13 September, 2009

Vegan tempeh lasagne

There have been many vegan adventures in this little kitchen over the past few months, many that I've been really proud of, but just haven't taken the time to blog about! This one, however, has to be blogged. Not only because it tasted amazing, but because the recipe was sourced from one of my favourite food blogs, where's the beef? In fact, I've been meaning to make this one since Cindy and Michael blogged about it, but alas, I did not have one of the key recipes, liquid smoke. Recently, I bought a bunch of things from USA Foods which included a little bottle of liquid smoke, and then it was time to give the tempeh lasagne a try.

Vegan tempeh pasta bake*

This recipe had 4 steps, which took me the best part of 2 hours to complete: making the zesty tomato sauce, the tempeh filling, the cashew cream sauce and of course, cooking the pasta. You'll also need a large lasagne dish or 2 normal sized ones.

* Unfortunately I thought I had all the ingredients sorted and discovered I had no lasagne sheets. So I turned this into a pasta bake, using spiral pasta instead.

Zesty tomato sauce

1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil (to taste)
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon sea salt (to taste)
6 cloves garlic, crushed
4 x 400g tins organic diced tomatoes
grated rind of one lemon

Add olive oil, chilli, salt and garlic to saucepan and mix to combine. Heat pan on medium, and saute mixture for about one minute, without burning the garlic. Add tomatoes and simmer gently for a few minutes. Take off the heat and stir lemon rind through the sauce.

Measure out one litre of the sauce for the tempeh mix and place the rest in your freezer for later use.

Tempeh filling

2 onions, finely chopped
400g tempeh, frozen and thawed for about 30 minutes
4 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
2 teaspoons liquid smoke
2 tablespoons dried basil
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cracked pepper
1 litre zesty tomato sauce

Cindy and Michael mentioned they were lacking in tempeh filling when they made their lasagne, so I thought I'd ensure I had enough by doubling this part of the recipe.

Prepare the tempeh by processing the slightly thawed tempeh into what looks like 'mince', using the food processor. Fry the tempeh with ample olive oil until they were golden brown, taking about 10 minutes, then add the tamari and liquid smoke into the pan and fry until they have been absorbed - this part smells delicious! Remove tempeh and set aside.

Now, fry up the onions in olive oil until they are soft. Add basil, sugar, salt, pepper and the zesty tomato sauce, mix well and simmer while making the cashew cream. Once cream is made, stir in the fried tempeh to the sauce and mix well.

(At this point, I began cooking the spiral pasta [about 500g], but you won't need to bother if you have your instant lasagne sheets ready. Regardless of your choice of pasta, you should now turn the oven on to 200 degrees.)

Cashew cream sauce

3 tablespoons nuttelex
1/4 cup flour
1 cup cashews
1 litre oat milk
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1.5 tablespoons lemon juice (this was juice of one lemon for me)

Blend cashews with 100ml oat milk in food processor to form a thick paste. Set aside.

Melt the nuttelex in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour, gradually, stirring constantly to keep mixture smooth. Continue stirring while adding rest of the oat milk. Then, bring mixture to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes or until mixture thickens, stirring frequently.

Once thickened, add the cashew paste and yeast flakes. Stir to combine. Simmer for a few minutes more then add pepper and lemon juice.

Constructing the lasagne or pasta bake

This bake had two layers: first the tempeh mix, then a layer of cooked pasta spiral topped with cashew cream, then the rest of the tempeh, plus the remaining pasta topped with remaining cashew cream. Through some kind of miracle, my large lasagne dish fitted these ingredients exactly (YMMV!). I cracked some pepper on top for good measure and placed the dish in the preheated oven on 200 degree celius for 30 minutes.

Now, this meal was just so delicious. The liquid smoke certainly gave it something special, but I think it was also the added lemon juice in the cashew cream that delighted me too - something I don't normally taste in a 'white sauce' used in this way. It did take a while to prepare and cook, but it was worth it, especially because we got 6 huge servings of it so we could enjoy it for days on end.

Much thanks to Cindy/Michael and to the other food bloggers they got their ideas from: Anni and Heikki and Heidi.

(I have to learn how to take better photos of food... this doesn't do it justice!)