So finally I decided to broaden my horizons, and after learning to be a chef at Le Cordon Bleu, attending bootcamps on farm to table cooking at the Culinary Institute of America, I am back to school. This time at Matthew Kenney, learning to be a raw, plant based chef.
This might be a weird choice for some, knowing I am not vegan. But most importantly I am a chef, one that always wants to learn, loves and craves challenges and eventually strives to be diverse and current.
So here I am more than half way through Level I in Raw Cuisine. And I already faced a challenge, which I am actually quite excited about. Produce challenge means I can use whatever I have in my fridge, 3 spices, 1 cup nuts, and just a couple of extra raw pantry ingredients. I must tell you, in a way I was lucky. I got to the assignment just after making a vegetarian dinner party for friends, making beet gnudi with goat crema, beluga lentils and pickled beets. So I had lots of raw and pickled beet left in my fridge. A few days ago I bought sprouted lentils at the market to make a pate, so I was really keen on using some of that too.
First I wanted to make a ravioli, or lasagne. These are so basic and typical dishes in raw plant based cooking. There are many vegetables that are perfect vessels just as they are, to become raw ravioli or lasagne sheets. Just like beets, kohlrabi, daikon just to name a few. But then I started thinking… this is a challenge. Make it a bit more difficult for yourself.
So gave myself proper time to think. What can you make with sprouted lentils and beets? And than I thought, falafel. OK, but will it hold? And beet and lentil only? So decided to add some soaked cashews, not as much as I wanted to, because I was restricted…. And also put some flaxmeal in the mix, which is a binder in vegan baking. So I ended up with a raw beet, lentil flavor. I seriously needed spices, herbs. Along with salt and pepper, I added chopped parsley, chive, cayenne and cumin and some apple cider vinegar to balance the sweetness of the beets and harmonize the flavor. Finally the flavors were right, and texture did hold, after squeezing out the juice.
For the sauce I had a definitely easier job. I did make horseradish cashew cream before. In this case though I added some pickled golden beet juice, fresh grated horseradish, pepper, salt, apple cider vinegar and lemon juice to the blender. As usual, the sauce was amazing. I really love horseradish, and it goes so well with a cashew cream. The sauce had depth, sweetness and spice.
Finally the only thing I needed for a complete dish was some green, crunch and maybe acidity. I diced to add some of the pickled golden beets to the dish and because I only had pea shots in the fridge I added those with a simple lemon vinaigrette and used beet powder for garnishing. The beet powder was homemade too. After juicing beets, I dehydrated the pulps and once it was completely dry and cooled, I ground into powder.
After tasting the dish, I was pretty happy about it. My husband, not that much…. He did love the sauce, but he didn’t like the raw sprouted flavor in the falafel. It is a very specific flavor, but those who eat a raw vegan diet, or occasionally eat raw food are definitely familiar with it. Next time I will add smashed garlic and finely chopped shallots to the falafel to make it a bit more close in flavor to traditional falafels.