Saturday, 23 March 2013

Apple and Cashew Cream Tart- vegan, no cane sugar

My husband makes great flan pastry- it's short, crumbly and light. He also is a whiz at stuff like cashew cream. His formula is very simple: pastry +"cream" + fruit = pie heaven; and it works beautifully! Today (Friday) was miserable; a couple of inches of slushy wet snow on the ground and a bitingly cold wind; not the sort of day to be out on a Warwickshire hillside on a farm visit with a class of 7 year-olds! (One of them declared this strange season to be called "Sprinter": no longer Winter, but certainly not Spring yet.) Anyhow, chilled to the marrow,  I walked in through our front door this afternoon to a delicious warm baking aroma and a smug-looking husband; I peeked inside the oven and was totally blown away by what I saw inside; a beautiful-looking apple tart!  Later on when we ate it, I also came to appreciate how apples and dates go together so perfectly (date syrup is the sweetener here). I wrote down the recipe as he told it, all ready to share with the world, so here it is:

The creamy, sweet filling will ooze out just a little when the tart is cut...

50ml water
2 tabs plain white flour
100ml extra-virgin olive oil
100ml cold-pressed sunflower oil
200g wholemeal flour
a further 200g plain white flour

  • In your food processor, blend the 50ml of water with the 2 tabs plain white flour, then add the oils.
  • Mix in the flours and just enough water to form a ball.
  • Chill it in the fridge for at least half an hour.
Cashew Cream:
200g cashews
50ml water
100ml date syrup
  • In your blender/ food processor, grind the cashews to a fine powder.
  •  Add the water and date syrup, mixing well.
Apple topping:
1/2kg apples
  • Slice the apples about 4-5mm thick and cook in just enough water to soften them, so that all the water gets absorbed.
To assemble and bake:
  • Oil a loose-bottomed 10" flan dish and roll out/ press the pastry into it. (If the pastry is hard to handle just press in evenly and not too thick or thin.)
  • Pour in the cashew cream and spread over the pastry.
  • Lay the apple slices neatly on top, tarte tatin -style.
  • Bake in an oven preheated to 200C for about 20 minutes, until the pastry and the apples are just starting to brown at the edges.
  • Allow to cool before serving- that is, if you can wait that long!

Try making this as a dessert to go with soya fricassee for a French-influenced dining experience with a healthy vegan twist!

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Quinoa Chickpea Shepherd's Pie- vegan

Crispy, fluffy top with hot runny gravy... this is real feelgood food without compromising on nutrition!

A few  days ago our delivery of wholefoods from Suma arrived. We get a bulk order from them for stuff like wholemeal flour, alfalfa seeds, yeast flakes, brown rice etc. once or twice a year as it saves money and shopping trips and means we can afford some organic dry goods to go with our homegrown veggies. (We are always trying to cut down on costs and energy while still eating well!) We'd recommend this way of shopping for anyone who cooks a reasonably large amount of meals and wants to buy at wholesale prices; you can even get together with your friends to share large orders or form a wholefood co-op with them. (Have a look here  for some more thrifty shopping tips...)
-So anyway, the order was there sitting invitingly in the hallway in bags and boxes when I got home from work; it was like Christmas had come! Rummaging through the stack I found myself trying to think up ways to use it all, and that's when I decided to try a different take on shepherd's pie from our usual TVP/ bean one as the boxes were not the only reason it felt like Christmas...

It can still get cold in March, so we're not quite ready to ditch the hot dinners in favour of salads yet...
... it was COLD! I know it's a cliche to talk about the weather, but if you lived where we live (West Midlands, UK) you'd find its changeable nature fascinating! This week started off all balmy and warm and the first daffodils were coming tentatively into bloom, then within a couple of days there was a freezing cold wind and icy showers of snow, leaving the ground hard and frozen once more and the poor birds extremely confused. Global warming?- Bring it on, I say! (Only joking.) Anyway; the connnection between the weather and this recipe is that this time of year can still be cold so a bit of comfort food doesn't go amiss, and needn't spoil your New Year's health resolutions if it's low in fat like this shepherd's pie. Cheese lovers could substitute some grated hard cheese for the yeast flakes in the topping, but of course this will add to the fat and calories and it's not needed here nutritionally.

This recipe will make enough to feed 6-8 people, so do scale it down if you need to, or else freeze the rest in individual portions. The secret of a good shepherd's pie/ cottage pie is not just in the fluffiness of the mashed potatoes, it's the balance between the top and bottom. The top should not be too thick or too thin, but ideally a little thinner than the bottom, and the bottom should be quite moist or the dish becomes dry and stodgy. (The addition of gravy will ensure success with this!)
1 1/2 cups (1 cup being 250ml) dry weight quinoa
1 1/2 cups cooked kala chana (or yellow chickpeas if you can't find it)
400g chopped mixed veggies (try celery, carrot, white cabbage, parsnip, courgette or whatever you have to hand)
500ml passata
4 tabs soy sauce
1 tab olive oil
1 level tab paprika
1 tsp compound hing
1 level tab dried thyme
1 tsp coarse black pepper
2 tsps seasalt
8 medium-sized potatoes, diced small
 soya milk
2 tsps seasalt
4 tabs yeast flakes

