Friday, 30 September 2011

Vegan MoFo: Gluten Free Vegan Savoury Tarts

I'm so excited about this month, so please forgive me if I gabble excitedly for a few posts. This is the first time I've participated in Vegan MoFo and I'm salivating thinking about all the delicious cruelty free food that over 650 bloggers are going to be whipping up.It's going to be AMAZING! In fact, it will probably take me the best part of a year to get through all the recipes that I will undoubtedly want to try! So here is the first post for Vegan MoFo...or as I'm beginning to think of it as ... Vegtoberfest :)

Tart Case Ingredients
200g almond meal
200g vegan cheddar style cheese (I used shreese)
Pinch salt
2 teaspoons Italian herbs

In a food processor, combine all ingredients. Add a teaspoon water to bring dough together. If it’s still too dry add a little bit more – but not too much! It should just come together. Roll into a ball and flatten down. Cover and place in fridge for about an hour. This is important, as it will help your dough to stick together.

Turn on oven to 150C, and grease a shallow mini tart pan. It’s kinda important to have a really good non stick one! I used a tin that holds a dozen cases that were approx. 55mm in diameter. This much dough gave me 2 dozen cases.
Roll out dough between two pieces of greaseproof or plastic wrap until approx. 3mm thick.  Using a biscuit cutter, cut out circles and gently pull away remaining dough. Very gently slide a wide knife or better yet, a pastry knife under the circle, and then transfer to tart tin. Gently press down. Don’t worry if the pastry cracks a little, just gently press together again.
Bake in oven for about 10 minutes on 150C, then cover and turn down oven to 120C for a further 30 minutes. Allow to cool and turn out onto racks. They will keep for a week in an airtight container, so you can make these ahead of filling.

For the Filling
Vegan cream cheese ( I use Tofutti) but cashew cream cheese also works a treat. Go here for a really good recipe  If you don’t bake the cashew cheese by the way, and just let it age at room temperature over a couple of days, it stays much softer and creamier for filling.
Dairy free pesto
Sliced black olives
Chopped semi dried tomatoes
To make the dairy free pesto, process 1/4 cup basil leaves, 1/4 cup baby spinach, 1 large garlic clove, 1/4 cup pine nuts,  3-4 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. (Just like the one for the vol au vent fillings).

Pipe or spoon a blob of cream cheese into the tart, then layer the tomato, pesto and olives. These moreish little bites are perfect for snacking or parties, and in my opinion, certainly satisfy cheesy cravings. And they’re gluten free!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

International Vegetarian Week

International Vegetarian Week Challenge - October 1st - 7th

I know, I haven't posted at all the last week. But the builders have finished banging (we've been renovating), and I will be busy planting around the house now the danger has passed of boots trampling my plots. And I have been busily sorting through ideas getting ready for Vegan MoFo, so with about 5 posts a week over a month, you will be getting sick of me shortly! October 1st kicks off for me with International Vegetarian Week - I challenge you omnivores to try vegetarian for just one week! Come on, one week in the larger scheme of things isn't going to kill you. To get an idea of how to go about it go here It also happens to coincide with Be Kind to Animals Week - and what better way to be kind than to refuse to eat them?  October will also finish with a bang with the Cruelty Free Festival on October 30th. If you are in Sydney, I recommend the visit, even if it is to satisfy your curiosity! So October is the month of vegos!
There are so many health benefits of a vegetarian diet. Truly being conscious of what goes into your mouth is the first step to a healthier body, and I'm going to give an example. My sister Sally came to live with us seven weeks ago. When she wanted to live with us, I warned her it would be club veg, as she eats some mea.t "Load me up" she said," I need more vegies." Okey dokey then! For the past seven weeks she's enjoyed a range of vegetarian and vegan dishes, including raw vegan such as green smoothies. We've had the odd naughty thing, high in fat (liken tofu nuggets) or sugar (vegan lamington cake!), but we eat pretty well. She seems to have gone through a bit of a detox as was evident in her skin, but it seems to be clearing up nicely. But the best thing for her has been weight loss.When she arrived, she was 98kg - and she's not very tall, so she has wanted to lose some weight. She has noticed her clothes are looser, and she tells me she feels "lighter."  So this morning we decided to do a weigh in. "I can't look!" she said, fearing nothing had happened. she didn't believe me when I told her what she was. Seven weeks later, she weighs 87.3kg! that's quite an achievement. And by the by, she also can't believe she's lost so much weight because according to her I do nothing but feed her! So if that's not a good advertisement for vegetarian eating I don't know what is!

