The Vegans Are Coming!

Inviting friends and family round for dinner is one of my favourite things to do. I love looking into their faces, seeing that bloom of contentment and knowing I helped create it with my own two hands. This weekend was no different, I invited some mates round and to my shock horror found there was a vegan in our midst! I had never cooked for a vegan before so was initially nervous, but the more I thought about it the more excited I became. Too often in cooking we rely on the comforting fattiness in meat and dairy to achieve flavour but here I had a chance to really flex my flavour combination muscles.

To feed 4 I came up with this…

Vegan Tostadas with Plantain Steaks and Zingy Chimichurri

The key to this dish is layers of simple flavours that combine together to create a complex and stunning flavour profile.

Crispy Tortilla (Tostada)

Traditionally this would be deep fried, but this version is infinitely more achievable in the home kitchen and healthier to boot!

  • 6 Large Corn/Flour tortilla wraps (corn wraps would make this recipe gluten free)
  • Small cake pan about 18cm
  • Baking beans or a small oven proof dish

Preheat your oven to 180/190C.

Lightly grease the cake pan with kitchen spray/oil. Push the tortilla wraps into the cake pan, make sure the corners are touching the base of the pan. Weight the wrap down with baking beans or an oven proof dish, this is to ensure you don’t get large bubbles in the base of the wrap. If you are using a dish lightly grease it’s bottom so it doesn’t stick to the wrap.

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Bake for 10mins until crisp and lightly golden. You now have an edible bowl for your tostada. Repeat this process until you have the required number of bowls.

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Mixed Grain and Black Bean Base

1 made my black beans from scratch however you can use 1 can of cooked black beans.

I used a mix of quinoa and brown rice for my mixed grains, but anything with a nice nutty flavour e.g. barley, amaranth e.t.c. would also work. You need about 150g (combined) uncooked grain, cook according to the pack instructions.

The Salad

The salad can be anything you want really but here are the ingredients of mine

  • 1/2 an Iceberg Lettuce (it’s lovely and crunchy)
  • Tomatoes
  • 2 Roasted peppers ( I used a yellow and green pepper)
  • Radishes
  • 1 large Avocado or 2 small ones
  • A handful of parsley and coriander
  • A handful of toasted cashew nuts and pumpkin seeds

Chop and dice the ingredients however you like, mix together and presto you have a salad.

Set the nuts aside for the topping

The Dressing – Chimichurri

This is an Argentinian favourite which can be used both as a marinade or to dress meat/fish after being barbecued. The combination of this zingy parsley dressing with the avocado in the salad is effectively a deconstructed guacamole.

  • 3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1 tsp onion powder or 1 tbsp finely diced onion
  • large bunch of parsley finely chopped
  • Half a fresh chilli/1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil (I actually used rapeseed oil)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together adjusting the vinegar and oil ratio to your taste. This dressing is best made in advance as it gives the flavours time to merge and mellow out, but it can of course be used immediately.

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Plantain Steaks

  • 2 large ripe plantains
  • Enough oil for shallow frying (use a flavourless oil like sunflower or vegetable oil)

You can season the plantain with some salt but it really doesn’t need it.

Heat your oil over a medium heat in a pan.

Chop your plantain into a shape you find attractive. I went for long strips (steaks) and circles, but you can dice them up too.2015-02-22 11.40.16

Once your oil is hot enough, fry your plantain until golden brown, I like mine a darker brown colour. Remember to flip your plantain over to achieve an even colour. This should take 7 – 10mins. Drain excess oil on a kitchen roll.

The Assembly

You can get your guests involved in this and have them build their own tostada but here is how I like to do it.

The creamy layer: Spread the black beans over the crisp tortilla base

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The earthy and nutty layer: Add a layer of mixed grains. You only need 3 to 4 tbsp.

The veg layer: Top with your salad

The zingy layer: Drizzle over the chimichurri

The protein layer: Top with your plantain steaks

The crunchy layer: Sprinkle over the toasted nuts you reserved earlier

The finished product…

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This vegan triumph can easily be amended by swapping the plantain for some slow cooked beef. Let me know if you want a post on the beef.

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Until next time kitchens…

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