Almost Raw Chocolate Cheesecake for Valentines / Pod Espresso

Happy Belated Valentines! This Valentines I got my gift early from Marco. He surprised me early in the week with some lovely lilies and some vegan cupcakes. He also put together our new desk, which I have been harping at him for the last few weeks. Considering he forgot our engagement anniversary and didn’t get me a DSC01932present for Christmas, he wanted to make sure he got in early this time.

For his gift he wanted me to make a nice dinner and following by a Chocolate cake. I spent most of the last couple of days at work looking a different recipes online. I didn’t want to make a traditional chocolate cake, I wanted to make something a bit more special. I came across The Ultimate Chocolate Fudge Pie by Chocolate Covered Katie and thought I had to try this. I love vegan cheesecakes and pies. Whenever I get the chance to order one I always do. I never tried to make one myself so I thought this was my chance.

I adapted the original recipe a bit by making a brazil nut base and changing the amounts of ingredients a little to taste. This recipe was really easy to make and doesn’t take long to make at all. It was also really delicious and I swear you can’t taste the tofu. Marco didn’t even know that it was made of tofu and he can usually pick these things. He was a little disappointed he didn’t come home to a death by chocolate cake, but he still did like it. He also took a nice big piece to work and professed this afternoon that it was much better then he thought.

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Almost Raw Chocolate Cheesecake (vegan, no bake, gluten free)

Ingredients for base:

1 cup brazil nuts

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 tablespoon vanilla essence

3 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons cacao peanut butter

Ingredients for filling:

1 1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips (I used Sweet Williams)

350g organic tofu (semi firm)

1 tablespoon vanilla

3 tablespoons cacao

3 tablespoons coconut oil

3 tablespoons plant milk (coconut, rice or oat; almond or soy if you can tolerate; more if you need)

Method:

1. First make the base by placing the brazil nuts in a process and wizz until they have broken down a little. Add the rest of the ingredients for the base into the processor. Don’t over process the brazil nuts too much, leave a little chunky.DSC01954

2. Take a springform baking pan and place baking paper on the bottom and grease the inside edges with coconut oil.

3. Place the base mixture into the pan and push down with a cake spatula, making sure that it is equally distributed.

4. Next prepare the filling. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler use a small heavy based pot and add a couple of tablespoons of milk, so that it doesn’t stick.DSC01963

5. In the processor add the tofu, melted chocolate and the remaining ingredients. Continue to process till smooth. While its processing you may have to wipe down the edges with a cake spatula so that all the ingredients combine well.

6. Pour the filling on top of the prepared base. Smooth the top with the cake spatula.

7. Place the cake into the fridge or freezer until ready to serve. The longer it sits the firmer it will get. I put mine into the freezer until it firmed up a little, then into the fridge and served about an hour later.

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Before I go I wanted to share a new vegan friendly cafe just down the road from my place. Pod Espresso is a little cafe in Stafford just of the main road. They serve great coffee, breakfast, lunch, desserts, cold press juices and smoothies. They are more then just a cafe, they are also an organic supermarket. They sell organic packaged and fresh products and were quite reasonably processed.  Marco and I went in for brunch last weekend. I wasn’t sure if they were vegan friendly, but I have seen many vegan options on their facebook page.

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On the day they only had a couple of breakfast options. I ordered the Avocado on Sour Dough with Dukkah, Rocket and Lemon juice. It was really delicious and a nice change from the usually Avo on Toast.

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Next I had to try their coffee and Vegan Mint Lamington. I haven’t had a lamington in years and I have never seen a vegan one before. This was absolutely delicious. I just wish Marco ordered his own so I didn’t have to share. The coffee was also great.

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We are very happy that we have such a nice cafe so close to home. Hope to visit Pod Espresso again soon.

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Valentines Day at Kuan Yin Tea House

Hi guys, last night for Valentines Day we did end up getting to go out. Luckily Marco finished work early, so we got dressed up and headed to China Town in the Valley. Kuan Yin Tea House is a place I have been wanting to try for a while. I never knew about them, until the night I walked past them on my way to Tea Master: Vegetarian Cafe Restaurant. I noticed they were one of the busiest Asian restaurants and considering it’s Vegetarian Food in a city of meat eaters I thought that was saying something.

