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Friday, 26 February 2010

Heaven in your mouth, they say! The Daring Bakers Challenge February 2010: Tiramisu

Lady Finger Cookies, Vegan, Fruity  Tiramisu

After the incredibly rich Nanaimo Bars of last month Daring Bakers Challenge, we are hit by yet another rich dessert which is the Tiramisu! Do you know, I still have some Nanaimo bars in the freezer! I've given up on them when some acnes started to appear! Eek!

As for the Tiramisu, the traditional one wasn't very appealing to me. Although the vegan version of Tiramisu is more healthy, the idea of caffeine, chocolate, vegan cream cheese wasn't really calling my name.
I'm not a caffeine person (I used to like coffee, moderately. But ever since I learnt about the alkaline diet benefit and coffee having a pH of 4, I've reduced caffeine to a strict minimum). What keeps me going all day is fresh fruits, green smoothies (whenever I can make them), lemon water, green tea and any herbal teas mostly. I am much more awake and energized with these high alkalising foods than I were with coffee!

So, not speculating the idea of adding any coffee or rhum in my tiramisu, I went with a fruity version that tasted wonderful. It may not be what you would expect a tiramisu to taste like but it was a much healthier refreshing dessert...

The Daring Kitchen

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.


...and I even made it soy-free! The cream part was melon and coconut milk and the sauce was a spiced tamarind-apple compote.

The lady fingers biscuits did contain some fat though; I didn't have enough time on experimenting to make this fat-free. It could probably easily have been done by replacing the fat in the recipe with apple sauce, but I haven't tried it myself, so I can't give you any feedback on this.

Spiced Fruity Tiramisu

Fruity Cream (to replace the zabliagone and mascarpone)

I am not a great fan of tofu frosting because I don't really like the taste of 'raw' tofu. I know tofu is already cooked but I don't particularly like the flavour when it's used as is in frostings. I have tried chocolate mousse frostings before made with tofu and wasn't particularly fond of it. So I had recourse to the internet to find some ideas and a search for homemade vegan whipping cream took me to this recipe (from Ricki of Diet, Desserts and Dogs) that looked brilliant. The fact that it did not contain any soy was a nice alternative as well. I adapted it for a fruitier taste and it wasn't half bad. Infact it was quite a refreshing cream. I made it very low in sweetness; the compote puree would compensate for sweetness.


200ml water
2cm agar strips (I buy the agar agar as a bunch long strips which I cut through with some scissors. I guess it would be equivalent to about 1/2 teaspoon of powdered agar)
200ml coconut milk
250ml melon puree (peel, cut and blend melon to obtain 250ml)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons cornstarch

  • In a deep small pan, place agar and water on medium heat until agar is completely dissolved. Make sure you have all other ingredients ready by the time the agar is dissolved.
  • Stir everything (except 1 tablespoon cornstarch) into the agar mixture and whisk to combine.
  • Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture just begins to boil.
  • Lower heat so that the mixture is still bubbling just under the surface, and cook for 10 minutes. While it continues to cook, stir every minute or so.
  • Pour the mixture into a deep bowl. Immediately blend with your immersion blender until perfectly smooth. Set aside to cool a little.
  • When the mixture is still slightly warm but no longer hot (and still fairly liquid), sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon cornstarch over the top; using the immersion blender, blend again to even out the texture and get rid of any little lumps. Place the bowl in the refrigerator until the mixture is ice-cold; it will become firm. (Although I did not quite get a gel like firmness as Ricki mentioned in her recipe. But for the purpose of the tiramisu for which I did not require a proper whipped cream, the texture was alright).
  • Once again using the immersion blender, blend the gelled mixture until it is perfectly smooth and no lumps remain, but don’t blend any more than necessary. Scrape down the sides as you go.
  • Now, using the beaters (or mixer), beat the smoothed mixture until soft peaks form.
  • The cream is ready. Keep refrigerated until required for use. (I don't recommend keeping this for more than 2 days. The melon will somewhat lose its freshness and may go slightly off).

Vegan Lady Finger Cookies

Vegan Lady Finger Cookies

I adapted from this recipe. I initially used this recipe as is but the consistency was not firm enough to be able to roll the dough as the recipe says. I would be able to pipe it but I added more flour instead, up to a cup more. I also made my Lady Finger cookies small and round. The adjusted recipe below.

