Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Aloo Tikki

Aloo tikki are small, spicy potato and pea croquettes.These traditional Indian snacks are delicious eaten hot or cold with chutneys or mint sauce and also make a great an addition to an Indian buffet. They're really cheap to make and are vegan too. I added sweet potato to mine, to ring the changes.

Makes 12/Serves 4
  • 2-3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 heaped tsp freshly grated ginger
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp garam masala or chaat masala
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh chilli
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • a handful of frozen petit pois or peas
  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
  • 1 slice of wholemeal bread, made into breadcrumbs
  • a few slices of (ready-made) melba toast crushed into breadcrumbs (or fine/panko breadcrumbs)
  • vegetable oil
Boil the potatoes for around 15 minutes, until soft. Drain and mash.
Meanwhile heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a pan on a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and fry for minute. 
Add the onion, ginger, garlic and the rest of the spices and cook for a further 3-4 minutes.
Mix in the mashed potatoes, petit pois and chopped coriander, plus enough fresh breadcrumbs to bind and make a dough-like consistency.
Shape into slightly flattened balls using your hands and roll in the dried breadcrumbs. 
Leave in the fridge for 10 minutes or so, to firm up.

Heat a further tbsp of oil in a large frying pan. 
Fry the aloo tikki for 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown.
Keep warm in the oven and repeat until all of the croquettes have been cooked.

Serve with salad, chutneys or mint sauce.

Suitable for freezing (before or after frying).

Alternatives: Make large, flat tikkis and serve them in buns like veggie burgers.
Bake on a greased baking tray (in a hot oven) for a low-fat version.

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Friday, 28 March 2014

Meridian Nut Butters - a review plus a recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies

Like most families, we are already big peanut butter fans and it features, as a sandwich filling, at least a couple of times a week in my daughters' packed lunches. We were obviously willing to try out a range of nut butters from Meridian Foods and we particularly liked the sound of the cashew and almond butters, as an alternative to the usual peanut spread.

Unlike the major brands, Meridian nut butters are made from 100% nuts. No palm oil. No salt. No sugar.

As we're used to peanut butter with added salt, we did notice the lack of salt in the peanut butter. A real plus point is that there is no added palm oil,  but that meant that the oil from the nuts tended to separate a little, so the butters needed a good stir before spreading (a small price to pay, to avoid the ubiquitous palm oil!). Neither of these detract from the taste, but I thought they were worth mentioning.

The peanut butter was packed with plenty of crunchy bits, while the milder tasting cashew butter was silky smooth, and spoonful or two would make a great addition to curry sauces (instead of using ground almonds or cashews). The crunchy almond butter - made with roasted almonds - was a revelation to us all; a delicious alternative to peanut butter.
"Nuts have been part of our diet for thousands of years. All nuts and seeds are a good source of vegetable protein and energy. Although they contain oils & fat, a high percentage of these oils/fats are mono and poly unsaturated oils which are better for heart health than the saturated fats found in animal products. 
Virtually all nuts are very good sources of the main B vitamins... which help with energy production and carbohydrate metabolism, balancing blood sugar levels, hormones and cardiovascular health..."

As we all also enjoy peanut butter cookies, I thought I'd make a batch up with the Meridian peanut butter. The crunchy almond butter would also work well and would give a completely different taste.

Peanut Butter Cookies (Vegan)

Makes 12
  • 4oz crunchy peanut butter/other crunchy nut butter
  • 2 oz dairy-free margarine/spread
  • 2 oz soft brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup/agave syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 oz SR flour
Cream the peanut butter, spread, sugar and syrup together.
Mix in the flour and vanilla extract to form a dough; add just a splash of dairy-free milk or water if the mixture is too dry to hold together.
Squeeze small handfuls of the dough into balls using your hands.
Put onto a greased baking tray and flatten slightly, then flatten further with the back of a fork.
Bake at 170C/160C Fan/Gas 3/325 F  for 10-12 mins, or until golden brown. 
Cool for 5-10 mins before removing from tray and cooling on a wire rack.

Suitable for freezing.

You can find lots more nut butter recipes from Meridian, on their website.

Integrity Statement
I received complimentary samples of Meridian nut butters to review. I did not receive payment, and the views expressed are genuinely those of myself and my family.

