Friday 10 December 2010

Buns, soup and crunchie in yaz's kitchen

Last weekend I visited my friend Yarrow for an afternoon of cooking. We picked some recipes we wanted to try with the aim of having dinner at the end of our endeavours. Dinner had a somewhat Asian theme with steamed mushroom buns and tempeh and corn soup. But we were a little eclectic in our choices, with chocolate honeycomb for dessert and a batch of vegan bacon.

I always enjoy cooking with Yaz. It is easier to be brave trying new things with two in the kitchen. I must confess that I felt I didn't do as much of the cooking as I would have liked. I was too busy constantly keeping an eye on Sylvia, who loved jumping up and down on the coffee table and running outside at every opportunity. Yaz's partner, Mindy, helped with keeping an eye on Sylvia but my little one would disappear quickly. Yes, that is Sylvia in the photo of the garden below.

We stopped for afternoon tea to sample some sweet buns and chocolate honeycomb. It was a sunny afternoon and their garden is lush with all the rain we have had. We sat by the bamboo in a shady corner with a cuppa. The food was lovely but the mozzies enjoyed feasting on my legs and there were spilt drinks. Even better was dinner with fantastic soup and buns.

Vegan Bacon
This recipe for vegan bacon was my must-try dish. I have actually decided that it was so good that I must make this again soon. I will post more about it then to do it justice. Meanwhile you can find the recipe at the Ordinary Vegetarian.

I can also tell you that it is one of my favourite discoveries this year. It is the first home made "facon" I have found that fries up to a pleasing crispness. I took home a tub of it and loved it in sandwiches and pasta dishes. Expect to hear more about it very soon.

Steamed Mushroom Buns

These steamed buns were chosen by Yaz. It is always nice to try yeasted goods with him. We had thought we might make pretzels too but ran out of time so I was pleased we had a bread of sorts. I would never have thought to try these but I would make them again. Having come to steaming late in life, I have learnt to appreciate how forgiving steaming is with timing. I didn't do much with these but if you have time, they are not too hard.

Yaz originally suggested making them with red bean paste as his recipe suggested but I have never learnt to appreciate sweet bean paste. (I have my limits even in shared cooking.) We compromised on a mushroom filling. In fact I wondered how vegan bacon would go in these.

We set aside a few buns and filled these with a range of sweet fillings - chocolate and honeycomb, raspberries and honey, jam and one other filling I can't remember. These were the buns we sampled at afternoon tea and they were fantastic, even though the honeycomb filling melted away.

Tempeh and Corn Soup

I bookmarked this tempeh and corn soup recipe a while back because I often would like a vegetarian version of chicken and sweetcorn soup in Asian restaurants. This is exactly what I wish was on offer. We were a bit slapdash with the recipe because just as we started cooking, Yaz's laptop refused to show the website. A few things were added late and we only had powdered not fresh ginger. But the recipe showed itself to be robust enough to handle our vagaries.

Before turning vegetarian, I often cooked casseroles with meat tossed in flour and fried before adding other ingredients. This was the method used by this recipe. It was strangely comforting in a nostalgic way. I am sure the meat used to stick to the pan just like the tempeh, though there is less fat released with tempeh so maybe we didn't have enough oil. I am not always that keen on tempeh but it was excellent in this recipe and I was in heaven with all the tinned creamed corn. It was fantastic accompanied by the steamed buns. Why can't Chinese restaurants serve such excellent vegetarian food?

Vegan Crunchie (aka Chocolate Honeycomb)

I was taken by Kristy's recent post on vegan crunchie. I must tell you that I am really a violet crumble girl. Not by choice but by heritage. You see, my dad loves them. So much that each Chrismas and birthday my older sister and I took it in turns to buy him violet crumble and pollywaffle. If you didn't grow up in Australia you might not know the difference. Violet crumbles are harder honey comb – it doesn’t melt in your mouth like Crunchie but Crunchie always tasted a little burnt to me. Yet I was intrigued by Kristy’s vegan version, especially as I love anything with golden syrup.

Our crunchie was not perfect. In fact it didn’t get very close to looking like crunchie or even violet crumble. Yaz has made honeycomb a few times before but had mixed results. We decided to use a loaf tin which in retrospect was a little small for our mixture. The mixture could have been cooked a little less than the recipe said. It was a little dark, though it rose amazingly, and then sank again as it cooled. But maybe if we just spread it on baking paper like I saw Nigella Lawson do on tv tonight, it might have been easier to deal with.

We drizzled the chocolate on chunks rather than smoothing it over a slab. I suspect the weather was more humid than is ideal (thanks for the tip Cindy). We didn’t even wait for the chocolate to set but it tasted wonderful fresh. In fact it was so good that it was hard to stop eating.

