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Σπιτική βέγκαν φέτα αμυγδάλου - Homemade vegan almond feta cheese - Vegan in Athens

Homemade, fermented almond feta cheese

Homemade vegan cheese of some kind is found almost always in our refrigerator. We love vegan cheese as it adds taste to our meals and can also serve as a fantastic, quick snack together with some bread or even better between two slices of bread when we crave for a sandwich. Besides, making anut or seed cheese at home is neither difficult nor expensive. Not to mention that homemade plant-based cheese, such as today’s almond feta, contains only pure ingredients without the added refined oils and processed starches of most commercial varieties. So besides tasty, homemade nutand seed cheeses enrich our meals with a plethora of nutrients and fill us up.

Today I want to share with you the recipe for our favorite one, an amazing fermented almond feta cheese, that looks and tastes very close to the real feta. Actually this almond feta is the closest to taste and texture to the traditional cheese I’ve tasted, it can be cut into nice slices without crumbling, it has a salty and tangy, strong flavor, a rich texture reminiscent of a soft feta, it mixes perfectly in salads and recipes and last but not least, it’s very easy to make, though it takes some time to ferment.

Σπιτική βέγκαν φέτα αμυγδάλου - Homemade vegan almond feta cheese - Vegan in Athens

The almonds
My favorite nut to make a vegan feta cheese is raw, fresh almonds. Almonds are white in color – just like white cheese, their taste matches perfectly to vegan cheeses, they are rich in vitamins such as vitamin E and minerals such as calcium, we love them and we find plenty of local fresh almonds on the market. In addition, almonds retain a texture after blending that adds an extra bonus to the texture giving the sense of real feta. For our recipe I soak and then peel the almonds but if you do not have time for this, just buy blanched almonds, soak them and follow the instructions below.

Σπιτική βέγκαν φέτα αμυγδάλου - Homemade vegan almond feta cheese - Vegan in Athens

The texture
What I usually want when making nut cheese at home is a firm texture, so I can cut it without ending up into a crumbled cheese or a cream cheese. I really love vegan cream cheese, but sometimes I just want to have a real, chewable piece of cheese with my bread. To make a vegan cheese that is really sliceable I use agar agar, the magical powder made from seaweed, combined with rice flour (I choose this flour because it has white color and so it is not altering the color of our recipe, it does not contain gluten and does not has a strong taste). Both of these ingredients make our cheese firm, giving it a perfect texture very much like a soft feta cheese.

Σπιτική βέγκαν φέτα αμυγδάλου - Homemade vegan almond feta cheese - Vegan in Athens

The secret of taste
A key characteristic of each and every delicious cheese is the tangy taste which regularly is achieved by long-term maturation. So theoretically, we could allow a few weeks our cheese to mature, to let certain microorganisms cause its fermentation and add by this way the desired, sligtly sour and umami flavor. But there is no reason to make our lives difficult with complicated and time consuming procedures when we can speed things up. So to get a taste very close to that of mature cheese, we can take advantage of all the good microorganisms found in a plant-based kefir or vegan soy yogurt! So, after draining and peeling my almonds, I blend them with a cup of vegan yoghurt or kefir (the last one can be prepared by leaving our little kefirs for a few hours in a cup of almond milk or soy milk, in a warm place).Then – and here is the time-consuming part of the process – we should let the mixture ferment at the right temperature for at least twenty-four hours or more to achieve the desired flavor. If you are about to make the recipe, I would suggest a 24-hour fermentation in a warm place (eg near a radiator) and if you decide that you want it even more tangy, you can extend the fermentation for 12 hours or more the next time you make it. Take into account that during summer a 24-hour fermentation in the warm climate of Greece is enough to me, while during winter the time depends heavily on the temperature of our home.

Σπιτική βέγκαν φέτα αμυγδάλου - Homemade vegan almond feta cheese - Vegan in Athens

The salt
Feta is a salty cheese and if we want a cheese very close to feta, we should take this into consideration. If we really have reason to avoid salt, we can only add 1 tsp of sea salt. But if we want a stronger result I would say 1 1/2 – 2 tsp. My suggestion is to start with 1 1/2 tsp and the second time you make it add more or less as you desire (I say so because I am sure that if you’ll try this recipe you’ll make it again and again!).