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Monday, 17 March 2014

Laimon Fresh - cocktail recipes, a review & giveaway

I first spotted Laimon Fresh in the supermarkets a few months ago. It's a new sparkling soft drink is made from 100% natural ingredients and is available in both cans and bottles. I was intrigued by the sound of the flavour combination (lemon, lime and mint...hence the name!), but wasn't too sure whether to buy it or not.

I was lucky enough to be offered a sample to try, along with some cocktail ideas. On opening the can, the first smell was of fresh garden mint, followed by citrus fruits. As a soft drink, it's refreshing, but distinctly 'adult' in flavour (it would be great served over ice on a hot, summer day).

Both Miss O and Miss K tried it reluctantly, but weren't impressed! Mr O and I on the other hand were more than happy to try out a couple of Laimon Fresh cocktail recipes to see how it compared to other mixers. Served with white rum, it makes a quick and easy mojito. As it's citrus-y and not too sweet, it works as a good alternative to cola, ginger ale or tonic water. I also think it would also be a great mixer with Pimms or in citrus-based cocktails.

The Mojito
  • 50ml of white rum
  • Crushed ice
  • 330ml can of Laimon Fresh
Pour 50ml of white rum into a tall glass
Fill glass 2/3 of the way up with crushed ice
Pour a 330ml can of Laimon Fresh in to the glass and stir

Berry Fresh
  • 60ml vodka
  • 330ml can of Laimon Fresh
  • 4 blackberries
  • 4 blueberries
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sugar syrup
Muddle two of each berry in the bottom of a shaker, add ice and everything except the Laimon Fresh.
Shake hard. Fine strain into glass over crushed ice. Top with Laimon Fresh.
Garnish with a blackberry and blueberry and a leaf of mint.

Laimon Fresh can be found in Waitrose, Sainsburys and Tesco Extra.
I have one case (12 cans) of Laimon Fresh to give away to one lucky reader. Simply enter on the Rafflecopter widget below. UK only. Closes midnight 27th March 2014.

Integrity Statement
I received complimentary samples of Laimon Fresh to review and to give away. I did not receive payment, and the views expressed are genuinely those of myself and my family.

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Thursday, 6 March 2014

Piri-Piri Mushroom & Halloumi 'Burger'

Piri-Piri Mushroom & Halloumi 'Burger'
This super-easy meal was inspired by a well-known chicken burger chain. I ate there once. I enjoyed the 'burger' but didn't know how they could possibly charge £6 (that's without any side orders) for something so cheap and simple to prepare. I knew I could make a similar meal far cheaper with better ingredients, so I did...

Assuming you have most of the piri-piri/peri-peri sauce ingredients already, this costs around £1.50 per portion for the 'burger'. For 4 servings, I used: Sainsbury's Halloumi £2.25, large, flat mushrooms £1.40, burger buns 70p, lemon 35p, lettuce 60p.

Serves 4

For the burgers:
  • 1 (250g/10oz) pack of halloumi cheese cut into 8 slices
  • 4 large flat/Portabello mushrooms, wiped and de-stalked
  • 4 burger buns (or make your own)
  • Finely sliced lettuce
For the piri-piri sauce:
  • 1-2 red chillis - finely chopped (or use 2 tsp frozen chopped chilli, or hot chilli sauce)
  • 1 lemon, juiced (add zest for more citrus flavour)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • A pinch of salt (vegan version only)
Make up the piri-piri sauce, by mixing the ingredients together in a small bowl, or whizzing up in a mini food-processor.

Brush the mushrooms with the sauce and either fry, grill or barbecue them until soft and golden brown. Keep warm in the oven.
Repeat with the halloumi cheese slices.
Put a little shredded lettuce on the bottom half of a bread roll.
Layer up with the mushroom and 2 slices of cheese, a little more piri-piri sauce and topping with the other half of the bun.

Serve with grilled corn-on-the-cob and/or home-made seasoned sweet potato wedges.

Mushroom alternative: For fungi-phobes like Miss K, use grilled bell pepper instead.
Vegan alternative: Omit the halloumi and top the mushroom with a good dollop of vegan coleslaw.
Camping alternative: Use ready made piri-piri sauce.

