“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.
Briam recipe is a famous and delicious vegan Mediterranean recipe, the success of which is based almost entirely on the quality of the ingredients we use. Briam is an example of how freshly picked summer vegetables mixed with herbs, spices, salt and olive oil can be transformed into a mouthwatering summertime dish that everyone will love.
When I have the time, I like to arrange the sliced vegetables in a beautiful, colorful, rainbow-like spiral and then add a generous amount of olive oil, garlic, thyme and parsley. Of course when my time is limited, I just mix all the vegetables, herbs and spices in the pan! It’s just as tasty! My secret to make this vegetable bake mouthwatering, melting in the mouth is to bake it in a baking pan or a casserole with a lid. In that way, all the vegetables are baked evenly in their natural juices without the need to add extra water and they become soft, tender and delicious. Usually we like to eat this dish with a slightly fermented, homemade vegan white cheese or with our favorite vegan tyrokafteri (spicy vegan cheese salad).
- 3 aubergines of medium size
- 3 large zucchini
- 3 bell peppers (choose different colors, eg green, red, yellow)
- 3 large onions
- 3 large potatoes, peeled
- 3 large carrots, peeled
- 3 large tomatoes
- 2 cloves of garlic crushed
- 1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- 1 sprig of fresh thyme
- ½ – 1 cup olive oil (according to our tastes and habits)
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 tsp heaped salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp heaped curry powder (alternatively use cumin)
- 1 tbsp. prepared mustard
1. Slice all vegetables with a knife or a vegetable slicer in round slices about one centimeter thick. Lightly salt the eggplants and leave them in a colander for about thirty minutes (to drain the bitter compounds).
2. Arrange the vegetables alternately starting from the edge of the pan and going to the center, if using a round or oval baking pan. If you want you can also use a square baking tray, creating rainbow strips from one end of the tray to the other! The arrangement I like to do is: 2 slices of eggplant – 2 slices of zucchini – 2 slices of potato – 1 slice of tomato – 2 peppers rings – 1 slice of onion. The carrots slices are too small so I just add them in several places in between and above the layers to fill the gaps and add colour!
3. In a bowl, mix the olive oil, salt, mustard, garlic and spices well and pour over the vegetables. Sprinkle with parsley and thyme (if available), cover with the lid and bake at 220 oC for 1 1/2 hour or until the vegetables soften and get a nice color.
Note: In case your pan has no lid, cover with a foil and bake for 1 ½ hour. Then remove the foil and bake for 30 more minutes until they get a nice, appetizing color.
For those of us who like french fries but keep our fat intake low, this is definitely a recipe to try. A few years ago I read about this healthy version of “fried” potatoes and to be honest I was dubious about the success of the recipe. This is why I first made these healthy “fried” (actually baked) potatoes, with my own blend of spices and herbs, much later. But since then we never went back! The secret of making them soft inside with a savory, golden crust outside is to cut them just like we cut the classic french fries – neither smaller or larger – and sprinkle them with the spices of your choice. These potatoes, although oil-free, are just as tasty as the best french fries we’ve ever eaten without the heavy smell and taste of the fried oils.
- 5 medium potatoes peeled
- 1 tsp. fine salt
- 1 tsp. onion powder
- 1 tsp. ground sweet paprika
- 1 tsp. ground smoked paprika
- 1 tsp. oregano
1. Preheat the oven to 225 oC.
2. Cut the potatoes into thick wedges and put them in a deep bowl along with all the spices and salt. Mix with your hands very well until they are evenly covered with the spices.
3. Line a baking pan with non-stick baking paper and arrange the potatoes, leaving few millimeters space between each other.
4. Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy while still hot!
Note: Instead of smoked paprika you can also use the same amount of your favorite carry powder for a more complex taste!