Saturday, 31 December 2011

Instant Red Cabbage "Sauerkraut"

I am sick of cake!-There, I said it! I don't want to see another mince pie, fruit cake or chocolate date for another year... Today my body is calling for salad, fresh veggies; simple and digestible foods... and it just so happens that our friend Karen (Kalakanti dasi) who is well up to date on all the latest food and health- related info. dropped by yesterday and left us a new bottle of ume plum seasoning. I'd never have thought of using it if she hadn't given us a bottle this time last year, and now I miss it if it's not in my cupboard. The great thing is that it's a lot like a fruity vinegar without being fermented, therefore perfect for those following the yogic path, as it's in the Mode of Goodness and is offerable to Krishna. It is very salty, though, so you can't just slosh it into sauces willy-nilly. I adore red cabbage, and prefer it raw to cooked, but I can't add it to mixed salads as it gives my husband indigestion. Tonight I served it on the side with the salad that accompanied our dinner of jacket potato and vegetable chilli, and everyone who tried it liked it. I'll be making it again!
The recipe is extremely simple, and takes literally minutes to make. The great advantage here is that unlike real sauerkraut you can eat it straight away. My recipe makes enough to fill about 3/4 large olive jar.

1/2 a red cabbage
8 tabs ume plum dressing

  • Grate the red cabbage into a bowl
  • Add the ume plum dressing and stir well
  • Keep in a jar in the fridge

Friday, 30 December 2011

Seitan a l'Orange: New Year's Eve Dinner part 1

A very happy 2012 to you all! Here's an idea I had for a New Year's Eve dinner; I tried it out on my family and a guest tonight so I could post it  in time for people to use on the big night. This is the (entirely vegan) menu I served:
  • Pumpkin soup (too simple to warrant a recipe- celery seed and Chinese five-spice were the main seasonings)
  • Seitan a l'orange with steamed broccoli and creamed potatoes (think olive oil, salt, pepper and yeast flakes)
  • Beetroot red velvet cake with Swedish Glace soya icecream (in the next post)
I made the seitan earlier in the day, and let it sit, slice, to soak up all its broth for a couple of hours. See previous post for how to make seitan. This recipe served 5.
Seitan made with 1 1/4 bags plain white flour
2 fresh oranges (grate the rind off one)
2 cups orange juice (you may have to buy a carton as only one of the oranges can be juiced; the other is for slicing)
1 cup stock made with water and 3 tsps brown rice miso
1 tabs soy sauce
4 tsps arrowroot
1 tab ume plum dressing
3 tsps date syrup

  • Heat up the stock, soy sauce and orange juice in a saucepan
  • Stir in the ume seasoning, grated orange peel and the date syrup 
  • Use a balloon whisk to gradually combine the arrowroot, then bring to a simmering boil
  • Continue to simmer, stirring well, until the sauce begins to reduce
  • Lay the sliced seitan in a large ovenproof dish and pour the sauce over it. It will look like there's a lot of sauce, but it will thicken and reduce down a lot. 
  • Slice the other orange into thin rounds and lay on top of the seitan and sauce.
  • Bake at 175C until the sauce has reduced somewhat and the orange slices are cooked and tender.
  • Serve with greens and some kind of mash/ puree. (I used potato and broccoli; you could try parsnip and bok choy, or celeriac and curly kale, etc.)

Beetroot Red Velvet Cake: New Year's Eve Dinner part 2

I was looking for a suitably special cake to go with the Seitan a l'Orange main course for a New Year's dinner, and I came up with this one.
I've done a bit of research and I've found that traditionally, the red colour of this cake was achieved by a chemical reaction between the vinegar used and the lighter, unrefined cocoa available in those days. I only have the regular cocoa (although it is organic) and can't use vinegar as it isn't offerable to Krishna and is nor in the Mode of Goodness. But what I do have is some homegrown organic beetroot just waiting to become the healthy ingredient in an otherwise nutritionally-lacking cake. If you visit here regularly, you may recognise this cake recipe as an adaptation of my Sweet Potato Muffins. This was the first time I'd ever made (or eaten) red velvet cake, and I'll definitely be doing it again, maybe next time as cupcakes with the piped icing and sprinkles. There's a kind of yummy synergy to beetroot and cocoa- my husband suggested it's because they are both iron-rich.  As you can see from the picture, however, it's really more of a reddish-brown velvet cake; I could use less cocoa next time and maybe also add a little natural red food colouring (beetroot concentrate) to the cake mixture.
400g self-raising flour
200g demerara sugar (use xylitol if you like)
2 tabs cocoa powder
4 tsps baking powder
150g grated fresh beetroot
400ml soya milk
150ml sunflower oil/ rice bran oil
  • In a bowl, combine all the dry ingredients except the beetroot
  • In another bowl, combine the oil and soya milk
  • Mix the beetroot to the dry ingredients
  • Add the wet ingredients and beat well for about a minute
  • Put into dampened 8-10" silicone moulds/ greased and floured tins and bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 20-30 mins, until a skewer inserted into the centre of one of the cakes comes out clean. (The cake is very soft, so don't mistake that for it not being cooked through.)
  • Fill and frost with vanilla buttercream (I used the best part of a packet of Pure sunflower unhydrogenated vegan margarine and lots of icing sugar- you could grind xylitol to a powder for this.) When I added the vanilla essence to the frosting, however, it caused the water to separate out and I had to put it in the freezer to solidify it; so I will definitely use vanilla sugar next time so that I can pipe it. Scatter with chocolate sprinkles, or red-coloured sugar granules. 

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Gingerbread House 2011

This is now becoming something of a Christmas tradition in our family: same recipe as last year (from BBC Good Food site) but I used chocolate fingers instead of flaked almonds for the door and roof. We were reluctant to demolish it on Boxing Day, but once we started, we couldn't stop! -Funnily enough, they all asked for the door..!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Quick and Easy Cranberry Sauce

Who needs meat to go with cranberry sauce? It's delicious with nut roast and totally yummy on a cheeseboard or plate of savoury snacks. Plus cranberries are rather good for you; as well as vitamins and minerals they contain tannins and polyphenols which can prevent urinary tract infections. I have used a minimal amount of sugar in this recipe, as we like our sauce tangy and distinct from jam. I have seen a few recipes which include orange juice and/ or white wine, but to be honest, I don't think this is at all necessary; cranberries have a delicious flavour all of their own which in my opinion is great as it is and doesn't need enhancing. 

I made enough with these quantities to almost fill 2 regular-sized jam jars.
680g fresh cranberries
250g raw cane sugar

  • Gently heat the cranberries in a thick-bottomed saucepan with the lid on until they begin to break down; you can press them with the back of a spoon if you like to help the process along
  • Add a little water if you need to, to prevent scorching
  • When the berries have broken down, stir in the sugar 
  • Continue to cook over a gentle heat until setting point is reached (doesn't take long)

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Apple and prune mince pies- vegan, no added sugar

I spoiled the no-sugar thing by dusting the pies with icing sugar!

