Monday, 30 December 2013

Food trends of 2013 - were we right?- and what's new for 2014

Vegan cheese on toast- has vegan now become the new vegetarian?

It hardly seems like a year since we were summing up what was going on in the food world for 2012 and making our predictions for 2013... were we right? Let's see:

  1. We said that natural and gluten free foods would become even more popular in 2013: And they were! 2013 was also the international year of quinoa, which may have also helped. The craze for fonuts- an American healthy and usually vegan, often gluten free version of doughnuts- is an example of this. As predicted, there was also an upsurge of interest in "super greens" in the UK, with kale and kale chips generating a lot of popularity in supermarkets and recipe sites.
  2. We said that Asian flavours would be big in 2013: Waitrose Weekend Magazine says that in the UK at least, it was Middle Eastern flavours like harissa and preserved lemon that cornered the market. And was kimchi really so passe by 2013?- Not according to Huff Post, anyway.
  3. We said that vegetables would reign supreme, and even find their way into dessert recipes: Also that cauliflower steaks would become popular; well that's certainly come true going on how many times I've seen them on food blogs over the past year. Yum!
  4. We said that home baking would continue to be really popular, especially in the UK: "Baking is now sexy and on trend" says Waitrose Weekend, thanks to another series of Great British Bake Off. I have also noticed quite a few ambitious and popular baking groups in the blogosphere, and the knowhow and standard of home bakers has become very professional lately.
  5. We said that raised awareness of health, hunger and animal welfare issues would lead to veganism becoming the new vegetarianism: And we think this one really did come true! Not only have we connected with lots of wonderful and inspirational like-minded vegans via Twitter and fb, but we have also noticed sites like the US Plant-Based on a Budget cropping up to show that even in the economic downturn and these desperate times of food banks, eating well and compassionately is a viable alternative to unsustainable, inhumane and unhealthy diets. At the other end of the scale, high-end vegan has become popular in restaurants, with establishments in Portland Oregon, LA and New York leading the way.
  6. We said that we thought tempeh would be popular in 2013: It was trending on Twitter about a year ago, so maybe it was... what do you think?
Mexican tortas (filled bread), snow cream (a Taiwanese cross between snow cones and icecream in exotic flavours), mini desserts and cronuts (a cross between doughnuts and croissants) were some other food trends from 2013; but will they last into 2014?

...And now: our predictions for 2014:
  • Holiday Food: This year we've done something different and looked at the top holiday destinations for 2013, going on the theory that people love to recreate their favourite holiday foods once they get home. We found that Spain, Portugal, the Greek islands, Florida, Sri Lanka, Mexico and France were the most popular holiday countries of 2013. So can we expect sunny Mediterranean flavours, dishes from the American South, spicy South Asian delicacies and classic French cuisine to be popular in 2014?
  • Retro Food: We have been experimenting with vegan-ising classic 70s kitsch recipes such as Black Forest gateau, and judging by the reactions we've had on Twitter, this is set to become quite a craze in entertaining. (At least, we hope so; it's fun!)
  • Raw will be the new vegan: Yeah, I know we're sticking our necks out here, but since vegan is now the new vegetarian, something has to take its place, and raw vegan is now taking off big time in cooler climes like the UK as well as sunny California, where it's been going on for years. There are now lots of inspiring raw vegan websites and blogs around, most with testimonials to the health benefits of going raw vegan and amazing photos of fit, slim people glowing with health and vitality;  kinda makes you want to ditch the cooker for the blender and join the ranks of the beautiful people...
  • What does Huff Post say? -well Huff Post says quite a lot, actually: I won't list all of their predictions- you can click on the above link to read the full article- but here are some of those that caught our attention: biscuits rather than bread, sous-vide cooking at home (basically a modern version of boil-in-the-bag as far as I can tell), mini dessert plates (That one's actually already around- but we like it all the same), Jerusalem artichokes, traditional French bistros and brasseries (may tie in with our holiday theory?), more meat-free dishes in non-veggie restaurants (well that makes sense because if vegan is the new vegetarian, then vegetarian is going to become de rigeur everywhere, with any luck), high-end Mexican and regional Italian; both traditional and experimental (another holiday destination link?), and chefs owning their own farms. That last one is particularly interesting as there is a general trend towards growing more of your own food anyway.
What do you think? Have you any tips for what food's hot and what's not in 2014 that you'd like to share?

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Regular and "Blue" Quick Cashew Hard Cheeses- raw (ish), vegan

This tangy "blue cheese" is delicious with crackers!

The plainer version makes good sandwiches too.

