Monday, 28 December 2009

Spiced biscuits Chritsmas gifts

A quick request first before we move on to the serious business of BISCUITS. Please vote to get a vegan cookery programme onto channel 4! I just got an email from my sister about this. It's a competition to get a short documentary onto channel 4 and one of the entries is a vegan cooking show. It seems to be in the lead at the moment but please vote to keep it there because it'd be a fantastic way to raise awareness of vegan cooking in the UK: You do have to sign up to vote but it's a very quick form.

Okay, now biscuits.

I wanted to make some gifts this year for my neighbours so I bought a few mugs, filled them with homemade spiced biscuits and covered the mugs with cellophane and fancy ribbons and rosettes. I struggled to find cellophane but eventually found it in our local art shop. I think they looked pretty good. Here were the biscuits that went inside. I used star cutters of different sizes to make biscuits which would stack and fit inside the mugs.

They were fun to make and wrap and very yummy. I know this because I made far too many and kept back, for personal consumption, all the ones which weren't perfectly shaped. The basic recipe is below but I made a triple batch to fill 5 mugs and still have loads left over.

Spiced Biscuits (adapted from Eva Batt's Vegan Cookery)

4 oz plain flour
4 oz oats
4 oz sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
4 oz margarine
1 dsp mollases

Mix up all the dry ingredients and then rub in the marg with your hands until you get a crumbly mixture. Add the mollases and mix with a wooden spoon until you get a sticky dough.

Roll the dough out between two sheets of greaseproof paper until it's about 8mm thick. Cut out your biscuit shapes and bake them on more greaseproof paper at 190c/375F for 8 minutes. Dust while still warm with icing sugar. (Some of the sugar will melt and glaze the biscuits and some will stay white and pretty but will fall off less than if you dust them when they're cold. I wanted the icing sugar to stay fixed on these because they were going to be stacked on top of one another inside the mugs.)

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Rock 'n' Roll Cones not a hit with me

I've seen Tofutti Rock 'n' Roll Cones in Holland & Barratt before and wanted to try them. But I never had because there are four cones in a box (too many ice creams for even me to eat at once) and our nearest Holland & Barratt was quite a long way from our home and our freezer. Then yesterday Holland & Barratt opened a shop in my home town, 5 mins from our house!

This, in itself, is a mixed blessing. Our town already has three health food shops, run by the same local people, all doing well. I love these local shops and buy lots from them. I don't want Holland & Barratt taking business from them (and I also heard that Holland & Barratt are owned by the same people who own the Dewhurst Butchers chain but I'm not sure if that's a vegan urban myth). On the other hand, if Holland & Barratt sell vegan things that I can't buy anywhere else locally then I'm going to be happy about that and shop from them as well as continuing to support the independent shops.

So yesterday I went straight to the freezer in H&B, looking for these cones. I was thrilled to find them and eager to get them home and try one after tea. Which I did. But I was so disappointed! The 'chocolate flavour topping' has the consistency of wax and tastes of nothing, except possibly wax. The ice cream itself isn't creamy at all and pretty much tastes of water. The cone is fine and just about makes the whole thing passable - but only just.

Then I noticed that the box doesn't say Tofutti anymore. It says Triano. Now I usually like Tofutti stuff (especially Tofutti Cuties) so I wondered if these were just a cruel trick played on me by some other company. But when I Googled Triano, it seems to be the same people as Tofutti. Shame.

I don't like to slate a vegan product. Vegan ice creams are hard enough to come by compared to dairy ice creams. But I think products like this just reinforce the misconception that vegan food is dull, bland and tasteless and I think that's a real shame.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009


The other night I made the Cholent from Veganomicon. It was super easy and the texture was lovely but it was pretty bland on the first night. The book does say it's better the second day and it was. The flavour of the carraway seeds and tarragon had a chance to come out a bit more. I also used homemade tomato sauce rather than tinned. I love my homemade sauce but in this case I think it probably wasn't salty enough. I think I'll make this again and use something a bit punchier next time.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Carrot cake

This is a good cake. I'm so happy we still have half of it waiting for us in the fridge.

