The Ultimate Spreadable Vegan Butter Recipe

It's been four years since I posted my original recipe for spreadable vegan butter! I've made it so many times since then, and it's gradually evolved into a much improved version, so I thought I'd share it! This spread has more depth of flavour than the original recipe, and is closer in taste and texture to dairy butter. The main differences are the addition of miso and cashews, and I've left out the natural food colouring this time; it's a pale yellow anyway, but if you'd like it to be a sunnier yellow, feel free to add some colouring. You might think because of the nutritional yeast and miso that this butter recipe is only suitable for savoury dishes, but like dairy butter, you can use it with sweet things too, and just leave out the sea salt if you'd like unsalted butter.

It's not only great as a spread on toast and sandwiches, but it is amazing on corn on the cob, stirred through mashed potato, makes delicious pastry, hollandaise sauce, tossed through noodles or steamed vegetables, added to salted caramel sauce, etc. You can also use it to saute things in the frying pan, but like its dairy counterpart, it burns easily, so keep the heat low.

Ultimate Spreadable Vegan Butter

1/2 cup soy milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup raw cashews (no need to soak them if you use a blender - I have a NutriBullet and it blends them until creamy)
1 teaspoon shiro miso (mild white miso)
2 teaspoons nutritional yeast (savoury yeast flakes)
salt to taste (I put in 2 pinches of sea salt flakes)
1/2 cup mild tasting vegetable oil (such as canola, macadamia, grape seed, rice bran)
1/2 cup refined coconut oil (the kind with no discernible coconut aroma - I use organic extra virgin expeller pressed)
3 teaspoons granular soy lecithin, dissolved in a little boiling water
scant 1/8 teaspoon guar gum (or xanthan gum)

Start by measuring the lecitihin into a small bowl and adding the small dash of boiling water. Stir it and leave it aside for at least 10-15 minutes until the granules have started going soft and translucent, and the mixture is thick and gloopy.

Add the lemon juice to the soy milk and set aside for a couple of minutes to curdle, then add it to your blender with the cashews, miso, nutritional yeast, salt and vegetable oil. Blend until thick, smooth and creamy without any graininess.

Warm the coconut oil until it's only just melted (microwave is fine) - a few soft lumps remaining is okay, it should not be too warm. Pour it into the blender with the lecithin and guar gum (don't overdo the guar gum - a tiny pinch - or it will have an unpleasant texture). Blend for 1-2 minutes, scraping the sides half way through.

The butter mixture will be thick and creamy, Pour it into a small container (about 400-500 ml/14-17 fl oz capacity is perfect). The emulsion can split if it's not chilled quickly, so pop it in the freezer for 30-60 minutes, then transfer it to the fridge and use once it's firm. It will be just the right consistency to spread straight from the fridge, and will keep for around a week.

Keep Your Sunny Side Up

I thought I'd share one of my favourite breakfasts with you. As far as egg alternatives go, I like this even more than scrambled tofu, and it's really easy! For want of a better name, I call it Tofu Sunny Side Up, and here are the steps...

Tofu Sunny Side Up, with sauteed asparagus, on grainy toast.

STEP ONE:
Cut three slices of firm tofu (slices about 1 cm thick). Put them in a bowl, pour about a teaspoon of tamari over them, then cover with freshly boiled water (if you don't have tamari, a pinch of salt will do). Steeping tofu in boiling water just before sauteeing makes it go nice and crispy in the pan.

STEP TWO:
Make a batch of Yolky Sauce either on the stove top or in the microwave (makes enough sauce for about 2-3 serves). I made up this sauce recipe for the yolk of my poached "egg", but it's useful in so many ways where you want a rich, eggy-saucy element (I also used it for my Salade Nicoise Royale). I've started to make Yolky Sauce with dijon rather than English mustard, for a milder flavour, but that's up to you. By the way, the sauce keeps in the fridge for a few days, so you can definitely make it ahead of time and zap it in the microwave to warm through.

STEP THREE:
While the sauce is gently cooking, saute 6-8 stalks of asparagus in a little vegan margarine or butter, adding ground black pepper and a pinch of sea salt. Set the asparagus aside once it's done - we now need the pan for the tofu. PS. Wilted spinach is a nice alternative to asparagus.

