Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Rich cream-filled baked pumpkin (vegan)

Oh joy and happiness, pumpkin season is here! Years ago, in my vegetarian days, I once made this (very non-vegan) recipe for a roasted pumpkin filled with cheesy cream. I've been meaning to veganise it for a while as I remember it being delicious, and yesterday finally got around to it. It was amazing - I think I might have found my Christmas main! I took some inspiration from this 'moxarella' recipe for the filling.

This dish is rich, delicious, easy, and it looks absolutely gorgeous! You could make one large pumpkin as a centerpiece that everyone can scoop their share of roasted pumpkin and 'cheesy' cream from, or, if you can find them, use little individual pumpkins for each diner.

Pumpkin sizes vary, as does the thickness of their flesh and the size of their cavity when you remove the seeds, so you may have to play around with the amount of filling and cooking time. You may also, tragically, be forced to eat any leftover filling with bread or a spoon :)

This is a rough guide, but of course, use your own judgement and keep an eye on your pumpkin as it cooks. The recipe below uses a 700g pumpkin to serve 2, bakes for about 50 minutes in total, and makes about 400 ml of filling - I had some left over, but of course it's better to have too much than too little. 

- To serve 4, use a 1.5 kg pumpkin, and double the amount of the cream sauce below for the filling, bake for about 1hr 15 minutes or until the pumpkin flesh is tender.
- For individual pumpkins, use little 300g pumpkins, with about 100-150ml of filling each, and bake for 30-40 minutes or until cooked through.

You can use any variety of pumpkin or firm yellow squash with a decent-sized seed cavity: acorn squash, cow pumpkins and hokkaido pumpkins will all work well, but a butternut squash is less suitable as its seed cavity is usually quite small.

Ingredients (serves 2):
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast 
  • 1 tbsp tapioca flour 
  • 1 tsp onion powder 
  • 1 tsp garlic powder 
  • 1/2 tsp ground mustard seed 
  • salt to taste  
  • 200 ml vegan cooking cream (I used an oat-based one) 
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup of raw cashews, soaked for 6-8 hours and drained (or, if like me you didn't prepare, quick-soaked in boiling water for half an hour) 
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium scallion, sliced 
  • 4 garlic cloves (or to taste), finely chopped  
  • 1 tsp dry thyme 
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • pepper to taste 
  • a 700g pumpkin (or two 300-ish g ones)

1) Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/400°F

2) In a bowl, mix the dry ingredients: nutritional yeast, tapioca flour, onion powder, garlic powder, ground mustard seed, and salt, then transfer to a blender or wand blender container

3) Add the soaked cashew nuts, cooking cream and lemon juice, and blend until you have a smooth, creamy paste. If it seems very thick (it might if your cooking cream is thick) add a little unsweetened plant milk.

4) Prepare your pumpkin: If the pumpkin won't sit upright - some varieties like hokkaido have an outtie which can make them wobbly - carefully cut off a flat slice across the bottom: don't cut too deeply though, or the bottom will become too thin and leak. You can also build it a little support ring from tin foil to keep it straight.  
Cut a small lid from the top (keep this in one piece, you'll be using it), and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Wrap the bottom half of the pumpkin in tin foil, to stop the filling from leaking out in the unlikely event that your pumpkin bursts during cooking.

5) In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat, and add the scallion and garlic. Fry for a couple of minutes, until the garlic is only just beginning to brown. Then lower the heat, and pour in your cream mixture, and add the thyme, bay leaf and pepper. Stir the sauce constantly until it thickens and becomes elastic, pulling away from the sides of the pan as you stir it, about 5 minutes. Your sauce may get a strange curdled look halfway through - don't worry, it will smooth out again!
Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed. I made mine quite salty because yum, and also because the pumpkin is unsalted and dilutes the saltiness as you eat it with the filling.

6) Spoon the cream filling - including the bay leaf - into your pumpkin until it is almost full, and replace the pumpkin lid. Put the pumpkin in an oven dish (again, for the unlikely event that there is leakage), place in the hot oven, and bake for about 35 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure your pumpkin hasn't split and isn't burning - but don't worry if the lid blackens a little.
After 35 minutes (or 15 minutes before the end of cooking time if you're using a different-sized pumpkin), remove the lid, and check if it seems properly cooked. If so, remove the  lid from the oven, and let the pumpkin bake without the lid for a further 10-15 minutes, until your cream filling is starting to lightly brown.
You can use the baking time to make your side dishes - I recommend a green salad and crusty bread for dipping in your pumpkin!

