Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Festive Goodies 3: Quick Christmas Cake Bars

So what if Christmas has gone;  who says you can't have this yummy fruit cake any time?
We seem to have had an unplanned fortnight off blogging; sorry about that- but no doubt you guys have all been busy too. We'd like to take this opportunity to say hope you all had a great festive season, those of you who were celebrating, and to wish all our readers and awesome fellow food bloggers a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015.
This is a light vegan Christmas cake. Light in colour, that is- certainly no lighter in calories. (If you like it dark, then simply use a soft dark brown sugar such as muscovado. The cake is easy to make and doesn't take as long as traditional recipes; yet it still has that rich texture and those traditional fruity, spicy flavours. If your Christmas preparations are often last-minute (like mine always seem to be) then this could be just the thing for next year. Or tomorrow. Or now. Baking the cake in a shallow rectangular mould means that it takes less time to cook and the cake can then be decorated and served in small bars rather than huge wedges that no one can finish. We found the cake was plenty moist enough, but if you have time you could always soak the dried fruit beforehand in juice or fruit herbal tea. (You might have to adjust the cooking time though.)

300g dried mixed fruit (to include candied citrus peel)
25g sultanas
100g glace cherries, halved
50g dried figs, chopped
50g flaked almonds
200g wholemeal plain flour
2 rounded tsps mixed spice
3 tsps baking powder
150g soft light brown sugar
4 flax eggs (one flax egg is 1 tab ground flax seeds to 3 tabs water, beaten like egg)
100ml warm water
To decorate:
marzipan and icing sugar (if you're in the UK use Silver Spoon white as it's beet sugar and  not bone char filtered, or Billington's unrefined icing sugar for a beige colour) I bought packet marzipan for convenience but if you have time it's worth making your own. We have a recipe here.

  • Preheat your oven to 180C and prepare a shallow rectangular cake mould.
    (The one I used is a 22 x 18 x 6.5cm silicone from Aldi.)
  • Prepare the fruit.
  • Mix all the ingredients apart from the flax eggs and the water in a large bowl.
  • When they are thoroughly combined, beat in the flax eggs, and lastly the warm water.
  • Bake for about 45 minutes on the middle shelf of the oven. Test with a thin skewer to see if it's done: a cooked cake will not leave batter on the skewer when you push it into the centre of the cake.
  • When cool, roll out the marzipan then top with a thin layer of icing (made with icing sugar and a small amount of water or lemon juice so that it is a thick, spreadable paste).
  • When the icing has set, cut into rectangular bars as needed. To keep the cake moist, don't cut until you are about to serve.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Festive Goodies 2: Cherry Vanilla Vegan Fudge

An i-pad is not the only kind of tablet you can give at Christmas.., no-one will most people will not be disappointed if you make this easy, tablet-like* vegan fudge; it would make a great home made Christmas gift or addition to your festive spread! Sweet and crumbly, it is more-ish and probably won't last long, so make sure you hide some for later...

*Tablet is a traditional Scottish sweet that is cooked to be more brittle and grainy than fudge.
320g soft light brown sugar
300ml soya milk
50g coconut oil
50g cacao butter
2-3 tsps vanilla essence
1/3 cup glace cherries, chopped
  • Melt all the ingredients except the vanilla and cherries in a large and sturdy pan, over a gentle heat.
  • When the sugar has dissolved, bring to a rolling boil. Stir constantly to avoid burning the mixture for about 15-20 minutes, until the fudge has darkened and seems to be pulling away from the sides of the pan. Test that it has reached the "soft ball stage" by dropping some into iced water. If it holds together in a soft ball, the fudge is done. Cook slightly longer than this for tablet.
  • If you want a more fudge-y and less tablet-like sweet, stop boiling it sooner. But make sure it still holds together in the iced water, or you'll end up with caramel sauce. (Too long, however, and you'll get chewy toffee.)
  • Remove the pan from the heat and beat for 3-5 minutes. Then stir in the cherries and vanilla and spread the mixture out into a dish lined with oiled baking parchment.
  • Now this is the hardest part: waiting for it to set before you cut it up and eat it!

