Vegan Buckwheat & Radicchio Salad. Vegan mayonaise.

 

I never cooked with buckwheat before. Yes, I know, I know. But my Grandma didn’t cook it, my mother didn’t cook it, anyone in my family never even mentioned buckwheat so what’s here to wonder about. Except me, because here and there and buckwheat everywhere, and I still kept avoiding it like Green Eggs and Ham.

So here I am, Sam! With delicious bowl full of health: hearthy buckwheat along with sauteed veggies. Caramelised onions and carrots, sweet and seductive, garlic quickly warmed up, just to let his scent hug the bowl. And finally, crisp, purple radicchio and a splash of vineggar, the perfect balance of bitter and sour to finnish the symphony of this salad along with a silky dollop of vegan mayonaise.

For this salad I just used what I had around but the story isn’t so simple. Namely, I was supposed to use chickory. But for the life of me I couldn’t find three leaves of chickory anywhere, so I read about the substitutions. So there were endives and radicchio, the first cousins. But endives, also, was impossible to find. More reason because, in Croatia, endive is obviously not what you would call endive, but pretty headed green letuce like veggie. Like lettuce but with curly, bitterish leaves. Bottom line, no endives for me either.

So there it was, radicchio, and I had to cook something with it. And why? Well. There is a food bloggers game in ex Yugoslavia region. It’s called, Ajme, koliko nas je! Which means something, look how many of us! (Us meaning food bloggers). So every month another food blogger hosts the game and sets an ingredient for food bloggers to cook with. So people who want to enter cook with that one ingredient, publish recipes on their blogs and send their applications to the host. The host gathers all the recipes in one mutual post and pronounce winner(s). It’s all pretty symbolic but it serves the great purpose of meeting and connecting with other bloggers, compare recipes, try new things and above all, make friends and have fun. I was a hostes once on my Croatian blog Mirisna teka, and my task was nutmeg.

This month, my dear colleague Sunčica is a hostes of this game and her task was – as you can guess – chickory. Sunčica is professional cook in France and is an author of beautiful vegan/vegetarian blog Mes Folies Culinaires. She writes both in French and Serbian, both French and Serbian traditional recipes.

So, my dear Sunčica, I’m sorry I didn’t find chickory. It’s not very commont here so I couldn’t buy any. I hope you’ll still like my recipe with substitution because I really wanted to join. Till then, I’ll surely go and make vegan meat balls from your last post!

So here’s the recipe:

Vegan Buckwheat &  Radicchio Salad
serves 3 – 4

150 g/1 c of buckwheat
360 ml/1 1/2 c water
1/2 tsp salt

1 carrot
1 parsley root
1 parsnip root (optional)
1 big onion
1 – 2 cloves of garlic
cup of shreded radicchio
1 – 2 tbsp of vineggar of your taste or lemon juice. I used white rice vineggar.
tomatoes and spring onions for garnishing

Wash the buckwheat thoroughly and drain. Put it in the sauce pan and cover with water. Add salt and cook on low heat for 15 – 20 minutes or till the buckwheat is cooked and water absorbed.
In the meantime, prepare veggies: slice carrots, parsley and parsnip with vegetable pealer in stripes or just julienne it with knife. Cut the onion in thin circles, but not too thin, you want them to have some shape after sautéeing. Put the veggies in a pan, add tbsp or two of oil, season to taste and sautée till just tender, about 5 minutes.
Cut the raddichio in stripes in the width of your finger.
Put the buckwheat in a big bowl, add vegetables along with radicchio and vineggar and toss gently with two spoons. Garnish with little wheels of spring onion, cherry tomatoes or whatever you feel like/have at hand. Taste the seasonings, serve with love and some creamy mayonnaise and enjoy! Salad is delicious both warm or cold.

My friend Sunčica from Mes Folies Culinaires also has a beautiful vegan mayonnaise recipe. Check it out!

Vegan Mayonnaise
Olga’s recipe from her vegan blog Fablunch

120 ml soy milk
240 ml oil
1 tsp apple cider vineggar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp mstard powder or 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
3/4 tsp salt
(original recipe also calls for 1/2 tsp of agave syrup or other sweetener but I omitted it)

Put all the ingredients except oil into the blender and blend for a minute or so. In few additions slowly pour oil and blend more till eventually everything thickens and gets the consistency of the usual mayonnaise. Keep it in a tightly closed jar in the fridge for up to a month.

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Grandma’s staple vegetable soup

There was always soup on the table, at the corner on the wood burning stowe, waiting for Grandad to come from his little carpenter work shed in the backyard, for me, coming from school, for lunch, for dinner, for afternoon hunger strike, leftovers for breakfast. Soup is a medicine, Grandma always used to say. It’ good for your stomach, it’s good for your health, she said. So I would always diligently have a plate, but only when I really had to, for lunch. Because I didn’t quite get the notion of soup as a medicine because I was a child, I was in perfect health and digestion, I was a child and children are not known for their crazyness about soups.

And Grandma’s explanations weren’t long nor informative, to prove me otherwise and make me believe and make me eat more soup. Because Grandma was always busy, she always had lots on her mind and hands so she would just diligently cook her medicine soup every day for everyone to come and eat. But soup of any kind was always brewing on her stove.

This is a recipe about nothing, really, except my memory of Grandma. Because it’s so basic and simple and average food blog reading chap would think, now that’s not a recipe, my dear, and go on looking for some brighter, richer, more beautiful set up plate photographed in way more interesting way, promissing more interesting meal.

And this chap would probably be right. But not in every word of it’s sense. Because now I know – soup is a medicine. Not just in nutritious sense. But because it reminds of Grandma’s kitchen, of times where everything was simple and kind and Grandma’s wooden burning stove’s warmth seemed to feed me and protect me from every possible dragon that could be after a 7 year old girl.

Now, more than 30 years later, when the same soup brews on my stove almost every day, I feel the same. And for some crazy reason, my kids love to eat soup.

