Sunday, 15 May 2016

Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms
It's National Vegetarian Week once again, so here's a quick and easy recipe to show you that being veggie isn't all about lentils, and that life certainly is not too short to stuff a mushroom!

These stuffed mushrooms can be eaten as a starter, lunch or main meal, depending on the portion size and what you serve with them.

Serves 3-4 as a starter or lunch (2-3 mushrooms each, depending on size).
  • 8 or 9 large flat mushrooms (Portabello type)
  • 200g/8oz fresh spinach, washed
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  •  a little fresh nutmeg
  • 50g/2oz vegetarian Brie (rind removed), roughly chopped
  • 50g/2oz grated Parmesan-style hard cheese 
Put the spinach into a large bowl. Do not add any water!
Cover with cling film and microwave for 2-3 minutes on high, or until cooked. Allow to cool, then squeeze as much moisture out as possible, and chop or blend roughly.

Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan or griddle and preheat the oven to 180C/170C Fan/Gas 4/350F.
  
Peel the outer skin from the mushrooms and remove the stalks.
Drizzle the mushrooms with a little olive oil and cook for around 5 minutes on a medium-high heat, turning occasionally. Remove from the pan and place in a dish or on a baking tray.

Chop the mushroom stalks finely.
Gently fry the onion and mushroom stalks in a drop of olive oil for a few minutes, then add the garlic, nutmeg and parsley. Cook for a further 2 minutes.
Then add the cooked spinach and cheeses and stir well to combine all of the ingredients.

Top each mushroom with a tablespoon of the spinach mixture (at this point you could chill the mushrooms and re-heat later).

Pop into the oven for 5-10 minutes to heat through.


 meat free Mondays
Serve with salad and bread. Not suitable for freezing.

Top tips: Cook the mushrooms on a barbecue. Top with the pre-made spinach mixture and warm through. These mushrooms would also make a tasty main course served pasta.

Vegan version: Swap the dairy cheeses for your preferred vegan cheese alternatives.

I'm linking this post to the Meat Free Mondays round-up over at Tinned Tomatoes.

 NVWVisit the Kitchen Table!
Celebrate your food, stories and traditions.
National Vegetarian Week 16 - 22 May 2016

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Sunday, 8 May 2016

Freekeh Salad with Pomegranate Molasses Dressing - Suma Blogger's Network

Superfood Salad
This is my first attempt at a superfood salad, and I'm pretty pleased at how well it turned out... It's packed full of protein, fibre and vitamins, but still tastes great!

Thanks to the Suma Blogger's Network, I get to try out lots of weird and wonderful, new vegetarian products. This time, freekeh and pomegranate molasses were amongst my picks. For those of you who don't know, freekeh, pronounced free-ka (young, green wheat which is cracked and roasted), is considered both an ancient grain and a super-grain. It has a high fibre and protein content and is very versatile as it can be served hot or cold in place of other grains such as rice or quinoa.
Pomegranate molasses was a revelation to me, as it was far more tangy and flavoursome than I anticipated (I thought it would be sweet!), and gives a great sweet and sour flavour to a dressing.

Serves 4 as a lunch or side salad; 2 as a main meal

For the salad

  • 1 cup freekeh from Suma
  • 2 cups veg stock
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • ½ teaspoon lightly toasted cumin seeds, ground, more to taste
  • 2 bell peppers,deseeded and cut into chunks
  • 2 cups of butternut squash or sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 cup of button mushrooms, halved
  • 4 tbsp pine nuts
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • a small bunch of chopped, fresh mint
  • ½ cup crumbled feta (optional)

For the dressing

  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses from Suma
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 

Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/Gas 6/400F

Put the peppers and squash into a roasting pan and drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil.
Roast for 20-30 minutes until softened and starting to brown.
Add the mushrooms, chickpeas, pine nuts, cumin seeds and crushed garlic and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for around 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the freekeh and stock into a large pan. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
Simmer, with the lid on, for 20-25 minutes, or until the grain is soft and just starting to break up.
Drain well and allow to cool for around 15 minutes.

Mix the dressing ingredients together and stir into the warm freekeh.

When the freekeh and vegetables are still just warm (but not hot!), mix together to combine.
Add the mint and feta, if using.


Suma Bloggers' Network
Serve warm or cold.

Keeps for up to 3 days in the fridge; not suitable for freezing.

Vegan option: Omit the feta or swap for vegan feta or halved olives.

