Thanks again to France, where I was eating lots of artichoke hearts in my salads, I decided to try and veganise a firm favourite of ours, Baked Spinach and Artichoke Dip, to take to a BBQ that we were having with the B's.
It was the lovely Mrs B that first introduced us to it, following a holiday in Florida, and her dip is legendary. Truly, legendary. I couldn't hope to emulate its glorious melty-cheesy-tasticness, but I was pretty certain that I could create a good alternative, especially now that I have got the whole Sour Cream thing nailed! I googled a few recipes and settled on a version of one from Fettle Vegan, which goes something like this:
1 piece whole wheat bread
1 tsp vegan butter
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1 tbsp EVOO
1 can butter beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup tofu based sour cream (follow the link above)
1/4 cup water
1 tsp seasalt
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/8 tsp red chilli flakes
6 clives garlic, minced
4 good handfuls baby spinach
1 can artichoke hearts
I preheated the oven to 180C.
In a blender I blitzed the bread and vegan butter, then set aside in a bowl. Back to the blender, I added the beans and blitzed them till mostly smooth, before adding the water, basil, chilli flakes and 3 tbsps of the sour cream and blitzing to combine. In a large, non-stick frying pan, I added the EVOO and onion and cooked for 5 minutes, added the garlic and cooked for another couple and then added the artichokes. These I did not pre-chop, but broke down gently into halves or quarters (size depending) with the back of my wooden spoon as the heat worked its way through them. Then I added the baby spinach and cooked through till it had wilted. I took the pan off the heat, stirred in the bean mixture, 3/4 of the bread crumbs and the rest of the sour cream. This was then transferred to a baking dish (I have a 6" round, 6" deep dish which is just perfect) and topped it with the last of the breadcrumbs.
I baked this in the oven for 20 minutes before going to the B's and another 15 once we were there.
As it was, Mrs B had made a dish too so we had a bit of a dip-off! Dip chips in hand, the lovely boyf nominated himself "Chief Taster" and set about the challenge with gusto. It's safe to say that I didn't embarrass myself. Paraphrasing badly, his review went something like this: "Darling, this is good! Full of texture and you can taste all the different flavours." The "Mrs B, yours is just..... GREAT!", complete with smacked lips and a touch of salivating, said it all however, I did not manage to match the gloriousness of her melted, stringy-cheese-filled magic dip!
As with all things vegan, especially if you don't try to include a cheese substitute, it's never going to be an exact match. This is however, a lovely nod to the original. I deliberately tried to maximise the texture and flavour and I was very pleased with the results. Yep, Mrs B wins hands down when her dip is sharing bar space, but it was unanimously agreed (by 5 self-confessed Mrs B dip addicts (myself included)) that this could stand beside it and, on its own, wouldn't be refused either. I call it a win ;O)
Neither lasted long enough for a photo either... I'll have to make another bowl; BBQ anyone?