Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Blood Orange Curd Vegan Cheesecake Tart

Sometimes things just come together even better than you had ever imagined. I had an imagine in my mind of this tart and I was pretty sure it was going to taste great. What I wasn't prepared for was it turning out to be probably the best thing I have ever eaten. I'm not even joking. The pastry is light and super crumbly, the cheesecake filling is soft, luscious and creamy, the orange curd it tangy and melts in your mouth, and the candied blood orange slices not only look beautiful but add the slight bitter sweetness of candied peel (because, yes, you can eat the peel and, yes, it's delicious!).

I had originally planned to make this using only blood oranges, a blood orange curd with candied blood oranges on top. Foolishly, I didn't think this through and I only bought 2 blood oranges. When I realised that I would need more, I went back but they were sadly sold out at my fruit shop. So I made the curd using a regular naval orange and used the blood orange slices as the candied garnish. I actually think it's rather lovely because of the bright colour contrast, but if you have plenty of blood oranges then feel free to substitute blood orange into the curd as well, I'm sure it will be amazing.

There are four separate parts to make for this tart, but they are all quite straight forward so it's not too hard and it doesn't actually take too long. It's also conveniently no-bake, so just pop it in the fridge once you're done and it's ready to go. You could also make this in a round cake tin as a cheesecake, but I would recommend doubling everything and probably tripling the cheesecake filling.

Blood Orange Curd Vegan Cheesecake Tart

250g light digestive biscuits (or other plain vegan biscuits)
2 tsp orange zest
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup nuttelex (or other vegan margarine), melted
150g vegan cream cheese
2 tbsp marmalade
2 blood oranges
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Vegan Orange Curd
Zest of 1 orange (hint: zest before juicing!)
1/2 cup fresh orange juice (should be about 1 naval orange)
3/4 cup coconut milk
3 heaped tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp turmeric (just for colour, if you make with blood oranges then leave this out)

To Make:
1. Process the biscuits in a food processor until they become crumbs. Transfer to a mixing bowl and add the zest, cinnamon and melted margarine. Mix well.
2. Lightly grease your tart tin and then tip the biscuit crumbs in. Use your fingers to firmly press it up onto the sides of the tin to create an even later. Then spread out the remaining crumbs over the base and press down firmly with your fingers to create an even base.
3. In a bowl, whisk or beat together the vegan cream cheese and the marmalade. Spread evenly over the biscuit base.
4. Now set that aside and make the curd: Combine all the curd ingredients in a small saucepan and whisk well to combine. The cornstarch will be lumpy at first, but if you keep whisking the lumps with go (it's ok if there are just a few remaining, they'll cook out). If you want to avoid all that whisking then I guess you could use a blender.
5. Place the small saucepan over a medium heat. Whisking constantly, heat it for about 2 minutes - or until the contents of the pan are hot but not simmering or boiling (if it starts to simmer, reduce the heat immediately!). Once hot, reduce the heat and continue stirring for another 3-5 minutes. The curd will thicken suddenly quite a lot. Once this happens remove from the heat (still stirring) and pour straight onto the cream cheese layer. Use a knife to spread it out and smooth it over the top.
6. Heat the cup of sugar and the cup of water in a saucepan until dissolved. Thinly slice the whole blood oranges and simmer the slices in the syrup for about 5 minutes (you may need to do this in batches). Use these slices to decorate the top of the tart and then drizzle about 1-2 tbsp of the syrup over the top.
7. Place in the fridge for at least half an hour before serving.

This post is part of the Sweet Adventures Blog Hop. I haven't participated for a while in the SABH, so I thought I should get back in the swing. This month's theme is 'Cheese' desserts, which I'm sure will have some interesting submissions! You can check out the other entries below.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Beetroot & Vegan Feta Cheese Fugazza (Focaccia)

Good afternoon all! Today is a very special day, it's the biannual Vegan Virtual Potluck! It's so much fun to see what everyone has brought to the potluck, even though it takes me a good couple of hours to sit down and go through all the blogs that participate each time. A big shout out to all the great bloggers, especially Lidia & Annie, who work really hard behind the scenes to get such a huge logistical event working! I'm happy to be a volunteer on this potluck, doing my little bit to get it all together.