Grandma’s vegetable soup

2 carrots
2 parsley roots
piece of celery root
handful of green peas
salt, peper, other seasonings to taste

For semolina dumplings
1 egg
around 5 tbsp of semolina
dash of salt

For vegan version, and 2 – 3 tbsps of cous cous or pasta of your choice.

Dice the vegetables finely. On 2 tbsp of oil saute vegetables for few minutes stirring constantly, till the carrots let their nice colour to the oil. Then add green peas, seasonings and cover with water. Cook till the vegetables are cooked, around 20 minutes. Add water if necessary. Keep in mind that dumplings will absorb much of the liquid. In the meantime, in the little bowl crack an egg and add semolina. Stirr till everything comes nicely together. Semolina should be moist but not runny or dry. The drier it is, the more dense dumplings will be and take longer to cook. Leave it aside, semolina will absorbe egg a bit. After 15 minutes of cooking the soup, with two spoons grab, make and drop dumplings sized of a larger haselnut into the soup. On the lower heat, cook for aditional 8 – 10 minutes. If you’re not sure if dumplings are fully cooked, take one out and cut it in half. The middle should not be darker or denser than the outside. Don’t overcook. Add more water if dumplings absorbed much of the soup, taste the seasonings and serve to your loved ones.

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Chocolate Granola bars

“I can’t stop eating this!”, said Ryoya Takashima, author of the beautiful You Tube channel Peaceful Cuisine, in the description of his video with ChocolateGranola bars. Do you follow Ryoya? Oh, I have a certain crush on this fellow. Not crush in a crush sense, hehe, but I really enjoy watching his videos. And if you would ask why, the first answer would be, it’s so calming. So calming and soothing and it’s full of wisdom, mindfulness, thoughtfulness. It’s so calming to watch both his videos with or without music: photographic scenes set up with perfect golden ratio. His movements so calm and so assured. Ryoya is so much present in every little second of cutting vegetables, pouring water into the glass, stirring flour, turning the pancakes. The sound of knives, pots, gas turning on, vegetables frying or cocoa butter melting. Ryoya is a kind, really nice person and a great teacher.

And world could sure use more thoughtful and wise people like that.

Yes, I know, I do sound like someone with major crush on someone, but I really am not other than delighted with his way of cooking, presenting it in his videos and last but not least, his vegan way of everything he does, cooks and says. Also I really aprecciate his efforts in spreading “the vegan word” but gently, informative, by gentle but wise reasons and benefits to humans and our environment, nothing offensive or deffensive. He just does what he always does and everyone is free to join. Or look the other way. There is something that he wrote in his “About” section, I don’t think I’m allowed to copy his words so you go and read for yourself, but to make it short, he advises to start with yourself and be an example for others to see, believe, follow the example and benefit to both themselves and the Earth.

And I really like that.

Another reason why I’m saying all of this about Ryoya is because he has shown me that vegan way of living does not have to be strange way of living, as many people often think or say. He has shown me simple ways of cooking everything from breakfast to dinner with everyday stuff. Of course, it happens that I don’t have glutinous rice, sea weed, shiitake mushrooms or japanese condiments because I live far away and many things even if are possible to buy, are very pricey. But there are always substitutions, there is always something else to use, or if not, there is always new and interesting video to watch.

The first recipe I did by Ryoya’s direction was raisin yeast bread. That was back in my omnivororus days but it was soo greatly done and presented and I was playing with starters of a different kind so I gave it a try. And it was a huge success! And little by little, life went on with it’s ups and downs and changes and different choices so knowing about Ryoya’s channel was a great help to chosing the vegetarian/vegan ways. I also tried many of his other recipes and it worked perfectly. You should too!

So in plethora of his great videos I came to Granola bars video one day. So I decided to make it. And we couldn’t stop eating it too! Even though we said, ok, it’s granola, it’s packed with nuts and oats and dried fruits and sweetener and oil and with good amount of chocolate on top. So it’s not so diet friendly in a sense that you can grab and eat all you can get. Even though is healthy but it’s still firmly packed with all this stuff. And still, all we could do to stop ourselves from eating it all was to share it with our friends and at least lessen the amount of it on the baking sheet.

So there is the recipe. I changed it in some ways because agave syrup is horribly expencive where I live so I used not so vegan honey but you certanly go and use agave if you can. Add to that, I put more coconut oil in my version so if you’re going with agave, go with the original ammounts because it’s proven by Ryoya already. Also, I changed the ganache on top because I didn’t have cacao buter and cacao powder so used what I had on hand. Once I used tapioca starch instead of rice flour and it was ok too. Ok, I changed pretty much everything but it’s still Ryoya’s recipe!

Chocolate Granola bars
adapted from Ryoya Takashima

100 g coconut oil
100 g honey
200 g old fashioned rolled oats
100 g rice flour
100 g roughly chopped haselnuts (almonds, walnuts, etc.)
120 g mixed dried fruits (raisins, cranberries, etc.)

200 g bitter chocolate
30 g coconut oil

Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F. Line the 20×35 cm rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt the coconut oil and honey on low heat. Blend rolled oats and rice flour in your food processor for a pulse or two to grind them finer but not fine as flour. Pour coconut oil mix over the oats and rice flour and combine thoroughly. Add haselnuts, dried fruits, mix well and spread it on baking sheet. Bake fo 35 mins. When cooled, melt chocolate and coconut oil together and pour over the granola bars. Cool in the refridgerator for a few hours till chocolate gets firm enough to cut. Serve with love and don’t eat it all, rather share! 🙂

 

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Vegan Chia homemade pasta. Bonus: Grandma’s all purpose noodle recipe.

I was feeling a bit low earlier today and I thought, what would my Grandma say. And she’s been at St. Peter’s for almost 20 years now and even if she did say something that I could use in this specific situation, I don’t remember it anymore. But one thing did came across my mind: a little rhyme she would recite every time when making or serving noodles: Jela Maca rezanaca. Which, in Croatian, means Maca ate noodles. Maca (pronounced matza) is reffered to a kitty as a cat and also shortened for Marija, my name. So, Kitty the me ate noodles.

So I took a long sigh and went off to make some noodles.

