Mexican feast for a crowd of vegan chefs on a special night

The night after a very talented group of chefs and I completed our Vegan Gastronomy training in Palma de Mallorca (Spain) we decided to get together for a tasty Vegan Mexican Night, Tequila and a good laugh.

Mexican food is everyone’s favorite no matter your country of origin and can work very well in a plant-based diet. For example, corn tortillas contain no oil and are free of Gluten, help with digestion, heart issues and blood pressure problems. The use of complex flavors in sauces and specific ingredients makes Mexican food so unique and different from other world cuisines.

I recommend using fresh ingredients to get full benefits from the nutrients and avoid GMO’s and preservatives and also adjust the chili to your personal preference.

I decided to create this post to share with You the recipes we cooked that night.

Please enjoy the recipes below, try them, experiment and share with us your results and suggestions to make them better. Please write in the comment box at the lower section of this post, we all would love to learn from your experience. And If you have any questions or doubts please ask away : )


Mexican Feast
Mexican Feast

Mexican Menu – Vegan:

  1.  Jen’s tofu chile relleno
  2.  Jen’s Avocado cucumber sauce
  3.  Healthy Sour Cream  – Vegan
  4.  Easy Mole Sauce – Vegan  Note: For a vegan version we replaced the chicken stock with vegetable stock. Also, any semisweet baking chocolate is a good substitute for the chocolate.
  5.  Mexican Empanadas: Dough, Empanada filling seasoned with Mexican Spice Blend.  You can fill your empanadas with  anything you like. For our filling we sauteed mushrooms, corn and leeks seasoned with Mexican Spice Mix (Equal parts of Dry Oregano, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Chili Powder, Paprika and Cumin. You can leave out any of the ingredients but Cumin and chili powder are essential. Mexican is not Mexican without them).
  6. Mexican Tortilla and toppings. The process looks harder than it is. I use any pan  to press on the tortillas with my body weight and make them real thin and the toppings can be  any traditional salsas and guacamole. Don’t forget the cilantro a key limes! Once you taste freshly made corn tortillas you would never want to buy store made.
  7. Creamy Lime and Avocado Tart


Enjoy, Mena

Jen’s Avocado Cucumber Sauce –Vegan

Avocado and Cucumber Salsa.png


1 cucumber (Peel skin leave seeds)

1 avocado

1 garlic

Lime juice

water to thin it


cilantro (Opt)

jalapeño (Opt)


Blend ingredients until smooth and creamy. Refrigerate before serving. Make this sauce before everything else and place in refrigerator so it can be served cold. Keeps good for about 2 days. It’s a great companion for any Mexican dish.

“Using Magical Powders for Healthier Cooking (Gelling Agents): Kappa and Gellan”

“Using Magical Powders for Healthier Cooking (Gelling Agents): Kappa and Gellan”

gelling agents

As a chef that wants to cook healthier food using healthier ingredients I decided to try a product that was not derived from animal products to change the texture and consistency of a liquidy mix.

I was surprised to find out how many  gelling and thickening agents are available to us and my question of course was: which one should I use?. Well the answer was simple: It depends on what I was using it for.

There are many of these “consistency changers”:


gelling agents more

Some of the list above act as  “gelling agents” and others act as “thickening agents” for water-based liquids like juice, nut milks, soda, coffee, stock, etc) and they are all called Hydrocolloids .

“Modernist chefs are using a broader array of hydrocolloids in order to give foods specific textures, thicknesses, and appearances at different temperatures, acidity levels, and concentrations” (Matthew Johnson, 2011) and each one has different uses depending on how they react with different components. In essence, they are a food additive used to change the state of an ingredient that otherwise would be in liquid form.

Cool. It looks that I need to add a new shelf to my galley for these “Magical Powders”.

I decided to try two of them, compare them and blog about it. So here we go:

Today I’m just blogging about my cheffing experience with Gellan and Kappa.

Kappa comes from a red algae and has been used since the 15th century and has E number  E407 is classified in Europe as an Alginate and Gellan comes from the fermentation of microorganisms found in the tissue of the lily plant. Gellan was initially identified to replace Agar in the late 70’s. Gellan has E number E418 and is classified as a Natural Gum.

Both, Gellan and Kappa are mixed cold and activate with heat, both withstand heat and conserve their shape, so they can be served cold or hot, neither one resists freezing process and neither one works with too saline or too acidic solutions.

Both can be used to make hard and cold/hot gels with a little difference in consistency and texture. Out of all the gelling agents Gellan produces the hardest gel and can even be shredded. Kappa achieves a firm gel while Gellan achieves a flexible gel but sort of grainy and broken. Kappa allows a clean cut that Gellan doesn’t. Gellan stands higher temperatures than Kappa (Up to 70oC or 158oF).

