Raw, vegan cheesecakes… yum

This weekend, I decided to make some cheesecake to go with our usual Friday night indulgence of pizza, bought from the local cafe. I love pizza night; I don’t have to cook (not that I do very often anyway), and we have a really yummy meal of gourmet pizza. So this Friday afternoon, I whipped up some individual desserts for us all to share after our pizza.

I used the Blueberry cheesecake and avocado chocolate tart recipes I found here to give myself an idea to start from.

First I blended all the ingredients for the base together;

Base ingredients

1/2 cup raw almonds

1/2 cup raw walnuts

1 cup dates pitted

1/4 cup coconut oil melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch sea salt

Then I greased up a muffin pan, put strips of grease proof paper across the cups and squished a desert spoon of the base into each pan. Next time I think I will make sure the coconut oil is fully melted and drop the dates into the blender one at a time because the resulting base is a bit chunky for my partner’s liking.

Then, while the bases set in the freezer, I blended up the avocado and chocolate filling.

Ingredients

medium avocados

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup melted coconut oil

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon (scant) salt

I blended all this together into a thick sauce kind of consistency and plopped it into the muffin pan. There was enough to half fill nine of the 12 cups. Then I whipped up the cashew cheesecake mix…

Ingredients

1 cup soaked cashews

1 cup soy milk

1/3 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons frozen lemon juice

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

I blended this mixture for a long time, then used it to top up some of the muffin cups. Then I dumped a half cup of blueberries into the mix and blended them in until the mixture was a lovely purple. This purple goop was spooned into the muffin cups that were left, then the whole tray was dumped (carefully) into the freezer for 3 hours to set while my partner went to fetch the pizza.

plain avocado chocolate
avocado chocolate and cashew cheesecake
Plain blueberry
avocado chocolate and blueberry

In the end, I had eight left over cheesecakes to freeze for a later dessert.

Give these easy vegan desserts a go. They are so easy and so yummy (not to mention the slightly healthier nutrients).

Making vinegar

I have always had a habit of wondering how random common household items are made, it drives my partner nuts. I will stop doing something to wonder (sometimes out loud) how something is made and if we can make it too. Sometimes I wonder how the process was discovered in the first place. In the kitchen, it is amazing how many everyday items can be made by neglecting them. It leads me to think that the greatest discoveries in culinary arts were probably made by very bad housekeepers. Vinegar is one of those things.

My home made vinegars, made from home brewed wines

Vinegar is a double fermented product that uses yeasts to make alcohol then bacteria to turn the alcohol into vinegar. Apparently the process can be completed in the same container by adding dried fruit and water to a bucket or jar, stirring it every day and keeping it covered with an air permeable cover (like a cloth). The acetobacter in the air will turn any alcohol into vinegar. It can most usefully be used to turn bad wine into good vinegar.

Vinegar has been made and used for about 5000 years in most parts of the world (maybe longer). It has been used to disinfect and preserve food (the original use of marinade was not to improve taste, it was to make old meat safer to eat), it has been used to clean wounds and treat digestive complaints (and as a base for delivering medicine). It has been used as a cleaning and disinfecting agent in household cleaning and to preserve specimens in the lab. Here at the humpy, we use it for all the above uses (well… not too many specimens preserved). I buy a 15 litre tub of white vinegar twice a year and many bottles of apple cider, balsamic and specialty vinegars as well. If I can make my own, there is one less thing I need to buy, as well as the satisfaction gained by knowing how to make something myself.

My vinegar shelf

For my vinegar experiments I used some of my home made wines that didn’t taste very good. I had a batch of mead (honey wine) that tasted harsh and had a faintly musty flavour, so I knew I wasn’t going to drink it. Instead of wasting the hours of work that went into making it, I decided to have a play at making vinegar.

The collection of recycled wine bottles I use for brewing

The mead was poured into a smallish kombucha brewing jar that I had spare. Then I added a bottle of apple cider vinegar I picked up at the local Co Op to the jar and put a cloth cover on it. The apple cider vinegar was raw, meaning it had living bacteria colonies in it. That is it really, I put the jar up on a shelf and left it for two months.