Ingredients (about 24 cookies, can't really remember, but got loads!)
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup non-hydrogenated margarine
1 cup vegan sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup rice milk

  • To make the ladyfingers, sift together flour, baking powder and baking soda and set aside.
  • In the bowl, cream together margarine and sugar until fluffy (I just used a whisk, because I was too lazy to get the mixer out!).
  • Stir in maple syrup.
  • Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined, alternating with additions of milk.
  • Cover and chill the dough for at least 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F) and position a rack in the center of the oven. Line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper; set aside.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into 2cm (3/4-inch) balls.
  • Arrange on prepared baking sheets, leaving a few inches of room between each cookie.
  • Bake 8 to 12 minutes, or until cookies are firm and just beginning to brown.
  • Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheets for about 1 minute.
  • When firm enough to move, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Spiced Tamarind-Apple Compote

2 apples, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon tamarind paste (seeds remove by diluting in 1/2 cup water and straining)
1 pinch ground cumin* (just a hint, about 1/8 teaspoon)
5 tablespoons sugar (or more to taste)

*If you are scared of using cumin, then use cinnamon instead but cumin pairs really well with tamarind if using just a pinch.
  • Place all ingredients in a non-stick deep pan. Simmer for 20 minutes. Adjust water if the consistency is getting too thick.
  • Remove from heat. Allow to cool a little.
  • Place in a blender or use a hand blender and make into a puree.
  • The consistency should not be too thick otherwise the cookies won't be able to absorb the liquid. So, adjust by adding water. If too watery, place back on heat and reduce to desire consistency. (I would say something in between a smoothie and juice).

Assembling the Tiramisu:

To assemble the tiramisu, I used individual cocktail glasses.
  • Dip the cookies into the compote. I found that it worked best when the compote is slightly warm. My cookies took about 20 seconds to decently absorb the compote. But do take care not to let the cookies disintegrate.
  • Place soaked cookies at the bottom of glass. Layer with a tablespoon of compote if desired.
  • Add in 2 - 3 tablespoons of the fruity cream.
  • Top with another layer of soaked cookies.
  • Then another layer of cream.
  • Sprinkle with some toasted dessicated coconut flakes*.
  • Decorate with a physalis or other small fruits.

*To toast dessicated coconut flakes, place some coconut flakes in a dry non-stick pan. (Don't add any oil or grease).
Heat on medium, stir occasionally until coconut flakes turn a light golden brown.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

February 2010 Daring Cooks Challenge: Mezze

mezze,dhal chili cake,cucumber raita,canneli humous,preserved lemons,pita bread

This is going to be a very long post! But this was a great challenge though!

The Daring Kitchen

The 2010 February Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.
Pita Bread – Recipe adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
Hummus – Recipe adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
Cucumber Raita – Recipe adapted from The Indian Grocery Store Demystified by Linda Bladholm
Falafels - Recipe from Joan Nathan and
Preserved Lemons – Recipe from Paula Wolfert and Epicurious

*Mezze is a Middle Eastern way of serving a selection of small dishes or appetizers all at once.

The pita bread and hummus were mandatory and the rest were up to your creativity and imagination.

My mezze was a vegan one and consisted of:
  1. Half wholewheat and half white flour pita
  2. Vegan cucumber raita (with basil and coconut milk)
  3. Mushroom and sweetcorn cannelli bean humous
  4. Dhal-chili cake
  5. Preserved lemons with green chilies and whole black pepper (these were not pickled enough to be eaten on the day, but now they are delicious!)
  6. Sauteed broccoli and asparagus

Much to my surprise this challenge didn't really take much of my time! Just the usual time I take to make dinner (well, except for the waiting time of the pita bread to rise...). I actually took more time to write this post and the recipes!

Pita Bread

pita bread

For the pita bread, I pretty much used the recipe provided in the challenge which is adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
I did not follow the exact measurements of water and flour as these need to be adjusted anyway while making the dough. I also omitted the olive oil in the recipe (because I forgot to add it in!) and it didn’t make a difference.