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Ingredient of the Month: Brussels Sprouts

Bright green and fresh, Brussels sprouts resemble miniature cabbages!
This month Brussels Sprouts are in season in the Northern Hemisphere and all over the UK people are racking their brains to make them more appealing to serve up on Christmas Day, so what better time to feature them here? Love them or hate them, you have to admit the nutritional profile of these leafy green little beauties is pretty impressive so it makes sense to eat them regularly while they're available. We were blessed with kids who actually like Brussels sprouts, but I remember disliking them myself until I reached my teens so I do understand the need to disguise their slight bitterness somewhat. Personally, though, I think if you choose smallish, fresh-looking bright green sprouts ideally sold still attached to their stalk and use them as soon as possible after buying, they taste a whole lot better. (But forget frozen sprouts. Let's not even go there, please. Yuck!)
The Brussels sprout has been grown in Europe in some form or other since Roman times, and the first modern sprouts were recorded in the 13th century in what is now Belgium, hence their name. They belong to the family of cruciferous vegetables, which also includes the super-nutritious kales, cabbages, broccoli and collards. During the 18th century French settlers took them to the USA, but the main growers these days remain Holland, Germany and the UK.
Health and Nutrition:
Like all the cruciferous vegetables, Brussels sprouts are really, really good for you: they contain sulphoraphane, a potent anti-carcinogen. Steaming and stir-frying does not destroy this, but boiling does. Amongst many other vitamins and minerals, Brussels sprouts are particularly rich in Vitamin K, Vitamin C and iron. Look here for some more info on this amazing family of vegetables. 

We posted a recipe for Brussels sprouts with a maple syrup glaze a couple of years back- check it out here. What's your family-friendly, go-to way of cooking them?

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Festive Goodies 1: Vegan Fudge, vanilla and chocolate flavours

Who doesn't love crumbly, sweet fudge?
Don't you just love it when you realise that something is not going to be that hard after all? That's what happened to me last weekend as I watched the soya milk, cacao butter and brown sugar boiling away and thickening up like fudge should. Result! Fudge and tablet are two very similar sweets that always remind me of my childhood; both my mother and grandmother were great at making them and I remember in particular how I would "help" mum, watching as the ingredients boiled and placing alternate walnut halves and glace cherries on each piece as it set, barely able to wait until it had cooled. I would never have thought of veganising this guilty pleasure treat, but I was in Sainsbury's Free From section the other day and found it there. It was good, so I kept the empty bag to see what the ingredients were. I was excited to find that I had them in the cupboard, so I had a go and here are the results of my first two batches. You could make this and present it in a pretty bag or box to the sweet-toothed vegan in your life as a Christmas gift- or you could just scoff it all yourself; the choice is yours. Expect more from me about fudge, as I tweak and perfect each flavour, subbing in coconut oil for half the cacao butter and experimenting with various extras like maple syrup, nuts and cherries... Enjoy this first episode in this year's Christmas Countdown series on those little treats that really make the season special:

Makes a small batch, enough for one large or two small bags/ boxes.
300g sugar- use light brown soft for chocolate fudge and golden  (unrefined) caster for the vanilla one
100g cacao butter
300ml soya milk
1-1/2 tsps natural  vanilla essence (depends on the strength of the brand you use)

  • Mix everything but the vanilla together in a sturdy pan. If you choose a shallow one that's slightly too big the whole boiling process won't take as long.
  • Over a gentle heat, melt the sugar and cacao butter in so that everything is liquid.
  • Bring to a rolling boil and stir constantly to avoid burning. It will take 15-20 minutes. Use the "soft ball" test to check if your fudge is ready by having a small container of iced water handy. When you drop a little fudge in,  it should cling together to form a soft ball in the water. The colour will be darker than at the atart and the fudge will start to pull away from the sides of the pan as you stir.
  • Remove from the heat and beat fpr a few minutes, to get that slightly grainy texture that all good fudge has. Stir in the vanilla.
  • If making chocolate fudge, add 25g (or more) dark chocolate, broken up. (Make sure the fudge is not too hot when you add this.)
  • Spread into a pan lined with baking parchment and leave for at least half an hour to set.

This is the chocolate version; a little drier in texture, but heavenly all the same!

What's your all-time favourite traditional sweet? Have you veganised it yet? What are your favourite fudge flavours?