7) Remove from the oven, and serve! You can serve straight from the pumpkin at the table (which I think looks fantastic), or scoop the roasted flesh with cream sauce into individual bowls before serving.


Possible variations: Next time I am going to try this with leeks in stead of the scallion, and will be adding a small splash of white wine to the filling. Let me know in comments if you come up with any new and wonderful variations of your own!

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Vegan mini spinach quiche recipe!

So the miracle that is aquafaba has been blowing up in the vegan blogosphere and facebook-o-sphere for the past few months: It turns out that the liquid from canned beans - the aforementioned aquafaba - can be beaten to a stiff foam, just like egg whites. It can be used to make meringues, chocolate mousse, and all kinds of other things that you'd use beaten egg whites for. Today, I used them to make these delicious little spinach mini-quiches, and I think this is going to be my new go-to party snack, they are *so* good!

I've made quiches using chickpea flour before, and found them tasty but a little stodgy. The beaten aquafaba gives the quiches an airiness which I haven't been able to achieve without eggs until now. The foam does subside after a while, so once you have folded it into the quiche filling, you should bake the quiches immediately, or you will end up with moist but flat quiches.

Aquafaba can be beaten by hand, but it will take a long time and a lot of effort: if you have one, use a mixer or a wand blender's aerator blade - I have the latter, and it gets my aquafaba to the desired stiffness in just a couple of minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C
You will need a muffin tin or muffin cups

Ingredients for 8 mini quiches:
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped  
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped 
  • 100 g spinach, finely chopped  
  • olive oil for frying
Dry ingredients: 
  • 3/4 cup besan (aka chickpea flour or gram flour)  
  • 2 tbs nutritional yeast
  • pinch of kala namak (black salt, you can leave it out if not available)  
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder 
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder 
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika (if you have it, I'm sure it would be great without as well) 
  • salt and pepper to taste 
Wet ingredients:
To assemble: 
  • 75 ml aquafaba
  • vegan puff pastry, cut into 8 2inch/5cm squares (optional - you could also just pour the filling directly into the greased muffin tin for a gluten-free version) 
  • olive oil to grease the muffin tin


1) Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil with a pinch of salt over low-medium heat until the onions are glassy, about 10 minutes. Then add the chopped spinach, and saute a little longer until the spinach has wilted. Put in a sieve to drain.

2) In a mixing bowl, mix all the dry ingredients: chickpea flour, nutritional yeast, kala namak, onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika powder and salt and pepper to taste (you will also be adding some miso paste, so go easy on the salt)

3) In another small bowl, mix coconut cream, lemon zest and miso until there are no lumps of miso in the mix

4) Add the coconut cream mix to the dry ingredients and blend well (this should give you quite a dry, crumbly mix), then stir in the drained onion-spinach mix.

5) Whip the aquafaba to stiff peaks, and then very gently fold it into the the filling mix - this should now be quite wet, but light/foamy. The folding method is the same as that for egg whites, demonstrated here from 1:47 (sorry, I couldn't find an eggless demonstration video :( ).

6) Lightly grease muffin cups or a muffin tin with olive oil, and press the puff pastry squares (if using) into the tin. Carefully scoop filling into each of the cups until they are 3/4 full - mine covered the puff pastry completely. If you want the filling to be completely encased in pastry, use larger pastry squares or circles.

7) Bake at 180°C for 20-25 minutes, until the quiches are golden brown. A lot of quiche recipes say to open the oven halfway through to let out steam, so I did that, I'm not sure if it's necessary or not :) When they are done, let them cool in the tin for 5 minutes, and then slide a knife around the edges of the quiches to loosen them, and remove to cool further on a wire rack.

I prefer them warm, but they are delicious both warm and cold. Enjoy!!

