Yesterday was the big day! The awesome lasses at work hosted a surprise baby shower for their colleague and one of my former students. I managed to collect my brother’s excess baby clothes, went and bought a few trinkets myself, some chocolate for the mother-to-be (because she needs all the comfort food she can get!), and we also pooled money together for a bunch of gift cards. When I heard that we were going to be about 15 people my brain immediately started jumping back and forth until I sat down and jotted down some ideas. For what? Food, of course.
Since I had to admit to myself that even I couldn’t stomach just endless sweet treats at a table, I decided to do my best and include savoury noms. I love these sorts of things where you can bring things because my brain goes into glee mode, rubbing its greedy hands and sing-songing “guinea pigs!” Of course, I count myself in that number, because even if I make something I’ve attempted before, each time is different; a new food memory is created.
Every now and again Man-thing invites friends over to play Warhammer, some crazy game involving dice, little men (pretty) and measuring tape, with lots of smack talk about elves and ogres. Usually at these things, where I scurry off to hide upstairs, Man-thing organizes buns with vegan hot dogs for him and his guest, because that’s his limit to creativity. At one of these things he was wondering what he could put in a bun to include me in this feast, because I pull my nose at fake hot dogs. One of us suggested a carrot and we had a good laugh, but later that idea was seared into my mind when I started thinking about how frakkin awesome it would be to have a huge wholewheat roll with a lovely roasted carrot in it, with some leafy business and a potent sauce to mush it all around. I was gloating pretty hard about the whole concept, and then it turns out I’m not the only one with ideas – Vegan Sandra beat me to it!
Nevertheless, I thought this occasion perfect to try out a smaller, “cocktail roll” version of that big, indulgent version I still want to make. I’m happy to make food, but 15 personalized, normal-sized hawt carrot dogs is probably not practical. Enter my modest version, with some pretty sweet trappings nevertheless:
A. Carrot pastry rolls stuffed with balsamic-herb tofu ricotta (makes approx 30 little rolls or more…I stopped counting)
- 300g of vegan-friendly puff pastry (buy pre-rolled if you can)
- 300g baby carrots, boiled/steamed till soft
- 2 TBSP non-dairy milk
Balsamic-herb Tofu Ricotta
- 1/4 cup coriander, washed and patted dry
- 1 cup packed spinach, washed and patted dry
- 1/2 cup black olives, pitted
- 1 packet tomato paste (2 TBSP)
- 2 TBSP nutritional yeast
- 1 tub Nature’s Choice tofu (12oz) – pressed of water for at least an hour
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 1 TBSP lite soy sauce
- 2 TBSP lemon juice
- 1 TBSP balsamic vinegar
- spices & herbs: basil, oregano, smoked paprika, white pepper
- Thaw your puff pastry for half an hour or so.
- Boil or steam your baby carrots until soft – you should be able to smoothly pierce it with a fork.
- OPTIONAL: If you like you can fry the soft carrots in a mixture of EVOO, balsamic, thyme, mustard seeds & jam, but the ricotta is tasty enough without this step.
- Blend the olives, coriander, and spinach until broken down, then add the rest of the ricotta ingredients (excluding the non-dairy milk) and blend until smooth. There can be little bits if you like!
- Preheat the oven to 180C and prepare a tray with sprayed paper or similar.
- On a floured surface roll out your pastry until it is rather thin (not transparent).
- Cut your pastry lengthwise in strips at a width of 5 cm. Spread your tofu ricotta in a long strip down the length and middle of your rolled pastry- not too bulky (see pics). Place your carrots at intervals on top of the ricotta spread. Slice the pastry into rectangles around the ricotta. Roll your pastry lengthwise, pinching it closed along the seam (you can leave the two edges open). Place the pastry seam-down on the baking tray. Once you’ve made your rolls (you may require two trays), lightly brush the top with some non-dairy milk.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Be careful not to burn the underside just because the top isn’t a deep brown. Check your pastry quickly here at 12 minutes and turn it over if need be.
