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This vegan Portuguese honey, almond and orange cake is zesty, delicious and bursting with flavour. The recipe is based on a Portuguese classic that has been popular for generations and with good reason. Using no refined sugars this cake instead uses agarve nectar and fresh oranges for sweetness giving it a sharp, authentic taste. The result is a truly sublime vegan twist on an amazingly traditional Portuguese cake.

In a land of avid fish and meat eaters, Portugal can seem a bit daunting to the ethical eater. Fed up of missing out on regional specialties and traditional dishes? Yup, us too, that why Portugal is our Region of the Month and we will be giving you an insight into the cuisine and culture along with some delicious vegan recipes of the national favorites.

History

As an ex-colony country, Portugal had links to Goa, Macau, Angola, Mozambique, Cabo, Brazil and Malacca (Malaysia). Because of this the Portuguese had access to spices from all over the globe and this can be found in their varied cuisine. Black pepper, saffron, vanilla, cinnamon and chillies (found in the famous piri piri seasoning) are all spices which ordinarily would not be found in Europe at the time. The Portuguese also traditionally use a lot of garlic and olive oil in their cooking. Having all these exotic spices meant that Portuguese food never lacked in flavour.

Food shortages at the time of the Second World War still affected Portugal despite them not being involved. This along with the poverty that impacted the country under the rule of President Salazar meant that the Portuguese had to be resourceful in the kitchen. When using expensive ingredients such as meat and fish the Portuguese got creative and were sure to let nothing go to waste. Dishes would be heavily vegetable-based but always contained some form of meat as people wouldn’t want to throw away anything that the human body could eventually digest. Feijoada trasmontana, a bean stew, has a variety of meats added for good measure such as pig hocks, knuckles or ears! In the olden days and still in rural areas families raise their own livestock and are sure to use of every gram of meat. This means that even dishes characterized mainly by veggies will have some form of meat or stock lurking somewhere in the ingredients

Portuguese cooking is distinctly meat and egg based and when it comes to sweet treats it’s a similar un-vegan story. Both the Romans and the Moors, who both ruled Portugal, had a love for eggs in their cooking. Later, as Catholicism spread across the country, many of the monks and nuns were paid by the poor in the form of chickens and eggs. This has caused a long lasting passion for eggy cuisine!

To be blunt, Portuguese food is not “vegan friendly”, nor has it ever been. Therefore, unfortunately for us loving vegans, eating traditional foods in Portugal can prove problematic and it’s no surprise to find a bit of sausage floating in your soup. With a country that is so rich in culture and proud of their culinary heritage, it would be a huge shame to miss out! So, here’s our take on some Portuguese classics with a Veggie Vagabond tweak! Cruelty free, super scrummy and staying authentic!

Vegan Orange, Honey and Almond Cake

During the 15th century monks and nuns paved the way for confectionary throughout Portugal. To starch their laundry nuns and monks would use egg whites! This meant a lot of leftover egg yolks that had no use. With a bit of creativity and a lot of time on their hands they conjured up an array of recipes that have been enjoyed for centuries. Rita João and Pedro Ferreira, authors of the Portuguese pastry encyclopedia Fabrico Próprio: The Design of Portuguese Semi-Industrial Confectionery, write, “These places of faith and seclusion were often true laboratories of creation, where the religious dedicated themselves to rescuing old recipes, or to testing new ingredients from all over the world.” With so many convents in Portugal, the variety of sweet treats was abundant and enjoyed across the country. In the Évora district alone there were 11 convents in the 16th century! The monks and nuns had a sense of humour naming pastries; “angel’s double chin” and “bacon from heaven”.
The main ingredients used would be egg yolks and sugar with flour, nuts, cinnamon, vanilla, coconut and other spices. Today more than 200 delicacies are still prepared to their original recipe!
Traditional European oranges were very bitter and were only ever used for marmalade. That all changed when the Portuguese brought over sweet oranges from India and China. Sweet Oranges became popular amongst the wealthy in Europe. But when they were first introduced oranges were very expensive and could only be enjoyed by royalty and the very wealthy. As time went on and sweet oranges became more widely available, lay people were able to afford them and it wasn’t long before the orange cake was a favourite across the country.

