Tag Archives: Greens

Award Winning Spinach and Mushroom Quiche

This weekend past was the annual Animal Liberation Victoria vegan bake-off, and as the winner in 2015, I was asked to do a cooking presentation this year.  Although I was happy to be asked, I had no idea what to make. Cooking is easy, but cooking on stage in front of a crowd of strangers and having to make it entertaining without long silences is another matter. I’m nervous about talking in front of people, bad at making decisions, and have always been a spur of the moment kind of girl. Most of the time when I cook I don’t even know what I’m making until half way through. The idea of planning a cooking demo was really starting to make me panic, so I just put it out of my mind.

Of course, the time then came when I had to give my final answer and what I’d be cooking, with just a few days to go. I’m much better at taking control and making decisions when there’s no time to think (I’m really good in a crisis, but you wouldn’t want me planning your wedding unless you like living life on the edge). And so I chose: A quiche and spiel about the science of replacing eggs in cooking.

Of course, I’d never made a quiche before, nor had I ever had a vegan one I’d liked. But hey, I thought, how hard could it be? Not at all hard as it turns out, once I decided to trust my instincts and use tofu instead of chickpea flour.

Let me digress here for a minute and talk about my love-hate relationship with chickpea flour. I always have it in the house because it can work as a great binder in baking, makes a semi-decent excuse for a breakfast omelet pancake type thing when there’s nothing else, and mixed with grated veggies and water makes some healthy muffins for my dog. However, I just cannot get on board with this burmese tofu thing. I have tried it several times, and no matter how long it cooks for, it never stops tasting faintly of chickpea flour, and I do not enjoy that flavour.

Despite this, I made several attempts at a quiche filling made with chickpea flour over the last week, one mini muffin tin at a time, thanks to what seems to be the most popular vegan quiche recipe around. However, while I admit the texture is smooth and it firms up nicely, that chickpea taste is just overwhelming. My housemates loved it and said I was crazy, but that’s just one of the downsides of being a super-taster.

It also doesn’t set properly if you add anything else, and the eggs in quiche are really mostly to hold all the cheese and vegetables together. I would never dream of making a quiche without a lot of cheese and spinach in it. So that’s a fail on the chickpea flour quiche, just not my cup of tea.

Anyway, as soon as I went back to my good old traditional tofu, I had a huge success. This is the quiche that I made for my demo,  and is hands down the best vegan quiche I have ever eaten by streets. I would confidently serve this to anyone, not just vegans. Full of stretchy ‘cheese’, delicious mushrooms, spinach and onions, set perfectly with a bubbly brown top in a crisp almond crust, there’s nothing not to love. Topped with chopped sundried tomatoes before serving, it’s a 10/10.

Oh and the demo went fine in case you were wondering. I barely made it to the bake-off in time, forgot my quiche pan, turned up in batter covered jeans and a ridiculously sparkly jumper, had no idea what I was going to say or how long it would actually take to make the quiche, but luckily when I’m nervous and unprepared, stuff just comes out of my mouth and it nearly always goes well. I’m living life by winging it and I’m loving it.

Ingredients

For the crust

2 cups almond meal

1tbsp ground chia seeds

2tbsp aquafaba

2 scant tbsp olive oil

Large pinch salt

For the cheese

1 cup single cashew cream

1/2 cup water

1 tsp sea salt (NOT table salt)

