Monday, 29 November 2010

Cinnamon cashew biscuits

It's been a dastardly cold wintry day today and it's not even December yet! To warm and cheer us I made these spiced biscuits with cinnamon for warmth and cashews for bite.

Cinnamon cashew biscuits
1/2 cup cashews
1/3 cup margarine
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
A large pinch ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
A sprinkle of salt

Preheat oven to 180c
Grind the cashews in a mini chopper (or something) then add the other ingredients and whizz until it makes dough.
Roll out (I did it between greaseproof paper, as always) and cut out shapes.
Bake for 8 mintes or until golden.
Cool and decorate with water icing and sugar sprikles.

Later on, Chris made us this hearty winter soup of parsnips, onion, watercress, sprouts and red lentils to boost us up for the cold days ahead. Take that, Jack Frost!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

A prince among sarnies

Juicy tomato, peppery watercress, hearty veggie sausages, tangy sweet homemade apple and yellow pepper chutney. Owp! Happy me.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Preserving peppers

All these peppers cost £1 from our local grocery shop. It would have been rude not to buy them! Chris decided to roast them and preserve them in oil so we don't have to eat them all at once.

 The jar he chose was too big. It looked like so many peppers in the roasting tin!
While he was at it, he decided to make something else from the peppers which wouldn't fit in the roasting tin (there really were loads). He boiled together chopped peppers, chopped apple, red onion, sugar and vinegar and made a lovely sweet and tangy chutney.

 I can't wait to have it in veggie sausage and watercress sandwiches soon. Sausages, watercress and crusty white bread are going on the shopping list right now!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Dinner with the Domestic Goddess and cherry moon biscuits

Last night, five friends and  I were treated to a gorgeous dinner at the home of the Mrs. P, the Domestic Goddess. Our dear friend Mrs. P has many times fearlessly entertained us over the years. She never seems daunted by a kitchen full of hungry ladies (including a vegan to make things more difficult!) and always makes the evening fabulous and memorable.

For our starter we all had a yummy carrot and potato soup. This is a winner! Happy faces all round.

The Domestic Goddess's Carrot and Potato Soup

500g/1lb carrots
1 med. potato
1 med. onion
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried sage
1 bay leaf
2 pints veg. stock
1 tsp yeast extract
salt & pepper

Fry the onion in a little oil in a large saucepan until soft and clear. Add the chopped vegetables and saute for 1 minute.

Add the remaining ingredients and bring to the boil. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Cool slightly, remove bay leaf and blend using a liquidiser.

Reheat when needed and serve adding seasoning to taste.

Next, Mrs. P made a beautiful looking lasagna as the non-vegan main and a fab mushroom and aubergine curry with flatbreads for the vegan main. I haven't got the recipe for this one yet but I'll ask her for it because I want to eat it again!
Pudding was brought along by the Culinary Queen, Mrs. H. To my delight, she had made her famous Summer Pudding. This is a conversation stopper like no other (if you don't count mutterings of 'Mmmm' and 'Sumptious!' as conversation).

The Culinary Queen's Summer Pudding

White bread slices to line a large pudding bowl (I'm guessing maybe 6 slices - she didn't tell me that bit)
2 packs of frozen mixed berries
1 pack of frozen raspberries
Sugar (to taste I guess)

In a saucepan, boil up all the fruit with the sugar for a good while until the sugar is dissolved, the fruit is well cooked and you have lots of lovely red sweet juice.
Line a large bowl with slices of bread. Fill with the fruit and top with a layer of bread slices.
Put a plate on top of the pudding with some weights on top to press it all down. Let it sit like that in the fridge for several hours.
When ready to serve, Overturn the pudding onto a large plate and it should hold its shape.

With coffee, we were treated to Choices dairy free caramel chocolates courtesy of ever wonderful Mrs. C. I've seen these in the Free-From section in the supermarket but this was my first chance to try them - and they were goood!
Also in that photo are my Cherry Moon Biscuits, which I made up because I fancied buying glace cherries the other day and I also felt my blog was in need of another Prince reference. These were pretty nice but some were a little darker than I'd have liked. Because they are so thin they cook super quickly and you have to catch them before they burn.

