In her new cookbook “True to Your Roots: Vegan Recipes to Comfort and Nourish You,” Carla Kelly uses some tricks to reinvent vegetables in creative ways.
“I find the recipe generating is a really organic process and it comes from perhaps something you’ve seen somewhere or something that’s taken your fancy. You look at TV, you’re watching cooking shows and stuff and you think, ‘Oh, I wonder if I could do that with such and such.’”
One example is celeriac bacon, which she says looks and tastes like bacon ‚Äî but very definitely is not pork based.
She also bakes thin slices of lotus root to create chips to garnish soup made with burdock root. The interesting-looking chips can also be lightly salted and eaten as a snack.
“Desserts were one of the challenges because you have to think quite creatively about how to use the root vegetables and I didn’t just want to make a carrot cake because I know everyone when you think of root vegetables automatically says, ‘Oh, there will be a carrot cake recipe.’
“But the cheesecake is almost like a carrot cake cheesecake. It has a Christmas cake theme, but there’s carrot and parsnip and all those carroty cake flavours coming through.”
Here are some recipes from the book to try.
BURDOCK MISO NOODLE SOUP WITH LOTUS ROOT CHIPS
This savoury broth complements the tender noodles and crunchy burdock. It’s perfect for lunch or a light supper on a cool day.
Kelly has made this soup with udon, soba and rice noodles, and each gives a slightly different flavour and texture to the finished soup. Use the noodles you prefer or can most easily find.
Burdock has a long tap root. Some stores cut it into manageable lengths. When you peel it the flesh discolours quickly. Sunchokes or parsnips could be substituted for burdock.
Sliced and roasted, lotus root chips provide a great textural contrast and are very attractive, but the soup is great without them.
Lotus Root Chips
Lotus root (2.5-cm/1-inch length), peeled
15 ml (1 tbsp) lime juice
Burdock (23-cm/9-inch length)
5 ml (1 tsp) sesame oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 spring onions, thinly sliced (reserve 30 ml/2 tbsp green ends for garnish)
5 ml (1 tsp) grated fresh ginger
5 ml (1 tsp) minced cilantro stems
250 ml (1 cup) vegetable stock
2 bundles (250 g/8 oz) udon, soba or rice noodles
30 ml (2 tbsp) light miso paste
30 ml (2 tbsp) cilantro leaves
Chips: Preheat oven to 150 C (300 F). Place cooling rack on a large baking sheet to allow air to circulate under chips as they bake.
Using a mandoline or very sharp knife, thinly slice lotus root into chips less than 1.5 mm (1/16 inch) thick. Place on prepared rack.
Bake for 15 minutes, carefully turn chips and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until firm and crispy golden brown.
Soup: In a small bowl, place lime juice. Peel burdock and slice into thin matchsticks about 4 cm (1 1/2 inches) long, placing each one in a bowl with lime juice as it’s cut. Toss to coat.
In a large saucepan on medium-high, heat sesame oil.
Drain burdock, add to pan and saute for 2 minutes until lightly browned. Add garlic, spring onions, ginger and cilantro stems and saute for 30 seconds, until fragrant.
Add stock and 1.25 l (5 cups) water and bring to a boil. Add noodles, reduce heat to medium and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until noodles are tender. Remove from heat.
In a small bowl, combine 125 ml (1/2 cup) soup liquid with miso paste. Stir briskly to dissolve, then return to pan and stir to combine.
Divide soup among serving bowls. Sprinkle each bowl with 15 ml (1 tbsp) sliced dark green spring onions and 15 ml (1 tbsp) cilantro leaves.
Garnish each bowl with Lotus Root Chips.
Makes 2 servings.
Straight out of the oven, these are crisp yet chewy with a smoky, salty, savoury flavour like “real” bacon. As they sit, they get a little less crispy and a little chewier.
30 ml (2 tbsp) olive oil
15 ml (1 tbsp) soy sauce
7 ml (1 1/2 tsp) liquid smoke
1 ml (1/4 tsp) sesame oil
1 ml (1/4 tsp) Marmite or miso (optional)
1 ml (1/4 tsp) garlic powder
0.5 ml (1/8 tsp) smoked paprika
0.5 ml (1/8 tsp) ground fennel seeds
750 g (1 1/2 lb) celeriac
Preheat oven to 220 C (425 F). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, soy sauce, liquid smoke, sesame oil, Marmite, if using, garlic powder, paprika and fennel seeds.
Halve and peel celeriac. Using a mandoline or very sharp knife, cut slices no more than 3 mm (1/8 inch) thick. Add slices to bowl and coat evenly.
