oil free

Vegan μουσακάς λαχανικών με κιμά από φακές και μανιτάρια, ελαφρύς, εύκολος, χωρίς λιπαρά - Vegan, oil-free, easy Greek mousaka - Vegan in Athens

Vegan moussaka with lentils and mushrooms – oil-free, easy and delicious

One of the most famous Greek foods is undoubtedly the Greek moussaka, a baked dish with layers of eggplants and potatoes and a meaty sauce between them. This dish is actually of unknown origin as we can find several variations not only in Greece but also in Turkey as well as other countries. However traditional Greek moussaka has a top layer of bechamel sauce, probably an influence by the French cuisine and moreover it is always served hot. But the famous moussaka in fact is a really complicated, heavy dish, since its original recipe requires to fry all the vegetables, to fry and then cook the meat to make the sauce, to cover with a greasy bechamel and eventually to end up with a mountain of dirty utensils and oils all over the kitchen walls, Well I wouldn’t really call it what one would opt to make for dinner! But an oil-free, vegan moussaka is a completely different story! Rich in nutritional value and with a mouthwatering taste thanks to the variety of vegetables we use, light and much easier to prepare, it has become one of the foods we enjoy regularly during spring and summer when eggplants are on their best.

Overall, I need about one hour to prepare it, since I do not fry anything, but I bake the sliced vegetables for a while in the oven – just as long as they need to soften slightly and eliminate some of their moisture. For the sauce I use lentils, fresh ripe tomatoes, fresh mushrooms and finely chopped nuts for an even better texture and taste. Although some might have objections to the way I prepare my vegan “bechamel”, since I do not add any oily substance to my recipe, I am going to say just try it!

As we cherish all summer vegetables, I used a lot of them for my recipe! So my vegan moussaka is made by three layers of vegetables: slices of selected potatoes at the base of the pan, sweet aubergines in the middle and slices of green courgettes on top. Actually we love this vegan moussaka, as it is oil free, the baked vegetables retain all their taste, it’s delicious, it is made much easier and faster than the classic non vegan moussaka and it incorporates the Greek summer in every bite!

Vegan μουσακάς λαχανικών με κιμά από φακές και μανιτάρια, ελαφρύς, εύκολος, χωρίς λιπαρά - Vegan, oil-free, easy Greek mousaka - Vegan in Athens

Ingredients
(for 6-8 large portions)

for the layers of vegetables

  • 1 large or 2 medium potatoes peeled and thinly sliced (0,5 cm)
  • 3-4 large eggplants, sliced
  • 4-5 large zucchini, thinly sliced

for the mushroom and lentil sauce

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, pureed
  • 250 g fresh mushrooms finely chopped (I use oyster mushrooms)
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup white wine (or extra water)
  • 1 red sweet bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 4 medium ripe tomatoes grated (or blended in a food processor)
  • 1 large carrot coarsely grated
  • 1/2 cup dry lentils
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup raw nuts or seeds, slightly chopped but not powdered (we can use almonds, walnuts or sunflower seeds)
  • 1 tsp salt (or according to our taste)
  • 1/2 tsp dried hot chili peppers
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • freshly ground pepper

for the oil free, vegan “bechamel” sauce

  • 4 cups (1 liter) plant based milk, store-bought or homemade without sugar (I like to use unsweetened rice or oat milk)
  • 12 level tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 or 2 vegan bouillon cubes (store-bought or homemade), depending on how salty we like our sauce (I use two!)
  • freshly ground pepper
  • freshly ground nutmeg (optional)

additionally

  • 3-4 handfuls of grated vegan cheese or nutritional yeast (for a 100% oil free recipe)
  • bread crumbs for sprinkling

Method

1. For the vegetable layers: Cut the eggplants into slices of about 1 cm thick. Salt them and leave them aside for about 30 minutes. That way they will become sweeter! Cut the potatoes and zucchini into thin slices about 1/2 cm. To cut even slices, I use the vegetable mandolin slicer.
2. Lay a large baking pan with non stick paper and put the eggplants and the zucchini slices in the pan. It doesn’t matter if they overlap, since you will bake them just enough to soften, so they will not stick together. Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes at 200 ° C. Potatoes do not need to be pre-baked – they will be perfectly cooked by absorbing moisture and flavors from the sauce while you bake your moussaka.
3. For the sauce: In a large and deep pan or in a saucepan, put the onion, garlic and mushrooms and sauté for a few minutes. Add the wine (or extra water), the lentils, pepper, carrot, parsley, tomatoes, season and simmer over low heat for 35-45 minutes until the lentils soften and the sauce thickens. Finally, pour the nuts, mix and turn off the fire.
4. Assembly: Grease a medium-sized deep baking dish (I used a 29x21x6cm) or use a non-stick cookware. At the bottom arrange the potatoes, slightly overlapping each slice with the next so as not to allow any gaps between them. Pour 1/3 of the sauce over the potato layer and spread it evenly with a spoon. Sprinkle with a handful of cheese or nutritional yeast and continue with the next layer. Arrange the baked eggplants, 1/3 of the sauce, vegan cheese and finally the baked zucchini slices, the rest of the sauce and the rest of the vegan cheese.
5. For the vegan bechamel: In a saucepan, add half of the vegan milk along with the vegan bouillon cubes, nutmeg and pepper and stir over medium heat until the cubes completely dissolve. Add the remaining milk in the blender along with the flour and blend for a few seconds until the flour is dissolved and no lumps are present. Once the milk in the pan comes to a boil, pour the flour mixture in the pan and stir continuously, over low to medium, heat with a wooden spoon for 5-10 minutes until a thick cream is formed.
6. Pour the bechamel over the moussaka, sprinkle immediately with a generous amount of bread crumbs and bake at 200 o C for about an hour or until the surface is golden.
7. Allow the moussaka to cool slightly for half an hour and serve hot.

Vegan μουσακάς λαχανικών με κιμά από φακές και μανιτάρια, ελαφρύς, εύκολος, χωρίς λιπαρά - Vegan, oil-free, easy Greek mousaka - Vegan in Athens

Note: Wash the tomatoes thoroughly and blend them without removing the spores and the peels. That way you will add some extra nutrients in your recipe but most importantly you will add to the taste as it has been found that the umami is hidden in these two parts of the fruit!

For the bechamel we can use any unsweetened plant-based milk but our favorite version is with rice or oat milk.

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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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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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