This year we celebrated Michael's birthday in Stockholm. I had organised a couple of gifts for him while I was in Melbourne and he was already travelling. I hid a proudly home-sewn shirt for him in the lining of my backpack, but didn't want to carry the weight of the cookbook I'd ordered all around Europe. Instead I photographed a few of the recipes that might plausibly be made in a small foreign kitchen, and prepared a couple of them for him as a birthday preview.
The cookbook was Street Vegan, a collection of recipes from the Cinnamon Snail food truck that won Michael's affection and appetite in New York City two years ago. There's a detailed review and recipe trials on Veganopoulous posted late last year, and she kindly let me browse her copy while we were hanging out around then. There's lots of tasty-looking seitan that draws on our whole pantry-full of supplies and an entire doughnut chapter. It'll be fun stuff for weekend cooking projects at home. I wound things back a little in Stockholm, but was still able to draw on some specialty vegan groceries thanks to the nearby goodstore.
For dinner, I embarked on beer-battered Buffalo tofu with roasted garlic ranch dip. Sobel suggests serving it with stewed collard greens and vegan mac'n'cheese. Echoing his way, I used handfuls of kale-based salad mix and a just-add-soymilk packet of vegan mac'n'cheese. Add a couple of beers from the Systembolaget and we had a pretty great celebratory dinner.
For dessert I skipped over the doughnuts and made a mandarin-chocolate ganache tart. It has a base of crushed Oreos and a silky-smooth filling of dark chocolate, coconut milk and orange juice for a creamy jaffa effect. I reluctantly left out the cinnamon, cloves and cardamom due to my kitchen sitch and reckon I'd enjoy some spicy complexity. The impressive flourish is the candied mandarin slices on top, skin and all, baked for just 10 minutes, all chewy and brightly flavoured.
The local pie dish was very wide and shallow - I struggled to stretch my crushed biscuits across the base, and was a bit haphazard in my measuring. As a result my tart slices didn't hold together, and we didn't mind spooning through sloppy slices of biscuit-crumbed ganache one bit. I guess I'll just have to try this recipe again, as Sobel originally intended, when I'm back home.
Mandarin-chocolate ganache tart
(adapted from a recipe in Adam Sobel's Street Vegan)
1/4 cup golden syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon water (added by me to thin out the glaze)
4 mandarins, washed
154g packet Oreos
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for greasing tray
200g dark chocolate
165mL can coconut milk
165mL orange juice (probably too much)
Preheat an oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with foil.
In a small bowl, whisk together the syrup, salt, oil, vanilla and water. Carefully slice the mandarins into rounds, as thin as you can get away with while keeping the pieces round and whole. Dredge each mandarin slice in the syrup and place them on the tray without overlapping. Bake for 10 minutes. (I turned the oven off and let them sit there as the oven cooled, to caramelise further and dry out a little.)
To make the crust, crush the Oreos and place them in a medium bowl. Stir through the oil. Lightly grease a pie dish, then press the biscuit crumbs into the base and up the sides of the dish - I use the back of a spoon to smooth them out. Refrigerate the crust while you make the ganache.
Roughly chop the dark chocolate and set it aside. In a medium-large saucepan, stir together the coconut milk and the orange juice. Bring them to the boil and then turn off the heat. Whisk in the chopped chocolate until smooth. My mixture was very runny, and I allowed it to sit and thicken for about 20 minutes. Retrieve the pie dish from the fridge and pour the ganache over crust, smoothing over the top as needed. Refrigerate the tart for at least an hour.
When the ganache has begun to firm up, arrange the mandarin slices decoratively over the tart. Refrigerate the tart for at least another 4 hours, until the ganache is firm enough to slice.