Thursday, 5 November 2015

West Midlands vegan fest 2015

Our lovely Viva La Vegan T-shirts!

Last Sunday we drove over to Wolverhampton Civic Centre to check out West Midlands Vegan Fest. It was the first time we'd been to one of these (unless you count the mini vegan fayre in Moseley  the summer before last) but we felt we knew roughly what to expect from hearing about similar events. We were not disappointed by the amount of stalls and things to do, and managed to spend a good 3 or 4 hours browsing stalls and chatting to stall holders, trying free samples, eating a late lunch (and several snacks!) and even listening to some quirky but brilliant gypsy-inspired music from Preston vegan band Möbius Loop. Had we had more time, we could have also taken advantage of many talks and demos, and even entered the Vegan Bake Off. All in all, it was an impressively large event with plenty to do and lots to learn. Thank you to the organisers, Midlands Vegan Campaigns, for a brilliant afternoon!
There were just too many things to do, people to chat to, vegan delicacies to try, to take full advantage of everything on offer in the time we had, but here's the lowdown on some of the things we did:
We checked out the catering first, having come pretty much straight from a 10- mile run without our
lunch. We decided to buy from Change Kitchen3 bean chilli and rice for me and samosas and salad for my husband. It was nice to be able to sit down to eat at the seating provided on the stage.While not particularly special, the food was tasty, reasonably priced and certainly hit the spot, fuelling us up for a few hours of browsing. And browse we certainly did, for there were 100 stalls in the Civic Hall and the adjoining Wulfrun Hall., Peckish for something sweet, we homed in on some beautiful Turkish delight from a stall which also sold a delicious selection of olives. Close by, Hellas Farms
from Greece were selling some wonderful, quality organic produce from an co-operative;
we couldn't resist a small bottle of fragrant extra virgin olive oil and a bag of dried chamomile flowers. We also sampled some really nice low fat coconut milk and a coconut spread from Koko Dairy Free.
We browsed Lush, the Vegan Society and many other stalls, but were most attracted to the T-shirts  from  Viva La Vegan.... They were doing a buy one, get a second half price offer which proved irresistible. I went for a cropped black and white v-neck, while hubby went for a more conventional design with the message "cool fit vegan". The designer and business owner told us that the cotton organically grown, unbleached and the tees are made in Turkey, and while they don't have the official Fairtrade logo they are made by workers who do receive a fair price for their work and good working conditions. Oh, and the dyes used are water soluble and environmentally lower-impact than conventional dyes. It was really nice to get a free cotton bag as well. Having worn and washed our tees a couple of times now, I can say that they have survived well so far and are lovely and soft. See here for another review.
The next couple of hours saw us wandering upstairs amongst the artisan soaps, fairly traded crafts and one amazing seller who was making the best vegan shake I have ever had; and chocolates, too! Unfortunately I can't find the name of the stallholder in the programme.
Back downstairs in the Wulfrun Hall, we found Ananda Foods, who were selling vegan marshmallows. We bought a small packet each of strawberry and vanilla. What is all the fuss about with vegan marshmallows? I think people buy them because they either have unsatisfied confectionery  cravings or just because they can. I'm always a bit disappointed with vegan marshmallows and then I remember that I never really liked marshmallows anyway, so I'm definitely in the "Just because I can" category. I guess as vegan mallows go these were very good, as the rest of my family went wild for them!
We couldn't resist trying out something from St Best Caribbean foods, so we shared some fried plantain (a generous portion and cooked to perfection) while we sat awhile and listened to the live music. There was even a bar for those who wanted something a bit stronger than coconut water.
There were many organisations and charities represented, but 3 stood out for me: the Vegan Organic Network (growing your own stock free organic produce; something that's very close to our hearts), Sea Shepherd (I so am going to get out there and go somewhere like Taiji Bay one of these days...) and the Vegan Lifestyle Association, which I joined then and there, using one of the handy I-Pads  provided. I chose a sample packet of Pulsin' pea protein as one of my free gifts, which I used today in veggieburgers.
Reading back over this, it sounds like all we did was eat, but we did spread our snacks out over the afternoon and early evening. It was a brilliant time, and we spoke to so many lovely people. Next year we might well spend the whole 2 days as there's so much to see, do, eat and buy. If you have vegan-curious friends or family or you want to find out more about veganism for yourself, then I can recommend going to a vegan fest. So many kindred spirits under one roof creates a powerful vibe!

Friday, 16 October 2015

Mango coconut khir

Rice pudding is a much-loved dish in many cultures; you can have it hot from the oven and sprinkled with nutmeg or topped with jam in the UK, spiced with bay leaves, camphor or fragrant with cardamom or rosewater in India, or made with coconut milk in Thailand. In the Middle East it can be made with cinnamon and date syrup (doesn't that sound good?) and elsewhere in South East Asia it is made with bananas or coconut. You can eat it hot and gloopy, or cold and set, for breakfast or dessert. This rice pudding is a real blend of cultures; mango, coconut milk and coconut sugar from the tropics, damson jam from our garden and sushi rice from Japan. It works, though, coming together to make a seriously delicious dessert. I served it chilled, cos that's how I like my rice pudding.

