gluten free

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 κουραμπιεδάκια αμυγδάλου χωρίς γλουτένη - Vegan gluten free Christmas almond kourabiedes - Vegan in Athens

Crunchy, vegan & gluten free almond snowball cookies (Christmas kourabiedes)

Christmas is about love and compassion to all creatures, human and non-human. Simply by making conscious choices regarding our personal shopping, the gifts we choose as well as our Christmas recipes (vegan recipes that do not contain animal-derived ingredients are harmless and peaceful, just as christmas should be!), we can transform ourselves, our lives to that light and the love we call for. It’s not difficult, it’s not unhealthy, it’s not expensive. It’s just a way of life.

As I’ m a little bit obsessed with baking, these days I experiment with new vegan recipes for my favorite Christmas baked goods. In order to be aligned with our traditions, these days I like to bake vegan kourabiedes (traditional Greek shortbread) and vegan melomakarona (vegan Christmas small no-honey balls) not only for my family but also for our friends, neighbors, colleagues. More or less I know what my friends and family prefer or what special diet each one follows and so I adapt my recipes accordingly.

Vegan κουραμπιεδάκια αμυγδάλου χωρίς γλουτένη - Vegan gluten free Christmas almond kourabiedes - Vegan in Athens

As some of my beloved persons do not consume gluten, when I prepare their Christmas batch, I choose to make either gluten-free and vegan melomakarona, or these crunchy snow balls or kourabiedes, made with vegan butter, lemon zest and a mix of organic corn flour and whole rice flour. In fact, although we consume gluten, this recipe is so delicious that I usually make one more batch for us too (two or three of them are left since the other day 🙂). Moreover, instead of dusting them with the icing sugar, I use coconut or almond flour which makes them even more delectable!

Vegan κουραμπιεδάκια αμυγδάλου χωρίς γλουτένη - Vegan gluten free Christmas almond kourabiedes - Vegan in Athens

When I make baked goods that call for butter, I like to substitute it with homemade vegan butter which works amazingly in baking, tastes amazing and is much healthier than most store-bought vegan butters out there. The one I made this time contains olive oil and coconut oil, both of which are resistant to baking. To anticipate any question, no, olive oil does not alter the taste of the vegan butter to a point that is unpleasant as the amount used is relatively small and of course coconut oil does the magic. They work perfectly together!

Vegan κουραμπιεδάκια αμυγδάλου χωρίς γλουτένη - Vegan gluten free Christmas almond kourabiedes - Vegan in Athens

Ingredients
(for 30 small kourabiedes)

  • 120 g vegan butter (homemade or store-bought)
  • 140 g (about 3/4 cup) of whole rice flour
  • 140 g (1 cup) whole corn flour
  • 100 g (1/2 cup) sugar (of choice)
  • 2 tbsp cognac or whiskey
  • 2 tbsp plant-based milk
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • zest from one lemon
  • vanilla (I used 1 tsp natural, homemade extract)
  • 3/4 cups almonds finely chopped

Vegan κουραμπιεδάκια αμυγδάλου χωρίς γλουτένη - Vegan gluten free Christmas almond kourabiedes - Vegan in Athens

for dusting

  • natural rose water (optional)
  • coconut flour or almond flour or powdered sugar

Vegan κουραμπιεδάκια αμυγδάλου χωρίς γλουτένη - Vegan gluten free Christmas almond kourabiedes - Vegan in Athens

Method
1. Melt vegan butter and pour it in a bowl along with the sugar, cognac and milk. Stir well until the sugar dissolves.
2. Add the baking powder, zest, corn flour and rice flour and knead until a soft, non-sticky dough has been formed. Add the almonds and knead a little more. Let the mixture in a cool place for at least half an hour to rest.
3. Preheat the oven to 170 oC. Take walnut-sized pieces of dough and shape small, thick discs or balls. You can also make bigger kourabiedes (in this case double up the recipe to get around thirty pieces). Line a baking tin with baking shit and arrange your kourabiedes, leaving at least two centimeters between them as they increase in volume during baking.
4. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Spray with a little rose water (if you’ ll use) while still warm and let them cool completely in the baking dish (if you try to get them out while hot they will fall apart).
5. When completely cool, sprinkle with coconut flour or almond flour or powdered sugar and serve.

Vegan κουραμπιεδάκια αμυγδάλου χωρίς γλουτένη - Vegan gluten free Christmas almond kourabiedes - Vegan in Athens

Vegan κουραμπιεδάκια αμυγδάλου χωρίς γλουτένη - Vegan gluten free Christmas almond kourabiedes - Vegan in Athens

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