First of all, Happy Holidays to you- whatever your faith (or not) it's a welcome break in these busy times, to spend a few days with your family and to show them how much you love them by spending time together, giving gifts and cooking food they'll love. Celebrating Christmas is not a part of bhakti yoga, but we do it in our house for all the aforementioned reasons, and in any case, I do find that come the afternoon/  evening there is always more time than usual  for chanting mahamantra on my beads as I don't have to go out anywhere or do any more cooking. Our Gurudeva taught us that having genuine love and affection for others is a basic for spiritual life- otherwise, how can we aspire to love Radha-Krishna? You can tell how spiritually-evolved a person is by the way they treat others.  I want our children to remember us as warm-hearted and loving parents who led by example, not aloof and artificially austere people at odds with family life.
  Last night we had a little pizza- and- mince-pies party at home with a few devotee friends who were not with their families this year, and on Boxing Day we'll be entertaining again- great reasons for Nanda and I to get creative in the kitchen! As I write this, having prepared the veggies for lunch, my wonderful husband is making an almond nut roast, and I shall don my apron again shortly to make the gravy...
...So let's cut to the recipe: The filling is sweet without refined sugar and the pastry, thanks to Nanda's scientific input, is the crispest ever! Make sure you fill each pie with enough filling, though, as the pastry is not sweetened.  I used prunes as they are a superfood; rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. (I eat five every day as they are said to prevent osteoporosis, and I have definitely noticed an improvement in my hair since I started.) This recipe makes enough for 28-29 pies, half with lids and half topped with pastry stars. I like to cook them batch by batch as needed over the holiday, so they are hot,crisp and fresh out of the oven for guests. 
50g mixed peel
200g mixed fruit (raisins, currants and sultanas)
the grated rind of 1 lemon
175g prunes (about 20), finely chopped
2-3 medium-sized apples, grated
2 tabs date syrup
2 tsps mixed spice
75ml water

  • Combine all the ingredients apart from the date syrup and mixed spice in a heavy-bottomed saucepan
  • Heat gently with the lid on until the apple is soft
  • Remove from heat and stir in the date syrup and mixed spice.
  • You will find the flavour improves after standing for an hour or so.
-I'm really excited about this, as it's higher in fibre, uses good oil, is vegan, easy to handle, and comes out very crispy!
250g plain white flour
250g wholemeal flour
200ml ricebran oil
50ml water
more water to mix
  • Measure out the flours into a bowl and mix together
  • Whizz up the oil and 50ml of water with about 1 tab of the flour mixture in a blender
  • Rub this into the flour
  • Add water to mix to a dough
  • You can now roll, fill and bake (at 200C) as many pies as you need, storing any excess in the fridge for use later. Mine lasted less than 24 hours, but it will keep at least 3 days.
Whatever you are doing today, I hope you are having a great time! :)

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Cranberry Christmas Cake- vegan

I decorated the cake with lemon royal icing and made snowflake cutouts, finished with edible glitter

I realise that this recipe may come too late for the current Christmas, but at least it's out in good time for next year :)
It was my turn this year to make the Christmas cake and I was fully planning to do something very traditional, but my local Waitrose had other ideas: I nipped in there a couple of days ago for some glace cherries to find that they only had huge (and very expensive) tubs that I just couldn't justify buying for one cake. I even asked a member of staff to help me look for the regular-sized tub, so desperate was I to get those cherries- to no avail. Then my despair turned to delight; I saw a packet of dried cranberries at a fraction of the cost of glace cherries, and an idea began to formulate in my creatively-challenged mind... thank you, Waitrose!

340g plain wholemeal flour
175g muscovado sugar
175g flaked almonds
175g rasins or sultanas
175g mixed peel
170g packet "craisins" (sweetened dried cranberries
1tsp bicarb
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground ginger
8 tabs double-strength mixed fruit herbal tea (or I'm sure a Norfolk Punch-type of fruit, spice and herb drink* would be even better)
250ml soya milk
75ml rice bran oil
  • Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl
  • Mix the oil and soya milk in another bowl
  • Add the wet to the dry mixture, beating well
  • Stir in the herbal tea/ Norfolk Punch
  • Put into a greased and floured med. cake tin/ dampened silicone mould and bake for about 45 mins at 180C. I use a rectangular mould that's not too deep, and the inside and outside cook evenly. Check frequently to ensure top does not overbrown. (If it does look like it has browned before the inside is cooked, turn the oven down to 110C for the remaining time.) Use the skewer method to test if done.

*Non-alcoholic, of course!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Smoked Paprika Sauce- vegan

If you are looking for a different sauce to liven up a nut roast or as a change from gravy, then this might just be what you were looking for! I served it on top of brown rice and roasted vegetables for a simple but tasty dinner. The tahini makes it creamy and the liquid aminos and smoked paprika add an unusual savoury flavour which goes beautifully with anything roasted. It's also simple to make, but be sure to use a balloon whisk to prevent lumps. These amounts make enough for 5-6 people, so scale them down if you need less.

800ml soya milk
21/2- 3 tabs tahini
2 tabs liquid aminos
3- 4 tsps smoked paprika
1 tsp seasalt
1 tsp paprika
a pinch of coarse black pepper

  • Heat soya milk in a thick saucepan and bring to a simmer
  • Add the liquid aminos
  • Add the salt and black pepper
  • Stir in the paprika and smoked paprika
  • Gradually blend in the tahini with a balloon whisk
  • Adjust the seasonings if necessary and serve over vegetables/ roasts

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Date and marzipan chocolates- a vegan Christmas treat

Looking for some vegetarian treats for the festive season?- then look no further!

I first made these many years ago for a friend who is allergic to dairy and wheat, and she proclaimed them the best chocolates she'd ever had. I forgot about them for a long time, then last week I was trying to think up something suitably decadent to put on my husband's birthday cake and I found some dates in the cupboard, some dark chocolate, some ground almonds... they ended up as chocolates on top of the cake, but would be equally good in petit-four cases in a pretty box and given as a present. Easy and fun to make- you can't go wrong with these luscious little choccies!

24 dates, stoned and split
175-200g plain chocolate
100g ground almonds
100g icing sugar
1 1/2 tsps natural almond essence
cocoa powder for dusting

  • To make the marzipan, mix the ground almonds, icing sugar and almond essence together with a little water, to get a paste-like consistency. (Take care not to add too much water, or the resulting sticky mass will be impossible to handle!)
  • Fill the date halves with the marzipan and press together
  • Break the chocolate into small pieces and put in a bowl placed over a pan of hot water to melt
  • When the chocolate has melted, give it a quick stir to get rid of any remaining lumps and dip each filled date carefully to coat.
  • Lay on a piece of foil to cool and set, and dust with cocoa powder before completely solid.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

the Yogi Vegetarian gets 4 awards....

