Friday, 30 December 2011

Vegan mushroom chestnut pate and vegan squash ravioli


A Christmas without stress, worries and impending school deadlines is the greatest gift a girl could ask for. I remember the past few Christmases, lying in bed at my Gramma's house, worrying about the experiments that were not working, the papers that were not getting published and the thesis that needed to be written. Words cannot describe how liberating it feels to no longer have those worries hanging over my head.

Unfortunately I picked up a small cold yesterday and am currently feeling tired, achy and stuffy. I am now in Regina, we drove in from Winnipeg last night where I spent Christmas with my mom, sisters and grandparents.  The air here is extremely dry compared to Vancouver. My skin is itchy and my throat feels like it is coated in a thin layer of dust. The rainy weather in Vancouver is good for something I guess.

For Christmas, my mom asked me to make some vegan food for my vegan sister and for myself. My gramma had already made vegan cabbage rolls (an accidental convenience), veggies, potatoes and vegan sweet and sour meatballs (these ones she does every year just for Allee). 

We always sit around in my grandparents' living room for a few hours before the big dinner to chat and catch up on life. Grampa snacks on liver pate and crackers, gramma makes a crab dip that everyone goes gaga over and we also have cheese and Uncle Joe's snack mix and whatever vegan concoctions my mom supplies for Allee. 



For this snacking part of Christmas day I made a vegan chestnut-mushroom pate. I have to admit I have never made or eaten roasted chestnuts before so I had no idea what to expect. I looked up a handful of recipes to figure out how to roast chestnuts and they all gave the same set of simple instructions. The final pate tasted pretty good but honestly mushroom pate does not look extremely appetizing; it tastes better than it looks.

Roasted chestnut and mushroom pate
Winter seasonal: mushrooms and chestnuts

Ingredients
3 - 4 raw, whole chestnuts
1 cup chopped shallots
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chopped mushrooms (brown cremini and portobello mix)
1/4 cup prepared white beans
Fresh thyme leaves plucked off of the stems
3 sun-dried tomatoes finely chopped
Sea salt to taste
Balsamic vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil (I used rosemary infused)

Directions
1 - Start by roasting the chestnuts. Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut a cross into the shell of the chestnut at the tip to allow steam to escape. Make sure to use a sharp knife and cut right through the shell.
2 - Roast the chestnuts on a baking sheet for about 30 minutes. 
3 - Allow the chestnuts to cool and then peel the shell and thin brown paper layer. 
4 - Chop the chestnuts.
5 - Meanwhile, saute shallots and garlic in a tbsp of oil on medium heat (dont burn or brown) for about 3 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and thyme and a few generous pinches of sea salt.  Saute until cooked through and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes.
6 - Near the end of the cooking of the mushrooms, add chopped sun-dried tomatoes and stir in a couple tsp of balsamic vinegar. 
7 - Cook a couple of more minutes then take off of heat
8 - Process mushrooms with white beans and chestnuts in a food processor. I used a rosemary infused olive oil to moisten the pate and make the mixture easier to process.
9 - Allow pate to set for a day or overnight in fridge.
10 - Serve pate on crackers or toasted bread cut into shapes with cookie cutters and garnish with fresh thyme, parsley or basil.

For our dinner main course I made a vegan ravioli. I stuffed the ravioli with a mix of roasted squash, leeks and shallots which I pureed and then mixed with a vegan ricotta. The vegan ricotta mixed really nicely into the pureed squash, giving the filling some girth.

The pasta dough was made using just semolina flour, all purpose flour and water (following this recipe). The eggless pasta dough, once cooked is slightly more delicate than pasta containing eggs. It is important, to increase the density of the pasta, that you work the dough (knead) for several minutes and that you continually fold and roll the dough with the pasta maker. Lastly, eggless pasta dough should be left to dry out slightly before cooking so that the pasta does not fall apart when cooked. 


I served the ravioli with some shredded Daiya mozarella cheese and a vegan pesto from whole foods made with basil and sunflower seeds. I had considered making a pesto cream sauce using some coconut milk or coconut cream and flavoring it with white wine. I have no idea how it would have turned out but might attempt it in the near future. 


For leftovers, I ate the ravioli with a homemade tomato sauce (made with canned instead of whole tomatoes) and again topped it with Daiya mozzarella.

Vegan squash and leek stuffed pasta
Winter seasonal: Butternut squash and leek
This recipe makes a lot of pasta. I only used half of the recipe but you can make the whole thing and freeze the raviolis you do not use. If you are not vegan you can mix the squash and leek with regular ricotta or parmesan cheese.

Ingredients
Egg-less pasta dough (see recipe link)
1/2 large butternut squash
1 leek
Vegan ricotta (use half of this recipe)
Maple syrup or honey or sugar
Fresh nutmeg
Sea salt to taste
Sauce of your choice i.e. pesto or tomato sauce



Directions
1 - Roast butternut squash in oven preheated to 350F. Cut in half (the long way), remove seeds, rub the open surface with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and place open side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast about 1 hour.
2 - After about 30 minutes, roast the leek and shallots. First, trim the dark green leaves from the leek and the end of the root. Cut the leek in half the long way and rinse any dirt. Cut shallots into quarters. Lightly coat the leeks and shallots with olive oil and place in a covered baking dish. Cook in oven until soft, about 30 minutes.
3 - In the meantime make vegan ricotta following recipe link provided above.
4 - To make the filling, scoop out the flesh of the squash into a bowl, mix with chopped leek and shallots and blend all together in a processor until almost smooth. Season with salt, maple syrup and nutmeg, taste and adjust to personal preference. Mix desired amount of ricotta into the squash mix.
5 - Set aside mix while you roll out the pasta dough. Start by rolling the dough on the thickest setting (I work with 1/8 of the dough recipe at a time). At the three thickest settings, once you have ran the dough through the machine once, fold the dough into thirds and repeat rolling at the same setting at least three times. Move through the settings once at a time. Once you get to the thinner settings, fold just once or twice. Continue rolling until you reach the second thinnest setting of the pasta machine
6 - Cut sheets into squares. I make large squares, about 5 inches square. Generally this is the width of the pasta sheets that come out of the pasta machine. If you prefer you can make smaller raviolis, it is up to you.
7 - Add about a tablespoon of squash mix to the squares and fold into a triangle. Dip your fingertips in water and moisten the edge of the pasta to help the two halves of the ravioli stick together. You can trim the edges of the resulting triangles using a sharp knife to make them look prettier.
8 - Make all of the raviolis and let them dry out about 30 - 60 minutes. If you are not eating right away, cover with saran wrap and keep in fridge. Alternatively you can freeze the raviolis.
9 - When ready to eat, heat a large pot of salted water with 1 - 2 tbsp olive oil to boil. 
10 -Add a few raviolis to the pot at a time and allow to boil 2 or 3 minutes if fresh or 5 - 6 minutes if frozen.
11 - Serve ravioli immediately with pesto or tomato sauce.

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