Walnut sauce

Chard with walnut sauce

Chard with walnut sauce

A few years ago, I read a book called The China Study which talked about the effect of diet on major health issues such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. If you haven’t read it, and are interested in how our food affects our health, I would highly recommend it! The reason I mention it is that there have been various book and documentary spin-offs since then, including the Forks Over Knives film/book/cookbook. Forks Over Knives is predominantly a vegan advocate, but for some reason the vast majority of the recipes in the books are gluten free. The main substitution I have to make is for soy sauce (for which I use Braggs aminos and reduce it to 1/2, though you could use a wheat free tamari if you wanted to). Anyway, most of the recipes are also very simple; there are very few recipes for, or using, bread, or pancakes, or tortillas, but if you’re after easy plant based meals, you might want to take a look. The following recipe is from Forks Over Knives (The How to Companion, not the Cook book), and demonstrates exactly what I mean by ‘easy’.

Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this recipe, however. The walnut sauce really is very good with lightly steamed greens. Good enough for guests …. providing you ever have guests who’d eat steamed greens. Personally, I think it’s a treat.

Walnut Sauce for Greens (serves ~4)

1/2 cup walnuts
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp Braggs aminos, or other wheat-free soy sauce replacement
1/2 cup (4 fl oz) water

Put all the ingredients in a blender (or immersion blender beaker), and process until smooth. Check for seasoning. That’s it. See what I mean about the recipes being simple?

Mexican style Corn Pudding

corn pudding

Mexican corn pudding served with Mexican rice, tortillas, black refried beans, and garnished with avocado and tomato.

Mildly hot, and gloriously yellow, with sweet spots; this is Mexican dinner party fare. I can’t vouch for any authenticity; we tasted it at a Mexican restaurant in California, and the girls and I wanted to be able to replicate it at home. It took a few attempts to get the right level of heat, moisture, and sweetness, but we got there.

One of the nice things about it is it’s so easy to make, and will sit happily in the oven while you prepare the remainder of the meal, with margarita in hand. Very party spirited of it!

Corn Pudding

1/3 cup olive oil
4 oz (1 cup) golden, fine ground corn flour (not corn starch)
2 oz (1/2 cup) masa harina (corn meal/flour that has been treated with lime)
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 fl oz (1/4 cup) water
2 fl oz (1/4 cup) honey (or vegan alternative)
6 fl oz (3/4 cup) plain, non-dairy milk (I have used soy milk, rice milk, and coconut)
12-14oz (2 cups) frozen sweet corn kernels
1/2 tsp minced jalapeno chilis

Preheat the oven to 330F.

Grease an 8″ by 4″ ceramic, oven proof dish.

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl, and scrape into the prepared dish. (Yeah, I didn’t bother to defrost the sweet corn first.)

Cover with foil to prevent drying, and cook for 40 minutes in the middle of the oven.

Serve by the spoonful, or press into a deep spoon/mold, and un-mold onto individual plates.

Alfredo Sauce

Being gluten free, dairy free, and vegetarian tends to make it difficult to eat when going on vacation. When we headed off to Florida at the end of May, we stayed in a condo, so I could cook if necessary. One of the dishes I went prepared to make was this cashew based pasta sauce, because it’s fast, easy to make, and requires little in the way of fancy kitchen equipment. I took a few supplies which could have been tricky to get hold of (including nutritional yeast), and was delighted to find that the condo was equipped with a cheap blender which had probably only previously been used for making margaritas …. except that it didn’t work, and it took housekeeping nearly an hour to get a replacement, so the cashews got to soak for quite a while before I blended them. You won’t need to wait for so long, but if you have the time to soak the cashews, it certainly wouldn’t hurt!

This recipe is an adaptation of one from Miyoko Schinner’s Artisan Vegan Cheese. The recipes in this book look gorgeous, but I’ve only managed to execute one of them so far, as most of the others require an ingredient called rejuvelac, which I’ve attempted to make 4 times, but not been confident enough about the outcome to use. I’m not giving up, though; I’m just starting.

Anyway, the adaptations I made to this recipe were because a) I don’t have a high speed blender, so I have to be more careful about how I tackle blending sauces, and b) as a relative newcomer to nutritional yeast, I tend to need to moderate recipes developed for/by seasoned vegans. Nutritional yeast is an acquired taste. It’s quite delightfully addictive after a while, but I haven’t yet got to the stage where I want to use 1 tbsp per serving in a recipe. I fed this alfredo sauce to some of our omnivorous friends yesterday, and they liked it too.

Be sure to use fresh garlic. If your garlic is starting to stink, it will be really obvious here.

As a last aside: make sure that you like the wine you use for this. If you wouldn’t drink it for pleasure (or at least find it acceptable), then you probably won’t eat it for pleasure either! I know this from experience!

Cashew Alfredo

Pasta with alfredo sauce, served with Lima Bean Salad

Alfredo Sauce

1 1/2 cups raw cashews
1/2 cup dry or medium dry white wine (or water plus 1/4 tsp salt)
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
4 cloves fresh garlic
1 tsp salt
shake of black pepper

Put all the ingredients in a blender with 1 cup of water.

Optionally, allow to soak for 1/2 an hour before continuing.

Blend until the mixture starts to thicken. Keep blending, and gradually add another 2 cups of water as the mixture continues to thicken, adjusting to keep it thick, but not so thick that the blender can’t do its job. Continue until all the water has been added, and the sauce is smooth.

Scrape the sauce into a saucepan, and gradually bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until thick and creamy. Check seasoning.

This sauce is sufficient for about 1 lb of dry GF pasta, cooked, and serves 4-6.

