 ml (3 tbs) fresh parsley, chopped

To prepare

In a blender, put the tofu, 30 ml oil (2 tbs), lemon juice and zest and process until very smooth. Add water if needed to make a very thick cream. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Keep aside.

In a large skillet, over medium high heat, warm 30 ml (2 tbs) oil until very hot, add half the garlic sauté one minute and add leeks, sauté until soft. Add eggplant, sauté until soft. Remove from heat.

Oil a baking dish. Put the eggplant & leek mix at the bottom. Add the tofu cream over top. Bake for about 20 minutes in a 175C (350F) oven.

Mix bread crumbs with remaining 30 ml oil (2 tbs) oil. Season with fresh parley, remaining garlic, salt and pepper. Sprinkle over the crumble. Return to oven and broil for about 3 minutes, or just until breadcrumbs are golden and crusty. Serve.


Bott Geyl Les Pinots d’Alsace Métiss 2006

Country : France
Region : Alsace
Appellation : Alsace
Producer : Jean-Christophe Bott

Very Alsatian in character, it’s a beautiful rich golden colour. Overall crisp and fresh and dangerously easy to drink. Dominant notes are pear, apricot, citrus, with a hint of floral, honey and almond. Nice minerality, dept and ripeness. Kind of a steal at $16.

bott geyl pinots d'alsace

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Chestnuts & Porcini Medaglioni
with a porcini jus & olive oil emulsion sauce.
Pierre André Chassagne-montrachet Les Blanchots 1er Cru 2004

Ragù of wild mushrooms
with creamy polenta and sautéed dandelion greens.
Altaïr, D.O. Requinoa, Valle del Alto Cachapoal, Chile

Salad of tender Italian mesclum with an hazelnut oil & lemon juice dressing

Compote of figs in Marsala wine
with homemade vegan mascarpone mousse
Coteaux-du-Layon-St Lambert, Domaine du Roy René, Les Cartelles 2001

Plating while intoxicated looks like this. Don’t do it.

Ragù of wild mushrooms

1 kg (2 lbs) mixed mushrooms (I used a mix of dried procini and chanterelles and fresh oyster and Shimeji)
1L jar Italian tomatoes, chopped, with their juices (or 1 large can store bought)
100 ml (1/2 cup) sun-dried tomatoes
30 ml (2 Tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onion, chopped
8 cloves of garlic, minced
250 ml (1 cup) Marsala wine
500 ml (2 cups)  mushroom soaking water or homemade vegetable broth
30 ml (2 Tbsp)  roasted sesame oil
30 ml (2 Tbsp)  fresh sage chopped
30 ml (2 Tbsp)  fresh thyme chopped
30 ml (2 Tbsp)  fresh oregano chopped
5 ml (2 tsp)  smoked paprika
salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
100 ml (1/2 cup) thick soy cooking cream such as Belsoy


half bunch of fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
graded zest of 1 organic lemon

Put the dried mushrooms in a large bol and rehydrate by covering them with plenty of boiling water. Set aside to soak for at least 20 minutes until softened. Drain and reserve soaking water. Do the same with sun-dried tomatoes.

Preheat oven to 175°C (350F).

Slice cut mushrooms into big chunks and leave smaller ones whole. Put the olive oil in an enameled cast iron braising pot and sauté the onion and garlic on medium high heat for a minute. Add the mushrooms and sauté until golden. Deglaze the pot with the wine and simmer until the liquid is almost completely evaporated.

Add sun-dried tomatoes, canned tomatoes, smoked paprika, sage, thyme and oregano, roasted sesame oil, 250 ml (1 cup) mushroom soaking water or homemade vegetable broth, salt and pepper. Combine well. Put in the oven and cook covered for about one hour. If the mixture dries out, add a little broth or mushroom soaking water.

Remove from the oven and add the soy cooking cream. Adjust salt and pepper as needed. Cover and let sit for a few minutes while you assemble the gremolata.

Serve over polenta, sprinkled with gremolata.

This rustic and earthy ragù is a perfect example the great meatiness (in both flavour and texture) of wild mushrooms. It can be made on the stove top in a heavy pot with a thick bottom but this oven method is easier when you have guests as it requires very little fussing. You can prepare this ragù up to 3 days ahead; cover and refrigerate. Just gently reheat when you are ready to serve. Calculate for generous portions as it tends to disappear quickly.

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An othe “classic” meat and potatoes menu to warm you up during this winter which just won’t quit.

Chanterelles escalope, asparagus with hollandaise sauce  and gratin dauphinois.

