I live in an apartment and therefore do not have any available outdoor space to grow vegetables and fruit (the balcony doesn’t count). However, though, I’m lucky enough to have friends who, knowing my obsession with food and natural produce, occasionally bring me goodies from their gardens. This time around, my dear friend Filipa has brought me tons of thyme, an extra large zucchini (they’re everywhere around this time of the year, aren’t they?) and a bag full of passion fruit.
I knew straight way what to do with the first two ingredients (a huge batch of za’atar with the thyme, and a simple zucchini and apple soup), but I struggled with the latter. I’ve never been a huge fan of passion fruit, but knowing how outstanding it looks on desserts, specially cheesecakes and the like, I decided to make a tart with it. I approached it the way I usually do with vegan cheesecake-y desserts – I’m not a fan of using tofu, so the filling was coconut and banana based, firmed up with the help of Mr. Agar. I was very happy with how it turned out, specially because the filling had just the right texture – not too firm, but not too jiggly either. Eaten cold, I dare say it was probably the best dessert I’ve made this year.
Coconut, Roasted Banana and Passion Fruit Tart
for the crust:
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 1/2 cups oat flour (gluten free or not)
2 Tbs. flaxseed meal + 1/4 cup water
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 tsp. fine grain sea salt
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
for the filling:
400 ml /2 cans full fat coconut milk
2 tsp. agar agar flakes
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, and seeds scraped
2 Tbs. tapioca starch
5 Tbs. water
for the passion fruit sauce:
6 medium sized passion fruit
3 Tbs. brown rice syrup
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/350F. Line two small trays with parchment paper. Add the banana, unpeeled, to one of the trays, and the sunflower seeds to the other. Put the trays in the oven and roast the seeds for 10-15 minutes (redistribute them halfway through, so they’re evenly toasted), and the banana for 5 minutes longer. Take the trays out of the oven and let the seeds and banana cool down.
2. When the toasted seeds are cool enough to handle, add them to a food processor and process until finely ground. In a large bowl, add the seeds, oat flour and salt. In another bowl, add the flaxseed meal along with 1/4 cup of water. Mix well and add the coconut oil and brown rice syrup, stirring everything together until thoroughly combined. Add the wet mixture to the dry one and mix until a firm dough comes together. If the dough seems wet, add a little more flour. Basically, it’s perfect as long as it doesn’t stick to your hands or the bowl.
3. Lightly oil a 33 x 9 cm non stick pie pan and, with your fingers, press the dough into it. Cover it with parchment paper, add some beans or pie weights and blind bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges of the tart are golden brown.
4. While the crust is baking, make the filling. In a small bowl, whisk together the tapioca starch and 5 Tbs. of water until well combined. In a small pot over low-medium heat, add the coconut milk, agar agar flakes, vanilla seeds and brown rice syrup. Whisk the mixture constantly for about 8 minutes. Now, add the tapioca mixture to the pot and whisk for additional 2 minutes, or until the liquid has thickened.
5. Unpeel the banana and add it to a blender or food processor. Add the coconut milk mixture and blend until smooth. Add the filling to the previously baked crust. Let it cool to room temperature and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
6. Right before serving, cut the passion fruit in half and extract their pulp with a spoon to a bowl. Add the brown rice syrup and stir to incorporate. Drizzle the sauce over the tart and serve.
Avocado is one of those fruits I always keep handy. I used to use it strictly for making guacamole, but then I started incorporating it into salads and, more recently, smoothies and desserts. Fruit desserts and salads are something I’m particular fond of, and today’s recipe was born out of the need to use a great part of the huge bag of kiwi fruit my aunt gave us (she grew and picked it herself). Don’t be skeptical about the use of avocado in here: its primary function is to give creaminess, and you’ll barely feel its taste. On the other hand, if you’re planning on doing this, it’s key to use ripe kiwi fruit, otherwise it’ll taste bitter and give you this weird feeling in the mouth (at least that’s what happens to me when I eat it underripe). Also, and I know this comes with a bit of a delay, but I wish you all a great 2012, full of exciting projects and recipes (I made this list where I wrote down recipes I want to have on my repertoire, and Socca is the first in line, so I guess this is a hint of what might come up next in here).
*Another reason to convince you to try out the avocado-kiwi fruit combo: Jennifer and Jaclyn’s version of a similar pudding.
Avocado and Kiwifruit Pudding with Lime
for the pudding:
2 avocados (I used one large and one medium sized), (320 g)
7 kiwis (310 g)
½ banana (50 g)
¼ cup (60 ml) agave nectar
zest of two limes
juice of one lime
a few banana slices
2 to 3 kiwis, cut into cubes
fresh mint leaves
1. Put all the ingredients for the pudding in a food processor or blender and process until smooth.
2. Divide the pudding among four small bowls and add a few banana and kiwi fruit slices on top, as well as some mint leaves. Serve and enjoy!