Variation: Thickly slice 1lb of mushrooms, and fry in 2 tsps oil or margarine, sprinkled with 1/4 tsp salt until brown. Either stir into the sauce before serving, or pile on top.

I’ve also enjoyed pasta with alfredo sauce on a bed of lightly steamed (~ 2 minutes and then well drained) chard. About 1 – 1 1/2lbs of fresh chard would work for this amount of sauce and pasta.

alfredo sauce

Eclairs

It had to be done. After making the gougeres, I just had to have a go at adjusting the recipe and making eclairs. These are slightly sweet, moist, soft, light and airy, but with a slight bite to them, and not very bread-y at all. Their flavor is pretty mild. I allowed mine (well, some of them) to get cold before slicing them, and filling with vegan cream cheese and something sweet. They disappeared rather quickly after that.

Sliced, and filled with vegan cream cheese and apricot jam / blood orange marmalade / chocolate spread.

Sliced, and filled with vegan cream cheese and apricot jam / blood orange marmalade / chocolate spread.

4 oz blanched almond flour
2 1/2 oz tapioca flour/starch
2 tbsp flax meal
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vinegar
4 fl oz water
4 tbsp margarine (I use spreadable Earth Balance)
3 – 4 eggs, well beaten

Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl, and mix briefly with a wooden spoon.

Put the vinegar, water, and margarine in a small saucepan, and bring rapidly to a boil.

Remove the saucepan from the heat, and immediately shoot in the dry ingredients and stir maniacally with the wooden spoon for about 30-60 seconds, until the dough thickens and smooths out somewhat into a ball.

Allow the mixture to cool for a few minutes so that the eggs you’re about to add don’t turn into scrambled egg.

Now, using a hand held electric whisk, incorporate the egg, one tablespoon at a time. At first, the mixture will soften and start to look like soft scrambled egg; then it will get thick and start to clog up the beaters (don’t worry; just soldier on). After more egg has been added, the mixture will start to soften so that it comes out of the beaters so it can be beaten more effectively. Stop adding egg when the mixture becomes like cake batter (somewhere between 3 and 4 eggs). 3 eggs will give a thicker mixture with fewer holes; 4 eggs will give a thinner mixture and a finished product with more of the holes characteristic of pate a choux pastries.

Line a baking/cookie sheet with baking parchment (or grease). You can either use two teaspoons (one to scoop, and the other to push the mixture off the other spoon) to form small balls, or scrape the mixture into a piping bag (or freezer bag with the corner snipped off – with a hole length of about 1/2″), and pipe the mixture into thick 5″ long stripes to form the traditional eclair shape.

When you’re ready to cook the  pastries, preheat the oven to 400F.

When hot, place the cookie sheet in the center of the oven, and cook for 15 minutes.

Reduce the temperature to 360F, and cook for a further 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven, and pierce each pastry with a wooden cocktail stick in order to let out the steam.

Allow to cool, then slice, and fill with vegan cream cheese and something sweet, or coat with chocolate.

Sun Dried Tomato Gougere

I’m not quite sure what got me cooking again today. Was it the retirement specialist I was dealing with who said that he used to photograph food for hotels (he’d followed the blog link in my email signature; I didn’t have the nerve to ask him how I was doing), or was it the calm that has descended on the house since our brief vacation last week, that was sorely needed to restore some kind of sanity to our household. I don’t know, but my mind was able to start wandering again, and as I mused about my beloved almond bread, it occurred to me that the batter wasn’t too far off that for a gougere ….. and then I was off peering at a recipe attempt I made a year or two ago (which produced a delicious, but crunchy, affair) …. and then out popped this recipe. It worked first time! ….. and they weren’t crunchy, and the crust wasn’t too thick, and they weren’t like omelet, and they didn’t sink after they came out of the oven. Lucky, or what! I’m not proud; I’ll admit to accidental successes.

You can also cook this mixture in circles (to accept fillings and then be served as a main course – see below), or as little bowls (to accept fillings and then be served as hors d’oeuvres).

gougere

This makes 36-40 mini gougeres.

4 oz blanched almond flour
2 1/2 oz tapioca flour/starch
2 tbsp flax meal
2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional – use for a slightly cheesy flavor)
2/3 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp vinegar
4 fl oz water
4 tbsp margarine (I use spreadable Earth Balance)
3-4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup minced sun dried tomatoes in olive oil

In a bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.

In a medium saucepan, bring the vinegar, water and margarine quickly to a rolling boil.DSC_0001

Remove from the heat, and quickly shoot all the flours into the boiling liquid, then mix furiously with a wooden spoon until a stiff dough is formed (I managed a whopping 30 seconds before my arm gave out), and allow it to cool for at least two or three minutes, so that it isn’t hot enough to scramble the egg that you’re about to add.

DSC_0005

This paste used all 4 eggs. I have subsequently used just 3 eggs to make a thicker mixture, which also worked nicely, but produced a construction with fewer holes.

Now, using an electric hand mixer, thoroughly incorporate about a tablespoon of the beaten egg. Repeat this step until all of the egg has been absorbed, one tablespoon at a time.

Heavily grease 40 mini muffin formers, and spoon about a tablespoon of mixture into each,
OR just place on a greased or parchment paper lined baking tray / cookie sheet in tablespoon sized dollops, or form 4″ wide circles, or pipe into 5″ long sticks.

When you’re ready to cook the gougeres, preheat the oven to 400F.

Place the tray in the center of the oven, and cook for 15 minutes.

Turn the temperature down to 360F, and cook for a further 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven, release from the tin with a knife, and serve as they are, or split, and fill with vegan cream cheese or somesuch.

stuffed gougere 2

Sun dried tomato gougere stuffed with cauliflower in an orange/tomato sauce, served with steamed chard and a walnut sauce.