I love feedback. I’m a feedback monster. So imagine my surprise and glee when I get a call from my dad to tell me he actually enjoyed my spiced apple cake and how he and his wife debated whether it was store bought or not! For my dad to say that is huge because he’s been pulling faces for as long as I’ve been vegetarian and then vegan, and he certainly hasn’t been shy about disliking my cakes up to now. :p I also got a long, very detailed review from the recipient of my matcha cookies about the texture and the enjoyment and the different elements, which is awesome, since I usually struggle to get proper feedback out of Man-thing (though lately he’s been trying to explain himself a lot better and has even started making suggestions or saying what he’d like to eat or even make!). The Matcha man even asked to get some brownies to taste. I think I’ve been spamming quite a lot on that front lately, and this post isn’t going to be any different!
Well, following the visit from little sister we were left with a 2 litre bottle of carrot juice in the fridge (thankfully half empty) and the modified caramel sauce, both of which, individually, are rather useless (well, the carrot juice would have potential were it not for the fact that I don’t drink anything but water, coffee, tea and soy milk). I therefore racked my brain and decided to make soup and bars, two of my favourite things!
For the soup, I had a 2 litre ice-cream tub full with leftover chopped veggies from previous soup adventures (when the pots were overflowing and couldn’t handle any more), so I decided to be productive and make a lovely, steamy and carroty dish! I honestly love soup to bits. A decade ago I would’ve scoffed and said it’s the most useless dish on earth, an obscene waste of stomach-space, and boring to boot. No more! If I knew how it was prepared I would order soup at restaurants over any other dish, just to get ideas to try at home!
- random veggies, cut, equaling a 2l container – I used about 200g each of sliced cabbage, marrows, mushrooms and other such noms.
- 3-4 beets, peeled and sliced/diced
- 3 or so cups veggie stock/broth
- 1 cup carrot juice
- 1 cup leftover spaghetti sauce (or your own homemade version)
- 1 cup red lentils, rinsed and drained
- 4 tomatoes, diced
- 1 tomato
- a few sprinkles of juice concentrate for the sweetness
- fresh basil, chopped
- ginger spice – 2-3 tsp (or an edge, fresh)
- spices (I used mild chili, some cayenne, paprika, white pepper, onion powder…the works)
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup digestive bran (or whatever you desire – quinoa, etc – I use it as a thickening agent of sorts, whilst adding a splash of fiber to the mix)
Fry the onion in a large pot with some ginger spice (or fresh if you have it), using tea or whatever liquid on hand to splash about when it starts to stick to the bottom, waiting for it to brown. Once it’s browned, add the lentils, tomatoes, other veggies (minus the basil), beets, the stock, juice and spaghetti sauce and bring to the boil. I find I needn’t worry about spices so early on since it boils to hell and back anyway. Boil on medium high heat for half an hour, then set it on simmer and stir every half hour for an hour or so. In the last half hour add the digestive bran, basil and spices, as well as the little splash of juice concentrate (or orange juice) if necessary. And that’s it! Seriously, it’s gorgeous, orange, tasty – wow! If I had enough carrots, and if I didn’t turn slightly orange I would take the plunge and go all out on a plain carrot and potato soup or something, but I may tempt myself when this delicious, warm and hearty soup has left this world and entered my tummy. Mmmm!
Anyway! For the brownies I decided to do a mash-up, layer-style bar of my favourite things – chickpea blondies, nommy chocolate brownie, and of course some banana on top. The banana topping is something I saw on Sweet Potato Soul a while back and the visual artistry simple blew me away, so naturally I’ve been staking out a moment to try it for myself.
With my mods and adaptations, however, the brownie blondie bar didn’t quite turn out as I’d wanted, but I’m still going to spam you with pictures. I used some of my leftover caramel sauce from yesterday in them, so I cannot kid when I say they are decadent to the max, but sometimes one needs to kick back and indulge in something sweet.
They actually came out pretty tasty, and I love their look, but I wanted something bigger, puffier and spectacular. Eventually I trundled over to CCK to ogle at her Healthy Choc Chip Blondies, because they use less peanut butter than the standard vegan blondie recipes, and also because I could modify the sugar ratio slightly.
- I used 1/2 a cup of sugar and 1/4 prune puree for the rest, since I had lots of homemade puree left over.
- I also used oat bran instead of flax or quick oats, because I love the bit of texture it brings (it forms a big part of my morning cereal).
- 1 tsp matcha powder, for kicks.
- 1/4 cup carrot juice, used at will.
- 2 TBSP cocoa powder/cacao
- fresh figs, sliced thinly
–> I stuck to the structure of the recipe (plus my changes to the sugar, oat bran and matcha) and added half the carrot juice just to get it a bit runnier (and also to get rid of the carrot juice standing nobly in the door of the fridge). I poured out half into my square pan and then processed the rest of the batter with the 2 TBSP cocoa + the rest of the carrot juice – the cocoa obviously acts as a dry ingredient so I figured adding juice or liquid would keep it on the same wavelength as the bottom blondie batter. I also tested visually and by swirling a cake tester stick around to make sure they were roughly the same consistency – this was my problem with the banana bar – they were simply too different and therefore cooked at varying speeds, even though I chose recipes that had the same baking time.
These are delicious! Seriously. Practically bursting with succulent innards – just how I like my brownies! The addition of the prune puree definitely gave it a richness which I don’t think sugar could easily match – but richness in terms of depth of texture, which I love. Next time I’ll use even less sugar and more puree, because rah!
I just have to perv – look at that crust! It’s soft, practically breaking apart to reveal the gooeyness inside – one can obviously bake a bit longer for a drier brownie, but c’mon, seriously. I love how the sides have puffed up and the figs are enveloped in the warm embrace of the brownie layer. The layers aren’t so easily distinguishable by eye as the banana version above, but one can easily taste how it melds into the chocolate layer, with the clean flavours at the bottom. Next time I might even add a bit of paprika or jazz to spice it up, because the texture can handle it.
Seriously. It’s good. And I suspect, much like the beet or zucchini brownies of the recent days past, it would get even better after a day or two in the fridge, when the components can truly get in touch with each other. Alas, I made these for the in-laws, and we left the whole batch over at their place today, but I guess that’s as good an excuse as any to make something else! 😀
On a more serious note, I read the Unrefined Vegan’s post today on blogging and one point in particular struck home – that of blogging too often or too little. I’ve been blogging near-daily these holidays because I’ve had time and boredom to kill, and I’ve loved every minute of the journey, especially the part where I got to share. However as the realities of the new year fast approach, I’ve had to come to the conclusion that I need to scale back the number of posts I create each week, or the new recipes I try out, and rather leave that for the weekends. I’m starting my Masters programme this year and it looks to be rough, but at the same time I love food and blogging, and it’s become more than just an idle hobby. So this year is one of balance, hopefully. With all the Masterchef we watch when we look after the African Grey (Harry) at the in-laws when they are away, Man-thing himself has become more infused with passion for food, so I’m thinking we can make a date once a month to go to the big fruit and vegetable markets and pick out some lovely ingredients to play around with. It’s amazing to see how he has also changed through this process of food making and blogging – putting basil in his soy mince or adding new spices to his stews. I’m hoping that with time we will grow together in this direction and hopefully spread the love when it comes to the wonderful and truly breathtaking variety that nature provides. Even basic things like him enjoying the pants off a soy mince, cannelini bean and hummus sandwich fills me with glee because it means he’s learning to enjoy non-animal products in their own right, and doesn’t see them as “deficient” or lacking as when we first started out. Anyway!