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One of the interesting things I’ve got out of this nearly-a-year-now of  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge recipes is how often all that is needed is a bit of pre-thinking to allow fast, easy weeknight vego recipes. I guess it’s because besides eggs, the main vegetarian protein foods are beans or ferments.  Beans from scratch are really really cheap and healthy, but they need you to think of them a day in advance to allow soaking. This recipe uses lentils and brown rice, and needs a full 24 hours of prescience to allow them to soak and lightly ferment. It’s not work – all you have to do is add water – but it is thought.

Dosa are basically a thin, crispy pancake made from a rice and lentil mixture fermented like sourdough. It’s amazing what a difference the fermenting makes to the flavour and the crispy texture, and it also increases the vitamin B and C content.

It’s a staple in southern India, where traditionally it is made with black lentils (vigna mungo).  One day soon I’m going to try growing black lentils.  I’ve never been to India (one day), and I make it with the easier-to-get in Australia red lentils, that I usually have in the pantry.  They make a very pretty pink batter. My sister makes it with green lentils, or mung dal. I think the concept is that it will work with any kind of lentil.

The Recipe:

Makes 6 dosa – enough for 6 kids or 3 big active blokes.

Start a day in advance.

Soak ¾ cup raw brown rice and ¼ cup red lentils in one cup of water overnight or over the day (8 hours or so).

Blend the mixure to make a smooth batter. This is slightly hard work for a food processor, but nothing a decent one can’t handle.  The rice and lentils are well softened by the soaking.

Leave the blended rice and lentils mix in a bowl, covered with a clean cloth, on the benchtop for 12 to 18 hours.  It will expand with a bubbly texture, like bread dough, and smell clean and yeasty.

Add a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of ground cumin to the mix, and enough  water to make a crepe-like batter that will pour, but only just – how much will vary but around ¹/3 cup.

Heat a heavy frypan and add a little oil or traditionally, ghee.  Light olive oil is good for frying like this, because the refining that makes it light (flavoured, not calories) also gives it a higher smoke point and makes it better for frying.

Pour in a sixth of the batter, spreading it by tilting the pan and using the back of a spoon to give a thin pancake about 15 to 20 cm (6 – 8 inches) across.  Cook on a medium-high heat until the pancake is set and golden, then flip and cook the other side.  Add a little more oil and repeat.  If you are making lots, you can have two pans going at once, or make them pikelet size.  If you make them too large (or if you use too much lentil and too little rice, or if you don’t ferment long enough) , they are hard to flip without breaking.

Serve hot with chutney, salsa, pickles or sauces.  I served these with a hot pumpkin chutney, tomato salsa, and the first of many cucumber, mint and yoghurt raitas for the season.

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It must really be Spring.  In one week, I have gone from feeling like only soups, stews and things eaten with a spoon from a bowl, to feeling like something with crunch and those hot-sweet-sour tropical flavours.

This Tuesday Night Vego Challenge took a bit of experimenting, and a bit of re-purposing of kitchen equipment.  You might have to do your own experimenting and repurposing to make it fit what you have available. It’s worth it.

The Recipe:

Makes 2 large  pancakes.

Part 1: The Pancake Batter

You need half a cup of brown rice flour. I can buy it at my local wholefoods shop, but it isn’t cheap and I don’t use a lot of rice flour.  Luckily, I have made the happy discovery that my little electric coffee grinder works beautifully to turn the local clear conscience rice into rice flour – slightly coarse but perfect for this.

You also need 2 dessertspoons of  coconut flour.  Again, my local wholefoods shop sells it but it isn’t cheap, and my coffee grinder will turn dessicated coconut into coconut flour perfectly.  Canned coconut cream isn’t a routine pantry item for me. It’s well out of my 100 mile zone, I’m not sure that I need that much fat of any kind (good or bad), and the cans come with all the energy and resource costs of canning along with BPA.

You may have to experiment to see if you have an implement that will make rice and coconut flour.

Blend together

  • ½ cup of brown rice flour 
  • 2 dessertspoons coconut flour
  • 2 dessertspoons cornflour (corn starch in USA)
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh turmeric (or substitute ½ teaspoon dried)
  • 1 teaspoon raw sugar
  • ½ teaspooon salt
  • ½ cup water
You should end up with something the texture of a thin crepe batter. Let it sit while you make the sauce and filling.

Part 2: The Sauce

Blend together
  • juice of a lime
  • ½ red chili (more or less to taste)
  • a thumb sized piece of fresh ginger
  • one clove of garlic (this time of year I start getting frugal with garlic!)
  • 1 dessertspoon brown sugar
  • 1 dessertspoon wine vinegar
  • 1 dessertspoon soy sauce
  • 1 dessertspoon sesame oil
Let this sit while you make the rest.

Part 3: The Salad

This is just an Asian style salad and the ingredients are quite versatile.  I used:

  • 2 small carrots, julienned
  • 1 spring onion, thinly sliced diagonally
  • 2 radishes, julienned
  • a handful of snow peas, thinly sliced diagonally
  • a handful of mung bean sprouts
  • a handful of chopped mint, vietnamese mint, and coriander

Part 4: Cooking and Assembling

There is a knack to the pancakes. If you get them just right, they hold together and are crispy on the edges but soft enough in the middle to fold.  The tricks are in a nice thin, smooth batter, a well seasoned heavy pan, and working quickly. If it looks like turning into a disaster you can add an egg to the batter. It makes it hold together easily but you lose the crispiness.

Put a good swig of a nice sweet flavoured oil in a big heavy pan over a medium heat. I use sesame oil, but you could use peanut oil.

