Decadent Choc Hazelnut Cheesecake

A few weeks ago, I found myself channel surfing and consquently fixated on an episode of Nigellissima, where a Nutella Cheesecake was being born. “Utter brilliance”, I thought. I love chocolate-anything. It was a fairly straight forward recipe and all the ingredients were pre-packaged. As I began to mull over how to make a vegan version of this, I found myself getting a little too carried away and complicating things.

I’ve held back greatly on the many ideas whirring around in my head here – the one thing that I wasn’t going to compromise on, though, was a gluten free base. And one that doesn’t use packaged biscuits – because I’ve done that before. I wanted to try something different, so the base is an adaptation of this recipe – literally the first Google search result for “vegan rice crispy recipe”.

Decadent Choc Hazelnut Cheesecake 4

Decadent Choc Hazelnut Cheesecake

The Base:

4 C Crispy Rice Cereal, NOT soft puffed rice (read the ingredients, most brands list “barley malt” which contains gluten, check your health food aisle rather than the cereal aisle)
1/8 C Flax Meal
1/2 C Agave Nectar
1/3 C Hazelnut Butter/Spread (or other nut butter of your choice – almond or peanut would also be good!)
1 t Vanilla Extract
Vegan margarine, such as Nuttelex

  • Lightly grease a 25cm springform pan with vegan margarine, then line with baking paper. You can use a smaller springform tin, but don’t use a larger one.
  • Pule 3 C of the crispy rice cereal in a food processor or high speed blender until broken up, but not powdery. Place in a mixing bowl with the remaining 1 C of crispy rice cereal and the flax meal.
  • On low heat in a small pot, stir together the agave nectar, hazelnut butter and vanilla extract. Once combined, pour into the mixing bowl and mix, mix, mix! If you’re afraid to get your hands dirty, you can wear gloves.
  • Press mixture firmly and evenly into the bottom of the springform pan and leave in the fridge to set for an hour or so.

Decadent Choc Hazelnut Cheesecake 3

Because all the vegan chocolate spreads I have access to are allergen-friendly, they’re nut free – which means I had to mix together chocolate spread and hazelnut butter to get the “Nutella” effect. I found this frustrating at first, but later realised that it’s great if you want to change it up and use a different nut (e.g. peanuts or almonds).

The Filling:

300g Dark Chocolate Spread (I used the fair trade Oxfam one, which is available at Woolies)
100g Hazelnut Butter/Spread (or other nut butter of your choice)
2 tubs + 2 TBSP Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese (500g)
3/4 – 1 1/4 C GF Icing Sugar (3/4 C will give you a bittersweet dark chocolate taste, whereas 1 1/4 C will give you a more widely palatable milk chocolate taste)
3 pinches of Salt

  • Bring the cream cheese to room temperature, then beat with the chocolate spread and hazelnut butter.
  • Sift in the icing sugar and beat until smooth and combined.
  • Pour into the springform pan on top of the rice crispy base and leave to set overnight.
  • Carefully remove from springform pan and place on a plate or platter.

Decadent Choc Hazelnut Cheesecake 1

The Topping:

1 C Strawberries, sliced
2-3 TBSP Hazelnuts (or other nut of your choice)
Agave

  • Roast the hazelnuts at 150C for about 10 minutes; keep an eye on them. When the skins start to split, remove them from the oven and leave to cool. You can remove the skins the slow/hard way (by hand), or you can rub a handful of them in a clean tea towel. You don’t need to remove all the skins, just the loose ones. Leaving some on will give you some extra texture and a rustic look.
  • Roughly chop the hazelnuts.
  • Scatter the strawberries on the cake, followed by the chopped hazelnuts, then lightly drizzle some agave on top.

Decadent Choc Hazelnut Cheesecake 2

Voilà! A party favourite that will literally get devoured before any other dessert on offer (that’s a tried and true fact).

Tips:

  • Serve this straight from the fridge. If you let it cool or serve it on a hot day, it’ll soften and be more of a mousse-cake than a cheesecake!
  • If using peanut butter, make sure you select one that’s natural/doesn’t contain any salt or sugar.