Oh, my Grandma Julia was a master of noodles. She would make noodles of any kind. Soup noodles, as thin as hair. Thicker, wider noodles to serve with stews or just plain, with a sprinkle of sugar or if in richer times, with grained poppy seeds or walnuts. And all of that without any pasta machine, only dough roller, sharp knife and lots of strength and experience.

 

Luckily, Grandma’s noodle recipes are well remembered and often used by my Mom and my Aunt so whenever I felt adventurous enough to make them, I had reliable source and advice. Also, I have a good pasta machine which makes it a lot easier for me. Solid, heavy as a stone, which is good in any other case but not when the handle falls down right to your bare toes and makes a pretty blue and purple damage.

So with that in mind I thought of different recipes I might use today. I chose basic noodle recipe that can be used for both for wider noodles like this and lasagna sheets. The recipe goes like this:

Grandma’s basic noodle recipe (not vegan one! For vegan, scroll down a bit, please)
Version on my Croatian blog is here.

400 g bread flour (3 cups+2 tbsp)
2 eggs
water enough to fill 4 halves of egg shells

But, as a vegan pasta soul, I thought of making it the vegan way. Since the Chia seeds have proven their eggy virtues, I simply substituted each egg with 1 tbsp of Chia seeds and 3 tbsps of water.

To make the dough firmer, I added some semolina to the dough but that made the dough more “thirstier” so I had to add a bit more water.

The result was great: thin, firm noodles that didn’t fall apart or stick, even after some time. Chia seeds gave them funny, nutty and specky (of course, that’s not a word, but please bear with me) sensation when you eat – it crunches nicely and makes you smile – the Chia seed specks in noodles are nice to see, tasty to eat, great enough to share with others.

So do you feel adventurous enough to try?

As you see, I served my pasta with Kimchy, as I often do. Also, there is a little parsley scrap growing nice leaves from a little bowl of water. I know, basil leaves would look great too, but that fellow hates me. Yes. As soon as I get a pot of live basil plant from the store, it commits suicide and wilts. So… I gave up and used what I had on hand. You should too! 

Another thing about flours. I don’t know about flours you have at hand where you live and especially about the mill  coarseness level of the flour. I’m not sure I used the right words again, but I think you’ll know what I mean: some white wheat flours are milled finely or coarsely. The most coarse would be semolina and the finest would be starch. From what I’ve learned from most of the English speaking blogs and recipes, cake flour would be finer milled and bread coarser and I think it’s similar or same to what many people call purpose flour. I also read somewhere about bread flour reffered to as strong flour. Well, that “strong”, bread flour I used today and I also use it every time when making yeast dough.

If you don’t have that kind of flour, just use any kind you have, as long as it’s white wheat flour. I didn’t try this with wholemeal of rye flour so I don’t know what would be the result because those flours require different amounts of water and possible need to mix with plain wheat flour.

Because, I used to do everything with any flour I had on hand (all purpose or strong). And it turned out well. The only difference you have to pay attention to is ammount of liquid that will be needed.

So here is the recipe and some final pointers:

Vegan Chia homemade pasta
serves 4

300 g (2 1/3 cups) bread flour +  some for dusting
100 g semolina
2 tbsp Chia seeds
3/4 tsp salt
200 ml/1/2 cups+4 or 5 tbsp water

Put everything in the food processor (or simply in a bowl) in the order that is written. Don’t pour all the water at once, you might not need all. Pulse till everything comes together, take it out and knead to get a nice, firm but elastic dough that is not sticky. If it’s too wet, noodles will stick together when cooked, even after you coat them in oil. Divide in 10 or more pieces, cover the ones you don’t use so the dough doesn’t dry out. Sprinkle some flour on your surface and dough, roll (or flatten with your hands) and run through the pasta machine from thicker to thinner size. Sheets should be wide as you find it comfortable and long as long you want your pasta to be. As for thickness: the best thickness is about 2 – 3 milimetres. If you run your sheet of dough through the machine and hear the Chia seeds cracking, that’s too thin and noodles will stick when cooked. Sprinkle the sheets with flour often – that will help against sticking also. Watch that the surface where you are laying the sheets or finnished pasta is floured too. Finally, run the sheets through cutting cylinders in your machine and make a pasta. Separate noodles if they stick together.

If you don’t have pasta machine, just roll the dough as thin as you can and then cut the pasta out with sharp knife. Watch that you dust the dough all the time so it doesn’t stick and get on your nerves. And stick again when cooked.

In the meantime, bring a big pot of water to boil. Add 1 tbsp of salt and a splash of vineggar. You can also add a bay leaf or two for special aroma, but if you’re not sure you like bay leaf aroma, rather don’t because it may feel strong for someone who doesn’t like it.

Lift the pasta with the knife so the excess flour falls off and drop it into the water. Stirr immediately so the noodles separate and don’t stick to the bottom. After one quick minute, when water starts boiling again and foams a bit, noodles should be al dente. Give them one brief minute and out they go to the strainer, or they’ll overcook and stick. Noodles shouldn’t be translucent in any case! On the contrary, they a rather white. Also, they won’t puff and get thicker as egg pasta. Splash the noodles with some oil and gently lift with two forks from the bottoms up so it all gets covered. Do it in the strainer, immediately, add some salt if you want and then transfer to another bowl. Serve with whatever you feel like goes with this specky pasta and enjoy!

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The Blogger Recognition Award

Upon entering wide world blog world with my blog Mirisna Teka I met so much new, great people and learned new things, new customs, new dishes and recipes. Much of that I can thank to food blogger games that run in my corner of the world, which is Croatia but also Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia&Herzegovina, Montenegro and Macedonia. We speak similar languages, have similar mentality both in life as in kitchen.

But when I started this blog, it was completely new setup. New language, new concept (vegan&vegetarian), whole new world of new people that I didn’t and still don’t know. Except from my dear Facebook groups that accepted me and my recipes and helped me to move further. One of those groups is Vegan Blogging Network. The group is small and I pretty much know everyone (active) in it.

