2

Vasilopita: New Years Bread in the Bread Maker

Vasilopita is a cake, or a bread, served on New Years Day in many Greek Orthodox homes.  A Vasilopita is named in honour of St. Basil and St. Basil’s name day is celebrated on January 1st.  A coin is placed in the Vasilopita and whoever gets the piece with the coin is said to have good luck for the year.  My grandmothers always made a Vasilopita and we nearly always celebrated New Years Day at my Papou (grandfather) Basil’s house, which was more a celebration of his name day than the first day of the year 🙂  Husband and I do not observe religious events, but this was a very important day for my grandparents and so I like to make a Vasilopita to teach Arthur and DeeW about their family’s history.

Last year, I  made my Vasilopita as a cake:

vasilopita2

This year, I used this recipe I found at http://vvoc.org/2012/01/03/new-years-bread-vasilopita/

I followed the recipe pretty exactly as stated though I had a 7g sachet of dried yeast (the recipe states 8g).  So I will paste the recipe here but with ingredients and instructions based on what I did. All credit for the recipe goes to the authors of that link, not me!

BREAD MAKER VASILOPITA

from http://vvoc.org/2012/01/03/new-years-bread-vasilopita/

3 teaspoons of orange zest

2 Tablespoons of orange juice

Egg replacer (Made up to be equivalent of one whole egg and one egg white.)

65ml soy milk

6 Tablespoons of Nutellex (or other vegan margarine)

2 teaspoons of aniseed juice (see below)

90g caster sugar

425g plain white flour

1 x 7g sachet of yeast

3 Tablespoons of warm water

Method

  1. Prepare the aniseed juice I bought a packet of star anise, measured out a tablespoon in a teacup and covered it with boiled water, just enough to touch the tops of the anise and I let it sit for a few hours. I used this liquid in the recipe.

  2. Finely zest enough orange to make 3 teaspoons.  Set aside.

  3. Juice the orange and set aside.

  4. Prepare the egg replacer as per instructions on packet and set aside.

  5. Prepare yeast by placing the 3 Tablespoons of warm water in a glass bowl and dissolving a pinch of sugar. Sprinkle the contents of the sachet into the water, swish about a bit then cover with a cloth and set aside out of drafts.

  6. Measure out milk and set aside.

  7. Measure out margarine, melt and set aside.

  8. Weigh the flour and set aside.

  9. Weigh the sugar and set aside.

  10. By now, the yeast should have started to activate (It will look a little bit fluffy/frothy.)

  11. Place ingredients into the bread machine in the following order:

    1. zest

    2. juice

    3. aniseed juice

    4. egg replacer (you may need to whisk as it may have settled)

    5. margarine

    6. soy milk

    7. caster sugar

    8. flour

  12. Make a small well in the top of the flour and tip the yeast on top.

  13. Place pan into bread maker and select the sweet bread setting.

 

Ha!  You whacky Veganopoulous!  As I pasted in this recipe I just realised I did not melt the Nutellex!  Yep, I missed that bit and added it in unmelted.  It didn’t cause a problem luckily:

bread maker Vasilopita

The Vasilopita bread turned out great.  Nice and sweet and the Greeks that ate it said it tasted like tsoureki (a sweet egg-rich brioche-like bread often served at Easter).  I think I’ll use this dough to make my tsoureki at Easter.  Perhaps I can have it rise in the bread maker then transfer it to the oven in the traditional plaited shape.

bread maker Vasilopita

I’m so pleased to have a Vasilopita recipe for the bread maker that turns out so well! I think I will make this when my mother and her Greek friends are fasting during Lent, to amaze them with this I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-butter-and-eggs tsoureki!

18

A Very Veganopoulous Christmas

However you celebrate December 25th, or whatever you chose to do today, I hope it was a great day! In Melbourne we had a hot sunny day though fortunately not horrendously hot (though we were sitting in shade at Mum and Dad’s house so it was all nice).  The only downside to Christmas this year was none of the tv stations screening ‘A Very Brady Christmas’.  WHAT IS GOING ON???

Anyway, true to Family Veganopoulous form, we cooked enough food for twenty people even though there were only six adults and two children. We have many days worth of leftovers so it’s all good, as I don’t particularly want to see the stove again for another few months.  Just plop me down on the edge of my sofa waiting for Mike Brady to get out of the collapsed building and life is good.

What I loved most about Christmas lunch this year was how everything on the kitchen table buffet was vegan. The bbq stuff for the meat eaters was outside. It really struck me just how much vegan food a lot of omnis eat without actually realising it, so when people do the “ewww vegan food!” thing, they don’t see they’re probably already eating it– they just have meat on the plate too and getting rid of the meat isn’t really that much of a big deal after all.