Pastisio/Pasticcio

This dish, pronounced “pastitzo” to the Greeks and “pastichio” to the Italians is something my yia yia (Greek grandmother) made often when I was a child and I loved it. Of course, her version was made with a meaty bolognese and a Greek style béchamel that has an egg whipped into it. You might have tried that type of white sauce before on moussaka.

At the age of 12 when I was trying to become vegetarian, this dish was one of my weaknesses and much to my yia yia’s dismay, I eventually started scraping out the layer of bolognese and just eating the pasta and béchamel. Thankfully, with a bit of imagination and skill, I can recreate a vegan version of this childhood memory in my very own kitchen!

Traditionally, yia yia always used tubular pasta but you could use any pasta you like – including gluten free.

Pasticcio 3
Serves 8-10, depending on the shape of your baking dish. Mine divides into 9 comfortably.

400g Dry Pasta of your choice, gluten free if required
4 C Lentil Bolognese
2 Batches Cashew Béchamel
Seedy Seasoning (optional)

    • Cook & drain the pasta. Spread it evenly across the bottom of a baking dish.

Pasticcio 1

    • Spread the lentil bolognese sauce evenly across the top of the pasta.

Pasticcio 2

  • Spread the cashew béchamel evenly across the top of the lentil bolognese, sprinkle with seedy seasoning & bake @ 180C for half an hour to heat through or 1 hour to brown on top.

Lentil Bolognese

I haven’t really divulged or discussed my heritage on this blog… What better time to tell you than now! One of my parents is Italian and the other is Greek – so as you can imagine, I was surrounded by some pretty amazing food while growing up. In addition, I was brought up in a culturally diverse suburb of Melbourne where being caucasian made you the minority – so I learned to accept and embrace different races and cultures from a very young age. I can’t thank my parents enough for bringing me up in such an environment and I have no doubt that this has heavily influenced my curiosity with international cuisine.

Although I was born and raised in Australia, because of my upbringing, I sometimes struggle with understanding Australian slang and colloquialisms and am also both baffled and humoured by Australian home style cooking. You know what I’m talking about – desserts using Kellog’s cereal or Arnott’s biscuits as the main ingredient; meals that are flavoured with tinned soup or sachets of dried soup… And of course Vegemite, which will always confuse and bewilder me. I may have had a chance with Vegemite once upon a time, however my sister convinced me that it tasted like Nutella so I shoved a heaping tablespoon of it in my mouth. To this day, the smell of Vegemite makes me want revenge.

I also have some very amusing food quirks and opinions that I don’t even realise are odd until someone laughs at me for voicing them. For example – we always used flat leaf parsley in our house and mum referred to the curly variety as “Aussie parsley”, while insisting that it had no flavour; kalamata were the only type of olive I’d eaten until I was in my twenties.. and of course: tomatoes are rubbish unless they’re home grown.

I’m sure as this blog develops, you’ll read more bits and pieces about what led me here – but for now, a recipe!

Lentil Bolognese
Yields 8.5 cups and is suitable for freezing.

1-2 TBSP EV Olive Oil
2 Cloves of Garlic, crushed or finely diced
1 Brown Onion, diced
2 C Diced Eggplant OR Button Mushrooms
2/3 C Red Capsicum, diced
2/3 C Carrot, diced
2/3 C Celery, diced
1 C Dried Green or Brown Lentils (2.5 C cooked)
1/3 C Red Lentils
2 C Vegetable Stock
140g/4.5 TBSP Tomato Paste (no added salt)
1.5 C Tomato Puree
1.5 C Diced Tomatoes (400g tin)
1/4 C Red Wine
1/4 t Raw Sugar (optional)
4 Bay Leaves
1 t Dried Oregano
1/4 C Fresh Basil, chffonade or torn
1/2 C Fresh Parsley, chopped
S+P

    • Bring 1L (4 cups) of water to the boil. Add the dried green or brown lentils and cook with lid on for 35-40 minutes on low heat. Soak your red lentils in about a cup of cold water.

Bolognese Chopped Ingredients

    • Meanwhile, dice up all your veggies and prepare your other ingredients. By the time you’ve done this, your lentils should be cooked – drain and set aside. Also drain the red lentils that have been soaking in cold water.