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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Sunday, 24 April 2016

Fattoush Salad

Fattoush Salad
I've been cooking a lot of Greek and Middle-Eastern food lately, and after a delicious meal out at a Lebanese restaurant, I thought make a maza (a selection dishes to share). This was one of the dishes I prepared, which makes a nice change to a traditional salad.

Serves 4
  • 1 cos or 2 little gem lettuce, shredded
  • a good handful of rocket
  • ½ cucumber, de-seeded and sliced
  • 2-3 ripe tomatoes de-seeded and diced
  • a handful of radishes, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 spring onions (or ½ red onion), sliced
  • 1 large bell pepper, diced
  • a small bunch each of fresh parsley and mint, roughly chopped
  • 1 large or 2 small pittas
  • sumac
dressing
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp sumac
  • 1 small clove of garlic, crushed
Brush the pittas with olive oil; and sprinkle with sumac.
Grill or bake until crispy and golden, then set aside to cool. Break into pieces when cold.

 NCRMix the dressing ingredients together in a bowl. Add in the prepared tomatoes, cucumber, radishes, spring onions and herbs. Stir well to coat. These ingredients can be set aside and chilled until needed.

Before serving, mix in the salad leaves and the roughly crushed, toasted pittas.

Top tip: To make this into a delicious, healthy lunch, simply mix in a tin of drained chickpeas and serve with pitta and your favourite dip.

I'm entering this recipe to this month's No Croutons Required Challenge, co-hosted by Jacqui at Tinned Tomatoes and Lisa at Lisa's Kitchen


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Sunday, 20 March 2016

Hummus - Middle-Eastern Chickpea Dip

I am a little ashamed to admit that I've never made traditional hummus, using dried chickpeas before. Having made this version for my blog, I've been converted! It really does taste better (and is far cheaper) than making it with tinned pulses. Yes, it takes longer to make,but you can make a large batch and freeze in small portions to make it even more economical.

Serves 8 as a starter or meze dish
  • 1 cup dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans), soaked over night with a good pinch of bicarbonate of soda
  • a large pinch of salt
  • juice of 1 lemon (plus the zest for a more lemony flavour)
  • 4 tbsp tahini
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 6-8 tbsp cooking liquid, or more if needed
  • paprika and a glug of extra virgin olive oil to garnish
Drain the soaked chickpeas and put in large pan. Cover with boiled water and a pinch of bicarbonate of soda and bring to a simmer. Simmer, in a covered pan, for 1 hour on a low heat.
When tender, drain the pulses, reserving the cooking liquid.

Whilst still warm, place the chickpeas in a blender with all of the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Add enough of the reserved cooking liquid to make a smooth, spreadable paste. 
Taste and add more seasoning and/or garlic, if needed.
Spoon into a bowl and chill until needed.
Before serving, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with paprika.

Serve with fresh bread, olives and salad.

Suitable for freezing; keeps in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Top tips: Double this recipe to make enough to batch freeze. 
If you don't have the time to make hummus using dried pulses, try my quick and easy recipe instead. You might also like my mixed bean and basil hummus.

Flavour options: Omit the cumin and add some extra ingredients into the blender, along with the chickpeas to make these different variations...
 NCR
  • Red pepper and sweet chilli: Add ½ cup of chopped, roasted red peppers (from a jar) and 1-2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce.
  • Piri piri: Add 1-2 tbsp of your favourite piri piri sauce. 
  • Caramelised onion: Add 2 tbsp of caramelised onion chutney.

I'm entering this recipe to this month's No Croutons Required Challenge, co-hosted by Jacqui at Tinned Tomatoes and Lisa at Lisa's Kitchen

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Saturday, 27 February 2016

Leon, Birmingham - a review

Leon fast food restaurant Birmingham
Although I'd heard of Leon as a brand, I'd never visited one of their restaurants before, so I was quite excited to be offered the chance to experience their take on 'naturally fast food' at their new branch at Birmingham New Street Station.

