Friday, 26 October 2012

Triple Choc Bites- a No-Bake Refrigerator Cake

Bite-sized sweet treats...

...Perfect for a birthday bonfire party!
These are not vegan (although they could easily be vegan-ised- think dark chocolate with orangey peel or essence) and certainly not free of sugar, so apologies if you read my blog for healthy vegan recipes and information:  you can always click here, here or here for some more wholesome festive bakes...
I should explain that although myself and my husband follow a vegan diet of late, our kids are pure vegetarian, meaning they don't eat meat, fish or eggs, but they do eat dairy products at times. I was asked to make this for my stepson's 16th birthday party, which is to be tonight (Tuesday) and I thought they would also be good to submit to Chandrani's event at her yummy space Cuisine Delights as she is spotlighting festival food until November, and this simple recipe would certainly go down really well at any celebration. It is a tradition in my family to make this no-bake cake on November 5th, for the English "Bonfire Night."

So without further ado, here's the recipe:
250g milk chocolate digestive biscuits
100g margarine or butter
150g golden syrup
2 tabs cocoa powder
100g raisins
300g white chocolate
a little cocoa powder for dusting
  • Crush the biscuits in a plastic bag with a rolling pin (stop before they turn into crumbs; leave some small pieces.
  • Melt the butter/ margarine, syrup and cocoa powder together over a gentle heat. 
  • Stir in the biscuits and raisins.
  • Spread evenly into a buttered, foil-lined baking tray and press down to a depth of about 1cm. I found that the quantities given here will not quite fill a standard Swiss roll tin.
  • Put in the freezer to firm up, but remove before it actually freezes.
  • Meanwhile, break up and melt the white chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water. Beat until smooth.
  • Spread the chocolate carefully over the fridge cake and dust with a little cocoa powder, as shown in the picture.
  • Return to the freezer to set, but when the chocolate is about half set, mark out the little bite-sized squares as the chocolate tends to crack if you try to cut it from scratch once fully set.
  • Once set, remove from freezer and store in the fridge.
A note about chocolate: If you are using any other chocolate apart from white chocolate, you may get a whitish "bloom" on the surface if you let it go from hot to very cold too suddenly. This doesn't affect the taste, just the look.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

My Fitness Diary 4: Tips for Running in Autumn/ Winter

Puddles, wet and frosty fallen leaves... this picture was taken a couple of Novembers ago  on one of the streets where I now run.

The week before last week my husband very kindly treated me to a hi-viz waterproof, windproof running jacket and now I can really see the reason why: if I choose to run in the early evening it's getting darker and colder, and often drizzly. I am starting to come across drifts of slippery fallen leaves on the pavement, and sooner or later I'll face running on frost. All that got me thinking about the hazards of bad-weather running, and how I can prevent injury and stay safe, so I did a little research and found the following advice:
  • What you wear is really important; you can damage muscles as well as catch a chill if you're underdressed, but get uncomfortably overheated of you're overdressed. Dress as if it's a bit warmer outside than it actually is.Thin layers and wicking (moisture-drawing) fabrics are recommended, so that you can get rid of excess layers.
  • Hands should be kept warm with running gloves or fingerless mittens on very cold days, and you can wear thicker socks as long as they're still comfortable.
  • About 40% of your body heat is lost from your head, so put on a hat. You can even wear a scarf over your mouth to warm the air up before you breathe it in and tp protect your face. (I'm presuming this is only for the coldest of days.) You can actually get frostbite while running- be aware of tingling, pallor and numbness in hands and feet.
  • If you have asthma, be aware that cold air can trigger an attack.
  • If it's frosty and snowy underfoot, try to stick to running on the snow rather than the frost, as it provides more traction and you're less likely to slip and fall.
  • Re-think when you run, as early mornings and evenings will be darker. You won't be as visible to traffic, and you'll probably may find it harder to see, too. Hi-viz/ reflective clothing or bands are good. If personal safety is an issue after dark where you run and you can't run anywhere else then carry an alarm with you.
  • Carry your mobile phone with you in a zipped-up pocket, in case of accident or other emergency such as getting lost in a snowstorm.
  • In icy weather, try not to run where there is a lot of traffic due to the increased risk of a car skidding out of control and into you. Always run facing oncoming traffic.
  • Petroleum jelly (eg Vaseline) on your nose, cheeks and knuckles can help protect against cold wind.
  • If conditions are wet or icy focus on your running surface and run around puddles to keep your feet dry and look out for black ice. If you have to run on an icy surface take shorter strides and slow down a little to give yourself a better chance of keeping control if you start to slip. If you enjoy running to music, think about leaving your i-pod at home if it will distract you from watching where you are running.
  • Consider using a shoe tag or wristband with your name and emergency contact numbers on it. Let someone know when you set off and your route before you leave.
  • Make sure your running shoes are not so worn that they have no grip on the soles; if they get to this stage, it is likely that they have lost their "bounce" anyway, and will not be good for you to use in any weather.
  • Finally, give yourself a little tlc after a cold run and soothe your muscles in a hot bath.
Well, apart from having missed a few days last week from being too tired after work, I'm still running and haven't had any problems yet, although my quadriceps in both legs are often stiff and sore from all the work they're getting used to. I'm hoping this will stop soon as I get fitter. I'm still doing a mile or 3/4 mile only, but I have noticed I've got a lot faster recently.
PS: This morning I took it steady and ran 2 miles :-)


Monday, 22 October 2012

Pumpkin Soup- vegan

This bright orange soup is flavoured with aromatic bay, star anise and celery seed

Homegrown pumpkins- the blue-grey ones have the firm orange flesh that makes this creamy soup

I love the fact that by the end of September we always seem to have a huge pile of pumpkins to last us through the Winter until early Spring! We use the previous years' seeds each time we plant, so the different varieties tend to hybridise gradually into slightly different fruits, but they are all delicious, so who cares? For this warming soup recipe I used the small greyish sort, which has firm (rather than watery) bright orange flesh, as it's so creamy and tasty. The delicate flavour and natural sweetness of pumpkin is enhanced here by using aromatic flavourings in moderation. This recipe serves about 4 people as a light lunch, or more as a side. It's guaranteed to brighten up a drizzly Autumn day :-)

550g pumpkin flesh, peeled and diced
200g diced potato
1 tsp dried thyme
1tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp compound hing
a pinch of coarsely-ground black pepper
1-1/2tsps seasalt
2 tsps paprika
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika (optional- or use 1-2 tsps ground cinnamon instead)
2 bay leaves
1/2 a star anise
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tab olive oil
1 1/4l water
  • Gently saute the pumpkin, potato and ginger in the oil in a large pan.
  • When coated in oil, add the star anise, hing, pepper and celery seed. Stir for about 1 minutes, ensuring the spices and veg don't stick to the bottom of the pan. By now, the spices should be starting to release their aromas.
  • Add the water and throw in the bay leaves, salt, paprikas, cinnamon (if using) and thyme. Bring to a simmer and put the pan lid on.
  • Simmer until the vegetables are soft, then remove the bay leaves and star anise and whizz in the blender until smooth and creamy.
  • Adjust water and salt to your liking. (I prefer this soup thick and velvety.)