Monday, 24 November 2014

The Problem with Palm Oil

A few of the many alternatives to palm oil.
 One day earlier this year, the kids returned excitedly from our local Tesco Express with a bag full of goodies, one of which was some microwave popcorn. Within minutes, the whole downstairs was filled with the most disgusting stench, which rendered the microwave unusable for days despite repeated cleaning. (What are you even doing with a microwave? I hear- well that's another story.) It was the smell of burning rainforest, of human and animal suffering and wounded land. Really. That's what it was. Also the smell of something which is not very healthy to put into our bodies. It repulsed us straight away. From that moment on, palm oil has been banned in our household, and we have become avid label-readers of baked goods, confectionery and all manner of household and "food" products.

As if being vegan isn't enough..! 
But we chose the vegan lifestyle because we don't want to contribute to animal, human and environmental damage, death and suffering so it just doesn't make sense to us if we're still consuming a product which, although plant-based, directly contributes to all three of these types of exploitation.
So is palm oil even vegan?
Don't get us wrong. We would never want to criticise anyone or say that they are not really vegans because they bought some palm oil, but we do want to help people to make an informed choice about what they're supporting with their purchasing power, and we think many of you will most likely be as repulsed as we were when you hear about how palm oil is produced.

This is the problem: Palm oil is a cheap source of hard (saturated) vegetable oil that's useful in all kinds of baked and cooked food products as well as in some cleaning products too- but sadly there is a much higher price to pay for using this oil. Not just a high price for the dwindling rainforest and its precious plants and animals, or for the peoples who have to work on palm plantations; it could literally cost the Earth for all of us. We cannot afford that. The oil palm is native to West Africa, but is now grown widely in South East Asia, especially in Sumatra and Malaysia. Trouble is, vast tracts of rainforest are being burned down to make space for the palm plantations, leaving a monoculture and destroying this vital ecosystem. Animals such as the orangutan are often deliberately killed and their babies taken prisoner to live the rest of their days as captives in the world's zoos; or, homeless and hungry, they stray into villages where they are then shot. The Sumatran tiger, already on the endangered list, is also suffering from loss of habitat and numbers are dwindling fast. It also leaves many local people with no choice but to work for be exploited by the palm oil companies rather than living traditionally and in harmony with the natural environment as subsistence farmers. This is not real economic progress for any nation. I don't need to tell you how important the rainforests are to the health of our planet, and yet people are still cutting them down and burning them at an alarming rate. Environmental disaster is looming.
By avoiding products containing palm oil and asking companies not to use it, we can help minimise the demand for it and the palm oil plantations will no longer be viable. The destruction will end. It may sound a touch cynical, but bear in mind that companies think in terms of market trends rather than ethics; remember in the UK about 15 years ago when lactose intolerance hit the news and supermarkets went crazy to exploit that market with tons of own-brand dairy alternatives? Now that its not such big news any more all those products have (sadly) vanished. With enough publicity, we could make palm oil vanish too!

But what about sustainable palm oil?- Well the jury is still out on that one. Many companies such as Aldi make wide use of palm oil in many types of product, but in response to consumer demand, they have now pledged to source their palm oil "sustainably". This means that "sustainable" palm  oil producers will have to commit to providing reasonable conditions and pay for their workers and "responsible" (what a vague term!) land use. ie: no burning down of virgin rainforest, but presumably other types of land are still up for grabs. I'm not sure whether this is going far enough; plus the increasing use of palm oil by manufacturers as a cheaper alternative to oil crops grown elsewhere could be an economic concern, eg: the oilseed rape (canola oil) that is grown in Europe and elsewhere.

If you want to know more about palm oil and its production and uses in various products, follow these links:

Monday, 17 November 2014

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

These cookies are sure to please...
Picture this: a dull November Saturday afternoon, fading daylight, a quiet and sombre house with tired people in need of a little treat. Now picture this: a dull November Saturday afternoon, the kitchen ablaze with light and warmth, the hiss of melting coconut oil on the stove top followed by delicious chocolatey baking aromas, then people smiling as they chew on warm cookies and realise that life isn't quite so bleak after all... grab some of that feelgood factor for yourselves and try this quick and easy cookie recipe. Watch how quickly it puts a smile on everyone's faces- they won't even believe these cookies are vegan, either. The recipe came together after a brief survey of our baking cupboard and chocolate supply and a little look round the internet, where my suspicion that coconut oil makes awesome cookies was confirmed. So what if Aldi biscuits now virtually all contain either palm oil or butter so we can't buy them? Who needs biscuits from a shop anyway?

