Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Lunch in a Storm

Today is an exciting day in New Zealand. Eleanor Catton's book The Luminaries has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. It's so well-deserved and I'm really excited. Yay!

Hm. Now, how to segue into the slightly less heady world of vegan food. Ellie once baked our workshop an amazing vegan ginger, banana quick bread. Actually, Ellie is an amazing baker. Which I guess leads almost unclunkily into the Edmonds Cookery Book.

I can't remember when I was given my copy of the Edmonds Cookery Book (note 'cookery', not 'cooking' or 'cook'). But I'm pretty sure it corresponded loosely with coming of age or leaving home. The book was first published in 1908 as The Sure to Rise Cookery Book as a marketing tool for the Edmonds Baking Company who made baking powder. The Edmonds Baking Factory, which appears on the cover of the book, was an amazing building surrounded by beautiful gardens. Thomas Edmonds was also responsible for other great architecture in Christchurch.

Baking powder is a friend to the vegan. It's a leavening agent which is really important for vegan baking because eggs are what normally gives baking it's lightness. My understanding is that baking powder is baking soda with an acid added. It works like the baking soda and vinegar in chocolate cake in this post I wrote few years ago. I always think of the war when I think of baking powder, I get this idea that it really came into its own as a baking product when there were no eggs and yeast was hard to get too. This War Economy Recipe Book published online by the NZETC is quite an interesting vegan read. There are some great eggless recipes. There's even one for eggless custard which is baked in a piedish stood in a meat dish.

For years, I've used my Edmonds Cookery Book for baking. There are some really well-worn pages. By substituting butter for margarine or oil, milk for soy, almond or oat milk and up to one egg with banana, I've been able to make a lot of the cakes and biscuits in the book. But that's only part of the book, actually quite a small part of the book. The copy I have was published in 1992, the book is always being revised, and it includes quite a few recipes for meals which are quite good. Along with recipes for Beef Pot Roast and Liver and Bacon there are also some really nice rice and vegetable dishes.

There's a storm working its way up New Zealand and yesterday I was working from home when I got this hankering for something warm and savoury and I remembered this recipe I'd kind of veganised from the Edmonds Cookery Book called Savoury Brown Rice Casserole. I really like casseroles. I guess if I was more modern I'd use my slow cooker but yeah, I like the way having the oven on for a long time kind of warms the house. What I really like about this recipe is that it's kind of plain. As a vegan I'm often eating quite highly flavoured food, which is great but sometimes I get a hankering for something with simple flavours and kind of just filling and warm. There used to be this Sri Chimnoy  restaurant in Wellington which served very plain food. One of my favourite meals they did was a bean dish which you could have on brown rice or mashed potatoes.

The original recipe called for butter at the end but I couldn't quite face margarine yesterday so I used tahini and some lemon juice, which works almost as well as salt as a flavour intensifier (um, did I just contradict myself?). Anyway, the original recipe also calls for bacon and chicken stock but this is how I made it yesterday.


1 cup brown basmati rice
1 cup broccoli cut into small pieces (if I'd had a capsicum or some celery or cauliflower, I would have added that too)
1 can tinned tomatoes
3 good tablespoons of tomato pure
2 cups of vegetable stock
1 large onion
2 cloves of garlic (I didn't add garlic)
1 teaspoon of salt
1 cup tofu (I wanted some protein, I've made this without protein before but I added the tofu I mushed it up a bit but it occurred to me that I could have also used some cooked chickpeas or some other types of cooked or tinned bean)
1 teaspoon tahini (Optional)
Juice of one lemon (Optional)

Put all ingredients into an over proof casserole dish and stir. Cover with a tight-fitting lid or foil. Cook at 180 degrees Celsius for one and a half hours or until rice is tender. Stor halfway through cooking. Just before serving stir in tahini and lemon juice.

PS: Talking about that Sri Chimnoy restaurant made me want to talk about The Lotus-Heart which is in Christchurch. The Lotus-Heart might be my favourite restaurant in New Zealand. It's so good. If you're ever in Christchurch I really recommend a meal there. I wish I could go right now!

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