I was quite sad when we left because this will be my last cooking session with Yaz in his bright and cheerful kitchen. Who knows when we will cook together again as he and Mindy are setting off overseas at the end of the year to start a new adventure on the other side of the world. I am sure I will make some of these recipes again and remember enjoying them together with Yaz and Mindy.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year:
The Last Drop - cosy pub grub
This time two years ago:
Lentil Loaf with Chutney
This time three years ago:
Dahl for the Soul

Steamed Mushroom Buns
adapted from the Fresh Loaf
Makes 16 buns

  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1½ teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar ½ cup soy milk
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine,
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • Oil
  • Spring onions, finely chopped
  • Variety of Asian mushrooms, chopped
  • Soy sauce
To make filling: Yaz prepared the filling before I arrived but I think he just fried up some mushrooms and spring onions with a bit of seasoning. This could be made while the dough is rising if you wish.

To make dough: Mix together all ingredients and add an extra spoonful of water or two if the dough isn’t quite supple enough for stretching and shaping. Yax kneaded the dough for a minute, let it sit for 10 minutes, and repeated this 3 times rather than kneading for 10 minutes as suggested by the recipe. I can’t quite remember how much longer he let it sit for but the recipe suggested the dough rising for 45-60 minutes.

Cut the dough into 16 pieces and let rest. The recipe says 5 minutes but we let them sit quite a bit longer. Then use a rolling pin to roll each piece into flat circles of about 20cm diameter. Place a spoon of filling into the middle and pinch the edges together at the top. (If you want a smooth bun you can roll the ball to smooth the edges but we chose not to.)

Once shaped let the buns sit for 10 minutes. While they are sitting, heat the water for the steamer and line your steamer basket with baking paper to stop balls sticking to the basket. Place buns in steamer, cover and steam about 15 minutes. Serve warm. I kept some in the fridge overnight and steamed them for 15 minutes the next day.

Tempeh and Corn Soup
Adapted from Veggie Num Num via Vegematarian
Serves 4-6
  • 250g tempeh
  • 2 tablespoons cornflour
  • Canola oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 1-2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 brown onion (or leek,) finely sliced
  • 1 stick of celery, finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of ginger, finely grated (we used ginger powder)
  • 2 x 400g tins of creamed corn
  • kernels of 2 corn cobs (or use a drained 400g tin of corn)
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock or tricken stock like Massel’s liquid stock
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced
  • Coriander (optional)
Crumble the tempeh into chunks in a small bowl. Toss with cornflour so tempeh is well coated.

Heat oils in a large saucepan. You will need a decent glug or two. Add the onion (or leek) and celery and fry until soft. (We forgot to add the celery until later but I would add it around when I added the onion.) Add ginger and garlic and fry for 1-2 minutes.

Add tempeh and cornflour mixture. Cook over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes or til tempeh has started to turn golden brown. Our tempeh was all clumpy and seemed to take ages to brown and stuck to the bottom. Some firm stirring and a bit of stock to loosen the tempeh will help.

Add the vegetable stock, creamed corn and corn kernels. Bring to the boil and gently simmer for about 15 minutes or until soup has slightly thickened. Serve with spring onions and coriander if desired.

Update June 2014: made this and had to use 2 tins of corn kernels and 1 tin of creamed corn because that was all I had.  The texture was not quite right but it was rescued by adding some rice to the soup.

Vegan Crunchie
from In the Mood for Noodles (using an honeycomb recipe)
makes lots
  • 4 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda (or less)
  • 1 cup of choc chips (or more)
Line a cake or slice tin with baking paper. We used a loaf tin which was probably too small but Kristy said her 20cm square tin was too big.

Gently heat the golden syrup and sugar together until the sugary clumps become liquid. Bring to a boil and then simmer on low heat for 5-10 minutes (or even less – ours was a bit overcooked and we just did 5 minutes – apparently dropping a little syrup into water will help to show it is done if it becomes brittle.)

Remove pot from the heat and quickly mix in the bicarb of soda. It will foam up instantly. Pour into prepared tin and let it set (I think this took a few hours – NB apparently it sets better if the weather is dry rather than humid).

Kristy poured melted chocolate into a tin (advising that it is lined with baking paper), placed the honeycomb on the chocolate and pour more over the honeycomb. We chopped up the honeycomb and did this but ended up just drizzling the chocolate over the chunks because it was too hard to smooth it.

Ideally you are meant to let it set and then chop it up but we started to eat it before it was set and by the next day there was bloom on the chocolate. Not perfect but still delicious.

On the Stereo:
Original masters: Steeleye Span


  1. YAY!! I was hoping you would try the bacon. I keep some in the freezer all the time (should mention, I tried freezing fried slices for easy microwaving later, not very good. Freezing slices to fry later is the way to go). I had the last few slices on Wednesday, so yesterday I made another batch. Can't be out for the weekend! ;)

    I have been craving corn soup for some reason lately, and this one sounds really awesome!

  2. Ah, cooking with friends is the best! Such a glorious day and a grand feast you and your friend shared! There are few things quite as wonderful as the warmth of camaraderie and a cozy kitchen...