Makes 8 giant cookies, about 12 normal-sized ones. 1 cup = 250ml
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 cup gour (try rapadura or even soft brown sugar if you can't get gour)
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 cup soya milk
2 cups sieved wholemeal flour (2 cups is what you should be left with to use after sieving)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarb
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup of your favourite vegan chocolate, cut into chunks

  • Mix together the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt.
  • Melt the gour and coconut oil together over a gentle heat.
  • In another bowl, mix up the vanilla and soya milk with the oil and gour.
  • Add the wet mix to the dry mix. It will be sticky; that's okay.
  • Now add the chocolate chips- they will melt and form swirls in the cookie dough if you add them  to the pan along with the flour mix, or they will stay more like chunks if you add them to the cooler bowl and don't mix too much. Form into balls and press onto an oiled baking sheet(s). Leave plenty of room for spreading.
  • Bake in an oven preheated to 180C for 8-10 minutes.
  • When partially cooled, gently lift each cookie onto a cooling rack (ours is wire mesh) with a spatula and leave chocolate to set... if you can bear to wait, that is!
PS: I'm going to see if I can get away without the bicarb next time- keep you posted.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Creamy Cheeze Sauce

Pictured here over gluten free pasta, but also makes a wicked cauliflower cheeze...
Creamy, smooth and satisfyingly packed with good oils and nutrients; this cheeze sauce was scientifically invented by my husband. The recipe as shown here makes a large blender jug full, to be used with pasta, cauliflower or whatever, and contains about 130g protein in total; perfect for fuelling up the night before a long-distance run or for recovery afterwards, which is when we first had it, to replenish our energy when we'd finished the Birmingham Half Marathon last month.

100g cashews
100g almonds
50g linseeds (flax)
25g sunflower seeds
25g sesame seeds
1.5 tsps salt
1.25 litres soya or other plant milk
2-3 tabs lemon juice
30g yeast flakes (aka nutritional yeast, nooch)

  • Grind all the seeds and nuts finely- do them separately, to make sure there are no lumps.
  • Put them and the salt into a high speed blender such as an Omniblend, Vitamix, Froothie or Blendtec and whizz momentarily .
  • Add the plant milk and blend again. Lastly, put in the lemon juice and yeast flakes.
  • Your sauce is now ready to heat gently and add to your recipe!

By the way, we both finished the race in the top 40% of all runners, with times of 2 hrs 91/2 minutes, and in the top 20% for our age groups, so we were really pleased with that- can't wait to do it again! Hooray for plant power
1    If you want to help us raise money fro the Vegan Society, please follow the link above to a post which gives the link to our JustGiving page.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Hot, Sweet and Sour date and Tamarind Chutney

This recipe is so quick and easy to make, using ingredients you probably have to hand in your cupboard or fridge anyway- it can be whipped up as an afterthought to jazz up your dinner (that's what I did) then the rest stored in the fridge for later use. Eat it with rice, in sandwiches, burgers and wraps, or serve with dosas and curries; there are lots if possibilities!
This recipe doesn't yield a great amount; you will probably want to double the quantities if you are serving lots of people or if you are planning on keeping it in the fridge to use as a relish. I used an ordinary supermarket chilli and it wasn't very hot, but you could always add more if you like or use a different variety.

150g (stoned weight) dried dates 
1 tab oil
1 tab cumin seeds
11/2 tsps tamarind concentrate
 1 1/2 tsps salt 
1/2 tsp compound hing
1/2 a fresh red chilli, minced
250ml water

  • Chop the dates and set aside.
  • Saute the cumin, chilli and hing in the oil for a couple of minutes.
  • Add the water, tamarind, salt and dates to the pan and simmer gently until broken down. this will only take a few minutes.
  • Serve hot or cold and store any leftovers in an airtight jar in the fridge where it will keep for at least a couple of days, if not weeks. I can't say really, because we ate all ours within 24 hours!

Friday, 7 November 2014

Ingredient of the Month: Sumac

Sumac has been a popular flavouring to use in the last few years: it is a purply-red powder made from the dried fruits of the sumac, a small tree that grows in the Middle East and in North America. The name "sumac" comes from similar-sounding Arabic, Old French, Latin and Syriac words meaning "red". It lends a lemony piquancy to savoury dishes.

