My Childhood Favourite Oozes and Delights

A friend sent me a food porn recommendation last week – for vegan lasagne. Its worth mentioning that lasagne was my fave dish as a child. Something about it never ceases to delight me – the ooziness of the sauce, the crunch of the lasagne pasta that always crisps up towards the edges, and of course the cheesy bechamel sauce. It was always the meal I’d ask for as a birthday treat and more often than not, the one I’d order at restaurants. So simple. So much joy.

As an adult, however, I don’t cook it very often…the mind boggling number of calories late at night isn’t often my first choice, and, of course, it takes effort. Thought and planning are involved and when I get home from work I usually just want to throw something yummy together without all the prep lasagne involves.

But last week, as I said, a good friend sent me a link on FB to this recipe from Cilantro and Citronella and all week it was bouncing around in my thoughts and teasing my tastebuds. It promised to deliver an easy to cook, delish vegan lasagne and glancing over the recipe it did, indeed, seem pretty simple.

Thursday night beckoned and I got involved, elbow deep, in chopping, prepping and seasoning and I have to say it wasn’t hard at all. The whole process took me about 40 minutes to prep and then another 45 to cook in the oven and it was (and still is) delish. The portions made enough to serve about 8 adults (my husband and I will now be eating this for dayssssss) and it really is tasty, proper tasty.

The ingredients are simple but I confess I did thrown a few of my own into the mix…they are italicised below in case you want to give this one a crack and ignore my additions.

Ingredients
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil (for the flour blend stage)
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter (to fry the veg…my addition instead of olive oil as I like the buttery flavour)
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 600 grams (21 oz) button mushrooms, chopped (use the stems too)
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 400 grams (14 oz) frozen spinach, thawed according to the package directions and squeezed
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups (480 ml) unsweetened plant milk (they used soy, I used almond)
  • 1 cup (240 ml) vegetable stock
  • ½ cup (75 grams) flour
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast / I doubled this and used 4 as it wasn’t cheesy enough for me
  • 3 cups (700 ml / about a jar and a half) marinara sauce (I bought a large tin of crushed tomatoes and added fresh basil to it)
  • 2 tablespoons white miso (blended into the bechamel sauce mix after the flour and milk have been added…gave it another cheesy kick)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder (again added to the bechamel sauce)
  • 1 packet veggie mince fried in with veggies
  • Lasagna sheets

IMG_0470I wholeheartedly recommend this recipe to any vegan lasagne lovers out there. The only tricky bit was the bechamel sauce…which wasn’t even really tricky at all, you just had to keep a close eye on it. And my sauce was a little lumpy so I just used a hand blender to get rid of them and make sure it was silky and smooth. But the taste of the sauce is fantastic and goes so well on the lasagne. It even bubbles and browns and oozes on top…just like a cheese lasagne would…an amazing achievement to behold (and even better to taste).

Even writing this blog is making me think about eating some. Yup. Its that tasty.

Advertisements

For the Love of Paprika

I haven’t posted for ages…life has rather got in the way. Work has been bonkers, my amazing parents have been visiting…and there hasn’t been as much room for experimentation. So, whilst I had the house to myself for 6 days, I decided to try my hand at a new cheese.

Flicking through my fave cookbook (the non-dairy evolution cookbook) my eyes alighted on a gorgeous bright red cheese called Muenster. Looking through the ingredients I realised it was the paprika that gave this cheese its ‘hit’.

2016-11-16 20.14.17.jpgNote – to love this recipe you gotta love paprika. Easy for me as I really do. Its something about the sweet smokiness of it that I love.

So…I gave the Muenster a whirl. Pretty straightforward to make as it turns out.

This pic is it in all its ooey gooey gorgeousness before it sets. I realised as making it that this recipe, perhaps sans paprika, would make an amazing lasagne topping, dipping cheese (if you could keep it hot) as it was so very cheesy and mimicking of cheddar. Quite frankly I could have stood there and eaten it straight from the pan just cooked and smiled like a crazy person as the flavours lit up in my mouth.

Anyway…to the recipe….

So…its pretty straightforward. I won’t share the technique…for that you have to purchase the book itself, but here are the ingredients so you can get them in your pantry.