Σπιτική βέγκαν φέτα αμυγδάλου - Homemade vegan almond feta cheese - Vegan in Athens

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (approximately 200 – 220 g) raw almonds, soaked for 6 hours and drained
  • 1 cup (240 g) of soy yogurt or plant-based kefir made from almond milk or soy milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tbsp agar agar in powder
  • 4 tbsp rice flour

Method

1. Peel the almonds. If you leave them for a few minutes in hot water, they are peeled much easier. Alternatively, choose blanched almonds, soak them and use them directly.
2. Pour the almonds, salt and vegan yogurt or kefir in the blender and beat them at medium speed at first and then at a high speed until almonds are fully blended. You’ll need to help with a spatula by cleaning the blender walls.
3. Transfer the mixture to a clean bowl, cover and leave in a warm place for at least 24 hours.
4. The next day mix the rice flour well with the almond mixture and leave it aside.
5. In a saucepan, add the water and the agar agar and stir until it dissolves. Simmer over high heat and when it comes to a boil lower the heat, add the almond mixture and stir for about 10 minutes until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil.
6. Line a square bowl with a plastic wrap suitable for foods and transfer into the cheese mixture. Cover the surface with more wrap or baking paper and let it cool for a few hours.
7. Turn the cheese over to a platter, remove the wrap, slice and enjoy!

Σπιτική βέγκαν φέτα αμυγδάλου - Homemade vegan almond feta cheese - Vegan in Athens

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Festive, fat-free chestnut and chickpea hummus with orange and garam masala - Χριστουγεννιάτικο χούμους με πορτοκάλι και γκαράμ μασάλα χωρίς λιπαρά - Vegan in Athens

Chestnut & chickpea hummus with orange and garam masala – fat free

During this time of the year, the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, I like to prepare foods with a special, maybe more festive touch, no matter if they are simple or complex to make. My purpose is to welcome the winter and to honor it using the materials available at this time, combined with spices and herbs that bring warmth to our body and heart. As I love hummus and I often make it in various variations, the latest couple of years I like to make an edition especially for these days.

So for this festive, Christmas, New Year’s, winter hummus I used chickpeas and chestnuts as a base, lemon juice and orange juice to emphasize the slightly sweet taste of boiled chestnuts and garam masala, a mixture of spices that create a sense of warmth and well-being, such as cinnamon, cloves, cumin and cardamom. Its taste is special – earthy and slightly sweet, its texture like a mousse and the aromas of orange and herbal spices make a huge difference.

 

Festive, fat-free chestnut and chickpea hummus with orange and garam masala - Χριστουγεννιάτικο χούμους με πορτοκάλι και γκαράμ μασάλα χωρίς λιπαρά - Vegan in Athens

Chestnut hummus, in addition to its particular flavor, is both nutritious and low in fat and calories. Chestnuts, unlike what many people think, are low in fat and therefore do not contain many calories and so do chickpeas. To keep my recipe light, I have decided to avoid adding any kind of fatty ingredients, but sincerely that’s totally up to you.

Vegan hummus with chickpeas and chestnuts along with baked pittas is a perfect appetizer, provided that we like the earthy flavour of chestnuts and the spices found in garam masala. Usually, I like to garnish my hummus with orange zest and pomegranate seeds, but we could also garnish with finely chopped nuts such as walnuts!

So, wherever you are, whatever you do, I am sending wishes for a beautiful, calm and peaceful new year.

Festive, fat-free chestnut and chickpea hummus with orange and garam masala - Χριστουγεννιάτικο χούμους με πορτοκάλι και γκαράμ μασάλα χωρίς λιπαρά - Vegan in Athens

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas (or canned), drained (keep the water)
  • 1 cup chestnuts boiled and peeled
  • 1/2 cup chickpea water (or brine)
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • juice and zest from 1 orange
  • 1 tsp. garam masala *
  • 1/2 -1 tsp. salt
  • freshly ground pepper

for serving

  • 2-3 chestnuts peeled
  • seed from 1 pomegranate
  • the zest from the orange
  • a little freshly ground pepper
  • baked pittas cut in pieces

Festive, fat-free chestnut and chickpea hummus with orange and garam masala - Χριστουγεννιάτικο χούμους με πορτοκάλι και γκαράμ μασάλα χωρίς λιπαρά - Vegan in Athens

Method

1. Put all the ingredients in the blender and blend at moderate speed for 2-3 minutes until a creamy, uniform mixture is formed. If necessary add 2-3 tablespoons of chickpea broth and blend. Taste and add lemon or salt if needed.
2. Serve on a plate and garnish with the zest of the orange, pomegranate seeds and a little freshly ground pepper. Alternatively you can garnish with chopped walnuts or nuts of your choice.