But let’s start with breakfast.  This year I said no special breakfast, because last year the kids only ate the unhealthy part, then we stuffed ourselves at lunch.  So this year’s offering was fruit:

Fruity breakfast

Here’s the table at lunch.  You can see the Island Black Bean Burgers and Bistro Beet Burgers from Isa Does It, but I forgot to take a closeup:

vegan Christmas table

I made the Lemon Dijon Green Beans from Dreena Burton’s ‘Let Them Eat Vegan!”:

Lemon Dijon Green Beans

My sister made a delicious roast eggplant dip:

eggplant dip

Sis also made the Quinoa Olive Tabouleh from Let Them Eat Vegan!:

Olive Quinoa tabbouleh

I made the Kale Salad with Butternut Squash & Lentils from Isa Does It, minus the lentils:

kale pumpkin salad

My sister always roasts up potatoes, sweet potato and pumpkin:

roast veggies

From ‘Appetite For Reduction’ by Isa Chandra M, I made the Masala Baked Tofu:

masala baked tofu

My mum made a coleslaw with a simple dressing:

slaw

There was a Jamie Oliver Christmas show on the other day and he made a celeriac dish. We’ve never eaten celeriac before so my mum made the recipe. I think it’s just the celeriac in olive oil plus thyme. It was nice though I don’t think I’d buy celeriac myself:

Jamie Oliver thyme celeriac

Mum made some plain pilafi rice:

Greek pilafi rice

Mushrooms and onions, yum:

mushrooms and onions

I was totally stuffed from THIS.  Check out the herbi goodness!

my vegan plate

Being stuffed from lunch didn’t stop me from eating a big fat piece of Chocolate Mousse Tart with Raspberries from Leigh Drew’s ‘Veganissimo!’:

chocolate raspberry tart from Veganissimo

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I did heaps of baking. Here is what I made and gave out to people.  We have the Rosemary Choc Chip Cookies and Norah’s Lemon Lemon Cookies (which didn’t turn out flat) from Isa Does It; some coconut macaroons I put together randomly; Coconut Pecan Chocolate Chunk Cookies from Woman in Real Life plus a hazelnut version and a peanut version; some raw balls I made up from nuts, dates and chia:

assorted baked vegan treats

I’ll try to blog about the recipes individually, but everything was pretty much great. Even if things didn’t turn out texture/consistency-wise great, it still tasted fab.
Despite all that food, today was fairly low key. Usually I have some relatives visiting from interstate on Christmas day but they won’t be here for a few days. I’m sure my parents will enjoy the quiet time until then.

Before I go, I’d like to share this awesome book Arthur received. Oh man you guys, I am so SO tempted to claim it for myself. It’s called ‘Archi-Doodle: An Architect’s Activity Book” by Steve Bowkett. You can fill stuff in and make up your own designs, with prompts like “complete the panorama with your vision of the future:

Archi-Doodle book
***
And now, all I want for Christmas is a good night’s sleep! All the hustle-bustle is over, Arthur and DeeW have new books to read and games to play. I’ve realised that even though the baking can get on my nerves in summer, I have enjoyed giving home made treats as gifts (and freezing biscuits/cookies really is helpful, as long as you don’t keep eating them and having to bake more…) Quite a few of the presents I bought for others were second hand: a box of 48 unused Prismacolour pencils for DeeW bought cheap on eBay because the seller got the description wrong and had zero bids mwahaha; the tea cup-saucer set for my brother in law was from a collectables store. I bought copies of ‘Isa Does It’ for some relatives then purchased some of the ingredients to go with it (a kind of baketivism I guess!). Through purchasing vegan cookbooks as gifts in the past, my family have changed their eating habits to include more vegan meals and my sister has now stopped eating fish and meat completely. By default, my mum now mostly cooks vegan and is quite happy to be meat free herself (my dad, not so much!)

Best wishes for a super holiday season!

Brady Christmas

Brady Christmas

10

Dinner at Philhellene, Moonee Ponds

My mum’s birthday was this week and she decided she wanted to have her birthday dinner at Philhellene.  When she initially phoned them up, she asked about vegan options for me and was assured there were vegan dishes.  Of course, this didn’t stop me from going straight to the menu online and confirming that for myself 🙂