Culinary Uses: Sumac can be used as a garnish on mezze dishes such as hummus, or added to salads. In Persian and Kurdish cuisines it is even added to rice. Sumac is an ingredient in the spice and sesame mixture, za'atar. As it is often used as a rub for meat, sumac would presumably be a great flavouring for meat analogues such as seitan or tofu- we'll keep you posted on that one. So far, we have used sumac in flatbreads and spice mixes and have loved its unique flavour. North American smooth and staghorn sumacs are also used to make "lemonade" by mixing the fruit extract with water and a sweetening agent.

Health Benefits: As it is not consumed in large quantities, I'm not sure how useful culinary sumac is to health; you can, however, get it in tablet form for health purposes. In theory, sumac is an antioxidant, antifungal and antimicrobial agent.

How do you like to use sumac? Have you ever tried it in anything sweet?

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Sticky Tofu for Bonfire Night

Forget about a mug of tomato soup or a veggie burger while you watch the rockets and Catherine wheels: this recipe would be perfect for a Bonfire Night party. We have served it with noodles or rice and stir-fried or roasted veg, but it would be equally good as a tasty burger or hot dog-replacement in pitta or French bread, with barbecue sauce (for our simple BBQ sauce recipe see here). The delighted "oohs" and "ahhs" you'll hear won't be because of the fireworks; they'll be because of your cooking!

Serves 3-4:
about 425g firm tofu
2 tabs agave- maybe maple syrup would also work well here; let us know if you try it...
2 tsps miso
2 tabs lemon juice
1 tsp tamarind concentrate
1/2 tsp hing
1/2 tab paprika
1/2 tab medium Madras curry powder
1/2 tab melted coconut oil
about a tab each of yeast flakes and ground linseeds for sprinkling

  • Cube the tofu and set aside.
  • Whisk all the other ingredients together until thoroughly combined. If you want it sweeter and stickier, just add a little more agave.
  • Toss the tofu in the sauce and place on a lightly oiled baking tray. Brush any remaining sauce over them.
  • Scatter the yeast flakes and ground linseeds on top.
  • Cook straight away in an oven preheated to 180C until warmed through.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Vegan Greek Salad- raw

"I can't believe it's not feta!"
This is proper Greek salad. It looks and tastes like Greek salad should, with chunky veggies and fresh green leaves topped by cubes of salty, tangy, protein-rich yumminess, finished off with a drizzling of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of dried oregano. How so without feta? You ask- read on and you'll see what the secret is:
When I worked in Crete I ate Greek salad pretty much every day, and when I decided to become vegan part way through my time there, I just had it without the feta. But that was okay, because the locally produced olives, lemon wedges and oil were so good mopped up with the crusty, home made bread I didn't even miss it. But back home in England, with decidedly inferior olives and oil it just wasn't the same. Tofu just didn't cut it as a feta substitute either. So I said goodbye to Greek salad for a very long time, until I discovered that almonds make a brilliant feta analogue; and they are used a lot in Greece so they have the right ambience. Today I'm sharing this recipe so that you too can enjoy chasing crumbs of salty vegan feta round pools of lemon and olive oil with a chunk of your favourite bread...

200g almonds
1 1/2 tsps Himalayan pink salt
2 1/2 tabs lemon juice
tomatoes, Cos lettuce  and/ or baby spinach, cucumber, green pepper rings, Kalamata/ black olives
extra virgin olive oil
lemon wedges
dried oregano

  • Soak the almonds in about 200ml water, just or enough to cover them. Leave them in the fridge overnight.
  • When the almonds have absorbed the water and are looking plump, rub off and discard the skins.(This shouldn't be too difficult- if it is, then run boiling water over them.)
  • Use a high speed blender or grinder to get the almonds to as smooth a paste as possible. If you use a grinder, you will probably have to do this in small batches to avoid the paste getting stuck round the blades. It will have a dough-like consistency.
  • Knead in the salt and the lemon juice and shape into a block. Cut into cubes.
  • Arrange the cucumber, tomatoes, pepper rings and olives on a bed of lettuce and/ or baby spinach.
  • Top with cubes of almond feta and lemon wedges. Drizzle with olive oil and oregano. Serve with your favourite bread.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Pumpkin Spice Muffins with White Chocolate Frosting

Pumpkin spice lattes seem to be all the rage at the moment, so I decided to make the cake version. Instead of canned pumpkin puree (which in my experience isn't easily found in the UK) I used some fresh, organic homegrown pumpkin to make the puree.

