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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
  • 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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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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