I’ll start this post by sharing with you some of the kitchen disasters that have happened around here lately. The first one happened a couple days ago, when I attempted to make some hazelnut cookies: some minutes after I’ve put them in the oven, we heard some noises coming from the oven, and in the end it turned out one of the oven glasses has broken. Surprisingly, the cookies weren’t affected and were still edible.
The second disaster happened a few days later: I was working on this crème brûlée recipe and used the food processor to blend all the ingredients I was going to use; suddendly, when trying to pull out the blender jar, all the liquid spilled away on the floor – perhaps I didn’t attach the jar properly to its base? After cleaning the kitchen floor, table and counter, I was determined to start over again – I wanted crème brûlée and, whatever happened next, I’d have my serving of it that night.
This créme brulée fever has triggered thanks to the MasterChef Australia (a TV show I’m completely addicted to, by the way) as in one of the shows I watched recently, the contestants were taught, in a masterclass, how to perfectly make the said dessert. I never cared too much for crème brûlée, but the moment I saw and heard on the show that burnt sugar surface crackling with the hit of the spoon, I was determined to make my own version of the french classic. The MasterChef recipe, even though looking (and certainly tasting) incredible, relied on eggs to get that pudding like texture – soft, smooth, but somehow solid. My purpose, when attempting at making an eggless version, was to achieve a similar consistency as it is nearly all crème brûlée is about. Arrowroot flour and agar agar flakes were then used in order to give creaminess and structure to this vanilla flavored custard; to finish things off, a good layer of golden and sort of smokey-tasting sugar was added, for extra sweetness and yumminess.
(eggless and dairy-free) Crème Brûlée
(for 5 sevings)
4 cups (1 liter) non-dairy milk (I used soy milk, but almond milk would work as well)
1/3 cup (65 grams) muscovado sugar (plus extra, for the topping)
4 ½ tablespoons arrowroot flour
1 3/4 teaspoons agar agar flakes
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cinnamon stick
Notes: I’ve used agar agar flakes in here, and even though I’ve blended all the ingredients in the food processor before actually start cooking (as it’s suggested below), I could still feel some little pieces of agar which haven’t been blended properly. They were so few I actually didn’t mind, but if you want to avoid this, use powdered agar instead – you have to use less, I’d say ¾ to 1 teaspoon (I haven’t tested, so this is merely referential). On the other hand, feel free to use a vanilla bean (split in half, lengthwise, seeds scrapped straight into the pot) instead of vanilla extract.
1. Put all the ingredients in a food processor or vitamix and mix, at medium-high speed, for 30 seconds, or until everything is well blended.
2. In a large pot over medium heat, pour the mixture and stir with a spoon, until it barely starts boiling. It might happen that some scum forms on the surface – you can skim it off easily with a metal spoon. As soon as the liquid is boiling, decrease the heat to low and continue to whisk vigourously for 10 to 12 minutes longer. The mixture should thicken up substancially and you’ll know it’s ready when, while stirring, the spoon leaves trail marks, showing off the bottom of the pot.
3. Divide the créme brulée among 5 ramekins, and let them cool at room temperature. Once cooled, refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
4. To make the “burnt” topping, add 1 tablespoon of sugar on top of each serving and, using a kitchen torch, caramelize the sugar, working in circular moves. Add up to 1 more tablespoon of sugar to each rameking, if you want a slightly more thick topping.
5. Let it set for 5 minutes before serving. Bon appetit!
The idea for this dessert has been in my mind for almost a week. I’ve had some filo pastry on the freezer that would expire next month, so I desperatly needed to use it in some kind of sweet and/or savory treat. I’ve bookmarked a recipe from Jamie Oliver’s book Jamie Does, that basically consisted of feta cheese wrapped up in filo pastry. It looked absolutely stunning. “Are you going to replace the feta cheese for tofu?”, my mum asked. “Humn, no. I think I’m going to take this to a whole different level”, I replied back. In fact, substituting the feta cheese for tofu was my very first idea, and even though it sounded great, I didn’t want to make a dairy free version of Jamie’s recipe by using ingredients, such as tofu, that have a similar look to feta but – let’s be honest – don’t have that strong character the latter has. I’m glad I’ve worked on the recipe and made something different from the original source: pears, raisins, and a good amount of Port wine come into play, and thus a new recipe is born.