Spread slices in single layers on prepared sheets. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven, turn slices over and return sheets to oven, rotating rack position. Bake for 5 minutes, until slices are reduced by two-thirds in volume, dry looking, crisp around edges and slightly caramelized.
Makes 4 servings.
Kelly was born in New Zealand, where Christmas is in the summertime. She invented this more weather-friendly version of traditional Christmas cake, but thinks it’s just as good in cold climates.
She cautions to plan ahead. The cake needs to be made the day before serving to allow setting time, and Carrot and Parsnip Fruit Mince needs to be made 24 hours before that.
175 ml (1 3/4 cups) vegan arrowroot biscuit or graham cracker crumbs (can be gluten free)
250 ml (1 cup) ground almonds
15 ml (1 tbsp) potato starch or arrowroot powder
2 ml (1/2 tsp) pumpkin pie spice
1 ml (1/4 tsp) ground cinnamon
1 ml (1/4 tsp) ground nutmeg
1 ml (1/4 tsp) ground ginger
125 ml (1/2 cup) neutral-flavoured oil
50 ml (1/4 cup) brown rice syrup
2 ml (1/2 tsp) vanilla extract
1 ml (1/4 tsp) almond extract
500 ml (2 cups) Carrot and Parsnip Fruit Mince, made 24 hours in advance (recipe follows)
340 g (12 oz) vegan cream cheese
250 g (8 oz) soft tofu
250 g (8 oz) firm tofu
90 ml (6 tbsp) maple syrup
50 ml (1/4 cup) potato starch
15 ml (1 tbsp) lemon juice
15 ml (1 tbsp) light molasses
2 ml (1/2 tsp) vanilla extract
1 ml (1/4 tsp) almond extract
Base: Lightly spray a 23-cm (9-inch) springform pan with non-stick cooking spray. Clear space in your freezer for cake pan.
In a large bowl, mix together crumbs, ground almonds, potato starch, pie spice, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Make a well and add oil, syrup and extracts. With clean hands, mix to combine well, then press firmly into prepared pan. Chill in freezer while preparing filling.
Filling: Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F).
Drain excess liquid from fruit mince and place mince in a large bowl. Set aside.
In a blender, blend cream cheese and both types of tofu until very smooth and creamy, stopping to scrape down sides of blender jar as required. Add maple syrup, potato starch, lemon juice, molasses and extracts to blender and process until very well mixed. Pour blended mix into fruit mince and stir to combine. Pour on top of chilled base.
Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until edges are firm, lightly browned and pulling away from sides of pan. Centre should still jiggle a little.
Let cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, then transfer to freezer for 1 hour. With a palette knife, cut around inside edge of springform pan to loosen cake before removing ring. Refrigerate (preferably overnight) to set completely before serving.
Makes 12 servings.
CARROT AND PARSNIP FRUIT MINCE
Kelly updated a traditional recipe with dried blueberries, cranberries, pineapple and root vegetables. Use in the Christmas Cheesecake (above) or make 12 mince tarts using 250 l (1 cup) of the mixture for the filling.
The mince can be made in advance and refrigerated in a covered container for up to 2 weeks.
For any dried fruits you don’t like or can’t find, substitute a dried fruit of your preference in the same amount.
Kitchen shears are easier and more efficient than a knife to cut ginger, dates, pineapple and apricots.
When adding mince to recipes, first drain off excess liquid.
300 ml (1 1/4 cups) orange juice
125 ml (1/2 cup) brandy, whisky or apple juice
15 ml (1 tbsp) orange zest
125 ml (1/2 cup) peeled and grated carrots
125 ml (1/2 cup) peeled and grated parsnips
50 ml (1/4 cup) currants
50 ml (1/4 cup) raisins
50 ml (1/4 cup) golden raisins
50 ml (1/4 cup) chopped dates
30 ml (2 tbsp) chopped crystallized ginger
30 ml (2 tbsp) mixed peel
30 ml (2 tbsp) chopped dried apricots
30 ml (2 tbsp) slivered almonds
30 ml (2 tbsp) chopped dried pineapple
30 ml (2 tbsp) dried cranberries
30 ml (2 tbsp) dried blueberries
In a medium saucepan on medium, heat orange juice, brandy and orange zest for 3 to 4 minutes, until almost boiling. Do not allow to boil. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients. They will be just covered by the liquid.
Cover and let soak at room temperature for 3 hours or until completely cool. Stir once or twice. Store in refrigerator. Chill for 12 hours before using.
Makes 750 ml (3 cups).
Source: “True to Your Roots: Vegan Recipes to Comfort and Nourish You” by Carla Kelly (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2015).