STEP FOUR:
Take the tofu slices out of the water (no need to pat them dry), add a little more margarine to the pan then add the tofu. To get it nice and crispy, you can turn the heat up a little, but not too high or it can get a tough crust. While the tofu is sizzling, season the "up" sides by sprinkling with nutritional yeast,  sea salt and ground black pepper. Check the bottoms at intervals to make sure the tofu isn't burning, then when they're crispy and golden, gently flip onto the seasoned side, just for one minute.

STEP FIVE:
Meanwhile, make the toast (two slices - and perhaps a pot of tea too!). Top your toast with the tofu slices (I cut one in half lengthwise so there are 1.5 slices of tofu per piece of toast). Arrange the asparagus on top, then spoon over a generous amount of yummy Yolky Sauce.

STEP SIX:
Tuck into the very best eggs-on-toast alternative in the whole world (in my opinion, that is)!

Serves 1-2 people.

Delicious Knishes

I have never come across knishes for sale anywhere in Australia - I can't believe I've lived a knishless life up until now! I read an article about vegan knishes a little while ago and was instantly won over by the idea of a potato-filled baked dumpling - double carbs! I kind of think of them more as pastries than dumplings, but whatever you classify them as, they're delicious!

I have the ebook version of a fantastic cookbook called Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World, which is encyclopedic in its size and scope; I just knew I'd be able to turn to it for a great knish recipe, and it didn't disappoint. Before I move on to knishes, a mini book review... Olive Trees is vegetarian rather than vegan, as the name suggests, and because I own so many vegetarian cookbooks (I was a vegetarian for a long time before going vegan), it has to be something really special for me to buy it rather than expand my collection of exclusively vegan cookbooks, and this book most certainly is very special. The good news is, there are a lot of vegan recipes included, and many other are easily veganised, so it's well worth adding to your cookbook shelf.

For me, it's an introduction to different types of dishes and flavours that are completely new to me, and I absolutely love that element of surprise when you run through the ingredients of a recipe and aren't quite sure how it's going to turn out - and everything I've tried has turned out deliciously (the Moroccan Pumpkin Soup, flavoured with cinnamon and ginger, is my very favourite pumpkin soup recipe). Olive Trees is more that just a cookbook too, because it's so rich in background information about the regions, traditions and ingredients. I really love the inclusion of maps showing the way foods have migrated around the world, such as The Spread of Stuffed Cabbage and The Spread of Lentils and Rice - so interesting! It's a five star cookbook in my opinion.

Olive Trees delivers a huge chapter on savoury pastries from across Europe and the Middle East, starting with knishes. There are options for different pastry recipes and fillings, and I have to admit, I did deviate a little from the traditional fillings, but only a little. I chose to veganise the Ashkenazic Sour Cream Pastry recipe (see below), because I used to make a lovely sour cream pastry in my vegetarian days, which was very flaky and tender. It worked out really well, but I ran into some issues re. splitting - too-moist filling plus super-tender yet delicious pastry equals splittage. It was my own fault, because I got too fancy with my mashed potato filling and it was really soft. I chose to make two kinds, potato and leek, and spinach and almond cheese. Here's what I did...

Potato and Leek filling:
I used lovely Dutch Cream potatoes, but also added about a quarter of a cauliflower when I boiled them. Big mistake. Tasty, yes, but my resulting mash lacked the firmness you need when forming knishes, and many of them split in the oven (a problem I didn't have with the spinach and cheese variety). Next time I'll leave the cauliflower out. I wanted to make sure the potato filling was really tasty, so I sauteed two finely chopped leeks and an onion in plenty of margarine, and added those to the mash with some of my homemade cashew sour cream (recipe here), chopped dill, and plenty of salt and pepper.

