Saturday, 6 September 2014

Dakos - Greek Bruschetta

Dakos - Greek bruschetta
We recently came back from a lovely holiday in the Chania region of Crete. As always, I've come home wanting to re-create some of the dishes we have eaten on holiday. The first one being dakos/ntakos or Greek bruschetta. This simple starter is traditionally made with barley rusks, but I swapped them for Krisprolls which have a similar texture and are more readily available. You could also use any good, crusty bread such as ciabatta.

The Cretans make these with Greek mizithra cheese, which is a whey cheese generally made from goat's or sheep's milk. I used a soft goat's cheese for the closest taste and texture, but you could use ricotta or crumbled feta instead.
  • 1 pack of dakos rusks or Krisprolls
  • 2 ripe beef tomatoes, quartered (or de-seeded vine tomatoes)
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • ½ tsp Greek oregano
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 150g soft goat's cheese
  • A handful of Greek olives
Briefly blitz together the tomatoes, garlic and oil in a blender for a few seconds (it should be slightly chunky like a salsa). Season to taste.
Spoon the mixture over the rusks/Krisprolls and top with crumbled goat's cheese and an olive. Sprinkle with dried oregano.
Refrigerate for up to 2 hours before serving.

Vegan option: Swap the cheese for a vegan Greek olive paste (check ingredients for anchovies).

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Friday, 5 September 2014

Nectarine & Kiwi Smoothie

We're loving our Optimum 9400 blender and smoothie maker and using it most days. I think one of it's most positive attributes is that it's so quick and easy to clean.
This smoothie is Miss K's latest invention...
  • 1 nectarine, stone removed and quartered
  • 1 kiwi, skinned and quartered
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ½ cup ice
Smoothie benefits: Rich in vitamins C, E and A and a good source of fibre.

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Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Mixed Bean and Basil Hummus - Suma Blogger's Network

Mixed Bean and Basil Hummus
Here's my second post for the Suma Blogger's Network. I decided on a variation on hummus using mixed beans rather than chickpeas, and Italian flavourings instead of the traditional Middle Eastern ones. I must say it worked really well and tastes great with crudites or fresh crusty bread.

  • 1 tin of mixed beans, rinsed and well drained (I used Suma organic mixed beans)
  • a good handful of basil, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 1 tbsp toasted pine nuts
 Suma Blogger's NetworkBlend all ingredients, except for the pine nuts, until smooth. Season to taste.
Drizzle with olive oil and top with the toasted pine nuts.
Chill until needed.
Will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container in the fridge. 

As a member of the Suma Blogger's Network, I will receive a selection of complimentary products from Suma every two months, to use in recipe development, and will blog an original recipe for the Network. 
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Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Hundred Foot Journey - A Book Review and Giveaway

 The Hundred Foot Journey
After reviewing several cook books with narrative content, I was intrigued by the offer of a review copy of The Hundred Foot Journey, which is classed as Foodie Fiction  - a genre new to me. 
Written by Richard C. Morais, The Hundred-Foot Journey has recently been made into a film starring Helen Mirren . The film will be released in the US on 8th August and in the UK on 12th September. It tells the story of a culinary war between a boisterous Indian family who open a restaurant in a sleepy French village opposite a renowned Michelin-starred chef. 
The book tells the life story of Hassan, a budding young Indian chef whose career takes off in a very different direction to the one his family have planned for him, after they move first to England and then to France. There are touching and sometimes tragic scenes, as well as many humorous moments, as Hassan gains recognition for his culinary skills, much to (acclaimed French chef) Mme Mallory's disdain. It is Hassan's journey though, both physical and emotional, which grips the reader and shocks his family. 

Detailed descriptions of the Hassan's ingredients, menus and culinary skills are paramount to the story, however, I must point out (as a vegetarian) that this is not a book for the squeamish, as there are also passages depicting animal slaughter and butchery. I personally would have liked slightly more detail about Hassan's family, culture and the Maison Mumbai restaurant and slightly less about French haute cuisine, but maybe that's just me!

Having read the book, I can't wait to see the film, as I can imagine that Helen Mirren will play the formidable Mme Mallory very well.

Watch the film trailer here...

I have two copies of the book to giveaway (UK only). Just enter on the Rafflecopter widget below and leave me a comment to tell me which you favourite type of cuisine is. Competition ends midnight 24th August '14.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Integrity Statement
I received one copy of the book to review and 2 copies to giveaway.  The views expressed are genuinely those of myself and my family.