So one day my dear friend Sarah from beautiful Vanderlust Vegans blog introduced a great idea: of recognition award for bloggers you appreciate, read, follow and strongly recommend to others as well. It was a great feeling to be recognised and nominated by my fellow vegan blogger, so I accepted the challenge and I’m spreading the word by proceeding this great intention. Thank you, my dear Vanderlust Vegans, for including me! 🙂

This is the post where I’ll also say a few words about how and why I started this blog. Well, as I already have been blogging in Croatian, it only came natural to try and seek more readers, more people to connect, so I started writing in English. Also, I wanted whole another concept that my old blog did not have, and that is – vegetarian and vegan cuisine. My old blog doesn’t have meat neither, but it seemed no one thought of my blog in that way, because I was mainly baking breads and making pasta, so readers got pretty confused when I started writing about vegan pasta or Chia eggs.

And the advice I can give to new, aspiring bloggers? Well. Do as you feel you should. Whether that be stories of your cat and your herbs in your back yard, or your soulsearching while preparing morning oats. Just be true and readers will recognize it. Also, don’t feel pressured or intimidated that you have to provide recipes that are “sweeping” the food blog world. If it is not in your niche, if it’s not you, then just leave it. You surely have plenty of original stuff to share, only if you look into yourself! And above all, have fun. Just have fun and everything will fall into it’s place and bring results.

So here how it goes, if you want to be the part of this awards too:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog;
  2. Write a post to show your award;
  3. Give a brief story of how you started your blog;
  4. Give two pieces of how your blog started;
  5. Select 10 other bloggers you want to give this award to;
  6. Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them and provide the link to the post you created.

Thereby I nominate and recommend the following vegan blogs:

  1. Yumsome – Vegan food from my travels
  2. The Crumby Vegan
  3. The Lettuce Liv – Living a vegan and compassionate life
  4. The Urben Life – A dairy-free & egg-free food blog
  5. The Plant based Plan – Vegan Meal Plans & Nutrition Education
  6. Plant based Recipe
  7. Bear Plate
  8. Snapshots and Stew Pots
  9. Healthier Steps 
  10. The Nomadic Vegan 

So that’s that!

Thank you, all my dear vegan blogger friends, thank you all for reading, thank you for spreading the word! 😀

xx Mari

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Tabasco inspired Peperoncini hot sauce

 

There’s been much debate these days about naming recipes. Namely, when you make something inspired by something that is not quite like original stuff and how far can you go when naming your recipe. Namely because you tweaked, changed or adjusted ingredients and methods. So the question was, where is the line to determine naming your recipe with original name or just say, “inspired by”.

Some say, you cannot name something that is tweaked or adjusted by original name. Some say, c’mon, it’s all food after all. I admit I can understand both views. For example, if someone changes something to unrecognizable or even wrong direction (and still make a great dish) and calls it, for example, Orehnjača (Croatian yeast dough sweet with walnuts), I would be thinking, ok, but that’s not it. So I remembered all those times I was cooking something from Indian cuisine and tweaked and adjusted and changed and named it aloo or biryani. So I really cannot be surprised if someone who knows about Indian cuisine leaves me a comment more or less polite and say, don’t tweak and then call it by original name. Do your homework first.

You get my point.

Well. I’m no Tabasco expert in no way. So I’ll only be fair and name this spicy jar what I think it really is – Tabasco inspired hot sauce that I made in a hurry and in a great lack of ingredients that are usually used when making Tabasco. It’s not fermented, it may not be Tabasco at all, or even be, my homework is not done, so let’s just leave it at that.

I needed hot sauce. And I had pretty much nothing at hand. Except rice that I’m eating all the time and putting some hot spicy things over it. And I was at my moms and all I had was a handfull of dried peperoncini and pretty short spice rack.

So I just cooked something up. And here it is, to be shared with you. It’s simple, it’s quick to be made, it’s to be made pretty much out of nothing but the most important thing, it served it’s purpose  – it’s hot as hell. I don’t think it’s proper English figure of speech either, but bear with this non English soul, since I think it serves it’s purpose also. And to spicen and hotten the things up. Namely my rice.

Btw, did you notice on the pic above the little lettuce and garlic growing by my window? That little lettuce is growing from leftover stem I kept with it’s feet submerged in water for few days and then planted in a pot. And garlic is just garlic that sprouted in my pantry and kept on living in a pot of soil too. Not much, but much life there is in those pots and I’m proud 🙂 I wrote more about non wasting and regrowing it in my older post

Tabasco inspired Peperoncini hot sauce
500 ml/2 cups

7 – 10 Peperoncinis
500 ml/2 cups water
2 tbsp Aceto balsamico or other vinegar of your choice
1 tbsp Agave syrup or honey or any other sweetener
dash of salt
dash of garlic powder
other spices to your taste
1 tsp of corn starch or tapioka starch or any other starch/flour for thickening

Cut the Peperoncinis in really small chunks (or simply crush them with pestle and mortar), pour water over, add the rest of the ingredients except starch and bring to a boil. It’s mostly advisable to keep a window open and kitchen ventilated since the steam and scent will be very strong and might make you caugh or cry. Especially if you have kids around, don’t do it with kids around. In a little bowl put starch and 2 – 3 tbsp of water and mix till there are no lumps. Pour the mixture in a boiling pot and cook and stir till the sauce thickens and starch is cooked, for a few mins. Cool it down a bit and then transfer to glass containers with good lids. Keep it in the fridge for up to 10 days. If the sauce is too hot/thick/runny, you can easily add more starch or water.

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Sweet potato&Chia Gnocchetti

 

My first title was Gnocchelettis. Of course, there is no such word. Only my hybrids translated from my Croatian mind to English language feat. Italian dish names. Which can be a pretty mushy stew of grammar and synthax so… please bear with me. Luckily, Google is our friend so I realised that there IS an Italian dish called Gnocchetti which is something between Gnocchi and a little dumplings.

