Growing up, New Years Day was always an important event in my family. January 1st is also St. Basil’s Day . St. Basil was (if I remember correctly) a forefather of the Greek Orthodox Church and well loved for his kindness to the poor and underprivileged, animals and children. My grandparents were devout Greek Orthodox Christians and although I’m not religious in any way, I still like to include some of what made January 1st special for them.
It is also the name day for people named Basil/Vasillios (often named ‘Bill’ in English) or Vasilliki (‘Victoria/Vicky’). My grandfather was named Vasillios, which is why January 1st was such a big deal in our family 🙂 The vegan foods served would include fresh garden salad (my grandparents grew the sweetest, juiciest tomatoes from a garden they started in 1953), pilafi rice, fried zucchini, dolmades and roast potatoes. Everything else was very non-vegan. My grandparents have all passed away and my dad still likes to have small family get togethers on January 1st, although it’s pretty much just immediate family and no longer the big celebration where you only see other relatives that one time a year.
Here are the vegan foods my mum served today. First up, her awesome roast potatoes. I used to whine about how the oven in my new home never worked properly because my potatoes never turned out beautiful and crispy like my mum’s. Then one day I accidentally plopped too much oil in the roasting tray and then forgot about the potatoes so they were slightly burnt. Result? Amazingly crispy delicious potatoes:
Mum makes her version of fried rice for me:
My sister made the vegan sausage rolls I’ve blogged about here:
My plate. My sister made a salad with baby spinach, roast potato and tomato with a dressing of orange, tahini, maple syrup. I could have eaten the dressing itself with a spoon. My mum made her standard garden salad with extra virgin olive oil tossed through:
For dessert I made a chocolate cashew cream with 2 cups of soaked cashews, about a cup of almond milk, raw cacao powder and enough soft Medjool dates for sweetness. Forgot to take a photo of that.
Now, on to the Vasilopita! On New Years Day it is traditional to bake a Vasilopita. ‘Vasilo’ refers to Vasilli/Basil and a ‘pita’ is a kind of pie or cake. Think spanakopita– ‘spanaki’ is spinach, ‘pita’ the pie/cake. ‘Karithopita’– ‘karithi’ means walnut, so Karithopita is walnut cake. Anyway, the Vasilopita contains a coin hidden in the cake somewhere. Whoever gets the piece with the coin is supposed to have good luck for the coming year. Some people make the Vasilopita as a bread, using yeast. Others make it more like a cake. A lot depends on the region one is from, or family tradition. For me, I initially opted to make the bread version as it’s less sweet but when I looked up some recipes, I realised I left it too late to do the whole dough rising, then rising again thing. So I had to switch to the cake-like Vasilopita.
I don’t think I’ll post the recipe officially as it really is just a vegan version of a standard plain butter cake and I feel not something worth replicating. I used plain white flour, vegan margarine, sugar, soy milk, egg replacer, almond essence and orange zest. For the topping, I chopped up a combination of pistachios, almonds, walnuts and pecans then threw in some whole pine nuts:
So I was merrily going along and during the mixing with my awesome Sunbeam Mixmaster (this belong to my grandma, the wife of my grandpa Billy) I thought hmmm this is a LOT of batter. As in, I don’t have a cake tin big enough and I can’t bake two separate cakes as it’s already really late and I want to go to bed asap. So I had to use this big sunflower shaped cake tin. The problem with a tin like this for Vasilopita is that you’re supposed to sprinkle the nuts on top of the cake before baking, but with this sunflower tin it’s shaped of course, so you have to turn the cake out upside down. So I took a gamble and sprinkled the nuts on the cake tin before pouring the batter in. Then I crossed my fingers and hoped the nuts wouldn’t burn. Much relief when the nuts turned out just right:
Not a pretty looking cake by any means. I cut a slit in to it and inserted a silver coin (real silver). Husband said coins should never be baked in with a cake and that it’s best to just put in a silver coin after the cake has been cooked. So he got a silver coin from his collection (the coin was made in 1898) and well, we had to say okay whoever gets the coin must give it back *cough* Anyway, the cake was dusted with icing sugar to make it a little more attractive:
It turned out okay but as I said, just a standard plain cake with a hint of the orange and almond. The nut ‘topping’ added a nice crunch but the cake was too sweet for me. My parents ended up winning the coin (and giving it back…):
And now we’re back home again. Tomorrow I’m looking forward to getting back in to my raw juices and smoothies. Tonight I’m looking forward to a lot of sleep!