Cherry Moon Biscuits

100 g plain flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp baking powder
40 g sugar
65 g margarine
8 glace cherries sliced thinly

Preheat the oven to 200c.
Put all the ingredients except the cherries into a mixing bowl and combine to make a soft dough.
Flatten half the dough onto greaseproof paper into a rectangle, say 6" by 4" then lay out your cherry slices on top of the dough.
Roughly cover with the other half of the dough and a layer of cling film.
Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to about 2mm thick. You should see the cherries through the surface of the dough.
Cut out large circles using a glass tumbler for the outside of the moons and then lift the circles onto a greaseproof paper lined baking sheet. Now take out take out the insides of the moons using a shot glass to make the fingernail moon shape.
Re-roll the leftover dough and keep cutting moons until it's all used up.
Bake the biscuits for 5 or 6 minutes but keep an eye on because they burn easily!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Cauliflower cheese

This was yesterday's tea. Baked potato with cauliflower cheese. Dead simple to make - it's the same as the non-vegan recipe but subbing in soya cheese and soya milk. Chop and boil a cauliflower until tender. Meanwhile make a white sauce by frying a couple of tablespoons of flour in enough olive oil to make a paste. Keep stirring while you slowly add about 3/4 pint soya milk. Let it thicken and then add about 1/2 block of crumbled or grated Cheezly. Stir until the cheese has melted. Season with a little English mustard. Mix with the drained cauliflower and serve. You could also put it all in an oven dish and bake or grill it with sliced tomato on the top like my Nan used to. It's a nice touch but not necessary!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Exotic Vegan treats from far flung lands #3

I'm so delighted that I've finally found Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Castille Soap in the UK! It's lovely stuff. It clears your head and leaves you feeling squeaky clean and refreshed. I can't make any sense of all the supposed wisdom on the label though. And what are the 18 uses?

Yes, our bathroom is rather dark, sorry!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Fake and kidney pie

This morning we went to Stroud Farmers' Market which is held every Saturday in Stroud's Cornhill. It's always bustling with characters and brimming with fresh organic produce. We bought some lovely fresh sprouts, squash and other veggies. We also bought some individual vegan nut roasts from Mandy & Alan's Fab Food Company. All their stuff is vegetarian and they have quite a few vegan options so it's worth stopping by their stall on a Saturday if you're local to Stroud.

This was the Cashew Crunch nut roast, which I really enjoyed for my lunch today. I've also got a Thai one with water chestnuts, coconut milk and chilli waiting for me in the fridge for tomorrow. Yum.

On to the pie. This evening I wanted to roast the beautiful sprouts and squash from the Farmers' Market so I thought a traditional pie would be an appropriate main (sort of 'meat and two veg' type thing). The most traditional and famous British pie I can think of is Steak and Kidney pie. I don't know what that tastes like but it sounds revolting! I reckon a soya chunk and kidney bean pie is a much nicer idea.

Fake and kidney pie

Olive oil, to fry
2 red onions, chopped
1 tin of kidney beans (or your favourite beans)
1 tsp mixed dried herbs
1 cup TVP soya chunks
Boiling water, to cover

4 heaped tsp vegan gravy powder (I used Roasted Winter Vegetables Bisto)

Quick pastry (again)
2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup cold water
1 tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt

In a small to medium saucepan, Fry the chopped onion in the oil until transparent and then add the drained kidney beans. Stir in the mixed herbs and let it all cook for about 5 minutes to release the flavours from the herbs.

Put all the pastry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Give it a good twirl around with a fork and it will quickly form pastry dough. Smoosh it into a ball and cut it in half for the base and lid of your pie.

Preheat oven to 180c.

Add the soya chunks and then add enough boiling water to hydrate them (enough to almost cover them although they float so you have to push them down a bit with a spoon to judge it!) Let them cook for about five minutes until they've gone soft.

Push one half of the pastry dough into a pie dish with your fingers until it lines the base and the sides. This pastry is very soft and malleable so I don't bother rolling it. There's also no need to grease the dish because the pastry is oily at this stage but it's perfect when it's cooked. Flatten out the other half of the pastry onto a sheet of cling film using your hand (or a rolling pin if you really want to) ready to use for the lid of your pie.