Makes 12 muffin-sized cakes, or more if you use fairy cake/cupcake moulds.
250g peeled and diced fresh pumpkin
400g self-raising flour
4 tsps baking powder
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
200ml soya milk (or other plant milk)
200ml agave
150ml melted coconut oil
100g cacao butter
50g coconut oil
150ml agave nectar
cacao nibs and/ or ground cinnamon for sprinkling (optional)

  • First make the pumpkin puree; cook the diced pumpkin in a minimal amount of water until it is soft and all the water has been absorbed (you don't want all the nutrients to be thrown away with the cooking water).
  • Mix all the dry ingredients together (flour, baking powder and spices)
  • In another bowl, whisk up the wet ingredients- not the pumpkin puree though.
  • Beat the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients for about a minute, and stir in the pumpkin, mixing briefly but thoroughly.
  • Spoon into prepared muffin moulds and bake in an oven preheated to 180C for about 20-25 minutes.
  • While the muffins are cooking prepare the frosting: melt everything together except the sprinkles and refrigerate/ freeze until solid and creamy. The mixture will go from translucent yellow to opaque off-white. Beat well to ensure smoothness.
  • When the muffins are completely cool, spoon or pipe the frosting into the centre of each one and sprinkle with cacao nibs and/ or ground cinnamon.
  • Make yourself a hot drink, put your feet up and enjoy the sweet taste of Autumn...

This recipe goes to Shaheen of the awesome A2K blog- take a look at her wonderful seasonal veggie recipes !

Sunday, 19 October 2014

How to Veganise your Bathroom without Breaking the Bank

The secret is to buy in bulk!
 This month's how-to is not about cooking, for a change; we wanted to share with you our game-changing life hack for buying vegan bodycare products. We were delighted to find that Superdrug stocks loads of vegan products which are cheap but maybe not as natural or eco-friendly as their more expensive counterparts. Plus it was inconvenient to keep going there every time we ran low on stuff. Here's what we now do instead:

1: Save old shampoo bottles like the one on the right; it has a wide top for refilling and holds 400ml of products. You can get every last bit out, too.

2: Buy your shampoo/ shower gel/ conditioner/ handwash in 5l amounts. We got ours from Suma. We also found the bodywash does very nicely as shampoo or handwash too, so we just got bodywash plus conditioner. 

3: Clean your old bottles, remove the labels (you may need white spirit) and label them with the new contents. Paper labels written in permanent marker with sellotape on top should do the trick. You can now save money and pollution-causing plastic while enjoying good quality products that- literally- won't cost the Earth. This hack also works for your washing up liquid (we buy Bio-D as the Ecover one is not vegan.)

Do you have any money and environment-saving household tips?

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Pineapple Coconut Dubwise Cake for Coronation Day - no cane sugar

All ready for the Coronation Day celebrations on November 2nd...

A closer look at the cake

This cake was actually inspired by a musical genre; let me explain: we love dub music, which is basically  reggae remixes, usually with the bassline emphasised and the vocals taken out, either partially or completely. How does this relate to a cake recipe? Well I made remix of our standard cake recipe, with some additions to change the flavour and texture and the vanilla taken out.The pineapple and coconut are there to give the cake a Caribbean flavour. Oh, and I must also mention the coconut palm sugar, which adds a caramelly touch. The cake is moist and sticky.
Then I thought it would be a nice gesture to dedicate this recipe to the One Dub crew, whose sound system events in Birmingham have uplifted us and caused us to dance all night many a time. The next event is on Coronation Day, an important celebration in the Rastafarian faith which marks the coronation of  Ethiopian King HIM Haile Sellassie I and Empress Menen on 2nd November 1930. Maybe I'll make a very big cake like this and take it along...

