Vegan Passion Fruit Truffles + Motto For 2015

homemade passionfruit truffles.jpg

Well, I did it. I made it through 2014, just like the rest of you. Big deal, right? Sometimes life is tough. We all have to trudge through the shit, but we don’t always come out clean on the other side.

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2014 was a devilish year full of chaos (read: threats), discovery, challenges and love. The threats seem like a distant memory now, as I suspected they would, but there is nothing better at turning one’s life upside-down than being in a far away land and feeling unstable. I won’t go too in depth on that subject. Instead, click here. It may give you a vague sense of what I experienced in my final year of working at a Hagwon in Korea. I will say that I left Korea in the fall of 2014 with my sense of trust deeply shaken and my nerves shot, but thanks to Love, I felt hopeful. My support system was, and has been, so solid that even in the thick of the crises, lies and sleepless nights, I never fell. I stood tall, held my ground and was able to see the light ahead.

So, thank you Love. You saved the year and so much more. I dedicate this post, this year’s motto (see below) and my love, to you.

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The most common variety of passion fruit is small and purple. Creatively named “Common Purple”, this thick-skinned, tropical fruit contains pleasantly crispy seeds and yields small amounts of juice. But, that yield is dazzling. Passion fruit is mouthwateringly fresh and the flavour is absolutely seductive. Tart, sweet and delicately strong: a little juice goes a long way in any recipe. I am appalled to acknowledge that I have not tried the entire range of passion fruit varieties. This will now go on my bucket list.

passionfruit seeds and juice.jpg 

This year’s motto: Stepping Out Clean in Twenty-Fifteen

Passion fruit is a good place to start. And chocolate helps a lot. These truffles are deliriously decadent and will help you find strength to defeat all your foes.

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Vegan Passion Fruit Truffles

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 juiced passion fruits, separated from seeds
  • ½ cup of coconut cream
  • 4 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • pinch of salt

Directions

-Heat the coconut cream, passion fruit juice, sugar and salt in a saucepan and bring to a soft boil. Stir continuously.

-Turn heat off and add coconut oil. Stir until fully incorporated.

-Add cocoa powder in small batches and mix until thick and smooth.

Optional: If you like the texture of the passion fruit seeds, add some or all into the mixture.

-Let cool.

-Form teaspoon sized balls by rolling them in the palm of your hand and dust with more cocoa powder.

-Store in the refrigerator. They should keep well in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks. If removed, they will only last a day.

Makes 20-24 truffles.

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Smoked Duck Szechuan Pepper Stuffed Pumpkin + Rendered Duck Fat

 smoked duck stuffed pumpkin 2

I first started getting the craving to stuff a gourd when the fall harvest hit the markets here in Seoul. The orange pumpkins are a bit different from the ones I’m used to in Canada. They are also harder to find, expensive and too massive for my little kitchen. I settled for a delightful kabocha squash (dan hobak) that can be found everywhere at this time of year. They can be found in a variety of sizes, too, from tiny to medium large. This excites me to no end. I’d love to have a dinner party and serve a tiny pumpkin to each guest (heehee!).

 smoked duck stuffed pumpkin bite

Smoked duck is readily available here in Korea, so as one of my favourite meats, I chose to stuff my gourd with it. It adds an excellent smoky quality and flavour to the mixture, as well. I removed most of the skin and fat before adding the meat to the mixture in order to render it. Duck fat has a gorgeous flavour that is highly complimentary to many food items. I’ve tried to substitute it with pork fat when cooking shiitake mushrooms, for example, and found myself disappointed with the results. Rendering is incredibly easy. Simply collect the fat, cook in a pot on low heat until the fat is clear and strain into a jar for refrigeration. Once cooled, it should be pure and white. The fat should keep for 2-3 months. Use in place of oil or to add flavour.