The vinegar grew it’s own Mother… just like kombucha does

When I had a minute, I just poured the vinegar through a filter and bottled up the results. It tastes mild and smooth; I think this would make a great vinegar for shrubs. It is good as a salad dressing and in marinades too.

The vinegar Mother from the top

The Mother was left in the sieve, so I poured a new batch of old wine into the brewer and added the Mother to it. This should get the vinegar making off to a good start again.

Filtering out the yeast lees and the Mother
The Mother ready to go to a new home
The vinegar brewer ready for new wine
This is a batch of blueberry wine that went a bit musty, now it will be blueberry vinegar

Now I know how to make basic vinegar, I think I will branch out to making fruit vinegars too. For me, the vinegar making answers a question I had about how the product is made, and it allowed me to use a product that had no other use. I will continue to make vinegars at home and eventually I would like to make enough to use for cleaning too.

Everyday life holds so many small but important mysteries; how is vinegar made? How was it discovered? What can be added to vinegars? What can I make from my vinegar? These are just the questions I had about vinegar, I have many more questions to be answered and each day brings new wonderings. There is no room or time for boredom or stagnation of the mind… life is just too interesting.

Raw vegan carrot cake

While I’m not going to go on a completely raw food diet, I do love the raw food desserts I have made so far. I’m trying to use a lot more fruit and veg and feed my family a lot more too. This carrot cake takes no time at all to make (the longest bit is grating the carrots.

I used this recipe, and followed it closely this time. The only difference I made was to freeze the cake in muffin pans, which is how I am making desserts and sweets now in an attempt to limit how much I eat.

Ingredients

Carrot Cake

2 1/2 cup shredded carrots

1 1/2 cup raw walnuts

1 cup dates

1 cup shredded coconut

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

pinch of salt

Cashew Cream Frosting

1 cup raw cashews

1/4 cup water

3 tbsp maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

juice of 1/2 lemon

pinch of salt

1/3 cup coconut oil, melted

Instructions

  1. Grease a 12 muffin pan tray with olive oil
  2. Grate the carrots and add all other cake ingredients to the carrot bowl and mix up well. Put this mix in a food processor and grind it all up until it looks like a dry cake mix.
  3. Press the cake into the prepared muffin pan, smooth over the top, and place in the freezer while making the cream cheese frosting.
  4. To make the cream cheese frosting, combine cashews, water, maple syrup, vanilla, salt, and lemon juice in a blender. Blend until silky smooth. Add coconut oil and blend to combine. Pour onto the chilled cake and smooth the top. Freeze for at least 2 hours.
  5. When ready to serve, remove the cake from the freezer. To release it from the pans, force a knife down one side of each cup and lever the cake out. Top with walnuts and dust with cinnamon. Let it thaw 10 minutes at room temperature.

I do love making these little raw vegan desserts in muffin trays; they are so easy to pop out into bags and store in the freezer until we feel like a treat, and everyone can have something different if they want to.

Mulberry syrup

The mulberry tree is still giving us a bountiful harvest, and supplying the chooks, ducks, guinea fowl and various wild birds and possums with enormous amounts of food. I pick an ice cream container (the 4 litre size) every day, and knock off a lot of ripe fruit in the process. Nothing goes to waste in nature; the wild birds fly in for a feed at various times of the day, they knock fruit off onto the ground in the process of eating. The chooks and ducks camp out under the tree in the shade and eat the fruit that drops from the birds, the wind and me picking fruit. No fruit sits on the ground to rot. My harvest so far has led to mulberry cake (a basic yoghurt cake with mulberries added), mulberry pie, the first batch of mulberry wine, a lot of smoothies and fresh fruit snacks and now I am making mulberry syrup. The syrup will be stored in the fridge to use as a topping for waffles, ice cream and to use in milkshakes (and other as yet unthought of things). I think I will make a batch to freeze too (for later in the year).

The formula for making syrup is fairly easy to remember; make your fruit juice, then add sugar to it in a ratio of 1:1, cook it down to get the right consistency and you have a great syrup. Of course you can jazz things up a bit by adding spices and herbs, or a dash of a good vinegar to bring out the fruit flavours, but the basic syrup is just juice, sugar and water cooked down into a sauce.