It was Christmas morning, and way too late to start making a cultured nut cheese- what to do? Make an instant version, of course. It proved quite a talking (and tasting) point at our family buffet supper for vegans and lacto-vegetarians alike. The "blue" version, I must admit, came from me having been sorely tempted by some Stilton the kids bought for the occasion- I felt that unless I swiftly made a vegan alternative, I might just fall off the wagon! I think the "blue" cheese is a real winner; it looks and tastes quite unique.
Before we go any further, a word about these cheeses' rawness; cashews are actually heat treated as part of processing, so unless it says raw on the packet, they are not strictly raw. I guess the term "uncooked" would be more accurate for the finished product. the plain cheese was just a combo of ground cashews, yeast flakes, salt and lemon juice mixed to a dough-like texture and then shaped and rolled in paprika. It hardens up to a sliceable consistency after a short time in the fridge. For the "blue" version, I added fermented black beans (available in tubs from Chinese groceries), and wrote down the recipe:

200g cashews
2 tabs black beans (see above)
2 tabs yeast flakes( aka nutritional yeast)
5 tabs lemon juice
sweet red paprika for coating

  • First, grind the cashews finely and set aside.
  • Grind the black beans and mix to a smooth "dough" using 1 tab water.
  • Make a dough-like ball with the ground cashews, yeast flakes and lemon juice.
  • Carefully knead in the black beans to the cashew mixture so that it's marbled.
  • Shape and coat with paprika. Leave covered in the fridge to harden up.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Gingerbread House- vegan

Once upon a time in an enchanted forest, there stood a magical little house made from gingerbread, almonds and candy. It had windows of coloured candy glass and the roof was made of almonds and sugar and sprinkled with silver fairy-dust. But the most magical thing of all was that there was not one single animal product in that house, so all the fairies of the enchanted forest could take a bite...
Regulars here will know that we always make a gingerbread house at Christmas. This year we took it one step further and vegan-ised the gingerbread and decorations, although we still took the template from here. Our 16 year-old Radha decided to lend a hand and made the windows and trees. I can't think of a more magical way to spend Christmas Eve! If you would like to make this yourself, here is the gingerbread recipe:

The trees make wonderful cookies!
250g vegan unhydrogenated margarine (we used "Pure" brand)
250g soft light brown sugar
4 tabs agave nectar
3 tabs black treacle
600g plain white flour
2 tsps bicarb.
6 tsps ground ginger
  • Melt the margarine, sugar and syrups in a pan.
  • Turn off the heat and add the rest of the ingredients.
  • You should get a ball of workable dough- roll out about 1cm thick between sheets of baking parchment, cut out using the template and slide the bottom parchment and dough onto a baking sheet. 
  • Bake for about 12 minutes at 200C in a preheated oven.
Construction and Decorating Tips:
  • Make a stiff icing from icing sugar and lemon juice/ water to use as "glue". (And snow.)
  • Use cans/ packets to support the sides and roof while the frosting dries.
  • Make windows by cutting out the centre of shapes and baking with boiled sweets in the centre.
  • A liberal sprinkling of icing sugar gives a Wintry look.
Hope you all had a Happy Holiday, and best wishes for the New Year!

Closeup of roof with "glass" window.

The decoration were: jelly diamonds, mini candy canes, chunks of vegan dark chocolate, boiled sweets (for the glass) and flaked almonds, plus a dusting of edible glitter and icing sugar.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Christmas Cupcakes- vegan

These are pale green- you can use whatever festive colours you like.

Here's a very simple recipe that's perfect for entertaining over the festive season or to make with your little ones; I made them to take to a get-together at a friend's house. If you don't like the richness of fruit cake and marzipan but you love Christmas-y flavours then this could even be your Christmas cake solution: make double the amount and and display them on a tiered cake stand.

Makes 12 muffin-sized cakes:
400g self-raising flour
4 tsps baking powder
200g soft light btrown sugar
1 tab sultanas
1 tab chopped glace cherries
1 tab candied peel
1 tap mixed spice
150ml organic sunflower oil (or rice bran oil, or coconut oil)
400ml unsweetened plant milk (I used soya)
For the topping:
12 mini candy canes (I got mine in Poundland) or similar festive decorations
Icing sugar (make sure it's from beet not cane sugar because white cane sugar is filtered using bone charcoal)
Natural green food colouring (make sure it's veggie- most of them are, but you never know...)
lemon juice
  • Combine all the dry ingredients well in a large mixing bowl. Make sure you don't  leave any lumps of sugar.
  • Combine the wet ingredients in another bowl.
  • Beat the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
  • Spoon into muffin tins/ moulds and bake in an oven preheated to 180C for about 15 minutes, until cooked through but not over browned on top.
  • While the cakes are baking, you can make the  icing by mixing the icing sugar with a few drops of lemon juice and food colouring. Get it so that it will drip a little over the edge of each cake, but not so that it all runs off!
  • When cool, frost and decorate as desired.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Raw Chocolate Icecream- vegan, gluten free, sugar free

This is a really creamy and rich dessert!
Last August we visited some friends down at the far end of Cornwall and they introduced us to the delights of home made icecream. We don't have an icecream maker (yet- I'm working on it) but my husband created this rich but nutritious dessert using organic cacao powder. In case you didn't know, cacao is natural raw chocolate, and actually ranks as a superfood. It is a source of protein and a rich source of antioxidants. If ever there was an excuse to eat (raw) chocolate, this is it!