A huge thank you to Anisha of "Life on the go" and "Flavours" (really good blogs) who made my day today by giving me these awards :)

Gluts of fruit and vegetables are natural part of our diet

I was listening to a programme on BBC Radio Four the other day in which a guest was explaining that today, with our customary trips to the supermarket to buy produce from all over the world and the demise of the small greengrocers, we have lost our sense of the seasonality of food. She talked about how much greener (because of "food miles"), cheaper, more nutritious and tastier it is to eat fruit and vegetables in the proper season for where you live. Apparently, most people nowadays aren't even aware that produce has a season at all, and we expect strawberries in December, peaches in January and fresh tomatoes in March!

I'd rather spend an hour picking these than an hour in the supermarket!

Well, that got me thinking, and feeling very fortunate indeed. I grew up on my Dad's homegrown vegetables, which he cultivated without pesticides, and fell in love with their textures and flavours, looking forward to summer's broad beans, French beans, marrows and tomatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, potatoes and carrots in the Autumn, and succulent purple sprouting broccoli in Spring... oh and those magical Summer evenings in the garden and orchard, wandering from bush to bush, grazing on loganberries, gooseberries, redcurrants and a child, my whole conception of fruit and vegetables was automatically tuned in with the seasons. My mum being a thrifty sort of shopper, any produce we bought from abroad such as tangerines would be in its season too, as it is cheaper that way. It was a taste I never lost, and endeavoured to pass on to my daughter: even when, in my years as a single mum, I did not have a garden, we would visit the local pick-your-own farm and go for blackberrying walks. Now I am lucky enough to have a husband who is happy to spend time in our allotment to grow loads of veg and fruit, so we eat mainly seasonally (although we tend to buy tomatoes, lettuce and cucumber in Winter when ours have gone, and I will usually pick up some bell peppers every shopping trip). I think this blog reflects that well, if you look at the dates I posted the recipes. I've even found a good website about seasonal foods in the U K: which shows the seasonal foods for each week.
Hand- in hand with growing your own food and eating seasonally is the glut: a glut is when a particular fruit or vegetable is in peak season, and producing prolifically. It can get boring (runner beans every day for a month, then every other day for the next month...) but remember that fresh produce, picked in its prime and consumed immediately, is packed full of nutrients. Yes, a glut can stretch your culinary creativity to the max- but that's actually rather fun! Our ancient ancestors would have relied on berries in Summer and Autumn for vitamins and sugars, and roots and leaves at other times of the year. They would have had to know where to find these things at the right time, and to fill up on them while they could. Certain times of year meant certain types of food. For them, a glut must always have been a good thing- these days, in our throwaway world of supply and demand, most of us have lost any sense of appreciation for plenty. The Vedic scriptures tell us that in Satya Yuga (the Age of Goodness) plants grew more easily than they do now, and the people just had to pick and eat all they needed.
In our more recent history, various ways of preserving glut produce to eat in the coming months were developed; drying, salting, pickling, making jam... and now we have the freezer, which means that we can preserve most fruits and vegetables for at least a few weeks, with most of their vitamins intact. But freezers have limited space, and here in the UK the climate is certainly not conducive to sun-drying anything, even in Summer, so it is preserving by making chutneys, jams and pickles which has traditionally been used most. This we experienced a very good year for broad beans, runner beans, plums, damsons, apples and tomatoes, and our pumpkins and potatoes, as always, were harvested all at once, leaving us with good stores for the coming months. But not all produce is as long- lasting as potatoes and pumpkins, so we froze as many of the runner beans as we could, made crumbles, jam and chutney with the plums, juiced or dehydrated as rings the apples which were not so good for eating fresh and even made apple sauce for the freezer. The tomatoes were a delight to have to use up; we had the luxury of fresh tomato sauces and purees, and tasty little cherry plum tomatoes with every salad; I also "sun-dried" a few batches in the dehydrator, which were an absolute luxury! There was a bowlful of green tomatoes too, which I made into chutney (recipe will be posted soon). Those are just a few examples of what you can do to use up gluts of fruit and vegetables.

A few weeks ago, I met Nigel and Eleanor, two enterprising people who also appreciate nature's bounty and hate to see it go to waste. Along with food campaigner Theresa Haddon, they have formed a social enterprise, Urban Harvest, here in Birmingham,  which you can contact if you have, or know of any fruit growing wild or in your garden. They will come and harvest the fruit. If it's from your garden you pay them a small fee, and after they harvest it, they will give you back a proportion as juices, cordial, jam or chutney. The rest is sold to raise money. What a brilliant idea! Even in England's second city, there is so much to pick. As for me, I'm trying hard to be inventive about how I use our produce in glut times, and take the trouble to preserve some for the coming Winter. There is something very satisfying about growing and then gathering the harvest then cooking with it and offering the food to Krishna which really helps me feel closer to Him and to appreciate the way He looks after me, and all of us...

PS: Take a look at my posts from this summer to find recipes for jams and chutneys (18.9.11 springs to mind) and back about a year ago for pumpkin curd/ chutney. Many of my recipes feature vegetables or fruit which I have had plenty of, and needed to find new ways of cooking. Hope this gives you some inspiration!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Seitan how-to; an amendment is on its way!

Sorry folks- something appears to have gone wrong with my last post; I'll change it as soon as I get the chance to include captions on all the pictures and I'll get rid of the strange blank bit halfway through... :)

Friday, 9 December 2011

vegan "cheese" topping

Are you the only vegan in your household? Do you sometimes crave something "cheesy" to put on your toast, pasta, pizza or vegetables?- Then look no further; I have found a great combination which is flavoured remarkably similarly to the slightly salty tanginess of a mature Cheddar. It has a creamy texture like a thick mayo.  Another great thing is that it takes just minutes to make! These quantities make enough for 1-2 portions:
1 tab yeast flakes
1 tab vegan "Parmesan"
1 tab tahini
the juice of half a lemon
1 tab soy sauce/ liquid aminos
 2 tabs warm water

  • Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl except the water, liquids last.
  • Add the water and beat well.
  • Do whatever you want with it (but be aware that if you heat it it will probably go dry, cracked and leathery).

