Spinach and Tofu Ricotta Cannelloni

Share something vegan (and delicious, duh!) with a non-vegan.

As I start to have less and less time to keep up with MoFo, I have fallen back on some old favourites to get me through the days. Besides, for some time I have been meaning to revisit some older posts to give them a bit of a revamp – since I have gotten a new camera and learned a little more about taking nicer photos. Don’t worry, I don’t plan to delete the old gems, that would be like Silverchair being embarrassed of their Frogstomp songs (I’m pretty sure they said they were).

Despite trying to revamp it I still was not happy with how it came out – turns out it is bloody hard to make cannelloni look good, particularly when under time constraints. Oh well.

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I didn’t share this with a non-vegan today, but I have many times before. I’m going to quote my original cannelloni blog post now as it seems to fit:

“This is one of my favourite meals to cook when people are coming over for dinner, as it’s so easy to do a big pan full to share. It’s also a go-to when cooking for meat lovers as it never fails to impress – it’s one of those ‘see how normal/delicious vegan food is?!?’ dishes. It takes a bit of time to prepare, but is totally worth it.”

Spinach and Tofu Ricotta Cannelloni
(serves 6-8)

1½ cups button mushrooms, diced
½ tsp oil
1 cup walnuts
250g frozen spinach
1½ boxes cannelloni tubes (the type that don’t need pre-cooking)
Vegan cheese, to sprinkle on top (optional)

Sauce:
½ tsp oil
1 medium brown onion, diced finely
3 cloves garlic, minced
600g crushed tomatoes (or equivalent fresh)
2 Tbsp tomato paste
Handful fresh basil, torn
1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
Salt and pepper

Tofu ricotta:
450g firm tofu
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp lemon juice
½ cup nutritional yeast
Handful of basil, torn
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 200C.

Toast the walnuts in a pan over low heat, then chop finely and set aside.

Saute the mushrooms over medium heat in ½ tsp oil for about 3-5 minutes until soft, and set aside.

Defrost spinach and set aside.

For the sauce, saute onions in ½ tsp oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until softened and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and stir in tomato paste, basil and oregano. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for five minutes, then take off heat. From here, you can whizz up the sauce in a blender/with a stick blender if you’d like a smooth consistency, or else leave it chunky.

For the tofu ricotta, crumbled the tofu with your hands into a large bowl. Don’t worry about pressing any liquid out of it, as a wetter mix is better for to ensure the pasta tubes to cook. Add garlic, oil, lemon juice, yeast flakes and basil and stir well. Add mushrooms, walnuts and spinach and mix through. Taste for seasoning.

To assemble, spread a few spoonfuls of the tomato sauce across the bottom of a large baking dish. This is important as the dry cannelloni tubes need to come in contact with some moisture on all sides to ensure they cook properly.

Fill tubes with tofu mix, however you please. I used to use a butter knife to poke it in but these days I just get my hands dirty as I find it’s quicker and easier. Lay the tubes side by side in the dish

Cover with remaining sauce, and poke a knife between each tube to allow a bit of sauce to seep in between them. Pop in the oven to cook according to packet directions. I like to cook mine for about 30 minutes, add cheese and cook for a further 15-20 minutes until tubes are tender.

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broccoliweb

Tempeh Cheatballs with Marinara Sauce

Today is the day I’ve been waiting for. I’m forever waiting for reason to bring up Bill Murray, but this one was just handed to me on a silver platter:

Make / eat some thing inspired by a book or film

You got it MoFo gods. Ever heard of a little film called Meatballs?

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I said film, dammit!

That’s better!

Meatballs is an early Bill film, about a pretty average summer camp at which he plays a camp counsellor. It’s certainly not award-winning, it’s more like a film you’d expect to see at midday on free to air TV when you’re at home sick, but hey, for what it is it’s pretty amazing. And did I mention Bill Murray? He is hilarious and he makes everything great. The end.