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Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Quorn and Mushrooms in a White Wine & Tarragon Sauce

Quorn in a White Wine & Tarragon Sauce
Here's a 1980's retro recipe which I've adapted by using meat-free fillets to make a lower fat, vegetarian version (and a vegan option). If you don't eat meat substitutes, simply swap them for extra mushrooms.
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 4 Quorn fillets/vegan chicken-style fillets 
  • 200g button mushrooms, halved
  • 150ml dry white wine 
  • 300ml vegetable stock (made with a stock cube)
  • 1 level tbsp plain flour
  • 2 tsp tarragon leaves, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp double cream or dairy-free cream (optional)
  • 500g new potatoes, boiled, drained (and sauteed in 1 tbsp olive oil - optional).
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and gently saute the onion and garlic for a few minutes until the onion is soft.
Add the mushrooms and cook for a further couple of minutes until they start to release their juices.
Remove from the heat and stir in the flour to coat the vegetables.

Slowly stir in the wine, 200ml of the stock and the tarragon, making sure there are no lumps of flour.
Return to the heat and gently bring to a simmer, stirring all the time, until the sauce has thickened.
Pop the Quorn fillets into the sauce and simmer with the lid on, for approximately 20 minutes.

Stir occasionally and turn the Quorn fillets over. Adding a little more of the remaining stock if needed, to make a pourable sauce. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream, if using.

Serve with sauteed or boiled new-potatoes and steamed asparagus or tender-stem broccoli.

Alternatives: This also makes a great pasta sauce without the Quorn. Cook as above using slightly less stock. Simmer for 5 minutes to thicken the sauce, then stir in the cream if using.
Serve over cooked tagliatelle.

I’m adding this recipe to the Speedy Suppers linky, hosted by Sarah at Dinner With Crayons and Katie at Feeding Boys. Pin It

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Valentine's Ice-Cream Cookie Sandwich

Here's a simple Valentine's dessert which can be made in advance and assembled on the day. Although I used dairy ice-cream in this recipe, the cookies and accompaniments are vegan and can easily be served with a dairy-free ice-cream alternative (I can recommend Booja Booja).

Left over cookies can be sandwiched with softened ice-cream, wrapped in foil and frozen until needed.

For the shortbread cookies
  • 4oz/100g dairy-free spread, softened
  • 4oz/100g icing sugar
  • 8oz/200g plain flour
  • 1oz/25g unsweetened cocoa powder, sieved
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Cream the spread, syrup and sugar. 
Mix in the remaining ingredients, to make a firm dough.
Add a little drop of cold water or some extra flour if needed.
Chill for 30 minutes.

Roll out the chilled dough between 2 sheets of grease-proof paper, until it is about ½ cm thick.
Using a heart cookie cutter, cut out as many shapes as you can from the dough.
Either leave whole, or slice vertically with a sharp knife to make half hearts.
Carefully remove the dough cut-outs from the paper and place on a greased baking sheet (leaving a small gap between each cookie).
Reserve the scraps and re-roll. 
Repeat until all the dough has been used up.
Prick each cookie with a fork.

Bake at 180C/170C Fan/Gas 4/350F for 10-12 minutes (depending on the size of the cookie, and whether you prefer a soft or crunchy cookie).
Cool for a few minutes on the tray before removing and cooling on a wire rack.

Once cooled, sandwich with softened ice-cream/vegan ice-cream. 

Suitable for freezing.

Eat straight away or serve as follows...

To serve 2 people

For the chocolate strawberries

  • 1oz/25g dairy-free chocolate, melted
  • 2 strawberries
Melt the chocolate and dip the strawberries in. Place on grease-proof paper to set.

For the strawberry sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2-4 strawberries, diced
  • 2 tsp Cointreau or other fruit liqueur (or orange juice)
Mix the sugar and chopped strawberries together in a heatproof bowl and microwave on high for 30-60 seconds, until the strawberries have softened.
Add the Cointreau and stir well.

Sandwich 2 cookies with a generous scoop of ice-cream. Top with a chocolate-coated strawberry and serve with a spoonful of strawberry sauce.

Alternatives: For a dinner party dessert, cut out circular cookies and serve as above.

I've added this post to Simply Food's Valentine's linky.