The Leon restaurant chain was designed to offer something a bit different to other fast food establishments...good, healthy food with Mediterranean flavour.
"...we asked ourselves: why can't fast food be good food? We opened Leon because we wanted to prove that it was possible to serve food that both tastes good and does you good. We want to make it easy for people to eat well on the high street. When we looked around for inspiration, we were drawn to the richness, flavours and natural healthiness of Mediterranean cooking. We base our food around the Mediterranean diet, meaning our menu focuses on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seeds and unrefined cereals." 
sweet potato falafel hot box
Although they only offer a few vegetarian options (including a couple of vegan choices), they all appealed to me. I was particularly pleased to see that they also offer a healthy vegetarian kids' meal, which is a rare occurrence in fast food restaurants. I went for the sweet potato falafel hot box and Miss K opted for the halloumi wrap.

Within a few minutes of ordering, our food was ready. Mine was presented in an attractive box and Miss K's was wrapped in foil. My falafel were topped with grilled red peppers, served on a bed of rice and accompanied by a fresh, herby salad. Miss K's wrap was packed full of grilled halloumi and tasty salad with aioli dressing. We also tried some baked lattice 'fries' and had a bottle of zingy, still lemonade to drink.
Service was polite, friendly and efficient and the restaurant was very bright and clean. The only negative was that the door was left propped open the whole time we were there, which made it quite chilly on a cold, wet day in February!

Leon menu
Of course, using healthy and fresh ingredients costs more than 'junk food' but our two meals with a side and soft drink each, still came in at under £20, which I feel was reasonable for the quality and portion sizes of the food. Our overall experience was very positive. For fast food, our meals looked and tasted really good and both Miss K and I said we would certainly eat there again.

Integrity Statement
I was offered two free meals at Leon, in consideration for a review . All views expressed are genuine.

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Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Gemista; Greek-Style Stuffed Peppers with Potatoes

Gemista, YemistaGemista (pronounced yemista) is one of my favourite Greek vegetarian dishes. It normally consists of a large tomato and a pepper stuffed with a herby rice mixture and baked in the oven. However, it sometimes contains minced beef or pork, so be sure to check before ordering this dish in Greece!

My version is vegan, but it is traditionally served sprinkled with grated cheese.

Serves 4-8 depending on appetite. 

For the peppers
  • 8 small-medium bell peppers
  • 1 cup risotto rice
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • ½ cup water/stock (plus more to top up)
  • ½ cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp each of dried oregano and dill
  • 2 tbsp each of chopped fresh parsley and mint
  • a good pinch of cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp olive oil 
  • Salt and pepper to season
For the potatoes
  • 10-12 small-medium potatoes, peeled and cut into haves or quarters, depending on size
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped or crushed
  • 1 lemon, cut into quarters
  • ½ cup chopped tomatoes
  • ½ cup water/stock
  • ½ cup Kalamata or Halkidiki olives
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/170C Fan/350F/Gas 4

First prepare the peppers, by slicing the tops off (reserve these) and de-seeding.
Place in a large, deep, heat-proof dish.
Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in pan.
Sweat off the onions and garlic for a few minutes on a low heat.
Add the rice and cook for a further 2 minutes.
Add all of the remaining ingredients and stir well.
Simmer with the lid on for around 7-10 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is half cooked. 
Spoon the rice into the raw peppers (they should be about ½-¾ full).
Fill each pepper to just below the top with boiling water or vegetable stock and pop the 'lids' back on the peppers.

Prepare the potatoes and scatter randomly amongst the peppers.
Top the potatoes with the chopped tomatoes and other ingredients.  
Drizzle the peppers and potatoes with the remaining 3 tbsp of olive oil.

Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour. 
Check after an hour to see how tender the potatoes are; turn the potatoes carefully and if not tender, recover and bake for a further 15-20 minutes.
When the potatoes are soft, uncover and cook for a further 15-20 minutes, to colour up.

 Cooking with HerbsServe with a seasonal salad.

Top tip: This recipe is easy to scale up  to serve a large crowd and can be prepared in advance and cooked when needed.

Not suitable for freezing.

I'm linking this post to Karen's latest Cooking with Herbs linky at Lavender & Lovage. 

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Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Warming Winter Vegetable Soup

Warming Winter Vegetable Soup
This warming, winter, vegan soup is packed full of seasonal vegetables and cold-busting ingredients! It's a lovely acid-green colour and tastes great with fresh, crusty bread.

Serves 4
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1-2 large cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • ½ small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped 
  • 1 medium parsnip, peeled and chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • half a head of broccoli (inc. stalks) chopped
  • ½ chilli, de-seeded and sliced
  • 1 tsp fresh/frozen ginger
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • ¼ tsp of garam masala 
  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
Prepare the vegetables and cut into large chunks.
Sweat the onion and garlic in 1 tbsp olive oil for 3-5 minutes.
Add the spices and cook for a further minute.
Add all of the remaining vegetables.
Cover with the stock and bring to a simmer.
Simmer with the lid on for 20-30 minutes, until the vegetables are soft.
Add the coriander leaves and blend to desired consistency.

