It usually starts with bread

Butter rolls and coconut jam

I recently joined a bread bakers’ group on Facebook, and have learned a tremendous amount from the global community that participates. There are people from almost every continent and every region in the world. And the camaraderie, encouragement, and connection in the group is pure magic.

My friend Grace recently posted a beautiful picture of butter rolls: shiny, golden – and you can tell – soft. The thread that followed described southeast Asian cafe culture – the coffee shops are called kopi tiams – and the typical foods eaten at them. Curries with soft buttery rolls. Coconut jam. Lots of eggy things. It all sounded so delicious. And so veganizable.

I created this curry based on a chicken and potato curry stuffing for buns I found, but changed it to be vegan, obviously, and to be eaten in a bowl, rather than stuffed into bread.  You could just eat it over rice or with any kind of bread.  It has a lot of depth and great texture, if I do say so myself.

Indonesian cafe curry

  • 2 tbsp peanut oil, plus more as needed
  • 8 oz pkg tempeh, cubed
  • 8 curry leaves, optional
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • Salt to taste
  • 12 oz red skinned potatoes, diced
  • 3-4 carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup veg stock
  • 1 cup frozen peas

Place a large cast iron pan over slightly hotter than medium heat. Add the peanut oil, then add the tempeh, and saute until browned. Add the curry leaves, if using, and onions, stirring and sauteing until translucent. Add the garlic, and saute for another minute. Place the spices in a small bowl and add about a tablespoon of water to make a paste, stirring well. Push the contents of the pan aside to make a little room for the curry paste, and add the curry paste to the pan to get some direct pan contact for it, sort of toasting/frying it. Then mix the paste up with the rest of the pan’s contents. Add the potatoes, carrots, and veg stock, stirring well. Turn the heat up to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Once it’s boiling, turn the heat to medium-low, and cover. Let simmer for about 10 or 15 minutes, when potatoes and carrots are tender. Add the peas to the pan, increase the heat to medium, and cook, stirring, until heated through. Serve with soft rolls and coconut jam (recipes below).

Vegan butter rolls (adapted from Grace Chang’s recipe and method)

  • 250 grams bread flour
  • 250 grams white whole wheat flour
  • 15 grams dry soy milk powder
  • 10 grams instant yeast
  • 75 grams sugar
  • 8 grams salt
  • 150 grams plain coconut milk yogurt
  • 250 grams cold water
Place all of the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. With the dough hook, mix for one minute on low speed. Add the yogurt and water and mix on low for about five minutes. Turn the speed to medium, and mix for another 7 or 8 minutes. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, and spread a little oil over the top. Let it rise for about an hour or two until doubled in bulk. Divide the dough into 40-gram pieces, and shape into balls. Let the dough rest on a floured board for about 15 minutes, then place in 9×13″ pan, cover, and let rise for another hour, until doubled in size. Preheat the oven to about 390 degrees. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown, and then let cool on a wire rack.

Coconut jam – Philipino style

  • 1 13-oz can coconut cream
  • 1 13-oz can coconut milk
  • 8 oz brown sugar
  • Good pinch of kosher salt

Place ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, and bring to a simmer. Turn heat to medium-low, and let simmer, stirring regularly, until the color is a dark chocolate brown, 2 to 3 hours. Spread on “butter” rolls.

Make this meal.

This is not an entirely original recipe.  The crepes are from Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.  The zucchini wine sauce is from a recipe I got verbally from a friend close to 20 years ago, made it once, and never made it again, and a version of it can be found (elsewhere) on the internet, normally used as a pasta sauce.  That’s what I used it for 20 years ago.  But THIS.  This is SO good.  You could also eat the sauce as a soup, because that’s what I did as soon as I put as much as I could into my clients’ container.  It is delicious.  And, well, the fillings are pretty ordinary.  Except that this meal is awesome.  This is truly a case of the sum being greater than its parts.

Also, this meal is a little labor intensive.  It involves a lot of pans and time.  But sometimes it’s just what you have to do for a satisfying and maybe a little unusual vegan meal.  I think it’s worth it.

Buckwheat crepes filled with caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, and roasted butternut squash, drizzled with zucchini wine sauce

Buckwheat crepes

  • 1 1/2 cups + 2 tbsp non-dairy milk
  • 1/4 water
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 tbsp arrowroot flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Pour into a container, cover, and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.  When ready to use, whisk the ingredients again in case they’ve separated.

Heat a large cast iron pan over medium-high heat.  Once hot, spray generously with cooking spray.  Ladle about a 1/4 cup of batter into the center of the pan and immediately swirl the pan so that batter spreads out thinly.  When the top of the crepe is dry and there are some holes in it, VERY CAREFULLY flip it over with a thin metal spatula.  The first one will often be for the chef.  Don’t be discouraged.  Just fry the next one, and really make sure it’s dry on top before you touch it!  Fry on the second side for about 30 seconds, then remove from the pan and place on a plate.  Continue until you’ve used all of the batter.  You should get 8 to 10 crepes.

Fillings

  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 large onion, halved and sliced
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and diced small
  • Lots of olive oil
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • Herb of your choice or none (I like tarragon or sage on the squash)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray, place the butternut squash on top, drizzle with olive oil and an herb of your choice and roast for about 30 minutes, stirring after about 20 minutes.  Check for doneness and roasty color after 30, and probably roast for another 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with salt (try truffle salt if you can get it – I got mine at Trader Joe’s).

Meanwhile, heat two cast iron pans over medium-high heat.  Add about 2 tbsp olive oil to each, and place the onions in one and the mushrooms in the other.  Caramelize the onions for about 5 minutes until they start to brown, then turn the heat to medium-low, and saute, stirring occasionally, for about 25 to 30 minutes or more, depending on how dark you like them.  Salt to taste.

In the other pan, toss the mushrooms regularly until they’re browned and have started to stick to the pan.  Add the wine to deglaze the pan, and turn off the heat once much of the liquid has evaporated.  Sprinkle with salt and transfer the mushrooms from the pan to a plate, and set aside.

Zucchini wine sauce

  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 large zucchini, grated
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup good veg stock
  • Salt to taste

Heat a large cast iron pan (the one you sauteed the mushrooms in would be good – that’s why I told you to transfer them to a plate!) over medium-high heat.  Once hot, add the olive oil, swirling to coat your pan.  Add the grated zucchini and saute for about 10 minutes until they’ve started to caramelize.  Add the wine and the veg stock, and turn the heat to medium, and let saute for about 20 minutes until well cooked, and pretty melty and mushy.  Put the contents of the pan in a food processor and puree until smooth.  Salt to taste.

Serve a crepe (if you need to reheat, toast in a dry pan until warmed through) with a choice of fillings with the zucchini wine sauce drizzled on top.