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Friday, 7 February 2014

The Vegan Pantry - A review

The Vegan Pantry is a varied collection of 60 recipes from chef, teacher and nutritionist Dunja Gulin. The book is well illustrated and the recipes are easy to follow. It features an introduction to vegan cooking basics and pantry staples, as well as a step-by-step guide to soaking and cooking pulses and making your own vegan cheese and nut milk. The book includes ideas for breakfasts, snacks, soups and desserts as well as main meals; the recipes are nutritionally balanced and on the healthy side of vegan! I particularly enjoyed the Macedonia-style baked beans (although I cheated and used tinned beans rather than dried!).
"Featuring 60 recipes...from tofu scramble and spicy potato strudel, to simple fun food for every day, such as spicy burgers with wedges. Stylish dishes, such as dark chocolate tart, make vegan entertaining easy. Also included are instructions on how to make nutritious nut milks and cheeses."
Although the book is marketed at new vegans, as a long-standing vegetarian (who probably cooks 2-3 vegan main meals a week), I would suggest that it might be better suited to slightly more established or adventurous vegans, who don't like to rely on convenience products. Many of the recipes feature tofu or seitan, gluten-free and sugar alternatives, and some more unusual ingredients such as umeboshi paste and kombu seaweed. 

Some of the recipes involve a fairly wide range of ingredients and take a little while to prepare, so this probably isn't the book for busy vegan parents, however, if you have the time to cook from scratch most of the time, like entertaining and enjoy modern vegan food, then this would be a great addition to your cookbook collection. It would also be a good purchase for vegetarians who want to reduce their dairy/egg intake, as well as those omnivores who want a expand their collection of healthy, low-fat/whole-food recipes.

The Vegan Pantry by Dunja Gulin (photography by William Reavell) is published by Ryland Peters & Small and is available from rylandpeters.com.

Integrity Statement
I received a complimentary copy of The Vegan Pantry to review. I did not receive payment, and the views expressed are genuinely those of myself and my family.

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Friday, 31 January 2014

Mexican Rice with Beans

Mexican rice with beans
Here's my last recipe for Veganuary; this is another copycat recipe, adapted from the ingredients list of a well known brand of packet rice. If I had an uncle and his name was Ben, he might well make a rice similar to this! Needless to say, this home made version is significantly cheaper than the ready-made variety and contains a higher proportion of pulses and vegetables.

Serves 4-6 as a side dish
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced finely
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp sweet paprika
  • ½ tsp mild chilli powder
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • salt and black pepper to taste (optional)
  • 1 cup long grain rice, rinsed and drained 
  • 2 cups boiled water or hot vegetable stock
  • ½ can borlotti/pinto beans, drained and rinsed 
  • 1 tbsp pickled jalapenos, finely diced (optional) 
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp fresh/frozen chopped coriander
Heat the oil in a large frying pan (on a low to medium heat).
Add the onion and saute for 2-3 minutes, before adding the green pepper and garlic.
Cook gently for a further 2-3 minutes.
Increase the heat slightly.

Add all of the dried herbs/spices. Stir well and cook for a minute or so.
Add the tomato puree and cook for about 2 more minutes.
Add the drained rice and water/stock. Stir well and bring to a gentle simmer.
Reduce the heat slightly.
Cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes.

Stir, season and then add the beans, lime juice, jalapenos and coriander. Add a little more water/stock if the rice is starting to stick to the bottom of the pan.
Cover again and cook for a further 3-5 minutes, until the rice is just tender.
Stir. Turn off the heat and leave the covered pan to stand for a further 5 minutes.  

Serve with chilli, tortilla chips and guacamole/salsa.
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Saturday, 25 January 2014

Vegan Pizza Whirls

vegan pizza whirls
During Veganuary, I've been experimenting with various vegan alternatives in my cooking. This pizza whirl/pinwheel recipe is one I've adapted from a favourite family recipe, which is great for kids' lunchboxes and parties. I usually use Mozzarella in them, so decided to test out and review a dairy-free Mozzarella-style cheese. There isn't a lot of choice in my local area, when it comes to buying vegan cheeses, so I bought Cheezly - Mozzarella style from my local Holland & Barrett store.  

I was surprised that on opening the packet, it actually smelled quite cheesy (kind of like cheese-flavoured crisps)! It had a slightly grey appearance and was quite soft, but it grated well. I wasn't too keen on the taste/texture of it raw, but once cooked, it gave the pizza whirls a mild, cheesy flavour and was a good alternative to dairy cheese. 

