Veggies on the counter

Coconut, Roasted Banana and Passion Fruit Tart

Posted in desserts by veggies on the counter on August 27, 2014

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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.

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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.

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Coconut, Roasted Banana and Passion Fruit Tart

(serves 8)

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.

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Summer Peach Pudding

Posted in breakfast & brunch, desserts by veggies on the counter on August 16, 2013

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What I’m about to say might sound a bit weird, especially coming for someone in her mid-twenties who lives relatively close to the sea, but, I do not like going to the beach. I don’t like walking on sand and lying down in a beach towel with the sun hitting my back. I’m also not a fan of swimming (nor I do know how to swim well), particularly when the sea is packed with people (and, this time of the year, it is most of the time). Having said that, summer isn’t the season I’ve been anxiously waiting for the whole year.

But, even thought warm weather (particularly when it’s above the 30 degrees) and salty water aren’t my cup of tea, I do love summer’s produce. Watermelon and peaches are amongst my favourite fruits and I seem not to get enough of them these days. Early in the week, I went to the market and those good looking peaches definitely caught my eye. I was probably too enthusiastic about them, having bought way more than I could realistically eat before they start to over ripe. Not wanting to turn on the oven to bake a peach tart (my original plan), a raw pudding was in order.

Now, everyone who’s into whole foods have probably already used chia seeds to make puddings – it’s quick, almost effortless, and fits into the healthy-guilt-free-dessert category. I kind of regret having arrived late at the chia pudding party, because I definitely didn’t expect this treat to taste so good. It’s the perfect summer dessert – light, fresh and fruity. Did I say it’s also ridiculously easy to make? All you have to do is to peel and cut a couple of peaches and mix them in a food processor with chia seeds and dates. Pulse a few minutes, refrigerate for 1 or 2 hours – so that the chia start doing their magic (aka absorbing the moisture and thickening things up) – and that’s about it. Next time around I’ll be using apricots instead of peaches, and maybe trying out a different version with frozen watermelon, for an even fresher and almost sorbet-like dessert. Wish you guys a great weekend! (:

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Summer Peach Pudding

(serves 4)

3 large peaches or nectarines / 700 grams, peeled, cored, and cubed

2 medjol dates, finely chopped

55 g / 1/3 cup chia seeds

1 vanilla bean, open lengthwise and seeds scraped (optional)

Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Blend for a few moments or until smooth. Have a taste and, if it’s not as sweet as you’d like, add a few more medjol dates and blend again. Transfer the pudding to small bowls or jars, refrigerate for 2 hours, and serve. Garnish with extra chopped peaches if you like.

(eggless and dairy-free) Crème Brûlée

Posted in desserts by veggies on the counter on May 15, 2011

 

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)

ingredients:

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!

Vegan Panna Cotta with Stewed Blackberries

Posted in desserts by veggies on the counter on September 13, 2010

The other day, my mom went to the park to pick up some blackberries. She came home with a bag full of them, and asked me to use them as part of a dessert. I couldn’t help myselft but thinking of a delicious, simple, spoon dessert, made of coconut milk, agar agar, and stewed fruit. You may have heard about agar agar before: it’s a gelatinous substance derived from an algae, mostly used in asian cuisine. It’s all natural, 100% vegan, and doesn’t have the artificial ingredients gelatin generally does have (I’m not even mentioning the part that gelatin is derived from animals’ bones…).

I’ve been working with agar agar powder as a substitute for gelatin for quite some time now, but it took me a while to get the best out of it. The main problem I’ve found while using it in various spoon desserts, is that it tended to harden way more than I wanted it to. The consistency I’d get, although reminding that of gelatin, wasn’t as soft as the latter. But after some experiments, I think I came up with the right ratio: for each 300 mililiters of liquid, add 1 and ½ teaspoons of agar agar flakes. Less than that, you’ll get a runny consistency; and adding just a bit more for the said amount of liquid, will make your dessert a bit on the hard side.

Now, this recipe for Vegan Panna Cotta is a favorite around here; it’s dead easy to make and really tasty. Not only adding the right amount of agar agar powder but also using coconut milk, are really important things in here, so do not try to substitute any of those ingredients. The coconut milk with its rich and subtle flavor really complements well the sweetness of the stewed berries. As far the fruit goes, you don’t really need to use blackberries in here; others, such as blueberries or even strawberries, will work out. I even tried once to make this dessert using stewed figs – delicious. Just bare in mind you want a fruit that is delicate and soft, but still firm enough to hold part of its structure after being cooked.

Vegan Panna Cotta with Stewed Blackberries

(serves 3)

¼ cup regular sugar

¼ cup water

300 grams blackberries

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

400 ml coconut milk

5 tablespoons agave nectar

1 and ¾ teaspoons agar agar flakes

1. Heat a saucepan over low-medium heat, add the blackberries, vanilla bean, sugar, and water. Cook, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the liquid has thickened a bit but hasn’t all evaporated. Let it cool and discard the vanilla bean.

2. In another pan over low-medium heat, add the coconut milk, agar agar flakes and agave nectar. Bring the mixture to a simmer (do not let the coconut milk boil) and stir constantly, for 15 minutes. When it’s done, remove the pan from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

3. Divide the coconut mixture equally among 3 cups. Refrigerate the cups for at least 2 hours, or until the mixture has harden to the consistency of gelatin.

4. Now, add the blackberries as well as the liquid that has been realeased while stewing them, on top of each cup. Cover the cups with cling film and refrigerate for additional 1 or 2 hours before serving.