Anyhoo. What which we call a Gnocchi by any other name would taste as sweet, right? With sweet potatoe, or potatoe itself. The confusion with the name came from the fact that I was too busy and trying to quicken and simplify the whole thing as much as possible so I didn’t make a rope and cut little cylinders like it’s done when making Gnocchi, but I rolled the dough and cut the pieces out.

Speaking of. What is that little zig zag wheel pasta cutter called? I never know. Do you?

In Croatia we call that Radl, from German word Rad which means wheel. I’m not sure of the proper Croatian word for this kitchen gadget either. In Eastern Croatia, where I grew up, there is a mischung (another German word for mix) of German and Hungarian words, because for centuries those nations have been migrating and living in this place. And cooking. And doing everything all people do. So now I’m left with plethora of words that are not official Croatian words that are used in books and on TV and so, but often in everyday speech. And more often than not I cannot for the life of me think of Croatian word for something, rather than Štrajher (that thing for sharpening knives), Bademantel (bathrobe) or Šufnudle.

Šufnudle? That’s all this post is all about! It’s pronounced Shufnudle, again twisted from German Schupfnudeln which means and brings us again to – GNOCCHI! And I’m saying Šufnudle because my grandma always called it so. And everyone I know. Not because we have anything against Italian name or it’s any different. Only because in years, where I grew up, it’s just called that way.

Which, called by any other name would taste as great.

Provided that you are not butter fingered soul like me so simple thing like Gnocchi making turns into a disaster floating fallen apart in thick water.

Alas! My mom and my grandmas and my aunts and every freaking one I know in last, ahem, some years of my life, made enough Gnocchi to make an orbit around the Moon. And it is so easy, said they! Just mash the potatoes, put some flour, crack an egg, put some water to boil and that’s that.

And that’s that I did and argh, it all went down the drain. Because it would always fall apart and make my kitchen a mess and myself rather unhappy. And hungry.

So what is the secret? My grandma never measured anything. Eyeballing was never my forte so I looked up for recipes with measures. That went down the drain too. But to make the drain story short: it’s not because those recipes were wrong. It was just me, overcooking the darn dumplings. And the main reason: my grandma made gummy, chevy and dense dumplings that could not be recreated by any of those recipes. So that’s why it didn’t work. Because grandma was doing it all wrong.

So I was doing it all wrong and it didn’t go well till I made completely wrong Gnocchi and went over my head with happiness when I succeeded.

And how did I do that? Again, just by going through my pantry and finding some sweet potatoe waiting to be put into some good use or wilt and die. And we cannot have that, don’t we? My dear friend Nico from great vegan blog Yumsome told me recently that there is a whole Give up binning food campaign in Great Britain, which I think is an excellent idea and even better reminder of “count your blessings” issue. Because so much food gets wasted in the world every day. So much people are hungry in the world every day.

The thought of that devastates me. Especially when I do throw something that went bad. And I think, now that could have been a great meal for someone when it was all fresh. And now it’s in the bin. And I cannot feed the world, except helping out only few in need. But I can get more thoughtful. I can stop wasting precious food. Just because I don’t lack food, it doesn’t make it any less precious as it would be for someone who is in desperate lack of it. I can share this idea so it goes even further than for just one month. You can share it too. Till it becomes a way of life and really help those who desperately need food.

Just to be clear: these Gnocchi are not too chewy and dense. They are just about right in consistency so they don’t fall apart even if you’re butter fingered like me and behave nicely on the plate. Gnochi, I mean, not you, hehe. Once cooked, drained and dressed with some olive oil they won’t stick or get mushy, but be nice, soft and before all, so tasty.

Sweet potatoe gives them great sun tanned colour and bit of a nutty taste. Chia plays the egg roll and few speckles on their tanned faces. And you go and dress them up in any delicious sauce you like and make both of you and them happy. Or just have them with a bit of olive oil and sunflower seeds, with some ever strong oppinionated arugula, soy sauce and lemon on the side. You can certanly be more diligent than me and make proper Gnocchi cut from cylinders of dough and rolled over a fork.

Sweet potatoe&Chia Gnocchi

300 g sweet potatoe, cooked and well drained
300 g all purpose flour + some more for dusting
1 tbsp Chia seeds
1 tsp salt

Cut the peeled sweet potatoe in big cubes and cook for 15 – 20 mins or till the fork goes all the way through. Drain them well, mash and leave to cool a bit so you can work with them and not burn yourself. Add Chia, salt and the flour (not all at once) and make an elastic, nonsticky dough. Don’t overknead it: when the dough is no longer sticky, stop. You might need a handful of flour more. Or not. It all depends on the flour and the amount of water in sweet potatoes. Bring a big pot of water to boil. You can add 1 tbsp of salt and bayleaf or two to the cooking water. Make a few ropes and cut the Gnocchi out or just dust working surface a bit with flour, roll the dough as thick as your thumb and cut the pieces out. Dust off the Gnocchi a bit and put them into the boiling water. Stir gently to lift them up. When water starts boiling again and the Gnocchi start dancing, cook them for another 3 – 5 mins. Take Gnocchi out with a slotted spoon, drain well, pour a little olive oil, toss gently and serve immediately to ones you love. Along with desired seasonings, sauces or salads.

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Scrap bean, cabagge and celery salad. Busy gardener’s lazy lunch.

The spring came and with textbook accuracy I started spring cleaning and gardening like crazy. Well. Not quite. Spring is officially still dormant, but not quite. I did clean and garden, but not quite because of spring but because of all the dust and stuff you don’t want to know but am sure you also have in your corners. And that gardening thing. Yes, that hits me hard every spring. The fact that we don’t have a garden doesn’t get in the way at all. So I planted and replanted and soiled and watered and whatevered so now my food-photo-table is now plant table.

The whole shabang started when my friend Natalie (you want to check her beautiful happy and healthy blog!) shared a video with replanting kitchen vegetable scraps. You know, carrot and parsley caps growing new leaves, lettuce and cabbage also, mint, basil and stuff. So I said like, what, what?! I need to do that! Gimme some carrot leftovers, quickly! So I just did that. Not because I really need that and not because we’ll actually fill our tummies with all that stuff that will grow like crazy because we/it won’t. But the actual idea of growing stuff is great. The fascinating fact that there is so much life in this little scrap that will continue to grow just by being given a little puddle of water. Fascinating, right?