    I love the photo of Sylvia in her gorgeous hat! So adorable!!

    I can't wait to hear more about the vegan bacon!! :-)

  3. Look at those little legs to :)

    All these look great. Steamed buns and honeycomb are on my menu to try one day.

    I did not grow up eating bacon at all, but I was tempted to try facon bacon when I saw them originally on No Meat Athletes facon bacon a while ago. I have had it bookmarked to make for a while. Now you have motivated me to try it much sooner. Sooner meaning nx year.

  4. I'm so glad the vegan bacon recipe worked!! I was definitely intrigued when you were telling me about it last week (how was that over a week ago?! Sadness!)

    It might take a while for me to forgive you for liking Violet Crumbles more than Crunchies, though... :P

  5. What a feast! I've never dreamed of making steamed buns at home, though I love them on the rare occasions we find veg-friendly yum cha. Something to aspire to. :-)

  6. Cooking with others is definitely more fun than going at it yourself. Love this meal! Especially those steamed buns...

  7. Thanks Sarah - you have not only given me a fantastic recipe but you have also answered my questions about freezing without me having to ask - I confess our bacon stash didn't even last a week, I was so excited about trying it in different dishes and still have lots of ideas for it

    Thanks Astra - oh yes, cooking with friends is a great way to spend time together and then to enjoy sharing the fruits of our labours

    Thanks Mangocheeks - it is a bit scary that soon now means next year - but hope it will see some veg bacon in your kitchen - it really is excellent

    Thanks Hannah - it seems ages since we met up and the facon was just a twinkle in my eye :-) and you have to blame my dad for me falling on the violet crumble side of the fence (and it is more Australian - I suspect they only had violet crumbles and not crunchies when he was young - I must check)

    Thanks Cindy - I am not sure I have ever tasted savoury steamed buns - though I suspect I have tried some red bean paste ones - hope you get some time to try these - though they are even easier when a friend is doing most of the work :-)

    Thanks Joanne - Yaz and I agreed that cooking with each other is not only more fun but easier to stay motivated

  8. Ooh the steamed mushroom buns sound delicious! Steamed buns have been on my list of things to make for sometime now.

  9. I think maybe I was lucky with the honeycomb the first time, I've tried a few more recipes and I struggle to get the texture right or not overoock it.

  10. You look like you had lots of fun experimenting! It's always so fun when you have a partner in crime too :)

  11. I too love Violet Crumble. May be soon I'll try making honeycomb with some delicious Estonian honey.
    I discovered in May that mossies don't like ginger - so I strung 4 slices of fresh ginger on a long piece of string & hung it just inside our front door & they didn't come into the house. As our windows don't have screens I put a small bowl with a few slices on the window sill & they didn't come inside at all.
    I sliced the fresh ginger & then froze it to make it juicier when it thawed. Test it out when you want to sit in the garden. You can even wipe the ginger juice on your skin. If you are out bush walking, suck on a Ginger Bear candy. Ginger is also good for car or motion sickness.

  12. That crunchie looks amazing!

    And I think I need to try the vegan bacon. Maybe in January when I am miving to a near vegan, high raw diet to be healthy for a month.

  13. What fun and what a gorgeous garden. That is a wonderful picture of Sylvia running about the garden. Very whimsical. The honeycomb looks great too :)

  14. I love the buns and the honeycomb. I have always wanted to try making honeycomb. So sad that your friends are leaving - but perhpas an incentive to visit them overseas?

  15. Thanks Deb - make them! they are great!

    Thanks K - yours looked so good - maybe I need a few tries to hit the jackpot - Yaz said he put his best batch in icecream too early and it melted!

    Thanks Lorraine - your comment about partner in crime reminds me of a friend telling me that being an only child means that you can't blame others - I think cooking together also means you share the blame which can be comforting :-)

    Thanks Pene - I knew someone who swore by fresh ginger and garlic stewed in boiling water when he had a cold but I have never been one for ginger cures - though I enjoy it in food - but may try it with mozzies and see what they think!

    Thanks Helen - your January diet sounds interesting - hope the vegan bacon finds a place in it

    Thanks Jacqueline - sylvia loved the garden - and would have loved the honeycomb too if she had half a chance!

    Thanks Cakelaw - I am hoping Yaz will drop back for a visit and some baking - but if I get to visit overseas I will be very happy.

  16. What a lovely garden and I love Slyvia's hat. Even if the vegan crunchie isn't perfect it still looks delicious!I really hope I could fly there and be your cooking friend for a while.

  17. tempe for soup! seriously, this is the first time I've heard of that and the idea sounds a bit intimidating, but I'll definitely try it out. Most likely healthier than the frying method I run so often into! Thanks for sharing this

  18. I know what you mean about it being less scary to try out new recipes with someone else in the kitchen! And I feel like there's less pressure to make it perfect. You guys made some amazing looking things. I've been thinking about trying to make steamed buns so this is perfect timing for me to see them on here. :)


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