Ugly lockdown baking: Aquafaba vegan chocolate mousse – version 1

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Aquafaba is strange and miraculous.

Aquafaba vegan chocolate mousse – version 1

Aquafaba, the equivalent of four egg whites
1 cup sugar
Several tablespoons of sifted unsweetened cocoa

(You could also add vanilla extract and/or vanilla bean powder when you’re adding the cocoa. You can also add a lot more cocoa if you prefer. I used about two tablespoons, so it has a light chocolate touch.

Heat sugar and aquafaba, whisking together, in a glass bowl over a saucepan filled with water, gently simmering.

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When the sugar is completely dissolved, transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Use the whisk attachment to whisk at high speed until it comes together in medium peaks.

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Can you believe that this is chickpea water?!

Sift cocoa in and this point and continue to whisk – this will take while but will become fluffy eventually.

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Put in individual serving bowls and refrigerate for a few hours.

It’s not ‘pretty’, and this won’t be quite like the mousse you might be used to. It is very light but has a chocolatey marshmallow flavor.

This is a very simple version of a kind of vegan “mousse” you could make if you want something chocolate, light, easy, and vegan. I will soon try another version.

Ugly lockdown cooking: Vegan lentil slop

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In emptying the cupboards all the remains are lentils, dried legumes and tinned tomato. For a while a few containers of coconut milk lingered.

In the last few days I’ve made ugly variations on this recipe (if you could really call it that) using different sorts of lentils I had on hand.

Variations on lentil slop

1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1/2 bunch of cilantro (I have not had any of this, but used coriander powder)
1 tablespoon curry
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1 (or 1.5c) cup lentils
1 can coconut milk (15 ounce/standard size) or 1 can crushed tomatoes
2 cups vegetable broth or water
pinch of salt

Saute onion for about 3 minutes, add garlic, ginger, cilantro and saute another minute. Stir in the other spices – be creative and choose what to add and in what your proportion to your own taste.

Rinse your lentils and add to the pan along with the coconut milk. If you’re using tomato instead of coconut milk (or in addition), you might want to add the tomatoes to the spice mixture to simmer for a bit before adding the lentils. Stir everything together once it’s in the pan. Bring mixture to boil over high heat, reduce to medium-low and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring every so often until the lentils are soft.

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The worst one of all – beluga lentils (made with coconut milk) topped with Oatly oat-based sour cream.

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Red lentils (made with coconut milk) with brown basmati rice

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Yellow lentils (made with tomato and water – not vegetable broth).

Ugly lockdown baking: Aquafaba vegan divinity candy

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On this day of torrential downpours, excessive reading and television viewing, I am not sure that there is a better time to experiment with food.

As I previously wrote, I don’t like cooking. Baking and candy-making is a bit more up my alley. Sometimes, various ingredients I use in cooking, like a tin of chickpeas, have castoff bits. Normally you strain your beans, sending the valuable bean water down the sink. But in fact, this miraculous liquid (also known as aquafaba) can act as an egg-white substitute and used to make vegan meringue, vegan Swiss meringue buttercream, and any number of other things… like espresso meringue cookies (my first aquafaba experiment).

I had some chickpea water leftover from one of my ugly cooking extravaganzas, and I thought about what kind of sweet things I could attempt. I thought back to a baking/candy-making disaster of my childhood. My mother tried to make traditional divinity candy many years ago, and it requires (as all divinity does) such extensive beating that she burned out her ancient hand mixer. She’s never made it again, despite replacing the hand mixer with a more heavy-duty stand mixer.

I should also note here that corn syrup is called for in this kind of recipe, and apart from believing that corn syrup is flavorless and bad, it’s also just not sold here. I use golden syrup instead.

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I recently watched the lightweight but engaging Nadiya’s Time to Cook on Netflix, in which the affable host, Nadiya, visited the Tate & Lyle sugar refinery and made a recipe using Lyle’s Golden Syrup, which is something I use liberally and always have on hand for my baking.

I had never given much thought to the syrup but had a gab with S about it, and he said he always thought, as a kid, that there was a dead lion on the label. We looked it up, and indeed, it is a dead lion with bees buzzing around it, bearing text related to a Biblical passage (Judges 14:14): “Out of the strong came forth sweetness”. A rotting lion carcass seems like an unusual slogan and brand position for a sickly sweet baking ingredient, but it has remained the same since the beginning. I read up a bit on Abram Lyle only to discover that he was a teetotaler and devout Presbyterian Scot, and is quoted as having said he’d “rather see a son of his carried home dead than drunk”.