It doesn’t take too much imagination to guess what dish was inspired by this one. Let’s call them ‘cheatballs’, as they certainly ain’t meat.

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Nope, these bad boys are made with a combination of tempeh, walnuts and oats – among other goodies. They are very similar to the filling of my sausage rolls – I like the idea of tempeh, but texturally and taste wise prefer it in things, rather than just in chunks by itself.

For this recipe I’ve baked the meatballs, but I’m sure they will work just as well if you pan fry them so do whatever works best for you.

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Tempeh Cheatballs with Marinara Sauce
(makes about 24)

Cheatballs:
1 tsp oil
1 small brown onion, diced finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
300g tempeh
2Tbsp flax meal + ¼ cup water
½ cup walnuts, pulsed in food processor to crumbs
½ cup oats, pulsed a few times in food processor to resemble crumbs
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp thyme
¼ cup flat leaf parsley
¼ cup nutritional yeast
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp soy sauce
½ tsp chili powder (optional)

Marinara sauce:
1 tsp oil
1 small brown onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup red wine (optional)
800g tinned tomatoes
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
2 Tbsp tomato paste
salt and pepper

If you plan to bake them, preheat the oven to 200C and line a tray with baking paper.

In a small bowl, combine flax meal and water and set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat oil over medium heat and add onion. Saute until translucent – a couple of minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl.

Crumble the tempeh with your hands into the bowl along with the onion and garlic. Add flax mix and remaining ingredients and mix well to combine. If you’d prefer a smoother texture, feel free to try doing this in a food processor, but for this kind of thing I personally prefer a bit of chunkiness. The mix should come together, and while it is a bit sticky, you should be able to handle it without too much mess. If it’s too sticky, try adding some more oats.

Get heaped teaspoons of mix and roll into balls, placing each one on the prepared tray. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn over (the best you can with a spherical object) and cook for a further 10 minutes. You’ll see the balls become visibly browner.

While they’re cooking, prepare the sauce – heat oil in a pot over medium heat and saute onion until translucent. Add garlic and saute for another minute. Add wine, basil and oregano and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring continuously, until most of the wine has evaporated.

Add tomatoes and bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove lid and stir in tomato paste, and season with salt and pepper. Since I left the cheatballs chunky, I popped the sauce in the blender and gave it a quick whizz until it was smooth. Return to pot and add cheatballs. Eat as is, or serve over spaghetti with some vegan parmesan (classic!)

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broccoliweb

Orecchiette with Lemon, Mint and Peas

This seems more like a spring recipe to me, but with the weather we’ve been having here you would hardly know it’s summer so I’m going to sneak it in anyway. Spring is usually when gardens have an abundance of lovely fresh peas, so if you have some growing, you might want to make use of them in place of the frozen ones I’ve used here.

I love the fresh flavours in this dish, and I especially love that it can be thrown together in no time for a satisfying weeknight meal. Almost a year into my ‘real job’, I’m really finding the value in speedy weeknight meals. Gotta love some down time in the evenings!

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Orecchiette with Lemon, Mint and Peas
(serves 4 – 6)

500g dried orecchiette
1 Tbsp rice bran oil (or other cooking oil)
2Tbsp shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of one lemon
1 Tbsp lemon zest
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups frozen peas
2 cups rocket
1/2 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
1 tsp chili flakes
Pinch salt
Pepper

Bring a large pot of water to the boil, and add orecchiette. Cook according to packet directions, then drain.

Meanwhile, heat rice bran oil in a pan over medium heat. Add shallots and saute for a couple of minutes, until translucent. Add garlic and cook for a further minute.

Add peas to the pan, and cook for a couple of minutes – until heated through – then remove from heat.

In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, zest, olive oil, salt, pepper and chili flakes.

In a larger bowl, combine drained orecchiette, pea mix and lemon juice blend and stir to combine. Add mint and stir through. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Separate into bowls and top with a handful of rocket before serving.

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