“When life gives you a lot of oranges, accept them with gratitude and make a recipe for a vegan orange pie…” That’s what I was thinking when, a few days ago I was given a big box full of juicy, season oranges! Of course many of them have been and will be squeezed to make fresh orange juices, some will be turned into fruit salads, smoothies, orange – green rainbow salads and maybe I will make chickpeas and vegetables in sweet and sour sauce, but the oranges I have are really a lot and the high temperatures of the week will probably make them spoil. So I had to be more creative in order to make the most out of them!
Talking about that with my hubby yesterday, we decided that the dessert of the week should be a really… orangy orange pie. Actually as he loves fruit-based desserts and I love oriental desserts, we came to the conclusion that it should be an orange pie with an orange custard made with a generous amount of freshly squeezed orange juice and a crispy, sweet phyllo, sweetened with agave nectar. As it is common with many oriental desserts, after baking they are poured with a sugary syrup to give them their special sweet, syrupy character (which is something I really like) but instead of this processed sugar overload, I usually prefer using agave nectar which is less processed and also it works amazingly -you cannot tell the difference. What I like in this vegan orange pie is the fragrant orange cream that is wrapped between layers of phyllo pastry and then the pie is baked until phyllo gets a golden color and crispy texture so that the sweet syrup penetrates between the layers, filling them with syrup and letting them remain in the same time crispy. One little secret to get the right crispy texture is to brush each phyllo with a generous amount of melted coconut oil or margarine. This step may add a few more calories to the recipe but the result will be unforgettable!
- 1 pack of phyllo pastry (450-500 gr)
- 1/2 cup coconut oil melted (or melted vegan margarine)
For the orange custard
- 1 liter of freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 cup, heaped (200 g) fine semolina
- 1 cup, heaped (240 ml) of agave syrup
- zest of 2 oranges
For the syrup
1 1/4 cup agave nectar
1. Prepare the orange custard: Put in the pan the agave nectar, the orange juice, the semolina and the orange zest, mix well with a spatula. Simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, until a smooth cream forms. Transfer the custard into a glass or metal bowl, cover the surface of the cream with film or a piece of parchment paper to prevent crust from forming and let it cool.
2. Brush a rectangular baking pan with 1 tablespoon of melted coconut oil. Line half of the phyllo sheets in the bottom of the pan, brushing them one by one with coconut oil. Phyllo should cover the bottom and the walls of the pan (or you need a smaller pan!). Repeat the process two more times.
3. Pour the orange cream over the phyllo and spread it with a spatula.
4. Cover the custard with the remaining phyllo sheets, brushing them again with melted coconut oil (with the process described above). Fold the excess phyllo and seal the edges. With a sharp knife shape on the surface of the orange pie squares 6-8 cm long and sprinkle it with some water (about ¼ cup). Bake for 50 minutes at about 180 oC or until golden.
5. As soon as the orange pie comes out of the oven pour the agave nectar evenly over its surface. Allow to cool before serve. Usually in Greece they let it for a few hours in the refrigerator to cool before serving to underline the freshness of the orange juice.
Vegan panna cotta is one of the easiest and most delicious desserts one can prepare at home. Its secrets are not much, nor does it require any particular technique to be made. The only prerequisites are a dense, rich, plant-based milk such as coconut milk and a plant-based “gelatine” such as agar agar (a natural polysaccharide made from a species of seaweeds). During springtime, when the strawberries are abundant and delicious, I like to add a few into my recipe so that our panna cotta gets the aroma and the slightly sour taste of fresh strawberries. Garnished with a light strawberry sauce (recipe below) or a drizzle of vegan chocolate syrup, this vegan strawberry panna cotta is one of our favorite desserts during May!
for the strawberry panna cotta
- 2 cups or 1 can (480 ml) full-fat coconut milk or homemade coconut milk
- 250g fresh strawberries (you can also use frozen)
- 4 tbsp sugar or other sweetener of choice (you can also use coconut sugar or raw cane sugar although they may change the color of the panna cotta a little bit)
- 2 tsp. (level) agar agar powder
for the strawberry sauce
- 250g fresh strawberries (or frozen)
- 3 tbsp sugar or other the sweetener of your choice
1. For the panna cotta: Blend the strawberries in the blender and push the pulp through a fine sieve to remove the seeds. Measure the pulp to make sure it is one cup.
2. In a saucepan add the pulp of strawberries, sugar, coconut milk and agar agar. Stir until the agar agar is completely dissolved, turn on the heat and once it comes to boil lower and simmer for five minutes stirring.
3. Distribute the mixture among 4-5 ramekins and let cool. After completely cooled put it in the refrigerator for at least two hours before serving.
4. For the strawberry sauce: Blend the strawberries in the blender and push the pulp through a fine sieve. Put the pulp together with the sugar in a pan and simmer for five minutes. Transfer to a glass jar and let cool.
5. To serve: You can serve panna cotta directly in the ramekins, garnished with a spoonful of strawberry sauce or you can unmold it and put it on a layer of strawberry sauce, in a plate. Garnish with fresh strawberries.
Carobs are well-known as some of the nutrient-rich gifts nature gave to us and fortunately carob trees are found everywhere in Greece. The great thing about carobs is their unique flavor which slightly reminds me of a naturally made caramel while carob products, namely the carob powder (or carob flour) and the carob syrup can be used in various vegan recipes.
One of the healthiest sweet recipes with which I am stuck this year are these raw vegan carob and walnut energy bars. Basically in the mornings I like to wrap one bar in parchment paper and put it in my bag before going to work. Around 11 am, ie the cravings time, this vegan bar is the most tasty, healthy and hearty solution that I could have. Moreover the walnuts and the flaxseeds they contain fulfill my daily requirement in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, while raisins and raw carob powder make them wonderfully sweet and fruity.
- 1 cup (150 g) raisins
- 1 cup (100 g) rolled oats (or rolled buckwheat)
- 1/2 cup (55g) ground flaxseed
- 1/4 cup (40 g) carob powder
- 1/2 cup raw walnuts (60 g), divided (¼ + ¼)
- 1-2 tbsp water (if necessary)
1. Soak the raisins in water for fifteen minutes and drain well.
2. Put the raisins in the food processor and process for 2-3 minutes until mashed. Add the oats, flaxseeds, ¼ cup walnuts and the carob powder and keep processing. If your mixture is not consistent enough, add a spoonful of water and process for one more minute.
3. Lay a medium-sized (21x11x6), rectangular cake tin with parchment paper. Transfer the mixture in the tin, press with your hands to the bottom and flatten the surface. Finely chop the remaining walnuts, sprinkle them on top and press them a little bit to stick. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
4. Remove the mixture from the tin and cut vertically. My cake tin is 21 cm long so I made three centimeters long cuts, ending up with seven bars. Keep them in an airtight container in the fridge.