So the point is, even if you don't believe it's better for animals and better for the environment, why not do it for yourself? do it for a week, or do it for a month -your body will thank you for it!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Vegan Vol-au-Vent Fillings

Now that you've mastered making the cases, why not try these filling recipes? Eating Vegan was never meant to be boring...

I used a teaspoon to fill my 5cm vol au vents, but it may be more or less depending on the size of your case.

Almond 'Cheese' wilted Spinach and Cranberry (as in stars above)
The almond cheese recipe I used was from the vegetarian times, but you can just buy vegan cheese from the health food shop if you prefer, or use vegan cream cheese if you want a milder taste. But do give the almond feta a go, it is very addictive!!

Wilt some baby spinach in a pan and allow to cool.
Put into a vol au vent case, a spoon of spinach, a spoon of cheese and a drizzle of cranberry sauce.

Asparagus, Potato, and Lemon
Cook a peeled medium sized potato, and mash with a splash of soymilk, salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.
Blanch asparagus, and dunk in cold iced water to cool. The spears should be bright green. Drain.
Mix 50 ml extra virgin olive oil and 50 ml lemon juice with 1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon,
Put into a vol au vent case, a couple of spoons of potato, a couple of asparagus spear cuts, and drizzle with the lemon dressing. Dust with a little cracked black pepper.

Creamy Mushroom
Make the creamy sauce base using the filling recipe from Creamy Corn and Leek Pies I posted on my first blog entry (omitting leek and corn of course).
Saute finely sliced mushrooms until soft, and add to creamy sauce.
Allow to cool slightly and spoon into cases.

Pumpkin Corn and Chive
 Peel and chop 1 cup pumpkin, and cook in a pan of boiling water. Drain and mash, adding onion powder and pepper to taste.
Add 1/4 cup cooked corn kernels, and mix thoroughly.
Spoon into vol au vent cases and garnish with chopped fresh chives.

Sundried Tomato, Olives, and Dairy Free Pesto
Finely chop 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes and set aside.
To make the dairy free pesto, process 1/4 cup basil leaves, 1/4 cup baby spinach, 1 large garlic clove, 1/4 cup pine nuts,  3-4 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, and 2 tablespoons lemon juice.
Put a teaspoon tomatoes, 1 teaspoon sliced olives, and a teaspoon of pesto into the case.

Spicy Roasted Eggplant
Roast a medium sized eggplant whole in a 180C oven for 30 minutes or until soft. Allow to cool. Puree and add 1 garlic clove and 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes. Fry in a little olive oil for a few minutes until garlic and chili are fragrant. Spoon into cases.

Rocket, Fig, and Vegan Cream Cheese with Pomegranate
Scoop out the seeds of one pomegranate and set aside.
Tear a small bunch rocket leaves into pieces and set aside.
Finely chop 1/2 cup dried figs.
Spoon into a case rocket,figs, then cream cheese, and top with a few pomegranate seeds.

And don't forget to reserve the middle section of your pastry cuts outs when making the cases. Put them on a baking sheet and bake these too. You can then top them with pesto or dip as I did below and serve as nibbles too. Super cute!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Celeriac Stack with Sweet Mustard Dressing

Celeriacs are in season at the moment.  I have grown a patch that was sown last spring, and left over winter to sweeten, and pull up as needed. Considering they can start at about $5.00 each at the greengrocer, if you like the taste it could be well worth growing your own instead of celery. The stalks are not as fleshy as celery, but they can be chopped up for soups and salads, and are march more cold hardy and frost tolerant than their tender cousins. The bulbous root is what I'm using for this recipe, similar to the French roulade, but without all the mayo! You will need to work quickly to get the celeriac into some lemon juice to prevent discolouration.