Carrot Cake

For the cake:
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups grated carrot
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup applesauce
2 tsp vanilla essence
6 tbsp ground flax seeds
12 tbsp water
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts

For the icing:
3 oz vegan cream cheese
1/4 cup margarine
1 1/2 cups icing sugar

In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon and baking powder. Separately mix together the ground flax seeds and water then add to that the carrots, oil, apple sauce and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry and combine well. Stir in the chopped hazelnuts. Put the mixture into a loose bottomed, greased 7" cake tin. Bake at 150c for about an hour and a half or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool for half an hour or so, turn out, then cool completely before icing. For the icing just mix up all the ingredients until completely smooth. the icing will set in the fridge after a couple of hours.
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Sunday, 15 November 2009

Danish Peasant Girl with a Veil

This is a version of a pudding we used to make often when I was a child. We're not Danish so I don't know where we got the recipe from. Maybe the recipe itself isnt even Danish. Anyway it's called Danish Peasant Girl with a Veil and it's very yummy.

Stew chopped apples with cloves (and sugar if they're cooking apples). When soft, set aside to cool. Tear up four pieces of stale white bread into very small pieces or blitz it in a food processor. Melt about 2 tbsp of margarine in a frying pan and add the bread pieces to it. Sprinkle with plenty of brown sugar and fry on a medium heat until the bread pieces are golden brown, crispy and chewy. Layer the bread into serving dishes with the cooled stewed apple and cream, then sprinkle with chocolate chips of shavings.

I used Provamel cream here and plain chocolated chips but we used to make it with double cream and crumbled Cadbury's Flake. I think next time I'll try thick vegan cream like Soyatoo and chocolate shavings to try and get closer to those childhood puddings! Why doesn't anybody make a plain chocolate Flake? :(

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Natural grocery haul and cream cheese thesis

Yesterday I went to the Natural Grocery Store in Cheltenham. I love that shop because they have a huge range of stuff and they play relaxed old fashioned tunes.They also stay open late which would be really handy if I lived near enough to it. I think of it as something approaching an English Trader Joe's*. I wish we had Trader Joe's here or that at least they did mail order. The Natural Grocery Store is ahead of Trader Joe's in that respect. Check out there online store here.

I bought four Nana's cookies but I'd eaten the peanut butter one before I took this picture. I adore Nana's cookies! 
I also bought Granovita salad cream because I've never seen vegan salad cream before, only mayonaisse. I love it. To me it tastes exactly like the Heinz stuff I used to have on iceberg lettuce as a kid. I slathered it all over dinner last night and this evening too.

The thing I was most excited about though was the Provamel soft cheese. I've only ever seen one brand of vegan cream cheese, Tofutti. I love Tofutti but it's fairly pricey. Then yesterday I saw this Provamel spread and another one made by Pure. I didn't buy the one by Pure because I'm not mad keen on Pure margarine or their cheese slices. I bought the Provamel one because I usually love everything made by them. When I got home and tried it I was dissappointed! I suppose I had built it up too much for myself. It tastes fine, but it doesn't taste like cream cheese. It's more like a thick garlic yogurt ... which is a little odd. To be fair, it doesn't say anywhere on the packet that it's a cream cheese substitute. Anyway, now I'm on the lookout for Swedish Soft, which I've read good things about but haven't managed to find anywhere yet.
But enough about cream cheese. I started talking to Chris about it last night until we both agreed I should get a life! However I reckon that if I'm going to air my views on the subject anywghere then it has to be here!

* This reminds me of Chris's great idea. Why aren't there any green grocer/health food shops in this country that stay open late and have car parks? If there were, people would be able to use them the way they use supermarkets. Most people work all day every day it's hard to get to green grocers or health food shops so they end up going to supermarkets instead of supporting the local traders. I reckon Trader Joe's style shops would work really well in the UK but nobody's done it yet. I'd do it myself but frankly I can't be arsed.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Nut roast

Well I haven't blogged for ages and I've got some photos that have accumulated over the past couple of weeks and I can't remember what I wanted to say about them. However I do remember that the best thing about this nut roast (apart from yumminess) was that it was very very easy. I used our mini copper to chop all the ingredients then chucked them in the pan, frying in a little oil. Then I pressed it into a dish and baked it for half an hour or so and that was it. I can't remember exactly what went in it now but it was something like: an onion, two carrots, a pepper, two tomatoes (helped make it moist enough to stick together), a good load of breadcrumbs and a handful each of brazil nuts and walnuts. I did't even add salt or sices and it was really tasty.

We had it with oven chips and steamed broccoli on the first day. The next day Tabitha and I met Chris from his work for lunch. It was raining hard and cold outside so we drove to a nearby common and sat in the car. We had the nut roast leftovers in sandwiches with tomato and almond butter. They were scrummy and helped make sitting in a steamy car for half an hour quite good fun.

Tabitha can't tackle a sandwich yet but she enjoyed her mashed carrot and sweet potato with a little of my bread. She only has two teeth but she loves holding the bread herself and nibbling on it because I think it makes her feel like a big girl.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Halloween curry night

We had some friends over on Saturday for curry. I carved a pumpkin, as it was Halloween, but I didn't use the flesh for curry. I've frozen it to use for something else.