Bolognese Other Ingredients

    • Add oil to a deep sauté pan on medium-high heat. Cook onion for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic and all other fresh veggies, stirring every couple of minutes until the veggies are tender but not soggy. The veggies should start releasing their own juices; constant stirring will release too much heat and slow this process.

Bolognese Saute

  • Add all the lentils, diced tomato, tomato paste & puree, oregano, bay leaves and stock. Simmer on low heat with lid ON for 10 minutes.
  • Remove the lid, add the sugar (if using) and leave to cook on low heat for a further 10 minutes. This will reduce and concentrate your sauce.
  • Stir in the fresh basil & parsley with some salt & pepper (if using), then serve on pasta of your choice.

Raw Chocolate Custard & A Healthy Parfait!

This miracle happened when I was trying to make a lower fat version of my chocolate mousse – I wanted to omit the use of coconut altogether and thought zucchini would make a pretty brilliant substitute, considering its lack of calories and how neutral its taste is when raw. Luckily, it worked. I really hope you make this; your life won’t be the same without it!

And just a quick note: This is best made and eaten fresh. Don’t leave it in your fridge for more than 2 days.

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Serves 6

2 Haas Avocados (flesh only)
1 C Zucchini, peeled and grated
5 t Raw Cacao Powder
6-10 T Date Paste* (to taste)
1 T vanilla extract or half a vanilla bean, scraped out
Pinch of Salt

    • Peel and grate zucchini, then pat down with paper towel to dry out a little. If your zucchini is too watery, your custard will be, too; and if you don’t peel the zucchini, your custard will end up a little lumpy, as the skin will have a bit of trouble breaking down into a puree.
    • Pulse zucchini in a food processor. Add avocado flesh and pulse again.
    • Add the cacao powder, date paste and vanilla. Blend until smooth. This may take up to 3 minutes; be patient.
    • You can serve straight away or pop in the fridge for half an hour to chill and firm up a bit.

To make the parfait pictured above (serves 6):
1 batch Raw Chocolate Custard (recipe above)
1 Batch Sweet Quinoa Porridge
750g Strawberries
Chopped nuts of your choice

      • Wait until your quinoa has cooled down.
      • Layer quinoa and custard in a martini glass with diced strawberries in between each layer. If you’re having trouble spreading the quinoa, use a teaspoon dipped in hot water to help smooth it out.
      • Top with chopped nuts and a whole strawberry.

*Date paste is a wonderful, natural sweetener that you can make at home. Simply pit some medjool (fresh) dates, soak for 10 minutes, then blend with water and a little squeeze of lemon juice. If you’re feeling unsure about this and would like a recipe, go here.

Recent Smoothies

You won’t find many breakfast recipes on this blog because when it comes to getting a good start to the day, I’m a complete smoothie fiend. I always keep a full drawer of chopped fruit in my freezer and if I’m running low, I quietly start to panic. Here are some of last week’s concoctions:

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Banana, spinach and orange blended with water. Always remove the peel and pith from your oranges or they’ll be really bitter and you might find some stringy bits in your drink. Eew.

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This one was after a couple of dog walks – banana, orange, raspberry, AtV cashew sour cream, cinnamon and agave blended with water.

If you click that link, it’ll take you to the recipe for the cashew sour cream. I always keep some on hand – it’s a staple in my kitchen, just like my cashew béchamel. The best part about these two creamy wonders is that they’re both freezer friendly! You can use a regular ice tray to freeze them, but I only have funny shaped ones (whose novelty have worn off), so I use a silicone mini cupcake tray for freezing. When they’re done, I pop them all out of the tray and store them in a container or zip lock bag in the freezer.

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And finally… My all time favourite! I call this “The Elvis”.

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Peanut butter & banana blended with water, a pinch of salt and sometimes a little squeeze of agave.

Chocolate Mousse Crumble

This is a semi-raw, rich & creamy mousse that’s dairy, gluten and egg free! There’s a hint of coconut flavour from the coconut milk, but you can’t taste the avocadoes at all, I promise. The tartness of raspberries cuts through the richness of this nicely – I recommend serving with fresh or defrosted raspberries (or any other berry), or a berry coulis.