Half a cup of sushi rice cooked in a cup of water, or however much you need for it to be all absorbed by the time the rice is cooked
The flesh of 5 medium- sized mangoes
1 can (400ml) coconut milk
3/4 cup coconut sugar

  • First cook the sushi rice until it's nice and soft and all the water has been absorbed.
  • Add the coconut milk and coconut sugar, mixing well over a gentle heat.
  • Blend the mango flesh to a purée and add to the pan.
  • Heat through and combine thoroughly; you may need to adjust the sweetness according to the mangoes you use.
  • Cool it down , then chill in the fridge to serve. Decorate with fresh fruit and / or add a swirl of jam; I used home made damson jam.


Wednesday, 16 September 2015

BBQ Pulled Seitan

This would be great for a sunny, early Autumn barbecue, but you could always save this recipe for Bonfire Night. It seems like ages ago (it was!) since I made this, but I couldn't resist sharing. I've noticed "pulled" things have even crept into UK restaurant chains lately so this is a timely vegan alternative. Another idea would be to use spaghetti squash, but remember it's not a rich source of protein like seitan is.

You'll need:
Seitan made with 1kg unbleached organic white bread flour; see here  for how to do this. You'll need to include the boiling in broth stage too, to ensure the seitan is tender.

BBQ sauce:
1tsp tamarind concentrate
4 tabs tomato purée
3 tabs agave
2-3 tsps gaur/raw sugar
1 1/2 tsps sea salt/ Himalayan pink salt
1tab tamari sauce
1tab smoked paprika
1/3tsp black pepper
A pinch of compound hing
A pinch of red chilli powder
  • Make the seitan, boil and shred into thin strips with a knife. If you use a grater, you'll get a much more mince-like texture.
  • Mix the sauce ingredients together, blending with a balloon whisk over a low heat.
  • Meanwhile, grill your seitan strips.
  • Mix with the sauce and serve hot or cold in buns.

Friday, 4 September 2015

What organic really means

Hello!  We're back from a spontaneous summer break due to being extremely busy (in a good way). Missed you all and looking forward to catching up...
Since September is Organic Month, I thought I'd share some thoughts about organic fruit and veg. First up, I don't think animal products can be considered truly organic because even if they comply with the legal definition their environmental impact and contribution to food injustice is so great, not to mention what suffering the animals have to undergo. So let's not go there.
But surely you can't go wrong with organic fruit and veg, can you? Well, it all depends on where you live and what you personally feel you are prepared to buy and put into your body. In the US, the definition of organic does includes GMOs, so that's food for thought. Not so in the EU, but then there are, in both places, certain permitted chemical pesticides he produce is allowed to be grown with. These include such things as copper sulphate. You can go the the Soil Association's website for more details. I suppose that pest control has to be considered but it seems a shame that creatures have to be killed to get veg onto our plates. And when it comes to feeding the soil, most organic fertilisers are made from animal blood and bone, so the farmers are buying slaughterhouse by-products and those plants are taking them in. There is a solution, however, and that is to buy "stock free organic" if you can. These products have not been grown using animal parts.
Then in the UK there's also the food miles issues. Organic isn't grown locally- only 5 percent of organic produce sold in the UK is from the UK. is it really worth paying more for something which may not be produced much more ethically than it's non- organic counterpart? It's up to you. Organic food usually tastes better, after all, and although I haven't heard of any scientific evidence that shows it's more nutritious, it could well be. Maybe it's worth buying to support what is, after all, a slightly better way of growing. Personally, I prefer the fruit and veg we grow ourselves, without killing pests and using only veg compost, comfrey and seaweed to feed them.
What are your thoughts about this?

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Choc Hazelnut Ripple Icecream

After making our choc hazelnut spread, I was busy thinking of uses for it before it all got spooned out of the jar- naturally, ice cream sprang to mind...
Using the vanilla base from our peach melba ice cream recipe, I added some crushed hazelnuts and a generous helping of the spread, swirled in when it was nearly set. It did come out rather sweet because of the chocolate spread, so next time I would reduce the amount of agave in the vanilla base. And maybe toast the hazelnuts for extra crunch and nuttiness. Still, it did make a wickedly delicious dessert!

Friday, 14 August 2015

Vegan Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

You all know that white-labelled jar with the red lettering: the one your parents tried to hide from you by putting it on the highest shelf in the tallest cupboard; the one you used to dig into with a spoon when you thought no one was looking- well, due to a request from our family we've created the vegan version of its nutty, chocolatey contents so you can once more indulge. We tried making it a couple of times, and decided on this version as the simplest, most effective recipe. If you have a food processor or high speed blender suitable for making nut butters, then you'll soon have your very own little pot of chocolate nut heaven...