  • 1.33 cup refined organic coconut oil
  • 1.33 cup organic almond milk (I use Inside Out Almond Milk’s brand)
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 tablesp Nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tablesp kappa Carrageenan
  • 1 teaspoon agar agar powder (my own addition)
  • pinch pink salt
  • 1/4 tsp dried mustard powder
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder

file-18-11-16-6-26-26-amIt turned out so well. I was really delighted with it. Its delicious, slice-able, melt-able and would be great in a sarnie, on toast, in a salad or just in a massive slab just because.

Here’s the link to the book: https://thegentlechef.com/gentle-chef-cookbooks/non-dairy-evolution-cookbook/

Next up – there is a ‘make your own butter’ recipe in there. I am intrigued and going to give that a go. I’ll report back 😉

Until then, its FRIDAY! 

 

Oooey Gooey Melty Love

Life is good.

Since taking the advice of the Vegan Cheese Lovers group on Facebook and purchasing the Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook my relationship with vegan cheese has changed beyond recognition.

After spending months as a new vegan lamenting the absence of cheese in my life and buying terrible plastic ‘wannabees’ in the supermarket, after spending months trialling and trying to make my own cheeses based off recipes I had found on Google (and failing miserably), I now feel like I have achieved fully fledged bonafide vegan cheese-maker status. Its a pretty amazing feeling.

2016-08-10 06.35.43.jpgI’ve made about 6 recipes from the book and each one has been amazing. Amazing in different ways – some have kicked ass with their flavours being so close to dairy cheese they caused a happy dance in the kitchen, whilst others have just been divine in their own right.

The latest experiment from the book was the brie (recipe to follow). I have to confess its not my fave of all the flavours BUT what it does have going for it is that it melts. Its ooey and gooey and actually melts like dairy cheese under the grill and even browns off a little. I had it for brekky yesterday with tomatoes and popped it under the grill and I was grinning from ear to ear.

The man who wrote this book is quite possibly someone I could begin to hero worship.

So…to the recipe and to the cheese. I know that’s what you really want….

Seriously – if you are into this sort of thing and you fancy having a go…I recommend you buy this book. Its a ninja game-changer. I’ll never buy vegan cheese again unless my back’s against the wall.

Ingredients:

  • 2tsp raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup refined (or normal…refined just has less coconut flavour) coconut oil
  • 1.33 cups almond / soy (I use my homemade nut milk)
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 tablespoon mellow white miso paste
  • 1.25 teaspoons kappa carrageenan
  • 1 tsp himalayan pink salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon truffle oil

2016-08-10 06.35.21.jpgThe recipe is in the book – re the process – it doesn’t feel right to share it for the world when this man has spent this amazing amount of time creating these recipes. The only thing I would change – and will next time I make it – is the truffle oil. It was too strong for me and overpowered the cheese entirely. I love truffle flavour but I found it too much in this cheese. I would have reduced the truffle slightly (by half probably) and added in 1/4 teaspoon onion powder to balance it I think. That’s what I will do next time.

What a wonderful world we live in – where we can eat something so alike to dairy cheeses without any of the pain, suffering, forced separation or pollution. If only it were this way around and that non-dairy cheeses were the norm and dairy was the minority. I dream of the day. As would the cows and the calves if they knew, I imagine.

Happy cheese making everyone!

 

 

Vegan Cheese is hard and I mean HARD to make

I haven’t written this blog for ages…mainly because FOR AGES (since April) I have been trying to successfully make a vegan cheese that I was proud of and happy enough with to blog about.

I blithely and naively began to try and make my own vegan cheeses 1 year into my vegan journey. I thought to myself, how hard can this be. Hard, as it turns out. I completely underestimated the nuances and subtleties of making vegan cheese.

Its hard on a number of levels. Its hard to get to set right, to get the right consistency, to get to melt, to taste good, to balance the flavours and so on. But, mainly, I have found it really hard to get it to set as I wanted it to.

By hard, I mean that I am now on about my tenth vegan cheese recipe and ONLY NOW have I managed to create two cheeses which I love and am happy with.

Practice really does make perfect. The girl guides were right. I didn’t even know I was this patient. But it turns out I really want to make my own cheese and I really want it to be amazing.

After two months of trying, and mainly failing, I reached out to a few vegan cheese lovers groups on Facebook. I had created delicious oozy cheeses, but they were all soft spreadable cheeses which is great if that’s what you are trying to create, I, however was not. I was trying to make a hard set cheese which I could slice.

What am I doing wrong…? I cried in desperation!

