Silky Smooth Carrot and Coriander Soup

Thick, creamy, warming, and gloriously yellow. This soup is brought out of the realm of the ordinary with its silky smooth texture, and subtle use of coriander and lemon zest. It’s one of those dishes that has you trying to analyze the ingredients, if you don’t already know them. So, the trick is to take your time frying the carrot and onion; make sure all the ingredients are totally soft before pureeing, and err on the side of caution with the coriander and lemon zest. Start with the lesser amount and check the flavor before adding more. The flavor should be uplifting and curious, and certainly not bland! The same goes for the carrots. If they’re fresh and sweet, you might not want any sugar at all! If they’re a bit older, then a little help from the granular white stuff is appreciated …. but taste before you add; this is not a sweet soup. If the carrots are distinctly old and tasting soapy, use them for something else instead.

soup

Makes about 50 floz / 6 cups of soup

1 tbsp vegan margarine (I like Earth Balance)
1 lb carrots, scraped and chopped into slices/dice (the pre-peeled baby ones make this dish pretty quick).
1 large onion, diced
4 tsp ground coriander seed
pared zest of ½ a large or 1 small lemon
1 ½ pints of water
1/2 cup raw cashews
1 tsp lemon juice
1 – 3 tsp sugar (depending on how sweet your carrots are)
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper (that’s right, no salt!)

Melt the margarine in a wide pan, add carrots, and fry over a medium heat for about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the onion, and fry gently until both are slightly browned and completely soft. They should start to sizzle instead of steam, after a total of about 15-30 minutes.
Stir in the coriander and lemon zest, and warm through for a few seconds.
Add water and cashews, and bring to a boil; simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the lemon juice and other seasonings.
Blend in a high speed blender, or puree and pass through a chinois to make perfectly smooth.
Check seasoning, reheat, and serve.

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Cashew Mozzarella

Mild in flavor and close textured, this browns nicely in the oven, and tastes great with basil and fresh tomatoes in an almond bread sandwich.

You’ll note that I’ve used both xanthan gum and tapioca starch in this recipe. The xanthan gum is used to make it stiff, and the tapioca gives it a bit of wobble and that knife-clinginess that fresh mozzarella has. This recipe went though a fair number of revisions to get to this stage. I’ve had the taste pretty much where I wanted it for a while, but the texture hasn’t been right. The last two versions, however, have been very interesting! This current version with 3 tsps of agar, makes a sliceable cheese, somewhat softer than the partially dried stuff that comes in plastic wrap, but more manageable than fresh mozzarella. 2 tsps of agar makes something more akin to fresh mozzarella which sticks to the fingers a bit in a lick-able sort of fashion.

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1/2 cup raw cashews
3 tsps agar powder (use 2 tsps for fresh mozzarella, 3 for sliceable)
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp tapioca starch
1 tsp white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp chickpea miso
2 tsp nutritional yeast

Soak the cashews in water for at least 1 hour. (Not needed if you have a high speed blender.)

Put the agar in a medium size saucepan along with 1 1/2 cups (12 fl oz) of water, and bring slowly to a simmer over a medium high heat, stirring frequently, to dissolve the agar.

While the agar is dissolving, put the drained nuts, salt, starch, vinegar, lemon juice, miso, and yeast into a blender, along with 1/2 a cup (4 fl oz) of water, and blend until smooth.
molten mozzarella

Once the agar has come up to the boil and thickened, add the smooth contents of the blender, and stir vigorously until combined.

Bring to a simmer over a medium heat, stirring or whisking to prevent sticking, and cook for about 2 minutes until the starch has cooked and thickened.

Lightly oil a 1 pint container, scrape the hot cheese into it, and refrigerate until cold and firm (~2 hours), or drizzle straight over your pizza which is waiting to go into the oven.

Silky Smooth Dairy Free Rum and Raisin Ice ‘Cream’

This recipe is simplicity itself. Rich, creamy, and not too sweet, with little pockets of intense raisin/rum flavor. It includes cashews and alcohol, both of which disrupt the formation of ice crystals while the mixture is freezing, and so help to make the ice-cream smooth.

Rum and raisin ice cream (vegan)

5 oz (1 cup) raisins
1/2 cup dark rum
1 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup maple syrup

Soak the raisins in the rum for at least 1/2 hour, turning them through once in a while.

Put 8 fl oz (1 cup) water and the cashews into a high speed blender, and process until completely smooth.

Transfer the cashew mixture to a saucepan with all the remaining ingredients, use another 8 fl oz (1 cup) of water to rinse out the blender into the saucepan, and bring to a simmer until thickened, stirring continuously as it starts to boil.

Allow to cool, then pour into a freezer-proof container and freeze for approximately 4 hours, stirring every hour or so.

At this point, the ice-cream is still soft enough to serve. If it is left for longer in the freezer and gets too hard, you might want to allow it to defrost slightly in the fridge for 1/2 hour before serving.