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Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Sun-Dried Tomato & Chilli Falafels

We all love falafels, and the great thing about them is that they are cheap to make, a great source of protein and fairly low in fat (depending on how you cook them). I've been experimenting with different variations and found that these went down very well with all of the family.
  • 1 tin of chickpeas, drained
  • 50g/2oz sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp fresh chilli, chopped
  • 1 tbsp of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1-2 slices of wholemeal bread, made into breadcrumbs
Put all of the ingredients, except the breadcrumbs, into a food processor and blend for a minute or so.
Scrape the ingredients down from the sides of the bowl and repeat until you have a fairly smooth mixture.
Add just enough breadcrumbs to form a fairly stiff, but not dry, mixture.
Roll into 10-12 balls and flatten slightly.
Chill in the fridge for around half an hour.

Heat 2 tbsp of the sun-dried tomato oil in a large frying pan, on a medium heat.
Cook the falafels for around 4-5 minutes on each side until lightly browned.

Serve with pittas, salad and your favourite dip or sauce.

Lower-fat alternative: Brush or spray with vegetable oil and bake for 10-15 minutes at 170C/160C Fan/Gas 3/325F, turning once.

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Thursday, 31 July 2014

Blueberry & Raspberry Smoothie

This is the first recipe we (well actually Miss O!) made in our new Optimum 9400 blender. It's a super-easy, but really tasty, chilled fruit smoothie...

Serves 1
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen raspberries
  • ½ cup ice cubes
  • ½ cup apple juice
Lightly crush the ice for a few seconds in the blender.
Add the remaining ingredients and blend on medium-high for 45-60 seconds).
Pour and serve.

Smoothie benefits: Rich in  vitamin C, Vitamin K and fibre. 
Top tips: This smoothie is quite sharp-tasting, so younger children may prefer it sweetened with a drop of agave or date syrup.

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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Optimum 9400 Froothie maker - a review

 Optimum 9400
I was delighted to be asked to become a Brand Ambassador for Froothie, who sell the award-winning Optimum range of professional and domestic juicers and blenders.

One reason that I jumped at the chance to try out the Optimum 9400 blender, is that my daughters both love smoothies. My existing blender can only make 'lumpies' so I generally spend around £5 per week on ready-made cartons of fruit smoothies. I'd love them to drink more smoothies, as I think it's a great way to get 1 or 2 extra portions of fruit (or veg!) into their diets. The great thing about home made smoothies, is that you can use seasonal ingredients to keep costs down and you can omit any ingredients you don't like.

Whilst certainly not cheap at a RRP of £329, the Optimum 9400 is an excellent piece of kit for health-conscious vegetarians, vegans and raw food enthusiasts. In a domestic kitchen, it can be used to make smoothies, hot and cold soups, slushies, sorbets, dairy-free nut and seed milks/butters plus much more.  In fact it has around 15 functions - do check it out on this YouTube clip to see it in action!

On first inspection, the blender looks and feels like a proper, heavy-duty, professional product - which of course it is - as the Optimum range of blenders and juicers are used in many cafes and juice bars. I found the blender really easy to use and importantly, easy to clean too. There are no detachable parts to screw or lock together and the flexible lid just pops on and off. The tamper allows you to stir and scrape the contents of the blender whilst the motor is on; no need to stop, and scrape the contents back down. Once you've made a smoothie, you just fill the jug with hot water and a drop of washing up liquid and blend for a couple of seconds. Tip out the contents, rinse and you're done!

 Buy NowBoth of my teenage daughters have tried out the machine already and have been really impressed with the smoothness of their smoothies and the speed of blending. 
Over the next few months, we will be testing out the Optimum 9400 Froothie maker and blogging our recipe ideas.

Meanwhile, if you'd like to test out the machine with a 30 day money-back guarantee, pop on over to the Froothie website.

Integrity Statement

I received an Optimum 9400 blender to review and to act as a brand ambassador in future posts.
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Saturday, 12 July 2014

Win tickets to London VegfestUK '14

This year's London VegfestUK will be taking place in the Olympia West Halls on the weekend of Sept 27th and 28th 2014.

Vegfest hosts an amazing range of vegetarian/vegan food and drink stalls, kids' activities, talks, cookery demos and workshops, plus meet-and-greet sessions and book signings.

Special guests this year include presenters Amanda Hamilton and Sarah-Jane Honeywell, athletes Brendan Brazier, Patrik Baboumian, Fiona Oakes and Neil Robinson, plus Ms Cupcake founder Melissa Morgan, comedian Andrew O'Neill and Carl Donnelly.

Advance tickets are £10 in advance, currently available on a BUY ONE GET ONE FREE offer (which runs till Aug 23rd) at Children under 16 are admitted free.

I have 2 Sunday tickets to the show to giveaway (these will also admit a family of 4, with 2 children under 16).

To enter, just leave a comment telling me your favourite cook/chef, using the Rafflecopter widget below. Competition closes midnight Sunday 20th July. UK only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway Pin It

Friday, 11 July 2014

Easy Halloumi Cheese Pie

Easy halloumi pie
I've made this recipe before, but last time I made it, I altered it quite a bit and made pastry-less mini-pies! This time, I've more or less stuck to the original recipe...

