A couple of months back, I attended a hands on vegan canape cooking class with my close friend Vidhya. We booked our tickets via Palate Sensations a month ago and was counting down the days. Finally the day arrived and we met Nisha who joined us in a team of three to prepare 5 mouthwatering vegan dishes. When we were at our working space, we each had our ingredients prepared for us and each team had to work together to create the dishes in less than three hours. It felt like we were on masterchef television show without the glitz and tv glamour of course. But the pace everyone was working on felt pretty intense but strangely it was quite therapeutic to work as a team as I usually cook alone in my small kitchen. The materials, equipments and ingredients at Palate Sensations were really top notch, clean and well laid out. It was really easy to get any item in your wishlist easily and their resident chef and team members was at hand to assist us all throughout the workshop.
I had the opportunity to try the vitamix for the first time and am still dreaming of this mega machine for Christmas this year! It worked so much faster than my usual blender as vegan cooking requires lots of nut mixtures.
We started the first dish with mini baked mac and cheese with romesco sauce as it requires 20 minutes of baking time. The romesco sauce is really unique and really tips the mac and cheese muffins to another level. The sauce works equally well as a salad or pasta dressing too.
-1 large roasted red bell pepper, drained if out of can, roughly chopped
– 3/4 cup unsalted almonds, toasted (10-12 mins at 180 degree, stirring occasionally
– 1 cloves of garlic
-3 tbs of tomato paste
– up to 1 Tbs of sherry or vinegar
– 1 T cup of olive oil
– Salt to taste
– 1 Tbs parsely ,stemmed and roughly chopped
1) In a food processor, puree the peppers, garlic, juice of an orange, orange zest, tomato paste and sherry. Gradually add the olive oil. Taste for salt. Then pulse in the almonds and parsley (save a pinch for serving). The end result should be chunky and flavorful.
2) For the Mac & Cheese:
– About 125g (a heaping cup) uncooked dry macaroni
– 1 1/4 cups raw (unroasted, unsalted) cashews, soaked for 20 minutes to overnight, rinsed and drained
– juice of 1 lemon
– 3 cloves of garlic
– 1 1/2 tsp of tomato paste
– 3/4 tsp soy sauce
– 1 1/2 tsp of yellow mustard
– 1 tb of white miso
– 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast flakes (found in health food stores or online)
– 1/4 cup all purpose flour, divided
– salt and pepper to taste
– 1 1/4 tsp garlic powder
– 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
– 1 small pinch of cayenne for a kick (optional)
2) Make garlic confit: place the garlic and oil in a small saucepan on low heat, cover and let it to simmer gently for about 20 minutes until the garlic is soft and golden and oil is fragrant, checking that it doesn’t burn. When done, turn off the heat to let it cool to a safe temperature.
Preheat oven to 240c. Place a large pot of salted water on the stove and bring to boil. Line muffin tins with cup liners or just oil lightly and set aside.
In a blender, combine the garlic confit with its oil, the rinsed and drained cashews, lemon juice, tomato paste, soy sauce, mustard, miso, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, cayenne (opt.) and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth and well incorporated; adjusted seasoning as needed.
Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook al dente according to instructions on package (usually 6-8 minutes once the water has returned to a rolling boil), stirring once or twice to prevent sticking. Avoid overcooking the pasta as it will be submitted to heat a second time during baking. Drain the pasta as soon as it’s done, and transfer to a mixing bowl to coat evenly with the sauce, incorporating a little flour if the sauce is too liquid to stick to the pasta.
Divide the pasta evenly into the muffin pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until edges start to brown. When done, remove from the oven and let cool for a couple of minutes before unmolding. Top the Mac and Cheese bites with the romesco and remaining chopped parsley and enjoy warm.
Mushroom Avocado Ceviche Romaine Bites was the next dish we made was one of my favourite! It tasted really refreshing and I could eat this everday.
– 1 large Portobello mushroom cap
– 1 1/2 large ripe avocados
– 1/2 of a ripe mango
– 1 large fennel bulb
– 1/2 of a red onion
– 1/2 of a small can of hearts of artichokes, rinsed
– juice of 1-2 lime
– 1 clove of garlic, minced
– 1 small mild chile, minced
– olive oil, salt, pepper to taste
– 1 Tbsp soy sauce
– a few sprigs of fresh dill
1) Preheat the oven at 240c. Dice the mushroom into bite-size pieces, toss them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and bake for 12 minutes, until easy to pierce with a fork. Peel and dice the avocado, the mango, fennel, onion, artichokes so that they’re all the same size, toss to combine in mixing bowl with mushrooms, minced chili, garlic, soy sauce, dill, and the lime juice. Let the ceviche rest refrigerated for 15 minutes to an hour.
2) Half a head of romaine lettuce and arrange the romaine leaves on a serving plate and spoon an even amount of the ceviche onto the stem side of each leaf. Sprinkle with shredded nori (use 1/2 a sheet of nori, shredded into small pieces or get ready shredded ones)
1) Coriander carrot puree
– 200g of carrots, rinsed, peeled, chopped
– juice of 1/2 of an orange
– 2 1/4 tsp coriander seeds, toasted, ground (on low heat in a pan, stirring, until fragrant)
– a pinch of paprika or cayenne, optional
– salt to taste
1) Cook the carrots with a pinch of salt in just enough liquid to cover, until fork tender. Puree in a food processor or blender with grounded toasted coriander seeds, the orange juice, optional cayenne or paprika, and carrot cooking liquid if needed to obtain a smooth (not runny) result. Season to taste.