  • Dice and cook the potatoes in a minimal amount of water until they are soft and the water is absorbed. (Don't peel them either; these two methods keep more nutrients.)
  • Mash them until smooth and stir in the soya milk, salt and yeast flakes. Set aside.
  • Meanwhile, rinse the quinoa and set it to cook in 3 cups of water until it is soft and has absorbed all the liquid.
  • Blitz the chickpeas in your blender or food processor until they are minced to the texture of breadcrumbs.
  • In a large bowl, add the quinoa to the ground chickpeas along with 4 tabs of soy sauce.
  • Saute the diced vegetables in the oil until soft, then add them to the quinoa mixture.
  • Add the passata, paprika, hing, thyme, pepper and salt. (Tip: Add the salt last then you can use less if you think the flavour's okay.)
  • Stir in 500ml water and adjust the seasonings if you like.
  • Put this mixture into a large deep roasting dish and cover with the mashed potato mixture. Make it rough, as this will result in lovely crispy bits when cooked.
  • Bake at 200C until the pie is thoroughly warmed through and the potato topping is starting to get brown and crispy.
  • Serve with lashings of piping hot gravy! For gravy recipes/ tips, see here (tomato flavour) and here.
Linking this to My Culinary Trial room's event (see above)

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Soya Fricassee-vegan

This is a satisfying main course in itself, although you may want to throw a few more veggies in...

This has been in our drafts folder for about 2 years now; that's when I first made it and forgot to write down the exact recipe... I'm using the white sauce from the previous post his time, however, rather than the tahini sauce I made originally. Fricassee is a classic French way of cooking meat and sometimes vegetables, in which you dice, saute then braise them in a white sauce, so that some of the liquid is absorbed; it's a cross between a stew and a saute. Fricassee has a long history in France, dating back to 1300, and according to Wikipedia it is mentioned as friquassee in a cookbook from 1490.
This closeup shows the glossy bechamel sauce coating the TVP and vegetables; it is thick but  the fricassee is still moist.
This fricassee has a double dose of soya, as soya milk is used in the sauce and the protein element is TVP chunks. We try not to use these very often as they are a highly processed food but they do absorb flavours extremely well and lend an interesting chewy texture to dishes. If you are not a fan of soya then you could try hemp, oat or rice milk in the sauce and use seitan or tofu - yeah I know it;s still soya but it's very digestible (saute the tofu, taking care not to break it) instead of the TVP. This recipe easily makes 8 moderate-sized portions.
250g (dry weight) unflavoured TVP chunks, soaked until soft then drained
2 medium bell peppers, chopped
100g helda/ green beans or cabbage, sliced
2 tabs olive or cold-pressed sunflower oil
1/2 tsp compound hing
a quantity of vegan white sauce, made as per the recipe, seasonings and all
a further 1/2 tsp compound hing
1/2 tab dried thyme
2 tsps seasalt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 dried bay leaves

  • Saute the vegetables in the oil with the first 1/2 tsp of hing.
  • Add the corn and the soaked TVP.
  • Make the white sauce and stir it into the soya and vegetable mixture.
  • Add the other 1/2 tsp hing, thyme, seasalt, black pepper and bay leaves.
  • Simmer gently until the desired thickness is achieved; it should be thickish but not too dry.
We served this one with some turmeric rice, grilled plantain and steamed broccoli, but it could be a complete meal over rice if you add more vegetables to it.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Vegan White Sauce

The spiral shapes of the gluten free fusilli in this bake really hold the white sauce well.

A white or bechamel sauce is often called for in pasta bakes and lasagnes, moussaka, stuffed pancakes, bean crumbles... you name it! You could just substitute in a traditional recipe but we have a quick and easy one which uses the traditional roux method but some decidedly un-traditional ingredients!  The flavour is very bland so that you can add whatever seasonings are appropriate to the dish you are making. This recipe makes about 1 1/4 litres of sauce.
4 tabs cold-pressed sunflower or similar good quality oil
3 rounded tabs plain wheat flour (corn flour for those who avoid gluten)
1 tab soy sauce
1 litre soya milk
1/2 -1/3 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp seasalt
3 rounded tabs yeast flakes (aka nutritional yeast)

  • Make a roux with the oil and flour, and stir in the soy sauce. (A roux means you heat the oil and whisk in the flour to make a smooth paste.)
  • Use a balloon whisk to add the soya milk gradually over a gentle heat, ensuring there are no lumps.
  • Stir in the yeast flakes, salt and pepper. The sauce should thicken somewhat at this stage.
  • When thickened, remove the sauce from the heat and use in your recipe or keep in the fridge/ freezer until needed.
Have a look here for a fricassee recipe using this sauce. 
PS: Sorry for any disruption while we were trying to decide on a new look- we went back briefly to the simple template as the comments section has been hard for some  of you to use with the dynamic view, but pageviews went down drastically and  immediately, so returned to dynamic view as it seems to be more conducive to clicking through all the posts.