Monday, 5 December 2011

spiced cream of parsnip soup- vegan

What to do with the enormous parsnips from our allotment? Well, apart from roasting them, the obvious thing is to make soup. This one's a variation on a "curried" parsnip soup I used to make for a cafe a few years ago. It is really nice as a simple weekend lunch with wholemeal chapattis. The quantities given here will make enough for 4-6 portions, depending on how hungry you are:
600g fresh parsnip, diced
400ml soya milk
2 sticks celery
a little oil for frying
2 heaped tsps ground cumin
2 heaped tsps ground coriander seed
2 heaped tsps ground turmeric
a pinch of chilli
a pinch of hing
seasalt to taste

  • Chop the celery and fry in the oil in a large deep saucepan
  • Add the spices and diced parsnip, remove from the heat and mix together (this way teh spices won't scorch)
  • Return to the heat, adding a litre of water
  • Simmer until parsnips are soft, then blend until smooth
  • Return to the pan , adjust seasonings if necessary and heat gently to serve
Suggestion: This soup is great with some home-made wholemeal chapattis dunked in, but to make a more substantial meal it could be teamed up with salad and some kind of protein like cheese, walnuts or tofu.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Carob and hemp chewy bars

Bursting with energy and nutrients, these bars were the answer to my husband's recipe for Raw Apricot and Date Chewy Bars (see post 19.10.11), in a kind of "Bar Wars" :) I am on a quest to develop the ultimate yummy but healthy snack bar! They were a great addition to my lunchbox at work, though they drew some curiosity from colleagues. If you don't have a dehydrator, you could try a low oven- equivalent to145F or as near as you can get; it might take a long time, though. The following quantities made 8 bars:

100g semidried dates (called "fresh", but they come in a cardboard box)
100g sultanas
200g (including stones)whole  dried apricots (the small ones from Asian shops that look like Hunza apricots)
1 tab date syrup
1 tab carob powder (makes it quite strong- you may want a little less)
4 tabs hemp flour
4 heaped tabs desiccated coconut
200ml warm water

  • First, pre-prepare the dried fruit by soaking in the water and stoning the apricots when soft enough- keep the water.
  • Blend the soaked dried fruits with their water until you get a paste-like consistency.
  • Combine with the other ingredients 
  • Spread evenly onto a Paraflexx sheet and dehydrate at 145, turning onto the mesh tray and cutting as soon as they are dry enough. It takes around 10 hours, maybe a little more, but remember the thinner the bars the less time they will take. Remove from dehydrator when they are drier, firmer, and chewy.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Ingredient of the month 3: Nutritional Yeast

I think if yeasted bread and yeast extract are offerable to Krishna, then this should be too. Nutritional yeast is sometimes called "yeast flakes", "savoury yeast flakes", "Engevita", "Brufax", nooch or yeshi (Ethiopian for "for a thousand"). It is different from yeast extract, a strong-tasting brown paste, but can sometimes be used interchangeably. It also differs from brewers' yeast, which is truly impressive nutritionally but not very palatable. As well as being a great "cheesey" flavour, nutritional yeast is a very beneficial food- more about that later. It comes as either yellow flakes or powder, and is made from inactive ("dead") yeast, usually the same strain that is used in baking and brewing. I find that in the UK it's easiest to get hold of Engevita yeast flakes, which now come in a version with added vitamin B12 as well as the more familiar brown tub.

It is said that prisoners of war have grown their own yeast to prevent vitamin deficiency. Nutritional yeast is one of the richest sources of B-vitamins, especially when fortified with B-12. It is rich in protein, aminoacids (including glutamic acid- so be cautious of you are sensitive to monosodium glutamate), enzymes, minerals and trace elements and also low in sodium. A tablespoon and a half of nutritional yeast provides:
Thiamin – 640% RDA
Niacin – 280% RDA
Folic Acid – 60% RDA
Selenium – 32% RDA
Riboflavin – 565% RDA
Vitamin B6 – 480% RDA
Vitamin B12 – 133% RDA
Zinc – 21% RDA

I love to use nutritional yeast as a general condiment sprinkled on stuff like jacket potatoes, and also in mashed potato or toppings to baked savoury dishes, pasta and pizza. It makes a great "cheese" sauce with soya milk and a yummy salad dressing too. Apparently it tastes great with olive oil on popcorn, but I haven't tried that out yet. Nutritional yeast is such a versatile ingredient you are sure to have fun whatever savoury dish you're planning- go create!

PS: Anisha of Experiments! Life on the Road... and Flavours has won the first of the 3 cookbooks in my giveaway (see 27.11.11) All are excellent and interesting blogs, which I am now following; well worth a visit. If you would like a free copy of "Higher Taste" vegetarian cookbook, tell me in a comment, I will contact you and get your mailing address.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Mocha maple walnut birthday cake- no refined sugar

Well here's that slice of virtual birthday cake I promised you! If you want to make a real one, here's how:
800g self-raising flour
400ml soya milk
300ml rice bran oil
200ml maple syrup
200ml "Sweet Freedom" (or fruit concentrate)
4-6 tabs Barleycup/ coffee substitute
8 tsps baking powder
Topping and filling:
100g walnut halves, chopped/ crushed- but quarter a few for decoration
200ml tahini
100ml maple syrup
100ml date syrup (I ran out of maple syrup; you could use 200ml and omit the date syrup)
2 rounded tabs cocoa powder
Warning: this is a BIG cake! The mixture fills 2 round 10" moulds. The maple syrup flavour is hard to detect, but you could tweak the proportions to get more of it in. (But watch the texture; I found my maple syrup was runnier than the Sweet Freedom or date syrup.)
  • Mix all the dry cake ingredients together in a large mixing bowl
  • Combine all the wet ingredients, whisking briefly to ensure the syrup combines well
  • Beat wet into dry mixture
  • Put into moulds and bake for about 30mins in an oven preheated to 180C, or until a thin skewer inserted comes out clean.
  • Turn out onto a rack to cool
  • Meanwhile, beat all topping ingredients together apart from the walnuts.
  • When cake is completely cool, use half to sandwich the 2 cake halves together, along with the chopped walnuts.
  • Top with the other half and decorate with quartered walnuts. (My writing does not come under the "no refined sugar" banner, as it was made with white icing sugar piped using the wring nozzle for writing!)


I have now altered my giveaway to include readers from anywhere in the world! I hope if you read the original post in the last 3 hours before I altered it, you will see this amendment...

"Higher Taste" cookbook birthday giveaway!

Happy birthday to me! The Yogi Vegetarian blog is 1 year old today. ..   

...It hasn't exactly been a runaway success in terms of having lots of followers, but gets enough hits to make me feel it's worth carrying on, and has given me lots of enjoyment: I'm passionate about sharing both my recipes and the spiritual reasons for vegetarianism! I think most hits I get come from people searching for a particular recipe rather than following the blog. One thing that still blows me away, though, is the fact that through the internet I have reached out to readers in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, the US, Russia, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Thailand, South Africa and India. I'd like to thank my tiny little band of followers for their kind comments and loyalty over the past year; I've been really inspired by looking at all your blogs too- thank you; there are some wonderfully- made sites out there!

This year I've come to the belief that the internet is the best recipe book. (The pages never get dirty no matter how much you use them!) I have looked at so many great cooking blogs, and blogs that include recipes; it's very humbling. Having said that, though, I'm giving away 3 copies of the cookbook "The Higher Taste" to readers  to celebrate my first year of blogging.  It's a Hare Krishna classic: a sound discussion of the various philosophical, health and moral reasons to be vegetarian followed by some really yummy pure vegetarian (ie: lacto but no eggs) recipes from around the world. There are even menu plans to help you combine the dishes and create a feast. Many of the recipes are from world famous Hare Krishna chef Kurma Das, author of several popular cookbooks. If you would like a copy, please say so in a comment on this post and hit "follow"; I will follow you back if you tell me your blog's URL! I will post a book to the first three to apply and include their mailing address, and I'll announce the winners and give a quick plug to their blogs (if they have one) as soon as I see that three people have applied.