It was a busy night but our entrees arrived quickly.  My sister and I shared the ‘rodi dip’, which was made from roasted red capsicum, walnut and pomegranate:

philhellene1

I stuffed myself on bread before even thinking to ask if it was vegan, seeing as all the Greek women in my family only ever made bread with vegan ingredients.  I just assumed it was then later smacked myself in the head for not asking (I don’t want to know now!):

philhellene5

Arthur and DeeW got some chips and I had… quite a few of those:

philhellene2

I ordered the cauliflower salad with cous cous, parsley, pomegranate, onion, almond and dressed with a pomegranate molasses vinaigrette.  This was delicious and not a huge serve, though I was already a little full with the bread, dip, and pinching the chips.  I want to try and replicate this at home as it was a winner for me:

philhellene4

My sister ordered the vegetarian platter.  I’m really proud of my sister.  She no longer eats meat and although she’s more vegetarian now, most of what she eats or cooks is vegan.  Anyway, I’ve decided to include a photo (I only show vegan foods here on the blog but in this case all you see is pastry!).  I think the only non-vegan item on the veg platter are the pastries which contained feta and spinach.  This was a really big meal and my sister couldn’t finish it without help (she didn’t eat the pastries 😉 :

philhellene3

We all enjoyed our meals and service was very efficient and friendly.  The restaurant was quite busy and although our entrees arrived quickly, our mains took a really long time which is kinda a little difficult when you have young children getting impatient!  I’d brought along stuff to keep them occupied so fortunately there was no “where’s Charlie Chan with that food?” moment:

murielswedding

I didn’t have a chance to take a photo of the inside of Philhellene, plus there were people everywhere, so here’s the indoor view from my seat:

philhellene6

 

Although not a vegan establishment of course, I was very happy with my food and if my family wanted to go back there I would gladly order the rodi dip again (though I’d check if the pita bread is vegan but ohhh it was good bread) and some of the other vegan options.

Philhellene is located at 551-553 Mt. Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds. http://www.philhellene.com.au/

8

Vegan Moussaka

Moussaka is probably one of the first dishes people think about when asked “can you name a Greek dish”.  Growing up though, my mum didn’t make this often as there’s a fair bit of work involved.  Instead, she’d make pastitso, which is a baked pasta with beef mince, covered with bechemel sauce.  Much easier and less time consuming than moussaka!

For my moussaka, I first began by slicing eggplant, salting it and then rinsing/patting dry.  I also sliced up some potatoes.  Both the potatoes and eggplant were shallow fried in oil (something I don’t like to do often!):

moussaka2

My mother in law had given me some tomatoes so I made a quick tomato, onion and garlic sauce.  Ideally I would have like to chop the tomatoes more, or pureed the whole thing but I hadn’t washed the blender:

moussaka3

For the meat layer, I used the walnut-cauliflower meat recipe from Diet Dessert and Dogs.  I used half walnut and half pecans. For the dried spices I used about a heaped teaspoon of paprika and dried oregano.  For the layering, I think I did potatoes, eggplants, sauce, ‘meat’, potato, eggplant, ‘meat’, sauce.  Yeah, I screwed up the order a little.

moussaka1

For the cream layer on top, I whizzed up raw unsalted cashews and pine nuts with some water, juice from a medium lemon and a good dash of nutmeg (salt and pepper to taste too):

I was pretty happy with how it turned out.  This is something I’d make on a special occassion.  And a bigger stove so I could fry everything at once. Bad photo with twee background:

myveganmoussaka

Next time I’d like to add more flavour to the cashew-pine nut cream but overall I was happy with how it turned out 🙂

0

My Vegan Karithopita – Greek Walnut Cake: Experiment 1 is a Slight Bust

Karithopita (“karithi” is walnut) was always one of my favourite Greek cakes.  I’d tried making it a few times over the years using different recipes.  Some recipes called for flour and others said breadcrumbs.  Some said whole eggs, some said separated eggs.   The walnuts are pretty much a given at least.  Like just about every Greek thing you could make, if you had ten karithopita-makers and their karithopita in the room, you’d most likely have ten different versions and lots of debate.  Maybe even a bit of Smackdown! action.

The recipe I used today is one I found in my mum’s old recipe collection.  It’s so old that not only is it typed by typewriter, it has no author or method listed nor size of baking tin or oven temp or how long to bake for.  Just the ingredients.  Hardcore old school or WHAT.  Or just plain annoying?  Anyway, Mum says that many years ago, she was told that a good karithopita should always be made with breadcrumbs, not flour.

So this ancient recipe I found calls for 8 eggs.  8 eggs!  Far out. I opted for egg replacer for 3 large eggs worth and about 5Tbs of home made walnut butter.  With absolutely no freaking idea about anything.  I’ve used nut butter in some recipes before as a sort of egg replacer and it’s worked beautifully.

Then I had the additional challenge of how the heck to mix it all together.  Did the original recipe intend for the eggs to be separated, beaten, whatever?  Who knows.  So I just mixed up the dry ingredients first then in a small bowl I carefully mixed the egg replacer mixture (made according to packet instructions), the brandy and the walnut butter.  Because I made the walnut butter myself beforehand, I made sure it was easy to work with as the store bought nut butters I’ve tried are really thick and hard to incorporate evenly.