2) Eggless egg salad
– 1/2 block of soft/silken tofu, drained well, divided
– 1/4 cup raw (unroasted, unsalted) cashews, soaked for 20 minutes to overnight, rinsed, drained
– 1 1/2 tsp vinegar, preferably apple cider
– 1 1/2 tsp white miso
– 1 1/2 tsp yellow mustard
– 1 cloves of garlic
– 1 yellow onion, small diced
– 1 block of firm tofu
– a pinch of Kala Namak, indian black salt (available in Little India or online)
– 1/8 tsp turmeric powder
– salt and pepper to taste
– juice of 1 to 2 lemons
– 1/2 bunch of chives, minced
– 5-6 sprigs of coriander, chopped
2) In a blender, combine half the silken tofu with the cashews, vinegar, miso, and mustard. In a saucepan, heat a tablespoon of oil and saute the garlic and onions until translucent, on medium heat. Turn the heat up and add the firm tofu and remaining silken tofu, crumbling it into the pan with your hands. Stir to ensure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. Add the turmeric. Once the mixture has dried out a little, transfer to a mixing bowl to cool. Once the mixture has cooled, add just enough of the blended mix to coat. Add a little Kala Namak to taste. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and lemon juice as needed. Fold in chopped coriander leaves.
Assemble the canapes by spreading a layer of the carrot puree on the slices of the bread, then a scoop of eggless egg salad, and topping with chives.
We also made herbed white bean spread with pickled grapes and crostini. I have made it a few times at home and guests love it!
1) For pickled grapes:
– 20 grams of seedless grapes, rinsed
– 1/3 cup vinegar, preferably apple cider vinegar
– 1/4 cup sugar
– 1 1/2 tsp salt
– 1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
– 3/4 cumin seeds
1) Slice each grape in half. Combine all ingredients except for the grapes in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. After 1 minute, turn the heat off and let the brine cool for 5 minutes. Place the grapes in a container and pour the brine over them. Let them pickle for 15 minutes minimum; they can then be kept refrigerated in their brine for up to a week.
2) For the crostini:
– a slab of ciabatta bread (or half a French baguette) preferably a day old
Preheat oven at 240c. Using a bread knife, slice the bread into 75 mm thin slabs. Arrange slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, rotating halfway through, until nicely roasted
3) For the herbed bean spread:
– a small can of cooked white beans (cannellini, great northern, navy..) rinsed and drained
– 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh herbs of choice: tarragon, parsley, coriander, chives..
– 1 clove of garlic, minced
– 3 Tbsp of olive oil (can substitute half for vegetable stock for a low fat version)
In a food processor, puree the garlic and beans, adding the oil gradually. Run until smooth and creamy, pulsing in the herbs at the end. Taste and season as needed with salt and pepper. Spread the white bean onto each crostini and topped with a few pickled grapes.
One last item which we did towards the end of the class was warm cashew cheese stuffed dates wrapped in eggplant bacon. Our eggplant got stuck to the oven after baking and looked a far cry from the picture above. We tried assembling them together and although the flavour was great, the appearance looked horrid!
1) For the eggplant bacon:
– 1-2 chinese eggplants
– 2 cup oil
– 1 tablespoon and 1 tsp soy sauce
– 1 1/2 tsp sugar
– 1/2 tsp black pepper
1) Preheat oven at 240c. To make the marinade, combine well the oil, soy sauce, sugar, black pepper in a mixing bowl, taste to adjust seasoning and set aside. Peel the eggplants and, using a mandolin, very carefully slice the eggplants lengthwise into thin strips, and cover them with the marinade. Line the baking tray with parchment paper and arrange the eggplant stripes in a single layer, with a little space separating each strip to prevent sticking. Bake off for 12-15 minutes, rotating halfway through. They should get evenly cooked and pliable but not dry or burnt.
2) For the cheese:
– 1/3 cup of raw (unroasted, unsalted) cashews, soaked for 20 minutes to overnight, rinsed, drained.
– the juice of half a lime, or more to taste
– salt, to taste
Drain and rinse the cashews. Combine all ingredients in a blender with just enough liquid to cover, and blend using the tamper (or pausing the motor to scrape down the sides) until a smooth cream is obtained. Adjusted seasoning if necessary.
3) Assembling and serving:
– 6 pitted dates, sliced halfway through lengthwise
Using a small spoon, stuff each date with the cashew cream (checking for pits each time). Carefully and tightly wrap a piece of eggplant bacon around each date. Arrange on a baking sheet and return to oven for about 5-10 minutes, until warm. Serve immediately, sprinkled with smoked paprika.
Overall, I had a blast and each dish is perfect for any dinner parties. I am eyeing to remake a few of them for our Christmas dinner soon.