Following a Vegan lifestyle or a plant based diet in the Caribbean is hard.
Correction: it USED to be hard.
With Veganism either trending or more people becoming aware of what they put into their bodies, it is no wonder that the Caribbean is slowly catching on to a more vegan way of life.
St. Maarten has seen quite some restaurants adding vegan options to their menus and we are even seeing vegan eateries being added to the long list of restaurants here. Local farms and green providers are popping up like mushrooms, making it easier to get your hands on organic and sustainable greens. And St. Maarten is not the only one.
The season for stuffing our faces is upon is and who says you cannot enjoy great Christmas meals if you are vegan, vegetarian or just mindful of what you eat?
Confession time: I am not a vegan (yet) and neither do I follow a vegan or plant based diet on a regular basis. I am a self-proclaimed “Vegetarian with Pescatarian tendencies”. I have an intense respect for animals and am currently trying my utmost to abstain from eating animal flesh and animal bi-products.
While it is not the easiest of diets to follow in the Caribbean, I am happy to see more and more islanders interested in this lifestyle, whether it’s for personal believes or health reasons. To be honest, I actually quite enjoy and prefer vegan dishes but the problem is that I find it hard to come up with easy, yet delicious recipes to try at home.
My interest was definitely peeked when I received an invitation in my inbox to attend Puur Jackie‘s Jolly Vegan Christmas Cooking Class a few weeks ago, which promised some classic christmas dishes prepared in a vegan way.
You may remember Jackie being mentioned in my recent blog post on How to prepare for a Hurricane as a Vegan. She is definitely my go-to person for everything vegan and plant-based.
So, one hot Saturday afternoon I arrived at a villa located high up in the hills of St. Maarten. Once on the terrace, I was met by Jackie and the rest of the students for that day. Jackie was well prepared for our arrival and had cold Hibiscus and other fruit infused drinks ready for us, while we waited for the class to start. Amazingly I was not the only non-vegan in the class of ten. In fact, only two persons there followed a complete vegan lifestyle. Goes to show that Veganism is either trending or more and more people are beginning to accept it.
We learned how to make eight delicious vegan christmas dishes that day of which I will be sharing three with you. Believe me when I tell you that you do not need to be a vegan to truly enjoy these delicious recipes.
Vegan Christmas wreath
• 250g spinach
• 250g silken tofu
• 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing
• 50g pine nuts, toasted
• generous grating nutmeg
• 2 fat garlic cloves, crushed
• 2 lemons, zested
• 1 small pack dill, 3⁄4 leaves chopped, 1⁄4 fronds reserved
• 1⁄2 tbsp dried cranberries, plus a few extra
• flour, for rolling
• 500g block shortcrust pastry (we used vegan Jus-Rol)
• almond milk, for brushing
1. Put the spinach in a colander, then pour over a kettle of boiling water and leave to wilt. Once cool, wring out the excess moisture using a clean tea towel, then chop the spinach and put in a large bowl. Puree the tofu and the spinach, then stir with oil, pine nuts, nutmeg, garlic, lemon zest, chopped dill and cranberries until well mixed. Season generously and set aside.
2. On a well-floured surface, roll the pastry out into a 60 x 20cm rectangle. Leaving a 1cm
border, spoon the spinach mixture along the length of the pastry, leaving a 2cm gap at both short ends. Fold in the two short ends to stop any of the filling coming out, then roll the pastry away from you to enclose the filling and create a long sausage shape. Join the two ends together to create a wreath shape and stick together with a little almond milk. Transfer the wreath to a baking tray lined with baking parchment and chill for 20 mins. This dish can be made up to this point a day in advance and kept covered in the fridge.
3. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Using a sharp knife, cut slashes across the top of the
wreath. Mix a little almond milk with some olive oil (this will help the pastry color) and brush all over the wreath. Bake for 40-45 mins until golden brown. Leave to cool for 5 mins, then transfer to a board and decorate with the reserved dill and some dried cranberries.
EGGPLANT LASAGNA ROLL UPS
• 2 medium eggplants (sliced into 12 1/4-inch slices lengthwise
• 2 medium lemons, juiced
• 2 cups cashews (soaked and drained)
• 3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
• 1/2 cup fresh basil (finely chopped)
• 1 Tbsp dried oregano
• 3-4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• ~1/2 tsp each salt + pepper
• 1/4 cup vegan parmesan cheese (optional)
• Vegan parmesan cheese
• 2-3 cups favorite marinara/red sauce
• Fresh basil (optional // chopped)
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (218 C). Salt eggplant slices on both sides and arrange in a colander in the sink to remove excess water/bitterness for 15 minutes.
