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.