Over the next year, my resolution is to carry on blogging, branch out and use some more unusual/ exotic ingredients in my cooking, and start making some "how to" videos to add to my blog. I want to reach more and more people, and make more "blog friends" so I'm aiming to continue my trend of getting more hits with every month. Any tips from you guys on how to make a successful blog would be much appreciated! A big slice of virtual birthday cake to you all,
Looking forward to hearing from you,

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Ginger and date squares- vegan

As well as being vegan, they are also free from refined sugar, containing date syrup, dates and shakar/ gour. They are soft and cakey, with a slightly more fudgy texture than sponge cake, and remind me of an eggless version of Jamaican ginger cake. This recipe makes 12 squares.

400g self-raising flour
150ml organic, cold-pressed sunflower oil
400ml soya milk
4 tsps baking powder
100g shakar/ powdered gour
150g chopped dried dates
100ml date syrup
4 tabs powdered ginger

  • Combine all dry ingredients
  • Separately, mix together the soya milk, oil and date syrup. Beat well to ensure the date syrup doesn't get left behind in the bottom of the bowl
  • Add the wet to the dry ingredients and beat well for about 2 minutes
  • Put mixture into a dampened square silicone mould/ oiled and floured square cake tin
  • Bake in an oven preheated to 180C for about 25 minutes, or until a thin skewer, inserted, comes out clean.
  • Cut into squares and leave to cool on a wire rack

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Vegan Vegetable or Ravioli Filling

This filling is packed with protein from the ground almonds and the hemp powder, and the nutritional yeast gives it a somewhat cheesy flavour. I started cooking the peppers while I mixed the filling together, so it really was a quick and easy supper together with brown rice, grilled slices of aubergine (eggplant)  and steamed broccoli- and less than an hour from start to finish! Afterwards, it struck me that the  filling is a good texture for ravioli and although it's a long time since I made my own pasta, I might just give it a go...
(These quantities are enough to stuffs 6 bell peppers)
200g ground almonds
4 heaped tabs hemp flour
4 level tabs yeast flakes
2 level tabs vegan "Parmesan"
1/2 tube double concentrated tomato puree
2 sticks celery, chopped thinly
 the equivalent in sweet potato of 1 med grated carrot ( or 1 med carrot, grated)
1 tab dried mixed herbs
1-2 tabs pumpkin seeds
a pinch of hing
a pinch of paprika
seasalt and coarse-ground black pepper to taste
oil for shallow-frying

  • Gently fry the celery in the oil until starting to soften and set aside
  • Mix the seeds, ground nuts, hemp flour, yeast flakes and vegan "Parmesan" and all the seasonings in a large bowl
  • Stir in the vegetables 
  • Add the tomato puree and mix well
  • Use to stuff vegetables or ravioli. If stuffing vegetables such as bell peppers, ensure they are partially cooked on an oiled baking tray at 200C, then stuff them and return to the oven until peppers are soft and filling is heated through.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Red bean hemp burgers- vegan

Every cook should have a great veggieburger recipe under their belt; they're a real crowd-pleaser, and relatively quick and easy. I don't know what the situation is elsewhere, but in the UK commercially- made veggieburgers are definitely in the junk food category, and all contain ingredients which are not offerable to Krishna, many of them even egg. I always like to include some ultra- nutritious ingredients in mine, and this time it's hemp flour. Hemp flour (as opposed to hemp protein powder) is the milled residue from pressing hemp seed for oil. It has a somewhat earthy flavour and dark olive green colour. It is 1/3 protein, 1/5 carbohydrate and contains a small quantity of fatty acids. 
Don't be put off by the long list of ingredients in this recipe; these burgers are simple to make. The quantities given here will make 6 good-sized ones. I like to serve them with oven- cooked potato wedges and a large salad, topped with a home-made relish (see quick tomato chutney 11.2.11, plum chutney 18.9.11). Bread is an optional extra.

About 500ml cooked red kidney beans (equivalent to 2 cans, drained)
4 rounded tabs hemp flour
3 level tabs yeast flakes
2 level tabs porridge oats
2 level tabs sesame seeds
2 tsps seasalt
1 level tab mixed dried herbs
1/2 -1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp hing
1 tsp paprika
2 tabs tomato puree
2 bell peppers
  • Mash the beans thoroughly, and add the rest of the dry ingredients.
  • Grate in the bell peppers
  • Mix well; if the mixture seems too moist add a bit more oats. It should hold together when gently squeezed in your hand.
  • Divide into 6 pieces, roll each into a ball and flatten into patties.
  • Place on an oiled baking sheet and cook at 200C until brown, turning carefully halfway through. (About 20 minutes.)
Note: This recipe is not designed with frying in mind- if you do want to shallow-fry the burgers, you may have to adjust the moisture content of the mix.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Almond/ Carob Celebration Cake

This is a cake I made for Govardhana Puja at the end of October, but you could use it anytime as a celebration cake. To get the shape, I cooked the cake in a greased and floured stainless steel bowl (to represent the hill). You could split, fill with frosting and reassemble the cake if you want, but I didn't bother and it was yummy anyway. The frosting was date syrup, carob powder and Sweet Freedom syrup (fruit concentrate and carob extract), with desiccated coconut shaken up with a few drops of green food colouring (for the "grass"). you could use buttercream if you like, but I wanted to make this cake vegan. To the basic cake recipe (see my post 16.12.10) add a couple of generous teaspoons of natural almond essence; this makes the flavour a bit more special. To finish, I just put a few nice flowers and some flat-leaved parsley from the garden on top and around the bottom- et voila! I also surrounded the cake with "rocks" of peanut butter/ carob sweets (peanut butter, icing sugar and carob powder) and made some chocolate cupcakes too.

Btw, you may have noticed 2 new widgets on this blog; one is on the sidebar at the top, and one is at the bottom, under "Popular Posts".  Now I'm not really into being very commercialised but I did want to increase my traffic and reach more people by referrals, so I joined "The Foodie Blogroll", a great site for linking up with other foodie bloggers. I've also subscribed to "Ptitchef", which is a fantastic French cooking website with hundreds of vegetarian recipes on it. (I've already found quite a few I want to try out!) You can click on the widget and go straight there if you're interested.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Smoky Autumn Pizza- vegan

Friday night pizza is always a favourite way to celebrate the coming weekend in our house, and last week, rather than just omit the cheese from the vegan one (I usually make one vegan and one cheesy) I decided to do something a bit more adventurous...