Pour in half of the batter and, working quickly, tip the pan and use a spatula to spread it thin. Then let it cook undisturbed until the top is set and the edges are going crispy.  It will be quite fragile and if you try to turn it too early you’ll break it.  If you have the knack you can turn it with an egg flip.  The safer way is to loosen it with the egg flip, tip it onto a plate, then slide it off the plate back into the pan to cook the other side.

As each pancake cooks, put it on a plate, pile half the salad onto one side of it, pour on sauce, and fold it over.

Serve leftover sauce on the side.

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It’s nut season.  Here it’s macadamia nuts, but further south it will be almonds and hazelnuts. We’re getting decent harvests from our trees now, and I’m loving learning to use them in savory food as well as baking. Pesto is a bit of a staple, and nut based curry and satay sauces, but I’m only just getting into extending the range.

Nuts are calorie dense but also really really nutrient dense. Super food sources of whole range of vitamins and minerals, as well as protein, fibre, complex carbohydrates, and monounsaturated, good fats. Even if you don’t grow them, you’re likely to be able to pick up fresh in season nuts in shell from Farmers Markets or wholefoods retailers at the moment.

I’ve tried these in a lot of versions.  They’re good just plain, or with basil and semi-sundried tomatoes, or with chili and garlic, but these parsley and lemon ones are our favourites.

The Recipe:

Nut Rice Balls

Makes around 13 balls,  probably about three adult serves.  They make great leftovers for lunch.

Cook ½ cup brown rice in 1½ cups of water with a little salt, to give you just over a cup of cooked rice.  In a pressure cooker, this takes 15 minutes so the whole recipe is do-able in less than half an hour. How I love my pressure cooker!

While the rice is cooking crack enough macadamias to give 1 cup of whole maca kernels, or about ¾ cup of chopped nuts. How I love my Maca Cracker!

Mince the macadamias with the rice, along with

  • one egg
  • one onion,
  • a good handful of Italian parsley, and
  • a scant teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest.

My trusty Braun food processor will do this in one lot, but it’s a heavy load. If you’re not sure, rather than risk burning out the motor, do it in a few batches. Or use a mincer. (I know this is getting boring now, but how I love my Braun processor).

The aim is a coarse meal, a bit like the texture of couscous. Using wet hands, squeeze spoonfuls of mixture together into small patties, about the diameter of an egg. Shallow fry in hot olive oil for a few minutes each side till crisp and golden.

Roast Vegetable Salad:

I served these with roast vegetable salad, and if you are going to go that way, to do it in half an hour, you need to get the rice on first, then get the vegetables on to roast.

The recipe is very simply a tray of vegetables, chopped reasonably small, tossed in olive oil and some herbs, and roasted in a hot oven. I used a beetroot, a carrot,  a parsnip, a red onion, and a trombochino zucchini, tossed in oregano and lemon basil, for this batch.

Allow the vegetables to cool a little, then toss with salad greens, sliced cucumber, and cherry tomatoes. Dress with a squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil.

Did you do a Tuesday Night Vego Challenge this week? Links welcome.

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Rice has long been one of those foods I’m conflicted about. Mainly because of the environmental ethics. I’ve always thought I didn’t have the right conditions for growing it, I didn’t want to contribute to the degradation of the Murray Darling basin by buying Australian rice, and imported rice really isn’t in any version of a 100 mile diet.

Then some wonderful growers right in my neck of the woods began growing dryland rice.  It’s not irrigated and it’s not sprayed.  A different local grower is even producing it biodynamically, sold in bulk, and not much more expensive than the black and gold supermarket rice.  Faster cooking, fresh tasting, nutty, wholegrain, organic, clear conscience rice.  How good is that.

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I forgot vine leaves in my October In Season post! And it was a bad omission, because everything you need for making dolmades is now in season – young, tender vine leaves, the last of the fresh in-shell macadamias, lots of herbs, and still lots of lemons.

I am very very pleased that we have a local grower growing biodynamic rain-fed rice.  Rice has been an ethical quandary for me for a while – should I buy Australian rice irrigated from the Murray Darling, or Indonesian rice with lots of food miles? I’ve solved the problem by moving away from rice altogether.  It’s nice to be able to buy ethically produced rice again.

These are the perfect party plate.  They are best cold (though in our house a good percentage don’t make it that far). If you have a garden, most of the ingredients will come out of it.

The Recipe:

Saute 2 chopped onions in olive oil

Rinse ½ cup of rice and add to the onions. Saute for a few minutes until the rice just starts to colour.

Add a good handful of nuts or seeds.  My favourite is chopped macadamia nuts, but you could also use cashews, sunflower seeds, or pine nuts.

Add a good handful of sultanas and some salt and pepper.

Add 1¼ cups of boiling water and simmer very gently for around 10 minutes until the water is absorbed.  The rice will be partially but not fully cooked.

Add a couple of dessertspoons of lemon juice and ¾ cup of chopped fresh herbs.  My favourite combination is lemon thyme, parsley, mint, oregano, dill, and chives, but I haven’t yet found a combination that doesn’t work in this!

Wilt 30 medium vine leaves in boiling water. Save any large or broken leaves to line your pan and use the rest to roll up the filling.  There’s a bit of a knack to this, but once you have it, it goes quite quickly.

Arrange the filled leaves in layers in your leaf-lined pan.

Pour over 1¼ cups of hot water, ½ cup of lemon juice, and ¼ cup of olive oil.

Lay a plate on top to weigh down the dolmades.  Cover and simmer on the stove top or bake in a medium oven for around 40 minutes, being careful not to boil dry. My favourite way to cook them is in a pyrex baking tray in the oven.  That way, I can see the liquid level and it is easier to monitor them.

If possible, cool before eating.

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