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Top tips to celebrate a vegan Shavuot

There’s no need to skip the Shavuot party if you don’t do dairy.

    Vegan mezze at Delicatessen Barzilay
    Vegan mezze at Delicatessen Barzilay

     

    Merav Barzilay, owner of organic, vegetarian and vegan restaurant, Meshek Barzilay in Tel Aviv doesn’t believe Shavuot should be all about the dairy.

    "To me, the dairy-rich celebration for Shavuot is almost a misinterpretation of the holiday's meaning. Shavuot is about agriculture, abundance, new beginnings. We celebrate our farmers, crops, and the newest "crop" of children born that year.”

    Kenden Alfond, who blogs as Jewish Food Hero focussing on plant-based, healthy foods agrees: "The more healthy foods you put on your table, the less room there is for animal-based dairy foods."

    Barzilay, who has run vegetarian, organic cafes since 2002 was a pioneer in Tel Aviv, where there are now around 400 vegan eateries. This year, she opened her second eatery in the Neve Tzedek area of the city - Delicatessen Meshek Barzilay. Barzilay says that instead being filled with the festival's traditional dairy delights, her menus instead celebrate grains, vegetables and fruits.

    She does, however, make a nod to convention. “I like to make "cheesy" versions of the classic Shavuot dishes just to keep with tradition. Like lasagne with bechamel sauce made from nuts, cashew cheesecake and a "creamy" corn soup that has everyone fooled."

    Back here in the UK, Lara Balsam, Director of the Jewish Vegetarian Society, herself a vegan, says that it's far easier nowadays to find good vegan alternatives to traditional dishes : "Enjoying a vegan Shavuot has never been easier or tastier. Supermarkets are constantly bringing out new, free-from ranges and you can get inspiration from countless online blogs, bursting with sumptuous, plant-based recipes."
     

    Photo: Anatoly Michaello

    We asked for Merav, Lara and Kenden for recommendations for the tastiest, vegan Shavuot:

    Merav Barzilay says: 

    • Simple swaps:
      It’s easy to veganize any recipe by simply substituting nut or seed milk for cow’s milk; vegan butter for dairy butter; vegan cheese for dairy cheese and so on. Non-dairy substitutes bring a much richer, earthier flavor to the dish.

      Dairy products can typically be subbed out for equal parts vegan/non-dairy substitutes. So no burdensome calculations or conversions are necessary. Simply swap one out for the other.
       
    • For cheesy grins add yeast:
      Nutritional yeast is a great way to add a cheesy flavour. It's a versatile ingredient, available in most groceries, and it subs in well for anything in need that cheesy note. You can sprinkle it on popcorn, pizza, pastas, pestos, tofu scrambles, salads, soups—the list is endless.

    Aquafaba meringue tart
    Aquafaba meringue tart Photo: Wikepedia

    • Make friends with Aquafaba:
      Aquafaba is a fancy name for the water in which chickpeas have been cooked. It mimics the properties of egg whites and is flavourless so it can be used as a binder or a thickener in any recipes where you might typically use egg whites like mousse, meringue, bread, and so much more. It's very simple. So next time you open a tin of chick peas, hang on to that aquafaba.

    Lara Balsam says:

    • Try making your own dairy-free cheese
      There are plenty of recipes online and I can highly recommend the new cookbook, This cheese is nuts! Delicious vegan cheese at homeby Julie Piatt. 
       
    • Keep it raw 
      Raw cheesecake is easy to make and we have plenty of recipes on our website www.jvs.org.uk like this yummy raw chocolate 'cheesecake'. 
    • Supermarket sweeps 
      Try some of the free-from cheeses coming out in supermarkets. You can now get vegan versions of haloumi, mozzarella, smoked and feta style cheese. 

     

    Kenden Alfond says: 

    • Counterfeit creamy: 
      You can still have 'creamy' dishes on the table. Tahini or a plant-based chocolate milk are my secret ingredients for adding creaminess. A plant-based 'creamy' simple something could be a potato salad with a 'creamy' dressing - recipe below. 
       
    • Fill up on other tasty treats:
      She advises Jewish vegans to think of Shavuot as a healthy complete meal. Fill your table with plant-based foods: whole grains; tubers; fruits, vegetables and legumes. Her quinoa, cranberry and mandarin salad makes a colourful addition to the table. 

    Photo: Kenden Alfond

    Jewish Food Hero's Creamy Potato Salad:

    Ingredients:
    6 medium potatoes (or 1-2 per person)
    1-2 shallot, to taste
    ½ cup of spring onion tops, sliced thin
    Pepper, to taste

    Dressing:
    2 tbsp tahini
    3 tbsp lemon juice
    4 tbsp rice milk
    1 tbsp dijon mustard
    1 garlic clove (or more)
    1 tsp salt
    1 tsp natural sugar (optional)

    Method: 

    • Peel the potatoe and put them in a large pot of salted water.
    • Bring the water to a boil and cook for around 10 min and then turn down to a simmer and cook until almost done. Be careful not to overcook the potatoes as not many people like mushy potato salad.
    • Remove the potatoes and place them on a baking sheet to cool for 30 minutes. When you add the dressing, the potatoes should be warm rather than hot. Adding dressing to warm potatoes allows the dressing to absorb better.
    • Make the dressing by combining all the ingredients in blender and blending until smooth - if you want a lot of dressing, make a double batch.
    • Slice the shallot, celery and spring onion tops and set aside.
    • Cut the potatoes into a small-medium diced size and place into large salad bowl.
    • Add the shallot and green onion tops to the salad bowl. 
    • Pour dressing over potatoes and gently combine (do not mush!) 
    • This can be eaten cold or at room temperature. If chilling, place in refrigerator to cool for at least 1 hour. Before serving garnish with sliced spring onion tops.
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