Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Fruit & Nut Bars - Suma Blogger's Network

Fruit & Nut Bars
Here's my latest post for the Suma Blogger's Network, which also ties in quite nicely with Veganuary. 

I currently buy a certain brand of fruit and nut bars for healthy snacks, but they're very expensive, so I thought I'd have a go at making my own. I've made a couple of different varieties so far, and found you can mix and match the ingredients, so long as you keep the fruit and nut ratio roughly the same. I used my Optimum 9400 blender to get quite a smooth textured bar, but a normal food processor or blender should work, if you're happy with a chunkier texture.

Makes 6 bars

  • 75g/3oz cashews
  • 50g/2oz dairy-free chocolate or raw chocolate - I used Plamil vegan dark chocolate 
  • 100g/4oz dried dates (or 50g/2oz dates plus 50g/2oz raisins) - I used Suma pitted dates
  • a dash of cinnamon powder, vanilla/mint extract or orange zest to flavour

Blend the nuts briefly, until ground into a fine powder. Remove from the blender. 
Repeat with the chocolate.
Blend the dates with a little cinnamon/flavouring to taste. Scrape out of the blender.
Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix until completely combined into a dough-like consistency.
If the mixture seems very sticky, add more ground nuts, or some unsweetened cocoa powder.

Squeeze together using your hands and place on a sheet of greaseproof paper. Cover with another sheet of paper and roll to approx 1cm thick. Push the edges in with a palette knife to neaten them up.
Chill for 30 mins then cut into 6 bars.
Wrap the individual bars in greaseproof paper and chill until needed, in an airtight box.


Variations: Double the ingredients to make a batch of 12 bars.
Use different combinations of dried fruits and nuts for different flavours and add your choice of flavouring extract. You may need to add more ground nuts, if you use softer dried fruits. If you want to use softer nuts (such as Brazils, walnuts, macadamias or pecans, it's best to mix them half and half with harder nuts such as cashews, hazelnuts or almonds. Toast the nuts gently before grinding for a fuller flavour.
You could also roll the mixture into balls and dust in cocoa powder to make raw, vegan truffles. 

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Sunday, 11 January 2015

A mainly vegan meal plan for Veganuary - Week 2

Well done for making it through week one with me. You may have already seen my new recipe for Rice and Peas...this went down well with all the family. I won't, however, be blogging my Chickpea and Potato Patties recipe, as they fell apart and weren't very tasty! Here's my second weekly Veganuary meal plan. Some of the recipes featured are vegetarian, so you need to select the vegan options in each recipe.

Monday: Aloo parathas and tarka dal
Tuesday: Gigantes Plaki (Butter Beans in Tomato Sauce) with salad and pitta - double recipe to serve 4 as a main course
Wednesday: Shepherdess Pie with green vegetables - use vegan alternatives for mashed potato.
Thursday:Jambalaya
Friday: Sloppy Joes with corn on the cob and sweet potato chips/fries
Saturday: Spinach and Basil Tofu Cannelloni - recipe to follow
Sunday: Champignons et Légumes au Vin (Mushrooms & Vegetables in a Red Wine Sauce) with roasted potatoes and parsnips.

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Saturday, 10 January 2015

Rice & Peas with Jerk Mushrooms

I must admit I have never eaten real Jamaican rice 'n' peas, so I do apologise if this version isn't quite traditional. It does taste good though; it's cheap and easy to make and it's vegan!

Serves 3-4

For the rice
  • 1 can gungo/pigeon peas or red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup of long grain rice, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 fresh chilli, finely sliced/chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 cups of coconut milk (or use 1 can and make up to 2 cups/450ml)
  • salt and black pepper
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a large pan. Gently fry the onion until soft. Add the chilli and garlic and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
Add the rice and stir.
Add all of the remaining ingredients (except the peas/beans) and mix together. Bring to a simmer then cover the pan and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes. Add the beans and stir.
Cook with the lid on, for a further 5 minutes.
Turn off the heat and allow to continue steaming whilst you cook the mushrooms...

For the jerk mushrooms

  • 450g/1lb chestnut or white mushrooms, quartered
  • 2-3 tsp jerk seasoning (add more/less to taste)
  • 4 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 2-4 tbsp water

Sauté the mushrooms in 1 tbsp vegetable oil for a few minutes, until starting to brown.
Reduce the heat and add the seasoning. Cook for a further minute.
Finally add the tomato ketchup and water and stir again (add a little extra water for a thinner sauce). Taste and add more jerk seasoning if needed.
Cook for another minute or so.

