Tag Archives: Tofu

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.
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.