 smoked duck stuffed pumpkin 1

The Szechuan pepper is a curious spice. Despite its name, it is not closely related to, nor has much of the hot spicy quality found in the Piperaceae family (such as black pepper). In fact, its genus belongs in the citrus family. It has a sharp, bright flavour, which is known to enliven food. It is also known for its numbing feature. Moments after putting one of these husks in my mouth, I was hit with an odd numbness I’ve never quite experienced before. These peppers are perfect for this dish because of how well they bring out all the flavours.

smoked duck stuffed pumpkin bite 2

Smoked Duck Szechuan Pepper Stuffed Pumpkin  

Ingredients

  • 1 medium or 2 small pumpkins (or your favourite round gourds)
  • 150 grams of chopped oyster mushrooms
  • 100 grams of smoked duck cut into bite size pieces (remove fat if rendering)
  • 1 diced bell pepper (any colour)
  • ½ cup cottage cheese
  • ¼ cup milk (any kind)
  • 45 grams or 1/3 cup of cashew pieces
  • 165 grams or 1 cup of uncooked rice (I used brown jasmine, but basmati would substitute well)
  • 5-6 cloves of chopped garlic
  • 1-3 chopped chilies (depending on your spice tolerance)
  • 1 teaspoon capers
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon Szechuan peppers

Directions

Rinse rice two or three times by splashing around in water and draining. Finally, add two cups of water and place over high heat in a pot or rice cooker. Once it starts to boil over, turn heat very low for 20-30 minutes. My little test to check if the rice is done without stirring is to tip the pot slightly. If the rice slides or moves in any way, it needs to cook longer. If the rice doesn’t move, it’s done.

While rice is cooking, fill a large pot with enough water to submerge your pumpkin(s) and bring to a boil. Cut the top off the gourd(s) and remove the seeds and gunk.

Once water is boiling, carefully lower into the water, including the top. Allow it to boil for 15 minutes. It should be soft, but firm enough to hold its shape. Drain water and carefully scoop out the gourd. Place in the refrigerator to cool.

Heat a dash of cooking oil in a frying pan and brown the garlic and chilies. Add the mushrooms and fry until the mushrooms have released their water and have reached a modest golden colour.

Preheat oven to 350ºF/180ºC/ gas mark 4.

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients except pumpkin, butter and milk. Mix.

Pour excess water that might have pooled in the pumpkin and begin stuffing with the mixture. Once filled, pour in the milk to fight possible drying out. Top with butter and replace the pumpkin top.

Bake for 25-30 minutes. While it is baking, clean your messy kitchen and think about how hard you will eat your stuffed pumpkin.

Because you boiled the pumpkin, you can eat all of it, including the skin. Do this very thing.

Enjoy your mouth-gasms.

smoked duck stuffed pumpkin

Quince Tarte Tatin + In and Out of the City

 Howdy!

 praying mantis on pot

As a Seoul dweller, I experience virtually no wildlife and rarely get to see animals other than street cats and tiny white dogs. So, when I met this little fella on a recent trip to the countryside in Chungju for an amazing day of learning about and eating fermented foods, I had to snap a photo. Praying mantises have always seemed like tiny (frightening) sages to me. The way they turn their wee heads all the way like they do makes me feel like my soul is being read, judged and thusly, condemned. Alarming. Maybe I need to reel in my imagination a bit.

 kimchi pots

The day trip, hosted by Kinfolk, was the dream baby of my fabulous friend Jacqui. A group of about 20 were swept away to a beautiful meditation retreat center that is also dedicated to traditional Korean fermentation recipes and techniques. We tasted soy sauce, garlic, vinegars, eggplant wine, various leafy plants and kimchi all brewing in large pots in the sun. Participants were able to help prepare some dishes, such as stuffed rice balls and tofu skin wraps for the feast at the end of the day. After sampling all the fermented goods, it was pretty astonishing that were able to consume more. But, oh, we were able and, oh, we did.

