Sunday, January 12, 2014

Vegan Spreads and Dips - hearty

When I first came across the concept of vegan food and tried to incorporate as much of it into my diet as possible, I used to base at least two daily meals around bread.
So one of the first things I experimented with was making spreads and dips.
In the end I turned out to be a creature of habit, so spread-wise I regularly make a couple of favourites and don’t try that many new things, but I thought it might be interesting to offer a little overview for those who are still looking for some new ideas.
For most of these you will need a blender or immersion blender, as my spread recipes usually read: Blend XY with a clove of garlic.

Soy yogurt/silken tofu
Soy products are the easiest base for quick spread recipes. If you use soy yogurt and want a thicker texture, put a fine sieve over a glass or bowl, put a clean kitchen towel or a piece of cheese cloth into the sieve, pour the soy yogurt and let it drain over night.
My all time favourite in this category is probably tzatziki.

Finely chop a small to medium garlic clove, a piece of peeled cucumber (about 4 cm length) and half a small onion (adjust quantity to your own preferences). Stir into soy yogurt (I use a small pot with about 100 g of “yogurt”). Add salt, pepper and a splash of olive oil. Stir well and chill before serving. (You should cover it in the fridge, as the smell of the garlic is quite dominant.)

More ideas:
- Soy yogurt + chopped spinach + chopped garlic
- Try soy yogurt with different kind of spices, herbs, sprouts, grated vegetables
- Add curry paste, wasabi, horseradish, vegan pesto, mustard, ketchup, nut butter ...

Vegetables and similar (potatoes, mushrooms, olives...)
Probably my favourite kind of spread.

Some fast ideas:
- Mash cooked potatoes with chopped garlic, olive oil, parsley, salt and pepper for a spread with Greek inspiration. Great for leftovers.
- Tapenade: Blend a handful of olives without their pits, ready! You can add olive oil/capers/garlic, if you want.
- Guacamole: A classic! Mash a ripe avocado and mix with chopped tomatoes, garlic, onion, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
- Mash a cooked carrot with salt, pepper and some maple sirup or curry paste.
- Peel an eggplant and chop it coarsely. Roast it with some olive oil, either in a pan or in the oven. Let it cool and blend it with a garlic clove.

Beans and pulses
The best way to add some protein to your diet, especially when you’re normally not keen on the texture of legumes. Some ideas:

- Hummus: The classic. Blend cooked chickpeas with a garlic clove, a bit of olive oil, tahin, lemon juice, salt and pepper and some optional spices like cumin or paprika powder.
- Blend a handful of brown lentils with olive oil, a small garlic clove, salt, pepper, cumin/curry and paprika powder.
- Blend some edamame beans with a bit of miso and grated ginger.
- Mash cooked peas and an avocado, mix well and add some olive oil, crushed garlic, chopped mint, lemon juice and salt & pepper.

I think grains as a base for spreads are underrated – by me as well. There are some many great grains out there that can be used in so many ways!
You probably have made a spread based on oatmeal or white bread, but what about using cooked grains like couscous, bulgur, millet, quinoa and even rice or corn?
As I am still trying these things out, I can’t offer any simple recipe ideas and will give you some links instead.

- Greek skordalia:
- Mediterranean millet dip:
This one uses feta cheese, which could probably be left out or substituted
- High protein vegan corn dip:
- Quinoa spread:
- Eggplant bulgur spread:

I do not have a ton of ideas when it comes to this, but did not want to leave it out.

- My favourite: Finely chop a bunch of parsley, mix well with a bit of olive oil and mustard.
- Mojo verde: Coarsely chop some coriander. Blend a garlic clove with salt, cumin and a bit of white wine vinegar. Add the coriander and go on blending while slowly adding some olive oil.
- Traditional green sauce from Frankfurt: The original isn’t vegan, but can easily be adapted. For this sauce you finely chop seven green herbs: borage, chervil, cress, parsley, salad burnet, sorrel and chives. These are mixed with soy yogurt, a bit of lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper.

The shortest category, as there isn’t much to say. For a margarine-based spread just mix your fat with chopped garlic/chopped dried tomates/chopped herbs/fresh chopped or dried onions/tomato paste/ketchup/mustard and/or spices of your choice. Simple yet effective.

Nuts and seeds
Like the spreads made of beans and Co., these are great for adding some protein to your diet. One of the classics is the cashew “cheese”. Unfortunately I don’t have a good mixer, which is one of the reasons I do not make many nut spreads. So here I’m mainly offering some links:

- Muhamara: Blend roasted peppers with walnuts, olive oil and breadcrumbs. You can add garlic, salt, lemon juice and cumin, if you like.

Ways to use your spreads:
- On bread. Duh! Just as it is or as a base for sandwiches, wraps etc.
- On crackers.
- As a dip for jacket potatoes, nachos, chips, vegetable sticks ...
- You can serve the dip on salad leaves, in bell pepper halves, a hollowed loaf of bread, etc.
- Make filled vegetable rolls with slices of carrots, cucumbers etc.
- Fill mini-vegetables like cherry tomatoes or little bell peppers for cute finger food.
- In a pinch, use as a sauce for salads, pasta etc.

Do you want to add any ideas? 

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