Saturday, 7 September 2013

A Trio of Cultured Vegan Cheeses, Including Tofu Ricotta

Clockwise from top: cashew cheese with smoked paprika on seed cracker with tomato, tofu cheese on oatcake with black olive, herb and black pepper cashew cheese on buckwheat cracker with fresh basil.
If you are entertaining, lunching or picnicking and you feel like a change from nut butters, hummus or avocado for your jacket potatoes, sarnies or crackers, then we'd recommend having a go at making your own cultured vegan cheeses. Vegan cheese made this way has the tangy sharpness of dairy cheese that commercial non-dairy cheeses so rarely have; a flavour much missed by many vegans. You can make them with or without a dehydrator as long as you have somewhere warm to culture them, and you can even age them, so we hear (but we're always so excited that we eat them as soon as they're cultured..) 
Another plus is that they are relatively inexpensive to produce and need few ingredients. We bought a jar of probiotic powder (acidophilus) online, which has lasted us ages, and that was our only major investment. To make cashew cheese, look here for the instructions. For the tofu cheese, see below the following picture:

Tofu cheese has a fresh, ricotta-like taste and texture, or can be more like cottage cheese if you add a little salt.
My husband invented the tofu cheese- and it truly is a cheese, having been curdled and then cultured. He made tofu from 1 litre of soya milk but did not press it (instructions here) and he added a litre of soya milk and 1 tsp probiotic powder then left it to culture in a lidded container in a warm place for about 24 hours. When he opened the lid, it was bubbly and creamy, with a fresh taste. It was very soft and spreadable. He added a little salt to half, and left the rest plain. Next time we're going to hang it in muslin for several hours once it's cultured to see what kind of texture that produces. This cheese is potentially very versatile; I'm planning to make some kind of creamy pasta and spinach with it, and it would surely be be an awesome addition to dauphinoise potatoes, moussaka and the like...

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Banana Berry Almond Milk Shake- vegan, sugar free

The almond milk makes it thick and creamy!
Mellow, sweet and creamy as it is, we think this smoothie would be just as delicious made with early Autumn blackberries instead of strawberries, or even made into icecream (now there's an idea...)

 For two servings, you need:
1 cup (250ml) almond milk*
2 bananas,
10 strawberries (or the equivalent in blackberries)
6 dried dates

  • In your blender or food processor, blend the almond milk and dates together until smooth.
  • Add the banana and berries, and continue to blend until thoroughly mixed and free of any lumps.
  • Serve cold- it's even nicer of you use frozen banana and berries which have been allowed to defrost just a little.
*We made our own by simply blending freshly ground almonds with water and straining it. If you use a bought almond milk, you may need to use less dates if it is sweetened.

This post goes to Vegan Thursdays

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Vegan Lemon Meringue Pie- an experiment!

It may look unconventional, but it tasted just right!

My daughter, as regular readers may know, doesn't really like cake so when her birthday comes around, she usually asks for some kind of pie instead. Last year it was Cherry Pie and the year before it was Pear and Emmental. This year, to challenge myself, I suggested vegan lemon meringue pie, to which she enthusiastically agreed. Radha has never tried conventional meringues before, having been brought up on a vegetarian diet that excludes eggs as well as meat and fish, so I figured it would be pretty safe bet. On the day, however, I ended up very pushed for time and had to make a few shortcuts. The result was somewhat unconventional, but nevertheless tasted good and was worth posting. 

  • I used ready made white shortcrust pastry (it was vegan), but usually would have made my own.
  • I had no time to make my usual tarte au citron filling, but instead made a kind of lemon curd by making lemon marmalade to which I added a little coconut oil. (The dark colour is because I used brown sugar.) It was quite a thin layer, but very sweet and tangy.
  • The meringue was made using Orgran No Egg, according to the recipe on the packet, which I followed to the letter. Maybe I over-whisked it though, as the mixture suddenly became runnier and so I had to spread it over the base of a lined tray to cook it rather than making individual meringues (the idea being to top the pie with them.) Because of this, the meringue was crispy on the top and edges, but marshmallow-y in the middle. It was just fine crumbled/ cut into small pieces and scattered on top of the pie, however.
  • I will probably have another go at this, making my own pastry, using the tarte au citron filling and this time I will spoon the meringue mixture on the pie and bake it that way. It will come out softer, perhaps, but the finished pie will look more conventional.
...So what are your own favourite cooking experiments?

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Ingredient of the Month 24: Brown Rice, and Brown Rice Bonanza Event announcement

This is organic long grain brown rice...
This month's ingredient is a wholefood basic, but one which has undeservedly acquired a bad reputation by being the butt of jokes about hippies and "rabbit food"! For a very long time white rice has been seen as a status symbol (just like white bread versus wholegrain bread) despite now being more expensive than white, but I would say that once you get a taste for brown rice, no white rice will do (although basmati comes a close second). It takes longer but is easier to cook properly, it has a delicate flavour and interesting texture and is way, way better for you than its polished white counterpart. In fact according to macrobiotic principles, short grain brown rice is the most perfectly balanced food. As with white rice (which is, after all, just processed brown rice anyway) there are many different types of brown rice: it can be long or short grain and even brown basmati is now available. There are even black and red wild rices, which are usually to be found mixed with cultivated rice grains, although these do belong to a different grass species from ordinary rice. 

...and this is how we buy ours!
Nutritional Benefits:
As the bran and the germ of the rice is left intact and only the outermost husk removed, brown rice contains more nutrients than white rice. (The inner part, the endosperm, is mainly starch.) Brown rice contains more B-vitamins than white, plus manganese, magnesium, selenium, tryptophan and some iron. It is high in dietary fibre, and also contains some fatty acids which may help lower LDL ("bad") chloresterol levels. Brown rice is 5% protein, which means that in every 100g there is 5g of protein- not a lot, but it all adds up over the day.

Storage and Cooking:
Because it still has its bran and germ, which contain fats, brown rice has a shelf life of about six months- shorter than that of white rice- before it goes rancid. It should be stored covered and in a dry place. Freezing is also a good way to store cooked brown rice.
We find that short grain brown rice can be washed, then cooked in twice the amount of water until the water is absorbed, pretty much like white rice, and it doesn't take that much longer. You can also buy "easy-cook" brown rice from many supermarkets, which has already been partly cooked and takes an even shorter time. We currently have long grain brown rice in our kitchen (see pictures) which does take considerably longer to cook. We find it helpful to wash and soak it at least a couple of hours in advance to shorten the cooking time somewhat. Failing that, we use a pressure cooker with slightly more water than usual added to speed things up a little. Even with these methods, however, it still takes at least half an hour to become soft- but the result is always worth it! One Japanese method for preparing brown rice is to wash it then soak it for about 20 hours, so that it germinates (begins to sprout). The resulting rice has been "activated" and the enzymes produced give it a more complete amino acid profile- this effectively means it then has better quality protein.

What will you cook with yours??

Brown Rice Bonanza Event!
This month (September 2013) we want to showcase recipes using brown rice, to celebrate its versatility and nutritional superiority over white rice. Brown rice deserves a better name! If you would like to share your recipes using any type of brown rice in any kind of sweet or savoury dish, please use the linky tool below. (To see the list of recipes you also need to click on it). You can link any archived posts as long as you add the link to this page to them and mention this event. Please use the logo above to help spread the word. We've already added a couple ourselves, just to whet your appetites!
PS: The roundup for last month's Summer Squashes Event is coming soon, I promise...