Vegan Hollandaise sauce

makes 250 ml

175 ml (3/4 cup) unflavored soy milk or other non-dairy milk
60 ml (2 tbs) warm melted Earth Balance or olive oil
30 ml (1 tbs) cornstarch
30 ml (1 tbs)  fresh lemon juice
zest of half a lemon
salt to taste
pinch of tumeric (for colour)

In a saucepan mix together the soy milk, the cornstarch and tumeric, and whisk together well. Stir constantly over medium high heat until thick and translucent.

Scrape the yellow cornstarch mixture into the blender container containing the lemon juice and zest and salt. Blend well, adding the melted Earth Balance slowly through the hole in the lid while the machine is running.  Blend until the mixture is pale yellow, homogeneous and emulsified. Serve immediately.

Makes a really awesome tofu florentine too.

Wine pairing suggestions:

A white from the Savoie region or a light, fruity and earthy red from Beaujolais such as a Brouilly, Fleury or Saint-Amour.

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Sautéed Jerusalem artichokes on a bed of mâche with a hazelnut oil, lemon juice vinaigrette
Roasted king oyster mushroom “fillets” with caramelized onions and a port reduction sauce
Gratin dauphinois
Haricots verts
Espresso crème caramel

and a bottle of Côtes-du-Rhône “Sagesse” 2007

(A poor cell phone picture of it so I’ve kept it small)

Gratin Dauphinois

1kg (2lb) potatoes (waxy potatoes such as russet)
2 cloves garlic, minced finely
60 ml (2 tbs) olive oil
500 ml (2 cups) freshly made almond milk (or other milk of your choice)
125 ml (1/2 cup) fresh bread crumbs
250 ml (1 cup) fresh cashew cheese
500 ml litre (2 cups) cashew cream
nutmeg to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 180ºC (360ºF). Slice the potatoes into thin slices. Rinse in cold water. Drain and dry in a towel.

Put the potatoes in a pan and cover with nut milk. Add salt to taste. Bring to the boil starting at moderate heat for 5 minutes then low heat for 10 minutes. Stir from time to time.

Rub a fireproof dish with garlic and spray with oil. Transfer half of the potatoes in the gratin dish. Add half the cheese, cream, pepper and nutmeg to the layer. Put the second half of the potatoes and cover with the remaining cheese and cream. Top with breadcrumbs.

Cook for 1 hour at 180ºC (360ºF) or until the top is a nice golden colour.

serve 6

Wine pairing suggestions:

Other wine alternatives would be French red wines from Languedoc-Roussillon for their aromas of dark, ripe black fruits or a full-bodied and fruity Portuguese red from the Douro region which firm tannins and acidity would stand up nicely to the sauce.

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We’re running a little late with this one but I wasn’t about to skip it. The weather sucked so it was the perfect day to be inside for an endless no-fuss lunch. We traded lucky money envelops, eat too much and had a great time.

The menu went something like this:

jio tsai bao (steamed leek  buns)
gow choy gao (steamed garlic chive dumplings)
pan fried vege dumplings
spring rolls with all the trimmings

gai lan (chinese flowering broccoli) with vege oyster sauce and garlic
garlic dry ribs
smoked tofu char siu
spicy garlic eggplant
stir fried veges with faux scampies

mango sorbet
almond cookies

With plenty of delicious riesling (mid-priced german stuff with a touch of residual sugar is perfect with chinese food) and lots of Anxi Tie Kuan Yin oolong tea, my absolute favourite these days.

spicy garlic eggplant

stir fried veges with faux scampies

garlic dry ribs made of yuba knots

I won’t give you every recipe, several dishes were made without much of one and others (the dim sum) were store bought as I had very little time to cook for this but here’s my vegan char siu recipe. It works well served warm on its own but also makes a great addition to stir fries, soups or even used cold in vegan bánh mì.

Smoked Tofu Char Siu

2 packs (8 pieces) chinese smoked pressed tofu

For the Marinade:
250 ml (1 cup) soy sauce
250 ml (1 cup) mirin or chinese cooking wine or dry sherry
250 ml (1 cup) water
30 ml (2 tbs) soft brown sugar
15 ml (1  tbs) fermented yellow bean sauce
15 ml (1  tbs)  vege Hoisin sauce
15 ml (1  tbs)  vege oyster sauce
5 ml (1  tsp)  chinese sesame oil
30 ml (2 tbs) red beet juice for colour (optional)
3 cloves of garlic minced
30 ml (2 tbs) fresh grated ginger
5 ml (1  tsp)  chinese five-spice powder

Cut each slice of smoked tofu in 4 long pieces.

Combine all of the marinade’s ingredients. Put the tofu and the marinade  in an air tight container and refrigerate for 24 hours.