To make the juice; I filled a pot with mulberries, 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water and put the pot on a low heat to start the berries breaking down. The juice starts to run out fairly soon, and when the berries are heated through, I turned the heat off. The sugar starts the process of drawing the juice out of the fruit (osmosis) and the heat weakens the walls of the berries so that they are easier to juice.

The entire pot is blended up into a pulp in the blender and the juice drained out using a sieve. Then I measure the juice yield in my handy jug.

Straining juice through a sieve

The juice and an equal amount of sugar are added to the pot and the beautiful purple potion is bought to a simmer for about five minutes. You could simmer for longer to get a thicker syrup, but I like the runny effect.

Simmering away. I had 4.5 cups of juice from a full pot of mulberries

Bottle into sterilized jars or bottles and seal straight away. Once it is cool, the syrup can be stored in a cool, dark cupboard, in the freezer (for a longer shelf life) or in the fridge. Once a bottle is open, it should be stored in the fridge.

Two bottles and a small container of syrup for this batch
The syrup is ready when it coats a spoon; just thick enough to be a syrup rather than a liquid

I have plans for using this syrup to flavour a batch of kombucha, and to make a Lebanese night-time drink called Sharab el toot.

I am loving the harvest of fresh food at the moment, this is what makes life feel abundant and rich; the ability to eat from the garden.

Making tofu at home

Home made tofu stirfry… yum

Tofu is so easy to make and it is such a satisfying thing to whip up and have in the fridge for making stir fry, sauces and various desserts. I have been making about 200g of tofu a week (and my partner still has no idea how much tofu he is eating) and using it to make cheesecake like desserts in various flavours. There isn’t much actual work in making tofu, but there is a bit of planning and thinking ahead. This is how I go about it.

I make a huge batch of soy milk using 2 cups of soy beans. How I do that is described here.

After bottling a litre of milk for home use and putting the okara (the pulp) in a lunchbox in the fridge or freezer, I put the rest of the milk back on the stove on a low heat to warm up again.

When the milk reaches 71 degrees Celcius, I add the juice from a lemon mixed with 1/2 cup of warm water by pouring half the mix into the pot and stirring for a few seconds. I wait a minute or two before adding the rest of the lemon juice and gently stirring the lot a bit. I usually put the lid on the pot and leave it to sit for a half hour or so while I do something else (I have forgotten it and left it until the next day at this point, but it isn’t to be recommended).

When I lift the pot lid, I should see lots of white curds in a clear or slightly yellow/green liquid. Now I know it’s time to pour the lot into a tofu mold lined with some wet muslin or cheesecloth. The liquid that drains out is really rich in nutrients and can be watered onto the garden outside (it gets smelly after a day or two).

This is not a great example of the curds, but you can see how they form

When a bit of the liquid has drained out of the mold, I fold the cloth over the tofu and put the press lid on. You can use anything heavy to weigh down the lid. I usually use a 3 litre juice bottle. Leave the weight on the press for three hours or so. This presses the tofu together and makes it firm.

Curds in the press
Folded over neatly, ready to press
I put a container under the mold to catch the liquid that drains out as it is pressed. The 2 litre juice bottle is just heavy enough to weigh the tofu down

When the tofu is all pressed out, I unwrap the block and put it into a lunch box filled with water in the fridge.

Ready to use tofu

It really is that easy. I plan to plant a crop of soy beans in the garden this year, so I can make tofu, okara and soy milk from my own crop. I wonder if it will taste different?

Sourdough discard brownies

Since this is my digital cook book, I thought I would share yet another sourdough discard recipe. I do love brownies, and these ones use some more of the sourdough discard. I used this recipe as inspiration and, of course, went slightly off track.