Makes about 8 portions- you don't need much
400g cashew nuts, ground as finiely as poassible
300ml water
50g cacao powder
100ml agave nectar
  • Blend ground cashews with water
  • Add other ingredients.
  • Freeze.
As this is probably a bit richer than normal icecream,  we will try adding a bit more water next time.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

No- Cheese Mac 'n' Cheese with Vegetables- vegan, gluten free

You won't believe this isn't cheese!
We had just taken delivery of our thrice-yearly bulk order from Suma Wholefoods. Eagerly, I opened the boxes in our hallway and peeped inside: soba noodles, wholemeal pasta, mung beans, cold pressed sunflower oil, cashews, almonds, chia seeds, raw cacao powder, brown rice and many, many more ingredients to play with. Suddenly, cooking dinner no longer felt like a chore! As I dug amongst the packages I found the Dove's Farm gluten free fusilli tricolore and the Engevita yeast flakes, and  headed for the kitchen...
... And came up with this lighter, vegan twist on mac 'n; cheese. The sauce came out surprisingly cheesey- tasting, and actually fooled one of the kids! This is not a recipe, but with any luck, should you want to reproduce this dish, these notes/ instructions should be enough. I made about 8 servings.
  • I boiled 500g gluten free fusilli in 2 litres of soya milk, then drained and rinsed the pasta when it was done, catching the soya milk in a bowl and setting it aside for making the sauce later.
  • Meanwhile, I had prepared some veggies (sweetcorn, cauliflower and broccoli), which I steamed until soft. I put the pasta and veg into a large, deep roasting dish. There was nearly as much veg as pasta.
  • The sauce was made by whisking generous amounts of salt, lemon juice and yeast flakes to a bout 2/3cup of tahini, then thinning it gradually with the still-warm soya milk. I kept adjusting the ingredients until I got a nice cheesey flavour.
  • I then poured the sauce over the pasta and veg in the dish and finished off by topping it with sliced tomatoes and a sprinkle of yeast flakes.
  • The dish was then baked at 200C for about 15 minutes.

PS: This is our 500th post!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Black Forest Gateau- vegan

You can decorate the cake with chocolate shavings, too. (And more cream..) 

Continuing with our 1970s theme, we thought it would be fun to make a Black Forest Gateau, that icon of the hostess trolley. But joking aside, the combo of cherries, cream and dark chocolate is actually irresistably delicious, and we can see why this cake has been so popular for so long. It originates from South Western Germany, probably in the early years of the 20th century, and historically contained schwartzwalder kirschwasser (hope I spelt that right...) a local cherry liqueur.
 With the addition of cocoa powder, dark chocolate, cherry jam, cherries and coconut milk a plain cake is transformed into a delicious dessert or tea-time treat. We made it large, as it's party season, but you could always halve the ingredients if you have less than about 12 people to feed. As it's not cherry time here right now and I couldn't bring myself to pay over the odds for a small punnet of under-ripe specimens form halfway round the world I used morello cherry preserve for the filling and glace cherries on top. They did the job admirably, although come the Summer I'll be making this again with fresh fruit for sure.

See below for the recipe:
800g self-raising flour
8 tsps baking powder
6 tabs cocoa
400g soft light brown sugar
300ml coconut oil
800ml soya milk (or whatever plant milk you like best)
150g dairy free dark chocolate 
a jar of morello cherry preserve*
about 12 glace cherries*
2 cans of coconut milk

*or a punnet of fresh cherries, preferably black.
  • Combine the flour, baking powder, cocoa and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat in the oil and soya milk. When thoroughly combined, spoon into two large round prepared cake tins/ silicone moulds and bake for about 20 minutes in an oven preheated to 180C. (The cakes are done when a thin skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean with no cake batter clinging to it.)
  • Leave the cakes to cool completely on a wire rack.
  • Meanwhile, whip the coconut milk into cream, following these instructions. Leave the cream in the fridge until you need it.
  • When the cake is cool slather it generously with the jam/ cherries and cream and sandwich together.
  • Cover the top in melted chocolate. When that's set, decorate further with glace or fresh cherries and swirls of whipped cream, finished off with chocolate shavings.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

How- to 20: Make dairy free whipped cream

This vegan cream is too good to be true- but it is!
What if I told you that you can get a vegan whipped cream that's light and fluffy and holds its shape beautifully? That it's only around the same price as dairy whipping cream? That you can get it in most supermarkets? And that all this is true?- You might be forgiven for being a little sceptical, but I assure you this is for real. This month's how-to really is a life-changing piece of information, opening up a whole new world of scones with jam and cream, trifles, gateaux and desserts that you thought you'd left behind when you gave up dairy! Just follow teh instructions below:

1: Take a can of coconut milk and chill it in the fridge for several hours. Do not shake it up.

2: Separate out the creamy part from the liquid (which should be at the bottom of the can). Don't stir the water back in.

3: Use an electric hand blender to whip it like dairy cream. It may take a while. This is about halfway done.

The whipped cream will form peak when it's done.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

2013 Christmas Collection: Entrees: Nut Roast, Walnut and Red Pepper Roast, Seitan Wellington

A festive plateful of veggies, nut roast and gravy...
We are having a busy time at the moment: building work going on in the house, the demands of work and college and preparation for Christmas. Devising new recipes seems a far-off luxury at the moment, hence our lack of posts this week. But it's all good, as they say, and once school breaks up next Friday our kitchen will resume its rightful place at the heart of family goings-on. There's Christmas cake and pudding, gateau and mince pies, a gingerbread house and much more in the pipeline... but meanwhile, here's a main course recipe or two from Christmases past:

Nut Roast:
275g almonds, ground
75g porridge oats
300g of fairly juicy grated veg (we used pumpkin, but you could try sweet potato, peppers, courgettes etc.)
1 1/2 tsps seasalt
1/2 tsp compound hing (omit if you don't like it or can't get it)
1 tsp coarse black pepper
1 tsp paprika
2 heaped tsps dried thyme
1 tab soy sauce
200ml passata
2 fresh tomatoes, sliced
  • Mix the nuts and seasonings together in a large bowl (not the soy sauce yet).
  • Mix in the grated veg thoroughly- you may have to use your hands for this!
  • Add the soy sauce and passata
  • Add the oats gradually, stopping if you think the mixture is getting too dry; it should hold together when squeezed.
  • Press into either a dampened square silicone mould or the equivalent greased and lined tin; I didn't use a loaf tin, preferring to make it shallower to get an even bake.
  • Top with thin slices of fresh tomato. They help keep the whole thing moist.
  • Bake in the centre of an oven pre-heated to 200C, for 25-30 minutes. until cooked through and slightly brown on top (like in the picture).
  • For the sauce, I simply made a roux from olive oil and plain white flour over a gentle heat, added some soy sauce and the rest of the passata from the carton then whisked in water until I got a thick pouring consistency.
Tip: If you're thinking of making this for Christmas Dinner, then you could put it together the night before and keep it in the fridge until needed- this saves time on the day.

Here's a couple more main course recipes- just click on the links to view.

We haven't decided yet what to have for Christmas dinner this year- have you? And of you have, what will it be?

Sunday, 8 December 2013

tofu lasagne

This lasagne goes really well with a green salad and olives.
This weekend has proved another really busy one, so here's an easy supper I made midweek. It was declared delicious by vegan and non-vegan members of our household alike, so I'm going to remember this one when it's the school/ college holidays and lunchtime comes around!

Serves 6-8:
12-ish no precook lasagne sheets
750ml passata (1 1/2)
3 tabs cooked beans
chopped veg (a bowl full!- 1/2 cup sweetcorn, sliced cabbage, cauliflower, peppers, courgettes, etc.)
olive oil
black pepper
fresh tomatoes 4-6
oregano (dried)
tofu made with 2l soya milk drained in sieve not pressed- make "cheese" with tahini, lemon juice and soy sauce or follow the link below.

  • Make tofu "cheese"
  • Chop and saute the veg in the oil, add 500ml passata and tinned tomatoes. Season and place in the bottom of your dish.
  • To assemble, follow this order: Place 6 sheets of lasagne on top of the veg, 2/3 of the tofu, 6 more lasagne sheets, 250ml passata, sliced tomato, the rest of the "cheese" and more black pepper.
  • Bake in an oven preheated to 200C until the lasagne is soft. (Use the tip of a sharp knife to find out.)
  • Low-carb wheat/ gluten free idea: use thinly sliced  (lengthwise)aubergine instead of pasta.
  • Saturday, 7 December 2013

    Stuffed Baked Apples- vegan, sugar free

    Piping hot, with your favourite non-dairy cream....yummy!
    Our last dessert recipe was shamelessly laden with sugar and calories, but this one is completely the opposite. In fact, it would make just as good a breakfast on a cold morning as it would a pudding. (If you fancy something just a little more decadent, then you could always add a drizzle of maple syrup -recommended for tarter apples- or even some plant milk-based custard.) Nothing can beat the delicious, juicy simplicity of a baked apple with a sweet stuffing! This post is a response to The Peace Patch's lovely collection of baked apple recipes from various blogs... it's always worth dropping by there because every day has a different theme and it's a great place to discover new blogs and get inspired.
    We found three apples in the fruit basket today, so we made this recipe to serve three:
    3 large apples (we used Bramleys, but dessert apples are sweeter)
    10 dried dates
    1 tab sultanas
    2 tsps ground cinnamon
    1 tab chopped walnuts
    50ml water
    • Core the apples, leaving a good-sized hole down the centre and put them in a heatproof oven dish. (I find  ceramic is better than metal for this.)
    • Chop the dates and mix together with the sultanas, cinnamon and water in a small pan. Heat until the mixture is soft and all the water is absorbed; this should only take a couple of minutes.
    • Pack the stuffing into the apples as tightly as possible and bake at 200C for about 15 minutes, or until the apples are soft and piping hot. You will find that the skin changes colour, and may even split, as in our pictures.
    • Serve hot, drizzled with your favourite vegan cream- we used coconut "single cream"; cashew cream and soya pouring cream would also work well.

    What's your favourite way to cook baked apples? Do you prefer them sweet or savoury?

    Thursday, 5 December 2013

    2013 Vegan Christmas Collection: Trifle and desserts

    In large or individual bowls, or even in shot glasses, trifle with sponge, fruit, jelly, custard and cream is sure to please children of all ages!
    Ah, the 1970s: the decade that brought us such culinary delights as Dream Topping, Quick-Jel and boil-in-the-bag rice... and all this convenience food was happening at the same time as Mediterranean package holidays revealed an exotic new world of dishes like moussaka, paella and spaghetti Bolognese. (Simultaneously, though, the vegetarian and wholefood movements were seriously taking off, with restaurants like Cranks.) British cookery would never be the same again. In those days before the kiwi fruit and the carambola graced our tables, such desserts as baked lemon cheesecake, rum babas and banana splits were just about as good as it got. Forget "real" trifle with fresh dairy cream and amaretti or sherry-soaked cake- this is trifle as I remember it from the 70s, with custard, jelly and fruit; only vegan and without the booze. (One year my aunt merrily poured way too much of the stuff in and rendered it probably the most dangerous dessert ever; definitely not for children!) If you fancy re-living childhood parties and Christmas teatimes but without animal products then this recipe is definitely for you!
    We made enough trifle with this recipe to satisfy 6 of us as dessert and still had a bowlful left over, so I'd say it probably serves at least 10. The main thing with trifle is that you have to be patient, and not be tempted to hasten the procedure by adding the custard layer before the jelly is set and cooled. Then you end up with a mess. A delicious mess, but a mess all the same. Apart from that, though, trifle is a breeze.

