Thursday, November 3, 2011

30-minute Thursday: Spinach & feta filo pie + experimenting with faux shrimp

More from Jamie Oliver's Meals in Minutes, this is the Spinach and feta filo pie menu, with its cucumber and tomato salads.  I subbed the omelet mix from Vegan Brunch for the eggs, a mixture of kale, bok choy, and arugula for the spinach, the faux feta from American Vegan Kitchen for the feta, and it was still oh, wow!  I had the omelet mix and faux feta already prepared, and it did come together in just a little more than 30 minutes.  Astonishing.  Even more astonishing is that other than the bowl you mix up the omelet in, the whole thing gets made in a single cast iron skillet--you roast the pine nuts, cook down the greens, and then cook the whole pie in it without ever needing to wash it.  Nice!

And, yes, you read right.  I have jumped back on the horse and ate:

Pine nuts.  From a different source and a different store.  If I get pine mouth from these the love affair is over forever.  If I don't, Viva Kirkland!  You read online that the pine nuts that are the culprits come from China or Korea, but every package of pine nuts I have seen since (and I've been checking) is from China.
The tomato salad was supposed to be resting on a blenderized mixture of basil, olive oil, garlic, and white wine vinegar, but big bundles of basil aren't easy to come by around here, so I subbed cilantro, and would have eaten my cats if they'd been dunked in this.  But then I have a serious weakness for salsa verde.

I have some big new-cookbook love going on for Meals in Minutes.  Plus the fact that I actually saw Jamie Oliver making one of these meals on his show while I was at the gym yesterday.  I don't have a TV, so other than downloading shows from iTunes or other places, don't watch it except, starting very recently, at the gym.  The one I saw him doing was the Curry rogan josh--and I only caught the last 15 minutes and so didn't realize until I got home and read the whole menu recipe that it was actually vegan except for the yogurt.  The book is very vegetarian friendly, and in the index the vegetarian recipes are indicated with a "v".  I believe all of them are available online as well.  But the book is very kewl, very beautiful, very inspiring.

Any experienced vegan cook delights in converting omni recipes, and that's what I did with my "shrimp."

I know what you're thinking.  I wasn't too sure about them either.  Here's the label:

So I'm standing in the store reading this, and going "Curdlen?  What the...?"  Isolated soy protein, okay, wheat fibre, fine, konnyaku is what gives shirataki noodles their peculiar chewy texture, so I'm good with that too, but I'd never heard of curdlen.  Calgary, Alberta, where this product is made, is very local, so this is a Canadian product.  Apparently curdlan is a food additive derived from certain kinds of bacteria.  According to Wikipedia:

Curdlan (or beta-1,3-glucan) is a high molecular weight polymer of glucose. Curdlan consists of β-(1,3)-linked glucose residues and forms elastic gels upon heating in aqueous suspension.
It is produced by Agrobacterium biobar, a non pathogenic bacteria. The production of curdlan by Alcaligenes faecalis is being developed to be used in gel production as well.

Clearly nothing to be wary of.  It's used to add texture to foods, to sort of curdle them (curdlen, curdlin', get it?).  And apparently it is quite safe.  So they say.

Having put that little matter behind me, I opened the package, expecting a fishy taste I was fairly sure I wouldn't like, at the very least the fishy odour of raw shirataki noodles.  But no.  These little guys had a pleasant, fresh taste, kind of like a cross between tofu and cooked shirataki noodles, which is essentially what is is, and no smell whatsoever.  They'll take on the flavour of whatever they're cooked with.  Next time I buy them (and for sure I will buy them again) I'll marinate them in something before cooking.  This time I made a shrimp curry based on the recipe at Padma's Kitchen, just subbing out the shrimp with the "shrimp."

What really sold me on this recipe was that it called for a whole bunch of curry leaves all sliced up, which give the dish a lot of its flavour, and I am a curry leaf ho--one of the great culinary regrets of my life is that I only discovered them in the last two years or so.  Buy them fresh, freeze them, and they'll keep for a good long time.

The whole meal:

Crazy good!  It includes a cauliflower-butternut curry with chickpeas and spinach, a carrot-ginger salad, a lemon pickle you make in 10 seconds (not kidding, 10 seconds), jasmine rice, tofu yogurt, and pappadams.  I discovered on my own that you don't have to deep fry pappadams--you can just brush them with a little oil and bake them in a 350F oven for 30 seconds or so and they're just as good.  Probably you all knew that before, but I didn't, and this knowledge has made me very happy because I love pappadams.

So all happy and everything, I leave you--


  1. I want you to know that I am now planning on raiding the Jamie Oliver section at the library tomorrow--not something I EVER thought I would do. Can't wait to hear how the pine nuts left you.

    It's funny, I have liked every single fake meat I've bought at our Asian market, and yet every single time I approach with EXTREME trepidation. I guess it's the appearance factor.

    Also, your pappadams look perfect the way they are, but I don't think I've ever put any oil on mine. I didn't realize I was supposed to! I have always just toasted them in a dry skillet and they have always come out pretty tasty (just in case you are looking to cut out even more calories??).

  2. Mediterranean pinenuts are so hard to find; I can' find any that aren't from China either.

    I've tried those shrimps before; I was a little scared before I tried them too, but I've never got them to look (or be) as tasty as in your dish, it looks so full of chili and spices.

    I've got to try baked pappadums!

  3. Well I had to look up pine mouth (The medical term is cacogeusia. That's a word I thought you'd appreciate.) because I don't remember your describing it, and I've never experienced it myself. I'll be more aware of where my pine nuts come from now. I tend to prefer pumpkin seeds and use them instead, so I don't buy a lot of pine nuts. You do have a gift for combining recipes in the most appetizing ways. Even the shrimp, which don't appeal to me at all in their native state — look good. I am wary of isolated soy protein, however.

  4. Stacy, thanks for the pappadam tip; I'll for sure try them your way. I suspect you are absolutely right about fake meats in the Asian stores...I mean, Asians buy them, right, and they have a huge long history of fake meat cuisine...but often, true, the appearance is against them.

    Rose and Andrea, so far so good, cacogeusia-wise ("tastes like poo", is that the correct translation?). Andrea, would you use pumpkin seeds, for instance, in pesto? Why not, I guess! I don't eat a lot of pine nuts either--I kind of like them, kind of don't. Please don't tell me why you are wary of isolated soy protein. I'm just going to enjoy a bit now and then ;-)

  5. Woo hoo, a fellow Canadian, and from the prairies no less! :) I stumbled on your blog at random, but I just wanted to say that I highly enjoy it. And that you've taught me something knew with that whole curdlan thing.

    I've heard about pine mouth! Scary stuff, and probably why I've never purchased pine nuts before. I had no idea there was any sort of regional connection with it - let me know how Kirkland works out for you because I've been known to shop at Costco. :)

  6. Hi, Allysia! We're technically aspen parkland rather than prairie here--but I lived in Regina for a year, my mother's family all comes from the Regina/Swift Current area, and the prairies are the true home of my heart. Plus, even apart from their natural beauty, you do get some interesting weather ;-)

    The Kirkland pine nuts worked out fine for me...but I still can't say it was the specific brand I ate before--from a very popular and reputable store--that gave me pine mouth, or that I have some kind of allergy; I've eaten pine nuts many times with no ill effects. In my opinion it must be some kind of star-crossed combination of factors. Anyway, the pine mouth only lasted a week. It's just alarming when it happens because it's the kind of thing that everybody who gets it thinks it's a symptom of some terrible disease.