Spinach and Almond Cheese filling:
I steamed and chopped a bunch of spinach (stems and tough bits removed), sauteed a leek and onion (both finely chopped), seasoned the vegetables with salt, pepper and nutmeg, then stirred in some cashew sour cream and my homemade almond cheese mixture. If you're wondering about the cheese recipe, I've been making a baked almond and/or cashew cheese based on this recipe for a while now (here's a pic of some of the cheeses I've made).  What I've found is that straining the mixture makes little difference, so once blended, I just pile it in to greased ramekins and bake. Another discovery is that when you take it to the blended stage, you don't need to bake it first before using it in pastries such as Spanakopita, Borek and Gozleme (and knishes, of course) - it firms up when you bake the pastries. For my knishes, I blended about a cup of almond meal with some soy milk, a big pinch of citric acid (lemon juice works too), a tablespoon of canola oil, about 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, and a couple of generous pinches of sea salt. Then I folded it through the seasoned spinach, etc, and the resulting knishes are so cheesy and rich, I bet you could fool some dairy lovers with them!

Since Olive Trees doesn't have any photos, I had to look up instructions on how to form knishes. There seems to be different ways, but I chose the roll, chop and squash method (here's a good demonstration but the recipe isn't vegan). I do love how they're free-form, so you can make them whatever size you like. I made mine about 3 inches in diameter, but made some tiny bite-size ones too. Since I made two varieties, I topped the potato ones with poppy seeds so I could tell them apart. The knishes are rich and buttery, so I felt I needed something to accompany them that cut through the richness a bit. That lovely magenta coloured side dish you can see in the above photo is what I decided to make - German Red Cabbage with Apples, also from Olive Trees and Honey. This is the perfect accompaniment: sweet, acidic, and peppery (and so pretty!). I won't include the cabbage recipe (you should buy the book!) but here's my veganised sour cream pastry recipe. It also works beautifully for strudel type pastries, pasties, turnovers and rolls, both sweet and savoury. It might be a little tender for the base of a pie, but would also work well as a top pie crust (such as a pot pie). I brushed the formed knishes with some egg replacer mixed with soy milk, but I wish I'd just used arrowroot and soy milk as I usually do because it's shinier when baked and works just as well at making sure seeds stick to it.

SOUR CREAM PASTRY (veganised from Olive Trees and Honey)

The recipe says it makes enough dough for 12 knishes, but I made quite a few more than that, probably since my knishes were smaller, and I do tend to roll pastry quite thinly.

3 cups unbleached plain (all-purpose) flour
3/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
3/4 cup vegan margarine (I used Nuttelex)
2/3 cup homemade cashew sour cream (or a bought variety)
egg replacement powder made up to the equivalent of two eggs, as per instructions (I used Orgran No Egg)

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and work through margarine to form crumbs. Make a well in the centre and add cashew sour cream and "egg" mixture, working through with a fork to form a soft dough (add a little water if too dry). Shape into a ball, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least half an hour before use.
 

What's for Dinner?

Some photos of dinners past, starting with one of my favourites that I've made a few times now, Soft Tacos with Cauliflower. Cauliflower is amazingly versatile and roasts beautifully. For the taco on the right I used this recipe to make a spicy cauliflower "mince". For the taco on the left I roasted cauliflower with sliced onion, cumin, cayenne pepper, lemon juice and olive oil, pouring in a little vegetable stock too. Both tacos are topped with salsa and homemade chipotle mayo.  I made the tortillas myself too!

There's a great recipe in 1000 Vegan Recipes for quick and easy seitan that you don't need to steam or poach before pan-frying. They're called Soy-tan cutlets (they contain tofu) and I love to crumb them and serve them with homemade Tonkatsu sauce and salad.

Spicy Peanut Noodle Salad. Recipe from Serious Eats.

I made my own egg roll wrappers - kind of like thin crepes - and filled them with lots of vegetables, tofu, split mung beans and rice noodles. I brushed them with oil and baked instead of fried them. They worked out nice and crispy!

This is a very quick and easy dinner option - Orange and Soy Glazed Tofu with Salad.

You steep some firm tofu slices in salted boiling water, pat dry, then crisp them up in a lightly oiled pan. Add orange juice and light soy sauce as well as a generous shake of nutritional yeast and some ground black pepper, then let it reduce for a bit, turning the tofu regularly. The orange juice thickens into a lovely sticky glaze. Set the tofu slices aside, then deglaze the pan with a little water and use the remaining sauce as dressing for the salad (it's also nice if you add a little drizzle of maple syrup). The salad is avocado, red onion, blood orange segments, cucumber and baby spinach.