Ingredients (about 16 pita breads, depending on size)

2 teaspoons regular dry yeast (.43 ounces/12.1 grams)
2.5 cups lukewarm water (21 ounces/591 grams)
5-6 cups flour (50% whole wheat and 50% strong white flour) (17.5 -21 ounces/497-596 grams)
1 tablespoon table salt (.50 ounces/15 grams)
2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)

  • In a large bread bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in 3 cups flour, a cup at a time, and then stir continuously for about 1 minute, in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let this sponge rest for at least 10 minutes, or as long as 2 hours. (I left mine for more than an hour).
  • Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil at this point (if adding). Mix well. Add more flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is too stiff to stir. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Rinse out the bowl, dry, and lightly oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until at least doubled in size, approximately 1 1/2 hours.
  • Place a two small baking sheets (I used a pizza tray), on the bottom rack of your oven, leaving a 1-inch gap all around between the sheets and the oven walls to allow heat to circulate. Preheat the oven to 230 degrees Celsius (450F).
  • Gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half, and then set half aside, covered, while you work with the rest. Divide the other half into 8 equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands. Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick. Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack.
  • Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the tray or baking sheets, and bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until each bread has gone into a full balloon (I left my pitas to bake for more than 5 minutes though, because I didn’t think they were ready yet). If for some reason your bread doesn't puff up (some didn’t in my case), don't worry it will still taste delicious.
  • Wrap the baked breads together in a large kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled-out breads. Then repeat with the rest of the dough.

Mushroom and Sweetcorn Canelli (or white) Bean Humous (or dip)

canneli humous

Mushrooms and sweetcorn were sauteed then mixed with the cannelli bean pate. This was a nice change to traditional chickpea humous.

These are not exact measurements. I didn’t weigh the ingredients but just used the cup.


1 cup canelli beans (boiled to almost a mush)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon vegan margarine
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chopped mushrooms
2 tablespoons frozen (or canned) sweetcorn
75 ml water (more or less)

  • Heat the margarine on medium. Add in the mushrooms and sweet corn. Sautee for a few minutes.
  • Place the rest of the ingredients in a blender. Blend to a smooth paste.
  • Add more water if necessary to desired consistency.
  • Add in mushrooms and sweetcorn. Serve warm or cold.

Vegan Cucumber Raita

cucumber raita

Raita couldn’t be easier to make! Traditional raita is made with yogurt. It is so easy to veganise this with coconut milk. I didn’t use any garlic in the raita but you can add some finely chopped garlic or garlic powder to yours if you like.


1 whole green cucumber (I didn’t peel it or remove the seeds because they were very tender, but you can do so if you prefer)
Few leaves basil, finely chopped
5 tablespoons coconut cream (if using coconut milk, you may want to increase the amount and remove more juice from the cucumber)
¼ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
A few dash ground black pepper

  • Grate the cucumber. Squeeze out some of the juice from the cucumber. (You can save the juice for drinking or use it in your green smoothies! But don’t keep it for too long before consuming.)
  • Add in the rest of the ingredients. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Dhal-chili Cake

dhal chili cake

This is a regular Mauritian favourite at Lovlie’s Cocoon! I’ve posted some recipes about these before (here in a soup and another version here). I usually customize these cakes slightly with whatever I have on hand when I’m doing them.

This time I used fresh basil as herb. And wow! What flavour combo! I think the best dhal-chili cake I’ve made so far.

Ingredients (approximately 25 cakes)

1½ cups (250g) channa dhal (yellow split is also fine) soaked for at least 8 hours (preferably overnight)
1 small onion, finely chopped
10 - 12 basil leaves (or 2-3 stems with the leaves), finely chopped
¼ teaspoon aniseed
5 green chilies chopped (adjust quantity to your taste)
Salt to taste
Vegetable oil for frying

  • Drain dhal completely. Grind the dhal to a paste in a food processor or blender to a combination of fine and not so fine consistency. (There must be enough fines to bind the chili cake together).
  • Add the rest of the ingredients – onion, basil, chilies and salt.
  • Mix well. This is best mixed by hand.
  • Preheat oil on medium heat.
  • Drop the dough in small loose balls in the hot oil. (Do not compress the dough balls too much otherwise the centre will remain uncooked).
  • Turn occasionally until golden brown. Adjust heat if necessary to ensure thorough cooking.
  • Remove and allow to drain on kitchen absorbent paper to absorb the extra oil.