We had to make our reservation quite early at this place, because they actually shut at 7.30pm. I thought 1 hour would be enough time to eat entree, main and dessert, considering this restaurant is quite small. So when we arrived we were greeted by a nice waitress who showed us to our table. It’s not a fancy place by any means, but it’s clean and there were plenty of pictures of the food on the walls. This really helped us, as the menu didn’t have any explanations or pictures of the dishes. Not all the dishes are vegan, but the ones we ordered were.

For entree we ordered Phantom Chips and Veggie Satay Sticks. The Phantom Chips had were made of mashed taro and pumpkin on the inside and rice paper that had gone crispy from being fried on the outside. I really liked them. Marco did too, but he couldn’t have to much because it was quite sweet, even though he’s the sweet tooth. The Satay Sticks were excellent. The texture was like chicken, the sauce was good and they were cooked evenly all the way through.

Phantom Chips

Phantom Chips

Veggie Satay Sticks

Veggie Satay Sticks

Then for mains we ordered a Wonton Soup and Veggie Snow Fish Rice. The Soup was good. It had lots of vegetables, 5 wontons, noodles and a nice flavored broth. The Veggie Snow Fish was amazing. It can’t believe it wasn’t fish. The texture, the taste, it was so good. On the side their was sauteed green beans with peanuts, marinated taro, some other vegetables and rice with gomasio.

Wonton Soup

Wonton Soup

Veggie Snow Fish Rice

Veggie Snow Fish Rice

Veggie Snow Fish

Veggie Snow Fish

For the drink we got a Lychee Green Tea with Pearls. For dessert we had the Valentines Dessert. This was a heart shape Rich Chocolate Cake that was all gooey inside, Berry Coulie and Berry Ice cream. This was an excellent end to the meal and for once I got to have dessert. The candle was a strange touch, but it was romantic I suppose.

Lychee Green Tea with Pearls

Lychee Green Tea with Pearls

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Vegan Rich Chocolate Cake, Berries Coulie, Vegan Berry Ice cream

I really loved this place and can’t wait to go back. By the look of their blog the chef is trying out new desserts and is getting good reviews from the customers. Next time I want to try their vegan Tiramisu. The cost of the food is also quite cheap, especially compared to the other restaurants around China Town. Only down side is that they close so early. On friday night they do stay open till 8pm. Otherwise it’s a great place for lunch.

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By the way sorry about the photos. Once we got our first dish we realised that we had no sim card in the camera. So all the photos are taken from my mobile phone. They definitely don’t do the food justice.

Fettuccine alla bolognese (made vegan)

Happy Valentines Day everyone! Not making anything special today, but tonight we are going out. Hopefully if Marco finishes early enough we will be going to an Asian Vegan Restaurant. They close at 7.30pm, so fingers crossed we will be going there otherwise not sure what we will do. This post is about last nights dinner.

One thing that I really miss since I have stopped eating meat is Spaghetti Bolognese. I have grown up on this dish. One of my earliest memories is eating this with my hands on my high chair. Then my ears got really itchy, so you only imagine the mess I made. In Australia, Spaghetti Bolognese or Spag Bog has become one of the most loved dish. You will find it everywhere and it is always a favourite with kids. Even if people don’t usually cook Italian food in their house, you can guaranteeing they’ve cooked this dish at home.

To make Spaghetti Bolognese with out meat I have previously tried using Quorn Mince (which isn’t vegan, as it has egg whites) and I have also used TVP Mince. They were both ok, but I was concerned about the health risks of eating these kinds of products. I have also used lentils and other beans, but it never really tastes like a Bolognese sauce. While I was researching other ingredients to make a vegan Bolognese sauce, I came across Mr. Kate, who uses Tempeh for the mince meat, in her Tempeh Spaghetti Bolognese. I have used Tempeh before to make Chef Chloe’s Sweet-and-Sour Meatballs and I was impressed by the meat like texture and flavor. So I thought I would give it a try.