Festive, fat-free chestnut and chickpea hummus with orange and garam masala - Χριστουγεννιάτικο χούμους με πορτοκάλι και γκαράμ μασάλα χωρίς λιπαρά - Vegan in Athens

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Vegan Vasilopita (Greek new year's cake) -Vegan βασιλόπιτα - Vegan in Athens

Fragrant Vegan Vasilopita – New Year’s cake

Today I want to share with you my vegan recipe for the traditional vasilopita which is technically a cake but for many it is considered the most important cake of the year! New Year’s vasilopita (Saint Basil’s cake) is part of our traditions with a history that arises from the very distant past according to several folklorists. In popular tradition, vasilopita is associated with a legend of Basil of Caesarea. According to one story, Basil called on the Roman Citizens Caesarea to raise a ransom payment to stop the siege of the city. Each member of the city gave whatever they had in gold and jewelry. When the ransom was raised, the enemy was so embarrassed by the act of collective giving that he called off the siege without collecting payment. Basil was then tasked with returning the unpaid ransom, but had no way to know which items belonged to which family so he baked all of the jewellery into loaves of bread and distributed the loaves to the city, and by a miracle each citizen received their exact share.

Vegan Vasilopita (Greek new year's cake) -Vegan βασιλόπιτα - Vegan in Athens

One of the several things that makes vasilopita so special is that it contains a hidden coin (or a dry bean!) which is supposed to give good luck to the receiver. A second thing is that vasilopita is associated with Saint Basil’s day, January 1. Nowadays, on New Year’s Day families cut the vasilopita to bless the house and bring good luck for the new year. This is usually done at the midnight of New Year’s Eve. The coin is hidden in the cake by slipping it into the dough before baking. At midnight the sign of the cross is etched with a knife across the cake. A piece of cake is sliced for each member of the family and any visitors present at the time, by order of age from eldest to youngest. We always cut a piece for our dog, Petra, or any other animal that may share our house, but as dogs cannot consume sugar we eat her cake and give her a special appropriate treat instead :).

Vegan Vasilopita (Greek new year's cake) - Vegan βασιλόπιτα - Vegan in Athens

But let’s go back to our recipe! Since we are not talking about any cake but the official cake of the year, the recipe of vasilopita should be successful and delicious. Unlike common belief, it is not the use of special animal-derived ingredients the secret of its success but the use of fresh, fragrant, plant-based, natural ingredients that give an amazing flavor and taste to our cake such as the zest and juice of freshly picked, organic oranges. Nearly each year, I like to make this easy vegan vasilopita which is sooooo fluffy and amazing that no one has ever noticed that it is 100% plant-based. For my recipe I use sunflower oil -or the oil of your choice- and to add flavor, a generous amount of lemon and orange zest – both of which can of course be replaced by shredded mastic, cinnamon and cloves. A small secret to give an extra boost of taste and texture is the addition of a small amount of grated coconut to my dough.

So good luck to your vasilopita and many wishes for a compassionate and peaceful new year.

Vegan Vasilopita (Greek new year's cake) - Vegan βασιλόπιτα - Vegan in Athens

Ingredients
(for a 22-24 cm diameter tray)

  • 1 1/2 cup plant-based milk
  • 1/2 cup sunflower oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • the zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup of dry shredded coconut
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup walnuts or dried fruit finely chopped (optional)

for decorating
1 / 2-1 cup coconut flour or powdered sugar

Vegan Vasilopita (Greek new year's cake) - Vegan βασιλόπιτα - Vegan in Athens

Method
1. Put in a bowl the sugar, the milk and the oil and mix with a hand mixer for a few minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Add the juice and zest, baking powder and soda and mix until they are fully incorporated.
2. Sift the flour and pour it into the mixture gradually, mixing continuously at low speed until fully incorporated.
3. Add the coconut and walnuts or fruits and mix lightly with a spoon or spatula.
4. Pour the mixture into a greased ana floured baking tray. Roll a coin (or a dry bean) to a baking sheet or foil and immerse it in the dough. Bake in a preheated oven at 175 ° C for about 50-55 minutes or until it is golden brown. Allow to cool, remove from the mold, sprinkle with powdered sugar or coconut flour and serve after midnight!

Vegan Vasilopita (Greek new year's cake) - Vegan βασιλόπιτα - Vegan in Athens

Note: It is advisable not to open the oven door at least for the first half an hour of baking to prevent your cake from losing its volume and fluffyness To make sure it’s properly baked inside, immerse a toothpick into the center into the center of the cake after 50 minutes of baking. If it comes out clean, then it is ready, otherwise bake it for a while -five more minutes should be enough.

Vegan Vasilopita (Greek new year's cake) - Vegan βασιλόπιτα - Vegan in Athens

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