Not terribly strange, but when you consider that his company merged with the rival Tate enterprise (to form Tate & Lyle), it’s strange bedfellows. Henry Tate, best known perhaps for giving his name and art collection to numerous art galleries in the UK, also gave freely to “non-establishment” causes and workers’ conditions. What struck me, in contrast to Lyle, was that he established a bar to let his workers have a good time (and probably to keep them out of trouble, trouble being bad for productivity, of course). Though Lyle and Tate the men never met each other, it’s hard to think Lyle would have approved of this kind of recreation. I love the contrast and kind of wish the men had met, and we could have a semi-fictional miniseries on the competing sugar refiners, along the same lines of The English Game to tell what could probably be a fascinating story. Much more fascinating than the tale of how my experimental aquafaba divinity candy turned out.

Aquafaba vegan divinity candy

2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1/4 cup golden syrup (or corn syrup, which isn’t sold here, and is not as nice or flavorful as golden syrup anyway)
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons aquafaba/chickpea water
1 teaspoon vanilla
(Add chopped nuts, if desired)

Heat sugar, water, syrup and salt in a heavy-bottomed pot, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Add a candy thermometer, and continue cooking until the mixture reaches hard ball stage on the thermometer.

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Separately, beat the aquafaba with a mixer using the whisk attachment until it holds a stiff, meringue-like shape.

Very slowly add the sugar mixture and vanilla into the beaten aquafaba, and beat until stiff peaks form. You must beat to get the stiffest possible peaks; divinity will not hold its shape if you don’t beat it to the right consistency. That means you are going to beat, beat and beat some more… and you will be very happy that you have a stand mixer that can work autonomously.

To give you an idea of how much time the beating will take, know that I read a whole book. Between waiting for the syrup mixture to reach hard ball stage and the interminable beating stage, I read Virginia Woolf‘s A Room of One’s Own in its entirety. I’m a fast reader, and it’s not an excessively long book. But you get the idea. This is a very easy recipe – but it’s extremely time consuming. You will, however, be able to do multitask while the mixer works its magic. I think the “hard ball” waiting period was about 30 minutes, and then the beating process to reach the final product was another 30 minutes. Obviously this can differ, but this is just what worked for me.

At the very end of the process, add nuts if so inclined. Oh, I also added a wee pinch of red food coloring just to get a subtle tint for the final product.

Make small, rough blobs of divinity on pans lined with parchment or wax paper, or put into a pan and cut into squares. Let the little overly sweet balls set. I don’t eat stuff like this but did take a wee taste to make sure these at least taste edible. Apart from being sickeningly sweet (which some people like), they have a more complex flavor than if I’d made them with corn syrup, and also have a deeply vanilla flavor (thanks to the vanilla extract and vanilla bean powder I added).

Ugly lockdown cooking: Chickpea quinoa concoction

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I don’t like cooking, and I don’t enjoy shopping for food. Preparing anything beyond just throwing asparagus or broccoli into a roasting pan or whipping spinach and kiwi together in a blender with frozen berries is taxing and not how I prefer to spend my time. But now that we’re facing the dregs of my cupboards, I’m just making whatever is… possible. Something vegan… and ugly as usual.

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Chickpea quinoa concoction

1 cup quinoa (I used a tricolor mix; rinsed)
1.5 cups water
1 tin crushed tomatoes (you could use stewed tomatoes with chilies, peppers, garlic or just plain tomatoes)
1 tin chickpeas, drained (you can of course also use fresh chickpeas)
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil or coconut oil (butter if you don’t care if this is vegan)
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon cumin
pinch of black pepper
pinch of turmeric
pinch of salt

Heat oil in a large pan and add onion; saute for about five minutes, add the garlic and saute for another minute or two. Add the spices (cayenne, cumin, pepper, turmeric).

Increase heat on stove to medium-high. Add the rinsed quinoa, water, tomato. Stir. Add in the chickpeas. Stir again. Bring to a boil.

Stir, reduce temperature to low to maintain a low simmer. Cover the pan, let cook for 15 or so minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit for a minute or two.

Serve on its own, with a flatbread, with a dollop of sour cream (or non-dairy sour cream) or whatever strikes your fancy.