So then I started looking at traditional Italian recipes for Spaghetti Bolognese, so that I could make it the Bologna way. What I found strange was that most  of the dishes that were from Italian websites included milk and red wine, some even had butter. These are three ingredients we have never used for this sauce. In fact even when I was in Italy I don’t remember this dish having a milk or cream in the dish. Although this is probably because what we know as a Bolognese in Australia, is in fact a Ragù Sauce. Thinking back I did see Pasta al ragù more often then I did Pasta alla Bolognese.

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Last Valentines Day I was in Milan with Marco and we went to a fine dining restaurant, L’osteria di Brera in Brera. I rugged up, but it was absolutely freezing. We never usually ordered first course and second course, but tonight we ordered both. Marco got the Tagliatelle alla Bolognese and it was the most amazing tasting Bolognese we have ever had. We couldn’t figure out what it was that tasted so good. The sauce wasn’t thick, but it coated the pasta nicely and was very rich, but had a slight orange tinge in color. There was no pieces of tomato that you could see, just lots of mince meat.

I love to find out the origins of Italian dishes and I figured this dish would have a rich history. The Bolognese sauce has bologna_cnt_9nov09_istock_b_1-646x380been described as one of the most ‘ill-treated’ and ‘misunderstood’ of all Italian sauces. It’s traditions dates back before before the 16th century and would of originally been known as a Ragù.  In fact documents from around this time, held by the Italian Cuisine Academy, state that the original recipe only used beef and seasoning, but there was talk of adding tomatoes. All the regions throughout Italy has their own version of ragù sauce. In Bologna they used beef, Sardinia they used wild boar and in Abruzzo they used lamb. All the regions also had their own types of pasta that they would use. In Bologna they used Tagliatelle to go with their Ragù.

The word ragù is derived from the French ragoût, which means ‘stew’. The meat was originally chopped up finely, as there were no processors back then. For this Bologna version, they originally used finely chopped mixed meats, such as beef, chicken livers and unsmoked bacon; and finely chopped onions, carrots and celery. They would cook it for many hours with wine. The use of tomatoes were controversial back in these times, so when it was added there would of only been a slight hint of it. This sauce was not a tomato sauce containing beef, but rather a beef sauce, which may contain tomato. The sauce was originally used to fill lasagna and was later paired with tagliatelle pasta.

It wasn’t until 17th October 1982 that the Ragù alla Bolognese was registered by the Bolognese Chamber of Commerce. There aim is to preserve Italian cooking traditions. According to the Bolognese Chamber they “carried out long and laborious investigations and conducted studies and research”. Their recipe uses finely cut carrots, onions and celery (also known as soffritto); pancetta, ground skirt steak, dry white wine, homemade tomato paste, milk, heavy cream, salt, pepper and homemade tagliatelle. You can find their recipe for ‘Classic’ Ragù alla Bolognese here.

Today the Ragù alla Bolognese is still a serious topic in Bologna. Although their are purists that stick to the original recipe, 626-53_bolognese_sauce_300every family has their own version. All the recipes include finely cut carrots, onions and celery; meat and wine. The variations often add cured meats or sausages, milk or cream (controversial ingredient), nutmeg, white wine or other mixtures of meats. One ingredients that is not used is tomato and if it is there, then there will only be a little bit  of tomato paste or whole, peeled tomatoes used.

So where did the Spaghetti Bolognese or Spag Bol come from? Well firstly the tomato beef sauce was a later American version of this dish. There are theories that the first Neapolitan immigrants to the New World would serve meat with their pasta to demonstrate their new prosperity. Later as meat became available at a cheap price, many dishes were accompanied with meat. Spaghetti had also become largely available and was very popular. Thus the use of Spaghetti and the additions of lots tomatoes were added to this meat sauce and it became famous in both the Americas and other parts of the world.581568_10150855409552292_1239422252_n

This particular Spaghetti Bolognese on the right was cooked by Marco, in our apartment in Milan. I was studying really hard to get better at Italian, so he had to take the role of chef, cleaner and food runner between classes. We paired it with our favorite wine, translated to The Blood of Judas.