Friday, 26 September 2014

Soy-free vegan scramble recipe

I have a confession to make: I am a vegan and I don't like tofu. I don't like its texture or its chalky aftertaste which I can taste through pretty much any seasoning or sauce. I have therefore always felt distinctly 'meh' about that vegan breakfast staple, tofu scramble. I also felt slightly left out of all the excitement. So, I decided to create something scrambly that *I* would enjoy. Drawing inspiration from both Indian pudla and Vietnamese Banh Xeo, I bring you: Besan scramble!

You can use any spices and vegetables you like in this scramble: cumin, coriander & paprika are also nice for instance. If you use larger vegetables (e.g. chopped onion, garlic, mushrooms, courgette) saute them a bit longer before adding the chickpea batter. This is my current favourite mild, creamy, cheesy version*. You don't have to be too precise with the measurements, these are all guestimates and it always seems to turn out well:

Ingredients for one large portion:
  • 1/2 cup of chickpea flour (aka besan or gram flour)
  • 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp of dried dill (or any other herbs or spices of your choice) 
  • pinch of kala namak (optional) 
  • a squeeze of lemon juice 
  • 1/4 cup of full fat coconut milk
  • water
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced (or any vegetables of your choice)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil 

1) In a bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients including some salt and pepper
2) add the lemon juice and coconut milk and mix well
3) add small amounts of water and stir until you have something with the consistency of a thick pancake batter
The scramble has the Pumpkin
seal of approval!
4) In an non-stick or cast iron frying pan, heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat
5) Add the srping onions and a little salt and sautee briefly, then add the chickpea batter
6) cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently to break it up into a scramble, until the pieces are just beginning to brown. Or don't stir, and make an omelette, flipping it over halfway until nicely browned on both sides.
7) Taste for seasoning, and serve!

* Also pictured is a chopped up portabello mushroom sauteed with a little salt and smoked Spanish paprika - the combination of that with the scramble on toast was *divine*.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Vegan Tempeh-Cashew Balls of Glory - a recipe

Fiiiiinally, a new recipe for you!!! These tempeh-cashew balls with their spicy tomato sauce are absolutely delicious: I'm afraid making them is quite an involved process, but I think it's worth it!

Possible variations:
- You can of course spice these however you want - adjust the amounts of all the spices and garlic in the recipe to your tastes, or for instance go for an oriental version with soy sauce, five spice and ginger in the balls, and a coriander sauce in stead of tomato sauce
- I've made something similar in the past with finely ground seitan in stead of tempeh. I think a mix of the two would be good, too, and it would give them a fantastic texture. I've also made the seitan variation with half cashew and half pistachio nuts, which was delicious.
- To reduce time and effort, you can of course buy tomato sauce rather than make your own.

(makes about 15 golf-sized balls)
Tempeh Balls:

  • 200g of tempeh, coarsely grated 
  • 5-6 spring onions, finely chopped (or one regular onion) 
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped 
  • a cup (prior to processing) of raw cashew nuts, coarsely chopped in a food processor 
  • olive oil for sauteeing
  • 3 medium potatoes, cubed and boiled until soft
  • 1 tbsp of unscented coconut oil
  • half a cup of oats, ground into flour in a food processor 
  • half a cup of nutritional yeast
  • 1 heaping tsp of tomato paste
  • 1 tsp of garlic powder
  • 1 tsp of onion powder 
  • 1 tsp of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp of smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp of dried thyme 
  • salt and pepper to taste

Tomato sauce:

  • 3-4 spring onions, chopped 
  • olive oil for sauteeing
  • 5 ripe medium-sized tomatoes
  • 3 sundried tomatoes (in oil or rehydrated), finely chopped
  • chili flakes to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste 
  • pinch of dried oregano and basil


1) For the balls, gently sautee the spring onions and garlic in olive oil in a large skillet until the onions are soft, then add the grated tempeh and continue to sautee until it begins to brown. If you want your balls to be more moist, add some more olive oil and let it be absorbed by the tempeh

2) Meanwhile, mix together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl: cashews, oat-flour, nutritional yeast, spices, herbs and seasoning

3) In a food processor, blend together half of the boiled potatoes and all of the coconut oil and tomato paste: this will become a very sticky, glutinous goo which will help bind your balls :-)

4) Mix the tempeh, onions and garlic into the dry ingredients, followed by the potato glue, and knead it all together. If the mixture is too dry and doesn't stick, blend additional potatoes and add them as needed - go by feel, you want to end up with something you can shape into balls that will hold together, and that isn't too dry. Taste the mix for seasoning, and add salt, pepper and spices as needed.