The curries were good but I didn't manage to get photographs in time. I will include some recipes anyway and you'll have to imagine what they may have looked like before they were half eaten! Clockwise from top right: Shakeel's amazing yellow split pea dhal; aloo saag; Maddhur Jaffrey's south Indian cabbage; rice with peas, ginger and cinnamon; and seitan vindaloo in the middle.

The star of the show was the seitan vindaloo. Not only does it sound mean but it tasted wicked too. I adapted it from this recipe. I subbed seitan instead of meat and left out the fennel because I didn't have any. I halved the amount of garlic and doubled the number of chillies.

The photo below shows the rice with a piece of Maddhur Jaffrey's mung bean pancakes. These pancakes are fab. The texture is chewy, almost like fried egg and they're really tasty. I'll include the recipe here because it's already on the internet elsewhere. It's from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian Cookbook which is a really lovely book full of brilliant stuff.

Maddhur Jaffrey's mung bean pancakes

1 cup mung beans
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
1/2 cup water, plus soaking water
Soak the mung beans overnight. Drain and rinse.

Blend all the ingredients except the spring onions, tomato and coriander in a blender until smooth.
Stir in spring onions, tomato and coriander.
Add a little oil to a large, lidded frying pan and place over a medium heat. When hot, pour about 1/3 cup of the batter into pan. Spread out with a spoon to form a pancake. Put the lid on the pan and let it cook for a couple of minutes antil the top seems cooked. Turn the pancake over (the underside should be a reddish colour) and cook the other side for a minute of so.

The rice recipe is one of my favourite ways to cook rice. If you look at the link, it says it serves 4 but actually it's more like 6-8. I use oil instead of butter or ghee.

For afters we had blueberry cheesecake which is my sister's recipe and is just the most amazing thing ever. I love it to bits and whenever I make it I want to make it again straight away!

My sister's most amazing cheesecake

For the base:
10 digestive biscuits
1 tbsp margarine, melted

For the middle:
1 tub Tofutti cream cheese (original, not garlic, duh)
1/2 cup soya milk
1/2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla essense

For the topping:
blueberry jam

Crush the biscuits, mix with the melted margarine and press into a loose bottomed cake tin. Blend all the ingredients for the middle and pour over the base. Bake at 170c (~350F) for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool well before covering in jam and blueberries. Chill before serving.

I sometimes double the amount of the filling to make a lovely deep cheesecake but I forgot this time. Either way this cheesecake is still one of my favourite things in the wholewideworld.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Microwave Viennese biscuits

Instant biscuits ... almost. Yes, microwave cooking is cheating but these turned out pretty well and I'm happy to cheat for a quick fix! They're sweet, soft and melty but you have to get the cooking time right otherwise they burn in the centre and you don't know until you take a bite!

Microwave Viennese biscuits

6 dsp flour
6 dsp margarine
3 dsp icing sugar
2 dsp cornflour

Mix everything together and shape into biscuits. Microwave for four minutes. Leave to stand for a minute and then test a biscuit. It should be a little crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. The centre will firm up when it cools. Put them in for another minute if necessary but don't overcook them.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Cashew cheese, apple muffins and pink kittens

This is my version of Dreena Burton's pasta with truffled cashew cheese. I thought it looked good so I decided to make it before I realised that we don't have any conchiglie pasta so I couldn't stuff the cheese inside shells. Instead I layered the cashew cheese in a dish with pasta which I'd tossed in Waitrose tomato and chilli pasta sauce (which tastes like Heinz tomato soup and that's no bad thing!). Then I topped the dish with more sauce, truffle oil and capers and baked for half an hour. It turned out amazing. My photos don't do it justice but it was lovely. I'll definitely make the truffled cashew cheese again. It would be good in so many things.

Since the oven was hot, I also made some apple muffins.

As for the pink kittens, well I have a bit of an obsession with Crawford's Pink Wafers. I eat them a lot! Recently I got to thinking, if I covered them in chocolate, could I make Kit Kats? I used to love Kit Kats but they're made with milk chocolate. I was so excited when they started making dark chocolate ones but then I saw that they're not vegan either. These home made ones are really gorgeous. My cousin has dubbed them Pink Kittens - Thanks Sam!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Padron peppers

Today I saw padron peppers in Waitrose. They were reduced to clear so I thought I'd give them a go. They're fab! I fried them in olive oil for about 4 minutes until the skins blistered and then sprinkled with salt, which is what was suggested on the back of the bag. Most of them weren't hot at all, a couple of them were a little bit hot, and one was properly hot. Chris got that one but he let me share it :) I'll definitely buy these again if I see them!