I had been using Miyokos Vegan artisan cheese book and things just weren’t working. I had tried ones I googled and ones on Pinterest all of which promised delightful firm looking cheeses. I was starting to feel like I was in the middle of a big April fools joke that no-one was letting me in on. 

So, imagine my relief when the vegan cheese lovers group (my saviours) told me NO…and informed me I was using the wrong book. The book to use if you want to make vegan cheese is The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook.

And how right they were. This blog is dedicated to them in thanks.

I have, since ordering it, made three cheeses from this book. Two of them were phenomenal. The third is just finished and in the fridge, so we’ll see how that turns out.

I am going to share one of them with you today because I was astounded by how yummy it was. I figured, it anyone out there was also going through the same level of experimentation and failure as I was, this post might bring you hope!

2016-07-05 05.49.59

This is the mozzarella di Tuscano from aforementioned amazing book. I claim no rights whatsoever to this brilliant recipe. Its all the work of the Gentle Chef and I am most grateful for his knowledge. The ingredients are simple:

  1. Coconut oil
  2. Lactic acid powder (which I ordered online as I couldn’t find in any shops)
  3. Soymilk (homemade – recipe is also in the book)
  4. Tapioca flour
  5. Kappa Carrageenan (also ordered online)
  6. Sea salt
  7. Garlic
  8. Dried basil
  9. Dried oregano (my addition to the recipe)
  10. Sun dried tomatoes (I didn’t add these as I didn’t have any at home)

2016-07-08 05.57.59It was simple to cook and easy to follow and all the steps are brilliantly laid out.

Also laid out are all the things that can go wrong (the coconut oil separating from the sauce which had happened to me a couple of times prior and which I didn’t know a) how to fix or B) whether that was supposed to happen or not).

I am hopeful for the future of my vegan cheeses and feel like, for the first time, there might be some successes ahead.

If you want to make vegan cheese, my advice is buy this book. Its not expensive to buy and its worth it. 100% worth it.

Happy Cheesy Friday all.

 

 

 

 

Warning, this one is a little bit cheesy…

There’s been a cheese bake-off in my house.

This weekend – in the midst of going silently mad and crazily housebound with a horrendous bout of the flu -I entertained myself by borrowing some marvellous vegan nut cheese recipes and trying my hand at something new. Something satisfying, yummy, indulgent and not endorsed by Michelle Bridges; vegan nut cheeses.

I keep seeing these rather marvellous firm looking cheese offerings on various vegan blogs and thinking, ‘why am I paying a fortune buying these….could I achieve this glorious looking little treat with my own bare hands?’ 

So – courtesy of two fabulous vegan cooks, I re-created their uber-delish recipes and was VERY excited by the results. These will not be one-offs. These bad boys will make it into my regular bake list.

First up – vegan feta.

I was suspicious.

Having bought a bloody dreadful and tasteless tofu vegan feta in a moment of madness online, I was uncertain as to whether to even bother to be honest. The first one left me so scarred by how revolting it was.

However, I miss feta and thought, what have I got to lose, except a few pantry items. Give it a go.

Here is the recipe I tried by the comforting vegan It promises an easy and tasty vegan feta and it doesn’t lie. It really was as easy as the recipe promises it will be.

This is pre freezing

This is pre freezing

The ingredients are ridiculously simple (already winning):

1 1/4 cup vegan yogurt (I used coconut)
4 Tablespoons coconut flour
2 teaspoons vinegar (white or apple) or lemon juice (I entirely ignored this and used half lemon juice and half pickle juice from a gherkin jar)
2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoons herbs of your choosing  (I used Oregano – about double what the recipe suggested)
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

To follow the recipe steps visit their page here: http://thecomfortingvegan.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/vegan-feta-cheese.html

Post freezing and ready to go...

Post freezing and ready to go…

However – here it is in photo stages. ANYONE, and I mean anyone, could make this. It was ravishingly simple.

You basically blend it up, pop it into any old flat container, freeze it, chop it and then eat it!

The recipe clearly makes a better and more delectable description that I have – but it amounts to the same thing.

its really lovely.

The only thing that you have to get over is that its cold. Feta – straight from the fridge – is of course cold too. However, this is straight from the freezer.

Feta with my lovely greek style salad lunch

Feta with my lovely greek style salad lunch

So – when you want to eat it – I advise you get it out of the freezer and give it 5-10 minutes before you intend to eat it. Otherwise its rather like having cheesy ice cubes on your plate. Remember to let it thaw for a little bit, however, and I think you will love it. I was really happily surprised and am now more than a little bit chuffed that I have these little treasures sitting in my freezer for whenever I want them….