I made this on a whim tonight, with a list on ingredients but no guidance on quantities. A huge thanks goes out to my friend Jodie for the inspiration.

Choc Mousse Crumble
Serves 10

Mousse:
3 Haas Avocadoes
270ml Coconut Milk*
2 TBSP Raw Cacao Powder
1/4 C + 2 TBSP Agave Nectar

Crumble:
1/4 C Almonds
2 Pinches Cinnamon Powder

  • Blend together all mousse ingredients in a food processor until smooth.
  • Divide mixture in a couple of silicone muffin trays. Your mixture will make 10 serves of mousse.
  • Pulse together crumble ingredients, sprinkle onto mousse and freeze for at least 3 hours. If you choose to freeze longer, remove individual serves from silicone tray and defrost in fridge for approx an hour before serving.

*I recommend choosing a full fat coconut milk that doesn’t contain emulsifier. In Australia, the Ayam brand is good! It has a clear definition between the milk and the solid cream layer on top.

Another Raw Lunch!

Yet another recipe from Addicted to Veggies – this is the Loaded Creamy “No Pasta” Salad. I made a half batch, marinated my broccoli for 4 hours in the zip lock bag and skipped the optional pickle relish. The tenderising technique Sarahfaé has come up with is brilliant – I thought the broccoli seemed very lightly blanched. If you like cooked broccoli, don’t be afraid to leave this in the fridge overnight.

Loaded Creamy No Pasta Salad

I don’t know if you can really call healthy food “badass”, but I’m going there. This meal kicks butt.

Even half a batch of the original recipe was pretty huge – I’d say about a third of the full recipe would be one serve for me. Towards the end, I was at that point of knowing if I kept eating I was going to feel sick, but it just tasted so damn good that I couldn’t help myself! Yep. I finished it. Deeeeelicious. This might end up being a semi-regular lunch for me. Not only is broccoli my favourite vegetable EVER, but it really wasn’t that hard to prepare this. I already had some AtV sour cream on hand; the rest of the work was just chopping and storing ingredients in separate layers of my tiffin, ready for a quick assembly at lunch time.

Mustard Tofu

Here’s the third recipe, using my cashew béchamel, as promised! This is a vegan version of the “mustard chicken” recipe from Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals. Please excuse my dodgy night time photos – the lighting in my kitchen isn’t that great and I don’t have a very schmick camera.

Mustard Tofu Finished1
Serves 4

1.5 TBSP Canola Oil
500g Firm Tofu*, cut into 4 “steaks”
2 Sprigs Rosemary, leaves only, finely chopped
4 tsp Yellow Mustard Powder
1 Leek, finely sliced
1-2 Cloves Garlic
Decent swig of white wine. I used a sparkling that had gone flat in my fridge!
1 TBSP Wholegrain Mustard
1/2 C Cashew Béchamel
Up to 1/2 C Water (as required)
S+P

  • Mix together mustard powder & rosemary. Rub onto tofu steaks.
  • Mustard Tofu Rubbed1

  • Heat the canola oil in a sauté pan or deep frying pan. Add your tofu steaks and cook for approx 4 minutes on high heat (they will be a little blackened). Flip.
  • Add the leek and garlic to one side of the pan. This is where you’ll build your sauce. Agitate as it cooks, approx 2 minutes.
  • Mustard Tofu Leeks1

  • Toss in a swig of white wine, and allow it a minute to cook off, then stir in the wholegrain mustard and cashew béchamel. You’ll need to slowly add water to get your desired consistency. The cashew béchamel will thicken very quickly – and if you’ve made it in advance/refrigerated it beforehand, it will already be quite thick – so you’ll have to use your own judgement in regards to the amount of water you require.
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  • Voila! You’re ready to serve. I love this with quinoa and steamed greens; in the photograph I’ve used broccoli, but it’s also really delish with steamed choy sum or kale!

*Not all tofu is created equal. Organic is always best, but beyond that, if you don’t have a favourite brand, you’ll be flying blind here. I recommend using the Pureland one for this recipe, as it’s fairly solid. I often buy the Nutrisoy tofu as well, but that’s a little softer and has an “eggy” texture, which can fall apart and thus is more suitable for making a scramble.

Mustard Tofu Tofu1