 vinegars

It was a glorious day and even thinking about it helps remind me that I need to get out more often. Living in the city is… challenging. Since starting my newest job four months ago, my commute has gone from a five-minute walk to forty-five minutes of walking, riding the subway and walking again. It is no surprise, yet still shocking how much a longer commute saps ones energy. Further, my commute is on one of the most packed lines on the Seoul Metro. One day last week, it was so mind-numbingly packed and people were being tossed around so hard that some ladies were wincing and yelping as they were trying to get off (imagine a disturbing mix of sex noises and dog cries). I practically ran off the subway car at my stop, very dramatically, tears in my eyes, feeling depleted, defeated and stressed. I wondered if I would be able to survive this commute to the end of my contract.

 

Luckily, most days are, at least, bearable. I force myself into a numbed state most every time I get on, determined not to let the daily violations of my personal space get the best of me. I’ve seen people who have. It ain’t pretty.

 quince tarte ingredientsquince sentinels

Quince is a curious fruit I’ve never really had the time for. When there are other trusty fall fruits like pomegranate, tangerines and persimmon about, who has time to be excited about an unassuming green rock of a fruit such as quince? I have since mended the error of my ways and become mildly fascinated with the most awkward member of the Rosaceae family.

 quince prep

Before I learned that quince isn’t exactly edible/digestible when it is uncooked, I, of course, ate lots of it raw. I even brought it as a snack to work, gaining the attention of the older and hungry elementary students. After some initial trepidation and reactions to the astringency, they were begging for more. I was too, after they devoured the lot. Buggers.

 poached quince

I’ve never particularly noticed quince on sale here in Seoul, but I now live close to several traditional markets that provide produce that is seasonally sensitive, so they’ve made appearances everywhere. I bought a few and tried Food52’s version of quince tarte tatin. I usually dislike pies with quince’s sweeter cousins apple and pear, (I know, I know… I’m just really picky), but quince really hit the spot. The fruit not only kept its deliriously tart goodness, but it sweetened just enough to be transformed into a unique dessert. Another interesting feature is that the white flesh of quince also turns red once cooked. It has tempted me to experiment with it more.

quince tarte tatin 1

Quince Tarte Tatin

 

Ingredients

For Poached Quince

  • 4-5 quince, peeled and deseeded
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1 lemon, cut in a half and juiced
  • 2 cups of brown sugar
  • 3 vanilla beans
  • a pinch of sea salt

For Quince Tarte Tatin

  • 1 pound puff pastry
  • 3-4 poached quince (depending on the size of your baking pan)
  • 1 ¼ cup quince poaching liquid

Directions

In a large pot, add the sugar and water and bring to a low boil. Once the sugar dissolves, add the lemon, lemon juice and vanilla beans.

Peel and deseed the quince then cut into quarters (or sixths, depending on the size of your fruit. Gently drop the quince into the liquid and cook until tender, which can take about 45 minutes to an hour. Remove from heat and scoop the quince pieces from the liquid with a slotted spoon.

poaching quince

Preheat oven to 375ºF/190ºC/Gas mark 5.

Pour about 2 ½ cups of the poaching liquid into a non-reactive skillet -most Teflon or heavy bottomed stainless steel brands will do. On medium high heat, reduce the liquid until it develops a syrupy viscosity. Be careful not to burn it, or you will have a terrible mess to deal with.

Arrange the quince pieces in a baking pan, cutting them further if needed. You may need to place several layers of the fruit so they fill the pan adequately. Drizzle the reduced liquid on top of the quince.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to a third inch thickness and lay the sheet on top of the awaiting quince. Cut away excess pastry.

Bake the tart for about 35-40 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and fully cooked. Let it cool for at least 10-15 minutes. When ready to serve, place a plate that completely covers the pan over top of the tarte. In a quick, fluid motion, carefully flip the tarte onto the plate so it is completely removed from the pan.

quince tarte tatin

Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream if desired.

Serves 6-8.

quince tarte tatin bite