“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.
Semolina halva is one of the most popular traditional vegan (most of the times) desserts! The reason is not only the amazing taste but also its minimal cost. Subsequently it’s not weird that for centuries now, the original recipe has survived from wars, poverty and wealth and still nowadays you can find a variant of it in almost every Greek house. In the family where I grew, we used to make it often, especially during the fasting periods, always using the classic recipe “1 – 2 – 3 – 4 “, which means one cup of olive oil, two cups of wheat semolina, three cups of sugar and four cups of water. My mother makes this delight using freshly squeezed orange juice instead of water, and for extra taste and flavor she adds a pinch of orange zest, cinnamon, raisins and walnuts.
Although the taste of my mother’s recipe is etched deeply in my memory, I usually make a lighter but extremely delicious and aromatic variant, in which I use corn meal instead of wheat semolina, agave syrup instead of sugar and last but not least I cut the oil almost in half. For extra color and to give it an oriental touch, I also add saffron and turmeric.Because this delicious dessert is very simple to make, the recipe is ideal especially in times when you need to prepare an easy, tempting dessert for your friends or your family.
- 75 ml (1/3 cup) virgin olive oil
- 1 cup organic cornmeal (polenta)
- ¾ cup agave syrup or other liquid sweetener
- 2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 10 saffron stamens
- ½ tsp orange zest
- ½ cup candied orange peel chopped or chopped dried fruit of your choice, such as raisins
- ground pistachios for garnish
1. In a heavy saucepan, add the olive oil along with the cornmeal and roast over low heat. Stir for about 10 minutes with a wooden spoon, until you get a nice color and a nutty aroma. Then add the orange zest, the saffron and the turmeric and continue stirring for five more minutes.
2. Add the agave syrup and the orange juice, stirring constantly, until the halva starts to get a thick texture. Pour the candied orange peel or dried fruits and mix.
3. With a spoon transfer the halva into a cake mold (0.8-1 liter capacity) and press to equally distribute and flatten the surface. Allow to cool for about two hours and then transfer in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. Unmold from the pan on a platter, garnish with the pistachios and serve.
Some people are really obsessed with citrus fruits and citrus-flavored desserts and this is not surprising! Citrus fruits such as oranges, tangerines and lemons have distinct aromas and qualities, compelling sweet and sour tastes and freshness. Well, I am not exactly “obsessed” with citrus fruits but I like them a lot not only in their fresh, unprocessed form but also as a tasty addition to recipes.
One of our favorite dessert recipes is this simple but decadent orange tart. What I like in it, is the combination of the crispy, buttery crust with the sweet and sour, light and delicate orange cream.
For the crust
- 125 gr cold vegan butter
- 3 tbsp cold almond milk or water
- 3 tbsp raw cane sugar
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
- zest of 1 orange
For the orange cream
- 4 cups squeezed orange juice
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- ¾ cup raw cane sugar
- zest of 1 orange
- Make the crust: In a bowl mix all the ingredients. If the dough is too soft, add 1 to 2 more tablespoons of flour. Do not over-knead so as to get a nice crispy texture after baking. Form a ball with the dough, wrap it with a plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for half an hour.
- Take the dough out of the fridge and using a rolling pin, roll it out on a lightly floured greaseproof paper to a thickness of ½ – 1 cm. Use the sheet to turn the dough over into the tart pan. I used a tart pan of about 22 cm diameter. Fit the dough against the bottom and sides and trim excess pastry from top edge of pan. Prick it all over with a fork and chill in refrigerator for up to 30 minutes. Lay a greaseproof paper on the crust and pour over two or three handfuls of dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes in preheated oven at 175 oC. Remove the beans and the paper and bake for 20 more minutes or until golden. Let cool completely.
- Make the orange cream: Pour in a saucepan 2 cups of the orange juice with the sugar and the orange zest and bring to boil. In the remaining juice dissolve the flour, stirring well to dissolve clumps. Pour the flour mixture in the saucepan, reduce heat and stir for about 5 minutes or until a thick cream has been formed. Remove from heat and cover the surface with plastic wrap. Let cool completely (3-4 hours).
- Assembly: Stir the cream with a whisk or a wooden spoon for 2-3 minutes until fluffy. Spread the cream onto the tart and flatten its surface. Put in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours before serving.