Friday, 30 December 2011

Cider Punch

This is a family punch recipe that we always make up for large gatherings, such as New Year's Eve. At first it's quite sweet and fruity, but as people add to it through the evening, it tends to get slightly more intoxicating!

  • 600 ml/ 1 pint pure orange juice
  • 1 litre/1 ¾ pints sweet or dry sparkling cider (hard cider - US)
  • 150 ml/10 tbsp sweet sherry, fruit liqueur or brandy
  • 1 orange sliced
Mix all ingredients together in a jug or bowl.
Serve chilled.

Alternative: To make a warm wassail-style punch, add a good pinch of mixed spice/cinnamon and warm (do not boil) before serving.
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Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Vegetable and Almond Loaf (Vegan)

nut roast with vegetarian Christmas dinner
This is a variation on my traditional Christmas nut roast recipe. This year I added extra vegetables, as suggested by some of my readers, and this worked out really well. This loaf has quite a sweet taste and slices well.

Serves 4-6
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 100g/4oz sweet potato, grated
  • 50g/2oz chestnut mushrooms, grated
  • 175g/7oz almonds, ground or finely chopped 
  • 2-3 slices of wholemeal bread, made into breadcrumbs
  • 100ml (approx) water or vegetable stock
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (I used sage and parsley), or 1 tsp dried herbs
Gently fry the onion in 1 tbsp olive oil, until soft. Then add the sweet potato and mushrooms. 
Cook for a few minutes on a low heat, until softened, stirring regularly.
Stir in the nuts and breadcrumbs and mix well.
Add the herbs and season to taste.
Add the lemon juice and enough stock/water to make a firm but not dry mixture. Add more breadcrumbs or water if needed.
Tip mixture into a greased and lined loaf tin and press down.
Cover tin with foil (uncover for the last 10 minutes).
Bake for 40-50 mins at 180C/170C Fan/350F/Gas 4.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before turning out and slicing. 

Refrigerate any left overs and use cold in sandwiches.

Suitable for freezing before or after cooking.
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Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Last Minute Limoncello Liqueur

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If you want to make a last minute present, try this quick and easy version of Limoncello. You can adjust the alcoholic strength and sweetness, by adding more or less sugar and water to make the syrup.
  • 1½ cups vodka
  • 3-4 unwaxed lemons
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
Gently heat the water and sugar together until dissolved and bring to the boil for 1 minute to make a syrup. 
Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Wash the lemons, then peel the zest with a potato peeler, or zester taking care to peel thinly and avoid the white pith.
Put the zest in a large clean, sterilised jam jar.
Pour the vodka over the zest.
Add the cooled sugar syrup, put the lid on the jar and shake to mix.
Allow to steep for a few days (or up to a week for a stronger lemon flavour). 
Strain through a sieve, coffee filter paper or a piece of muslin, bottle and label.

Alternatives: To make lemon/fruit flavoured vodka, omit the sugar and water.
Change the fruits and spirits used to make different liqueurs - use orange zest and brandy to make Triple Sec, cherries and brandy to make Cherry Brandy etc.

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Friday, 9 December 2011

Aubergine and Feta Dip

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This isn't the prettiest looking dip, but what it lacks in beauty, it makes up for in taste! In Greece it's know as aubergine salad.
Serve as part of a buffet/meze.
  • 1 large aubergine/eggplant
  • 100g/4oz feta cheese
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 25g/1oz olives, chopped (optional)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika (or to taste)
Prick the aubergine all over with a sharp knife (to stop it exploding!).
Grill the aubergine under a hot grill, turning every few minutes, until the skin is black and the aubergine is soft.
Allow to cool and then peel the blacked skin off and discard. Blot the aubergine flesh on kitchen paper to remove excess liquid.
Blend all ingredients together. Blend briefly for a pate-type texture or blend thoroughly if you prefer a smooth dip. 
Sprinkle with a little dried mint, or some fresh, chopped herbs and chill until needed.

Not suitable for freezing.

Alternatives: Try making this dip with roasted butternut squash, sweet potato or cooked and mashed pulses instead of the aubergine.
Omit the cheese for a vegan dip. Pin It

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Dear Santa...

So, it's a week into December and I've only just started Christmas (or Yule as I prefer to call it) shopping...eeek! Apparently, most organised and efficient mums have their presents bought and wrapped, and their cards written and ready to send...but not me, no, I like to wait until we're well into the holiday season until I do all the above (OK, so I just don't get the urge to spend, spend, spend until we're in December!)

Anyway, I've been browsing the internet and have come up with a few vegetarian-friendly gift ideas that either I would like, or I'm thinking about buying for my friends and family.

