Monday, 5 May 2014

Made from Scratch - Starter

One of the questions I am asked most often is why I decided to go vegan. I went vegetarian over 4 years ago, after I cooked my first chicken and was appalled that I couldn't bring myself to eat any more than the white meat. Since that time I slowly cut out more and more, from leather goods to certain types of chocolate.  Eventually that made me take the final push to going vegan, and with the support of my nearest and dearest, it's been much easier than I could have imagined. And once I knew what went into making those products I thought I craved (I'm looking at you, cheese), I completely lost my appetite for them.

It was surprising to me just how many animal products are in what you would regard to be relatively simple food items. The more reading I did, such as Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet, the more I was shocked by just what we put into our bodies, animal products or otherwise.

Now, it's still a long process, and I still eat far too much processed soy and it'll be a long time before I eat my last Oreo, but I am trying to cook as much food from scratch as possible. With that in mind, last November (I know, ages ago, forgive me!) OH and I set about making a FEAST OF EPIC PROPORTIONS which was all made entirely from scratch. And it took 8 hours, all in, because we made ice cream. So it isn't viable to make a super-fancy 3 course meal (including drinks) entirely from scratch every day, but gosh darn it, it was fun. And it tasted so good!


Starter: Spicy Kidney Bean and Tomato Soup with Basil Bread

Main: Mediterranean Vegetable Pasta with Garlic Bread

Dessert: Vanilla Choc Chip Ice Cream with Chocolate Sauce

With: Rum and Cola

Can you see why it took 8 hours now!? Admittedly most of that was the ice cream freezing time, but actual cooking took 4 - 5 I'd say. Although it was a long time ago so who can say? But let's get on with the cooking.

We decided the easiest thing to do was to make a tomato base that we would use both for soup and for pasta sauce. Ordinarily this would be tinned tomatoes or passata, but we went all out. That there is one of the 3 blender's-worth of tomatoes we used, each of which also contained a chilli.

If I was doing this again I'd de-seed the 24 tomatoes we used. I've heard on various cooking shows that blending seed makes the resulting tomato sauce bitter, but that didn't happen here. The only reason I'd remove the seeds now would be to get rid of the enormous amount of water, which we cooked off on a low heat for about an hour and a half, and made the kitchen smell wonderful.

Look at the colour of that! I remember being very hungry at this point, but we were barely even started... While the tomatoes were cooking down, we set to making the bread. It was a very basic bread recipe, from the back of the yeast packet (flour, yeast, water, and a pinch of salt), and we added a big handful of chopped fresh basil.

Action shot of kneading.
I'm terrible at kneading. I give up too quickly, and it never seems to form a lovely pliable ball of dough, instead being just a pile of creases which I hope will bake out but never do. This time was better than usual, given that OH stepped in to provide the muscle.

Risen and ready for the oven.
 Once the tomatoes were ready, the soup could be brought together. We used the Black Bean Soup recipe from 500 Vegan Dishes by Deborah Gray and adapted it to suit what we had around the house.


Wooden spoon not present during blending process. Safety first!
Aaaaand blend. At this point I didn't realise the blender came with a kneading attachment. What a fool.

But nonetheless, how nice does the bread look! 

Sexy close-up with basil garnish

And behold, we ate it! And it was beautiful, and tasted all the better for having taken so many hours. We've made this soup again since, but without the home-made tomato base it's never tasted so good. 

Looking at this is making me hungry! The next blog will be the main, which was home-made pasta - one of the easiest things to make, ever. 

If you are interested in finding out more about where food comes from and all that, here are a few resources which I've found particularly helpful over the past year.


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