Recipe

As with most Portuguese cakes this recipe isn’t traditionally vegan friendly as it contains the ever present eggs. But never one to miss out when it comes to a tasty treat, here at Veggie Vagabonds HQ we have devised a super scrummy vegan version that is zesty, gooey and scrumptious. This cake uses no refined sugar and instead uses agave nectar and orange for sweetness. I think it’s that much better using naturally sweet ingredients rather than processed sugar. This is also my first recipe cooking with that vegan favourite that is flax meal. I’ve always been put off by the price tag but decided to try something new as It’s also very good for you! The end result was a success – I am a convert and look forward to many more recipes with flax eggs. So give this spin on a much-loved classic a go and let us know what you think in the comments and #veggievagabonds on instagram.

Ingredients;
250g plain flour

100g ground almonds
4 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
5 tablespoons of flax meal
10 tablespoons of water
1 cup algave nectar
rind and juice of 3 oranges
icing sugar to dust

Method;
1. Grease a baking tin, roughly 20cm, and preheat the oven to 160 degrees.
2. Make the flax eggs by mixing the flax meal with the water and leave to set for about 10 minutes.
3. Blend the four, ground almonds, baking powder and salt until evenly combined.
4. Once the flax eggs have set whisk with the algave nectar, then add the orange zest and juice.
5. Fold the wet mixture in to the dry mixture until fully combined.
6. Pour the mixture in to the baking tin and bake for one hour or until golden and a toothpick comes out clean. 

Whisk all the dry ingredients until they’re fully combined
Whisk the flax meal with water and leave to set for 10 minutes. Once combined whisk with the algave nectar.
Add the orange zest and juice to the flax eggs and algave and combine. Then add the wet mixture to the dry mixture.
Fold the wet mixture in to the dry until fully combined
Pour the mixture in to a greased tin and bake
Bake until golden and dust with icing suagr to serve

Let us know what you think of this recipe in the comments below and #veggievagabonds on instagram so we can see your your creations!

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19 Responses

  • This post made me hungry! Loved learning about the roots and flavors of Portuguese cooking. I’m not a great cook myself, but really like the simplicity of this recipe. May have to try it!

    • Thanks Kristy 🙂 It’s a step by step guide to help guide you through and with all our recipes we try not to make them too intricate and complicated. If you do give it a go let us know what you think.

    • It’s always interesting to learn where our food comes from and the history behind cultural dishes! This recipe is perfect if you fancy something sweet and moist!

  • Wow! This looks so good! I love baking and have never tried a recipe like this so I definitely want to give it a try. I need to find some ground almonds.

    • Ground almonds can be found in most supermarkets down the baking isle! This was a new one for me too but turned out perfectly – zesty, sweet and so moist !

    • Hi Jennifer, thanks for your feedback! Let us know how you get on with a gluten free version! tag us on social media with the #veggievagabonds

  • I love orange almond cake so I’m sure I’d enjoy this alternative cake. Plus, I like that it uses natural sugars as I’m trying to cut out sugar from my diet. I’ll have to try this recipe!

  • Rather worryingly, I have all the ingredients in the house, so that could actually be appearing for dinner tonight! I’m sure I can substitute a gluten free flour blend, and it will be delicious. I’m really loving flax eggs in recipes at the moment; they seem to give everything a rather good nuttiness.

    • That’s great Bernie, keep us updated on how your gluten-free creation turns out! Yes I agree that flax eggs add a nutty flavour and good texture to a dish!

  • Yum! I love orange-flavored cakes. Honey and almonds are also wonderful additions. I didn’t know Portuguese cuisine was eggy but, since I love eggs, I suppose I’ll fall in love with it.

    • This recipe combines orange, honey and almond beautifully! Omitting the eggs makes this cake vegan for guilt free indulgence.

  • I still never quite understand how cakes turn out without eggs? ARe they light or do they become quite a dense cake? Interesting about the history of the food in this area. Having spent time in Portugal I completely understand how much they live on meat and seafood.

    • This recipe uses ground flax meal as an alternative to egg, and baking powder to help with the rise. This cake is really moist and the addition of orange gives it another dimension of juicy-ness! Try whipping up this recipe & see for yourself how an egg-less cake turns out – I think you’ll enjoy the results!

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