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soup for the win

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In a post-tooth extraction/infection world, operating with ingredients on hand, the diet becomes overwhelmed by soup. Smooth soups. Good thing soup is a favorite – and easy. For a few days running, I’ve been on a semi-spicy black bean soup (a variation of this recipe) kick, but blended everything so as not to disturb the sensitive mouth. But today I had a bit of pumpkin leftover from something else, some must-use coconut milk and, most of all, hunger.

Hunger led me to the latest soup experiment, which is a take-off on my old go-to pumpkin curry soup recipe. In my updated version, I have guessed at the ratios – you can spice it to suit your own tastes, of course. I am not sure about the measurements. This is a super inexact recipe.

I added white beans to this because I wanted to thicken the soup a bit, add a bit of protein and a bit of texture. White beans don’t add much flavor, so this won’t ruin the flavor profiles of anything else you have going on.

New, improved (?), improvised pumpkin curry soup (vegan)
1 tablespoon (or so) olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon curry
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon cayenne

On medium heat, saute the onion until golden. Add garlic and spices, stir and cook for about two minutes. Remove from heat until other parts of the soup are ready.

Liquid step
1 cup water
1/4 cup (or so) coconut milk
2 teaspoons vegan bouillon cube or powder (or equivalent)
15 (or so) ounce white beans (I used rinsed, tinned beans)

Mix all the liquid ingredients together with white beans in container or pan you can use for blending. Blend together with an immersion blender. When smooth, add to the spice mixture and return to medium heat.

15 ounce can pumpkin (or the “meat” of a baked butternut squash)

I only had about half this amount of pumpkin, and you adjust to your taste. Obviously. Mix this pumpkin into the simmering soup base. Let simmer about 10 or 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and blend with the immersion blender.

1 cup coconut milk
Coriander garnish if desired

Return the blended soup to low heat, mix in coconut milk until warm enough to serve.

Vegan cream of asparagus soup

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What person doesn’t sit awake through an entire Friday night working, and relenting to a growing craving for cream of asparagus soup around 6 a.m.? Maybe it’s not the aspiration or habit of millions, but I’m working, blasting music, watching rain fall and waiting for my asparagus spears and onions to roast to perfection to make a vegan cream of asparagus soup for a transposed dinner-breakfast.

I go through soup kicks about once a year, and generally I don’t follow a set recipe. I just guess what I might like to taste. Last time I made some variation of asparagus soup, it was a green curry and coconut-based soup, but this time I was not really in the mood for curry (apart from shaking a tiny dot of curry powder into the garlic-laced vegetable broth).

Almost all my soups end up being vegan, too. I am not big on making meat soups or traditional kinds of bone broth. I barely know how to cook meat, let alone what to do with bones afterwards. I’ve become pretty good at roasting a chicken and then making chicken soup with what’s left, but that’s really only if I feel a physical need for it (i.e., I or someone else near me is sick). Roasted veg pureed with coconut milk is the best possible soup outcome I can imagine.

Today’s asparagus soup was made more or less as follows:

  • 25-30 asparagus spears, washed and cut into smaller pieces and thrown into a roasting pan with some olive oil
  • 3 red onions – two chopped up and thrown into the pan with the asparagus; 1 to saute in the pot on the stove with garlic
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 can coconut milk

Roast the asparagus pieces with 2 chopped onions. While roasting prepare the vegetable broth base.

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Saute the one remaining onion for about ten minutes in some olive oil on medium heat, throw in the garlic and stir constantly for about one minute. Pour in the two cups of broth, let simmer.

When the asparagus is ready, transfer it to the pot, stir, let simmer a few minutes. Use an immersion blender and blend until smooth.

Black bean millet patties

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Last year, a few times, I made some black bean millet sweet potato burgers. I do not have the patience for this (mostly the sweet potato part since you need to fully bake the sweet potato first), especially when just cooking for myself, so today I attempted something similar – Sunday dinner. Not pretty but relatively tasty. It’s missing something I cannot pinpoint but is still quite edible.

1 cup cooked millet
1.5 cups drained and rinsed black beans
1 small red onion, shredded
1 small red onion, chopped
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
pepper, to taste

Cook the millet, or use leftover millet. Slightly mash the black beans. Mix the spices together in a separate bowl. Mix everything together, mashing slightly. Form patties and cook on a medium-high griddle or pan in olive oil or another preferred oil.

Naturally you can experiment with the spices and with a topping (tomato salsa? guacamole? mango salsa?). I just used a blob of slightly spicy mustard to dip it in.

It’s vegan and it’s easy.