Okay, so this is a cake that has two major components: the actual cakey bit and the syrup.  I was always taught that when you have a syrup that is to be poured over the cake, one thing must be hot and the other cool, so the cake is cool and the syrup hot or vice versa.  I don’t know the exact scientific hocus pocus reasons for this but when my grandmother wagged her finger in your face, you didn’t ask questions about thermal conductivity and all that nonsense.

For this recipe I used freshly made breadcrumbs because that’s all I had.  I would have preferred using stale bread but will try that next time.  I know I could have toasted the bread a bit first but I was impatient.

Okay so then I made the walnut butter, which was about two scant cups of walnuts thrown in the food processor and whizzed until they were buttery.  I did add a good teaspoon of olive oil to make it a little smoother.

I’m happy with the way my first vegan karithopita turned out.  Not bad for a first attempt but I’d make some changes next time.  Like reducing the sugar by much more.  I’ll put in my recipe notes at the end.

UPDATE, TAKE NOTE, BEWARE, ETC:  This turned out really thick and dense.  My mum said “the flavours are really good and are exactly right but it’s a little on the gluggy side and needs to be lighter, but not fluffy-light”.  So that’s my next challenge.

Still, I have tasted some versions which were like this and really thick, which is why you only eat a very small piece  🙂

The Veganopoulous Vegan Karithopita v1.0- the really dense version

(1 cup equals 250ml)

For the cake:

* 3 cups of crushed walnuts

* 2 cups of breadcrumbs

*1 teaspoon cinnamon

* 1 cup sugar

* 1 teaspoon baking powder

* Egg replacer to make about three large eggs worth

* 5 generous Tablespoons of soft walnut butter (soft enough to mix up)

* 1 Tablespoon brandy (optional)

For the syrup:

* 3 cups water

* 2 cups sugar

* 2 cinnamon sticks

To make the cake:

* Preheat your oven to about 180C (moderate oven temp).  Prepare your cake tin/dish (see notes).

* In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, crushed walnuts, baking powder, cinnamon and sugar:

karithopitamix

* In a small bowl, make up your egg replacer mix for three large eggs.  To it, add the walnut butter and brandy.  Whisk it up so it’s all evenly mixed (this is why the walnut butter needs to be soft enough to blend well).

* Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir, then use your hands to thoroughly mix everything.  I squished the mix between my fingers.  The mixture shouldn’t be a typical cake batter.  You should be able to roll soft balls of it, and it is okay to have it be slightly sticky to the touch, without being a wet batter.  Sorry, forgot to take a photo.

* Put the cake mixture in to your prepared tin/dish (see recipe notes) and flatten it gently so it’s all level.

* Put it in the oven until really nice and browned on top and a toothpick comes out clean.  Mine was in the oven for about 45 minutes.  When it’s done, cut it in to diamond or rectangle (or square) shapes while it’s still in the dish/tin (don’t remove it!).  Let it cool while you make the syrup.  Remember, leave the cake right there!

For the syrup:

* You can make this in advance. Put the syrup ingredients in to a medium saucepan.  Mix well, bring to the boil, then simmer about ten minutes.  Stir now and then.  Remove from heat:

karithopitasyrup

Final assembly:

* With one thing hot and the other cold, get a ladle and pour half the syrup gently over the cake.  The cake should be cut and still be in the dish/tin you baked it in!  If you feel the cake needs more syrup, go for it but today for this cake I found I only needed half the amount in this recipe.  I guess it’s one of those “it just depends” things  🙂

Let the cake sit and be completely cool (about an hour at least) to soak up the syrup.  You can keep it in the cake tin/dish or move it to a nicer looking serving plate. Eat!  It tastes even better the next day and the day after that.

Recipe notes:

* This is sweeeet.  Well, for me anyway.  And I really don’t like sweet desserts like this anymore.  Greek sweets are usually served alongside a Turkish coffee (so you appreciate the sweetness more).  Next time I make this I’m using a different (and far less sweet!) syrup.

* Use a cake tin or pie dish that allows the uncooked batter to be about 3cm or 1 1/2 inch high.  The cake doesn’t rise much.  I used a square cake tin with base measuring 20cm (8″) and lined it with baking paper.

* I used a combination of finely crushed walnuts and  finely chopped walnuts because I wanted to bite in to little pieces of walnut.  Next time I might try finely crushed all the way.  I used my food processor to chop.

* There are quite a few variations on the syrup used in such cakes.  Some people make a thicker syrup with a little brandy, water and sugar. Others add orange or lemon rind (with no pith).  Others use a few whole cloves in the syrup.  It all comes down to what you like  🙂

* Next time I will try using stale breadcrumbs.  And I’m thinking of trying barley flour.

karithopita

Enjoy!

"This cake has chunks in it."

“This cake has chunks in it.”