We had the peppers alongside grilled courgettes over millet which I cooked up with carrots, onions, smoked paprika, tomato puree, nooch and vegan cheese. This made a really tasty, cheesy stodge. I topped it all with pine nuts and then took some really rubbish pictures on my phone because I couldbn't wait to eat it. It was reeeally good.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Using dried beans

Another of Chris's creations - courgettes fried with cannellini beans, tofu, tomato puree, soy sauce and miso on top of basmati rice. It was really yummy comfort food.

The cannellini beans were bought dried. We soaked them overnight and boiled them for 40 minutes before using them.Soaking and boiling beans is a bit of a pain but we did a big load of them so now we have plenty in the fridge, ready to use for other things. Not only are they really cheap but they're handy for adding protein to our meals and our baby's meals too. She eats such a a small amount that sometimes it's difficult to think what to make for her. If I have cooked beans ready, I can just take a few out of the fridge and mash them up. She loves them with cous cous, avocado, toast ...

Friday, 23 October 2009

Dubious dosas and malignant masala mix

The offenders:

The offenders again, this time prepared and poised ready to attack:

We bought instant dosa mix and chana masala spice mix recently. Gakk! Saltiest things ever! I ate one and a half and then had to give up and drink four pints of water. We still have most of the bloody stuff left in the cupboard. Although it is probable that the saltiness may have been down to mismeasurement of ingredients (we used spinach instead of chickpeas so there was a lot less bulk), I'm reluctant to use the rest because if I taste this stuff again I might recall the sensation of crumbling into dust that I had the other night. I think we should stick with making dinners from scratch for a while.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Mighty fine pasta

Chris made a yummy dinner tonight: pasta with brocolli, avocado and a spicy tomato sauce made with tinned tomatoes, onion, chillies and paprika - all whilst I was working hard* on the computer.

* yes, okay, I am addicted to Facebook. Isn't everyone?

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Apple cinnamon muffins

This was another recipe from La Dolce Vegan. The book was a gift recently from a very kind friend so I've been testing out some recipes from it. I won't include the recipe here because it doesn't already seem to be on the web anywhere but I recommend the book because the recipes I've tried have been really good - these muffins included, they're ace!
The only complaint I have of the book is that there are no food photos in it, only photos of the author and her mates. Vivacious, charming and elaborately tatooed though she is, I want to see the food!! Anyone have photos of recipes they've made from this book? Maybe I could print them and stick them in!

Monday, 19 October 2009

Cornbread muffins and semifreddo

Got a new muffin tray! To celebrate I made the cornbread from La Dolce Vegan and made it into muffin shapes instead of a loaf. They were pretty good with a lovely texture but I didn't add sugar because I don't like sweet cornbread. Next time I'll add something savoury instead of sugar, maybe Braggs or miso, because they were a little bland this time around. With that, I made some veggies in a creamy sauce. I had mine with tommy ketchup too but I didn't photograph that!

Semifreddo seems to mean many different things depending where in Italy or the world you are. We've been to Turin a few times and Chris loves the semifreddo you get there. I've never seen a vegan version of it so I've never had it but whenever Chris has it it looks really good and he raves about it. This was my attempt at replicating it ...

I whizzed up Raspberry Swedish Glace, Cremovita vegan whipped cream, chocolate chips and my favourite biscuits, pink wafers. I asked Chris if it was anything like semifreddo and he said,  'Not really'. It was a bit like Angel Delight though, which I have been craving recently, so I was happy! Next time I'm going to try it with vanilla ice cream and chunks of cake to hopefully get it closer to semifreddo di Torino.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Cafe Kino

Yesterday was an excellent day. We had a fun day out to Bristol which included a mooch around Ikea, a visit to the flashy new Cabot Circus shopping centre and, above all, a leisurely lunch at the all-vegan Cafe Kino. I read about this place on and have been wanting to go ever since. Bristol is quite close to where we live and I was quite shocked to find out that this cafe has been there three years and I'd never been there. The food was lovely, the staff were very sweet and there was a roaring fire too. We both ordered the Kino Burger with chips and salad. The burger was tasty and spicy in a big granary bap with relish and mayo. The chips were fat and crispy with the potato skins still on and the salad was really tasty with sun dried tomato, crunchy seeds and lots of yummy dressing.

