Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hearty Barley Soup OR Hearty Irish Stew

We celebrated the first day of spring today with a snow day for the kids.  We are still below zero here so I am still all about the soups and stews.  If you are having warmer weather and don't feel like soup, I don't want to hear about it.  This recipes makes use of a quick stock--all of the veggie trimmings stuck in a pressure cooker to make a tasty broth.  Using the onion skins helps give the stock a rich colour and flavour, so make sure everything is well-washed.  As noted below, you can use this recipe to make an Irish Stew should you be so inclined.  Two for the price of one!

- 3/4 cup pot barley
- water
- 3 tbsp oil
- 2 large onions, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2.5 cup peeled potatoes cut in chunks
- 2 peeled carrots, halved and cut into thick slices
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp mushroom soy sauce
- 2 tsp hoisin sauce
- 2 cups peas
- salt and pepper to taste

Quick Stock
- all trimmings from the veggies above (well washed), including onion skins
- 10 cups water
- 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 8-10 fresh thyme stems
- 1 tsp salt

1. Cook the barley: put rinsed barley in a pot and cover with 2 inches of water.  Bring to boiling, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 mins.  Drain before adding to the soup.
2. Make the Quick Stock: while the barley is cooking, put all of the stock ingredients in a pressure cooker and cook for 30 mins.  Pass through a strainer before adding to the soup.
3. Make the Soup: Heat the oil in a stockpot somewhere between med-lo to medium heat.  Sauté the onions and celery for 15 mins, or until they are a deep brown, stirring regularly.  Don't burn them, so watch your heat.  If they are not a nice brown colour, keep going for another 5 mins or so.
4. Add garlic and sauté for 1 min.  Add the spices and fry for 1 min.  Add potatoes and carrots and mix well.
5. Add the strained stock, cooked and drained barley, and the sauces.  Bring to bubbling over high heat, then reduce to low, cover, and simmer for about 30 mins, or until the veggies are tender.  Add peas and heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

No real recipe here, but rather some suggestions of how to use this recipe as the base for an Irish Stew.  Reduce the barley to 1/4 cup, add another onion, and more potatoes and carrots.  Add some sage to the spices.  Add a protein source: tofu cubes, seitan chunks, possibly white kidney beans. Up the water to about 12-13 cups.  Add some beer to the mix.  Cook uncovered to reduce the stew down. Thicken the stew after the veggies are cooked by mixing flour in with some soy milk and adding to the stew.  Add a few tbsp of tomato paste for a richer sauce.

And make some soda bread!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Chocolate Cake with Mocha Ganache and Frosting

Not much to say here other than this is a wonderfully moist chocolate cake with layers of rich ganache and topped with frosting.  I am eating the last piece right now as I blog.

- 227g cake flour
- 65g cocoa
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/4 cup chocolate soy milk
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp canola oil
- 2 tsp vanilla

Mocha Ganache
- 1/2 cup light coconut milk
- 1 tbsp instant coffee or espresso powder
- 185g bittersweet vegan chocolate chips
- 2 tbsp margarine

- 300g bittersweet vegan chocolate chips
- 200g margarine (or a margarine/vegetable shortening mix)
- 150g icing sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup soy milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, or 325 convection
1. Grease two 8 inch round cake pans.  Cut out two circles of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of the pans.  Put the parchment papers in the bottom of the pans and grease it.  Flour both pans.
2. Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk chocolate soy milk and vinegar together.  Add remaining ingredients and whisk well to blend.
3. Add dry ingredients and gently whisk until blended.  Don't overdo it.
4. Divide batter evenly between the two pans.
5. Bake for 22-24 mins (convection), or 26-28 mins (non-convection), or until a toothpick comes out clean.
6. Cool on wire racks for 5 mins, then flip the pans over the remove the cake.  Remove the parchment paper.  Cover the cakes with a damp towel and let them fully cool.

Mocha Ganache
1. Heat coconut milk and instant coffee to bubbling in a small saucepan over medium heat.
2. Remove from heat and add chocolate chips and margarine.  Stir until everything is melted and smooth.  Set aside to cool.

1. Get water barely simmering in a double boiler.  Add chocolate chips and margarine and stir until everything is melted.  Remove from heat and let cool for 10 mins, or until just barely warm.
2. Add vanilla and icing sugar and whisk until smooth.  As the icing sits, it will begin to get thicker.  Blend in soy milk until you get the consistency you like.  If you go overboard, you can always add more icing sugar.

1. Cut each cake horizontally into two pieces.
2. When it has cooled, spoon 1/3 of the ganache on top of the bottom layer and spread.  Top with the next layer of cake, then 1/3 of the ganache, then the next layer of cake, then the last 1/3 of the ganache, then the top layer of cake.  If the layers start to slide a bit, just take your time.  Place the cake in a cool place to firm up in between layers if you need to.  I like the ganache to be a little on the runny side so that it soaks into the cake.
3. When your layers are assembled and stable, ice the entire cake in a thin layer of frosting.  I like to do this after I have blended in the icing sugar in but before I add the soy milk.  Place in a cool place to firm up.
4. Ice the rest of the cake.  Top with grated chocolate if you want to.  Enjoy!