Sep 27, 2012

Jaggery Banana Loaf

A vegan lunch date was planned and how could I not bring dessert. Knowing that it is hard to get vegan desserts in restaurants, unless you request the chef to put in some extra effort, I was pretty sure I wanted to bring something along for the meet.

It had to be something "healthy" since we were meeting at Yoga House, a macrobiotic restaurant for lunch. That took care of the sugar and thank dog for that. With all the cavities I am accumulating, my on-again off-again relationship with sugar needs to be permanently off. And so this spiced jaggery loaf was rehashed and brought back to life. I bake a whole bunch of sugar free stuff for The Green Stove for other people, but I thought I should extend it to my vegan peeps also.

Also in other news, Vegan MoFo is happening in October again. 500 plus vegan bloggers from all over the world are going to be spamming each other with vegan food porn and recipes. I have a theme this year and hopefully I will be able to stick to the theme. It is going to be an EPIC month of vegan food. Can't wait!

This is a simple, dense and flavourful loaf. The nuts and berries add a nice crunch. It's very quick to mix up and if you have organic ingredients on hand it's even better.

Here is the recipe

Makes two 6 inch loaves

Dry Ingredients
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp all spice powder (optional)
2 tbsp cranberries chopped
2 tbsp raisins chopped
a handful of walnuts chopped
a pinch of salt

Wet Ingredients
1 1/2 cups jaggery powder
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup oil
3 medium bananas chopped
1 tsp vinegar

Dark Chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 175°C

Mix all the dry ingredients including the berries and nuts. Melt the jaggery with a little water and add the rest of the wet ingredients to it. Fold it in well and add more water if required. Taste the batter and if you like it to be sweeter, then add more jaggery. It should be a thick cake batter. Put it into two lined / oiled 6 inch loaf tins.

You could put the dark chocolate chips on top after putting the batter into the loaf tins, but that could constitute as cheating. I put it for added visual effect, nothing else. This loaf will be absolutely perfect without it too.

Bake for 35-40 minutes. The toothpick test works to see if it is done. Remove it from the loaf tin and let it cool a bit before cutting.

Sep 12, 2012

Vegan Yogurt - Peanut and Cashew

Let me start with a disclaimer first. No matter what you do, your alternative to dairy in any form (milk, cheese, butter and so on) is never going to taste as if it is made from an animal milk. So if someone tells you to add coconut/ cashew/ rice/ peanut/ almond/ oat milk to your tea or coffee, know that in doing so you will not get what your tongue has been used to 20 years. Instead you will get a brand new flavour that will require some unlearning and relearning but is so much more better than an animal product in so many ways.

Dairy products play a big part in every Indian meal.  I love how people say they eat "half a teaspoon of curd" for lunch or add "one drop of milk" to their coffee or tea. It's never true. Dairy is so prevalent in our food and our culture, it is very hard to avoid if you are not paying attention.

This post deals with something most people attempting veganism are struggling to give up or replace - yogurt / curd. The best part about dairy alternatives for curd is that you can make curd out of so many different raw materials and each has its own taste and flavour that can be adapted to savoury and sweet needs. Imagine having 10 different kinds of plain yogurt.

I have tackled peanut and cashew curd in this post. Many people use dairy curd to start off their yogurt cycle, but I prefer not to contaminate mine. To set it into curd, I have used the stems of fresh green chillies. This practice is known to a few and is used to set dairy curd. But the idea to use it for non-dairy curd was thanks to Harini of Tongue Ticklers. She has done it before here.

When I gave up dairy, I also gave up the south-indian idea of eating a big serving of curd after every meal. So I do not make curd on a daily basis.

Soaked and drained peanuts

When you are starting off, always make them in small quantities because most often than not, they are not going to set as you want the first time. If you are using green chillies, wash the entire green chilli and carefully pluck out the stem. Do not wash the stem again. Store a small portion of this curd to set the subsequent curds as you would do with dairy milk. You can also freeze a portion to use it later.

You will need:
a grinder
a sieve

For the peanut curd:
1/2 cup peanuts soaked for 4 hours and drained
1 1/2 cups water
stems of 8 to 10 green chillies

Grind the peanuts in a grinder with half a cup of water. Put it through the sieve and squeeze out the milk from the fiber into a heavy bottom vessel. Put the fibre back into the grinder with half more cup of water. Grind and sieve. Repeat once more. You now have peanut milk, a white frothy liquid that has a concentrated taste of peanuts.

Warm this peanut milk while stirring continuously. It takes about 3 minutes to get to a lukewarm temperature. Take it off the stove. If it is too hot wait for it to cool a little bit. Add the stems of the green chillies and it is remain in a cool dark place for 10 to 12 hours. I usually keep it in the oven overnight.

What you should get after it "sets" is a light yogurt floating on top and excess water below. Remove the chilli stems. If you want a thick curd, scoop out this floating mass. If you are going to make buttermilk use it with the water. Store it in the refrigerator.

Peanut curd is very strong in taste. It is quite putting off if consumed plain. The best way to consume peanut curd is to make it into a raita by adding flavouring spices, salt, chillies and grated vegetables. Or make it into a buttermilk by adding salt, asafoetida and a chilli-curry leaf paste. I have also used peanut curd to replace dairy curd in cooked dishes like kadhis, kurmas and avials.

Peanut Curd

For cashew curd:
1/2 cup cashew pieces soaked for 4 hours and drained
3/4 cup water
stems of 8 to 10 green chillies

Grind the cashew in a grinder with the water into a smooth fine paste. Put it in a heavy bottom pan and heat it for 3 minutes.

Add the green chilli stems and let it sit still in a cool, dark place for 10 hours or so.

This one sets much more thicker than the peanuts. There is no seperation. Once it is set, it bubbles as you touch it. Store it in the refrigerator.

Cashew curd tastes a bit more sour but sweeter. It doesn't have a dominating flavour like peanuts so it can be enjoyed plain. It can be used for raitas and also in sweet dishes.

 Cashew Curd

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