Makes around 16

For the pizza base
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cups strong white bread flour 
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp fast-action dried yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
For the filling
  • 1 bell pepper diced
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 50g/2oz sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp dried oregano (or use 1 tbsp fresh basil)
  • 4 tbsp tomato puree
  • 100g/4oz vegan mozzarella-style cheese, grated
  • 2-3 tbsp of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes/olive oil
  • black pepper to taste
Put all the dry bread ingredients in a bowl (or bread maker) add the wet ingredients.
Mix well until you have a smooth dough (on dough setting in bread maker).
Add a little more flour if the dough is too sticky.
Cover the bowl and allow to rise in a warm place for 30-60 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan and saute the onion, pepper and garlic gently for a few minutes. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, oregano and black pepper. Allow to cool.

Roll the dough into a large rectangle.
Spread with the tomato puree and top with the vegetable mixture. 
Sprinkle the grated 'cheese' over.
Roll the dough lengthwise, as tightly as you can (like a Swiss roll).
Making sure the dough roll is seam-side down on the board, cut into 1"/2.5cm slices using a sharp knife.
Place the rolls on a greased baking sheet, spaced about 1"/2.5cm apart.
Cover loosely with cling-film and allow to rise for a further 30-45 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200C/190C Fan/Gas 6 .

Bake for around 10-15 minutes, or until well-risen and golden.
Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Suitable for freezing.

Alternatives: Use any of your favourite pizza toppings (try sweetcorn, olives, roasted vegatables, vegan pepperoni etc.) but do include the oil, as the vegan cheese dries out as it cooks, unlike dairy-cheese.

Integrity Statement
I bought the Cheezly myself and was not asked to review it. I did not receive payment, and the views expressed are genuinely those of myself and my family.
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Friday, 17 January 2014

Mushroom Biryani

mushroom biryani
One of my favourite Indian take-away dishes is Mushroom Biryani, but it's not a recipe I've ever cooked before. As part of my Veganuary challenge, I've been broadening out my vegan repertoire, so I thought I'd have a go at this classic Indian rice dish.

As none of my extensive collection of recipe books contained an authentic recipe, I started browsing Indian blogs and came across this recipe from Prathibha who has a vegetarian blog called The Chef and Her Kitchen; Her biryani looked just the sort of thing I was looking for. Although I didn't quite have all the ingredients needed, I decided to try the recipe out, simplifying the cooking method slightly to speed up the preparation time.

The list of ingredients might look a bit daunting, but the resulting taste is worth it (the whole family agreed that it was as good as our normal take-away biryani!). If you don't have a wide selection of spices, improvise with what you do have, or simply swap the ground and whole spices for 1-2 tbsp of a good quality Indian curry paste (preferably one containing fennel and cardamom), it might not taste quite as good, but should be a pretty close alternative. 
Providing you do have a good selection of spices or already have a suitable curry paste, this meal costs under £2.00 to make.

serves 4-6
  • 1 cup of basmati rice soaked for 10 mins then washed till water runs clear and drained in a sieve
  • 1 large onion, cut in half and finely sliced
  • 100-150 g/4-6 oz chestnut mushrooms, washed and sliced
  • 2 tsp grated fresh ginger plus 2 cloves of crushed garlic or 1 tbsp garlic/ginger paste
  • 1-2 tsp finely chopped chilli
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 whole green cardamom pods
  • 1 small stick of cinnamon
  • 1 whole star anise
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds, whole
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds, ground
  • salt  and black pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
While the rice is soaking/draining, heat 1 tbsp oil in a large frying pan, add the onions and fry until golden brown.
Remove the onions from the pan and keep to one side.
Heat a further 1 tbsp oil in the pan and add the garlic, ginger, chilli and spices cook for 2 minutes.
Add the mushrooms  and cook until the mushrooms begin to brown.
Add the drained rice and half of the cooked onions, and stir to coat in the spice mixture.
Add 1 ¾ cup boiling water. Stir well.

Cover with a lid and cook for 12 minutes, or until the rice is almost cooked and the water has been absorbed.
Turn the heat off, and leave the pan on the warm hob with the lid on. 
Allow the rice to stand for a further 15 minutes.
Fluff with a fork (discarding the whole spices if you can find them!) and top with the reserved fried onions.
 Bookmarked Recipes
Either serve with tarka dal / chana masala or add a drained tin of chickpeas to the rice (just before it's cooked), for a protein-rich complete meal.