Serve the rice topped with the jerk mushrooms.

Vegetarian option: Swap the mushrooms for meat-free/Quorn chicken-style pieces, if you prefer.
Extra veg option: Add a cup of frozen vegetables (peas, sweetcorn, green beans etc.) to the rice when you add the peas/beans. 
Child-friendly option:  For younger children, or those who don't like spicy food, omit the fresh chilli, remove their portion of rice and peas and then spice up the remaining rice with a good sprinkle of cayenne pepper. Just add a pinch of jerk seasoning to the mushrooms at first, remove their portion and then add the remaining seasoning.
 Credit Crunch Munch
I'm adding this recipe to the Credit Crunch Munch, created by Helen and Camilla and hosted this month by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours.

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Sunday, 4 January 2015

A mainly vegan meal plan for Veganuary - Week 1

Here's this week's Veganuary meal plan. It's mainly vegan, but my family might want to top some of their dishes with a bit of cheese or add some Quorn. If you're going completely vegan, then select the egg and dairy-free options in each recipe.

Monday: Vegetarian chilli in tortilla bowls (check wrap ingredients)
Tuesday: Potato & chickpea patties - recipe to follow, with roasted vegetables
Wednesday: Mixed vegetable curry with rice and naan
Thursday: Parsnip & carrot soup with fresh bread
Friday: Rice & peas with jerk mushrooms (or jerk meat-free chicken-style pieces) - recipe to follow
Saturday: Spicy vegetable & bean burgers with sweet potato chips (shop-bought, frozen are fine!) and vegan coleslaw
Sunday: Pasta with Greek tomato sauce, vegan garlic bread and salad


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Friday, 2 January 2015

Aubergine, Bean & Pepper Casserole

Aubergine, Bean & Pepper Casserole
Here's the first of my Veganuary recipes for the year. I wanted to make a really simple, but tasty, Greek-inspired dish for those new to vegan cooking. The secret to this dish is baking it in the oven but if you want a faster version, ready in less than 30 minutes, you can also cook it on the hob.

Serves 4

  • 1 medium-large aubergine/eggplant, sliced about 1cm thick
  • 2 large bell peppers (any colour), halved, de-seeded, and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced or sliced
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes, or around 500g/1lb very ripe chopped fresh tomatoes 
  • 200ml/¾ cup boiled water or hot vegetable stock
  • 100g/4oz/1 cup of drained, tinned pulses such as cannellini beans or butter beans 
  • 1 mild-medium chilli, de-seeded and finely sliced
  • 1 tsp of dried oregano
  • 1 tsp sugar, optional
  • a handful of fresh chopped mint and parsley (about 1 tbsp of each)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/170C Fan/350F/Gas 4*

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan (medium-high heat) and cook half of the aubergine slices on both sides for a few minutes, until soft and golden brown. Remove from the pan and repeat with the other half. Keep the cooked aubergine to one side. Once cooked and cooled slightly, chop the aubergine slices into quarters - This is best done after cooking, to ensure that the aubergine is cooked through evenly.

Turn down the heat to medium and add a further tbsp of oil to the pan. Gently sauté the peppers and onion for a few minutes. Then add the chilli and garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes. 

Add all of the remaining ingredients (including the cooked aubergine) and bring to a simmer. 

*If you're in a hurry, reduce the amount of water/stock by half and cover the pan. Simmer for around 10 minutes, instead of baking. 

 Extra VegIf you have time, pour the vegetables into a heat-proof dish, cover with foil and bake for 1 hour. Uncover for the last 10 minutes for a thicker sauce.

Serve with fresh pitta bread, potatoes, rice or pasta.

Vegetarian option: crumble 100g of feta cheese over the casserole before the final 10 minutes cooking time. 
Substitutes: If you don't like aubergine, swap it for 200g/8oz mushrooms or 2 medium courgettes/zucchini.  

 Credit Crunch MunchI'm linking this post up to this month's Extra Veg Challenge, created by Fuss Free Flavours and Utterly Scrummy and to the Credit Crunch Munch  also hosted by Helen at  Fuss Free Flavours.