This recipe is, in fact, very easy to make, and even though filo is a very delicate pastry, with a bit of practice you manage to work with it very easily. As I was writing the recipe today, I suddendly blocked when it came to explain on how to work and fold the filo sheets. I’ve done my best to clear it out for you, but I honestly think that’s something that would be better explained with the add of a simple drawing. Anyway, I have made no drawing, nor I took pictures of that part of the process, so if any of you have doubts regarding that component of the recipe, I’ll draw a quick diagram and post it up here to help you to visualize things. Anyway, don’t worry too much on trying to get perfectly shaped rectangle parcels: as long as the filling is sealed, you’re good to go.
Pear and Port Wine Filo Pastries
(makes 4 pies)
4 medium sized pears (350 grams), peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon vegan margarine
2 tablespoons muscavado sugar
60 grams (1/3 cup) raisins
60 ml (1/4 cup) port wine
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8 sheets filo pastry
olive oil for brushing
a handful of roughly chopped and toasted almonds
agave nectar, for drizzling
1. Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC. Line a baking dish with parchment paper and coat it lightly with olive oil.
2. In a pan over medium-heat, melt the vegan margarine. Once melted, add the sugar, cinnamon, raisins and pears and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until the pears are cooked through. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the port wine. Bring the mixture to a boil and, once boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for additional 10 minutes, or until the wine has reduced and the pears look almost caramelized. Set aside to cool.
3. Lay one sheet of filo pastry in you kitchen counter/table. (Keep the remaining sheets wraped up in a damp clean towel, to prevent them from drying out.) Brush it lightly with olive oil and add another sheet on top , so that you “glue” the two sheets together. Now, carefully cut the sheets in half across the width, so that you have 2 long pieces of filo pastry in front of you. Repeat this process with the remaning sheets of filo.
4. In the center of one of these sheets, place 2 to 3 tablespoons of the pear and port wine mixture. Now, flip one of the sides over the filling, so that its end almost reaches the end of the other side. After you’ve done it, flip the other side as well. Now, you should have 2 open sides parallel to your body. Carefully flip them so that they meet in the center of the parcel. Repeat this process with the remaining sheets of filo.
5. When you’re done, place the 4 parcels in a baking dish and bake for 5 to 8 minutes in the preheated oven, or until they’re golden brown.
6. To serve, drizzle a little agave nectar over each pastry and scatter some toasted almonds on top.
recipe inspired by Jamie Does, published by Penguin Group, 2010
I do think that, in terms of palate, there are two kinds of people: the sweet and the savory ones. I’m definitely part of the second category. Since I was a kid, I never got particularly excited about desserts and sweets in general; everytime I’d crave something, that would be some sort of savory food. I also think that this “tendency” (or whatever it is named) for savory goods really defined my way of cooking: I do feel more comfortable cooking grains, salads, legumes and soups, rather than baking or making puddings or anything sweet. The techniques for cooking savory or sweet goods are also different and, in my case, the fact that desserts (specially baked ones) call for a lot of measuring in order to achieve the desired result, goes a bit against my intuitive and spontaneous way of approaching cooking.
But anyway, if there’s someone who really has a natural tendency for sweet stuff, that person is certainly my mother. At first, she was a bit reluctant about this dessert, as it calls for avocado on it (an ingredient that she doesn’t appreciate that much), but after the first taste, there was no way back for her: the rich flavour of the carob as well as the slight hint of orange, rapidly converted her sweet tooth. The pudding was inspired by the recipe for Carob Pudding from the gorgeous Lucid Food, by Louisa Shafia, and my take on it goes with the inclusion of the orange zest and juice, as well as the crunch topping (that is also based on a crunch topping recipe of that very same book, although in the book it’s served over a different dessert) , that contrasts well with the creaminess of the pudding. Serve it cold, in small ramekins, and bare in mind that the taste of the carob is quite distinct from that of the chocolate, but by no means less rich and intense.
2 ripe avocados
6 tablespoons carob powder
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons agave nectar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon orange zest
for the crunch topping:
1/2 cup roalled oats
1/2 cup almonds
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1. Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC.
1. In a blender or food processor, puree the ingredients for the pudding until smooth. Pour into 4 small ramekins and chill in the refrigerator while you make the topping.
3. Combine all the ingredients for the topping in a bowl. Spread evenly on a baking dish, lined with parchment paper, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring ocasionally to prevent from burning, or until the topping is dry and golden brown.
4. To serve, scatter 1 tablespoon of the crunch topping over each serving of pudding. The topping can be kept, stored in the refrigerator and in an airtight container, for up to one week. Served over yoghurt or added to a bowl with cold milk, makes an excellent breakfast.
Adapted from Lucid Food, By Louisa Shafia, published by Ten Speed Press