Garnish with a little extra coriander to serve.

 Credit Crunch MunchSuitable for freezing.

I'm entering this recipe to this month's Credit Crunch Munch , hosted by Fab Food 4 All and Fuss Free Flavours.



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Sunday, 3 January 2016

Packed Lunch Pizzas

So, it's back to school tomorrow, and as Miss K isn't too fond of sandwiches any more, I've made a batch of mini pizzas for her packed lunches.

I've recently been converted to baking with fresh yeast as it makes a softer bread, which stays fresh for longer; I buy my fresh yeast, from Ocado and then freeze it (you might be able to buy it from your local bakery or supermarket), but you can easily substitute it for dried.

Makes 8 small pizzas (each pizza serves two young children or one teen/adult)

  • 1 cup cold water
  • 2 cups strong white bread flour
  • 1 cup strong wholemeal bread flour
  • 12.5g fresh yeast or ½ sachet dried yeast
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp sugar

Toppings

  • tomato puree
  • dried herbs/oregano
  • grated mozzarella
  • olives
  • finely chopped/sliced vegetables

Put all of the dry 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 (or allow dough cycle to run).

Preheat oven to 220C/200C/Gas 7/425F

Divide dough into 8 pieces. Flatten into 7" circles, spaced well apart on greased baking sheets. Spread with tomato puree and sprinkle with dried herbs. Add cheese and toppings and bake for 8-10 minutes.
Place onto a wire rack to cool.

When cool, pack into a freezer bag and freeze until needed.

Simply remove one or more pizzas as required, defrost for 15 minutes at room temperature, slice and pack in your lunchbox.

Vegan option: Swap the mozzarella for your preferred dairy-free, melting cheese.

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Winter Slaw Salad with Apple, Celery & Cucumber

As, I joined in with Veganuary the past couple of years, but then reverted back to being vegetarian pretty soon afterwards, I thought I'd try something a little different this year. Instead of cutting out eggs and dairy, I thought I'd try reducing them instead (alongside meat substitutes), whilst trying to eat more raw/whole foods, fresh fruit & vegetables and pulses...

This seasonal salad is a great way to get an extra one or two portions of fruit and veg in, if served alongside a carb-based main meal.
  • 1 firm eating apple, cored and sliced
  • ½ cucumber, de-seeded and sliced
  • 2 sticks of celery or ½ bulb fennel sliced
  • 25g/1oz chopped walnuts
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise or vegan mayo (or vinaigrette made with 1 dsp olive oil mixed with 1 dsp white wine vinegar)
  • A little fresh, chopped dill or parsley
 NCRPrepare the apple and place in acidified water (a bowl of water with 1 tsp lemon juice), whilst you prepare the other ingredients.
Drain the apple and blot dry with kitchen town.
Place all of the ingredients into a bowl and stir in the mayo or dressing.
Refrigerate until needed

.I'm entering this recipe to this month's No Croutons Required Challenge, co-hosted by Jacqui at Tinned Tomatoes and Lisa at Lisa's Kitchen
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Sunday, 20 December 2015

Rustic Christmas Pies with Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Goat's Cheese - Suma Blogger's Network

These rustic, savoury pies are my vegetarian Christmas Dinner offering this year, and also my last post of the year for the Suma Blogger's Network. Unlike quiches, these individual pies don't involve a custard to hold the roasted vegetables together, and there's no need for pastry cutters or flan dishes to make them look pretty.

They can, of course, be made in advance*, leaving you plenty of time on Christmas Day to prepare all of the other traditional Yuletide trimmings.  I cheated slightly by using time-saving ready-prepared squash, sweet potato and pastry, which bumps the cost up, but you could prepare your own if you are on a budget. Although this recipe serves four, it can easily be adapted to serve one or two, by reducing the ingredients accordingly.