I'm adding this recipe to January's Bookmarked Recipes over at Tinned Tomatoes and to this month's Credit Crunch Munch which is co-hosted by Fab Food 4 All and Fuss Free Flavours.

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Sunday, 12 January 2014

Coffee and Walnut Cake (Vegan)

Miss K and I made this cake as a Veganuary experiment, to try out the tub of xanthan gum I had recently bought. Xanthan gum is a binder and emulsifier which is often used in gluten-free baking - it can be found in the baking or free-from section of most big supermarkets and costs around £2.50 for a tub. I would recommend buying xanthan gum if you bake a lot of egg-free or vegan cakes.

I've made several different versions of vegan sponge cakes now, with varying degrees of success (mainly down to texture), so I based this recipe on my vegan Victoria sponge recipe and tweaked it a bit.

You may be interested to know that for my first attempt, I replaced half of the 'butter' with a mashed avocado, as avocado is supposed to be a good egg replacer, however, whilst not too unpleasant, the resulting cake had a definite taste of avocado which wasn't overly popular in the Onykahonie household! Attempt two, without the avocado was much more palatable!

As you can see, the resulting cake has a good texture and might even be firm enough to make into a giant cupcake, although I haven't tried this yet. This is my most successful vegan sponge cake yet, both taste and texture-wise, and I would challenge anyone to tell this was vegan in a blind tasting. 

I left Miss K to make the icing and ice the cake herself. I think she did a pretty good job, don't you? Of course she had to try a slice afterwards just to make sure it was fit to appear on the blog!

For the cake
  • 100g/4oz dairy-free spread
  • 150g/6oz soft brown sugar
  • 200g/8oz SR flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tbsp coffee granules dissolved in 200ml/8 fl oz boiling water and allowed to cool (or cooled espresso/filter coffee)
  • 1 tsp. white wine or cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 4oz roughly chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts) - reserve 25g/1 oz to top the cake 
Make up the coffee and set to one side to cool.
Pre-heat the oven to 170C/160C Fan/325F/Gas3.
Cream the spread and sugar.
Add all of the remaining ingredients (reserving 25g/1oz of the nuts) and mix until just combined.
Divide the mixture between 2 greased and lined 7" sandwich tins.
Bake for 20-25 mins until the cakes are firm and spring back slightly if pressed gently in the centre.
Turn out onto a wire rack and remove the greaseproof paper.
Allow to cool before icing.

For the vegan butter-cream icing/frosting
  • 1 tbsp coffee dissolved in 3 tbsp boiling water
  • 200g/8oz icing sugar
  • 50g/2oz dairy-free spread, softened
Soften the spread in a bowl and stir in the icing sugar. 
Mix together, adding just enough of the coffee to make a thick, spreadable icing.
Spread in the middle and on top of the cake.
Decorate the top of the cake with the remaining nuts.

Suitable for freezing.

Alternatives: To make a chocolate cake, swap the cold coffee for almond milk or water. Use 175g/7oz flour plus 25g/1oz unsweetened cocoa powder. Swap the nuts for 100g/4oz dairy-free chocolate chips. For the icing, swap the coffee for boiling water and add 25g/1oz unsweetened cocoa powder to the icing sugar. 
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Friday, 3 January 2014

Pasta with Greek Tomato Sauce (Vegan)

Pasta with Greek Tomato Sauce
After many years holidaying in Greece, I'm still yet to recreate an authentic copy of the Greek version of Napoli/Napolitana sauce. I've tried various variations from a very basic sauce with just onion, garlic, herbs and tomatoes, to a sauce with different combinations of vegetables (courgettes, peppers and carrots), but none are quite right...it's probably due to the fresh, ripe, Greek tomatoes, but may be due to some other hidden ingredient, which I am yet to discover. 

Do let me know the traditional recipe if you have it!

Anyway, here's my take on the dish, which is low-fat, only takes about 30 minutes to make and costs a very economic £2 to serve 4-6 people. It has lots of garlic plus an added kick of chilli and a touch of fragrant cinnamon - simply omit these for an Italian rather than Greek-style sauce. I generally make a double batch of this sauce and freeze half. You can use the sauce for lasagne, bolognese, veggie meatballs, aubergine parmigiana etc.