So I dipped carrots and parsley into the puddles and green salad and cabbage caps. And even parsnip and that fellow grew new leaves like crazy but PLEASE BEWARE. Parsnip leaves are poisonous so don’t be tempted to pick some and garnish around or you’ll get yourself speaking in tongues. Swollen. In ER.

And then, house plants. I have those around. Not much trouble with them, if it was otherwise, those wouldn’t survive because our place is pretty warm but with light either bad or too strong. So those are water-me-when-you-remember fellows that have my utmost respect. Because they grow, and boy do they! I don’t know their names in English and it really doesn’t matter but those of you who know will recognise, I think. Mainly those plants… well, please excuse my non-first-english. You know, those plants that have one or more „hands“ and grow long, long, and climb up or wherever they find support. And have nice trianglish green leaves, sometimes brushed with a bit of yellow.

So there’s Rudy. Short for Rudolph, I guess. My friend gave him to me because she couldn’t cope with his long arms anymore. The stem (I hope I used the right word, please feel free to correct me) was, OMG, like 4 m long. That’s the length, or better, height of my dad twice, and some more. And she said, either you take him, or I’ll just… well, she wouldn’t be just doing anything, if you think she would throw him away or something, but she was relieved to put him in good hands. And say goodbye.

 

 

So Rudy was going around our house like crazy with his one long stem and started giving me the creeps to be honest, because he would somehow hold himself against the wall, with no lumps or anything to hold on to, and went around like some kind of python or something. Which I could go with because he wasn’t gonna eat anyone but his stem and leaves were slowly going soft and wilted. And I thought, Rudy, you’re not feeling right, right? And he just nodded tiredly. Well, he probably didn’t, but it’s my plant and their leaves move sometimes so…

So what are we gonna do, Rudy? I’ll have to take some scissors and… No! Screamed he. Well, he probably didn’t, but I surely felt like that when grabbing a pair of scissors. So I took the nicest wine glasses and filled them with beautiful, filtered and staled water and cak cak cak! (Croatian sound for cutting with scissors). And soon Rudy felt relieved like I cut tons of hair off of his head and we both stood and looked at bright pearly glasses with stems and leaves soaking feet in them, waiting to be planted again. That’s you, Rudy, said I, you’ll go in so much more. I had no heart to throw some leaves, so I soaked them all. You’ll have tons of little Rudy’s, said my friend, to whom I told what I did. Well, if they all behave nicely like Rudy, said I, we’ll be happy to have them. Wanna few pups?

So with all of that going on, and some garlic also planted along with some arugula seeds, one gets hungry, right? Not to mention that you have room mates who get hungry also. So if you are vegan, you cannot just go and grab a piece of cheese from your fridge and put in on a slice of bread, right? And slice of bread itself is something I try to avoid and not to fall into high carb story. So one has to cook. And so I did. And again, the lunch came to life from scraps: cooked beans from the day before, handfull of cabagge that waited to be put in some good use and some leftover celery roots. So I planted them all into my pot and soon this busy gardener was having the best lazy scrap veggie salad my fridge could yearn.

Scrap bean, cabagge and celery salad
serves 4

1 c diced onion
1 c diced celery roots
2 – 3 c cabagge, finely cut
2 – 3 c cooked beans
some oil, salt, pepper, other seasonings to taste

Recipe is very flexible. Ammounts you can adjust to your taste and mostly, to what you have in your pantry.

Sauté onions and celery till tender. Add cabagge and sauté more, stirring constantly, till you get your cabagge tender as you wish. I like it crispier but you can almost melt it with onions. Just remember that cabagge shrinks when sautéed. You can add finely diced garlic too. In the end, add beans and stir gently, not to break them into a mush. Season to your taste and serve with whatever you have in hand.

I served it with rice. I spoke of it in my last blog post but will say it again here, just in case.

Rice with seeds
serves 4

1 cup rice
3 cups water
1 tsp salt
handfull of seeds – sunflower, pumpkin, etc.
some oil

Sauté rice and seeds on some oil till it gets a bit whiteish, stirring constantly on medium heat.  Watch it doesn’t burn, if it does, sadly, throw it away. So after 3 mins add salt and water, lower the heat to the lowest and cook covered with a lid. After 10 mins check the rice. If needed, fold it over gently so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Even if it does a little, that’s fine. Cover and cook for 5 mins more or until all the water is absorbed and the rice is cooked. Serve immediately. Or whenever you feel like some rice.

 

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Rice, rice! Fluffy, sticky or baked.

I can’t stop eating rice.

I don’t know what has gotten into me but I just can’t stop eating rice for breakfast, for lunch, for everything. Rice, rice, rice. I don’t have many sorts in my pantry so it’s either basmati or arborio, or some no name cheap mushy-when-cooked rice, but rice it is. Mostly with kimchi. I can’t seem to stop eating that too! Unlike with rice, after a week of eating kimchi I get fed up for another few days, but rice is cooking on my stove every day.

What sorts of rice you use and would recommend? How do you like your rice? I would be glad to hear from you!

I like my rice with green peas and carrots. I like it with sauteed cabbage. But almost always that bowl gets quickly awaken with few drops of soy sauce or, more likely, tabasco sauce, sumak, hot tomato sauce or – kimchi again.

That wouldn’t be no wonder if I were Asian or Indian. But I’m not. While I was growing up, rice was something to fill stews with, instead of potatoes or bread. Sometimes someone would come up with rice pudding enriched with fruit syrup or jam. But rice itself was never cherished or given much thought whatsoever. Let alone what sort was used. Mainly cheap one, whatever that brought. On my mother’s table rice was never enjoyed by itself, cherished by itself, or given a main role.

I’m not bearing any grudges or resentment, no. It was just the way of cooking.

