Friday, April 15, 2011

In memory of a dear friend......The Vegan adventurer.

Evolution has lead us Humans to be very aware.  Through the power of thought and the power of our five senses (yes alright ladies, not forgetting your 'sixth sense') we have become lighting rods for the happenings of our world.

That is why a good meal is such a precious thing. It stands as one of only a few experiences which allow us to invoke this multi-sensory power which we have become accustomed to.  Smell, taste, sound, sight, touch.  All playing together to create an experience and a memory.  Without going into too much detail the only other experience I can think of that is this powerful involves a Man, a Woman, a Barry White CD and some candles!

We all have memories of certain foods.  Ice cream at the beach.  Fish and chips in the park.  Christmas Turkey with all the family.  Grandma's Chocolate Cake with a cup of tea.  And when we recall these memories it is almost as if we can feel, smell and taste the food again.  It is this power that I wanted to enhance this Wednesday, when I cooked a very special meal in honor of a dear friend.

Our dear friend Cherie at a monkey sanctury

Our friend Cherie was a loving person who held strong to her beliefs.  She believed in the good within people.  She believed in traveling the globe to see all that she could see.  And she believed firmly and utterly in the rights of all living things.  A few years ago Cherie was taken from us.  A victim of a disease which would normally affect the old she was taken away before her time.  Wednesday gone would have been Cherie's 32nd birthday.

Now by the time she passed away Cherie had developed into the ultimate of Vegan's.  To clarify for those who get a red mist when they read that word a Vegan will not make use of any animal product.  So this isn't just about avoiding the meat isle in the supermarket.  It goes a bit further than that.  No dairy.  No eggs.  No processed product which contains animal products of any nature.  You would be surprised by the number of things in your supermarket that this would include.  Many beers and wines for instance have some form of animal product in them.  

My stance on food is a slightly different one.  I am not adverse to eating anything.  Put something in front of me and tell me it tastes good, chances are I would have swallowed before I ask you what I'm eating.  Saying this I am all for Free range and Organic produce.  I've seen too much coverage of battery farmed chickens to be able to knowingly support that industry.  Happy animals taste better.  Fact!

We decided that in memory of our friend we would travel down to the mountain that she loved and dine for that evening as she would have had us dine in her abode.  And so it was that I went into an adventure of attempting a Vegan, Masterchef quality, meal.

Cherie was always happy when she was near a Mountain!
I've cooked for people with restrictive diets before.  In fact one at one dinner party I wound up cooking for a vegetarian, a pescatarian, a pregnant lady, a Hindu and a Muslim all at the same table!  I find it is always interesting to try cooking within boundaries so you can test yourself and see what you can come up with.  Cooking vegan however was not something I had tried.

The main meal was a simple decision.  Vegetable Stack!!  The idea here was to get the freshest produce available and to cook it to perfection.  Adding in a few flavors and making the most of the herbs on offer to enhance the dish.  The Stack would then be spiced up by a few simple accompaniments.  A rocket and garlic oil and a sun-dried tomato pesto.

The end result was delicious.  The peppery rocket oil and sweet pesto gave so much flavor to the dish.  I was worried that the garlic may overpower the rest of the flavors but the level of woosh worked out perfectly.  We served it up, poured a glass of wine for all, as Cherie would have had it, and toasted our dear friend.  You may not be with us in person but you are here in our hearts and we will eat this food and we shall remember you.

Cherie's Vegan Stack Tribute

Serves 6
Prep Time 60 minutes
Cooking Time 60 minutes


3 Capsicum
6 Portobello Mushrooms
6 Courgette
2 Eggplants

50g rocket
300 ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 cloves of Garlic

1/2 cup Sun dried Tomatoes in oil
Large Bunch Basil
1/2 cup Toasted Cashew Nuts

3 Red Onions
4 Tbsp Malt/Balsamic Vinegar
3 Tbsp Brown Sugar
Few sprigs of Thyme.


Firstly you want to salt your eggplant.  Cut the eggplant into 2 cm thick rounds.  Modern eggplants have been genetically breed so that they are nowhere near as bitter as they used to be however I still like to salt the eggplant when I bake it as it gets rid of the moisture which would otherwise make the rounds soggy.  Lay the rounds out on an oven tray lined with some paper towels.  Sprinkle over table salt liberally.  Leave for at least 30 minutes.  You will see the moisture come out of the eggplant.  After the half hour rub the salt and excess moisture off the eggplant and they are then ready to use.

Thinly slice the red onions then place in a frying pan on a medium heat with a little bit of olive oil.  Cook the onions for about five minutes then turn the heat down to low.  Continue to cook for a further 10 minutes, slowly sweating the onions down.  Then add the brown sugar, malt vinegar, stripped thyme leaves, salt and pepper.  Cook for a further 10 minutes until the onions are tender and syrupy.  I used Malt vinegar as it is all we had available but balsamic vinegar would work even better.

Prep the remaining stack vegetables by cutting the capsicums in half.  Remove any pith and then make a small incision at the base of the capsicum so that you can push the half flat, when cooked.  Remove the skin from the mushrooms.  Cut the ends off the courgettes then slice lengthways into about five pieces.

For the pesto place the sundried tomatoes, the cashew nuts and the basil into a food processor and add about 150ml of the EV olive oil.  Blitz until you have a paste.
For the rocket oil gently heat about 3 Tbsp EV olive oil.  Finely chop the garlic cloves and then place in the oil.  Cook very gently for about five minutes so that the garlic flavor infuses into the oil.  You do not want the garlic to color. Take off the heat and allow to cool till warm.  Place the garlic and oil in a mini food processor then add the Rocket.  Add the remaining EV olive oil and blitz for about a minute.  Season.

Place the eggplant, capsicum and mushrooms on a couple of oven trays, season, drizzle over olive oil and then place into an oven at 200 Celsius for around 25 minutes, turning the vegetables once during cooking.

Fry the courgettes in a pan with a little olive oil for about 2-3 minutes each side until nicely browned, seasoning as you go.  Only do as many courgettes that will fit face down at a time. 

To serve place a couple of spoonfuls of the red onion in the centre of the plate then top with a large eggplant round, a mushroom, the red capsicum and then a slightly smaller eggplant round.  On top of the eggplant place a dollop of pesto and then top with the courgette.  Drizzle around the plate the rocket oil.

Enjoy!!  Best served with some nicely grilled Ciabatta so that you can sop up the extra juices of this extremely friendly dish.


  1. Harking back to your curry post, dhal is an excellent veg option. Simple, tasty and quick! Also, when paired with rice gives you a complete protein profile to replace the lack of meat ;)

  2. Yum - will try this one tonight. Cherie was an inspiration for sure.

  3. This one's bookmarked in my "Recipes To Try" folder! And I agree with Patrick, dhal is a fabulous vegetarian option - it's my comfort food.