2 tbsp nutritional yeast

2 tbsp tapioca starch

For the rest of the filling 

250g frozen spinach, defrosted

4 cups sliced mushrooms

1 medium brown onion or 4 French Shallots, finely chopped

1/2 tsbp white miso

Squeeze lemon juice

250g traditional AKA soft tofu

2 tbsp corn starch

2 tbsp nutritional yeast

olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

To Garnish

Handful sun dried tomatoes in oil, chopped

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C or 160C fan forced
  2. Make the quiche crust: Place the almond meal, salt and ground chia into a 23cm quiche tin and mix well. Add the olive oil and aquafaba and stir until it starts to clump together, then get in there with your hands and smoosh it all together until you have a sticky dough. Press evenly into the tin around 3 to 4mm thick. Prick the base all over with a fork and bake in the oven for  12 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Heat a good splash of olive oil in a skillet over low heat. Add the onions and cook slowly until soft and browned. While that’s happening, squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the spinach and finely chop it. Once the onions are browned, add the mushrooms and crank up the heat. Add a pinch of salt and toss well until cooked and browned but do not cook them until they release their liquid. Turn off the heat, add the spinach, miso, lemon juice and mix well.
  4. Place the tofu, nutritional yeast and corn starch into a tall bowl or container and use a stick blender to blitz it until smooth. And I mean smooth. Set aside
  5. Place the cheese ingredients in a small heavy based pot over low heat and whisk together. Continue to whisk until the mixture thickens. This is supposed to take several minutes. Swap the whisk for a rubber spatular and continue to mix well, stirring and scraping constantly until the mixture starts to bubble. Once it looks like a pot of stretchy melted cheese and slides off the spatula easily it’s done. If unsure, taste a bit – if it tastes powdery you need to cook it a bit longer.
  6. Pour just over half of the cheese mixture into the pan with the spinach and mix well. Add the tofu mixture and stir until thoroughly mixed in. Pour the mixture into the crust and smooth over. Spread the remaining cheese mixture evenly on top. Bake for around an hour, until the top looks nice and golden and is firm to the touch. Allow to cool to room temperature before removing from the pan. Top with the sundried tomatoes and serve. It’s best cold or at room temperature.
Tacos de Papas

Boss Tacos de Papas

Makes eight 6inch damned delicious tacos 

Today was Fabio’s birthday. Naturally, I had a four course dinner planned, and we had all been looking forward to it all week (and you can look forward to reading about it soon). Unfortunately, the guest of honour has come down with a really nasty cold, and since he can’t taste anything, requested we postpone the dinner. Fair enough, but we still needed to eat, and a birthday is no time for a slouch meal, tastebuds or not.

I decided that I needed to make something still a little bit special, an occasional type of meal, very delicious for me, with lots of great textures for Fabio (because texture is something at least), but using only the few ingredients I had on hand not set aside for the four course meal.  I opened the fridge hoping for inspiration, and was dismayed to find only cabbage and kale. Hmm…perhaps a trip to the shop was required after all. Then I remembered the purple sweet potato, and suddenly inspiration was born.

This potato was always destined for greatness. I saw it at the supermarket a few days ago, all by itself with no purple friends in a sea of orange. How nobody else had spotted this special variety of potato and snatched it up I don’t know, but after making these tacos, I know it must have been fate. It called out to me to take it home and make it into something delicious, and that I did. I realised this evening that a purple sweet potato, with it’s firm, starchy flesh would make the best tacos de papas I had ever eaten. And thus, dinner was made and happiness was, until there was sadness, because all were gone.

The only thing that could have made these better would have been some thinly sliced radish, but I didn’t have any. They’re amazing without it, but radish always takes potato tacos to the next level.

Ingredients

450g purple skinned sweet potato (the kind with white flesh on the inside), peeled and diced into large pieces

1/4 tsp ground cumin

Sea Salt

8 x 6 inch soft white corn tortillas (preferably freshly home-made)

1 1/2 cups finely sliced red cabbage

1 1/2 cup finely sliced white cabbage

1 cup finely sliced curly kale

2 large spring onions, julienned

1/4 cup thinly sliced radish (optional but recommended)

1 batch bangin’ chipotle dressing

Canola oil for frying

Method

1. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Add the potatoes and boil until cooked through, around 8-15 minutes (you are correct, I didn’t time this at all).

2. Meanwhile, toss the cabbage, kale and spring onions together. Spread the salad out onto the serving plates, reserving a handful to top the tacos. Drizzle with 1/3 of the chipotle dressing.

3. Drain the potatoes and return to the pot. Add the cumin and a large pinch of salt and mash. Add salt to taste if required.

4. Scoop out a couple of tablespoons of the mashed potato and drop into the middle of each tortilla. If you aren’t using freshly made tortillas, make sure you soften them first. Press the tortillas closed and smoosh the filling out towards the edges a little. Secure the tops of each taco with a toothpick.

5. Put canola oil into a heavy frying pan 1cm deep. Heat the oil over medium heat to sizzle point. Fry the tacos in batches until crispy and golden, around 2-3 minutes on each side. Place on a paper towel lined plate to drain.

6. Remove the toothpicks from the tacos and arrange on the serving plate over the salad. Sprinkle the remaining salad over the top, along with the radishes if using. Drizzle with the remaining sauce and serve immediately.

