I blogged about Violife vegan cheese a couple of years ago and, at the time, I was kind of, ‘Well, Violife’s okay, I suppose, but nothing special’. Since then, I’ve changed my mind and, while I’m not saying it’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten, it’s definitely the best vegan cheese I’ve ever eaten.
Today I used some in a toasted vegan cheese and chorizo sandwich. As you can see in the above photo, Violife melts beautifully and it went really well with the vegan chorizo I made from The Gentle Chef‘s new book – Seitan and Beyond.
This chorizo is fab; juicy, spicy, delicious, easy to make and contains easy-to-find ingredients (the only ingredients you’re probably not going to find in the supermarket – at least not here in the UK – are vital wheat gluten and liquid smoke, but these are easy enough and cheap enough to buy online). I can’t share the recipe with you as The Gentle Chef doesn’t allow his recipes to be shared but if you love your mock meat products I recommend you buy Seitan and Beyond, either as a pdf (with photos) from his website, or as a hard copy (without photos) from Amazon.
I know you don’t need a recipe for how to make a sandwich, but here it is anyway.
Man, these are as good as regular cheese and onion crisps, but vegan and healthy! The only thing I dislike about these dehydrated spinach chips is that they take twenty-four hours to make but only approximately twenty-four seconds to eat. Still, that’ll teach me to forget that a large handful of raw spinach shrinks down small enough to fit on a five-pence piece when cooked (or, as in this case, dehydrated).
Although the spinach was dehydrated at under 45C, I can’t call this a raw vegan recipe as it contains nutritional yeast which is pasteurised to kill the yeast so if you want to make it raw vegan, leave out the nutritional yeast.
Recipe: Vegan Cheese and Onion Flavour Dehydrated Spinach Crisps
This is such a quick, easy and tasty lunch. Simply cut a chunk of tofu off the block, squeeze it in some kitchen roll to get rid of the excess water, cut it into cubes, coat in pesto and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until the outside gets crispy. See, told you it was easy! I had mine in some pitta bread with spinach, olives, sundried tomato, cucumber, spring onion and vegan mayo (Tiger Tiger, which you can find in Asda, or you can make your own). If you want vegan pesto (which is what I used here and doesn’t taste any different to regular pesto), Sacla do one and you can find it in the ‘Free From’ section in Tesco (I don’t know where other supermarkets keep it, but probably somewhere similar).
Unfortunately, this didn’t go down too well with The Meat Eater. I loved it – I especially loved the pastry because – round of applause, please – I made it all by myself. I don’t think I’ve ever made pastry before; I might have made some at school I suppose, but that would have been a *cough* few *cough* years ago now.
You’ve got to hand it to The Meat Eater though – he’d do well on Masterchef’s palette test. He said the pastry had an odd taste to it and as I thought back to what had gone into it, I remembered the coconut oil, so that was probably the ‘odd taste’ he was referring to. He did admit to liking ‘bits of it’ though.
Hopefully, the coconut oil hasn’t put you off, so I’m going to post the recipe below as I made it (which is pretty much as it appears in Greens 24/7 by Jessica Nadel, which I talked about a bit more in yesterday’s post – my version is only slightly simplified). The end result is a kind of quiche-like dish which I reckon would be just as nice cold, as hot.
Please don’t be put off by making your own pastry – this was about as simple as it gets and if I can be bothered to do it, so can you.
Although the recipe below states 240g tofu, I used a normal (normal for the UK, anyway) sized block of Cauldron tofu and pressed it (nothing fancy – just between two saucers), this left me with 275g tofu and I used all of it.
Make the pastry. In a large bowl, mix together the flours and ½ tsp salt. Work the coconut oil into the flour, leaving small lumps. Add the water gradually and work until the dough comes together. Roll into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large frying pan, add the crushed garlic, mushrooms and a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes, until the mushrooms release their juices and the juices evaporate. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Meanwhile, steam the spinach until partially wilted, then leave to cool.
Place the tofu, lemon juice, 1½ tsp olive oil, nutritional yeast and the whole garlic clove in a food processor and process until fairly smooth (you might need to add a bit more oil). Season to taste with salt and pepper, then add the spinach and fold in by hand.
Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas mark 6. On a piece of baking paper, roll out the pastry to a 30-cm (12") round. Transfer the pastry and baking paper onto a baking sheet and spread the spinach-tofu mixture over, leaving a 5cm (2") border. Top with the mushrooms and gently fold the extra pastry up and onto the toppings, pleating as you move around the outside.
Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
While I was in the supermarket this morning, I pondered over which spread to make for lunch. I’d just bought a far bigger bag of spinach than I needed so I thought I’d put that to use. I’d gone past the dairy aisle and didn’t want to go back to get some yoghurt to add to it but I remembered the jar of tahini I’d bought the other day and concocted this delicious dip when I got home.