Afterwards, despite being stuffed already, we had to order a piece of chocolate cake each. The cake was as delicious as it looked but we could only manage sharing one piece and taking the other home with us. It's a good job we didn't order it with ice cream (I was tempted to because I've never been offered vegan ice cream in a cafe before!)

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Pie and mash

Thank you, vegan mofoers for introducing me to the concept of pandowdy. It looks yummy. I wanted to make something quite quick this evening and we had shop-bought pastry in the freezer ready to go, so I thought I'd try a savoury pandowdy. One problem, the shop-bought pastry just looked so neat and tidy I couldn't go through with smashing it up! I started to make some paltry slits with a knife but left it there. Perhaps I should make a pandowdy with home-made pastry. My pastry is generally so unattractive that ruining it won't be an issue.

Anyway, the pie was good. It had onions, peppers, courgettes, capers, tomatoes, rosemary, basil, garlic and chilli. We had it, traditionally enough, with mashed potato which, less traditionally, was dotted with cubed avocado. Top scrum.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Spicy gumbo and more dumplings

Last Thursday I had spring greens and okra in the fridge so I decided to make a big gumbo with rice and gungo peas.
Spicy Gumbo

1 head spring greens, coarsley chopped
1/4 cup sunflower oil
1 onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 courgette, sliced
1 can chopped tomatoes (400g)
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup hot sauce
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tsp of each of the following dried herbs: thyme, oregano, basil and parsley
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 heaped tsp vegetable bouillon powder
1 1/2 cups chopped okra
1 can blackeye beans (400g)

Cover the greens in boiling water and simmer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a heavy saucepan, make a roux by combining the oil and flour and stirring over a medium to high heat until reddish brown (about 20 minutes).
Set the greens (don't drain them yet) and the roux aside.

In a little oil, fry the remaining vegetables and the tomatoes for about 10 minutes. Add the hot sauce, garlic, cayenne and herbs and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the roux and greens (including their cooking water). Add the bouillon powder and more boiling water if necessary to cover all the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the okra and blackeye beans and cook for at least 10 minutes more but longer if you've got time.

The gumbo is even better if it's had time to stand and it's best the next day and it freezes well too. On Sunday we finished off the gumbo with another batch of dumplings like the ones I made to go with the goulash (because they're so good).

inside shot of yummy dumplings ...

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Vanquished by potato pizza

This is my favourite pizza base. We got the recipe from the Big Issue earlier this year.

This evening Chris made my beloved spud pizzas and three large slices had charmed their way into my mouth before I remembered how filling it is. I'm now rendered sideways on the sofa, typing with one hand. This pizza is so good. Every time Chris makes it I just can't stop eating until it hurts. The base is thick and moist but crusty round the edges. Chris's topping is cooked down passata, chilli, olive oil and garlic, then with olives, capers and cheezly on top.

Spud pizzas (from the Big Issue)

1 1/2 lbs (600g) potatoes
6-8 very heaped tbsp strong bread flour
2 tbsp olive oil

Cook and mash the potatoes. Mix everything together in a large bowl. Press the dough into an oven tray and cook at 220c for 20 mins until crisp and browned. Add toppings and bake for another 15-20 minutes.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Jillypoos' goulash

Well I set myself a challenge to blog every day in October and failed in the first week! Our lovely baby had her first cold and has been sniffling through the evenings when she usually sleeps. She's well again today. Deep joy!

I did manage to find the time to make a wonderful goulash on Wednesday. It's my friend Jill's recipe and I make it quite often because it always comes out perfectly. It's worth making the dumplings too because they're amazing, especially with fresh basil in them. Chris made the dumplings on Wednesday but we'd eaten them all before I managed to take a photo. This photo is my Thursday's lunch, goulash and toast. Mmmm.


1 large handful of TVP chunks
1 parsnip, chopped small
2 carrots, chopped small
1 onion , chopped small
2 medium potatoes, chopped small
1 tin chopped tomatoes (400g)
3 tbsp tomato purée
3 tsp paprika
1 pint veg. stock
200 ml plain soya yogurt

Cover the soya chunks with water (and bouillon powder if the chunks are unflavoured) in a bowl and microwave for 6 minutes. In a large saucepan, fry onion, parsnip and carrots in oil for 8 mins then add the drained soya chunks, tomatoes, tomato purée and paprika.

Cook for 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and stock and bring to the boil. Float dumplings in the goulash at this point. Simmer for 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

Turn off the heat, add the yoghurt, stir through and serve.

Basil dumplings

4 oz self raising flour
2 oz vegetable suet
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp fresh chopped basil

Mix the ingredients together and add enough water to bind. Shape into 6-8 balls and cook for 30 minutes in the goulash.