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Thursday, 1 January 2015

Happy New Year and welcome to Veganuary 2015

 Veganuary - find out more
Happy New Year! You may remember that last year, I discovered Veganuary for the first time. As a non-vegan vegetarian, I often find I'm in the firing line from both meat-eaters and vegans, as to what my family eat and why we do so.  In case you don't know, I've been vegetarian for over 20 years, Mr O eats meat occasionally - but I won't buy or cook it - and both of our daughters have been raised as vegetarians from conception! 

As an ethical, rather than heath-led veggie, I am obviously aware that a vegetarian diet isn't perfect when it comes to avoiding cruelty to animals, but as a family we try to minimise our egg and honey consumption, leather and silk purchases, and avoid products tested on animals and animal-based entertainment (zoos/racing/circuses etc.). Our one big downfall is cheese, although I must say that since last January, I definitely buy less diary cheese than I did before.

 For those of you who haven't discovered Veganuary before:
"Veganuary aims to reduce the suffering of animals by inspiring and supporting people across the globe to go vegan for the month of January. For most, a love of animals is the catalyst. Some people want to feel better about themselves and the impact they make on the world. Others would like to set themselves a challenge, and many combine Veganuary with their ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ and see trying vegan as the healthiest start to the year. Whatever your reason, we’re here to support you. So try vegan for a month and discover a whole new world of taste and flavour. We guarantee that, by the end of the January, you’ll feel fantastic! Sign up today."
Although I didn't quite manage to stay completely vegan for the month last year, I made a concerted effort to reduce my family's dairy/cheese and egg consumption. I will admit that I found it tough at times, but it was a good experience, and one I am willing to try again. I currently have some cheese left over from Christmas to finish off, but after that has gone, I'm going to attempt a full vegan month. The rest of the family may have some cheese/dairy and the odd Quorn product, so I'll be keeping vegetarian options in my new Veganauary recipes.

I'm actually thinking of doing a 5:2 kind of meal plan for the family, whereby weekday meals are vegan and weekend meal are vegetarian or have a vegetarian option. That way if I fall off the vegan wagon, I know I can get back on the following Monday!

For anyone joining in with Veganuary, there's a great list of vegan pantry essentials for both the UK and the USA, which give dairy and egg-free alternatives to many common non-vegan cooking ingredients.

I you're thinking of joining in the Veganuary challenge, I'd love your support, so do drop me a comment either here or on Facebook, with your encouragement, tips, recipe ideas or questions.

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Thursday, 18 December 2014

Dutch Apple Tart (Appeltaart)


Dutch Apple Tart
I first tried appeltaart in Holland earlier this year and loved it. It's not traditionally served at Christmas, but I think it makes a good alternative to either Christmas pudding or mince pies.

Although I'm not very good at making pastry, this sweet pastry is quite forgiving, as you can just smooth over any holes or bumps, and you don't need to bake it blind. I've tried out two different versions; one with the traditional butter and egg enriched pastry and one with a vegan pastry. Both turned out well, so use which ever recipe you prefer.

Serves 8

Enriched pastry
  • 200g/8oz sr flour
  • 100g/4oz chilled block butter
  • 100g/4oz sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
Vegan pastry
  • 200g/8oz SR flour
  • 100g/4oz chilled vegan/dairy-free spread/butter
  • 100g/4oz sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
Filling
  • 1 kg/2 lbs cooking apples (unpeeled weight)
  • 50g/2oz soft brown sugar
  • 75g/3oz raisins/sultanas/mixed dried fruits
  • ½ tsp each cinnamon and mixed spice
  • 2 tbsp custard powder
Make the pastry by rubbing the dairy-free spread or butter into the flour. Add the sugar and cinnamon and either an egg or a splash of dairy-free milk or water to bind. This should make a soft, but not sticky dough, so add a touch more flour if the mixture is sticky.

Chill pastry for 30-60 minutes.

Grease a loose-bottomed round 7"/18cm cake tin.
On a well-floured board, roll out the pastry to around ½ cm thick.
Cut out a circle of pastry to fit the base (use the base of the tin as a template).
Put the circle of pastry into the bottom of the tin.

Re-roll the pastry and cut 3"/7.5 cm wide strips to fit around the sides of the tin; I did this in 2 sections. Join the pastry sides to the base, by gently smoothing them together with your hands, so that no gaps can be seen. Save any scraps for later.