So last night I tried to recreate the Bolognese Sauce. I adapted mine from Tagliatelle alla bolognese from The Italian Kitchen Bible. Unfortunately I didn’t do my research on the ‘traditional’ bolognese sauce, before making this dish. I didn’t realize that tomatoes were not meant to be the star alongside the beef or rather tempeh. This recipe called for soffritto, minced beef, red wine, milk, 1 can of chopped tomatoes (perhaps a hint), sun dried tomato paste and tagliatelle pasta.

For mine I used a packet of tempeh that I crumbled in, worcestershire sauce (to help give the tempeh flavor),  merlot and soy milk. I also used nutmeg, as my mum always put this in her bolognese sauce in the restaurant and swears by it. After adding the 1 can of tomatoes, I got some ‘comments’ that my sauce wasn’t saucy enough. I shouldn’t of listened, but I made enough fresh pasta for 8 people, so I thought I may as well add some more. Since I didn’t have any more canned tomatoes, I added passata sauce. So if you want it more authentic, then don’t add that extra sauce. However, if like Marco, you intend on taking this to work and hate dry microwaved pasta, then maybe extra tomatoes in the sauce is a good idea.

For my pasta I didn’t make tagliatelle. I was using my pasta machine, on my own, and just put it through the fettuccine cutter. I made so much that when I cooked it I put too much in the pot and then over cooked it a little. Next time I will do small batches, since it really doesn’t take long too cook at all.

Despite the unauthentic tomato sauciness, this Bolognese sauce was loved by my family. Marco even exclaimed he will forgo beef if I make it like this. I am really happy that the Tempeh worked out as I believe it is a healthier meat substitute. It is a traditional soy product, used as a stable by the Indonesians for 2000 years. If you in Australia, you can find it in Coles. I also liked the addition of wine and soy milk. It gave the tempeh a really nice flavour. I served it with some basil and Vegan Parmesan. This sauce is also gluten free, so you can just prepare either fresh gluten free pasta or dry gluten free pasta with it.

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Fettuccine alla bolognese (vegan, gluten free option, nut free)

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 carrot, finely diced

1 stalk celery, finely diced

1 garlic clove, finely diced

1 onion, finely diced

300-350g tempeh

2 tablespoons vegan worcestershire sauce

150ml red wine (I used merlot)

1 cup soy milk (or other thick plant milk)

400g can of diced tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

500g passata sauce (optional, for more then 4 serves)

1 teapsoon nutmeg

sea salt & black pepper to taste

fresh basil and vegan parmesan to serve

fresh/dry fettuccine for 4-8 people

Methods:

1. Heat olive oil in a large pot on medium heat. Then add the carrot, celery, garlic and onion. Cook for 8-10 mins or until vegetables have softened, stir often. ???????????????????????????????

2. Break up the tempeh and add to the pot. Add the worcestershire sauce and cook tempeh with vegetables for 5 mins.???????????????????????????????

3. Add the red wine and cook until it has absorbed. Stir frequently.???????????????????????????????

4. Add the soy milk and cook until it has absorbed. Stir frequently.???????????????????????????????

5. Stir in the diced tomatoes, tomato paste and extra passata sauce (if needed).

6. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Bring to the boil, then place on the lowest heat for 45 mins.

7. In the meantime put the pasta water to boil. Make fresh pasta or take dry pasta and cook until al dente.

8. Once pasta is ready, strain and empty the water from the pasta pot, then add half the bolognese sauce to pasta. Serve the pasta and top with some extra sauce.

* Serve with fresh diced basil and vegan parmesan

* Serves 4-8 depending how much pasta you cook and if you add extra passata sauce

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References:

Blumenthal, Heston, In Search of Total Perfection.

Lerner, Breno, The Barnacle Goose: and other kitchen stories.

We Are Never Full, 2008, A Tale of Two Sauces – It’s A Traditional Ragu alla Bolognese Deathmatch.

WHFoods, Tempeh.