Later on, when I began my own cooking, I would recreate my grandma’s dishes more often than my moms. Mom was cooking rich, fulfilling meat and tons-of-potato meals, with lots of oil and not much spices rather than salt and something called Vegeta, which I guess every house in Croatia has a jar of. It’s made of dried vegetables and herbs and then milled to pretty salty mix that was added to pretty much everything, giving it a recognizable taste and yellow colour. So I cannot say I learned about spices either.

I’m not resenting that too, so you don’t think I’m arraigning my moms cooking. It was like that, it still is, I liked it, I ate it, she made it always fresh and in time and I cherrish that.

But in my solitary years I would rather cook from my grandma’s menu. She was, what I see now, strange woman back then, in her environment, among majoritie’s mentality. When her and grandpa were around 50, they moved to a distant house in the fields, near the river. No running water, no electricity. They had chicken, goats and bees. They had their own vegetables. Grandpa would fish their lunch in the river more often than not.

Grandma had her own little herb garden with strange plants and flowers, unlike to any of those in nearby village. Peanuts, for example. She cooked strange meals on her wooden burning stowe and served them under a tree. Grandpa built bread oven in the backyard, out of soil, mud and dry straw. He built a windmill, hoping it will bring them electricity. Well, that bread oven was not good. And windmill never turned it’s wings because there was no wind.

But that’s not the point. Point is, they were always into something, those two. They always had some projects on their hands. They were always busy trying something new, something that wouldn’t come to anyone’s mind in nearby village for the next 30 years. And yet, it came to theirs.

Some people mocked them, secretly or in their faces. Some tried to „reason“ with them. Some pretended to be interested while thinking Godknowswhat for themselves. And every one of them my grandpa and grandma greeted kindly and with a honest smile, offered them the best of the best they had to offer and people were just leaving disarmed with this kind, crazy old couple.

I was cooking and still am, by my grandma’s menu, because more often than not I felt strange. I don’t know whether my grandma felt strange in comparison to others. I like to think that she didn’t, because I remember her being too busy to deal with what other did or thought in the first place. I like to think that because it would hurt me to know that she felt sad and strange in comparison to others, so I rather think she was happy as she was. I’m pretty sure she was as happy as she was. Because it’s not about the windmill. Or things that did or did not work. It’s all about the process. That’s the recipe to fulfilled life, or so I think.

So here we are in a bowl of rice again. There’s something that my mom would never do but my grandma always did. After she would cook a soup, she would take the vegetables out, mashed them a little with a fork and then gently folded it into a steaming bowl of freshly cooked rice. The rice was fluffy, every grain graceously separated, never sticky.  Then she would sprinkle it with a few drops of homemade apple vinegar and served it after a soup like a side dish or even main. Vinegar did make me frown because I never met it differently rather than in a salad dressing with much oil and salt. But I liked that little steaming white bowls with blue flowers imprinted on them and diligently ate it.

So now I know my grandma cherrished rice and enjoyed the blessings of those little angel grains.

Other reason why I’m cooking like my grandma is not as nearly profound as you would think. She was and indeed was resourceful woman. Because she was poor. Poverty is very invigorating in terms of, let’s make something out of nothing and yet don’t feel nothing but really something. Good. Not like my grandma’s, but fair share of that kind of resourcefullness also met me.

So I cooked grandmas rice. Further more, not one rice, but many rices. With vegetables, plain, in risotos, with stews, baked in an oven.

Today I’ll show you my rice. Grandma’s rice. Even my mom’s. We eat it all the time.

These are really recipes that aren’t quite exact recipes as you would expect. Both my mom and grandma would eyeball it or measure with their own cups according to their needs. When it comes to grandma’s Plain rice, sadly I don’t remember her exact way of cooking but only the taste. So I must be fair and say that I perfected it after learning from Chef Harpal Singh, and it’s the closest to my grandma’s rice I could find.  That’s why I’ll give Harpal’s measurements. Also, my grandma wouldn’t presoak rice but I find it really helpfull. She would use whatever rice she had but this way works the best with basmati.
The wisdom of making Kimchi came to me from Maangchi. I have posted about Kimchi on my Croatian blog but if you want me, I’ll post it here soon.

Plain basmati rice
from Chef Harpal Singh
serves 4

2 c basmati rice
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp white or apple vinegar
water, plenty of water for cooking

Wash rice thoroughly till the starch stops making water whiteish. Drain it then soak in water for 15 minutes. In the large pot, bring the water to a boil. Add the salt and the vinegar. Put the rice into the water and cook the rice for 8 – 10 mins. Be sure to stir. Drain the rice in the collander. If you overcooked it, spread it onto a tray and cool it that way. Serve immediately with anything your heart desires. I’ll put it next to some kimchi!

Next, my mom’s rice. It took me a real while to perfect this rice. It would burn, stick, get mushy, get crazy, get in the garbage bin. Point of this recipe is to have rice and water in 1:3 odds and then let the rice absorb the water on the slow heat. And be nice and not stick to the bottom of the saucepan and every grain separated from another but still be moist and tender. And NOT TO STIR during cooking?! Alas! That was the hardest part. So if you are timid with rice like me, go and stir a few times especially at the end of the cooking when rice likes to stick to the bottom. I do, my mom doesn’t. My rice sticks to the bottom, her doesn’t. Well, my bad, what can I say. Nonstick pans are lifesavers here but I don’t have them so… 😉

If you add grean peas, you’ll get yourself an Italian Risi e Bisi!

My mom’s rice
serves 4

1 cup arborio or sushi rice
1 tsp salt
2 – 3 tbsp oil (I like olive oil)
3 cups water
green peas, diced carrots, cellery, red lentils, sunflower seeds etc. to your desire (optional)

In a sauce pan heat few tbsp of oil, add rice and stir for a min or two till rice gets a bit whiter. Watch so it doesn’t burn, because if it burns, you can throw it away. Then add water, salt, stir a little more, lower the heat to the lowest possible, cover with a lid and let it be for 15 mins. Check after 10 mins, maybe it’ll need more time, maybe you’ll do some stirring. Just don’t stir to much or too harsh, or you’ll get rice all mushy and both you and rice won’t be happy. Try to fold it somehow, not stir in circles so you don’t break the grains. Once rice is done water should all be absorbed and grains should be nice and separable. Separable? I’m not sure that’s the best word but since English is not my first language, please bear with me 😉

If you want to add vegetables or seeds, add them at once with rice. If you want red lentils, wash them first thoroughly till the water is not white anymore. Also add 1/2 cup more water. Green lentils won’t do here because they need longer to cook. Sunflower seeds will add some nice crunchyness (another word that may not be proper but you get my point) to the rice and we love it!