For the cook in the family...
  • I'm hoping for the River Cottage Veg Every Day! cookbook for myself. Unfortunately, I haven't watched many of the programmes (as it clashed with X Factor!), but from what I've seen and read about the series, and my growing respect for Hugh F-W, I think this will be a good book.
  • If you're going to buy one classic cook book, I can recommend Rose Elliot's New Complete Vegetarian. I received it last Christmas, and it's become a firm favourite.
  • I love colourful cookware, and have had my eye on these Joseph Joseph stacking bowls for quite a while.
For the fashion-conscious veggie...
  • If you love make up, try Urban Decay's cosmetics, including the amazing vegan palette. I received the dangerous palette for Christmas last year and it's lovely.
For the teen veggie...
  • For the veggie twilight fan, get one of these fab vegetarian vampire t-shirts.
  • Find fashionable vegetarian 'leather' shoes, jackets and belts at Vegetarian Shoes.
  • Not necessarily vegetarian, but Blue Banana is my elder daughter's current favourite shop with loads of quirky fashion items.
For the younger veggie...
For the veggie who has everything...
  • Make up a hamper - fill with home made goodies or with shop bought items on a particular theme e.g. Sweet hamper - Goodie Good Stuff sweets, Hotel Chocolat chocolate, veggie Percy Pigs from M&S and some retro sweets,  or veggie essentials - Marmite, Goodlife Worcester sauce, Bookhams vegetarian Parmesan, packs or dried herbs/spices, veggie gravy, veggie jelly crystals etc.
  • Buy something handcrafted, like a vegan tea cup candle from Nyan Nyan or choose from a wide range of original gifts from Veg Etsy (World-Wide).
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Monday, 5 December 2011

Vegetarian buffet ideas

Here are some of our favourite vegetarian buffet/meze/canape ideas which are ideal for parties and picnics (for mums who don't shop at Iceland!)
If catering for large numbers, I generally make up some batches of buffet foods in advance and freeze them. I also make various fresh salads and dips as needed, either the day before or on the day.

Make in advance and freeze:
Halloumi and double potato cakes
Halloumi tarts
Courgette and potato quiches
Falafels
Spinach and cheese pies
Cheese scones
Glamorgan sausages (or use this mixture in puff pastry to make sausage rolls)
Chorizo-type sausages (as above)
Scone-base pizzas
Cheese muffins
Garlic bread/dough balls/pizza (vegan option)
Spinach, pepper and Goat's cheese quiche
Savoury puff pastry tartlets (vegan option)
Quorn kebabs (vegan option)

Make  fresh:
Hummus (vegan)
Tzatziki
Aubergine and feta dip
Pasta salad (vegan option)
Pesto and antipasti tart
Squash, lentil and sweet potato salad
Vegan salads (vegan)
Bulghar wheat salad (vegan option)
Marinated olives (vegan)
Guacamole (vegan)
Mushroom bruschetta (vegan)
Veggie frittata/tortilla
Roasted vegetable salad
Green salad
Rice salad
Greek salad on a stick - a chunk of cucumber, a piece of feta, half a cherry tomato and an olive on a cocktail stick
Potato salad
Jacket potatoes/Potato wedges/Home made chips

Add a few store cupboard standbys:
Veggie cocktail sausages on sticks
Cheese and pineapple on sticks
Crisps
Crackers
Bread sticks
Bread/wraps

Dessert ideas:
Oreo truffles
Tiffin (vegan)
Mini whoopie pies
Mini desserts
Fresh fruit salad

Drinks:
Cider Punch
Champagne cocktails

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Thursday, 1 December 2011

Oreo Truffles

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As it's the 1st of December, I thought I'd start adding some more Christmas-inspired recipes to my blog (here are some of last years' recipes).

This recipe was given to me by a work colleague who generously brought some of these delicious morsels into work to help raise money for Children in Need. I'd never tried them before, but after googling, it seems that Oreo truffles are very popular, especially in the US. They're easy enough for children (or inexperienced cooks) to make, but taste quite wonderful!

These truffles would make a great dessert canape for parties (double the recipe) and I think they'd be a great Christmas gift, the only problem being is that they need to be kept refrigerated due to the mascarpone cheese in them.

Makes about 20
  • 1½ packets (200g/8oz) Oreos (or other biscuits*)
  • 100g/4oz mascarpone or other mild-tasting cream cheese
  • 150g/6oz plain, milk or white chocolate
Put the biscuits in the food processor and blend into crumbs (or put in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin).
Add the cream cheese and blend again to make a firm mixture (add a little more cheese if needed).
Refrigerate for 30-60 minutes, to allow the mixture to firm up.
Roll into small balls using your hands and then chill in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
Melt the chocolate and dip each Oreo ball into the chocolate to cover.
Remove with a fork and drain off the excess chocolate.
Place on greaseproof paper, decorate with sprinkles if wanted and chill until set.

Will keep in the fridge for up to a week.

Alternatives: Add a few drops of flavouring essence to the biscuit mixture such as vanilla, mint, orange, coffee etc.

Oreos may not strictly vegetarian as they may contain non-vegetarian whey...try using other biscuits to make different flavoured truffles (e.g. amaretti, chocolate-chip cookies, shortbread etc) - adjust the amount of mascarpone used to make a firm mixture.

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