400g shelled hazelnuts
200g raw sugar (such as Pakistani sukhar or Brazilian rapadura, but if you can't get those, ordinary soft brown sugar will do)
50g cacao powder (or cocoa if you can't get the raw cacao)
40g coconut oil

  • Lightly toast the hazelnuts in a medium oven.
  • Put into your food processor and get them down to a smooth butter.
  • Add the other ingredients and blend again. Make sure the level of sweetness is to your liking; adjust if necessary.
  • Keep in a lidded jar somewhere cool and dry.
This spread can also be used as a cake filling and frosting, in ice cream and as a general dessert topping- watch out for future posts explaining how!

Monday, 10 August 2015

Gluten free chapattis/ roti

Every so often it feels good to get away from our dependence on wheat and gluten-rich grains for the carby part of our diet, whether or not we have a gluten intolerance. I certainly find gluten free options a bit easier to digest, but the problem with bought gluten free breads if you're vegan is that they pretty much always contain egg. Luckily, a solution was waiting there in the kitchen cupboard in the form of farali flour and flax seeds.
Let me explain; farali flour is a blend of different gluten free flours; Japanese millet, water chestnut (aka singoda) and sago. You can find it in some Asian grocery stores. Flax "eggs" are made from ground golden linseeds whisked with water. One tablespoon of ground flax with three of water equals one beaten egg. The result was a fairly easy to handle dough that could be rolled quite thin, and a soft, slightly chewy-textured bread.
I made 9 chapattis, so to the amount of flour you would normally use for this amount, add a pinch of salt and two flax "eggs". Mix in water to make a soft but not sticky dough, wrap it up to stop it drying out and let it stand for half an hour. Then proceed as normal.
We already posted a gluten free chapatti recipe using buckwheat and potato flours, here
Take a closer look at the texture...

Saturday, 8 August 2015


Oatcakes and hummus go well with sauerbeet.

Is there even such a word as sauerbeet? Well there is now!
Sauerbeet is just grated beetroot fermented like sauerkraut. Our first experiment went well, though it seemed to take a little longer than cabbage. Here's how it was done:
We took one of our home grown beets, small to medium-sized (fits easily into the palm of your hand) and grated it. Then we added a pinch of seasalt and left it in an airtight jar in a warm place, as we do for sauerkraut- see here.
After about 5 or 6 days the beetroot had become considerably wetter and tasted nice and sour- sort of like pickled beetroot but without vinegar. Yum! Definitely worth doing again with a larger amount.
I've been looking at recipes which combine beetroot, cabbage and ginger; have you tried any of these? What would be your favourite combo? 

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Recipes revisited: Raw Vegan Millionaire's Shortbread- gluten free, no sugar

We're really excited about this version of our raw vegan millionaire's shortbread; we've mastered date caramel using a high speed blender, added cacao butter to the chocolate topping and used coconut sugar instead of agave as the sweetener, plus we threw in some coconut flour to the base, replacing half the oats. The result: a sweet treat that's literally choc- full of premium superfood ingredients, all organic apart from the dates and nuts and extremely delicious! Can't wait to share this with you all...

 4 tabs melted coconut oil
 200g ground almonds
11/2 tabs agave
50g porridge oats
50g coconut flour
A generous pinch of sea salt

  • Melt the oils and mix all the ingredients together.
  • Press into a tray lined with baking parchment, about 1cm thick. Ours was 22x9cm, but you could use 25x8 or the equivalent.
  • Leave in the fridge to firm up while you make the caramel.

3tabs melted coconut oil
400g stoned weight fresh dates
2 1/2 tsps nat vanilla essence
Small pinch salt

  • Place everything in a high speed blender, using pulse and a low setting. Stop and stir if necessary. After a minute or two you will have a soft caramel. Magic!
  • Spread on top of the base. Again, leave in the fridge while you make the chocolate.

1/2 cup 125ml coconut sugar, melted with 4tsp, or 20 ml water
3/4 cup cacao
45 ml coconut oil melted measurement
45 ml cacao butter, melted measurement

  • Melt the coconut oil and cacao butter.
  • Add to the coconut sugar and cacao, mixing well.
  • Spread evenly into the caramel and leave to set in the fridge.
  • Cut into 16 small squares, and store in the fridge.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Raw Cherry Chia Jam- sugar free

Look what our lovely neighbour gave us! Perfect, ripe cherries, straight from her tree! My husband used most of them to make a delicious, tofu-based cherry ice cream, and I decided to make some chia "jam", which has been on my must-make list for months now. The colour was a little disappointing, but I think if you were to use the kind of cherries which are dark red inside the jam would look more jam-like.