Serve immediately with stews, sauces or however you like it. Mine is topped with a bit of grated fresh beet.

And last but not least, my Grandma’s baked rice. Now that was a rice I was making for ages before I found courage to make Mom’s. It could not fail: you could always check and add more liquid if needed. You could always bake it a little more to evaporate excess liquid and get beautiful crunchy top. You can make it with tomato sauce like me or without it. You can add pieces of vegetables if you fancy. Or not. And fancy the rice itself 🙂

Grandma’s baked rice

Preheat your oven to 180°C/350F. Take a cup to measure rice so you can measure water afterwards. Oil the baking pan as big as you want. Oil it on the bottom and the sides. Then, measuring the amount of rice, put enough to spread it on a baking pan, around 1 inch in height. So if you put 2 cups of rice, put 2 cups of water and 1 cup of tomato sauce. You don’t have to use tomato sauce, then just add more water. But it’s really good with tomato sauce! Or marinara, or what you have in hand. Add spices: salt, pepper, oregano or something like that and stir a bit, so it gets seasoned evenly. Bake for 15 mins and then check: if the grains are dry but still uncooked, go and add more liquid. If it’s done, then bake a little more to get the crunchy top. Serve with love to your loved ones and enjoy!

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Vegan Olive&Herbs Focaccia

What do you do when you can’t take it anymore? Where does it take you? Where do you pour out your sorrows, injustices, harsh slaps in the face? What do you do when you can’t do anything?

But you still feel it.

That’s the beauty, that’s the shitty part of us: we feel. No matter how hard and how far we run, no matter what we do to make it go away. It simply doesn’t. Because humans are made to feel.

So now what? Let’s say, your sorrow is yours only and there’s no one you can confide. Or you can, but no one can solve it but you. Or not to solve it, but it’s still only yours to deal with. Feel it. And it roars in your stomach like a hungry beast and goes up to your lungs and heart and burst into tears in your throat and eyes fill with your soul.

Well, you can go punch the living daylight out of someone, but that never did any good to anyone, except lawyers. Also, one simply cannot punch the daylights out of… lets say… your mother in law, right? No matter how sweet that thought is. But you don’t, because you love yourself more.

So what did I do. I turned my back. I chose not to fight that fight. I chose not to punch the living daylight out of myself either by rumbling that muddy and awful smelly swamp monster of thoughts anymore. I chose not to stoop to that monster’s level and went on with my stuff.

Now that is a lie, of course. I didn’t chose anything. I just went to cook something because I didn’t know any better. With my head all light and eyes blurred with tears, I just grabbed the first whatnot that came upon my hands. Cooking calms me down. I’m in control of what’s going on (most of the time, anyway). I know what to expect. My pots and pans shine steel and copper light and love when I scrub them and fill them with delicious food. My children and everyone I love are around me in my kitchen. My soul and minds collide in the most beautiful way when I cook. And afterwards I write. That’s my job, my life, my straw to grab when I hang from a cliff, my safe haven, my refuge, my kitchen is me.

I still feel my sorrows, slaps and injustices. I still did not punch my mother in law and I won’t. Karma’s a bitch, so I don’t have to.

So, by now it’s obvious that I kneaded my stress out of my system. And it felt good. To be stressed free, to be free of those ugly thoughts that lead nowhere, that cannot change anything or anyone. It felt good to feel the beautiful scent of olives that lay in soft dough of the focaccia like on a soft pillow. Simple but so rewarding: just flour, water, their friend yeast followed by dash of salt and handful of olives.

And that was it. And the sorrow was soothed away. Not by eating. But by doing, by giving your minds into something. By putting your hands into soul’s work. Stress yourself away by this beautiful bread. Find comfort in loving, creating and sharing with your loved ones.

Vegan olive&herbs focaccia

adapted from The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Bread

25g fresh yeast (1 tbsp+1tsp dry yeast)
350 ml/1 1/2 cup tepid water
3 tbsp olive oil
600 g bread flour (4 1/2 cups)
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp of your favourite herbs
10 – 15 olives

For brushing the focaccia:
4 tbsp olive oil
powdered garlic to taste
dry herbs to taste

In a big bowl melt the yeast in tepid water, add oil and mix well. Add flour, salt and knead with stand or hand mixer for good 10 – 15 mins. The dough should be soft and elastic but not sticky. If it is, it won’t be once it’s risen. Just don’t add more flour or your focaccia will be dense and not so soft and fluffy. Cover the bowl with a lid or foil and leave it till it doubles in volume, about an hour.
Cut a piece of parchment/baking paper sized by your largest baking sheet (around 40×40 cm/16 inches). Sprinkle some flour on the paper, put the dough on it, knead it a little bit, adding so little flour just to be able to deal with the dough. If you want herbs in dough and not just on the top of it, now it’s the time to add it. Form a ball and then spread it gently with the top of your fingers till you get oval/circle shape 2,5 cm/1 inch thick. Randomly prick the dough with your finger and put the olive in the indentaton. Sprinkle with more dry herbs and drizzle olive oil. Transfer it on a baking sheet and let it sit untill the oven heats to 200°C/400 F. Bake your focaccia for 30 – 35 mins or till it gets all nice and golden brown. Mine is a little darker than it probably should but excuse my new and moody oven. Let focaccia cool down till you serve it. If you cut it while it’s hot, it’ll get all dry, rough and gummy and your stomach may ache a lot. So resist the temptation, if you can. Serve instead of bread with stews and cream soups or just as it is. Remeber to serve it with love 🙂

Croatian version on Mirisna teka

 

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