Eftychia of 'Dream of Cakes' lives in Cyprus and mainly blogs dessert and cake recipes, however she also posts many other delicious Greek recipes, one of them being this amazing halloumi pie. I adapted it slightly this time (using filo rather than puff pastry and swapping the polenta for cornflour), but other than that I followed the recipe.

 Bookmarked RecipesAs you can see, it looks quite impressive when baked, but is really easy to make. It can be served hot, warm or cold and makes a great addition to a meze or a picnic. It also looks good enough to serve for a dinner party or special occasion, slices well and can even be (slightly under) baked in advance and re-heated if needed.

I'm entering this recipe to July's Bookmarked Recipes Challenge over at Tinned Tomatoes.

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Thursday, 3 July 2014

Gigantes Plaki (Butter Beans in Tomato Sauce)

Traditionally, gigantes plaki is made from soaked, dried butter/lima beans and baked in the oven. My quick version relies on tinned beans and is cooked on the hob, but you could make a big batch using dried beans and cook in the slow cooker (boil the beans for 10 minutes before slow cooking). This dish can be serve warm a part of a meze or hot as a main dish with rice or bread.

My version costs around £1 to make, using budget-brand beans and tinned tomatoes. 

Serves 2-4
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, chopped or crushed
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes or around 400g/1 lb chopped fresh tomatoes.
  • 1 tin butter/lima beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh dill
  • ½ tsp sugar, optional
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • a pinch of cinnamon or a small cinnamon stick, optional 
Heat the oil in a pan and saute the onion, carrot and garlic for a few minutes.
Add all of the remaining ingredients, apart from the beans, and stir well.
Cover and simmer on a low heat for 10 minutes. 
Add the beans, stir and simmer (with the lid on)  for a further 10-20 minutes, until the carrots are tender.

 Vegetable Palette
Lower fat alternative: Just use 1 tsp of oil. 
Camping version: Simmer a jar of tomato pasta sauce with a drained tin of butter beans. Serve with warm pittas.

I'm linking this recipe to 'The Vegetable Palette'  over at  A2K - A Seasonal Veg Table.  This month's colour theme is red.

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Friday, 27 June 2014

Vegetable and Chickpea Tagine

This recipe is adapted from one a friend passed on to me from Delicious Magazine. The original recipe included lamb and honey, which I have substituted for extra vegetables and a little sugar. I also reduced the fat content considerably by cutting down on the suggested amounts of olive oil. 

Serves 4-6

Main ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, cut into chunks
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • ½ butternut squash, peeled and de-seeded, and cut into chunks
  • 100g/4oz mushrooms, whole or cut into quarters, depending on size.
  • 100g/4oz green beans, cut into 2" pieces
  • 1 or 2 large white potatoes or small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 400g/16oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 or 3 strips of lemon zest
  • 500ml/1 pt hot vegetable stock
For the chermoula:
  • 2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp harissa paste
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp fresh coriander leaves
  • 1 tbsp fresh mint leaves
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups couscous
  • 2 cups vegetable stock (made with a stock cube and boiling water)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp chermoula
First, make the chermoula by putting all the ingredients into a mini food processor. Blend to a smooth paste, then set aside.

Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large pan. Add the onion, squash and potatoes and fry over a medium heat until just starting to brown. Add the cinnamon, ginger and 2 tablespoons of the chermoula, and cook for a couple of minutes.
Throw in the green beans, mushrooms and chickpeas.
Add the tomatoes, stock and sugar and stir.
Cover the pan and simmer gently for 30-40 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile put the couscous and 2 tsp of the remaining chermoula into heatproof bowl and stir in the boiling water, lemon juice and oil. Cover with cling film and leave for 5 minutes.
Uncover the bowl and fluff up with a fork.

Finally mix the remaining chermoula into the tagine and stir well. Simmer for just a couple more minutes before serving.

Serve with couscous and/or flatbread.

 The Spice Trail
Alternatives: Swap the sugar in the tagine for a handful of chopped, dried apricots. 
Use any combinations of firm vegetables....this would be great way to use up gluts of home-grown vegetables such as courgettes and runner beans.
This recipe also works well with meat substitutes such as Quorn....use your preferred meat-sub instead of the extra vegetables.
You could make this a lower-fat dish by reducing the amount of oil still further, but I feel that as it's a vegan family meal, a glug of good quality olive oil is a good thing!

I'm linking this recipe to The Spice Trail challenge over at Bangers and Mash. This month's theme is cumin.

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Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The cheapest cabin-sized baggage?