A quick note before I get onto potluck business! If you're new to my blog - welcome! I hope you'll really enjoy yourself, there are more than 200 recipes to browse through. You can use the recipe index above, or the labels on the side to look for particular ingredients or ethnic cuisines. You can also follow me on Twitter, or on Pinterest or by liking my page on Facebook. Today I'm starting to share with you a special "12 Days of Easy Edible Xmas Gifts" series on my facbook page, each day will be a new & interesting idea for a vegan home made edible gift and I promise you that there will be some you've never through of before :)

Enough of that though! On with the potluck. The potluck is split into categories, and I've been trying to go in a new category every time. This is my third potluck, my first potluck I went in 'Desserts' and made this Choc Banana Ice Cream Pie (Vegan & Sugar Free!). My second potluck I thought I'd try my hand at 'Beverages' so I made a Turkish Delight Martini.  For my third time around I've signed up for 'Breads'.

In hindsight I don't know why I signed up for breads, because I've been recently eating a lot less bread and have managed to lose 3kg because of my healthy kick. So, I realised that if I was going to make a bread-y thing for this potluck I would have to invite some friends over to help me eat it! I did, and they loved it!

This recipe was inspired by the Argentinian Caramelised Onion Fugazza which I made for Argentina Month on the blog. It's a symbol of the strong Italian influence on Argentinian cuisine, because it's essentially a focaccia. I was so happy with how my Caramelised Onion Fugazza turned out that I knew I would be experimenting with in the future. For this special Virtual Vegan Potluck Version, I've used marinated beetroot and my special home made Vegan Feta Cheese.

Beetroot & Vegan Feta Cheese Focaccia

1 cup warm water
2 tsp yeast
2 tsp sugar
2 2/3 cup plain flour
1 tsp salt
8 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 large beetroot, peeled and chopped into wedges
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 onion, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
3-4 sundried tomatoes, cut into strips
1 cup Vegan Feta Cheese cubes (unbaked)

To Make:
1. Combine the warm water, sugar and yeast in a bowl and set aside for 5-10 minutes, until the mixture is frothy on top.
2. Combine the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Add 5 tbsp olive oil and the yeast mixture and mix to form a dough. It should be soft and pliable, but not sticking to your fingers. If it's too wet add a bit more flour, if it's too dry to hold together add a little more water.
3. Turn the dough out onto a floured benchspace and knead for 10 minutes (set your oven timer and put on some good music to sing along to).
4. Lightly oil the mixing bowl and return the ball of dough to it. Cover with cling wrap or a tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise for 45 minutes (or until doubled in size). In the meantime you can preheat your oven to 180 degrees.
7. While the dough is rising, boil the beetroot slices until just tender, and place in a bowl with the mustard and balsamic vinegar. Toss well and set aside until you need them.
6. Once risen turn the dough out and punch down into a smooth ball. Oil a round pan with 2 tbsp olive oil and place your ball of dough in the centre. Gently flatten the ball out into a disc with your fingers. You'll get to a point where you can't stretch it any further without it springing back. When you get to this stage just set is aside and let it rest for 10 minutes (while it's resting you can chop up your onions).
7. After 10 minutes the dough should have relaxed, allowing you to spread it out further. Keep doing this until the dough covers the whole pan and reaches the edges (you may have to rest it again before you can get it the full diameter).
8. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a fry pan and saute the onions until softened. Add the sugar and vinegar and cook for about 5 minutes.
9. Spread the onions over the the base and top with the beetroot slices, sundried tomatoes and the cubes of Vegan Feta Cheese. Drizzle with a bit of the oil from the jar of sundried tomatoes.
10. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the edges become golden brown. Remove from the oven, slice and serve up.

This is the virtual vegan potluck, which is so much fun so make sure you check out everyone else's posts too!

To start from the beginning and work your way through head to the very first blog in the chain by clicking right....... here. If you've already worked your way through all the recipes before me then I hope you're enjoying all the dishes. I can't wait to sit down with a cup of tea and go through them all!

What's next in breads? Time to move on to the next Potluck Offering. 

Hit this button to go to the previous post by Bite Me, I'm Vegan, or click here:

Hit this button to go to the next post by In Pursuit of More, or click here:

Friday, 15 November 2013

Vegan Tofu Feta Cheese Recipe

I invented this simple but very tasty Vegan Feta Cheese recipe quite a while ago, but I thought I would post it now as a reference recipe, because it is so versatile. This tofu feta is just like eating a firm salty feta, like the kind most people eat in Australia - I don't know much about the history of feta, but we call this type of feta Australian feta and it's my favourite type. Much lighter and tangier than the thick and creamy Danish feta, it's perfect for salads, wonderful in pies and divine sprinkled on pizza.

My vegan version is quick to prepare and you can make it either in cubed form or in crumbled form. I found that baking the tofu after marinating really brought out the tangy flavour and gave the tofu a really great chewy cheesy consistency, so I've included instructions for baking. If you're putting it on a pizza or a focaccia, you don't need to bake it first. Just put it straight on and it will bake when you're cooking the pizza anyway.

