Thursday, February 14, 2013

Vegan chocolate-hazelnut spread and Vegan chocolate brownie

This didn't start as a brownie, it started as a vegan chocolate-hazelnut spread. I had some hazelnuts to roast, and after doing that I decided to use a few for a nutella like spread, but vegan... and more chocolaty :-). 

Vegan chocolate-hazelnut spread

5 tbps roasted hazelnuts (remove all skin too!)
3 tbps rice bran oil
100 gr dark chocolate (72% and dairy free)
50 ml hot water

Blend the hazelnuts and oil with an immersion blender until you get a cream. In the meantime melt the chocolate with hot water at bain-marie (nothing bad will happen, just keep stirring!). Mix everything together. If the hazelnuts are not fresh or oily enough you may need a bit more oil.

But my problem is that when I have a chocolate spread I don't spread it, I eat it all with a spoon! Too dangerous, I had to make something with it. What about a Vegan chocolate slice, a bit like a Vegan chocolate brownie...

Vegan chocolate brownie

6 tbsp of Vegan chocolate-hazelnut spread (recipe above)
100 g ground almonds
2 tbsp sugar
100 g self rising flour
200 ml soy milk
100 g dark chocolate broken into small pieces with a knife
Icing sugar to dust (optional)

Gently heat the chocolate-hazelnut spread until is soft (not melted) enough to make it easier to fold in the rest of the ingredients. Start with the ground almonds first, then add the sugar, half of the soy milk and half of the flour. Fold in the rest of the ingredients (if it looks too thick add a bit more soy milk) and the chocolate, then pour into a square or rectangular baking tin lined with baking paper. Bake at 160 C for about 30 minutes, or until the surface looks cooked but the centre is still a little soft. Dust with icing sugar (optional) and set aside to cool down. Cut only when completely cold and set (in fact wait for a day if you can!).

It is yummy and delicately nutty with lovely pieces of dark chocolate melting into every bite.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Japanese dinner: the last course, rice and eggplant and tofu miso soup

These are the final dishes of my Vegan Japanese dinner. For those of you who missed some 'episodes', the antipasto was raw avocado sashimi, and the main Fried tofu puffs simmered in vegetable broth, and by clicking here you can find the side vegetables, Broccoli and cauliflowers with easy miso sauce, and Quick Japanese Cucumber and Radish Pickles.

So, how do you finish a Japanese meal? Usually with soup and rice (dessert is optional really, a little seasonal fruit is preferred, like in this Autumn meal, where the fruit was persimmon, this fancy Japanese picnic basket, with mandarins - they are easy to carry, or this Summer meal, where dessert was... berries). 

But not fruit tonight, we just finished with rice and soup. Rice is served at the end to fill  the stomach, and diners eat what they need according to their body mass (this, I was told by a Ryokan chef in Kyoto, Nami, is it true?). By the time I served the rice and soup the light was gone, so apologies for the bad photos. Also, I had to hurry before the soup got cold! The rice is short grain and needs to be rinsed a few times, and then cooked by absorption. Usually I don't add salt to it. When ready I just put a umeboshi (pickled plum) on top, something usually done for breakfast in Japan, but I don't eat rice for breakfast so I use my umeboshi for lunch or dinner :-). And for the miso soup? Well, I like all types, but miso with eggplant is my favourite!

Miso soup with eggplant, tofu and onion weed

First you have to go back for a moment to the Fried tofu puffs simmered in vegetable broth, I used some light vegetable stock to cook the tofu puffs, and the leftover broth after draining the tofu was the base for my miso soup. Then I cut two long eggplants into six pieces each. I took the stock back to simmering point and I added the eggplants and four small cubes of Japanese freeze dried tofu (available in Japanese shops - but I have Japanese friends who send it to me by post regularly. Thank you Hideko and Atsuko!). I simmered everything for 30 minutes, then I took the miso paste left over from Broccoli and cauliflowers with easy miso sauce (in Japanese Zen cuisine everything is recycled!), and added a bit more miso paste to get the amount I wanted - personal taste here, and mixed it well. With chopstick I picked up the eggplant pieces and tofu and divided them between four bowl (3 pieces of eggplant and 1 small block of tofu for each bowl) then I quickly mixed the miso paste with the broth, and poured it into the bowls. To finish I topped the soups with some chopped onion weed. I love miso soup with eggplants! Did I said that already? :-)

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©