Serves 4
  • 500g/1 lb, 2oz (prepared weight) butternut squash and sweet potato, diced into approx.1-2 cm cubes
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 mild, red chilli, de-seeded and sliced finely (optional)
  • 1 sprig fresh sage, chopped, plus 4 leaves to top the pies
  • 100g/4oz chopped Suma walnuts
  • 50g/2oz dried Suma cranberries
  • 100g/4oz English goat's cheese, sliced into 4 slices
  • 300g/12oz ready made shortcrust pastry**
  • 1 egg, beaten, to glaze (optional)
Preheat the oven to 170C/160C Fan/Gas 3/325F
Drizzle the oil over the chopped squash and sweet potato and roast for 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven, turn and add the diced onion, chopped sage and chilli.
Cook for a further 15 minutes. 
Check if the vegetables are tender and starting to brown. If not, return to the oven for a further 5-10 minutes.
Remove from the oven, mix in the chopped walnuts and cranberries and allow to cool.


Preheat the oven to 200C/190C Fan/Gas 6/400F
Once the roasted vegetables are cool, divide the pastry into 4 and roll out thinly on a floured board to roughly 18cm/7" circles.
Place ¼ of the vegetable mixture into the centre of each circle.
Top with a slice of cheese and a sage leaf.
Fold the edges of the pastry in, to form an open pie.
Brush with beaten egg to glaze (optional), or wrap in grease proof paper and chill until needed.
Place on a greased baking tray and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Serve with all the usual Christmas trimmings.
 Suma Blogger's Network*Can be made in advance and chilled or frozen until needed.
**Swap the shortcrust pastry for puff pastry if you prefer it.


Vegan option: Check that your pastry is vegan...most UK brands are. Omit the cheese, or swap for extra chopped nuts, pine nuts, or your preferred cheese substitute.


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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Thursday, 10 December 2015

Panforte di Siena

In case you've never heard of it, panforte is a traditional, festive Italian spiced fruit and nut cake, served with coffee and liqueurs after a meal. After watching Antonio Carluccio make a panforte on TV last Christmas, I knew it was something I'd have to try making myself.

The traditional recipe is easy to veganise as the only animal-derived ingredient is honey. I've also adapted the recipe to make it gluten free, contain less sugar and use easy-to-find UK ingredients. The resulting cake is still deliciously sweet and tastes something like a cross between a fruit and nut energy bar and Christmas cake! Having made it once, I reckon it would actually be pretty easy to make a raw version. 

Serves 16-20
  • 200g/8oz (combined weight) dried figs and/or pitted dates, roughly chopped
  • 50g/2oz each of raisins, sultanas and currants
  • 1 level tsp mixed (pumpkin pie) spice
  • juice and zest of 2 large oranges and 1 lemon
  • 150g/6oz candied fruit, such as glacé cherries, apple, melon, citrus peel etc.
  • 100g/4oz almonds, lightly toasted
  • 100g/4oz walnuts, lightly toasted
  • 4 tbsp agave, date or golden syrup
  • 4 tbsp gluten-free flour
  • 5 tbsp Vin Santo, dessert wine, amaretto or sweet sherry (I used amaretto)
  • Icing sugar to dust
Heat the oven to 150 C/140 C Fan/Gas 2./300 F; grease and line a loose-bottomed 25cm/10" round cake tin, with grease proof paper.

Toast the nuts, cool and then roughly chop or grind coarsely, depending on the texture you prefer.

Chop the figs or dates roughly and put them in a pan with the other dried and candied fruits.
Add the syrup, wine/liqueur, citrus juice, zest and mixed spice.
Stir together and cook gently for about 10 minutes.
Then add the chopped nuts and flour and mix well.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and press down well.
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

Take out of the oven and leave to cool in the tin.
When cold, sprinkle generously with sifted icing sugar.
Cut into thin slices to serve.

Stores for up to a month in an airtight container.

Find my other vegetarian Christmas recipes here.

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Sunday, 1 November 2015

Halloumi & Mint Whirls

Halloumi & Mint bread rolls
The recipe for these tasty halloumi bread rolls was inspired by one I tried in a Greek restaurant in Sydney, Australia. I don't know the actual recipe used, so I adapted my standard bread recipe and tried out a few variations.

When making a large loaf with raw halloumi, I ended up with a 'soggy bottom'! I found that I needed to cook the cheese first, to remove the excess moisture, and then had to cool it before adding to the dough.
So, I tried adapting my pizza whirl recipe instead, and it worked a treat using raw halloumi, as the moisture could evaporate.