This recipe makes a big batch, so you can halve it if you like. Or you can keep half of the tofu marinating in the fridge and then just bake it on the day you want to use it. In fact, I have some unbaked tofu feta sitting in my fridge right now just waiting to be baked and tossed in a salad.

600g hard tofu
Juice of 1 lemon
4 large cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp salt

To Make:
1. First, gently squeeze as much liquid out of the tofu as you can.
2. If you want to make cubed feta, chop the tofu up into cubes and place in a bowl. If you want crumbled feta then crumble it roughly with your hands into a bowl.
3. In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, crushed garlic, and salt and mix well. Add the the tofu and toss to coat. Now you can taste and decide if you think it needs to be more salty or more sour - if you think it does, add more salt or more lemon juice accordingly.
4. Set aside to marinate, stirring or tossing regularly. If you're making cubed feta, you'll need to let it marinate for about 20 minutes, if your making crumbled then 10 should do.
5. Spread it out on a lightly oiled baking tray and grill or bake in the oven for 5-10 minutes at 170 degrees.
6. Remove and cool. Use however you like!

This tofu feta will keep, baked or unbaked for several days in the fridge.

Recipes using my Vegan Tofu Feta Cheese:

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

{Healthy & Vegan} Blueberry & Mulberry Porridge

Since coming back from Europe where I stuffed myself with every delicious cake I came across (not to mention quite a lot of mashed potato and amazing breads), I'm very proud to say that I've managed to lose the extra kilos that I gained while I was travelling for 6 weeks. I've been on a conscious health kick, and I'm really glad that it has paid off! I feel good, look a lot better and have more energy from eating less of those incredibly tempting things which are just so bad for you.

Breakfasts are a big challenge for me, they always have been. I never feel that hungry in the mornings but I know that it's unhealthy to skip breakfast. But I don't want to eat anything too big or with too many calories for breakfast because then I have to limit what I eat during the rest of the day to make up for it (which is no fun at all!). 

Luckily, spring means that there are lots of delicious and healthy fruits and berries which you can use to make your healthy meals special. At the moment we're having a bit of a blueberry craze, because it's so nice that they have come down in price. Out the back our mulberry tree is producing lovely berries (although a lot less this year than usual because it has been viciously pruned by our next door neighbour!) which are getting incorporated into a lot of meals. This lovely porridge needs no sweeteners and is full of juicy berries. The recipe serves two people and each serving is filling, but only 194 calories plus it's about 20% of your recommended daily calcium intake. So it's the perfect way to start your day! If you can't find mulberries then use any berries you like, or leave them out and just have blueberries.

Healthy Blueberry & Mulberry Porridge

1 cup unsweetened oat milk
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1 punnet blueberries
1 punnet of mulberries

To Make
1. Place the oat milk in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.
2. Add the oats and simmer until they are cooked, and the porridge is nice and thick (if it gets too thick and dry, add water a little bit at a time and stir vigorously until you get the consistency you like).
3. When the oats are almost done, add the blueberries and mulberries.
4. Serve immediately. You can add fresh berries or other fruit on top if you like.

Serves 2

NOTE~ The berries will only be lightly cooked, if you like them cooked more then add them at the same time you add the oats. 

Sunday, 3 November 2013

A Day in Riga - Buildings, Berries & Black Balsam

I've decide to take a month off my World Food Challenge on the blog, and instead take an opportunity to share with you some of the photos and experiences I had on my trip to Scandinavia and Northern Europe. I have so many photos and we had so many fun experiences and delicious food while we travelled for almost 6 weeks. One of my favourite days of the trip was the day we spent exploring Riga, the capital of Latvia. 

Latvia wasn't originally on the travel plan, but when I went to book a flight between Oslo, Norway and Turku, Finland, I found that most of the flights connected in Riga. So, instead of picking the flight with the shortest layover time, I picked the flight with the longest so that we could go out and explore Riga. Our flight arrived into Riga at 7am and our connecting flight departed at about 10pm - it was perfect. We got a whole day in Riga but didn't have to think about accommodation. Fortunately, when we arrived at Riga airport we found it very well run, got out of there quickly. The public transport to and from the airport was also excellent: frequent, easy to find, easy to use and cheap. So we hopped off our plane and found ourselves in the heart of Riga in no time. 

