Friday, May 15, 2009

May 13, 2009: The cheesy tuna bake that isn't

A few days ago Lisa asked a few veg*n bloggers about our perspectives on the rewards and social outcomes of blogging. I happily rattled on for several paragraphs about what this here blog means to me but I realise now that what I really should have shown her was this tray of warm, golden, comforting 'tuna' bake. It takes a whole blogosphere of creative veg*ns to create a winter meal as wonderful as this one.

To start with, there's vegan melbourne. Actually, that's not even the real start because Harriet tips her virtual hat to Melbourne Vegan Potluckers Brendan, Sarah and Emily for their renditions before posting her own take on the vegan tuna bake. The thing about this tuna bake is that it requires mock tuna, and that's hard to come by. Enter Kristy - she and I would probably never have met if it weren't for our respective food blogs. Kristy invited me on a weekend expedition to Footscray, and Vincent Vegetarian Food Mart in particular, where I picked up some very orange but very tasty mock tuna:

The third set of contributors are even more unlikely - a Helsinki-based vegan couple that I've never even met. Their lasagne recipe ranks among the best that Michael and I have ever eaten, and its white sauce was my choice for this bake. A final nod is due to Lolo of VeganYumYum; her terrific lasagne rolls recently convinced me that a vegan-friendly crunchy breadcrumb topping can be at least as good as melted cheese.

I don't think I can impress on you too forcefully just how great the resulting cheesy tuna bake is. The 'tuna' is perfectly squidgy and salty. This dish will happily accommodate your sad leftover vegetables (broccoli and tomato, in our case), cooking them until tender and surrounding them in a sauce so smooth, creamy and savoury that the absence of cheese is difficult to believe. Some grated Cheezly adds to the effect, but isn't necessary in my opinion. What's more important is a generous sprinkling of breadcrumbs, baked until golden and crisp.

I don't think comfort food, or community food, gets much better than this.

The cheesy tuna pasta bake that isn't
(a spectacular and unwitting collaboration from vegan melbourne, kblog, Tofu for Two and VeganYumYum)

375g pasta spirals
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
small head of broccoli, chopped into chunks
1 tomato, diced
1 small red capsicum, diced
200g vegan tuna (from Vincent Vegetarian Food Mart)
100g Edam style super melting Cheezly, grated (optional)

creamy cashew sauce:
2/3 cup cashews
2 2/3 cups oat milk
2 tablespoons Nuttelex
1/6 cup plain flour
1/6 cup savoury yeast flakes
2/3 teaspoon ground pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2/3 teaspoon salt

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, add the pasta, and cook until done to your liking.

Meanwhile blend up the breadcrumbs, chop the veges and get going on the cashew cream sauce. Put the cashews in a food processor, blending them to powder, then add 1/4 cup of the oat milk and blend to a smooth paste.

In a smallish saucepan, melt the Nuttelex and then whisk in the flour. Whisk and fry for a few minutes, then gradually whisk in the remaining oat milk. Get as smooth a sauce as you can. Bring the sauce to the boil and simmer it until thickened. Stir through the cashew paste and yeast flakes, then season the sauce and stir in the lemon juice.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Once the pasta is cooked and drained, tip it into a large casserole dish. Scatter the broccoli, tomato and capsicum over the top. Tear the tuna into small chunks and scatter them over the top, too. Gently combine the pasta, veges and tuna together until they're all evenly distributed, then fold through the creamy cashew sauce. Sprinkle over the grated Cheezly and the breadcrumbs. Bake until the top is crisp and golden, about 20 minutes.


  1. Your concept of "community food" by vegan bloggers truly warms my heart! And this looks really good, you certainly put the sauce in good use. The tuna looks interesting too, although I doubt we'll find anything similar in Helsinki!

  2. That's kind of scary that I blogged about tuna bake at almost the same time, I didn't have pics though!

  3. As much as I'd love to blog about food, I'm a passionate veg home cook, I have yet to. I love reading food blogs and I have been really enjoying reading what you two have made / visited. Then making / visiting there myself. Keep on blogging and linking to other blogs, I'm sure I'll get to them all in the end!

  4. mmm I'm dying to get over to vincents but I feel I eattoo much mock meat as it is! I think I need to write down how much a week I eat.. I think 2 meals is acceptable.. its SO BAD FOR YOU haha

    my friend justin just puts "I cant believe its not..' inf front of everything I cook him.. so that would be "I cant believe its not tuna bake"

    nice work!

  5. oh this is one of my favourites i haven't been to vincents yet either, i think it would be dangerous to do so... for my finances

  6. This looks good but I do not miss tuna - in fact I try to discourage E from it because of the smell - but when I was small tuna casserole was indeed comfort food so I know exactly where you are coming from - and I only recently discovered tofu for two so will check out their lasagne

  7. Anni, it's lovely to have you stop by. :-)

    It is funny, Kristy. Watch out for our rendition of your tuna patties in a few days!

    Nudbot, let us know if you do ever get 'round to setting up your own food blog. I don't think it's a prerequisite to being part of the food blogging community, though - you're as welcome a guest at this site as any blogger. :-)

    Hey Carla, we've got some "I can't believe it's not meat pies" tucked away in our archives. :-) I love a bit of mock meat, but similarly try to limit my intake!

    It is dangerous, Pip! I was left with only small change from a $50 note on this visit. Mind you, the freezer is stuffed full and we'll be enjoying these groceries over the course of months.

    Johanna, this vege tuna has some of that odour but it certainly doesn't reek like the real stuff. Maybe you could try serving it to E one day. :-)

  8. I too love the way you've presented the idea of a community of bloggers... and thanks for your great comments the other day!

  9. Thanks, Lisa! I actually rather enjoyed responding to your questions. :-)

  10. Isn't it great you can build ties with other similarly passionate food people. I'm not into eating anything that doesn't move of it's own accord but I like learning about other aspects of food too.

  11. maybe the vegan tuna bake really is the common ground of australian veg blogging. i just made one and blogging about it made me visit many blogs whilst writing. this is a really great post, btw cindy.

  12. Thank, Léna! Every new tuna bake post brings with it a new white sauce for me to try for myself. :-)