Peel, quarter and slice the apples, fairly thinly.
Mix the apples, dried fruit, sugar, spices and custard powder together in a large bowl.
Tip as much of the fruit as possible into the (raw) pastry case - you should have a slight dome of fruit in the centre as it will sink a little after cooking. Press down lightly.

With any scraps of pastry, roll thin strips and criss-cross these across the top of the tart. 

Bake at 190C/180C Fan/Gas 5/375 f for 50 mins-1 hour, until the apples are browning and the pastry looks quite a dark golden-brown.
Sprinkle with an extra 1 tsp sugar when it comes out of the oven.
Allow to cool in the tin for 30 minutes before removing. Serve warm or cold. 

Suitable for freezing.


Dutch Apple Tart
Christmas/luxury version: 
Soak the dried fruits (or a mixture of luxury dried fruits and flaked almonds) in 2 tbsp brandy for at least 2 hours. Add 4 tbsp of custard powder to the apple mixture, to soak up the extra juices. 

Cut out holly leaves from the pastry scraps and lay these on top of the apple. 
Bake as above.

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Saturday, 6 December 2014

Chestnut and Vegetable Lattice Bakes

Chestnut and Vegetable Lattice Bakes
This is my latest Christmas Dinner recipe, for those who want something a little different from a nut roast but don't want to resort to meat substitutes. I made two different versions of these individual lattice bakes; one to my taste and one for the rest of the family. I love the combination of sweet vegetables and fruits together, so mine contained mushrooms, sweet potato and cranberries. The others hate that sort of combo, so I cooked theirs with mushrooms, white potato, celery and no cranberries!

If you don't want to make these lattices which have quite a chunky filling, you can blend the mixture to fill sausage rolls or to make a nut roast.
If you haven't cooked with chestnuts before, it's worth trying them out. On their own they have quite a strange, slightly sweet taste, but they add a great depth of flavour and texture to vegetarian and vegan dishes.

Makes 4 individual bakes or around 20 small sausage rolls.
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 100g/4oz cooked chestnuts, roughly chopped. I used Merchant Gourmet vacuum packed chestnuts.
  • 100g/4oz mushrooms, chopped
  • 50g/2oz walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 50g/2oz macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium sweet potato (swap for 2 medium parsnips, 1 large, white baking potato or a mixture of chopped root vegetables), peeled and diced into 1cm chunks- approx 200g/8oz peeled weight
  • 25-50g dried cranberries, optional (for the more savoury version, use 2 sticks of chopped celery, or just omit the cranberries)
  • 1-2 tsp dried sage or 2-4 tsp chopped fresh sage, to taste
  • nutmeg and black pepper to season
  • 1 pack of ready rolled puff pastry
Heat the oven to 190C/180C Fan/Gas 5/375F.
Drizzle your chosen root vegetable/s in olive oil and roast for around 30 minutes until golden brown and soft, turning once or twice.
Meanwhile, heat a drop of olive oil in a large pan and soften the onions. Add the mushrooms and celery (if using). Cook down to evaporate most of the moisture.
Remove from the heat and add the remaining ingredients (except the pastry!).
Season and add sage to taste.
Remove the root vegetable/s from the oven and crush/mash lightly, so that you still have recognisable lumps of vegetable. Turn the oven up to 210C/200C Fan/Gas 6/400F
Mix all ingredients together.

*At this point you can decide whether to blend the ingredients, to make a nut roast or sausage roll mixture.

If making the lattices, cut the pastry into 4 equal pieces.
Cut 8 lines into the outer thirds of the pastry (see photo).
Spoon a good 2-3 tbsp of mixture along the middle of each piece of pastry, and press down to form an oval mound.
Dampen the edges of the pastry and cross over the first 4 strips from each side alternately. Repeat from the other end of the lattice, so that you end up crossing the last strips over in the centre.
Brush with oil and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown.

*Alternative cooking instructions: If making sausage rolls, reduce the cooking time to 20-25 mins.
If making a nut roast, blend the mixture, tip 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. 
Freezing: If you want to make any of these in advance and freeze them. Slightly under cook and allow to cool. Wrap in foil and freeze. Defrost completely before re-heating. 