Riga is famous for it's outstanding streets full of Art Nouveau buildings, so we took a walking tour (just using the Lonely Planet guidebook) around the streets to admire the buildings. It's not a very big city, so it was quite easy to find our way around and we got around all day just walking (although if you're feeling lazy you can hire a local to pedal you around on a bicycle rickshaw). The buildings didn't disappoint - they were extravagantly decorated with quite unusual and sometimes quite bizarre motifs. They ranged from beautiful classic styles (elegantly draped nude ladies surrounded by peacocks) to darker themes (faces screaming in terror) mixed with highly futuristic ideas including robot-like designs. 

Strolling the streets looking at houses, we also stumbled across stalls just set up along the side of the road piled high with fresh berries for sale. Travelling in northern Europe during summer was particularly good for berries - we had already found wild blueberries growing on a Stockholm archipelago. The punnets of blueberries, raspberries and strawberries were huge and so cheap - we bought a couple to munch on while we walked (more on those berries in a later post!).

We also happened upon an amazing looking bakery with glass counters piled high with the most amazing looking cakes, sweets, lollies, chocolates, biscuits and all manner of sweet and incredibly bad for you things - just looking back at the pictures makes my mouth water!

Having already been travelling in Sweden, Denmark and Norway prior to arriving in Riga, I had been eating a LOT of amazing sweets and I was staring to notice a little extra weight on me, so I showed a lot of self restraint and didn't buy any of them!

So - what did we eat? Well, I can tell you that the food in Riga was amazing. Not particularly vegetarian friendly - but absolutely delicious. Riga has a strong Russian influence to it's cuisine, so I came across quite a lot of food similar to some of my favourite Russian dishes - such as beetroot soups, and a delicious soup made of pickles and barley. We also visited the pancake shop (sadly, not vegan friendly) - a small and cheap place which thrives on it's popularity with tourists, in fact - every other person I've met who has been to Riga said "did you go to the pancake place?".

You can see when you go in why it's so popular, the inside has that quaint and quirky feel which is bound to appear to tourists. The pancakes come in many varieties and my goodness they are cheap! I only managed to snap a few pictures though before I was told firmly "No Photos" (a recurring theme wherever I went in Riga- the locals never smiled, were very grumpy and didn't like me taking photos of anything!).

They had both sweet and savoury varieties plus big vats of different types of jams to put on them. I ordered one filled with sweet cottage cheese, one with banana and one with caramel. My partner went for the savouries - one filled with mushrooms and one filled with smoked meat - and then went back for some sweet ones - 2 apple pancakes with berry jams. We both also had a cup of tea and all up it cost us about $4. The sweet cottage cheese one was particularly delicious!

If you're in Riga for dinner then I can highly recommend Province for hearty, good priced Latvian food. The interior is lovely and the their sweet baked ricotta dessert filled with sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds and served with berry jam is absolutely to die for.

We also indulged in some local beverages with our dinner. Kvass is a popular soft drink in Latvia, it's essentially the colour and appearance of coke but it's made from fermented rye bread. I must admit that it did not sound appealing to me, but I talked my partner into ordering it for the experience (and so that I could try a sip of his). It turned out to be really delicious! It does smell exactly like rye bread, but the taste is mild and sweet and very easy to drink!

The other traditional beverage of Latvia is Black Balsam - a potent brew made with about 24 different ingredients. Here is the explanation on the menu at Province, saves me typing it up :)

It's interesting that amongst all those lovely sounding flavours such as ginger, bilberry, raspberry and nutmeg they list valerian root! Ever had valerian root? YUK! In fact valerian root is infamous for tasting terrible.

When we left the airport at Riga we were met with a huge advertising bilboard which stated "If you haven't tasted Black Balsam then you haven't been to Riga" - an incredibly effective marketing slogan, if you ask me! It really did make you feel as though you had to have some in order to have the full experience in Riga. In any case, we ordered some. Province had 2 varieties - traditional (plain) Black Balsam and Blackcurrant Black Balsam. We ordered a shot of each to share. The best word I can find to describe the taste of the original Black Balsam is medicinal. It was very strong flavoured and very herbal medicine in taste. Drinkable - but not particularly nice. The blackcurrant variety was much nicer, as the blackcurrant smoothed over the more bitter flavours. We found the original Black Balsam went very nicely when mixed with the kvass though!

Black Balsam is available all over Riga, in most bars and restaurants. Some offer different varieties and some bars have cocktail menus using it. It's certainly an experience, but I didn't buy a bottle to bring home with me.

I absolutely loved Riga, and I was so glad to have extended our stopover to spend the day there. I could easily spend more time there and would definitely recommend it to anyone travelling to the Baltic. I'd love to know what anyone else thought of Black Balsam, or what you got up to in Riga when you visited!