I have been on a break! I baked a lot, photographed, caught up on movies, music, dvds, friends and restaurants. I attended some vegan workshops, made a trip to Bangalore to my parents home, spent a happy Diwali, visiting my ninety year old grandmother, my aunties and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews and of course gorging on some lovely homemade vegan goodies specially made by my mum. I met Madhuri of Cook Curry Nook. She baked me some tasty vegan cupcakes. You can find the recipe on her blog.
On the personal front my daughter seems to be having some food allergies and we are still in the process of figuring out the allergens. Right now we know she is allergic to certain nuts like pine nuts and cashew nuts. She is also on a gluten free, vegan diet that has reduced her allergies a lot though her skin hasn’t restored itself completely. I remember being challenged and upset by these developments earlier. Thanks to many gluten free blogs, I have been able to adapt and cook gluten free, vegan breads and cakes that satisfy the gluten eating vegetarians and vegan, and the gluten intolerant as well. Her allergy has added another dimension to my vegan explorations, and so far they prove to be the healthier alternative for all of us.
Today’s recipe is a recent favourite that I made after tasting something similar at a vegan meet.
Recipe: Baked potatoes stuffed with vegan cheese and herbs
Yield: Serves 12 nos.
Potatoes (Starchy variety or Russet) – 6, medium sized
Basil pesto (Optional) – 2 tbsp.
Olive oil – 1 tsp.
For the ‘uncheesy’ cream cheese filling:
Raw cashews, soaked for at least an hour – 1/4 cup
Zuchhini, diced fine – 1/4 cup
Roasted peanuts, split (optional) – 1 tsp.
Cayenne pepper – 1 pinch
Coriander leaves, chopped fine – 1 tbsp.
Fresh thyme, picked – 2 tbsp.
Alfalfa sprouts (optional) – About 1/2 a tsp. on each potato
Lime – 1, squeezed to extract juice
Garlic powder (optional) – a pinch
Onion flakes or powder (optional) – a pinch
Himalayan pink salt (Saindhav namak) – 1/8tsp., as per taste
Olive oil – 1 tbsp.
Water – 1/8 cup or more as per consistency needed
Steam or bake potatoes till cooked through. I steamed as it takes less time. Baking takes about an hour or 70mins at 220 deg. Cel. You must scrub well, pat dry and coat the potatoes with oil before placing it in the center of a pre-heated oven.
Peel the potatoes and carefully cut into halves lengthwise. If baked, you can keep the skin on as baked skin tastes really good.
Scoop out the centre leaving half a centimeter on the circumference. Coat each potato with a little pesto.
Drain the soaked cashews. Grind with the water and oil.
Mash the scooped out potatoes. Mix the other ingredients for the filling along with the mashed potatoes and the soaked cashews. Add water or oil to bring the filling to the consistency of a thick sauce.
Place the potatoes in a greased foil on the oven tray. Bake in the center of a preheated oven at 220 deg. Cel. or 425 deg. F. till the potatoes are heated and develop brown specks. Skip this step if the potatoes were cooked by baking and not steaming.
Remove the potatoes from the oven and fill the centre of the potatoes with a table spoon of the filling. Top with crushed peanuts or alfalfa sprouts. Serve hot.
The herbs, peanuts and vegetables are optional additions to the filling. I like the crunch of salads as well as the flavour of herbs to contrast with the smoothness of the cheese hence recommended.
Baking the potatoes tastes better than steaming but takes a longer time. It also gives a more appetizing look.
The pesto coating is optional but does add a very nice flavor. You might want to use any one herb rather than as many flavors as I have used.
Instead of baked potatoes, substitute with scooped zuchhini or cucumber and use the same filling. Makes a great raw appetizer.
Try different herbs such as chives, green onions, leeks roasted peppers or asparagus, sauteed mushrooms or caramalized onions in the filling. Simple salt and pepper flavouring also works great.