    We will now take you through the various stages of making a trifle:
    The Sponge and Fruit Layer:
    You will need 2 or 3 pieces of fresh fruit, chopped/ sliced thinly (we couldn't bring ourselves to use tinned, so here's where we diverge from tradition). To make the sponge, you will need a 1/4 quantity of this recipe. (There will be some left over, but we're assuming that won't be a problem for you...) Make the cake in the bottom of a small loaf tin or square mould, and bake for 15 mins at 180C. They say that it's even better to use day-old cake, but we think fresh is best. When the cake is baked, cool it and cut into small fingers or cubes, according to the size of our bowl(s). Put the fruit and sponge pieces in the bottom. We used a banana and a nice ripe pear, but something like strawberries, raspberries, mango or peach would be really delicious too. The only fruits you can't use are citrus and pineapple, as their acids will stop the jelly from setting.
    The Jelly:
    In the UK, Holland and Barrett sell a vegan jelly, and also look for halal jelly from Asian groceries, where we bought ours this time. (Ahmed brand.) It's cheaper, comes in a wider variety of flavours and colours, but does contain artificial flavours and colours. We used two packets of Ahmed strawberry jelly, made with 800ml boiling water. It does set quite quickly; always a bonus.
    The Custard:
    Bird's custard powder is vegan, and you can use your favourite plant milk. We used soya today, but coconut or almond would have been great too. We followed the instructions on the tub, but made it slightly thicker, using 4 tabs custard powder, 4 tabs beet icing sugar (white cane sugar gets filtered through bone charcoal- yuck!) and one litre of unsweetened soya milk.
    The Cream:
    Now here's some magic: Put a can of coconut milk in the fridge for several hours (or even the freezer if you make sure it doesn't actually freeze). Then open the can and spoon the thick, fattier part into a bowl, leaving behind the liquid at the bottom of the can. Using a hand blender, whip until firm. As long as you keep it chilled, it will hold its shape beautifully, and you can even pipe with it. Who needs Dream Topping now?
    The Decoration:
    Glace cherries, grated dark chocolate or any sprinkles you may find that don't contain animal products will look great! Remember, don't go for anything too tasteful or artistic- think anything your mum would have made circa 1976.

    If you would like some more dessert ideas, click on the links to see these recipes:

    This is a  Vegan Thursdays post

    Tuesday, 3 December 2013

    2013 Vegan Christmas Collection: Sides- Red Cabbage with fennel and Cumin and more...

    This makes a great side dish as part of a roast dinner, or add it to bread and a source of protein for lunch. The orange garnish is an optional extra.
    Welcome to our first post for Christmas 2013, where we add to our collection from the last 3 years. With each category's new "headlining" recipe there are also links to more recipes in the same category. We hope you find them useful for planning your holiday meals, whether you are entertaining on a grand scale or having a cosy get-together with friends or family. Check out our Pinterest Christmas Recipes board too, which will feature these recipes, and our Vegan Recipes board, which has links to some great recipes from other websites and blogs.
    Red cabbage is an old favourite at Christmas time, as it's in season in the Northern Hemisphere around now. Most of us saw it first pickled in jars, but there are so many more ways to serve it, both raw and cooked. This is a quick and easy cooked red cabbage dish with a subtle, aromatic sweetness from the fennel and cumin seeds. You could also try caraway seeds instead of fennel. It could be useful paired up with a rich main course, as both these seeds aid digestion! This recipe serves about 6 as a side dish:

    500g red cabbage (about half an average-sized cabbage), sliced or coarsely shredded
    1 1/2 tabs olive oil
    1 1/2 tsps cumin seeds
    1 1/2 tps fennel seeds (sounf)
    1/2 tsp course black pepper
    1/2 tsp seasalt
    a dash of lemon juice
    • Stir fry the cabbage in the oil with the cumin and fennel seeds, until the seeds are just toasting and releasing their aromas, and the cabbage is starting to soften.
    • Add the salt and pepper and stir-fry for a minute longer.
    • Put the lid on the pan and sweat over a low heat until the cabbage is cooked. (Keep an eye on it to make sure there is sufficient juice from the cabbage to prevent scorching. If there isn't, you can help things along by turning the heat down further and adding a splash of water- but only a splash).
    • Add the lemon juice before serving. 
    Take a look at our other vegetable sides- click on the names:

    Sunday, 1 December 2013

    Ingredient of the Month 26: Red Cabbage

    Distinctively-coloured red cabbage looks so attractive when cut!
    Now here's a seasonal ingredient that most people will be familiar with, but do you know how healthy it is? Red cabbage belongs, of course, to the brassica family, and can be grown on different soils although it varies in colour from red to purple to greenish yellow according to the acidity/ alkalinity of the soil. (Because of this, its juice may be used as a ph indicator.) It is sown in Spring and harvested in late Autumn- perfect for festive fare.