This recipe doesn’t make a huge amount, as you know how spinach disappears into nothing, but it’s easy enough to double or triple the quantities.
Spinach, tahini, cumin and garlic spread
2 large handfuls spinach
3 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tsp cumin
salt and pepper
Add everything to a food processor and blitz until it’s the texture you require.
I haven’t done any cooking in there for a week or so. Despite the novelty and convenience of having Papa John’s pizza on a Monday night, pre-packaged pasta and couscous salad on Tuesday night and leftover Papa John’s last night, today I craved something not out of a box or a packet, then remembered I had a soup maker somewhere (if you think the kitchen looks bad, you should see the state of the dining room where the floor is covered with the contents of the former kitchen) and looked in the fridge where I found some spinach and carrots.
I didn’t take much notice of how much spinach was in the bag or how much water I used, so all weights and measures are approximate.
Spinach and carrot soup (serves 2-3)
2 carrots, chopped into chunks
3 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tsp stock powder
1 onion, chopped
3 dried whole chillies
salt and pepper
Chuck everything into the soup maker and put on the setting that blends as it goes along.
175g green lentils
1 big bunch of spinach
225g sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 2.5cm pieces
4 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1½ tsp garam masala
1½ tsp curry powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 eggs, beaten
3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
½ tsp salt
40g toasted breadcrumbs
25g plain flour
Pre-heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas 5.
Boil the lentils in 750ml water. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, until tender. Drain and transfer lentils to a large mixing bowl and mash with a potato masher.
Meanwhile, place the spinach in a saucepan and sprinkle over a little water and heat until wilted.
Steam the sweet potato for 8 to 10 minutes until tender. Add the potato to the lentils and mash thoroughly.
In a frying pan, heat 2 tbsp of the oil. Add the onion, garam masala, curry powder and cayenne and cook until the onion is translucent. Add the spinach and garlic. Cook for about 2 minutes, tossing to combine.
Mix the spinach-onion mixture into the lentil mixture. Stir in the eggs, coriander and salt. Fold in the breadcrumbs and flour. Adjust seasonings. Shape into 8 burgers.
In an ovenproof frying pan, heat the remaining 2 tbsp oil. When hot, add the burgers and cook until browned on each side, 6 to 10 minutes total. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the burgers are firm and cooked through.
Buy Veggie Burgers Every Which Way by Lukas Volger at Amazon.
Now my shingles have gone, I’m heading back to the running group tonight, which means I won’t be in at dinnertime. So, to prevent me coming in and eating crisps, I prepared a pasta salad to keep in the fridge to have when I get in – there’s enough for about three servings, so I’ll also be having it tomorrow night after my spin class.
Pesto, Spinach and Mozzarella Pasta Salad (serves 3)
150g penne or other pasta shape
1 handful spinach, chopped
2-3 tbsp pesto (Sacla’s Organic Pesto is labelled vegetarian)
50g mozzarella, diced
1 tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds and pine nuts (I got mine from Tesco)
Just reading the ingredients for this juice makes you feel healthier before you’ve even tasted it. Because it has so many vegetables in it, I was worried it would taste a bit ‘green’ (despite it being red in colour) but I needn’t have worried, it was just as fruity as a normal glass of juice.
Okay, so here’s the bit where I tell you what I left out: 1/2 an inch of broccoli stem (because I didn’t want to buy a whole head of broccoli just to use a bit of stem and didn’t know if I’d be able to use the rest of it up in the next few days) and a small handful of alfalfa sprouts (because I have no sprouts at the moment).
2 Golden Delicious apples
a small chunk of carrot
1/2 stick celery
1 large handful of mixed greens – watercress, kale, parsley, spinach and whatever other green leafy veg are available (I used spinach and parsley)
1 inch slice cucumber
1/4 inch slice unpeeled raw beetroot
1/4 inch slice courgette
1 small piece of lemon
1/4 inch slice ginger
Because someone – okay, I – forgot to add the spinach to the Quorn curry I cooked last night, I had a bag of spinach in the fridge, going to waste. In my defence though, it was a slow-cooked curry and by the time its eight hours were up, I’d completely forgotten there was another ingredient to go in. Also, the spinach wasn’t going to go to waste as a) I’m going to use it instead of kale in a recipe tomorrow; and b) I made soup out of it at lunchtime today.
My original idea was to make spinach and rice soup, then I changed my mind and thought I’d give spinach and chickpea soup a go and to liven it up a bit, also add some vegetarian Parmesan. It works.
Cheesy Spinach and Chickpea Soup (serves 4)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium potato, diced
500ml vegetable stock
salt and pepper
Heat the butter in a saucepan and add the garlic and onion and fry for a few minutes until the onion is soft.
Add the potatoes and fry for another couple of minutes.
Add the spinach and the stock and simmer for about 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are cooked.
Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper and blend.
Add the cheese and blend again until it’s melted through.
Add the chickpeas and return to the heat to warm through.