For the bread base
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 3 cups strong white bread flour 
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 sachet fast-action dried yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
For the filling
  • 200g halloumi, finely diced
  • ½ cup chopped fresh mint, or around 2-3 tsp dried mint
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
Put all of 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.

Dust a large board or clean table with a little flour.
Roll the dough into a rectangle, approx 25cm x 40cm. 
Sprinkle the halloumi and mint over, leaving a border at the front and sides.
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 slices approximately 1.5cm thick.
Place on a greased baking sheet, with a little room to expand.
Drizzle with the olive oil.

 Cooking With Herbs
Cover loosely with cling-film or a clean tea towel and allow to rise for a further 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200C/190C Fan/Gas 6 .

Bake for around 10-15 minutes, or until well-risen and golden.
Place onto a wire rack to cool.
Serve warm, with dips, as part of a meze, or instead of a sandwich in a packed lunch.

I'm linking this post to November's Cooking With Herbs challenge

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Sunday, 18 October 2015

Tuscan Vegetable and Bean Stew - Recipe Feature

Tuscan Vegetable and Bean Stew
To me, the name Cranks is synonymous with great tasting, wholesome vegetarian food. You might not know that their first restaurant and deli opened on London’s Carnaby Street in the swinging 60's; those were the days when people were considered to be cranks if they were vegetarian or vegan! Over 50 year later, the brand is still going strong and have a restaurant, Cranks Kitchen, in Devon, published several recipe books, and have recently launched a new, exclusively vegetarian, sandwich range. As a long standing vegetarian, I was amazed and a little humbled that such a well known vegetarian brand would want me to develop a seasonal recipe for them...

This is my economical and vegan adaptation of the traditional Tuscan stew, Pollo alla Cacciatore (hunter's chicken). I know you don't have to hunt very far to find vegetables and pulses in your local supermarket, but I find they work well with the flavours in this recipe and are hearty enough to make this a warming, winter dish.

If you prefer, you can cook this dish in the oven or slow cooker.


Serves 4:
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or crushed 
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 200g/8oz chestnut mushrooms, wiped and halved or quartered 
  • 200g/8oz chantenay carrots, peeled or scrubbed and cut in half vertically 
  • 100g/4oz green beans, trimmed and cut into 5cm pieces
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes (add 1 tbsp tomato purée if you use economy tinned tomatoes)
  • 250ml/1 cup vegan, dry white wine 
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp fresh, chopped parsley
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tin cannellini beans, drained
  • 50g/2oz pitted olives
Heat  the oil in a large saucepan, on a medium heat.
Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook gently for a few minutes, until softened. 
Remove from the heat and sprinkle in a heaped tsp of cornflour. 
Add all of the remaining ingredients (except for the tinned beans and olives), place back on a medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. 
Simmer for 25-30 minutes with the lid on, until the carrots and green beans are almost tender.
Add the tinned beans and olives to the sauce. 
Simmer with the lid off for a further 5-10 minutes, to allow the sauce to thicken slightly 
Remove the bay leaf and sprigs of rosemary before serving. 

 CranksServe with your choice or rice, pasta, potatoes or rustic, crusty bread.

Alternatives: Swap the wine for a vegetable stock, if preferred.

Sponsored Post
I received payment for recipe development and ingredients, from Cranks. All views expressed are genuine.

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Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Custard Creams (Gluten-Free & Vegan) - Suma Blogger's Network

My latest recipe for the Suma Blogger's Network is one I have road -tested, by baking the biscuits with 60 five year olds!

Cookery in primary schools is back on the curriculum with the aim of 'instilling a love of cooking'. As I work in a school, I often get asked to come up with recipes or ideas for our food-related activities. We have to be careful with allergens and various other dietary needs, so I came up with this recipe for Custard Creams. I had to make sure the recipe was easy to make, but it also had to be nut and egg-free, so I thought might as well go the whole hog and make it gluten and dairy-free too!

Having not used gluten-free flour before, I found it was made a slightly less-pliable dough, than wheat flour would; therefore you have to handle it more gently. Once cooked, it produced robust, crispy biscuits, which were easy to handle, so were great for the kids to decorate. Taste-wise, the gluten-free flour gave a courser texture to the biscuits, which was slightly gritty.

Makes 8-10 sandwich biscuits

Biscuit dough

  • 100g/4oz margarine/dairy-free spread
  • 150g/6oz gluten-free flour
  • 100g/4oz caster sugar
  • 50g/2 oz gluten-free custard powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Filling


Preheat the oven to 190C/180C Fan/375F/Gas 5
Cream the spread and sugar together, then beat in the custard powder and vanilla.
Mix in the flour to form a firm dough.
Refrigerate for 15 mins.