    Nutritional benefits: As you might well expect from a member of the brassica family, red cabbage is very, very good for you. Its purple colour tells us at a glance that it's rich in proanothocyanins, those powerful antioxidants also found in red grapes, blueberries, etc. Antioxidants fight and prevent disease, strengthening the immune system. They are good against cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease too. Even cooked (although that does depend on how), red cabbage can supply you with a significant proportion of your daily vitamin C requirement. The peppery taste of raw red cabbage is also an indicator of its beneficial qualities; it is due to sulphurous compounds which other brassicas also contain- these can prevent cancer. Vitamins A and K are also to be found in red cabbage; these help vision and the immune system, and bones and blood clotting respectively. Vitamin K also helps the body absorb calcium. And let's not forget fibre, so essential for the efficient functioning of the digestive system, of which red cabbage contains plenty.

    Culinary uses: Most people first encounter red cabbage pickled in jars, but there are many other ways to eat it. Red cabbage can be eaten raw, shredded into salads and 'slaws, or even made into sauerkraut. It has a fresh, almost peppery flavour. It goes well with apple, too. Apart from using it in stews and soups as you would many other types of vegetable, you can also steam/ sweat it with caraway, anise, cumin or fennel seeds and black pepper to make a delicately aromatic side dish. It's also delicious braised with apple.

    The glossy purplish leaves contain many health benefits

    Thanks once more to for the nutritional information.

    How do you like to use red cabbage? Come back in the next couple of days and you should find a linky tool at the bottom of this post- let's share our ideas!

    Thursday, 28 November 2013

    Benjamin Zephaniah Talking Turkeys- Happy Thanksgiving!

    I think this speaks for itself, really- an incredibly entertaining yet thought-provoking poem written and performed by one very sincere and compassionate guy (I met him once). Hope you and the turkeys all have a great day!         

    btw, This blog turned 3 on Wednesday, so big thanks to all our readers, both occasional and regular , and we hope to be blogging for many more years to come :)

    Tuesday, 26 November 2013

    Tofu Couscous Bake- vegan

    You can make this in one big tray, or individual dishes
    This dish is a bit like shepherd's pie only in reverse and without potato: the protein part is on top and the carbs on the bottom. It was a quick and easy lunch, and I didn't get the exact recipe, but if you want to make it, here's (roughly) how:
    You will need 3 l of soya milk, some tahini, lemon juice, salt and soy sauce for the topping. Curdle the soya milk and let drain in a fine-meshed sieve. Mix with tahini, salt, lemon juice and soy sauce until you get a tofu scramble texture and a somewhat cheesy taste. The base is simply softened couscous (add hot water and wait until it is absorbed) passata, salt, pepper, herbs and sweetcorn, olives and celery; plenty of celery gives that "cheese and celery" taste combo you might be missing if you're vegan.. (Feel free to add more veggies- I would have, but we'd run out of nearly everything.) Just put the base in an ovenproof dish/ dishes and spread the tofu on top. Bake for about 20 mins at 200C or until it is warmed through and starting to brown on top.

    Saturday, 23 November 2013

    Next to Nowhere is really Somewhere!- vegan cafe review

    News from Nowhere in Bold Street, Liverpool (the name is based on William Morris' 1890 novel about utopian socialism).
    Yesterday I took a trip back into my past when we visited Liverpool, where I lived for four years in the 1980s as a university student and beyond. It was only after we arrived in the city centre, having driven past a couple of the houses I had lived in, that I realised why my years in Liverpool will always be important to me: they were the years in which I grew from being a teenager to being an adult- leaving home, fending for myself, discovering different cultures, religions and political opinions, learning to cook, taking responsibility (or not). I made plenty of mistakes in those years, and put myself through some very hard times, but I will always value the experiences I had there because they have helped to shape the choices I have made in the years that followed: I first became vegan while in Liverpool, I immersed myself in the vibrant music and social life of the subculture and I learned many lessons apart from those which took place in the relative safety of the lecture hall.
    So I was feeling pretty emotional by the time we got out of the car in Renshaw Street. But happy to be finally back as well; Liverpool is a charismatic place, full of iconic public buildings such as the Liver Building and the two cathedrals, and large old houses laid out round green squares that speak of more prosperous times. We walked round the corner to Bold Street, which didn't seem to have changed that much over the years: Cafe Tabac was still there, albeit modernised, and there were still many independent shops selling vintage clothing etc.- a nice change from Birmingham city centre, which is sadly full of characterless chainstores. It was way less crowded than Birmingham on a Saturday afternoon too. Our first stop was a vegan cafe in a social centre called Next to Nowhere, situated in the basement of News from Nowhere, a radical bookshop which in the 80s had been in small and run-down premises a little further away up the hill. We rang the doorbell to the right of News from Nowhere, and someone came upstairs to let us in. Downstairs, we soon found ourselves in a do-it-yourself social centre which had clearly been created by a dedicated group of alternative thinkers to facilitate meetings, social events and sharing vegan food. This is what we saw:

    A small serving hatch in a dining area covered in flyers and thought-provoking posters