Ingredients

1/2 cup aquafaba (chickpea water)

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1 cup + 2 tbsp icing sugar

100g vegan block ‘butter’

150g dark chocolate chips

1 cup sourdough discard, 100% hydration

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

70g ground almonds

3 tbsp cornflour

1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

1/4 tsp fine table salt

flaky salt, for sprinkling (optional)

Method

Pile all the ingredients on the bench so you can throw the mix together quickly

Whisk the aquafaba:

  1. Place the aquafaba and cream of tartar (if using) in a food processor or a bowl with a mixer thingy. Whisk on high speed until it becomes a thick pale foam, like whipped egg whites.
  2. Whilst continuing to whisk, add the sugar a few tablespoons at a time.
  3. Once all the sugar has been added, continue to whisk for 5 minutes more to ensure as much sugar as possible has dissolved. It should look glossy, thick and opaque white, like egg whites whisked to semi-stiff peaks.
The aquafaba whip turned out really stiff, it is so interesting

Melt the chocolate & butter:

  1. Place the vegan butter and broken up chocolate into a small pot and place over a low heat. Stir until almost fully melted. Remove from the heat and set aside so the residual heat can melt it all fully.
  2. Once fully melted, stir the sourdough discard and vanilla extract into the pot of melted chocolate/butter mixture. It may look kind of split/grainy but this is fine.
I love the swirl patterns when mixing this stuff in

Combine & Bake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a 19 x 25 cm rectangular brownie pan with baking paper.
  2. Mix around 1/4 of the whisked aquafaba into the melted chocolate mixture. You don’t have to be gentle here as this step is to help loosen the texture of the chocolatey mixture.
  3. Now pour that loosened chocolatey mixture into the bowl of whisked aquafaba. Sift the cocoa powder, ground almonds, cornflour, bicarb and salt on top (see notes if you don’t have a sieve).
  4. Use a spatula to fold the mixture together gently, trying to maintain as much of that air in there as possible. Make sure you get right to the bottom of the bowl and scrape the sides too!
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes – the top should look dry, matte and the brownies shouldn’t wobble when you shake the pan. If you insert a toothpick into the centre, it should come out with some thick, gooey batter (NOT loose, drippy batter!) attached to it.
  6. Remove from the oven and run a knife around the edges whilst they’re hot to loosen any bits which may be stuckLeave to cool for 20-30 minutes before removing from the tray and cutting into squares. They will sink in the centre as they cool so may crack a bit as this happens. You can sprinkle them with some flaky salt as well now.
Ready for the oven
Just out of the oven

This was a great tasting brownie; so light and tangy with a gooey centre. It was really crumbly though and didn’t hold together well in the container.

Making soy yoghurt

One of the things my daughter misses most from the animal protein world is yoghurt. I admit, I love it too and often keepa litre of homemade yoghurt in the fridge (torture for her when she’s home). I have been wanting to try plant based yoghurt for a long time and now I have.

I was online shopping for soap nuts (my latest soapnut tree seeds have yet to sprout by the way) on the Biome shop site and I happened to see a listing for plant based yoghurt culture. Yes, I know that is nowhere near the laundry section. Yes, I know I’m trying to spend less money. What can I say? I’m easily distracted. I bought the culture (and some soap nuts) and when it came I followed the instructions and stored it in the freezer and promptly forgot I had it.

It wasn’t until a month or so later that I overheard my daughter talking to a friend on the phone saying she really misses yoghurt and remembered I had some starter.

Immediately I began planning to make some yoghurt for her. I made a big batch of soy milk and set some aside to cool in a yoghurt maker container.

The starter culter needs to be stored in the freezer, so I labeled this jar, because there are other things in the freezer in specimen jars that I wouldn’t like to mistake for yoghurt starter.
Waiting for the milk to cool to 40 degrees C
This is how much starter to use per litre
Stir it in well
Plonk it into the yoghurt maker filled with hot water
We have yoghurt

The first batch is a success. It is firm and creamy, but there is a lot of liquid around the yoghurt. I have just drained the liquid off as I use it. It doesn’t affect the taste at all.

Yoghurt is back on the menu!!

Making kunnu aya or Tigernut milk

I discovered a new staple crop!!! It’s amazing how many plants we eat as a species, and how many plants we don’t know we can eat as individuals. I had only heard one reference to tigernuts in my life before (that I can remember); an old Woody Allen movie I watched as a child, where he asks for tiger milk for breakfast on being woken from cryogenic slumber in the distant future. I remember being puzzled at why anyone would risk milking tigers when goats are so easy to find. I dreamed of this scene one night a week ago (don’t ask me why, my mind is an enduring and deepening mystery to me) and I decided to google tiger milk. What I found has sent me on a whole journey of discovery.

