Main Dishes

Vegan Greek soutzoukakia - Βέγκαν σουτζουκάκια φακής σμυρνέικα - Vegan in Athens

Vegan Greek soutzoukakia

Or Smyrna soutzoukakia (plural: soutzoukakia / singular: soutzoukaki, from the Turkish word “sucuk”) as we call them in Greece, are oblong meatballs immersed in a spicy and fragrant tomato sauce and they are considered one of the most delectable Greek dishes. It is said that the recipe for soutzoukakia came to Greece together with the refuges from Smyrna and this is why its name points to this Ancient Greek city.

Since soutzoukakia were the number one in my childhood’s top ten foods, I always wanted to develop a vegan recipe with vegan meatballs and the exact same taste and texture I still remember from the times my mum used to take us to that specific restaurant that made the best soutzoukakia in the whole world. For this purpose I use soaked green lentils -not cooked, as I want texture- and oat flour instead of the eggs, that works as a binding ingredient. The rest of the ingredients and cooking methods I use are exactly the same the original recipe calls for.

Vegan Greek soutzoukakia - Βέγκαν σουτζουκάκια φακής σμυρνέικα - Vegan in Athens

Now you may wonder if my vegan soutzoukakia turn out like those I used to eat as a child. The answer is that they turn out much better! Basically we have to consider two things. The first one is the spicy and garlicky tomato sauce which is as flavorful as the original and actually it thickens even better owing to the starches that lentil-balls contain. The second thing is the lentil-balls themselves, the really tricky part of the recipe! Well, I am proud to say that they have the same firm, chewy texture, emanate the aromas of cumin, garlic, cinnamon and allspice and regarding the taste -oh gods!- they are scrumptious, mildly more sweet and just as spicy. Keep in mind that the herbs and spices as well as the olive oil play a central role in the recipe so I would suggest not to omit any of those listed, in order to achieve an authentic experience.

Βέγκαν σουτζουκάκια φακής σμυρνέικα - Veganinathens.com

Ingredients

for the lentil-balls

  • 300 g dried green lentils
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ – ¾ cup ground oats or oatmeal (use gluten free if you want)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

for the tomato sauce

  • 2-3 fresh ripe tomatoes, grated
  • 1 package (400 g) tomato passata
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 6-7 allspice berries
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Vegan Greek soutzoukakia - Βέγκαν σουτζουκάκια φακής σμυρνέικα - Vegan in Athens

Method

1. Soak lentils overnight (at least 8 hours) and drain. Process them in the food-processor until mushy and transfer in a bowl. Add the onion, parsley, garlic and spices and knead adding gradually the oatmeal until the mixture is consistent and you can shape tangerine-sized balls.

Vegan Greek soutzoukakia - Βέγκαν σουτζουκάκια φακής σμυρνέικα - Vegan in Athens
2. Shape oblong meatballs and place on a tray, lined with parchment paper.
3. In a saucepan put enough olive oil and fry the meatballs from both sides until brown. Alternatively, you can bake in the oven at 200 oC for approximately 40 minutes (but you should try them at least once fried!). Transfer to a platter.
4. Prepare the sauce: Choose a large, deep skillet. Put into it the olive oil, the garlic cloves and allspice and saute for 1 minute. Add the wine and the rest of the ingredients. Cover the pan with the lid and simmer for a quarter.
5. Place the lentil-balls carefully in the sauce, but do not overload the skillet as they will increase in volume after absorbing the sauce.
6. Cook for ten more minutes over low heat, turning them upside down one or two times to be fully covered with the sauce. Turn off the heat let them sit for fifteen to thirty minutes for the aromas and tastes to combine.
7. Serve hot with mashed potatoes or rice.

Vegan Greek soutzoukakia - Βέγκαν σουτζουκάκια φακής σμυρνέικα - Vegan in Athens

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Λαχανικά ψητά στο φούρνο με βινεγκρέτ μπαλσάμικο - Roasted vegetables with balsamic vinaigrette - Vegan in Athens

Baked winter vegetables with balsamic vinaigrette

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Happy December to all the wonderful creatures out there! Winter has come and we welcome it with joy and gratitude and with the smell of cinnamon and cloves in our kitchen, pumpkins of several kinds stored at a cool and shady shelf, fresh salads with tender leaves carefully placed in the fridge, zest of fresh oranges and lemons, hot vegan latte in the morning and hot vegan chocolate in the afternoon and of course tasting and making favorite recipes and especially, as Christmas are so close, traditional Greek vegan kourambiedes and vegan melomakarona.

Λαχανικά ψητά στο φούρνο με βινεγκρέτ μπαλσάμικο - Roasted vegetables with balsamic vinaigrette - Vegan in Athens

In December, I absolutely enjoy my vegan shopping in the farmer’s market, as the producers fill their stalls with fresh, cool and tender fruits and vegetables full of aroma and colors. I walk among the stalls just to smell the scent of the freshly cut herbs and enjoy the repertoire of colors. Usually I end up ignoring my shopping list and give in to the freshness, the appetizing shapes and colors, all that magic of nature. A little bit of everything is what I like to buy – usually more than what I actually need, but I don’t mind as there are amazing ways to make good use of everything, like freezing or canning, so I rarely waste fresh produce.