For more Christmas recipes, including exclusive step-by-step videos from Alex Mackay, and details of the full product range visit merchant-gourmet.com

I received some complimentary Merchant Gourmet products for recipe development. All views expressed are genuine. 
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Thursday, 4 December 2014

The Great Veggie Christmas Gift Guide & Give Away

I'm sure Yule love my seasonal gift guide! I've included several products which I have reviewed over the year, plus some of my other favourite goodies. Of course it wouldn't be fair for me to tempt you with all these lovely things, without offering something in return, so I have a massive give-away for one lucky reader....read on to find out what you could win!

Books for foodies

I've been lucky enough to review some fabulous new books this year. One of my favourites being Fragrant Heart by Miranda Emmerson, which is a memoir and travelogue of Miranda's time spent travelling through S.E Asia. Although this is not a cook book, each chapter ends with one or two recipes from the region, with both a meat-based and a vegetarian version of each recipe. 

I also really enjoyed reading The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C Morais which 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.This book has since been dramatised into a film starring Helen Mirren.

Gaia's Feasts by Julia Ponsonby (and friends at Schumacher College) is one of the latest cook books which I've reviewed. It features a collection of simple-to-follow, healthy vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free recipes. This is an ideal book for those catering for large numbers of friends and family over the festive period, as each recipe is adapted to serve either a family of 4-6 people or up to 50 people! If you cook for a community group or run your own catering business, this would be the ideal book for you. I have a copy of this great book to give away
In case you don't win, I also have a SPECIAL OFFER for you: You can get your hands on your own copy of Gaia's Feasts for just £13.99 (30% off the RRP) and free delivery in the UK using this exclusive voucher code: WDEAWAF14 at Green Books. Offer valid 2nd December to 17th December 2014.

Stocking fillers and other gifts

I love these political slogan tea towels from The Radical Tea Towel Company. I have one with a fabulous vegetarian quote from Einstein on it and have an identical one to give away. The tea towels are great quality and are sure to raise a smile with the lucky recipient. They also do aprons, bags, Christmas cards and other political gifts, so if you know a radical feminist, staunch environmentalist or even a verdant vegetarian, do take a look at their quirky and original range of products!

As a Suma blogger, I've had the chance to test out lots of delicious Suma products, but didn't realise until recently, that they also do a lovely range of toiletries. I had the chance to try out 2 of

their natural handmade, vegan soap bars, which both smelt and looked amazing as they are packed full of botanical ingredients. Even better than that I have the whole range of 12 fragrant soaps to give away. If you aren't lucky enough to win them, they retail at a very reasonable RRP of under £2 per brand are totally palm free and BUAV approved. Available from many high street health food stores.

You may remember my review for Crystal Spring deodorants earlier in the year? Well, the company who have been trading for over 20 years, also stock a fabulous range of skin care and home fragrance products, starting just £3.50 for the travel sized toiletries. I particularly like the look of their natural candles and bath milk, both of which are on offer at the moment, with 50% off.  All of their natural beauty products are clearly labelled and beautifully packaged. Available from Crystal Sping and health food stores. I have one sweet orange candle to give away.




The Ethicoco Vegan Organic Chocolate Company is a recent discovery of mine. Ethicoco make four varieties of bean-to-bar vegan chocolate, all of which are soy free, dairy free and and nut free.These include: Ecuadorian with Oat Milk, Ecuadorian with Oat Milk and Raisins, Peruvian Dark Chocolate and Peruvian Dark Chocolate with Cranberries, The bars cost between £2.99 and £3.99 each. I have 4 bars (one of each variety) to give away.

Luxury Gifts

I must say that I've been really impressed with my Optimum 9400 professional blender. It really has put my old blender to shame! Although it certainly is a luxury product and not within everyone's budget, I would say it's worth the investment if you make your own nut milks & butters, soups and smoothies on a regular basis. I have been amazed at the way it blitzes whole nuts in seconds and turns a selection of slightly-past-it fruits into a delicious (smooth!) smoothie.