Serves 4-6
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • 1 bay-leaf
  • ½ tsp dried Greek oregano (optional)
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon/½ cinnamon stick (optional)
  • ½ tsp fresh red chilli, very finely chopped
  • 2x400g/14oz cans chopped tomatoes (use good quality, not an economy brand for the best flavour) - or about 800g/1lb 12oz fresh, ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped
  • ½ tsp sugar (optional)
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 450g/1lb dried pasta (rigatoni, penne etc.)
Heat the oil in a large pan.
Add the onion and cook on a medium heat for a few minutes, before adding the garlic.
Allow the onion and garlic to cook without colouring.
Add all of the remaining ingredients (except the pasta) and simmer for 15-20 minutes with the lid on.
Remove the cinnamon stick and bay-leaf (if using).
Blend briefly with a hand blender if you prefer a smooth sauce.

 pasta pleaseReturn to a low heat and allow to reduce whilst cooking the pasta for 10-12 minutes. Drain the pasta and serve topped with the tomato sauce.

For vegan garlic bread, simply mix a further small crushed clove of garlic with 2 tbsp dairy-free spread and a little chopped fresh parsley. Spread generously onto fresh crusty bread and bake in a hot oven for 5-10 minutes, or until golden brown.

I'm linking this post to this month's, garlic-themed Pasta Please Challenge hosted by Tina at The Spicy Pear and started by Jac at Tinned TomatoesPop over and take a look at the other great pasta dishes all using garlic.

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Wednesday, 1 January 2014

A cheap and lower-fat vegetarian/vegan meal plan for Veganuary

vegan meals
Happy New Year! I hope you've all had a good holiday and eaten plenty of great vegetarian/vegan food!

So, it's January again and after a couple of weeks of over-indulgence, I thought that rather than starting a diet-themed series of posts for the new year, I should just cut down on the cheese and dairy products in my recipes and embrace the essence of Veganuary. In case you don't know, Veganuary is a campaign in association with Viva! to encourage people to go vegan for January and "Eat delicious, healthy food, save lives and help the environment."

Whilst we won't go completely vegan for the month, as I know we won't all be able to stick to it (and as I have lots of non-vegan products to use up in my fridge and freezer), I will make a conscious effort to buy fewer products containing dairy and eggs and reduce the amounts I use in my cooking for the month, which I reckon will also make things cheaper. 

Although not all of the recipes below are vegan, they are all budget friendly, relatively low in fat and can all be easily adapted (for example, if the recipe uses Quorn or cheese, swap for a vegan alternative.) For a 31 day vegan meal plan, take a look at the official Veganuary menu.


Week 1
Spiced carrot and parsnip soup (no cream) with home made bread
Pasta with spicy pepper, aubergine and tomato sauce
Enchiladas (no cheese or use vegan cheese) with salad
Vegetarian Jambalaya 
Lentil and pesto veggie burgers with home made potato wedges and baked beans (use vegan pesto)
Pasta with Greek tomato sauce
Chickpea curry with chapattis

Week 2
Spaghetti Bolognese
Vegetable curry with rice
Pisto manchego (no egg) with jacket potato and salad
Reggae Reggae chickpea wraps 
Quorn souvlaki with potatoes (use vegan meat-free pieces)
Vegetable biryrani with dal
Turkish vegetable stew with cous cous or quinoa 

...and some vegan cakes and desserts 
(ok these aren't low fat, but we all need a treat some times!)
Apple cake
Bread pudding

Chocolate microwave mug cake
Chocolate orange cupcakes
Chocolate tiffin
Fairy cakes/cupcakes
Fruity flapjacks
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Sunday, 22 December 2013

Carrot, Parsnip and Nut Roast (Vegan)

carrot parsnip and nut roast in a loaf tin
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Here's this year's twist on my traditional Christmas nut roast recipeAs I've seen so many mentions of Delia's Parsnip Roulade this year, I added parsnip, sage and carrot to make a moist and tasty vegan loaf. It takes about 10 minutes to prepare and is very economical - it cost me around £3 to make. 

Serve with all the traditional roast dinner trimmings plus a vegetarian gravy

n.b. I made this loaf yesterday and have frozen it uncooked to defrost and reheat for Christmas dinner (see picture). Once cooked it should be golden brown in colour. 

