Cookbook Challenge: Viva Vegan

We moved house a couple of weeks ago, and in the arduous process of packing up all my cookbooks to relocate them, I realised that I haven’t used nearly enough of them recently. Testing recipes is a great way to try new things each night, but what’s the point of a borderline unhealthy cookbook collection if you barely touch it anymore? As luck would have it, others seemed to be thinking the same thing at the same time, and this year’s cookbook challenge was born!

Just like last year, I’ll be taking part and picking out a few new (to me) recipes from one book each week- until Vegan MoFo interrupts, of course! We eased into things in this first week with an Isa and Terry free choice round. With all the great things I’d made during testing for Terry’s upcoming book still fresh in my mind, I decided to go with her first book, Viva Vegan, this week. For the most part, Australians’ collective understanding of Latin American cuisine is limited to tacos and burritos. But this book showed me that there’s so much more, and it’s all delicious. It was going to be a good week!

My absolute favourite Viva Vegan recipe (and one of my favourite recipes ever- I even made these for our best friend’s wedding in April) is the empanadas humitas, or creamy corn-filled empanadas. For some reason, it had completely slipped by me that the topping for the pastel de choclo (corn-crusted tempeh pot pie) is a very similar recipe. As soon as that clicked, this pie became a must-make!

It didn’t disappoint- creamy, sweet corn topping baked over a hearty and comforting tempeh and vegetable filling. This really hit the spot, and was much quicker to make than my beloved empanadas. This recipe will be a lifesaver when that craving hits.

Since the individual pies I made were fairly small, I wanted something filling as a side- but also something fresh-tasting enough that it wouldn’t be a heavy meal. Calabacitas (Mexican sautéed squash) was a great choice. Fresh zucchini, squash, corn and tomato with zesty lime- you can’t really go wrong with those things.

Later on in the week, I chose a few Peruvian dishes that allowed me to use some ingredients that I’d picked up in Spain earlier in the year, and which aren’t readily available here. This yellow chili grilled tempeh made use of aji amarillo, a Peruvian yellow chili paste. The tempeh marinade had a fairly mild flavour, but was delicious nonetheless.

Papas a la Huancaina (Peruvian potatoes with spicy cheesy sauce) also used aji amarillo. This cheese sauce was super creamy and tasty, with a great kick from the aji amarillo. I definitely want to make this sauce again for nachos, or just to eat as a queso dip. It was great over potatoes as well (but what isn’t great over potatoes?), but I think I would prefer to roast rather than boil them next time.

This Peruvian cherry tomato, corn and lima bean salad was the real surprise of the night. I’m not a big salad eater, but I loved this! The dressing used the other chili paste I’d brought home from Spain- aji panca- and it lent much more of a kick to this dish than the aji amarillo had for the others. This was spicy, filling, delicious, and I was glad that it made a ton of leftovers.

I’d had my eye on this chorizo recipe for a while, but it seemed to make a lot so I needed another recipe to use it all in. I shouldn’t have worried so much- these sausages are so good that I found a generous amount finding their way into my mouth rather than the next dish.

But there was still plenty to make a delicious filling for these flautas! The recipe is originally for chorizo and potato taquitos, but I had a lot of flour tortillas to use up, so flautas they became. Whatever you call them, these were dangerously moreish.

I say ‘dangerously’ because I clearly made more than we needed between the two of us. These were a little time consuming- definitely not a weeknight dish- but worth it for such a fun and tasty dish. The time issue is probably for the best, otherwise I would be making these crunchy, fried morsels way more often than I should.

To go with the street food theme (our favourite!) of tonight’s dinner, I went for this Mexican street-style corn. I remember flicking to this recipe when I first bought Viva Vegan, and thinking that I had to make it. I have no idea what took me so long, but I’m regretting the lost time now because this corn was nothing short of amazing. Chadwiko loves corn on the cob- specifically, my usual roasted corn with chilli-lime ‘butter’. So he was skeptical about this ‘new corn’. But all other corn was soon forgotten as he scraped the last of the cashew crema out of the bowl before spreading it on his second serving of corn, and sprinkling it all with salt, chili powder (ancho for him, chipotle for me) and Mexican oregano. This one is going in our regular rotation for sure.

As expected, Viva Vegan didn’t let me down this week, and the cookbook challenge allowed me to find some new favourites from a book I was sure I had already sampled the best of. I can’t wait to see what treasures next week unearths!

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Comments: 5

  1. [...] and chorizo stew, mainly to use up the seitan chorizo I had left over from last week’s flautas. I was worried that this would be a little bland, since the recipe doesn’t call for any [...]

  2. Susan September 16, 2012 at 4:30 pm Reply

    I haven’t used Viva Vegan nearly enough. I need to get some Aji Amarillo (I have panca) because it seems the recipes I most want to make involve it.
    Gorgeous photos, as always. Yum.

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  3. Cindy September 16, 2012 at 9:21 am Reply

    I love Viva Vegan, though in this house we seem to have latched onto just a couple of recipes that we make over and over again. This winter we found that keeping some of the Peruvian spicy cheese sauce in the freezer was very handy for pouring over roasted root vegetables. But I’m taking your empanadas humitas recommendation on board. :-)

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  4. Cadry September 16, 2012 at 6:42 am Reply

    Wow, what a delicious week! Viva Vegan is one of my favorite cookbooks ever. There’s so much creativity smashed into one book. Plus, I’ve learned a lot about spices and ingredients that were unfamiliar to me before. I have to try those Peruvian potatoes. Good idea on roasting them instead of boiling; I think I’d prefer that too. You’ve definitely got me hankering to crack my copy open again!

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  5. moonsword September 16, 2012 at 6:35 am Reply

    It all looks superyumful! I did find Aji Amarillo Paste and Aji Panca Paste online…yay!

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