Friday, July 03, 2020

Red velvet cookie sandwiches

June 27, 2020


Red velvet cakes don't turn up too often around here, much less red velvet cookies. I think the main appeal for me is actually the cream cheese icing that they typically come along with, and there's plenty of that in the centre of these cookie sandwiches from Crazy Vegan Kitchen. I wondered if I could enjoy a vegan version as much as a dairy-based one. The answer is yes, and better still it doesn't even require soaking and grinding my own cashews.

I don't really enjoy the flavour of Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese, and it's currently scarce on the local supermarket shelves anyway. Instead I tried Made With Plants for the first time and liked it more - it's made from both cashews and tofu, and the soy flavour is subtler. It has that velvety, not-completely-smooth texture that many cashew-based cheeses and sauces do. That texture had the icing looking a bit sloppy and curdled when I first whipped it up, but it settled right down after I assembled and refrigerated the cookie sandwiches overnight.

As for the cookies themselves, they're full of red food colouring so I'd recommend taking care of your clothing and cooking tools as you bake! I got a bit lazy about sifting my dry ingredients and, while it wasn't disastrous, I reckon it's worth it to avoid clumps of cocoa and bicarb soda. These cookies rise and spread a lot as they bake, and retain a light, cakey texture after they've cooled.

The first cookie sandwiches we ate, just after I'd iced them, were just fine. But as the recipe author Amrita promised, they really come into their own after some time in the fridge. Not only does the icing firm up, but it melds with the cookies, the bicarb soda mellows, and the small dose of cocoa low-key complements the cream cheese. There's more going on than just that bold splash of artificial colour.


Red velvet cookie sandwiches
(slightly adapted from a recipe on Crazy Vegan Kitchen)

cookies
125g margarine
1/4 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour
1/3 cup soymilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 tablespoons red food colouring (I believe Queen Pillar Box Red is vegan!)
1 1/2 cups plain flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

filling
220g vegan cream cheese (I tried this one and liked it!)
55g margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup icing sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour


In a large bowl, beat together the margarine and sugars until fluffy. Stir together the cornflour and soymilk in a mug until the cornflour is dissolved, then beat the mixture into the margarine bowl. Beat in the vanilla and red food colouring. Sift over the flour, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda, and salt; beat until just combined. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, ideally overnight.

When the dough is ready, prepare a baking tray or two by lining them with paper and spraying them with oil. Preheat an oven to 175°C.

Retrieve the cookie dough from the fridge and scoop tablespoons of the dough onto the baking tray(s), leaving lots of space between them to spread. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool completely. Match them up into pairs of similar shape and size.

To make the filling, beat together the cream cheese, margarine and vanilla until fluffy. Sift in the icing sugar and cornflour and beat everything together until well combined. Spoon the filling onto one half of each cookie pair and gently sandwich the second cookie on top. These cookie sandwiches are at their best after they've had a day stored in the fridge in an airtight container.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Rachel Ama's peanut stew

June 27, 2019


This stew has been popping up on my social media a bit lately - it seems like it's kind of the recipe of the moment, replacing Alice Roman's famous (and slightly probbo) 'The Stew'. Versions of this seem to be a staple in a number of West African countries, and this vegan version is really great. It's a very simple recipe - whiz up the sauce ingredients and then cook everything in a big pot. I was a bit too trusting of the recipe - make sure your sweet potato is cooked through before you add in your greens. Ours was still way too firm when I added them, which meant that the spinach and herbs kind of cooked down to mush by the time it was actually ready. Luckily it still tasted fantastic. We served it up with quinoa, but it would go equally well with rice, couscous or even straight up.

The key is in the complex spice paste. We toned things down by using regular supermarket red chillies rather than the hotter Scotch bonnets in the recipe (if only because we couldn't easily find them). I was a bit frustrated by how I mucked up the timing, but it was great - we'll definitely make this one again.


Rachel Ama's peanut stew
(slightly adapted from this recipe by Rachel Ama)

spice paste
2 onions, roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1 red chilli, seeded and roughly chopped
salt

stew
2 tablespoons peanut oil
500g sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
400g tin black-eyed beans (we couldn't find them easily, so just used mixed beans)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
400g tin chopped tomatoes
500ml veggie stock
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter
200g spinach leaves
juice of a lemon
small bunch of coriander, stems removed, roughly chopped
1 red chilli, seeded and chopped
salt and pepper


Pop all the spice paste ingredients in a food processor and whiz to a smooth paste.

Heat up the peanut oil in a big pot over medium heat and then scrape in the spice paste, cooking for 10 minutes or so. Add more oil if things dry out.

Add the sweet potato, beans and tomato paste - stir thoroughly to combine with the paste mix. Once it's all combined, add the stock, canned tomatoes and peanut butter. 

Cover the pot, reduce the heat a bit and simmer everything until the sweet potato is tender (the recipe says 25 minutes, but it took us closer to 40).

Once the sweet potatoes are cooked, kill the heat and stir in the spinach, coriander, chilli and lemon juice. Once the greens have wilted, check the seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. 

Serve!