Kappa needs 2 gr per Liter (or 200gr de liquid/3gr Kappa) and Gellan 5g/Liter for soft gelling and 13gr per Litter (or 250 gr de liquido/4.8 g de Gellan). Color of Kappa is transparent Gellan is yellowish so it changes a bit the color of the final product.

Kappa can be used as a thickener as an stabilizer in a wide variety of products, vegetable milks, low calorie drinks, shakes, sauces, ice creams and yogurts. Kappa can be used to make pearls with a syringe or to make a thick puree from a liquid or a hard gel as a final product.

Gellan is good for hot gels like broths and flavorful pulps. Kappa is good to cover a dish, a product or a preparation with a dense sauce that would not slide down to the plate and will stay on the food.

I made a couple of plant based cheeses and split the mix in two. I added Gellan to one and Kappa to the other one. (Soon Click here for recipe)

ChefMena-Vegan - Mallorca Vegan - Gelling Agents- Ximena Olds-2

I found that both reacted quickly within half hour so I recommend to use them to speed up a process that would normally take longer. I needed to use more Gellan to achieve similar result so I feel safe to say that Kappa more economical because you need less of it to get similar result and in fact Gellan is the most expensive Gelling Hydrocolloid found in the market at the moment. The color or taste of the mix didn’t change lots.

Now here is the catch: The majority of a total of 14 people that tried each of my cheeses preferred the consistency achieved with Kappa. The consistency of the mix with Gellan was grainy and separated which wasn’t as pleasant as a hard flexible like gelatin consistency with Kappa. Today, is over a week since I made the test and I have a bit of each and in the refrigerator and both are conserving well and taste exactly the same as when they where freshly made.

I hope you find this info encouraging to try magical powders and if you pair Pistachios and pears and let me know how it goes writing in the comment box below! Cheers.







Steps to become a Vegan Chef


Sabor Vegan Culinary Academy Mallorca : First Week of School

In my search of expertise in a variety of culinary fields I found a school in Spain that actually teaches “Veganism”. How cool is that? While on heavy charter season when my only quiet time away from the yacht is my provisioning time. I quickly looked up the Academy’s content. Flashes of whatever I was looking for at the moment come to my mind: Sabor (Flavor), use of ingredients that not only are good for you but that are delicious , future of modern cuisine, use of ingredients that are traditionally unknown like algies and fungai and training in the use of Modernist Cuisine techniques, advance flavoring techniques and instruments like Molecular Gastronomy. 10 minute facebook call with Manuel Lynch (owner and director of Sabor Vegan Culinary Academy) and bam Im sold.


A couple of weeks later I’m sitting in class. Reading about nutritional values of nuts, omami, Caisen, Neu5GC, Glycemic index. Making gelified spheres and it didn’t take long to realize that I am immerse in not just a cooking class but my entire way of doing things and life style might be about to change entirely.


So. I decided to blog about my transition and constant discovery of interesting facts that I had no idea about. For example, the consumption of one egg a week is as bad as smoking 2 packs of cigarettes…(will probably end up blogging about interesting facts soon just because they are so interesting).


The first homework included writing an overview of myself and to describe why I wanted to pursue becoming a vegan chef and what the outside world should know about me. Wow. Ok. This is very complex and I decided to leave it blank until I had time to elaborate a bit.


I hope to be able to complete that homework for schooling purposes sometime soon but I feel this is clearly the start of a journey that at this moment I don’t know where it is going to take me to. All I know is that I don’t have plans to open a vegan restaurant, I don’t have plans to teach veganism, I am not here for religious reasons and I can go on. What are my reasons for being here then? What am I in search of?


Evidently I am here to learn. I am looking for knowledge and I am an open notebook full of pages to be filled. I want to be able to cater to my vegan guest/clients and serve them a delish vegan dish that is not only highly nutritious but delicious at the same time. I have tried numerous vegan recipes in the past but they have been a hit or miss. Sometimes they are amazing. Sometimes I have to mark them down so I never attempt again. Even though I’ve noticed that my vegans ( I will refer as vegans to gust, clients or crew that are vegans) eat them anyway because they are healthy not necessarily because they are flavorful. So I clearly know that I am looking for tasty flavors and consistency. What else? I am looking to learn about non traditional ingredients, different forms and shapes, modern equipment and how to operate it.


I’m sure my search and objectives are going to transform as I move forward in class but at this particular moment I come to realize that being a Yacht Chef that caters to non vegan guest and/or crew throws me into a “content” dilemma in my professional website.


I am looking to become a Vegan Chef in the Yachting World for my vegans and my non-vegans might even enjoy it! Next step, and pretty soon, probably this weekend will be to take a closer look to the content in my website and how to present Vegan Menus next to or close to Menus and photos of dishes that are non vegan.