Silverbeet Nudi 2

Silverbeet Nudi with Roast Cherry Tomato Sugo

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as an entree (makes around 22 large nudi)

As promised, finally an Italian recipe. I did mean to post some sooner after my trip, but I was a little Italianed out. That, and it’s taken me a while to attempt some of my recipes in a gluten free version. Nobody wants to go to a lot of effort only to be disappointed, and anyone who knows me knows the disdain I have for gluten free products. Just eat something else, is usually my motto. Why eat an inferior version of something? Doesn’t it just make you sad? Luckily, these nudi are sensational, and I will happily make these gluten free forever, even if I one day have a choice. They are just as good as my gluten containing recipe, and that is not something I say lightly.

Nudi were always going to be first on the list, as Fabio has been asking for them ever since our magical dinner at La Fonte, an all vegan agriturismo in Montespertoli, Tuscany. This night is definitely our fondest memory of the whole trip, and by far the best food and dining experience we had in Italy.

The night began after a scorching day climbing hundreds of stairs in the city. We left our hotel in Florence and drove out into the countryside, through fields of sunflowers, olive groves and the setting Tuscan sun, until we arrived at our picturesque destination. Not sure what to expect, we drove up to the only building in sight, the farmhouse, where we were warmly greeted by the owners who lived there. We had booked, of course, but we didn’t realise they were opening just for us. Feeling very special, we took our seat in the garden, complete with a cat, as the owner talked us through what she and her husband had prepared that night.

We went for the full four courses (naturally) and a carafe of wine made on the premises, which was excellent and incredibly underpriced. For antipasti we ate a sensational carrot and nut pate with puffed brustenghi (called something different in Tuscany, but the name escapes me), and the best fried spinach pastries I have ever tasted, with just the right amount of nutmeg. For primi, I chose the mint and coconut bulgur, and Fabio had the excellent chard nudi with tomato sauce. Now, while the seitan scallopini that followed was truly astonishing (so tender and delicious Fabio said it tasted exactly, and I mean exactly, like the real thing), it was the nudi Fabio wanted to eat again the most, and since our silverbeet is going to seed in the garden, tonight I was happy to oblige.

It had been years since I made nudi before this evening, having usually preferred spinach and ricotta ‘ravioli’, but now whenever I eat them I will feel the warm, lavender scented Tuscan breeze on my face, and they will forever hold a special place in my heart.

Ingredients

Gnocchi

250g silverbeet leaves (weighed after the tough stems have been removed)

180g (just shy of 1 US cup) traditional Chinese tofu

110 g/ 1 US cup vegan parmesan

1 large clove garlic, finely chopped

1/4 -1/2 tsp nutmeg (to taste)

1/4 cup brown rice flour

1/4 cup white buckwheat flour

Salt and pepper to taste

Sauce

2 punnets cherry or mini roma tomatoes

4 cloves garlic, smashed and roughly chopped

Sprig rosemary

A large pinch chilli flakes (optional)

Olive oil, salt and black pepper

Method

1. Wash and spin dry the silverbeet leaves. Place in a steamer basket over boiling water and steam 2 minutes, or until wilted. Remove from the heat and set aside.

2. Place the tofu in a mesh strainer over the sink and smush it up with your hands, to get a ricotta like consistency. Let any excess water drip away, then place the tofu into a mixing bowl. Add the vegan parmesan, nutmeg and garlic and mix well.

3. Squeeze as much liquid as you can out of the silverbeet with your hands (no need to wring it in a towel, I find one or two squeezes is all it needs) and chop finely. Add to the tofu mixture and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Whisk the rice and buckwheat flours together. Gradually add the flour a little at a time to the spinach and tofu mix, until you have a sticky mixture that easily holds together. I rarely need more than 2/3 of the flour, so if it holds together, don’t use it all. Too much flour and you will end up with bricks.

Dust your hands with the remaining flour and break off small pieces of mix. Roll into balls/egg shapes of the desired size (whatever you like, they are great as tiny gnochetti too) and place on a floured plate.

5. To cook, bring a pot of salted water to a rapid boil. Drop the gnocchi in (unless you use a very big pot it’s best to do this in two batches) and boil until they float to the surface. These take a fair bit longer than traditional gnocchi, so be patient. They should float after 5 minutes or so. If in doubt, remove one and taste it to ensure there is no floury taste. Remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and keep warm until they have all finished cooking.

For the sauce

5. Preheat the oven to 200C. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and place onto a baking tray with the garlic and enough olive oil to coat. Season with salt and pepper and bake 30 minutes, giving a good stir halfway through. The tomatoes will be caramelised and soft. Remove from the oven and add just a little splash of boiling water (or more if you want a runnier sauce) and a splash of olive oil and give a good mix. Adjust seasoning to taste, remove the rosemary and divide between the serving dishes.