For a variation on a theme, make Prune and Brandy ice-cream by substituting 5 oz prunes for the raisins, and brandy for the rum. Blend the prunes and brandy with the cashews.

Pancakes – British and American

I’ve been working on a recipe for American style pancakes this week, and was just trying to put the finishing touches to the recipe a couple of days ago, but something went ‘wrong’ and the mixture came out too thin. I soldiered on and poured the mixture into the pan. Initially I was disappointed because the mixture just spread out too thin (as was to be realistically expected), but then, with the aid of the back of the spatula (the mixture wasn’t THAT thin) and a tweak of the cooking temperature, out popped a British style pancake. Daughter #2 immediately requested the traditional sugar and lemon, as did daughter #1 when she finally got herself down here for breakfast. 6 pancakes later, they were declared a complete success. Suitably mild in flavor, with a texture that was pliant and soft, and very slightly crispy at the edges; they were perfect.

British style pancakes filled with apple sauce and the less British maple syrup.

British style pancakes filled with apple sauce and (the less British) maple syrup.

4 oz (1 scant cup) raw cashews or cashew flour
1 oz (1/4 cup) quinoa flour
2 eggs
2 oz (1/2 cup) potato starch
1 tbsp coconut flour – to make the pancakes fluffier
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 – 3 tsps sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice (to interact with raising agents and counter richness)
oil for cooking (do not add to the batter)

If you have a high speed blender such as a Vitamix, just put all the ingredients in the blender in the order stated with 1/2 cup of water, and blend for 30 seconds or until smooth.

Otherwise: Put the cashews and 1/2 cup (4 fl oz) of water in a blender, and blend until the cashews are smooth. Let sit and soak for 20 minutes. Blend the cashews again to ensure they’re smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and blend again.

If you’re making British pancakes, add a further 1/2 cup (4 fl oz) of water. Blend everything again.

For American pancakes, a spoonful of the mixture dropped back into the blender/bowl, should take about 10 seconds or so to sink back in.

For British pancakes, the mixture should look more like pourable cream.

Leave for 10 minutes to allow the flour to soak up the liquid.

Meanwhile, heat a cast iron griddle or frying pan over a medium heat with a smear of oil until up to temperature. (This means that if you wet your hand with water and flick the water at the pan, the water will spit and sizzle immediately.)

Turn the temperature down to medium low for British pancakes, or low for American pancakes: you don’t want to use a high heat as this will roast the cashews and give an odd flavor, but you do want them to sizzle slightly.

American Cashew Pancakes

American Cashew Pancakes

For American pancakes: pour out as many 1/8 – 1/4 cup measures of batter into the pan as will fit without the pancakes touching once they’ve spread out.

Cook until the bottoms of the pancakes are brown, and the tops have little holes all over (3-4 minutes), and appear to have dried a little (become less shiny) around the edges.

Use a spatula to turn the pancakes over, and cook until the second side is brown (2-3 minutes).

Remove the pancakes to a warm, covered plate until ready to serve. Repeat process with the remaining batter.

Allow the pancakes to sit for a couple of minutes or so before serving with maple syrup, apple sauce, scrambled tofu, etc.

British style pancake ready for flipping.

British style pancake ready for flipping.

For British pancakes: pour 1/4-1/3 cup mixture into the frying pan, and use the back of a spatula to spread the mixture out as thinly as possible without holes. Cook for a minute or two (until the bottom is brown), then flip with a spatula and cook for another minute. Remove the pancake from the pan and keep warm between two pieces of kitchen towel until ready to serve.

Re-grease the pan with a smear of oil, and repeat for the next pancake.

Serve with lemon and sugar (traditional), or stuffed with chili, or ratatouille, or mushroom and black olive sauce.

British pancake stuffed with vegetable chili.

British pancake stuffed with vegetable chili.

Thick Cashew Cream for Desserts

Thick Cashew Cream Sauce for Desserts.

The holiday season is rapidly approaching, and with it, the need for something to go with pumpkin and apple pies, Christmas puddings and mince pies. This cashew sauce is a great vegan replacement for pouring cream regardless of whether you’re avoiding dairy or not. Make it the day before and leave in the fridge for easy entertaining.

Note: the use of boiling water allows you to blend a thicker mixture (which will thicken even further if chilled).

Serves 2 generously, but can serve 4

1 cup raw cashews
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp maple syrup
pinch of salt
1/4 – 1/2 tsp lemon juice

1/2 cup boiling water

Put all the ingredients except for the water into a blender. Add the boiling water, and blend until completely smooth.

Check for flavor; adjust the sugar level, and add the rest of the lemon juice if you prefer a slightly tarter cream.

At this point, you can either chill it or use as is.

Serve with apple pie, Christmas pudding, apple crumble, pumpkin pie, etc.