Preserved Lemons

preserved lemons

They remind me of my Mum who used to make huge jars of preserved lemons that we would use in salads, chutneys or just accompaniment.

The challenge recommended Meyer lemons. “To most closely approximate the flavour of Moroccan lemons, Wolfert recommends Meyer lemons for this recipe. This lemon/mandarin orange hybrid, in season in January and February, has yellow-orange flesh, a smooth rind, and a sweeter flavour than other lemons.”

I couldn’t find those so I just used organic unwaxed lemons.


5 lemons
¼ cup salt (2 ounces/60 grams)
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
10 whole green chilies
Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste, only if needed
Rice vinegar, (optional) if required

Special Equipment: 1 pint Mason Jar – Sterilized. I just sterilized an empty jam jar.

  • Quarter the lemons, sprinkle salt on the exposed flesh.
  • Place 1 tablespoon salt on the bottom of the jar. Pack in the lemons and push them down, adding more salt, and the peppercorns and chilies between layers. Press the lemons down to release their juices and to make room for the remaining lemons. (If the juice released from the squashed fruit does not cover them, add freshly squeezed lemon juice or I added some rice vinegar — not chemically produced lemon juice and not water.)
  • Leave some air space before sealing the jar.
  • Let the lemons ripen in a warm place, shaking the jar each day to distribute the salt and juice. Let ripen for 30 days.
  • To use, rinse the lemons, as needed, under running water, removing and discarding the pulp, if desired — and there is no need to refrigerate after opening. Preserved lemons will keep up to a year, and the pickling juice can be used two or three times over the course of a year.
I hope you've enjoyed reading about these recipes just as much as I've enjoyed making them!

Friday, 12 February 2010

BoyfriendLovlie's Stuffed Veggies

vegan,stuffed peppers

BoyfriendLovlie is ever so passionate about cooking ever since we became vegan (almost 3 years ago now)! And he’s getting better and better! Soon I’ll have to upgrade my skills if I want to remain queen of the kitchen at Lovlie's Cocoon! Haha!

He made these stuffed vegetables a while ago but I am only posting them now. They look impressive, don’t they?! And they are really not difficult to make. So, to all the vegan guys or omni guys whose other half is a vegan lady, BoyfriendLovlie recommends that you try this recipe to impress her! She will be impressed, and that’s from me!

These little veggie baskets of love will impress a non-vegan lady as well though because they are also very low in fat.

The boyfriend cooking low-fat! This must be heaven!

This recipe is really very customizable with whatever you have on hand. The filling quantity will depend on how much you want to make or how big the peppers are.
The filling was basically scrambled tofu mixed with mashed potato and vegan cheese powder or parmesan. There are loads of scrambled tofu recipes out there - one on this blog itself. You can omit the parsnip if you are using this one or substitute with fresh mushrooms, peas and sweetcorn.

Just some filling suggestions and approximate measurements to fill 2 large peppers and 4 tomatoes.

1 block (225g) firm tofu
½ cup frozen (or canned) peas
½ cup frozen (or canned) sweetcorn
½ cup chopped mushrooms
2 tablespoons vegan parmesan
2 medium baking potatoes
2 tablespoons oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Any other vegetables (chopped small) and herbs may be added to the scramble

  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a non-stick fry pan. Add mushrooms. Cook for a few minutes.
  • Add in peas and sweetcorn. Cook for 3 minutes. Remove from pan. Set aside.
  • Coarsely mash tofu with a fork.
  • Heat the remaining tablespoon oil. Add in the tofu. Stir and cook until tofu begins to lightly brown (about 10 minutes).
  • Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with dried herbs.
  • For the potatoes, peel and dice them. (You can cook them simultaneously while doing the scramble if you want to use another pan). Cook covered in a little water until soft, adding water occasionally as required. Then mash and mix with the scramble and parmesan. This makes a creamy yet very low fat filling.
  • Adjust salt and pepper to taste if required.

For the vegetables, in this case, peppers and tomatoes, slice a thin piece off the bottom so that they can stand upright. In this way they won't topple over in the oven or on the plate. Cut the top off. After removing the seeds from the peppers and tomatoes, stuff them with the filling. Cover with the tops.
Place on a baking tray. Spray with some vegetable. Bake for 20 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius (350F).

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