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Ωμοφαγικό τσιζκέικ λευκής σοκολάτας και βανίλιας - Raw vegan white chocolate vanilla cheesecake - Vegan in Athens

Raw vegan white chocolate, vanilla cheesecake

…or maybe the most delicious and healthy vegan recipe for an unforgettable white chocolate experience without sugar, gluten or baking. The truth is that raw vegan desserts are our favorites, especially when we are talking about cheesecakes with a creamy stuffing and a base of crunchy nuts and dried fruits. What I like the most is the unlimited variety of ingredients one can use in the creamy stuffing – nuts, fruits, nut-butters, zests etc – making each time a totally different dessert. The only thing we need is a relatively good blender!

This time, the basic concept of my recipe was to make a dessert with a rich white chocolate taste and the amazing aroma of vanilla. These two ingredients may have a prominent position in our olfactory and tasty memory, but on the other hand, we don’t meer them that often in the plant-based kitchen. However their combination is something I always considered magical and that’s why I planned to use it this time in order to make a white chocolate vanilla raw vegan cheesecake. You may ask yourselves how can we make a raw vegan dessert with the taste of white chocolate and the scent of vanilla? Simply by using raw cocoa butter and the small black seeds of a natural vanilla bean in its preparation! Relatively small amounts of these two are enough!

Ωμοφαγικό τσιζκέικ λευκής σοκολάτας και βανίλιας - Raw vegan white chocolate vanilla cheesecake - Vegan in Athens
Indeed, the result was even better than what I could imagine! The cream is just mouthwatering with a sweet taste thanks to the agave syrup, a beautiful vanilla aroma, a silky, creamy texture and an intense chocolaty flavor thanks to the cocoa butter whick makes this cake unbeatable! Raw nuts , ground together with sweet dates make the crispy, sweet, dense base that holds the cake and adds taste and texture to the recipe.

Ωμοφαγικό τσιζκέικ λευκής σοκολάτας και βανίλιας - Raw vegan white chocolate vanilla cheesecake - Vegan in Athens

Ingredients

for the base

  • 1 cup dates (medjool or other varieties, without sugar or glucose)
  • 1 cup walnuts or almonds, shelled

for the white chocolate cream

  • 2 cups cashews, soaked for 6-8 hours and drained
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 100 g (about 1/2 cup) cocoa butter melted
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, the seeds or 1 tbsp homemade vanilla extract

for the decor

  • mixed nuts and seeds
  • mixed dried fruit

Method

1. For the crust: Wash the dates, drain and pit them and put them in the food processor along with the nuts. Process for a few minutes until a soft dough is formed. If you do not like the small pieces of nuts in the base, process the nuts until they become powdered and add the dates afterwards.
2. For the white chocolate cream: Put in the blender half of the cashews, lemon juice, agave nectar, water, vanilla and the melted cocoa butter and blend for 3-4 minutes until the mixture is creamy and uniform. Add the rest of the cashews and blend for few more minutes until they are incorporated in the mixture and the texture of the cream is smooth and homogeneous.
3. Assembly: Line a cheesecake pan of 20-22 cm diameter with greaseproof paper and spread the crust mixture over the bottom. Press with your hands to distribute equally and form the crust. Pour the white chocolate cream on top of the crust and refrigerate for 8-12 hours to set.
4. Before serving garnish with chopped nuts, seeds and dried berries. Keep in the fridge.

Ωμοφαγικό τσιζκέικ λευκής σοκολάτας και βανίλιας - Raw vegan white chocolate vanilla cheesecake - Vegan in Athens

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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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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
  • 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 10-15 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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