The flour had barely settled after Purim’s hamantaschen-fest when thoughts turned to planning Pesach. It’s likely more of us than ever will be sharing our Seders, or at least one Passover meal, with vegan friends or family.
It’s no easy task for those new to veganism — amplified when pasta and pies are off-limits. Take out the eggs and menu planning stress could be off the scale.
So I’ve spoken to a few of the JC’s favourite vegan chefs to see how they manage their Passover menus.
Lara Balsam of the Jewish Vegetarian Society (JVS) is vegan, and as she suffers from coeliac disease is used to cooking without gluten-based foods. “I’m often asked for showstopper centrepiece dishes for celebrations.”
“I love Gobi Musallam which is a whole roasted cauliflower with a sauce made from blended cashew nuts. It looks very impressive and you can decorate it with pomegranate seeds and herbs, which looks pretty.”
Balsam also suggests a shakshuka alternative: “I add whole baked Portobello mushrooms or large slices of roasted aubergine to my tomato and pepper sauce instead of the eggs. Or kugel is a nice option, maybe with sweet potato and parsnips, or a root vegetable tagine.”
Professional vegan chef Zoe Marks, was raised vegetarian and turned vegan a couple of years ago. She has a raft of vegan-friendly recipes up her sleeve: “I cooked at the JVS’s vegan second night Seder last year and we served up a range of dishes. I’d recently been to Sri Lanka so cooked up a Sri Lankan curry, but we also made a vegan lasagne, with griddled strips of courgettes and aubergines replacing the pasta. We layered that up with tomato sauce and a creamy sauce made from blitzed up, roasted butternut squash, caramelised onions and plenty of seasoning. It had a nice strong flavour and lovely creaminess.”
If the prospect of griddling a mountain of vegetables seems too labour intensive she suggests using matzah sheets as the ‘pasta’ layers.
Marks is used to getting creative with vegetables and making them the centrepiece. “To keep costs down you can make your own spice pastes and add flavour with herbs and use lemon juice to bring out flavour which is cheaper than hechshered, ready-made Passover foods.”
She’s also a cauliflower fan, suggesting you slice it into thick slices or ‘steaks’, coat them with spices and roast them, which is quicker than roasting the brassica intact. “This method is also good for celeriac. Both are delicious coated in chermoula — a delicious Moroccan spice mix.” Some chermoula mixes contain ground cumin, which is kitniyot so make sure you read the ingredients or make your own without the cumin.
Ines Romanelli has been vegetarian for 25 years and a vegan for 10 of those years is also a professional vegan chef. She is the only vegan in her family and used to catering for a mixed crowd, as her husband’s family have always eaten a traditional menu.
Instead of traditional brisket, she will be serving jackfruit, which is bought in tins. “I marinate it in liquid smoke, which you can buy kosher for Passover from some kosher supermarkets and which gives a lovely smoky flavour. I then sauté it with mushrooms and it has the consistency of slow-cooked meat. If you can’t find liquid smoke you can use smoked paprika instead”. Alongside her jackfruit ‘brisket’ will be a mock tuna salad — the ‘tuna’ made from pieces of fresh coconut marinated in beetroot to replicate the pink colour. She will also be making baked ‘meatballs’ with soya mince spiced up with za’atar and onions, chopped mushrooms and bound with vegan egg.
Dessert can be tricky, but there are vegan-friendly options. Marks recommends raw tarts using blitzed up fruits and nuts for the base with indulgent, creamy-tasting fillings made from coconut oil, cocoa.
Passover biscuits are also do-able. “I make cookies with banana, cocoa powder and kosher for Pesach bicarbonate of soda plus choc chips or dried fruits. You bake them like a normal cookie and they are soft but not chewy — the consistency is quite surprising” says Romanelli. For those able to eat kitniyot, she makes macaroons vegan-friendly by replacing the egg with aquafaba, the water from a tin of chickpeas. “You use 2 tablespoons of chickpea water per egg white and three tablespoons for a whole egg.” Or you can try flax ‘egg’ or chia seeds, unfortunately, again only for those eating kitniyot.
Romanelli advises that when converting traditional recipes to vegan try to stick to the original as much as you can. “If you take out all the sugar while also removing eggs or cream, it will taste too different — people get used to dishes tasting a certain way.” Hoewever she feels that a new menu is in keeping with our traditions. “A lot of people are open to trying out new things. It brings something new to our culture . Times are changing.”