2. Rinse salted eggplant slices well and dry thoroughly between two clean absorbent towels. Lay a baking sheet on top and place something heavy on top to absorb excess moisture.
3. Arrange slices on 1-2 baking sheets in an even layer and bake oven for 13-15 minutes. Set aside and reduce heat to 375 degrees F (190 C).
4. While eggplant is baking, add the cashews into a food processor or blender and pulse to make a cream. Add the cashew filling ingredients (except the basil) combine, scraping
down sides as needed. Put the cream in a bowl and mix in the basil. You are looking for a
semi-pureed mixture with bits of basil. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding
more salt and pepper for flavor, nutritional yeast for cheesiness, and lemon juice for
5. Pour about 1/2-1/3 of the marinara sauce into an 8×8 baking dish (or similar sized dish) and reserve rest of sauce for topping / serving. Set aside.
6. Scoop generous amounts (about 3 Tbsp) of ricotta filling onto each eggplant slice and roll up. Place seam side down in the sauce-lined baking dish. Continue until all filling and eggplant strips are used up. Pour more sauce down the center of the rolls for extra flavor (see photo).
7. Sprinkle vegan cheese on top. Bake for 15-23 minutes, or until sauce is bubbly and warm and the top of the rolls are very slightly browned. Serve with some basil on top.
8. Serve immediately with additional vegan parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Leftovers keep for a couple of days, though best when fresh.
VEGAN PEANUT BUTTER CUP PIE
Ingredients for the crust:
• 1 sleeve graham crackers (or sub similar gluten-free cracker/cookie) or halve a package of crumbled graham crackers
• 4 1/2 Tbsp melted vegan butter
Ingredients for the pie:
• 12 ounces firm silken tofu (slightly drained and patted dry)
• 1/2 cup creamy salted natural peanut butter
• 1/4 cup agave nectar or maple syrup or coconut nectar
• 1 14-ounce can full-fat coconut milk (Badia brand preferred) Keep can chilled overnight // don’t shake the can – you want the cream and liquid to remain separate.
Ingredient for the Chocolate Ganache Topping:
• 16 ounces dark dairy-free chocolate (good quality, coarsely chopped)
• 1 (15-ounce) can coconut milk (not light varieties, full-fat coconut)
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C) and lightly oil a standard glass pie pan (8 inches x 1 1/4 inches // as original recipe suggests).
2. Add graham crackers to a food processor and process until you achieve a semi-fine powder. A little texture is OK, just remove any large pieces that didn’t get ground. Add melted butter and pulse to combine.
3. Add to a greased pan and press down with your fingers to flatten. You can lay a piece of plastic wrap over the top when pressing down to ensure a more uniform layer. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and set aside to cool.
4. Add tofu, peanut butter, maple syrup or agave to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more agave for added sweetness or a pinch of salt if your peanut butter wasn’t salted.
5. Next, scoop out the cream of your coconut milk or cream and whip into whipped cream in a large, chilled mixing bowl. Optional: sweeten with a little powdered sugar and vanilla.
6. Fold the peanut butter-tofu mixture into the whipped cream.
7. Pour filling over crust and pop in the freezer to chill. Once it’s fairly chilled and slightly firm (about 1 hour), prepare your ganache.
8. Cut the chocolate and heat your non-dairy milk to a low simmer. Then pour over chocolate and don’t touch for 5 minutes to allow it to melt. Then stir gently with a spoon or rubber spatula until a smooth ganache forms. If it doesn’t quite melt, you can also heat it in the microwave in 10 second increments until smooth and
9. Spoon over the top of the pie and spread in an even
layer with a knife or spatula, working quickly as the
ganache will get clumpy if it sets too long.
10. Top with crushed, salted roasted peanuts (optional) and pop back in the freezer to set. 20-30 minutes before serving, remove from freezer and serve.
Alternatively, you can chill this in the fridge, but it is much more delicate to slice and serve, but just as delicious.
11. After the initial chill, make sure you cover the pie with plastic wrap to keep it fresh.
The other five recipes we made that day were a Beet-Root and Red Onion Tarte Tatin, a Kale Citrus Salad, a Dill Roasted Sweet Potatoes + Warm Spinach Salad, Pumpkin Pie Jars and Raw Vegan Cookies.
For more delicious recipes and information on Jackie’s cooking classes, workshops and pop-up vegan dinners, click here.
All recipes above provided by Puur Jackie and posted on this blog with her permission.