45 self-raising flour
75g desiccated coconut
4 tabs baking powder
2 tabs ground flax seeds (omit if you want a lighter cake- I added them for the omegas)
200g diced fresh pineapple
150ml coconut oil
400ml soya milk
100g coconut sugar
100ml agave nectar
plus extra agave, coconut sugar and desiccated coconut for sprinkling

  • In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients except the pineapple together.
  • Melt the coconut oil and whisk in the agave and soya milk.
  • Beat the wet ingredients into the dry mix and stir in the pineapple last.
  • Bake in an oven preheated to 180C for about half an hour (use the skewer test).
  • While still warm, brush with the extra agave and sprinkle with the extra coconut sugar and desiccated coconut.
  • This cake makes a lovely pudding when warm, and a gooey, flavoursome cake when cold.

If you could invent a recipe that sums up your favourite music or type of music, what would it be?

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Cream of Celeriac Soup

The first truly Autumnal weather hit us this weekend, with bright but cool days and chilly nights. Time for something hot, creamy and comforting!
And that's where this soup comes in. Simple to make, and featuring a seasonal vegetable- celeriac- it ticks all the comfort boxes without being stodgy. The simple seasoning helps bring out the delicate flavour of the celeriac.This recipe makes 6-8 servings; you will want seconds!

500g celeriac, diced
230g potato, diced
1/4 cup finely ground almonds (1 cup=250ml)
1/4 cup finely ground sunflower seeds
2 tsps seasalt
1/3-1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp compound hing
1 tab olive or organic sunflower oil
1/2-1 tab lemon juice (optional)
  • Gently saute the potato in the oil for a couple of minutes, then add the celeriac and stir well, cooking for a couple of minutes more.
  • Throw in the seasonings, add 1 litre of water and bring to a simmer.
  • Meanwhile, whisk the ground almonds and sunflower seeds with a litre of water. It should resemble single/ pouring cream in consistency.
  • When the celeriac and potato are soft, add the "cream" and blend thoroughly. The more you blend it, the creamier it will be. 
  • Stir in the lemon juice.
  • Serve with warm chunks of your favourite bread and watch the Autumn leaves fall...

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Middle East Feast- vegan recipe collection

As you probably know, Middle Eastern appetisers often come in the form of meze, or a platter of various side dishes such as dips, breads, olives, salads or stuffed vine leaves. But we are suggesting meze could take centre stage as the main course. And for dessert, what better than fresh fruit? (Think figs, apricots, dates, pomegranates...) or maybe even a piece of vegan baklava, halva or lukum (Turkish delight). The informal, mix-and-match style of meze means you can share lots of different flavours and textures and potentially (if the dishes span the range of food groups) a good spectrum of nutrients too. And anyway, it's fun to choose lots of different flavours and textures! We haven't put a meze menu together in real life, but instead we are inviting you to pick from the recipe links below (click on the recipe name to open the link) to create your own Middle East Feast; let us know via the comments what you made, or what your ideal meze menu would include.

First up, we have dips:
Baba ghanoush (aubergines and tahini)



Moroccan chickpea pate

Scoop them up with veggies or flatbreads:
Flax flatbread

You might want to serve something a little more substantial, hot or cold:
Moroccan couscous

Chickpeas with ras al hanout

Middle Eastern pizza
Baked falafels

Moroccan aubergine escalope

...and then there's the classic salads/ sides:

Stuffed Vine Leaves

I've been wanting to make imam byaldi, Turkish stuffed aubergine, for some time now; what Middle Eastern dish are you planning to make next? What would you like to see featured here?

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Dukkah (duqqa)- raw, gluten free

Dukkah is great scooped up with olive oil-dipped flatbreads
 The Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East have always been an obsession interest of mine; the Egypt thing started when I was taken to see the Tutankhamun exhibition at the BM as a child, continued through adolescence (when I was lucky enough to visit Egypt and see the pyramids and other monuments) and lasted until my graduation with a BA in The Archaeology of the Eastern Mediterranean. By the time I hit 30 I had also worked as an archaeologist in Israel, holidayed in Turkey and Tunisia, begun a lifelong love affair with mint tea, hummus, and olives and taken up raqs sharqi bellydancing. It's not that I'm a cultural appropriator; I just genuinely like all that stuff! Now, in the culinary phase of my life (okay, that really just means I stopped travelling and now am happy cooking for my family), it's no surprise that I find myself cooking Middle Eastern style quite a lot. I have yet to find a vegan Middle Eastern ingredient that I don't like: almonds, apricots, ful mesdames, pistachios, sesame, sumac, harissa, chickpeas, ras el hanout, couscous, rosewater, aubergines... bring 'em all on I say! 
-But of course, you didn't come here to read all of that: you want the lowdown on dukkah, so here goes: Dukkah is an Egyptian sesame, nut and spice dip that's eaten with olive oil-dunked breads or vegetables. The nuts are usually hazelnuts but I used almonds, and the nuts and seeds are roasted, but I made it raw. Spices vary- I used sumac, coriander and cumin. There is also za'atar, a delicious mixture of dried parsley, oregano, Syrian wild thyme, sesame, sumac, salt and pepper that is used in the same way. Coincidentally, my stepson brought some back for us from his recent travels in  Jerusalem and the West Bank at the same time as I was contemplating making dukkah, so we dived into both with the oil and bread...yum!