Add the gravy powder to your saucepan. This should thicken the water to gravy consistency. Add the filling to your pie and place the pastry lid on top by overturning your cling film and peeling it off - so much simpler than rolling out pastry on a floured worktop. Pierce the lid with a fork, brush with soya milk and bake for 20 minutes. 

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Trip up north

Oops, fell off the blog wagon for a few days. 40 hail mofos for my sins! We went on a little holiday and consequently I neglected blogging because it was too fiddly to do on my phone. I did get some piccies though!

First we visited our fabulous friends Mr. and Mrs. A and their gorgeous boy in Lancaster. It's cold and frosty up north but they kept us warm in their cosy Victorian townhouse with big mugs of tea, fresh baked bread and foraged berry wine. Mr. A cooked up a feast of roast veggie wraps with salad and hummus. Top meal! There was also blackberry wine courtesy of the lovely laden Mrs. A.

Lancaster, as it turns out, is a bit of a vegan haven. There are lots of vegan-friendly cafes and a lots of the type of people Mrs. A affectionately refers to as 'knitted'. We went for lunch at the Whale Tail cafe where everything is vegetarian and a V on the menu means vegan - hooray!

I chose a tasty lunch of chips and a sausage bun. The chips there are really good. Chris's big healthy salad makes my choice look rather unvirtuous. Perhaps he is actually more knitted than I am?

They had some lovely cakes at the counter so we took a selection home. My favourite was the chocolate cake. The portions were very generous!

Next we went to Morecambe for a little sightseeing ...

Eric was there to greet us and it looked like someone had been feeding him biscuits. Is this a custom? Perhaps I'll take him some vegan cookies next time we visit.

On our way to Manchester we stopped for lunch in Clitheroe. We went to Exchange coffee where I had a beautiful soya latte in a big bowl-like cup which I warmed my freezing hands around. Not only did they have the tastiest coffee I've had in ages but they had very cool ragtime music playing and the lovely old decor made me feel like I was in the kind of place my Nan might have hung out in when she was a hip young thing. There was nothing actually vegan to eat on the menu but they were really helpful about veganising something for me.

In Manchester we went to Earth Cafe, thanks to a tip off on Tea and Sympatico's blog. To my amazement, everything on the menu is vegan!

The cakes looked really good so we shared some chocolate cake mid morning before going back again for lunch. It was light and chocolatey with gooey topping. Perfect.

For lunch we had black bean stew, roulade, roasted veggies and rice. It was really scrummy and good value too at £5 each.

Just right to keep us going for the rest of a long day of sightseeing!

Friday, 12 November 2010

No sugar banana muffins for Jay Bird's birthday

It was my dear friend Jay Bird's birthday today. We visited her with these muffins. She's diabetic so I didn't put any sugar in them but they were nicely sweet anyway because of the banana and raisins in them. The hardest part was trying to make them look a bit decorated without using icing. I glazed them with a little fruit spread and sprinkled with poppy seeds. Without icing, I think they fell short of being like birthday cakes but were a perfect accompaniment to our mid-morning birthday tea and chatter.

There must be something pretty and non-sugary that could serve as icing without using sugar. I'm thinking maybe something with creamed coconut in it like the filling for these biscuits I made a while back. In that case I would have to leave out the raisins and cinnamon from the cakes though, or there would be too much going on!

Banana and raisin muffins

1 cup soya milk
1 tsp cider vinegar
2 bananas
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups plain flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 175c.

Mix the vinegar into the soya milk and set aside while you mash the bananas. Add the milk mixture to the bananas along with the oil, sugar and vanilla.

In a separate bowl mix all the other ingredients except raisins. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and combine well. Add the raisins and stir.

Spoon into 10 muffin cases (I made 12 from this mixture but they looked a bit small in their muffin cases) and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean.

This is not Jay Bird. This is just a bird I made for Jay Bird's birthday. Isn't she pretty? Of course, Jay Bird herself is much prettier.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Sty Thai

Tonight I made ... Sty Thai! What is Stai Thai? It's a version of a Thai green curry which is apparently one of my brother's specialities, not that he's ever made it for me - but then he does live 6000 miles away. He sometimes makes it for our friend Juliette, who made it for me last time she visited England. Her rendering of the recipe was mega-tasty, fresh and zingy and I've never managed to make it as well as that since. My photo above doesn't do the recipe justice.