The next day, place the tofu in a roasting pan big enough to contain it and enough liquid to go half way up to side of the tofu. Pour the marinade over the tofu to half its height. Place the roasting pan on the middle rack of the oven set at 175 C (350F) degree and braise for approximately 60 minutes. Turn the tofu halfway through. Add liquid as needed. As the marinade has a high sugar content, be careful not let it over-reduce and burn. When the tofu is done it should be a nice reddish brown colour and well glazed.

Make a sauce by boiling the remaining marinade for a few minutes until it thickens, then strain into a serving dish. Serve hot, sprinkled with sesame seeds or chopped green onion or cold as a garnish for other dishes. It will keep in the fridge for up to 7 days. Serves 8.

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Dear food diary,

I’ve been somewhat uninspired to blog lately, maybe because I’ve been even busier then usual and I lack time to put ideas on “paper”.

But one still needs to eat so I think I’ll tell you what I’ve been eating. How’s that?

So tonight we’ve got:

Carpaccio of roasted Chioggia beets
Sanguine orange reduction and hazelnut oil dressing
Kreuznacher Krotenpfuhl, Dönnhoff, Riesling Spätlese 2007

Wild Mushroom Ragù over creamy polenta
Braised beet greens with garlic confit and lemon zest
Alberino, Amarone, Veneto, Valpolicella 2005

Sanguine orange compote, sanguine orange sorbet and biscotti d’anici
MR Moscatel, Telmo Rodriguez 2005

Isn’t veganism bleak!

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Early summer feast.

Tonight’s dinner menu

Simple purslane salad with a lemon juice & olive oil dressing

Ribbon pasta with sauté morels; wild asparagus cream sauce

Riesling Jubilee Réserve Personnelle Hugel Alsace 2003

Strawberry rhubarb sorbet

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I’m wary of people who chronically obsess about their weight. Dancers, models, racers who’d never eat this or that for fear of gaining 10 grs. So very unsexy. I can’t help but wonder what else they’ll refuse to put in their mouths.

Having said that, my gastronomical ennui seem to be at least temporarily cured. No help from Basque superstars was required though much love and a really good Albariño from the Rías Baixas did help.

Warm Jerusalem artichokes salad over a bed of mâche with an hazelnut oil, Jerez vinegar and homemade grain mustard vinaigrette.

Fricassé of pleurottes with flageolets.

Petit pot de crème au chocolat with almond tuiles.

Enjoy your celery sticks suckers!

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Pleasure propaganda.

Here’s what Wiki says about the therapeutic value of a good party in the dead of winter.

Even in modern cultures these gatherings are still valued for emotional comfort, having something to look forward to at the darkest time of the year. This is especially the case for populations in the near polar regions of the hemisphere. The depressive psychological effects of winter on individuals and societies malaise, and inactivity. Winter weather, plus being indoors causes negative ion deficiency which decreases serotonin levels resulting in depression and tiredness. Also, getting insufficient light in the short winter days increases the secretion of melatonin in the body, off balancing the circadian rhythm with longer sleep. Exercise, light therapy, increased negative ion exposure (which can be attained from plants and well ventilated flames burning wood or beeswax) can reinvigorate the body from its seasonal lull and relieve winter blues by shortening the melatonin secretions, increasing serotonin and temporarily creating a more even sleeping pattern. Midwinter festivals and celebrations occurring on the longest night of the year, often calling for evergreens, bright illumination, large ongoing fires, feasting, communion with close ones, and evening physical exertion by dancing and singing are examples of cultural winter therapies that have evolved as traditions since the beginnings of civilization. Such traditions can stir the wit, stave off malaise, reset the internal clock and rekindle the human spirit.

Yesterday was the perfect winter day for it. A balmy -5° C with a bright blue sky cradling a lazy winter sun. I went cross-country skiing for a couple hours then home to prepare for our “traditional” Sol Invictus feast (we had a pretty decent run trough on dec. 22nd…) which we celebrate yearly with obscene quantities of growers Champagne and decadent food. I’m posting a detailed menu for the benefit of those out there who still think that vegan means plain tofu and brown rice.

Sol Invictus menu

Walnut, chanterelles and rosemary pâté on toasts with Icewine gelée.
Roasted morsels of aubergine with coriander pesto.
Crimini, hazelnuts stuffed baby artichokes with a saffron-blood orange sauce.

Grilled portobello steaks with onion confit and Cabarnet reduction.
Braised garlic and truffle oil mashed potatoes.
Roasted root vegetables.
sautéed cime di rapa.

Baby arugula salad with hazelnut oil and Jerez vinaigrette.

Cardamon-persimmon flan with fig-Marsala compote.

So sorry you’re stuck with dried up turkey leftovers.

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