1 large celeriac
1 cup baby spinach
few green olives

For The Dressing
1 tablespoon seeded mustard
2 tablesppons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon agave syrup, rice bran syrup (or honey if you consume it)

Coaresly grate the celeriac, and lightly toss in lemon juice. Set aside.
Warm the syrup gently, then add to all the other dressing ingredients.
Toss through celeriac, set aside.
Saute spinach in a hot pan until just wilted. Set aside.
Using a food stacker, or a deep cookie cutter (or even a clean narrow tin with both ends cut out), press a few spponfuls of celeriac into the bottom, followed by a layer of spinach, and repeat. Top with some sliced olives, and gently remove stacker. Wallah!

Of course, if you don't have any kind of stacking implement, you could just neatly pile it up. But it looks so elegant as a small entree this way!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Vegan Vol-au-Vent Cases

This is going to be a two part post, because as there are lots of good filling options, I'd like to post about those separately. So for now, let's concentrate on the cases. Making vol-au-vent cases is really easy, and since I'll be darned if I can find a vegan one in the supermarket, why not make your own? You can make any size you like, from itty bitty bite sizes for a party, to main meal sized ones with a side of salad. You can make them a day or two ahead, and once cool put in an airtight container. Then all you have to do is fill them and warm up on the day.

You Will Need
1 pack pampas puff pastry sheets (or any other brand, provided the fat used is vegetable based)
Assorted sized round biscuit cutters.

Cut circles with the biscuit cutter, and gently peel off sheet.
Using a cutter the next size down, cut three quarters of the circles to make rings like so. (You don't have to use scalloped cutters by the way, as long as you have two different sizes you can do any shape you like. Maybe stars for Christmas?)

Take the circle and brush with water. Very gently peel the ring away (if you don't you will stretch the pastry and it won't sit neatly) Carefully place the ring on top of the circle. Brush with water and repeat with two more rings until you have four layers of pastry. (I only have three in the picture below, but four works much better and gives good depth).

Place on a biscuit tray lined with greaseproof, and repeat until you have the number of cases required.

Bake in a 180C preheated oven for approximately 15 minutes, or until light golden.

While still hot, use a teaspoon to carefully scoop out the middle bit of pastry that has puffed up from the bottom, and leave to cool.

It will take a bit of practice, but once you know how, it'll be a cinch!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Meatless Monday Loaf (Gluten Free)

This loaf isn't just for Mondays it's flavoursome any day of the week! It's especially good with roast potatoes, slow baked tomatoes and wilted spinach with a smathering of brown onion gravy (but that's just my opinion!) This creation was a combination of a few different recipes that I worked together, so I cannot claim it as entirely my own creation (but I guess that's true for most recipes, an idea here, an idea there...)
It's a solid, hearty loaf, so feel free to adapt it to suit your own particular tastes. But don't leave out he cacao powder (or cocoa powder) as it really makes the flavour of this dish! If the mixture is too dry, add some water, if it's too wet, add a bit more besan or almond meal. As with most baking, the quality of the ingredients, the humidity of the day etc will all effect the recipe, so do it by feel.

Thumb length piece lemon grass
a couple of slices of ginger
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon vegemite
1/4 cup cacao (or regular cocoa powder)
2 tablespoons ground sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons ground pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup almond meal
1/2 cup besan flour
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup chopped spinach
1 chopped onion
handful chopped mushrooms
2-3 porcini mushrooms soaked in 1/4 cup boiling water
chopped fresh oregano, parsley, and thyme
balsamic vinegar
polenta to dust

Soak porcini mushrooms in boiling water, and set aside.
Saute onions, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, and carrot until soft. Add mushrooms and spinach, cook for another couple of minutes, then set aside.
Mix besan flour, almond meal, cacao powder, and ground sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
Drain porcini mushrooms and reserve liquid. Chop and add to vegetable mixture, then add all to dry ingredients, using your hands to mix through.
Add vegemite to reserved poricini liquid and blend to smooth consistency. Add to mixture, and combine thoroughly. Add 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar. If mixture is too dry, add some more (it should be like cookie dough).
Preheat oven to 180C
Grease and line a loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
Spoon mixture in and press firmly down.
Add a splash more balsamic over the top of the loaf, and dust with polenta.
Cover the top, and bake in the oven for approximately 50 minutes.

Leave for 5 minutes, and then gently pull out from loaf tin. Cut into slices and serve with gravy!
P.S Leftovers are also really good in a bun with dijon, lettuce, and tomato.