I don't know why they call it Sty Thai - it's a reference to an in-joke between them but I feel the need to make it clear that neither of them live, look or behave like pigs. Lovely as pigs are ... anyway Juliette kindly took the trouble to write out the recipe for me so here is is in her words.

Sty Thai
The veggies:
A couple of kumara (sweet potatos/large Mexican yams) chopped into smallish cubes
A couple of carrots, chopped
An onion (red), chopped
A red capsicum (pepper), chopped
A couple of tomatoes, chopped into quarters or eighths
A couple of limes, chopped into segments for sqeezing and garnish
Plenty of fresh basil leaves, ripped-up for the topping

A small tin of baby sweetcorn
A small tin of bamboo shoots
A few spring onions, chopped
A hot chilli pepper, chopped very finely (perhaps served to be added to taste)

Other ingredients:
A few tins of coconut milk
A good dollop of Thai green curry paste (check ingredients on jar, for "shrimp paste"!)
A packet of firm tofu, sliced into small slabs
Soy sauce
Oil of choice
Serve with the rice of your choice.

In a very large oiled pan (or wok) fry up the onion, kumara and carrots on medium heat, till they're softening (maybe 10-15 mins). They don't have to be really soft, because the coconut milk will cook them later.
Add the spring onions and red capsicum and stir for a bit.
If things are reufusing to cook, then cover the pan for a while.
Add the bamboo and baby sweetcorn and stir for a bitAdd the coconut milk. More than two cans, if you like a really runny curry. Be careful that the pan's not too hot when you first add the coconut milk, or it will burn on the bottom of the pan.
Let the coconut milk cook, for about the length of time it takes to drink one/two glasses of wine.

In another pan, fry the tofu in oil and sprinkle soy sauce over it, turning regularly; to desired crispiness. You probably ought to get the rice going by now.

At this point, Sty Tradition holds that we add the green curry paste to the veggie/coconut milk mix. While this method works fine; many curry paste instructions recommend adding the curry early, to cook with the veggies, before adding the coconut milk. So this could also be tried :)

Once the curry paste is well mixed in; add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes till they're hot, but not mushy.
Stir in the fried tofu, then the curry is ready to serve on top of rice.

Sprinkle the ripped basil leaves liberally over each dish and squeeze lime juice over to taste. Reserve a few wedges of lime as a garnish and serve with the finely chopped hot chilli on offer.
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Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Exotic vegan treats from far flung lands

Exotic vegan treat #1: Speculoos spread from France, bought on holiday. If you live in France and can buy this any day you want, count yourself lucky!

Exotic vegan treat #2: Wasabi Peas from America, sent by my kind brother. If you live near a Trader Joe's (Oh I wish) and can buy these any day you want, count yourself lucky!

Exotic vegan treat #3: ... alas I have no more exotic vegan treats.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Salad and soda bread bliss

I fancied making salad with fresh chunky bread tonight but it was, as usual, after 8 when I started cooking so I didn't have time to make normal bread if we were going to eat before midnight. Fortunately, soda bread only takes 5 minutes to throw together and 40 minutes to cook. Looking around the kitchen, I noticed a butternut squash which, cunningly, also takes only moments to prepare and 40 minutes to roast. With those two things in the oven, I set about chopping up some other delicious things which were to hand ...

I had to take a picture of the salad in progress because it looked so pretty.

Delectable Butternut Squash salad
1 grated carrot
Small bunch of coriander
1 avocado
1/2 finely chopped fresh red chilli
1 spring onion
1 gem lettuce
1/2 butternut squash, roasted in a little oil in bitesize chunks (leave skin on and it will be sweet and chewy. You won't regret it!)

Dress with:
A slurp of sesame oil
A good splash of lime juice
A generous sprinkling of coarse sea salt.

No messing about scrummy yummy soda bread
1 1/4 cups soya milk
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp sunflower oil
3 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking owder
1/2 tsp salt

Heat oven to 200c. Mix the wet ingredients in a measuring jug and set aside while you mix the dry ones. Add wet to dry, turn dough into a loaf tin (I use silicon so I don't even need to grease it). Bake for 40 minutes.

... slathered in dairy free Vitalite. Gobble gobble gobble.