Tigernuts are closely related to what I have always known as yellow nutgrass. I have spent years trying to get rid of this plant from various gardens, only to now discover that their relatives taste great and crop hugely. I have planted some seed in pots in the garden to see if I can grow them in captivity.

My first experiment with tigernuts is to make kunnu aya (a traditional nigerian drink) or tigernut milk. Woolworths sells tigernuts, so I bought a small packet to play with. I put a cup of tigernuts to soak overnight, then rinsed them off.

I put the tigernuts and some dates into the blender with just enough water to cover them. I then blended the lot until it was soupy.

I strained it through a nut bag into a jug, then I returned the pulp to the blender with a bit more water and blended it all again. The second lot of milk was not as rich and creamy as the first, but it did boost the yield a lot.

The resulting milk is smooth, creamy and refreshing. The flavour is slightly nutty and a little coconut like. I do love it as a drink. The left over pulp was spread out on a baking tray in a low oven and dried to make tigernut flour.

This little tuber has real potential as a crop here at the humpy. I hope my plants grow and produce in their pots, so I can process my own kunnu aya from tigernuts I grew. The flour is useful as a gluten free option in baking and as a thickening agent. The nuts can be ground as a base for vegan cheeses and creams (in place of cashews) and they can even be boiled and served as a vegetable or added to soups, casseroles and stews. What a useful little plant.

Kugel – how to use excess eggs

Kugel is basically a mix of a starch (like noodles or potatoes), oils and egg. It began life as a way to make a side dish by floating a lidded pot in the stew or soup over an open fire and filling said pot with a pudding mixture to steam. Now they are mostly baked in a shallow dish in the oven. No matter where they evolved, they use a lot of eggs and other fairly cheap and filling ingredients. I decided to give a potato kugel a go. I followed this basic recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 4 medium to large potatoes, peeled and grated
  • 1 medium onions, peeled and grated
  • 6 eggs (I used a mix of duck and chook)
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Optional (grated cheese, herbs, etc)

Directions

  • Preheat an oven to 175 degrees C. Grease a 9×13 inch pan with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Heat up the pan in the oven while you prepare the mixture. This helps to give the bottom of the kugel a crispy, well cooked taste.
  • After grating the potatoes and onions, squeeze as much moisture out of the mixture by dumping it into a colander and squashing it down a bit.
  • Combine the potatoes and onions in a large bowl. Mix in the eggs, 1/3 cup of vegetable oil, salt, and pepper. This is where you add any optional extras too. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
  • Bake in the preheated oven until the top is golden brown and crisp, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Since my daughter can’t eat eggs or cheese, and my partner doesn’t like onion, this dish is my comfort food. It tastes lovely and fills you up fast, as well as using a lot of eggs in one go, what’s not to love?

Sourdough biscuits

Because I am always looking for ways to use up sourdough discard, I found the recipe on this blog; Sourdough surprises.

I thought I would share this quick and easy recipe with you. Of course I substituted the butter in this recipe for vegan butter and the egg for a flax egg, but otherwise I managed to follow instructions… except for adding M&Ms that is.

Basic Sourdough Cookie Recipe (recipe from The Gingered Whisk)

1 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup sourdough starter, 100% hydration
1 tsp Vanilla
3 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup toasted chopped walnuts (or other nut of your choice)
6 ounces chip (chocolate, white chocolate, butterscotch, whichever suits your fancy)
1 cup dried fruit (Cherries, cranberries, whatever you have…)

Preheat oven to 200 degree C.
In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugars.
Turn the mixer off, and with a wooden spoon gently mix in your starter until combined.
Add the egg (you can turn your mixer back on now) and the vanilla.
Slowly add the flour mixture into the mixer, until just combined.
Fold in your nuts, chips and fruit.
Place by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet and bake 10-12 minutes, or until starting to turn golden brown around the edges

I whipped up the biscuits while I was waiting for the kettle to boil for the washing up, they were so quick and easy to make. I added some left over M&Ms I had in the fridge, some dried cranberries and the left over bits from a packet of walnuts in the cupboard. Not bad for a morning’s work really.

I also made some pound cake… to use up excess eggs.