    ...and a limited but astoundingly cheap vegan menu!
    The cafe is only open on Saturdays and staffed by volunteers (which may explain the prices). It's great that anyone can come here out of the cold and get sustenance so cheaply. To say we got a friendly welcome would be an understatement- within minutes of ordering, we were both deep in conversation with fellow diners and the lovely lady preparing and serving the food. We met, amongst others, a man who had been to Antarctica with Sea Shepherd and a lady who is as passionate about Beethoven as she is about feminism and vegan cooking. The food was simple but good, but paled into insignificance compared with the warmth of interaction that was going on; it's a rare thing these days to share life stories with people you have never met before, but it's a heartwarming and affirmative experience.
    I guess as this is a review, I ought to write something about the food: we both had the lentil burger and apple crumble. They may not sound very original, but were made and flavoured well, using quality ingredients like rice flour and coconut sugar. After the chunky wholemeal bread that came with the burger, the gluten free crumble was light, cinnamon-y and just sweet enough without masking the flavour of the apples. It was a shame that the burger was unadorned by salad of any kind- maybe they had run out as it was nearly closing time- but it was tasty anyway: at those prices (£2 for the burger and bread and £1.50 for the crumble), it's all good! This cafe may not be everyone's cup of tea as it is not glitzy or smart and sells very simple food, but it's certainly an alternative to anything you'll find in the mall and I for one would rather spend money at an exclusively vegan place like this than line the pockets of some unprincipled multinational.

    A delicately tasty pulse-based patty

    A very delicious gluten free apple crumble
    We were so taken up with talking to our new acquaintances in Next to Nowhere that we only had time for one more place, which I was delighted to see was still there in Bold Street after all these years- Matta's International Foods. This multi-ethnic wholefood store and grocery was packed with customers, and I couldn't resist picking up a loaf of artisan rye bread, for old time's sake, as this was the place where I used to buy ramen, hummus, olives and pitta bread to fuel long days of study and even longer nights of partying. The guy behind the counter also gave us a free sample of Pukka's caffeine- free vanilla chai, which was delicious this morning with toast made from the rye bread.

    We visited Matta's International Foods before we left town.
    I'd like to think we will visit Liverpool again before too long, and this time I won't need to Google cafes before we set off...

    Friday, 22 November 2013

    Tips for Quick Meals from Scratch

    We think it's about time I wrote something practical, since this blog is supposed to give cooking advice as well as recipes. (And I've also been suffering from terrible lack of creativity in the kitchen this week). Lately, meals in our house have been all about getting a tasty and healthy dinner prepared as quickly as possible as we have all been very busy, so I thought I'd share some thoughts and tips on cooking quick meals from scratch.

    1. If you have to cook for 4 or more people preparing veg can be a time-consuming chore- but remember that a healthy plate should contain 1/2-1/3 veggies. So you can't take shortcuts, right?- Wrong! When you are really pushed for time, choose veg that are simple to wash and chop like peppers, cauliflower, cabbage etc. rather than fiddly ones like runner beans, celery or anything that needs a lot of scrubbing, mincing or peeling. And when you do chop, go for chunky; you'll get it done faster. (But bear in mind also that the smaller you chop it the shorter the cooking time will be.) Don't resort to expensive packets of ready-prepared veg though, as they are not fresh and will contain less nutrients. You can, however, sneak some frozen veg in to bulk it up- this has been proven to contain more nutrients than canned, or even fresh veg which has been hanging around a while.
    2. Invest in a few favourite spice mixes/ masalas. There's no shame in using these for fast and tasty meals, and they take out a lot of the brain work and hunting for stuff in your spice cupboard. (Or if you really can't bring yourself to do that, then make your own masalas and store in jars for future use.) In addition to single spices like cumin seeds or coriander, we usually have a rogan josh, chana masala, Madras or Malaysian curry powder, Chinese 5-spice and ras el hanout, which between them can cover a lot of different meals. The same ingredients, differently spiced, will mean you can serve up a variety of flavours with the minimum of fuss- and nobody will get bored with your cooking!
    3. Ensure your storecupboard is stocked with some time-saving groceries like cans of coconut milk, beans, tomatoes or passata, yeast flakes (aka nutritional yeast), tahini, soy sauce/ liquid aminos and various dried herbs. Then you'll have some pretty much instant sauces. Stir fry or steam veggies and serve them over rice/ pasta and beans with a quick sauce. All you really have to decide is what kind of flavour you're going for- creamy, spicy, Indian, Indonesian, Chinese etc.
    4. Save time on grains: cook brown rice and dried beans in a pressure cooker. Every ten days or so I cook up a quantity of beans and chickpeas and keep them in bags in the freezer. This makes stuff like hummus a quick and easy option.
    5. Invest in some time-saving equipment. A food processor will make short work of slicing and grating veggies, a hand blender will turn a pot of veggies and a can of tomatoes into a delicious soup in seconds, and a grinder will create seed and nut-based sprinkles/ sauce ingredients in no time at all.
    6. Plan how you're going to cook your meal: prepare the slowest-cooking veggies first and throw them in the pot to give them a head start while you prepare the faster-cooking ones. That way you'll get them all cooked at the same time, and you'll have made the best use of your time by having some already on the go while you're chopping the rest.
    7. Meals that practically cook themselves while you get on with other stuff include jacket potatoes or sweet potatoes- just whizz up a quick soup or salad and hummus to go with them, and brown rice and beans with assorted roast veggies.
    Quick and easy Recipe Suggestions and links:

    So what tips and recipes do you have for time-saving yet healthy meals?

