How to convert a recipe into a plant based one.
Last time I talked to you about substitutes for plant based feta. This time I want to show you alternatives for parmesan, ricotta cheese and eggs. Three important ingredients in Ottolenghi’s recipe for ‘Aubergine dumplings alla Parmigiana’ (from hist latest book ‘Flavour’). I adapted his recipe and called them ‘Moussaka cakes’. It requires a bit of work, but that’s totally worth it, they are insanely delicious!
These cakes (or dumplings if you will) are made of roasted eggplant chunks, homemade breadcrumbs, flour, garlic, spices, herbs and ricotta, Parmesan and egg. Obviously the cheeses are for flavour and the egg serves as a binder. So I had to come up with a plant based alternative.
This is definitely the easy one to replace. I already told you last time I found a new ‘Parmesan’ made of chickpeas, which has an amazing flavour. However it comes in a rather small package and is quite expensive.
So I used a mixture of this product and nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is something I use all the time. It has a great texture, I use the flakes which crumble really easy. It has unbelievable health benefits: it can lower cholesterol, it protects the body from free radical damage, it contains B12 and plenty of other vitamins. But most importantly it has a nutty, umami flavour which resembles Parmesan cheese. I use it with pasta, pizza, pesto etcetera.
Like feta, ricotta is made with tofu. For people with a soy allergy (or dislike) you can also use cashew nuts or sunflower seeds. You soak them overnight (or quick-soak them with boiling water, this will save time). After soaking you discard the water and place them in a food processor to mix into the desired consistency. Then you add the other ingredients that you would use as with the tofu.
For full ricotta recipe click here
Eggs as ingredient
How you replace eggs depends entirely on what you are preparing. For baking cakes or cookies for instance you can use so-called ‘flax eggs‘. A mixture of flaxseed with a bit of water, which set aside for 10 minutes will form a sticky substance. The same can be achieved by using chia seeds. Some use bananas or unsweetened apple sauce as the binding factor. For me personally I don’t like the flavour of bananas or apple in my cakes, despite the fact that it is only subtle.
In case you want to make your own veggie- burgers (like beetroot, beans, pumpkin) adding a tablespoon of (soy) yogurt to your mixture will do too. After shaping your mixture into a burger, place in the fridge for 30 minutes where it will set.
I myself am a fan of arrowroot. This really works like a charm. Leaves no smell or taste and does the job it’s supposed to do. So that is exactly what I used in this recipe. A good tablespoon of arrowroot stirred in with the eggplant mixture. Then I shaped the mixture into little cakes, place them in the fridge for 30 minutes so they set good.
While they were setting it was time to prepare the sauce and pre-heat the oven. While the sauce was bubbling to really get its depth of flavour, I fried the cakes until golden brown.
They held together like a charm! Next step was transferring everything into an ovenproof dish and place it in the oven for the finishing touch.
More about this Moussaka cake recipe an how to prepare it click here.
Eggs as omelets, scrambled eggs and more
Onwards with the egg replacements. I explained how to substitute the eggs when they are an ingredient. But you can also actually make omelets, scrambled eggs, Shakshuka with plant based eggs etcetera. The options are endless really! (By the way, Shakshuka isn’t necessarily prepared with eggs, there are plenty of recipes out there where veggies are used! Click here for such a recipe)
There are several ways to bake an omelet. Often I see people using tofu, especially for scrambled eggs and Shakshuka with eggs.I have to admit I am not a fan. I myself prefer to use chickpea flour. An ingredient that sits in a pantry without really having to pay attention to its expiration date and on top of that comes really cheap. Next to the chickpea flour you need to have ‘Kala Namak’ or Indian black salt. This salt has the smell of a boiled egg while peeling its skin. The smell in Kala namak is caused by the sulfur it contains. It adds to the feeling of eating ‘real’ eggs. Kala Namak is available in Indian supermarkets, some organic stores or online (in the Netherlands).
So that’s it for now, plenty of ideas to get to work and try them out. Let me know how it works out for you. Should you need help or have questions, ask away, I’ll be glad to help.
Next time I’ll tell you about meat and fish substitutes. Make sure to subscribe (you can leave your email down below) so you won’t miss it!