Tag Archive for comfort food

Risotto Milanese {Vegan option}

Winter has landed in Vancouver. As I type this, snowflakes are falling outside my window, and the city has come to a standstill. It’s a snow day in Vancouver, the schools are all closed (including BCIT), and many businesses will not bother to open today. 

I’m grateful I stocked up on soup and snacks and veg yesterday before all this madness happened, as I will not be going anywhere today on my very bald tires. 

I will be snuggling in bed with the cat and thinking warm thoughts and drinking lots of tea. 

With this cold snap, I’m craving simple comfort foods…Cacio e Pepe, a super simple pasta dish made with simply pepper and cheese, for example, I can’t seem to get enough of. Risotto Milanese Vegan

And risotto in a warm, sunny colour. I make risotto a lot, it’s filling and comforting, and is a basic pantry staple, as there’s never a time when I don’t have arborio, stock, wine, onions, garlic and cheese. 

The twist on this particular risotto is that it’s made with saffron. I went through a bit of a Persian cooking obsession last year when I discovered Bottom of the Pot. Saffron is a staple of Persian cooking, but you may not know it’s also one of the most expensive spices in the world. Saffron

You see, each thread of saffron is the pistil of a crocus, and needs to be harvested carefully by hand. A lot of work goes into making saffron, so its end cost is pricey. Thankfully, I live in a town with a big Persian and middle-eastern population, so finding it at a reasonable price is pretty easy to do. 

I thought I’d make something with my saffron supply, and decided risotto milanese was the way to go. It’s a simple twist on risotto that produces a beautiful, warm, yellow-coloured dish that will warm you up from the inside. 

I topped mine with some mushrooms I fried up in olive oil, garlic and rosemary. Yay dinner! Risotto Milanese

Risotto Milanese 

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp vegan butter
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 3/4 cup aborio rice
  • 2 tbsp white wine
  • 4-6 cups vegetable stock
  • a large pinch of saffron threads 
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional, or vegan parm)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method: 

  1. In a saucepan, heat the vegetable stock to boiling. Once it’s come to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. 
  2. Meanwhile, in a large pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil and 1 tbsp of butter. Add the onions and a generous pinch of salt, stir to coat in the oil, and allow to cook until translucent. You may want to reduce the heat a little if you see the edges  of the onions picking up some caramelization. Once the onions are softened, add the garlic and stir until fragrant. 
  3. Add the rice and stir everything together until the rice is coated in the oil and onions and garlic. Deglaze the pan with the wine. Add in the pinch of saffron. 
  4. Add a ladle or two of stock to the pan, and allow it to come to a boil. Stir the risotto fairly continuously, adding another ladle of stock as needed. Continue doing this until the rice is cooked and the risotto looks saucy. You’ll need to keep tasting it to check for the doneness of the rice. 
  5. Add the final pat of vegan butter, and the cheese if you’re using it, stir well, and remove from the heat. Test for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Place a lid on and let it sit for a few minutes before serving. 

Butter Paneer {Vegan option}

It’s the end of January, and let’s be real; comfort food is on the menu 24/7. 

For breakfast most days I have warm maple oatmeal, and lunches are often rice bowls with tofu and veggies, or a hearty soup. I am craving warming, comforting foods pretty hardcore these days. 

Vegan Butter Tofu

And that includes food that’s spicy. Ginger, garlic, chili; as well as cinnamon, cardamom, and cumin are all warming spices that make you feel cosy. Like a hug for your insides. 

 

So a great deal of what I’ve been craving lately are things like laksa, curries, dosas. Warm, comforting, and satisfying. 

Just before Christmas, I had a work lunch with a bunch of my colleagues and we ended up meeting at an Indian restaurant. It was perfect: fluffy white basmati rice and pillowy warm naan bread, along with generous spoonfuls of warm, spicy curry. 

I love Aloo Gobi (which is potatoes and cauliflower), and I’m also a huge fan of chana masala (chickpea curry), but at this particular lunch, I couldn’t get enough of the Butter Paneer. It’s basically the vegetarian version of butter chicken; the sauce is spicy, but also rich and creamy. 

Indian Food

Traditionally, this sauce is made with tons of butter and whipping cream, but coconut milk makes a great vegan whipping cream substitute. 

So I played around with cashews and coconut cream, and came up with a nice, satisfying vegan version of the sauce. Paneer is an Indian cheese, but you can easily sub it out for tofu to get a very similar effect. 

Serve this over basmati rice with a side of naan bread. You’ll want the bread to sop up every last drop of this warming and satisfying sauce. 

Butter Paneer

Butter Paneer

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp vegan butter substitute
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1″ thumb of fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1 bird’s eye or Thai red chili, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 1 can tomato sauce (156 ml)
  • 1 can coconut milk (400 ml) 
  • 1/4 cup cashews 
  • 200 g (half a package) of either paneer or tofu, cut into 3/4″ cubes

Method

  1. Place the cashews in your blender container, and cover with 1/2 cup of water. Set aside to soak. 
  2. In a large, heavy pot, heat the vegan butter and olive oil over medium-high heat until melted together. Add the ginger, garlic, chilies and cumin and coriander and stir well. Allow to cook in the oils for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Be careful not to burn (especially garlic, it burns quickly). 
  3. Add the tomato paste and stir well together, allow to cook down for about 5 minutes, until it is starting to caramelize. 
  4. Place the masala (spice & tomato mixture) along with the can of coconut milk in the blender with the cashews that have been soaking, and blend well on high for at least a minute, until smooth. You can run it through a sieve if you are concerned about particulate. 
  5. Pour the sauce back into the pan, and bring it up to just under a boil, and the sauce thickens. Add the cubed tofu or paneer, and stir, allowing them to heat up in the sauce. When everything is heated through, serve atop a bed of basmati rice, garnished with chopped cilantro if you like. 
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