I've included a closeup so you can see the toppings properly; to my usual pizza base (see my 19.3.11 and 20.4.11 posts) I added a topping of mashed roasted pumpkin with a little salt and the leftover marinade from the tofu (soy sauce, paprika and a generous amount of smoked paprika). On top of this I sprinkled green peppers, halved cherry tomatoes, sweetcorn, olives, black pepper, dried basil,a little hing and nutritional yeast flakes. Instead of mozzarella I sliced tofu thinly and marinated it for about half an hour as noted above. Yum! (You could marinate smoked tofu instead of plain, for even more smokiness.)

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Vegan Shepherd's Pie

This is an alternative recipe to my "Soya Shepherd's Pie" (26.1.11) which features nutritional yeast (my "Ingredient of the Month" in December) and chunky vegetables instead of beans with the TVP mince in the bottom layer. The quantities given here serve 8-10 hungry people as a main course.
2.225kg potatoes, chopped
300g celeriac and pumpkin (or carrot of you eat it), diced small
300g (dry weight) unflavoured  TVP soya mince
1 tab brown rice miso
1 tab nutritional yeast flakes- or more if you like 
300g fresh tomatoes, blended to a liquid
200ml soya milk
cold-pressed sunflower oil for frying
Plus seasalt, black pepper, dried herbs, paprika and hing to season.
  • Precook the potatoes in the minimum of water
  • Meanwhile, soak the TVP in 800ml water. When soft, stir in the miso, then add the blended tomatoes. 
  • Season the mixture
  • Stir-fry the diced vegetables until soft, add to the TVP mixture and put into a large, fairly deep oven dish
  • When the potatoes are well-cooked, drain if necessary and mash with the soya milk, a pinch of salt and the nutritional yeast.
  • Spread the mash on top of the bottom layer and make into rough ridges (these will go crisp and brown when baked)
  • Bake at 200C for 20-25 minutes or until heated thoroughly and browning on top.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Moroccan apricot and almond couscous with roasted vegetables

A jar of powdered ras el hanout in my cupboard caught my eye the other day and I resolved to find something to do with it other than spice up chickpeas (see "North African chickpeas with ras el hanout", posted here 8.5.11). Then I noticed wholemeal couscous in my local supermarket... this subtle but spicy dish makes the most of our lovely Autumnal veggies and is colourful and satisfying without being stodgy. Don't be put off by the long ingredients list- it is fairly quick and easy to make. If you like uppma (a savoury vegetable and semolina dish) then you'll probably like this for a change. Serve with a green salad and olives for extra colour and vitamins to get you through the rapidly darkening mornings and evenings, or top with tomato sauce. The quantities her fed 6 of us for dinner plus two smaller lunches the next day, so reduce the quantities if not feeding so many!

500g wholemeal couscous
200g almonds
100g semidried apricots, chopped
1/4 small white cabbage, finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil for sauteing
1/4 large celeriac*
450g firm orange pumpkin*
2 bell peppers*
a handful of fresh cilantro (coriander) or flat-leaved parsley leaves, divided into small sprigs
1 tab soy sauce/ liquid aminos
1 tsp hing
a pinch of powdered gour/ shakar
seasalt to taste
2 tabs ras el hanout
1 tsp turmeric and./ or a few strands of saffron
1 tsp paprika
  • Soak the almonds for at least 15 minutes
  • Roast the almonds in the minimum of oil at 200C until browned (be sure to watch them- they overcook quickly!)
  • Meanwhile, prepare the veggies by cutting them into chunks- and peel the pumpkin if using 
  • When the nuts are roasted crush with a rolling pin, but leave some whole/ nearly whole for texture
  • Roast the other vegetables in oilive oil (adding faster-cooking ones like bell peppers later to avoid overcooking them) at 225C
  • Saute the cabbage in a large pan over a medium-high heat, adding the hing, soy sauce/ liquid aminos and shakar
  • Add to the pan 800ml water, seasalt, ras el hanout, turmeric/ saffron and paprika
  • Stir in the couscous over a gentle heat until it softens and the liquid is absorbed. Adjust seasoning if desired
  • Stir in the apricots and almonds
  • Just before serving, add the coriander/ parsley leaves
  • Serve with the roasted veggies on top and a green salad on the side

* (You can swap these veggies for courgettes, aubergine, beetroot or parsnip if you like)

Friday, 4 November 2011

A Bonfire Night Special- Savoury Catherine Wheels- vegan

These days Bonfire Night is less about Guy Fawkes and more about getting together with friends and family to gasp at municipal fireworks and toast various foodstuffs round a small bonfire. Here in multicultural Birmingham the fireworks season begins with Eid or Diwali, runs through Hallowe'en, Bonfire Night and Big Eid and ends with New Years' Eve, and as I'm writing this around 3:00pm on Diwali, I can even hear fireworks going off already! All this does become a bit passe after a few weeks, but right now it's put me in a festive mood so I've been cooking up some snacky little treats to tide us over until we eat tonight. This recipe is dedicated to my late Mum and Dad, in memory of Bonfire Nights in the the 'Seventies- but you'll have to allow me to indulge in a bit of nostalgia before I share the recipe with you...
...After a week of "Penny for the Guy", (a grotesque effigy of Guy Fawkes complete with scary mask from the corner shop which we would parade around the streets in an old pram to get money for fireworks and sweets), we would all gather on Bonfire Night at the end of our road and then someone's Dad (probably mine!) would pour some petrol on our giant communal bonfire to help it light as it would inevitably be damp. Once it was ablaze, the Guy would then be thrown on amid raucous cheers, and the dodgy fireworks display would begin, with everyone's Dad trying to outdo the others in daredevil Roman candle-lighting feats which broke just about everything in the fireworks code, to the accompaniment of screams of terror and delight and mugs of lukewarm soup. All tremendous fun, but totally in breach of begging, health and safety and food hygiene legislation- you'd never get away with it today! I remember one year, somewhat unnerved by the boys who had been letting off rockets inside milk bottles the previous year, my Mum decided that we would have our own party in the garden so after the Guy-burning we retreated to relative safety (which, by the way, quite literally backfired because my Dad didn't pin up a Catherine wheel properly and it went spinning across the garden!) to enjoy Heinz tomato soup and some yummy pastry "Catherine wheels" made with cheese and Marmite, an idea Mum had got from a magazine. I loved them so much that from then on they were a firm lunchbox favourite! This is my grown-up and vegan take on them, then, in memory of Mum's firework-phobia and Dad's crazy firework displays...
(Makes 16-18)
300g organic wholemeal flour
100ml organic cold-pressed sunflower oil
50ml extra-virgin olive oil
cold water to mix
1 tsp seasalt
a pinch of black pepper
1 dsp dried basil
1 dsp paprika
2 tsps brown rice miso
3 tabs tomato puree
3 tabs nutritional yeast
1 tab vegan "Parmesan" (comes as powder in a tub)
  • Make up the pastry in the usual way for shortcrust pastry and set aside to chill in the refrigerator- this makes it a bit easier to roll out
  • Meanwhile, combine all the filling ingredients thoroughly
  • Roll the pastry into a rectangle and spread evenly with the filling
  • Roll up tightly and cut into 1cm-thick slices
  • Place on a oiled baking sheet and bake in an oven preheated to 200C for 15-20 minutes, until nocely browned. On cooling, they become crumbly outside, but remain a little softer inside.
My kids couldn't guess that there was neither Marmite nor cheese in them- but once they knew, they still enjoyed them; at least I presume so, by the way the pastries disappeared from the kitchen overnight... Of course, if you want to make the original version, with Cheddar cheese and yeast extract, they will be equally yummy. (Note: Marmite now contains onion- I rang up and checked- so if you are making them to offer to Krishna, use another brand which is pure yeast without vegetable and spice extracts.)