 UPPTACKA cabin case
Do excuse this slightly random and not-at-all food-related post, but I've recommended this case on several different forums and thought it would be easier to post here to save repeating myself!

If, like me, you favour budget airlines and independently-booked accommodation over package holidays, you might be interested to know that IKEA currently have a cabin-sized foldable case for just £12 (with a free, Ikea Family Card). Ikea's Upptacka case measures 48cm x 34cm x 20cm, so is well within the hand luggage constraints of all major budget airlines... as far as I know.

Slightly frustratingly (as we tried so hard to find a budget-priced case to fit in with Ryanair's required baggage dimensions), we've used ours twice already and it has ended up in the hold, but has survived to tell the tale! Do label your case though, as if it ends up in the hold it may well be one of several identical cases on the carousel!

Integrity Statement
I purchased this case myself and have not been offered any incentive for a review.

Image courtesy of Ikea.

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Saturday, 21 June 2014

Cinnamon Sugar Mini Muffin Doughnuts

Cinnamon Sugar Mini Muffin Doughnuts
When I saw Michelle from Utterly Scrummy's recipe for these delicious-looking, mini muffin-doughnuts (which are obviously not Duffins!), I just had to make them. They're really simple to make, and taste even better then they look! They have the taste and texture of those mini supermarket doughnuts.

I made a few minor changes to the recipe as follows...

  • I halved the recipe (to make 24) and replaced the cinnamon in the cake mixture with vanilla extract. 
  • To coat the muffins, I mixed 2 tsp of cinnamon with 6 tbsp sugar. 
  • I melted around 4 tbsp butter and after dipping a couple and seeing how much butter each muffin absorbed, I decided to just dip the 'muffin tops' into the butter, but still roll the whole cakes in the cinnamon sugar.

 Bookmarked RecipesI froze half of the batch and took a few out to defrost as and when anyone fancied one. They are best served warm and I found that a 10-15 second blast in the microwave did the job, without affecting the taste or texture.

My next challenge is to make a vegan version, so watch this space!

I'm adding this post to this month's Bookmarked Recipes over on Tinned Tomatoes.

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Monday, 16 June 2014

World Cup Vegetarian Meal Plan!

World Cup Flags

OK, this is a bit of a cash in on the World Cup, as I'm really not a football fan, but as Mr O has suggested that I cook different family meals for the different matches this week, I thought I may as well blog my meal plan!

Meal Planning MondayI'm adding this meal plan to Mrs M's Meal Planning Monday linky.

Here are a few of my previous vegetarian/vegan meal plans:

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Thursday, 12 June 2014

Triple Chocolate Vegan Cookies - Suma Blogger's Network

triple chocolate vegan cookies
This is my first post for the brand new Suma Blogger’s Network, which I'm very proud to be part of.The Network is made up of a collection of vegetarian and vegan bloggers from all over the UK, who will be blogging every couple of months using ingredients from Suma Co-op (wholesale suppliers of a huge range of vegetarian and vegan foods)

Each recipe will be featured both on the individuals' blogs and on the Suma website.

My first recipe is a slightly indulgent one, but one which will hopefully dispel the myth that vegetarians and vegans live on lentils and spinach! 

Makes 10-12 cookies
  • 4oz/1400g plain flour
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, sieved 
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3oz/75g dairy-free margarine/spread
  • 6oz/150g soft, brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp No-Egg (egg replacer) mixed with 1 tbsp water
  • 2oz/50g white, dairy-free chocolate/chocolate chips (I used Organica vegan white chocolate from Suma)
  • 2oz/50g 'milk', dairy-free chocolate/chocolate chips (I used Moo-Free from Suma)
  • 2oz/50g dark, dairy-free chocolate/chocolate chips (I used Plamil chocolate chips from Suma)
a selection of products from Suma
Pre-heat the oven to 170C/160C Fan/325 F/Gas 3 and grease two baking sheets.

Melt the spread on a low heat and allow to cool.
Cream the spread with the syrup and sugar.

Add the remaining dry ingredients (except the chocolate), the egg-replacer and the vanilla
Mix until you have a fairly firm, smooth dough; if the dough is too crumbly, add a little water or dairy-free milk.
Add the chocolate pieces and mix again to distribute them evenly through the dough.

Take dessert-spoonfuls of the mixture and place them, spaced well apart on the baking sheets.
Do not flatten.
Bake for 10-12 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for around 5 minutes before removing and placing on a wire rack to cool.

 Suma Blogger's Network
Will keep for several days in an airtight container. Suitable for freezing. 

Alternatives: Make chocolate-orange or mint-chocolate cookies, by swapping the vanilla extract for orange or mint.

Integrity Statement
As a member of the Suma Blogger's Network, I will receive a selection of complimentary products from Suma every two months, to use in recipe development, and will blog an original recipe for the Network. 

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