So just to surmise, one lucky, random person will win all of the following prizes:

  • 1 copy of Gaia's Feasts
  • 1 Radical Tea Towel  Company vegetarian tea towel 
  • 12 handmade Suma soaps
  • 1 Crystal Spring candle
  • 4 bars of Ethicoco vegan chocolate
  • ...and a partridge in a pear tree (or maybe not!) 
Just enter with the Rafflecopter widget below and leave me a comment to tell me what you hope Father Christmas will be bringing you this year! UK ONLY, competition ends midnight Friday 12th December. The more entries you make, the greater chance you have of winning! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This is an advertorial feature, featuring some products which I have reviewed over the year, plus some which I have been offered to give away in return for a mention in my gift guide. However, all views expressed are genuine.
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Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Gaia's Feasts - A Review, a Recipe and a Special Offer

 Gaia's Feasts
As I'm sure you know, I love cookbooks, so I jumped at the chance to review a copy of Gaia's Feasts, by Julia Ponsonby. This book is quite different to most cookbooks, as each recipe is formatted to make either a family meal or a feast for up to 50!
"Filled with delicious recipes and mouth-watering pictures, this book is a must-have for anyone who loves exciting, tasty and original vegetarian food. Alongside the quantities needed for cooking for a group of 4-6 family members or friends, Gaia’s Feasts offers the unique option of scaling up the recipes in order to cook for groups as big as 50, making it ideal for large family gatherings or community events."
The recipes featured in Gaia's Feasts also follow several key themes, including:

  • Food and the environment
  • Slow Food and Local Food movement
  • A celebration of food

There is a good balance of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free recipes (plus handy tips and variations), mainly based around cheap and easy-to-find, wholesome ingredients. I have tried out a couple of recipes from the book and both turned out looking pretty much like the illustrations in the book, which is a good sign that quantities and cooking times are reliable. 

SPECIAL OFFER: You can get your hands on your own copy of Gaia's Feasts for just £13.99 (30% off the RRP) and free delivery in the UK using this exclusive voucher code: WDEAWAF14 at Green Books. Offer valid 2nd December to 17th December 2014.

My family all enjoyed the following Walnut and Fig Loaf (although I swapped the figs for cranberries as suggested as an option in the recipe). This slightly sweet and nutty loaf would be great with cold Christmas left overs such as nut loaf, salad and cheeses...


Walnut & fig (or cranberry or apricot) bread

Ruth Rae’s light brown, fruit-and-nut dappled bread is delicious with cheese and can also be served at teatime with jam and honey. It also provides the opportunity to experiment with a little decorative knife work – which is something Ruth is well practised at! Simply cut through the floured surface of the rising bread using a sharp knife (which could be serrated or just very sharp – some people use a scalpel). You’ll also need swift, confident strokes – and a clear, simple concept.

For 1 loaf                                                                                       For 6 round loaves

300g (10oz / 2 cups) strong white flour                                        1.8kg (4lb)
150g (6oz / 1¼ cups) wholewheat flour                                        900g (2lb)
55g (2oz / ½ cup) golden walnuts                                                 350g (12oz / 3 cups)
85g (3oz / ½ cup) dried figs (or dried cranberries or apricots) 500g (1lb / 3 cups)
1 tsp dried yeast or 10g (1/3-½oz / 2 tsp) fresh yeast                2 tbsp dried or 75g (2½oz) fresh
300ml (10fl oz / 1 cup + 2 tsp) warm water                                 1.5l (2¾ pints / 3½ US pints)
1-2 tbsp olive or sunflower oil                                                       100ml (3-4fl oz / ½ cup)
1 tsp molasses                                                                               2 tbsp
1 tsp salt                                                                                          2 tbsp


