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.
For the crust
2 cups almond meal
1tbsp ground chia seeds
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
Salt and pepper to taste
Handful sun dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 170C or 160C fan forced
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.