Next up – Almond Nut cheeses courtesy of Maple Spice. 

I have to confess, again, that I was not supremely confident upon starting out on this recipe. I’ve tried to make a set cheese before and, whilst yummy, it was certainly nothing I’d want to share with anyone, shout about or serve up to friends. I can imagine the faces that would have been pulled.

2015-09-10 09.13.49

The mix of agar, soy milk, olive oil and other flavourings simmering in the pan

That being said, I had high hopes as this recipe seemed – again – rather simple, easy to follow and – in the pictures anyway – tasty. I – rather ambitiously – decided to make two of the cheeses. I made the Rosemary Chilli one AND the Sundried Tomato basil one.

Both turned out to be delicious. Really delish. The Chilli one nearly knocked my socks off and gave me a shocking garlic breath which I am not sure my husband appreciated. However – it was rather marvellous on toast with grilled tomatoes. The tomato one was equally lovely but I might like to ‘turn up the flavour’ and add more basil and more tomato than the recipe suggests as I found the tomato flavour lovely but not quick with as much tomato-y kick as I’d hoped for.

Anyway – follow the recipes here: http://www.maplespice.com/2014/09/a-trio-of-almond-cheese-chive-sun-dried.html

2015-09-10 11.56.46Chilli and Rosemary Cheese:

• 40g ground almonds (5 Tbsp + 2 tsp)
• 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes, ground to a powder
• ½ tsp garlic powder
• ¼ tsp salt
• 100ml unsweetened almond or soy milk (3.5 fl oz)
• 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• ½ tsp dried rosemary
• ¼ tsp dried chili flakes (also known as red pepper flakes)
• about 6 grinds of black pepper
• 1 Tbsp agar flakes

2015-09-10 13.50.31Sun dried Tomato and Basil Cheese:

• 40g ground almonds (5 Tbsp + 2 tsp)
• 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes, ground to a powder
• ½ tsp garlic powder
• ¼ tsp salt
• 100ml unsweetened almond or soy milk (3.5 fl oz)
• 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• ½ Tbsp tomato paste
• 1 Tbsp agar flakes
• 2 Tbsp finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes (the type packed in oil)
• 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
2015-09-10 09.29.23

In the pot ready to set – make sure you cover the whole thing with cling film / glad wrap (or whatever you call it) and pop straight in the fridge

Tips for them both I worked out as I went along:

– I put 1.5 tablespoons of agar in each time to make sure they were super firm and it worked
– I used the ramekins she suggests to set them and I was really generous with the olive oil on the inside so they didn’t stick
– about an hour in I ran a sharp knife around the edge to get the cheese off the edge of the ramekin – this seemed to helped them to come out of the pot whole
– they are divine on pita bread or on toast with grilled tomatoes!
– Each time I blended the nutritional yeast with the almonds. I didn’t use shop bought almond meal and instead ground my own almonds along with the nutritional yeast and salt upfront – saved time and it worked just fine
And voila….
…these cheeses were super easy to make, super tasty to eat and really great cheese making introduction recipes. There was nothing specifically tough to do and nothing that phased me. I would completely recommend giving it a go yourself. I feel quite inspired by the experience and it certainly took my mind off the flu and aches and pains for short while and then entertained my taste buds afterwards for a longer while….
Here’s to the wonder of the almond. So versatile. So tasty.  Before I was vegan, I literally had no idea of the versatility of these little beasts. Now, I am nothing but thankful for what they can do with the right imagination and a little bit of elbow grease.
Until next time.

Finding my vegan groove again

Its been a while!

I’ve been on holiday and I confess…lost my vegan mojo for a while there…it was lost somewhere inbetween a multitude of aperol spritzs and lemon peronis enjoyed with my husband and family whilst travelling in Europe. I found it very hard to be vegan in Italy and confess – on this journey of mine – that I decided it was time to be vegetarian again for my time there. My only options for dinner otherwise would have been rocket with cherry tomatoes and a side of chips for ten days straight. Delicious maybe, but not sustaining or nutritious or filling.

It was weird for me, 6 months into being vegan, to revert for a week. However, I decided when I began this journey that I wouldn’t beat myself up or shame myself at any stage. I’d just accept the journey as it came to me – so that’s what I did.

However, now back in Aus, and I am back in my happy vegan place cooking for myself and trialling new recipes eagerly and happily experimenting in the kitchen.