Makes a large jar full. You will need a spice grinder or pestle and mortar for this recipe:
100g almonds
80g sesame seeds
2 tabs coriander seeds
2 tabs cumin seeds
2 tsps ground black pepper
3 tsps powdered sumac
1 tsp Himalayan pink salt
1/2 tsp compound hing

  • Grind the nuts, sesame seeds and spices separately, then mix everything together in a bowl.
  • Serve with a good quality extra virgin olive oil and whatever bread and/ or raw veggies you like. For a quick and easy yeast-free flatbread recipe, try ours here.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

The BUPA Great Birmingham Run 2014-We are Running for The Vegan Society

This is the reason we aren't too creative in the kitchen at the moment and the blog posts are few and far between- we are running our first half marathon in 2 weeks!
We've been following our training plan religiously since August but now the training's getting more intense; the runs are longer, more tiring and more time-consuming. This picture was taken when we'd just finished a 10-mile run- hence the look on my face! The past couple of weeks have been a struggle for me, as I've had a bad cough and sinus infection and having to run all through that was tough. Glad I did though, because now I finally feel like come the day I'll be able to give it my best shot and get round the course in a reasonable time.
Why are we subjecting ourselves to all this? We are raising money for The Vegan Society, showing that plant-powered people are fit and healthy and promoting veganism as a sustainable and compassionate way of life. If you'd like to help us do this, you can donate via our JustGiving page:

Ingredient of the Month: Singoda Flour (aka singhara)

This month we have some singoda flour in the cupboard; perfect for gluten free or grain free dishes. To date, all we've made is singoda, buckwheat and potato flour pancakes (and very good they were too) but I'm sure it will prove itself a versatile ingredient.
Singoda -or singhara- flour is made from water chestnuts; the same water chestnuts that you get in Chinese and South East Asian cuisine. They are actually the corm of a sedge-like aquatic plant, and nothing to do with tree nuts at all; in fact, there has never been any recorded case of allergy to singoda flour, making it a great "free from" food. Find it in Asian supermarkets, or online.
Nutrition and Health Benefits: Singoda flour is rich in B vitamins and potassium, and also contains antioxidants. It's roughly 20% protein, just over 50% starch, 3% sugar and minerals and about 1% fat. It also has fibre. Studies have shown that water chestnut flour is a good food for diabetics because of its low calorific value in relation to its fibre, protein and vitamin content.
Uses: As well as the aforementioned pancakes, you can make chapatis, dhokla (steamed "cake" with chilli and mustard seeds) and even sweets like ladu... yum :)

Do you have any ideas for recipes which feature singoda flour?

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Chutney and Jam collection for Autumn

Not a lot of invention has gone on in our kitchen this week- we have been busy training for a half marathon next month, and as the runs have got longer and longer our kitchen time has got shorter and shorter! So to celebrate the beginning of Autumn, and the harvest of Summer's bounty, we've put together this collection of jams and chutneys so you can enjoy the Summer all through the darker months to come... just click on the captions and you'll get to the recipes:

Plum Chutney with Tamarind

Tomato Ketchup

No-sugar Cranberry Gionger Chutney and Cranberry Sauce

Fiery Green Tomato Lemon Chilli Chutney

Green Tomato Chilli Jam

Green Tomato Chutney

Hot 'n' Sour Rhubarb Orange Chutney

Rhubarb and Ginger Jam
Rhubarb Chilli Chutney

No- sugar Damson Jelly
Plum and Damson Jams
What's your favourite home made preserve?