    Wednesday, 20 November 2013

    Highbury Hand Made Christmas Fayre 2013- and what's in a name?


    This is our shout for our friend Mel's annual event. She works so hard every year organising it,  and the proceeds go towards Highbury Theatre Centre. For those of you who don't (yet) know Mel, she is a very talented crafter  and lover of all things vintage, who writes the blog Mel Makes, in which she documents all her beautiful projects, aided and abetted by her cute kitty Boris. Naturally, she will be running a stall at the fayre, along with .gifts, handbags, textiles, jewellery if you live anywhere near Birmingham/ Sutton Coldfield, do go along and get some unique Christmas presents. Just click on the above link to her blog to find out more.

    What's in a Name?
    On to our next topic: last week on our fb  page we asked readers if they think we should change the name of this blog because it is now vegan and the title "vegetarian" could be misleading. As you may remember, we started out including dairy products in a few of our recipes, but although our kids are not vegan we now are, so our recipes are all vegan. If we do change our blog name, does that mean we should delete past non-vegan posts? The response on fb was pretty much in favour of us changing the name. What do you think? We would choose a name not too different from the current one (although Yogi Vegan is already taken).

    Sunday, 17 November 2013

    LBD Burger- vegan,wheat free

    Everyone needs a good veggie burger recipe!

    "Not another veggie burger!" I hear you cry- Erm, yes it is, but don't click off here yet because this one's really different. Savoury but neutral and able to hold its shape even when oven- cooked, it's the lbd of veggie burgers; you can take it anywhere. It can be dressed up or down according to the occasion and everyone should have it in their culinary wardrobe. If you only have one type of veggie burger in your repertoire then make it this one. But don't be deceived by this burger's apparent simplicity- it's actually packed full of super-nutritious ingredients. We decided to make a burger with the complete spectrum of amino acids, so we included grains (brown rice), seeds (chia and hemp, which contain the full range anyway), nuts (walnuts) and pulses (red kidney beans). Plus there's some veggies in there as well. This recipe made us 11 burgers, so although it takes a little longer to make the mix than with our usual recipe, you can freeze some- once you've shaped them- for another day. So read on, and meet our new best burger friend...

    1 cup (250ml) brown rice (dry weight)
    100g walnuts, ground
    50g hemp seeds, shells and all, ground
    50g chia seeds, ground
    150g cooked red kidney beans
    275g grated veggies (we used peppers and pumpkin, but sweet potato or courgette would also work well)
    2 tabs tomato puree
    2 tabs soy sauce (use tamari if you want to make this recipe gluten free)
    1 tab paprika
    1 tab dried mixed herbs
    1 1/2 tsps seasalt
    1/2 tsp black pepper

    • Cook the rice in twice the amount of water, until it is very soft and all the water is absorbed. (Tip: use a pressure cooker to speed things up.)
    • While the rice is cooking, you can grind the nuts and seeds and grate the veggies.
    • Mash or process the red kidney beans until smooth.
    • Add the cooked rice to the veggies, nuts and seeds and mix well. Add half of this mixture to the beans and process until smooth.
    • Mix the processed mixture back in with the whole rice mixture and add the tomato puree, soy sauce, paprika, herbs, salt and pepper. You might need to use your hands for this to make sure it all blends in evenly.
    • Shape and bake on an oiled tray at 200C. The bottom cooks as well as the top so no need to flip.
    • Serve however you like; with veg, gravy and potatoes, in a bun with relish,' slaw and salad etc. Miso and hing might also be tasty additions/ variations to the burger mix.

    Friday, 15 November 2013

    How to 18: Make Peanut Milk- vegan, raw, suitable for Ekadasi

    How will you use your peanut milk?
    Following on from last month's post on almond milk; did you know that you can also make peanut milk? It's creamy and tastes quite okay even on its own (though not as delicious as almond milk), plus it's cheaper to make. Peanut milk also has some great health benefits; I found out about these from Peanuts contain A, E and B vitamins as well other antioxidants which can prevent strokes and other diseases. As well as being a protein food, they are a source of many minerals, such as iron, selenium and potassium. Their monounsaturated oil helps to reduce harmful chloresterol levels in the body. Since commercially-available pure peanut milks are few and far between, I couldn't find a straight nutritional comparison table for peanut milk versus other plant milks, unfortunately.  I'll add to this post with the info when I do find out. Here's how to make this healthy plant milk:

    (Makes about 300-ish ml)
    1 cup (250ml) raw peanuts- we used organic redskin peanuts
    3 cups water

    1: Soak the peanuts in a bowl of water overnight or for several hours, then drain them. (This
     helps to get rid of nutrient-blocking phytates.)

    2: Blend them in a food processor together with the 3 cups of water...

    3: ... and you will get a milky liquid after a few minutes.

    4: Strain this through a fine sieve. the resulting liquid is your peanut milk.

    5: The resulting pulp can be discarded or used to provide fibre in vegeburgers- it's not as nice as almond pulp!
    ...and that's really all there is to it! You can also sweeten it if you like. Now all you have to do is decide how to use it- what are your ideas? Shakes and smoothies? A sauce? In a drink? For baking?