Tonight I found myself making my first vegan pesto. I didn’t follow any recipe. I just decided I really fancied it along with some yummy spiralised zucchini pasta.

2015-08-26 17.26.06Without wishing to sound like I am singing my own praises, I was actually super happy with how it turned out and did not predict it would be as lovely as it was.

I haven’t ever had a homemade vegan pesto before. I’ve bought one from the shops made with tofu but was a little underwhelmed and found it a little watery (and distinctly un-cheesy…as you might imagine). So I decided I wanted to make my own and give the vegan pesto back the cheesy kick it deserves!

So here’s my very own – one of a kind – Basil and Macadamia nut pesto recipe:

INGREDIENTS:

Rockin pesto

  • 150gm Macadamia nuts (thats all I had in the cupboard – go large and put in more if you have them!). NB: I used raw but I reckon they would have been lovely roasted too
  • A whole bunch of fresh basil (again…two bunches wouldn’t have been overkill)
  • 2 tablespoons Macadamia oil (only because I had it in the cupboard – it was a gift. I reckon Olive Oil just as good if not better). Add more if its too sticky and not the right texture.
  • 1 cup Daiya mozzarella cheese – smells a little weird (I doubt I am the first to say that) but its brilliant for whenever you want grated vegan cheese. I had an inkling that it would work well in a pesto and I was thankfully right…
  • 2 cloves garlic (small cloves you don’t want to overpower it)
  • Pinch white pepper, black pepper and salt
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar glaze

STEPS:

Blend the macadamia nuts until they are almost a flour. Then add the cheese and blend straight in with it.

Once done – add the rest of the ingredients and play to taste and consistency until you are happy.

Ta da.

It feels like it was too easy. Why have I been buying shop bought pesto all these years!

What a lovely little bit of experimentation to get me back to the heart of the food that I love.

Happy Weds all.

My quest for the holy grail of vegan cheese is over

So, my husband asked me the other day if I missed cheese…

I thought about it long and hard and actually surprised myself with the answer, which is that I miss feta. Odd. When I was eating cheese I would totally have thought that haloumi or strong cheddar would have been the top candidates, but, not so. I confess I miss feta and, so far, I haven’t found anything to equal it (I bought a fake feta online and it was horrible…going to have to incorporate it into another dish so it doesn’t go to waste).

However, there is good news to share.

The question about cheese spurred my desire to once again ‘dive’ into the world of vegan cheeses. I’ve had enough crappy plastic-like vegan cheeses to last a lifetime in the last 5 months, so I confess I wasn’t hopeful.

Apart from a mild liking for bio-cheese (but really only because it was the best I’d found) I hadn’t been inspired by anything and had, instead, resorted to not having anything unless I made it as it just wasn’t worth it. My tastebuds were happier going without rather than trying to enforce a poor taste emulation upon them.

I am happy to report that all of this has changed. I read online about this amazing cheese by Miyoko’s creamery.  

After a little investigation I discovered that a) its pretty pricey and b) its so popular its often out of stock

I initially shied away from paying that much for cheese. However, I finally decided, what the heck, its nearly my b’day, I am going to treat myself and WOW am I glad that I did.

IMG_20150506_172744This cheese is unreal.

I actually feel like I could eat this over and over (probably in one sitting without too much effort) with crackers, hummus and friends and have a happy old indulgent time. This is the cheese I will order online and take away for a weekend with friends. This is the cheese I will sit and nibble with crackers and a glass of wine. This is the cheese of choice. I have ordered and tried the chive one but not yet the sun-dried tomato one, and I can’t wait to try the whole bloody product line. Amazing. Thank you Miyoko. This stuff is amazing and you have made this vegan a really happy lady.

I ordered it online here at the Cruelty Free Shop.

Whilst online at this shop I also decided, on a whim, to purchase another product I had seen lots of positive feedback about on Facebook; Daiya.

I wasn’t expecting great things – however I was really pleasantly surprised. This stuff is really not like cheddar but is a lot more like edam. Its actually great because vegan cheese is virtually impossible to grate and also because it actually melts nicely and tastes a little like melted cheese.

I had it with baked beans on toast the other day and was pretty pleased with myself.

So – they are my two firm vegan cheese endorsements / recommendations. I am now sold. No more crappy plastic style cheeses for me, its these two all the way.

Happy days…now all I have to decide is what to eat with them next…