5) Refrigerate the mix for at least an hour to further bind the mixture. If your mix is sticky enough and holds together when shaped, you may be able to skip this step if pressed for time. While the mix is being chilled, pre-heat the oven to 200°C.

6) shape your mix into golf-sized balls, and place them on a baking tray or oven dish lined with greaseproof paper. Bake them in the oven for around 40 minutes, turning them over once halfway. You want them to develop a slightly crunchy brown outer layer, but not to burn of course, so keep and eye on them, different ovens can behave very differently.

7) While the balls are baking, prepare the tomato sauce if you are making your own: Sautee the spring onions in the olive oil, and meanwhile blend the fresh and sundried tomatoes in a food processor or blender until you have a slightly chunky sauce. Add the tomato sauce to the pan with the onions, along with the spices, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer until a lot of the water has evaporated and the sauce has the flavour and thickness you want. You could also add a splash of red wine or vinegar and/or a pinch of sugar or other sweetener to enhance the flavour.

8) Serve!! Delicious with saffron rice, or oven-baked potatoes, and a large salad.

Friday, 5 July 2013

My rooftop garden

And now for something slightly different: A couple of months ago, I moved house, from a place with no outdoor space whatsoever, to a place with a sizable roof terrace. I'm very excited about this, and have been gardening like mad! I have a mix of herbs, vegetables and flowers (whereby I tried to pick good flowers for bees), and most of my containers (as well as my garden furniture :D) was either found or re-used from other stuff. Just some pics to show you what I've been up to:

Making a pallet garden

Filling the pallet with earth

...and planting the first plants: thyme, strawberries, lavender and echinacea

The pallet in its vertical position, after giving the plants a week to settle in horizontal position. I added some flowering plants, cat grass (in a bid to keep my two furry monsters away from the rest of the plants :-)), various kinds of lettuce, and planted land cress, garden cress and coriander seeds.

The bean box, built from the wood of an old Ikea futon frame

The pallet plants growing

...and adding irrigation pipes (old curtain rails with holes drilled in them) when watering the pallet proved tricky

The emergence of the snow peas

Box built from shelves of a disused Ikea shelving unit, filled with tomatoes and indian cress

...and the terrace today :-)

You can't see it too well here, but my honeysuckle is growing enthusiastically. Also in the pot are rosemary and lavendar, and in the pot next to it are indian cress, mint, and a courgette plant - unfortunately, I think the courgette has Zucchini Yellow Mosaic Virus, and I'll have to take it out as it's unlikely to produce much :(

Under the second pallet, the rucola has blossomed (after I got to use loads of it in pastas and salads) - once it goes to seed, I'll try to harvest and save it for next year.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Great vegan fennel and asparagus risotto

Joy! My weekly CSA packages have started up again: I get mine from a small vegetable farm run by a friend, Tuinderij de Groene Steen. In the winter months there isn't enough produce to make the packages, so I have to do without. However, they've been back for a few weeks now, and this week my package included - among other things - fennel, green asparagus, and fresh garlic, which I turned into a deeeeelicious risotto. I'm currently trying to refrain from eating the portion I saved for lunch tomorrow....

This is an adaptation of a recipe I've been making for a long time: before, I've always used roasted red peppers in stead of asparagus - either way is lovely, I'd recommend you make this version in asparagus season, and red pepper the rest of the year :)

(serves 2)

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 3 small onions, chopped
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, minced (adjust quantity to taste)
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, chopped, including stalks and fronds
  • 120 ml dry white wine
  • 120 grams arborio rice
  • 500 ml vegetable stock
  • 8 large green asparagus, heads removed and stems halved lengthwise (if you have smaller asparagus, use more and leave them whole)
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2 tbs ground almonds
  • 3 tbs nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • salt and pepper to taste


1) Gently grill the asparagus - both the halved stems and the heads - in a grill pan or under the grill in your oven. Turn and taste occasionally: The asparagus should be cooked, but still firm. When they are done, remove from heat and set aside.