Carefully roll the dough out on a lightly floured board, until it is about ½cm thick - if it cracks in places, simply smooth over the dough with your fingers.
Cut out around 16-20 biscuits  with a rectangular cookie cutter (or whatever shape you prefer) and place on a greased baking tray.
Bake for 15 minutes.
Cool on the tray for a few minutes, then remove and place on a wire rack to cool.

When cold, sandwich together with the butter cream...

For the filling
Cream the spread, custard powder and vanilla together.
Slowly beat in the icing sugar, adding 1-2 tsp of boiling water, if needed, to make a thick, spreadable icing .
Spread or pipe the icing onto half of the biscuits.
Sandwich together with the remaining biscuits.

Keep in an airtight box for 2-3 days.
Suitable for freezing. 

Alternatives: 
     Suma Blogger's Network
  • You can make these biscuits with plain wheat flour if preferred; you may need to add a little extra to make a firm cookie dough.
  • If you don't want to sandwich the biscuits together with butter-icing, they can be decorated with glacé icing instead.
  • Make larger biscuits and cook for a few minutes longer, to make gluten-free ice-cream sandwich cookies.
  • Swap the custard powder (in both the cookie dough and icing) for unsweetened cocoa powder to make bourbon biscuits.
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Sunday, 20 September 2015

The Hungry Student Vegetarian Cookbook: A review and giveaway

The Hungry Student Vegetarian Cookbook
My children are growing up way too quickly; Miss O has finished her GCSEs and has started at 6th form college (she's studying for A Levels in English, History, Drama and Art History, if you're interested!) and Miss K has just started her GCSEs in year 10.
If all goes well with their studies, it won't be long until they leave for university. Like most parents, I worry about how well they'll cope in the big, wide world, despite the fact that they have both helped me with shopping, cooking and household chores since they were little (sometimes reluctantly, sometimes willingly!).

With this in mind, I was glad to be able to review The Hungry Student Vegetarian Cookbook, as it seems like a great book to give to vegetarian teenagers or young adults who can cook more than beans on toast, but aren't quite ready for Ottolenghi. The book contains a wide range of cheap and simple to cook dishes, including breakfasts, lunches, main meals and desserts...plus a few cocktails too!
...The Hungry Student Vegetarian shares more than 200 quick and cheap meat-free recipes that are so tasty, even hardened carnivores will keep turning up for dinner. There are also indispensable tips on budgeting, lunchbox ideas, healthy eating and how to get creative with leftovers. All the recipes in this book are balanced for a healthy vegetarian diet, and they each have an affordability stamp to help with budgeting as well as detailed instructions to make them accessible to even the most novice cook. 
I do have a couple of criticisms of the book; one is that most recipes feed four people, rather than one or two; I can't imagine that my girls are going to find three fellow veggies to share food and cooking with, although this would obviously make their living costs much cheaper. The other thing I noticed was that quite a wide array of herbs, spices and curry pastes are suggested in different recipes. I find curry pastes are pretty expensive and don't keep well compared to whole or ground spices, so I'd suggest investing in the basic spices - cumin, coriander, garam masala, turmeric, cinnamon and paprika - rather than buy curry pastes.

Having said that, I love the handy tips at the start of each section, they really are worth reading and set this book apart from other budget-friendly/student cookbooks.



I set 14 year old Miss K the challenge of cooking one of the recipes from the book by herself. She chose the Cheddar burgers with cucumber salsa. These burgers are mainly made from beans, cheese, carrot and onion, so with the salsa and a bread roll, they are budget-friendly and cover all the food groups. Miss K made them easily and with the use of a burger press, they held together well, were simple to cook and tasted really good.

The Hungry Student Vegetarian Cookbook: More Than 200 Quick and Simple Recipes, Published by Spruce, £7.99, www.octopusbooks.co.uk 

I have two copies of the book to give away. Just tell me your favourite cheap-and-cheerful/student dish in a comment below, using the Rafflecopter widget. UK ONLY. Closes midnight Sunday 27th September.

You can find my own student recipe ideas and tips here.

Integrity Statement
I received a complimentary copy of the book for the purpose of this review and two copies to give away. All views expressed are genuine.

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