Serve the gnocchi atop the sauce, with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of vegan parmesan. I always put extra parmesan and chilli flakes on the table.

Mustard Kale Salad

Kale & Quinoa Leonardo Salad

Serves 6 as a side

This creamy, savoury, mustardy salad is inspired by a Caesar salad, if Caesar was as cool as Leonardo Da Vinci, which he clearly was not. I’d eat this over a Caesar salad any day of the week.

If you’re wary of raw kale, this is the salad to change your mind. This dressing is strong enough to mask any grassiness, but still allows the freshness and crunch to shine through. You don’t need to massage it for 10 minutes, only mix it up with your hands for around 30 seconds. Combined with the pop of perfectly cooked quinoa and the crunch of pepitas, it is my new favourite kale salad.

You can eat this on its own, but I prefer to serve this as a side. Last night we had it alongside a leek and fennel risotto with gremolata.  A handful of mint leaves finely diced and tossed through the salad also gives it another dimension, and can be added with your discretion depending on what you are serving it with. You don’t want too many competing flavours on the same plate.

Ingredients

1 large bunch curly kale, washed, dried and cut chiffonade

1 cup mixed quinoa (or 1/2 cup white and 1/2 cup red)

1/2 cup pepitas

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Handful of fresh mint, cut chiffonade, when appropriate (see above)

Dressing (measurements in US cups and spoons)

1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked at least 2 hours

1 to 1 1/2 cups water, as needed

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup nutritional yeast

2 heaped tsp dijon mustard

1 1/2 tbsp salt preserved capers, very thoroughly rinsed

3 tbsp tart lemon juice

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 large clove garlic, peeled

Method

1. Wash the quinoa and place into a saucepan with 1 3/4 cups cold water. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer and cook until the tails are released and the water is almost gone. Remove from the heat, cover and leave to sit for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool

2. Place all of the dressing ingredients into a blender and blend on high speed until smooth. Start with 1 cup of the water, and add more if you need it. You want the dressing to be just slightly runnier than single pouring cream.

3. Place the kale into a large bowl and pour over the dressing. Wearing gloves, massage the dressing into the kale for around 30 second. Add the quinoa, lemon zest and pepitas and toss to combine. Season with pepper and salt to taste (you probably won’t need any salt though). Serve immediately or place in the fridge until ready to serve. Will keep a couple of days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

roast tomato green beans

Roasted Tomato & Garlic Green Beans

Serves 4 as a side

One of the things that I’ve heard most often from people over the years is that they could never be vegan because they don’t like vegetables. This, to me, is astounding. Not like vegetables!? Like, not ANY of the hundreds of different vegetables!?

However, I came to realise after being served many a meal ‘minus the meat’ that plain, steamed or boiled and woefully overcooked vegetables were what people thought they were supposed to be like. They all tasted the same: bland and soggy. Now, I LOVE vegetables, but I wouldn’t dream of boiling cauliflower and plonking it on a plate and calling it dinner.

I like to do things with my vegetable sides, making them delicious enough to eat without a centrepiece. Roasted green beans are one of my favourites, and combining them with roasted tomatoes and garlic takes them to a whole new level.

These are really simple and easy and I don’t even add herbs most of the time (only fresh basil when in season), but they taste incredible. Like, soak up every last drop with a slice of bread incredible.

I would usually serve these as part of an Italian meal, but there are no rules. They would also fit well into a Middle Eastern or Greek table. Just make sure you serve it hot, it really loses its magic when cold.

Ingredients

450g green beans, top and tailed

2 medium tomatoes, cored

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped (around 1 heaped tablespoon finely chopped)

Sea salt and pepper to taste

1 tbsp good olive oil

Handful fresh basil, optional, when in season

Method

1. Preheat oven to 210C.

2. Place the green beans and tomatoes (cored side up) onto a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with a good pinch of salt and pepper and toss well. Roast in the oven for around 15 minutes, or until the beans are nearly soft. Add the garlic and stir it all up.

3. Return the tray to the oven and continue to roast until the tomatoes are soft and the beans are slightly wrinkly and have a few browned spots, around 10 minutes. They should look like this:

roast tomato beans instruction

4. Remove the skins from the tomatoes (with a spoon or fork, don’t burn yourself) and place the tomatoes into a bowl. Mash with a fork until you have a rough puree. Add the beans and toss to combine. Check seasonings and adjust if necessary. Serve immediately.