2) Meanwhile, over a low fire, gently sauté the onions, garlic and fennel in the olive oil, for 10-15 minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent.

3) Add the rice, and fry with the vegetables briefly, stirring so the grains are covered in oil. Then, add the white wine, and cook until the wine is absorbed - this should only take a couple of minutes.

4) Add 1/3 of the vegetable stock, and simmer gently. When it begins to be absorbed add more in small amounts: you may not need all the stock, and cooking times can vary depending on the rice you use. It took about 25 minutes for my rice to cook, taste regularly to see whether yours is done: risotto should be very soft in texture. When it reaches that point, stop adding stock and remove from heat.

5) Chop the grilled asparagus stalks into bite-sized pieces, and stir into the risotto.

6) In a bowl, combine the nutritional yeast, almonds, garlic and onion powder and salt. Then, stir into the risotto together with the lemon zest. Taste for seasoning, and garnish servings with grilled asparagus heads.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Recipe for delicious vegan chocolate and strawberry pie

This one is all kinds of sinful, but no animals were harmed in the making of, the karma must cancel out some of the calories, right? :-) This has been a *huge* hit every single time I've made it - and it looks pretty, too! Don't be daunted by the recipe: Yes, it comes in three parts, and yes you need to make it in stages (the chocolate ganache needs at least a few hours to cool and set in the fridge before you can make the strawberry topping), but none of it is complicated. I purchased a pie tin with a removable bottom a while ago, and it's fantastic for this kind of pie. A spring-form tin will do the job well too, but I wouldn't use a pie tin with a fixed bottom as it will be hard to remove the pie from the tin and serve it without it falling apart.  


Biscuit pie crust:
  • 150 - 200 g vegan biscuits (I use wholemeal wheat and oat cookies, but any dry biscuit will do)
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder 
  • 75 g vegan margarine
Chocolate ganache 
  • 400 g dark chocolate (most dark chocolate is vegan, check the ingredient list to be sure) 
  • one 400 ml can of coconut milk
Strawberry topping: 
  • 400 g of fresh strawberries
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tbsp of maple syrup (or other sweetener of your choice)
  • 1 tsp of agar agar powder 
  • 200 ml water
Pre-heat the oven at 180*C

1) Melt the margarine over a low heat  
2) Pulverise the biscuits using a food processor. If you don't have a food processor, try putting the cookies, 2-3 at a time, in a zip-lock bag, and rolling a glass bottle over them until they are crushed.
3) Stir the cocoa powder into the cookie crumbs, followed by the melted margarine, until they are well mixed
4) Press the sticky crumb mixture into a 22 cm pie tin to cover the bottom and sides. If you are using a higher spring-form tin, cover the sides up to about 3 cm.  
5) Bake at 180*C for 10 minutes, then set on a rack to cool. 

Chocolate ganache:
6) Break the chocolate into pieces, put into a heat-proof bowl (e.g. stainless steel or pyrex) with the coconut milk
7) Place your bowl on a small saucepan filled with water, so that part of the bowl is submerged in the water. Place the saucepan on the stove over a low heat, and stir the chocolate and coconut milk until fully melted and combined
8) Pour the chocolate mixture into the crust, and refrigerate for 3-4 hours (or longer of course, if that fits your schedule better), until the ganache has set. Only then prepare the strawberry topping.

Strawberry topping: 
9) take about 100g of the least pretty and ripe strawberries, and puree them with the water, lemon juice and maple syrup or other sweetener. Taste and add more syrup if necessary. 
10) halve the remaining strawberries, and place them cut-side-down on the chocolate ganache. I like to make concentric circles, but be creative and turn it into your own work of art :-) 
11) In a saucepan, gently bring the strawberry puree to a simmer, stir in the agar agar, and allow to simmer for a further 5 minutes, stirring regularly.
12) Carefully pour the mixture over the strawberries on the pie, until the top is evenly covered. Do this right after removing the saucepan from the heat, as the agar agar will begin to solidify immediately. 
13) Place the cake back in the fridge, until the topping has completely cooled down and set. In hot weather, store the cake in the fridge until use, or your ganache might melt :-)

This. Is. Fricking. Delicious.