Λαχανικά ψητά στο φούρνο με βινεγκρέτ μπαλσάμικο - Roasted vegetables with balsamic vinaigrette - Vegan in Athens

The big dilemma arises when sometimes, on the one hand, I have all the fresh products that seek a place on our table and on the other hand I’m only want to spend a little more time reading or playing with Petra or trying to create the perfect recipe for vegan cookies. In such moments instead of chopping, boiling or sauteing my vegetables I just wash them, salt them, occasionally season them a little bit with paprika or garlic, olive oil and aromatic herbs and bake them all together in the oven for an hour. As they are slowly baked, they soften internally, get an appetizing golden color while they retain all their taste, minerals and vitamins. So, I give myself the chance to spend some more time doing all the things I love (yeah, cooking is one of them but sometimes I just want to be lazy reading a book!) and in the same time I make the perfect vegan salad with baked winter vegetables!

Λαχανικά ψητά στο φούρνο με βινεγκρέτ μπαλσάμικο - Roasted vegetables with balsamic vinaigrette - Vegan in Athens

In my current batch I made things as simple as possible to enjoy the authentic flavor of fresh ingredients and not to overload our dinner with calories (do not worry, we already get enough tasting melomakarona these days!). The vegetables I chose to bake are cauliflower and broccoli, white sweet potatoes, potatoes, winter squash, onions, carrots, red cabbage, leek and the last corn of the year. In your batch feel free to experiment with the vegetables of your choice!

What I appreciate with this dish is the convenience and the rich, dense taste of the baked vegetables. In particular, broccoli and cauliflower, vegetables that traditionally are eaten boiled, losing in the simmering water many of their nutrients, become absolutely tasty while retaining all their beneficial ingredients. We like to serve them warm, drizzled with a little lemon juice or a vinaigrette sauce made with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and mustard.

Λαχανικά ψητά στο φούρνο με βινεγκρέτ μπαλσάμικο - Roasted vegetables with balsamic vinaigrette - Vegan in Athens

Ingredients

  • 1 small cauliflower, whole or halved
  • 1 head of broccoli, halved
  • 1 winter squash halved and seeded
  • 1 large sweet potato, whole
  • 3 carrots, peeled
  • 3 onions, peeled (or two onions and one leek)
  • 1 corn
  • 1/2 red cabbage (this is the best of all!)

for the vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp grape molasses or balsamic syrup
  • 1 tsp prepared mustard
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Λαχανικά ψητά στο φούρνο με βινεγκρέτ μπαλσάμικο - Roasted vegetables with balsamic vinaigrette - Vegan in Athens

Method

1. Wash the vegetables and remove any hard stalks.
2. Salt and pepper the vegetables and arrange them next to each other on baking pan lined with baking paper. Pierce the potatoes with a fork. If you want you can drizzle them with some olive oil (but I prefer to add it raw afterwards).
3. Bake in a preheated oven at 200 oC for one hour or until they get a nice color and soften (check the texture by piercing with a fork).
4. Mix all the ingredients for the vinaigrette into a jar. Cut the roasted vegetables into pieces, pour over the sauce and serve immediately.

Λαχανικά ψητά στο φούρνο με βινεγκρέτ μπαλσάμικο - Roasted vegetables with balsamic vinaigrette - Vegan in Athens

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Μακαρονάδα με ζυμαρικά ολικής και πέστο ρόκας - Veganinathens.com

Vegan rocket pesto spaghetti

Rocket or arugula is one of my favorite green leafy vegetables and luckily it is abundant in all the Mediterranean regions as it grows in different soils and areas provided that it gets enough water. What I love in rocket is its spicy taste and its peppery aroma but on top of that this is one of the most nutritious greens -it belongs to the crucifers together with broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower etc.
All through the year I like to grow my own arugula on pots but my plants seem to love autumn and spring as they grow faster and bigger. This is when we usually make vegan arugula pesto in place of basil pesto. Pesto sauce takes only two minutes to make it and with minimal effort we have a delicious, colorful sauce for our pasta. Making your own pesto is impressively easy: just put all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Nutritional yeast is totally optional in this recipe, but I like to use it whenever I have some in hand, as it adds a discrete “cheesy” touch.

Vegan arugula pesto spaghetti - Μακαρονάδα με ζυμαρικά ολικής και πέστο ρόκας - Vegan in Athens

Ingredients
(5 portions)

500 gr whole wheat spaghetti or your favorite pasta

for the pesto sauce

  • 1 big bunch of arugula
  • ½ cup good quality olive oil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ½ cup cashews or sunflower seeds or pine nuts
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper

Vegan arugula pesto spaghetti - Μακαρονάδα με ζυμαρικά ολικής και πέστο ρόκας - Vegan in Athens

Method

  1. Wash thoroughly the rocket and drain. In a food processor add the rocket along with the garlic and liquid ingredients and process for 1 minute at high speed. Then add the rest of the ingredients and process for another minute or until a homogeneous mixture is obtained.
  2. In the meantime, cook your favorite pasta  in salted water (we prefer whole wheat spaghetti for this recipe) for 8 minutes or until they become al dente. Strain and rinse with cold running water to keep them from sticking. Put them back in the saucepan, pour over the sauce and mix with two forks. Served immediately!

Note: This sauce comes out less greasy and at the same time much more tasty and aromatic than store-bought. Nutritional yeast, although not necessary, replaces the cheese which is used in the non-vegan version.

When we have a tone of rocket we like to prepare a large amount of pesto and keep it in glass jars in the freezer for quite some time. Just remember to put it out of the freezer a couple of hours before using it.

 

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