1. Preparing the fruit and nuts: Just cover the dried fruit with hot water and soak for 30 minutes (figs or apricots) or 10 minutes (cranberries). Meanwhile, chop the walnuts roughly with a knife – each walnut half will go into about 4-6 pieces. After soaking, drain the softened fruit, reserving the water to go into the dough. Chop the figs or apricots) into small chunky pieces (about 1cm / ½" wide). Remove the woody stalk part of the figs if it’s tough.
2. Measure 250ml (9fl oz / 1 cup) of warm water into a jug and stir in the molasses and the dried or crumbled fresh yeast. If using dried yeast, leave to froth up; with the fresh yeast, simply stir until dissolved. Easy-bake or fast-acting yeast can go in with the flour or with the water.
3. In a large bowl, combine the flours, salt, and chopped fruit and nuts.
4. Stir in the yeasty water, the rest of the warm water and the oil. Mix until you have a soft dough and all the ingredients are evenly distributed. Knead gently on a floured surface or in the bowl for a few minutes until fairly smooth, then return to the bowl to rise. Using a (dedicated) plant mister, spray the top with water to prevent it drying out, or cover the bowl loosely with a lid or tea towel. Leave to rise in a warm place for an hour.
5. When the dough has doubled in size, tip it on to a lightly floured surface and ‘knock back’. Knead lightly and then divide into 6 if you are making the large quantity, then knead each ball again. Shape into rounds or ovals. Keep the joints at the bottom and make sure the top skin has not been over-stretched: if there is any sign of surface splitting, loosen it with a little gentle rocking, or let it rest and then knead again in a few minutes, being careful not to shape it too tightly.
6. Place the round cushions of dough on a baking tray, either floured or lined with baking parchment. If you’re making more than one loaf, they should be placed about the width of your hand apart, to allow for spreading as they rise. Spray (or paint) with water and dredge with flour for a dusty finish. Use a sharp knife to cut a few criss-crossed lines at 2-3cm (1") intervals and about 2-3mm (1/8") deep – these will open up as the bread rises, creating an attractive textural contrast. Ruth also likes to cut a simple leaf-vein or ‘winter tree’ design into her loaves – a real classic for artisan bakers. Leave the bread to rise in a warm place for about 40 minutes.
7. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F / Gas Mark 4), 10 minutes before the bread is ready to go in.
8. When ready to go in the oven, the bread will have doubled in size. If you press it with a finger, the dough will be slow to spring back. Any sign of dimpling on the surface means it has over-risen, so rush it into the oven. It is better to put it in the oven when still – just – on the rise, so that its last burst of rising is stimulated by the heat of the oven. Bake mid-oven for about 45 minutes. Test by turning over and knocking: the loaf should sound hollow. Cool on a wire rack.

Recipe used with kind permission from Gaia's Feasts, by Julia Ponsonby, published by Green Books. 
I received a complimentary copy of Gaia's Feasts to review. All views expressed are my own and those of my family.
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Saturday, 22 November 2014

Caramelised Roast Parsnips

Caramelised Roast Parsnips
This is my vegan version of honey roasted parsnip's, made without the honey! I absolutely love roasted parsnips but, unfortunately, none of the family do, so I make the full quantity below and freeze any left overs for another meal...or eat them cold the next day!

Serves 2-4 as a side dish.
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons soft brown sugar
  • 1lb/450g parsnips, peeled weight
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp fresh chopped Rosemary
Heat oven to 190C/180C fan.
Peel the parsnips, cut into halves or quarters, and remove the woody cores if the parsnips are large. Cut into thick batons.
Place oil and sugar in a roasting pan and mix together. Add the parsnips and coat with the mixture. Season with black pepper and sprinkle the chopped rosemary over.
Cover tightly with foil and roast for 30 minutes.
Remove the foil carefully (to allow the steam to escape) and turn the parsnips gently, so that they don't break up too much.
Roast the parsnips, uncovered, for a further 10-15 minutes until lightly browned.
Serve with Christmas Dinner.

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Thursday, 13 November 2014

Turkish Beans with Lemon & Herbs

Turkish Beans with Lemon & Herbs
After cooking my meat-free Coq au Vin, I had plenty of carrots, celery and parsley left, so I came up with this Turkish-inspired recipe. I used 2 lemons the first time I made it, which Mr O and I loved, but the girls said it was too lemony; so I cooked it with just one lemon second time around, which they preferred.

Serves 2-3 as a main course, 4-6 as a side dish.
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced finely
  • 100g/4oz green beans, sliced in 2-3cm pieces
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 sticks of celery, de-stringed and sliced 
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped or crushed
  • 1 tin of chickpeas/garbanzo beans or other pulses, drained and rinsed
  • 1 green chilli, finely sliced or chopped
  • Juice and zest of 1 or 2 lemons (depending on how lemony you like your food!)
  • 100ml/4floz vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp chopped, fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp chopped, fresh dill
Heat the oil in a large pan, on a medium heat.
Add the onion and garlic and cook gently for a few minutes, then add the carrots, celery and green beans. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
Add the stock, chilli and herbs and stir.
Cover and simmer on a low-medium heat for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are almost cooked. Add the lemon juice and zest along with the tinned pulses.
Cover and cook for a further 5-10 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
Serve hot, warm or cold (as a salad).

I'm linking this post up to the this month's Extra Veg Challenge, created by Fuss Free Flavours and Utterly Scrummy. 
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Thursday, 6 November 2014

Champignons et Légumes au Vin (Mushrooms & Vegetables in a Red Wine Sauce)

I was left in charge of cooking a vegetarian/vegan version of Coq au Vin for a dinner party with friends. Only 3 of us were veggie, but I made enough to serve 4-6 as I knew the meaties would want to try some too! I've stuck pretty well to the original classic French version, but bulked the casserole out with extra mushrooms and vegetables.