Serves 4
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and grated
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small parsnip, peeled, cored and grated
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and grated
  • 175g/7oz mixed nuts (I used a mixture of Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, walnuts and hazelnuts - no peanuts), ground in a food processor
  • 2 slices of wholemeal bread, made into breadcrumbs
  • 150ml (approx) vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh herbs (I used sage and parsley)
Gently fry the onion in 1 tbsp olive oil, until soft. Then add the carrot and parsnip. 
Cook for 5 minutes on a medium heat, until softened, stirring regularly.
Stir in the nuts and breadcrumbs and mix well.
Add the herbs and season to taste.
Add enough stock to make a firm but not dry mixture. Add more breadcrumbs or stock if needed.
Tip mixture into a greased and lined loaf tin and press down with the back of a spoon.
Cover tin with foil  and bake for 40 mins at 180C/170C Fan/350F/Gas 4.
Uncover for the last 10-15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before turning out and slicing. 

vegetarian Christmas dinner with nut roast
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Refrigerate any left overs and use cold in sandwiches or as a pate.

Suitable for freezing before or after cooking.

Alternative: To make the loaf go further, simply make up an 225g/8oz pack of your preferred vegetarian stuffing mix. Press half of the nut roast mixture into the loaf tin and then spread the stuffing mixture on top. Cover with the remaining nut roast and press down firmly with the back of a spoon. Bake as above, but for an extra 10 minutes.
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Friday, 13 December 2013

Champagne Cocktails

a glass of Champagne cocktail
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Here are three easy-to-make (and easy to drink!) Champagne cocktails that Mr O and I enjoy for special occasions such as Christmas. They can all be made with Cava or any other dry sparkling wine for a cheaper alternative.

Classic Champagne Cocktail 
Serves approx 16 people 

This is family favourite cocktail, which has been passed down to me by my dad. The recipe was a closely guarded secret, until recently, but I persuaded him to let me have the recipe and share it on my blog. It tastes delicious and is easy to drink too much of
  • 1 part/100ml/ ⅓ cup Cognac or Brandy (the cheap stuff is fine!) 
  • 3 parts/300ml/1 cup Cointreau/Triple Sec or any other orange liqueur 
  • 6 parts/600ml/2 cups good quality orange juice
  • Angostura Bitters (optional)
  • Chilled Champagne/Cava 
I serve this when entertaining friends and family, so I make the base up in advance with the brandy, orange liqueur, orange juice and around 10 shakes of bitters in a litre jug - this makes enough for around 16 glasses, using 2 bottles of Champagne/Cava). If you want to make an individual cocktail, use a desert-spoon (10ml) for each part/measure. 

Make the base mixture up and stir well
Pour ⅓ of a glass each. 
Top up each glass with Champagne and enjoy!

Alternatives: The base itself also makes a delicious cocktail served on the rocks.
Try a Granita Champagne Cocktail  in the summer - make the base up as before and freeze in a plastic tub over night (it won't set hard due to the alcohol content). Break up roughly with a fork and fill ½ a Champagne glass each. 
Top up with very well chilled Champagne or Cava.

Bucks Fizz:
  • Chilled Champagne/Cava 
  • Good quality orange juice 
Pour ⅓ to ½ of a glass of orange juice into a Champagne glass, top up with Champagne.
Non alcoholic/virgin version: Mix lemonade/sparkling water & good quality orange juice.

Kir Royale

  • Creme de Cassis (blackcurrant liqueur -  use any other berry liqueur as an alternative)) 
  • Chilled Champagne/Cava 
Pour 1 tbsp of Cassis into the bottom of a Champagne glass. Top up with chilled Champagne and serve.
Non alcoholic/virgin version: Mix lemonade/sparkling water & high-juice blackcurrant cordial.

How to open and pour Champagne
These tips may seem obvious, however I thought they were worth mentioning for those who rarely drink sparkling wines...
  • Make sure that the sparkling wine has been chilled for at least a few hours before opening. 
  • Carefully remove the foil and wire cage, without shaking the bottle.
  • Place a clean tea towel over the bottle. 
  • Grip the bottle under the cloth with one hand, whilst gently twisting and lifting the cork with the other hand over the cloth, until the cork pops. 
  • Leave for a minute before pouring to allow the bubbles to subside.
  • Tip the glass at a slight angle and pour the bottle slowly, to avoid any spillage!
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