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Ingredient of the month 2: Date Syrup

I bought this jar from a Middle Eastern grocery, but major wholefood brands such as Meridian also import it. I think you can get organic date syrup too- try "Crazy Jack's" brand. I love date syrup (or "rub" as it is called in Arabic) for its sweet stickiness and strong date flavour. It is made in the Middle East (countries such as Iran, Iraq, UAE, Egypt and even Pakistan being major producers) where it is traditionally used to sweeten drinks and as a spread on bread.
Nutrition (per 100g):

Energy :287 kcal
Glucose :Min 41%
Fructose :Min 29%
Fiber :4.0 g.
Protein :3.3
Iron :2.60 mg.
Carbohydrate :68.0 g.
Br ix :70 ± 1%
Vitamin B1 :0.03 mg.
Vitamin B2 :0.06 mg.
Vitamin C :2.60 mg.

Date syrup is 65-70% sugars in total. mainly glucose and fructose. It is also high in iron, therefore recommended for those suffering from anaemia. If you are looking for a very slow-releasing sugar, however, you might be better off with stevia, xylitol or malt extract, as eating more than a moderate amount can have the same effect as white sugar. Personally I find that date syrup is fine for me- I don't get the "rush" then dip in my blood sugar that I get from cane or beet sugar.

  • Dates contain many health benefitting flavonoid polyphenolic antioxidants known as tannins. Tannins are known to have anti-infective, anti-inflammatory, and anti-hemorrhagic (prevent easy bleeding tendencies) properties.
  • They are a good source of Vitamin-A (contains 149 IU per 100 g), which is known to have antioxidant properties and is essential for vision. Vitamin A also required maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. Consumption of natural fruits rich in vitamin A is known to help to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
  • The fruit is very rich in antioxidant flavonoids such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants have the ability to help protect cells and other structures in the body from oxygen free radicals and thereby found to be protective against colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers. 
  • Zeaxanthin, an important dietary carotenoid selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea where it is thought to provide antioxidant and protective light-filtering functions; thus it offers protection against age related macular degeneration, especially in elderly populations.

    Date syrup is great stirred into warm milk or soya milk as a drink or substituted for sugar and/ or sugar syrup in cakes and flapjacks. It's also a really delicious sweet spread when mixed with tahini (sesame paste). On a cold winter's morning, date syrup drizzled over your porridge brings a warming taste of sunshine!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Soda flatbread

This is what my husband decided to make to go with my sweetcorn chowder with red cabbage, and it was just perfect! I was soon tearing off chunks and dipping it in...
To make 5 large flatbreads:
1 cup self-raising flour
2 cups wholemeal flour
200ml soya milk
25 ml extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsps bicarbonate of soda (not baking powder)
1 tsp salt
  •  Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl
  • Rub in the olive oil
  • Stir in 200ml soya milk
  • Mix into a dough and divide into 5 balls
  • Roll out into circles
  • Cook on a tava, as you would chapattis.
Possible tweaks: Add herbs, nutritional yeast, pepper, chilli or any other seasoning to make these breads extra-special.

    Thursday, 27 October 2011

    Quick carob peanut butter fudge for Govardhan Puja

    Background photo of a relief in Sri Giridhari Gaudiya Matha, Govardhan, based on a painting by my senior godsister Symarani didi

    Here's what I made to honour the day- not vegan, but you could always use powdered soya milk instead of powdered cows' milk.
    3 tabs dried skimmed milk
    1 tab powdered stevia leaf (not vital, so just omit this if you don't have any)
    4 heaped tabs peanut butter (I used crunchy, but you could use smooth for a more homogenous mixture
    3 tabs carob powder
    4 tabs Pakistani shakar (like gour, but even less refined)
    1 dsp date syrup

    • Simply mix everything together,starting with a spoon, then rubbing in with your fingers to ensure an even mix
    • Press into a foil-lined loaf tin and cut into 14 pieces (like burfi or fudge)
    • Firm up in the fridge for at least 15 minutes

    Govardhan Puja

    Today in the UK is the day of Govardhan Puja. One day after Diwali, it is now that we celebrate the time when Krishna saved the people of Vraja from Indra's vengeful rainstorm by lifting Govardhana Hill for seven days and nights so that they could shelter underneath. I have some fond memories of pilgrimages to India at this time, when my daughter was very small. She used to love all the stalls selling mithai and glass bangles that pop up on the streets from nowhere for Diwali and the colourful rangoli outside peoples' doors. On Diwali night we all used to go down to Manasi Ganga in Govardhan and put divas on the water. The crowds were awesome! The mandirs in Vrindavan and Govardhan are decorated with festoons of twinkling lights, firecrackers are going off everywhere and inside the lamp-lit temples there are beautiful decorations with cow-dung murti of Krishna lifting Govardhan, coloured with bright powders to welcome the steady stream of worshippers. My Guru Maharaja used to take us onto Giriraja Govardhana at night to sing bhajans by candlelight. In the day we would do parikrama of Giriraja Govardhan (which takes nearly all day) stopping to feed dried chana to the monkeys and listen to Harikatha, and on Govardhan Puja we would have the annakuta festival, for which we would make sweet and savoury preparations and carry them in a loud kirtan procession, along with heavy jugs of milk which we had painted the day before, through the town of Govardhan and to Giriraja, where Gurudeva would perform arati and offer them all. We each got a large bag of prasadam goodies to take back with us!
    Tonight I shall make some special sweets, pile them up in the shape of a hill and remember Krishna's sweet Govardhan lila...

    Wednesday, 26 October 2011

    Sweetcorn Chowder with Red Cabbage- vegan

    Served with home-made flatbread, this is a truly seasonal delight!