I cannot describe how thrilled Man-thing was with this! He pulled a face when I asked him to take pics of the process, but the moment he popped one into his mouth he looked very ashamed and said “I was wrong” and called it a success. Hah!
B. Wrapped curried-jam falafel (GF)
- 2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise
- 1 batch zucchini & carrot balls (see below – makes 22)
- 2 TBSP EVOO
- 2 tsp curry powder
- 3 TBSP jam of choice (I used fig) + 1/2 TBSP hot water, mixed
- 2 tsp dry thyme
- 2 tsp dry mint
Zucchini & carrot balls (based somewhat on Susan’s beetballs)
Ingredients (yield: 22 balls)
- 1 cup zucchini
- 1/3 cup pitted olives, pressed dry of moisture
- 3 medium carrots, peeled
- 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
- 1 cup cooked chickpeas
- 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- Spices (paprika, smoked paprika, white pepper, oregano)
- Take your peeled carrots and chop them into segments. Place them in the food processor and pulse once or twice until somewhat broken down. Add your olives & zucchini and pulse until they become small bits.
- Add the chickpeas and the rest of the ingredients and pulse until everything is well mushed together, BUT the ingredients must still be discernible (that is, you should still see bits of carrot, zucchini, etc).
- Place your quinoa in a large bowl and add the processed carrot mixture. Stir well to combine. It shouldn’t be too mushy. Add some more quinoa if necessary, or maybe some oat/rice bran.
- Preheat to 180C and line your baking sheet.
- Take TBSP-sized heaps of mixture and, using your hands, roll out balls and place them on the baking sheet, flattening them a bit (but not too much or else your balls will fall apart). This should give you about 20 balls.
- Bake the balls for 15 minutes then remove them from the oven.
- When you place the balls into the oven start slicing the zucchini and mix together the EVOO, thyme & mint in one small bowl, as well as your fig jam, water, and curry powder in another bowl.
- With a pastry brush, thinly spread the fig mixture on one side of your eggplant and zucchini slices. Wash your pastry brush in water and set aside.
- Roll your balls in a zucchini slice, jam side in. Lay it back down on the baking tray with the folded side down. Don’t worry if there isn’t a big overlap – it will bake against the ball and stick.
- With a pastry brush lightly and thinly spread on the curried EVOO mix on the outside/top of the eggplant/zucchini and bake for another 10 or so minutes, until the outside is cooked/zucchini is somewhat shrivelled. If you want to bake it for longer than 10 minutes turn the balls over.
So there you have it! Oh, and what about pudding, I hear? I decided to make Deliciously Ella’s apple & pear cake (gluten-free!). I’ve made it before it different shapes and manifestations but it is always a happy winner, especially since it is free of refined sugar and is just bladdy yummy. I’m always hesitant to use ground almonds as an ingredient, simply because it is rather expensive and an overload of nuts doesn’t always agree with everyone, but in this case, combined with the succulent nature of the fruit, it works perfectly. I used 3/4 cup brown rice flour and 1/4 cup buckwheat flour, and because of that I had to add 1.5 cups of soy milk, because it became so dense it almost broke my food processor!
I also made a quick date caramel to just brush on top of each individual square. I baked the cake batter in two square 8″ pans, so I got 32 little bites out of it! I figured there’d be more than enough other food that people would bring, and girls tend to feel better about trying out something if it’s a small portion. Man-thing really enjoyed this cake – not too sweet, but he immediately asked if there was more, which is always a good sign! It all explains why I don’t have any pieces left to take photos of…*koff*
Anyhow! There is a giveaway over at Keepin’ it Kind for a memoir entitled “My Gentle Barn”by Ellie Lak. She’s from over at The Gentle Barn and their website is just a touching and awesome resource to go through – they have an animal sanctuary and have sections on the plant-based diet that are very informative and thought-provoking. Go have a squizz – the giveaway ends soon but the website will stay on 😉