I think this meal is tasty enough to work as a vegan Christmas dinner alternative, especially as it can be prepared in advance and will go with all the traditional Christmas dinner vegetables.You could serve it as it is, as a pie filling, or even in a giant Yorkshire pudding! 

Serves 4-6
  • 2 cups/500ml full-bodied vegan red wine (for a lighter version, use white wine, cider or half wine/half vegetable stock)
  • 4 medium carrots, thickly sliced
  • 4 celery sticks, de-stringed and thickly sliced
  • 20 baby onions or small shallots, peeled but left whole 
  • 1lb/450g button mushrooms (or mixed, chopped mushrooms), wiped
  • 1 small clove of garlic, crushed
  • 2 or 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp chopped, fresh parsley
  • a sprig or two of fresh thyme and/or rosemary
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
Heat the olive oil in a large pan, on a medium heat. Add the onions and saute for around 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.
Add the rest of the vegetables, garlic, herbs and seasonings and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
Stir in the flour and coat the vegetables. 
Pour in the wine slowly, stirring all the time and bring to the boil to thicken the sauce.
Turn the heat down and simmer, with the lid on, for around 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. 

Add a little extra wine or stock if the sauce becomes too thick.

Serve with roasted potatoes and parsnips and/or seasonal vegetables.

Money-saving tip: I used baby onions and button mushrooms as they look appealing, but it's much cheaper to use 'big veg.' instead. You could add pretty much any combination of root or firm vegetables in this recipe, such as green beans, potatoes or squash.

Protein alternatives: As I've removed the chicken from this recipe, it doesn't contain very much protein. To replace the protein, reduce the amount of vegetables slightly and add 4-6 chicken-style meat-free fillets (after you have added the wine), or a drained tin of pulses or pack of cooked, whole chestnuts (10 minutes before serving).
Cooking with Herbs Lavender and Lovage
Alcohol-free option: If you avoid alcohol for religious reasons, simply swap it for a good, rich vegetable stock and add some extra herbs and garlic.

I'm adding this recipe to Carole's Chatter: Low Carb Dinners and Lavender & Lovage's Cooking with Herbs.
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Saturday, 1 November 2014

Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles (Vegan) - Suma Blogger's Network

Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles (Vegan)
I know it's a bit early, and you probably don't want reminding that Christmas is only 53 days away, but as it's the 1st of November, I thought I would start blogging some festive recipes! These vegan chocolate truffles are really easy to make, will keep in the fridge for a week or so, and make great home-made Christmas presents. 

This recipe makes Nutella or Ferrero Rocher flavoured truffles, which are totally dairy-free!

Makes around 10-12 truffles.
  • 200g/8oz dairy-free dark chocolate (I used Plamil chocolate drops)
  • 90ml/6 tbsp Ecomil almond cream (use 75ml/5 tbsp of cream if using liqueur as the flavouring)
  • 90ml/6tbsp Meridan crunchy hazelnut butter 
  • 1 tsp vanilla or other flavouring extract
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder, desiccated coconut, coconut sugar, roasted chopped hazel nuts, grated chocolate etc. to coat.
  • 2-4 tsp date/agave syrup to sweeten (optional)*
Heat the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl, in the microwave, until melted - Stir every 10-15 seconds, to make sure it doesn't burn.
Add the almond cream, vanilla and nut butter and mix well - Taste and sweeten* at this point if you prefer a sweeter truffle.

Chill the mixture for an hour or two, until firm.

Remove from the fridge and working quickly, shape heaped teaspoonfuls of the mixture into balls, using your hands.
Roll the truffles in your preferred coatings and pop into sweet cases. Refrigerate until needed.
Wrap in cellophane bags to give as presents.

*These truffles have quite an adult dark-chocolate taste, so may not appeal to younger children. For a more child-friendly option, use a dairy-free 'milk chocolate' and sweeten the mixture with 2-4 tsp date/agave syrup.

Flavour options: Vary the recipe by using different nut butters and flavourings; use 1 tbsp liqueur, 1 tsp flavouring extract or a little grated lemon/orange zest instead of vanilla extract. Try using almond or cashew nut butter instead of hazelnut.


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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