    It was the first day of the Autumn half- term holiday, and lunchtime was looming... I was looking for some quick and tasty fuel to get me out into the garden to plant the Spring bulbs, my husband was feeling ill with a heavy cold -and the kids were just plain hungry. When I phoned up to tell my husband's customer of the day that he was unwell and wouldn't be able to work, he said: "Make him some hot soup," so this recipe was born! It actually tastes so rich and creamy everyone thought it had milk, cream or cheese in it, but in actual fact the secret is ground sunflower seeds and nutritional yeast plus a little bit of soya milk; these ingredients make this a much more nutrient- dense version, being packed with B vitamins, aminoacids, vitamin E and minerals and it is a very satisfying meal with some bread or crackers. The stir-fried red cabbage is added at the end to preserve the soup's yellow colour and give a bit of crunch.
    My husband was making the flatbreads while I made the soup, so together we managed to rustle up this lunch for five from scratch in about half an hour, maybe less.
    A handful of red cabbage for each person
    100g sunflower seeds
    450g frozen sweetcorn kernels
    500ml water
    200ml soya milk
    1 tsp organic rice miso
    olive oil/ organic sunflower oil for stir-frying
    1 tsp hing
    a dash of soy sauce/ liquid aminos
    1 dsp nutritional yeast flakes
    black pepper, seasalt and dried thyme to taste
    • First grind the sunflower seeds as finely as your grinder will let you without actually making sunflower butter.
    • Chop the red cabbage into fine shreds and stir-fry in the oil, adding the soy sauce and hing when about half done, then lowering the heat and cooking gently until just cooked through but still a little crunchy. Set aside.
    • Mix 1 tsp miso with 500ml water and add to a pan along with the sweetcorn, heating gently.
    • Stir in the ground sunflower seeds and the soya milk and bring to the boil.
    • Turn off the heat and blend all but a few ladle-fuls (it's nice to leave a few kernels in there), returning to the pan on a gentle heat.
    • Season with the salt, black pepper, thyme and nutritional yeast.
    • Serve with a dollop of red cabbage in the middle and some flatbread*(see pic).
    -Oh, and a very happy Diwali to all!

    *My husband's flatbread recipe to follow in my next post.

    Wednesday, 19 October 2011

    Raw Apricot and Date Chewy Bars

    This was my husband's debut with the dehydrator, and very good they turned out, too!
    200g dates (with pits) 150g stoned
    200g dried apricots (with pits) 150g stoned
    100g ground almonds
    100g ground pumpkin seeds
    • Soak fruit and remove pits, blend using the soak water (some or all)
    • Mix and dehydrate on Paraflexx sheet at veg temp for 6-8 hours, scoring and turning onto mesh when 1/2 done. The longer you dehydrate them. the chewier they get/ My husband's mix was quite wet so he made them thinner so they didn't take too long; you could always go for a drier mix and have them more chunky.

    Monday, 17 October 2011

    Carob, date and walnut cake- vegan, sugar- free

    Cut into squares so that each one has a covered date on top...

    As this week is National Baking Week  here in the UK, I thought I would post (yet) another cake. Not that I need an excuse, of course..! My husband had requested a cake with chocolate, dates and walnuts in it this weekend, but I'd run out of cocoa powder, so I made this one instead. As a token gesture towards his request for chocolate, I made some chocolate-covered dates to put on top, as I did have the odd bar hanging around; (the "odd bar" happened to be milk chocolate, but you could always use plain/ soya chocolate or a carob bar.) Sticky, sweet and light, this cake ticks all the yumminess boxes...
    Lately I've been cooking a lot with dates as there seem to be lots of bargains in my local Asian shops; Iranian date syrup, the usual Tunisian dried dates and even some really delicious boxes of "fresh" dates (I think they're actually semidried or else a drier variety). It was the fresh dates that I used in this cake. Dates are a good source of iron, and generally a health-giving food, unlike refined sugars; watch out for my Ingredient of the Month in November for more info. on dates and nutrition.
    400g self-raising flour
    3-4 tabs carob powder
    4 tsps baking powder
    175g chopped fresh dates and chopped walnuts
    400ml soya milk
    150ml organic cold-pressed sunflower oil (the distinctive flavour goes well with the dates)
    100ml each of date syrup and Sweet Freedom syrup (which also contains carob- if you can't get it, perhaps you could use a thick fruit concentrate or all date syrup)
    More date syrup and carob powder for the topping
    • Combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl
    • Beat all the wet ingredients together in a separate container until you have a coffee-coloured liquid and the syrup is thoroughly mixed in with the oil and milk
    • Beat the wet mix into the dry mix and pout into an oiled and floured cake tin/ dampened silicone cake mould
    • Bake at 180C for about 25 minutes; you can test if it's done by inserting a thin skewer into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is baked.
    • While the cake is baking, stone 9 or 10 dried or fresh dates and coat them in melted chocolate/ carob. (I put mine in the freezer to set them quickly.)
    • Mix enough date syrup with carob powder to form a sticky, slightly runny paste that you can spread over the top of the cake. Then sit the covered dates on the top.
     If there is any left. wrap carefully in clingfilm/ store in an airtight container. It is even better the next day, when the sticky topping has soaked into the cake!

      Thursday, 13 October 2011

      Chocolate Cake- vegan, sugar-free

      I made this cake last Saturday as we had guests. I served it with Strawberry "Sweet Freedom" vegan icecream, which is also sugar-free. I used my usual cake recipe (see post 16.12.10), adding cocoa powder and replacing the sugar with half- and- half date syrup and "Sweet Freedom" syrup (made from fruit concentrate and carob). The icing and filling is the closest I could get to chocolate fudge icing without using powdered soya milk, sugar and/ or melted chocolate (none of which I had to hand at the time), and is satisfyingly rich and gooey: to equal amounts of date and "Sweet Freedom" syrups I added plenty of cocoa powder, a little soya milk and a dollop of tahini- I just kept adding and mixing until I was happy with the taste and texture. The chocolate beans on top are dairy-free and naturally coloured, but do contain cane sugar; if you are feeling particularly puritanical, you could always use a grated vegan, sugar- free chocolate bar such as the one you can get in Holland and Barrett (I forget the brand).
      Those arbiters of taste and food critics extrordinaire, the kids, didn't even notice that there wasn't any "proper" sugar in this cake, so I thought it was worth sharing 

      Tuesday, 11 October 2011

      Kartika month is here!

      Kartika worship of Sri Radha Krishna in Vrindavana, India (image:
      Today marks the beginning of the last month of Caturmasya- known as Kartika, Damodara, or Urja Vrata.  ("Urja" refers to Srimati Radharani, Krishna's shakti or power/ energy). In this month we fast from sesame and mustard oil. We offer a ghee lamp to Krishna daily and sing the beautiful "Damodarastakam", remembering Krishna's childhood pastimes of stealing butter, herding the calves and cows and being bound by His mother. Here is a video of Damodarastakam I made last year, which should explain it more:

      During Kartika month we celebrate Gopastami. when Krishna and His brother Balarama first herded the calves, then the cows, the appearance and disappearance days of many Vaisnavas, the appearance of Radha Kunda, Divali, Govardhan Puja (more about that nearer the time) and Tulasi-Shalagram Vivaha. Many devotees have gone to India to perform Vraja- Mandala Parikrama (sadly not me and my husband this year...) for the month. Today I will make my vrata for the month and try my best to keep it. Last night I got the temple room in my house ready, with extra flowers and a picture of Damodara-lila on the altar:

      Hoping for the energy and determination to get up a bit earlier every day this month to do some special prayers..!