2 cups fresh cherries, washed and pitted
40-60ml (2-3 tabs) agave nectar- depends how sweet you like it
2 tabs ground chia seeds

  • Blend the cherries briefly (literally a couple of seconds if you are using a high speed blender).
  • Stir in the agave and the chia seeds.
  • After a few minutes, the chia seeds will "set" the jam.
  • Store in the fridge.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Baked Broad Bean Falafels

Serve with bright red, ripe tomatoes and some tahini dressing.
Isn't it wonderful when you cook your first all-homegrown meal of the season? When, instead of tantalising bits of this and that, you finally have a substantial harvest of several kinds of vegetable? That's exactly what started happening to us last weekend, when we devoured platefuls of tender minted new potatoes and delicately flavoured broad beans along with some veggie burgers that weren't from the garden. That was only a few days ago, yet  tonight I was able to create these little patties using only our own produce. The fresh flavours of the broad beans and coriander leaves make them a very more-ish snack, so be sure to serve them with something filling like bread or rice if they are to be part of a main meal. This recipe serves 2 people.

225g fresh broad (fava) beans, podded
1 heaped tab (10g) fresh coriander, chopped
2 1/2 tabs grated courgette
1 tsp ground cumin seeds
2 1/2 tsps ground coriander seeds
1/2 tsp compound hing
1/2 tsp baking powder
1-11/2 tsps salt

  • Put everything except the baking powder in a high speed blender or a food processor until it resembles a thick paste, like hummus, but can still hold its shape.
  • Form into little patties and press onto an oiled baking sheet. Cook at 200C, turning at least once, until just browning on the outside.
  • Serve with flatbreads or rice, salad and a creamy tahini dressing- but don't pair them with anything too strong-tasting or their delicacy will be overpowered.

Have you cooked with anything that you grew yourself recently? What meals have you invented from your garden?

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Peach Melba Ice Cream-sugar free, soya free

Ideally, this picture would have been shot against a background of white sand, flawless blue sea and azure sky. But you'll have to make do with our garden just before dark because we live about as far away from the seaside as you can get in England. Never mind; perhaps the flavours in this ice cream will transport you to your favourite summer holiday destination anyway...
Since our last ice cream post (I think ice cream may now have overtaken cake as the most frequently-posted foodstuff on this blog!) I am delighted to announce that I have sourced a vegan waffle cone in Aldi, at £1 for ten. You can even get a chocolate-dipped version too! I still want to make up my own cone recipe, but for now I can serve up ice cream in cones with no fuss- and no bowls to wash up afterwards. I know from experience that if your ice cream mixture has too much of a water content from the fruit, then the result will be hard and icy rather than cool and creamy, so this is why I left the fruit in small pieces rather than blending it all in together. A little coconut cream and some ground cashews ensure a rich texture. Peach Melba., in case you were wondering, is a dessert named after the  19th century opera singer, Nellie Melba. It consists of peaches in raspberry sauce accompanied by vanilla ice cream. So why not just turn the whole thing into ice cream?

1 can coconut milk ( 400ml)
1 small can coconut cream (160ml)
100g ground cashews
2tsps natural Vanilla essence
300ml agave
1 cup fresh peach flesh, diced into 1cm cubes
1/4 cup fresh raspberries
  • Blend the coconut milk and cream, cashews, vanilla and agave together.
  • With your freezer on its coldest setting, leave the mixture in there until nearly frozen.
  • Return to the blender to break up any ice crystals and get it creamy smooth.
  • Put it back in the freezer, and when nearly solid, stir in the fruit. That way, it should suspend itself in the thick ice cream and not all sink to the bottom.
  • This is the hard part; you now have to wait a bit longer until your ice cream is completely frozen. Serve in a cone or a bowl.
Why do I love the idea of ice cream so much? I think food is so much a shaper of memories, in the way smells and tastes remind us of  people, places and feelings from our past. For me, ice cream conjures up my seaside childhood in Weymouth. Ice cream was a rare treat for me, if my school report had been particularly good or we had visitors. At the time, there were ice cream parlours along the seafront, owned by Italian families who had settled there after the Second World War, and Fortes, a large and glossy cafe selling all manner of milkshakes, ice creams and desserts. That was the place I  looked forward to the most. Their knickerbocker glories were the best; a seemingly endless tall glass filled with layers of fruit, cream and ice cream topped with a fan wafer that you needed a special long-handled spoon to excavate. I usually managed to persuade my grandmother to buy me one at least once a year. Happy times!

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Choc Choc Chip Icecream-raw, sugar free, gluten free, soya free

...Choc choc chip, because unlike mint choc chip, there's no mint, just more chocolate. You could call it double choc chip, I suppose, but then it would sound more like a cookie than icecream. This dessert is pretty indulgent and made with some premium ingredients like cacao nibs, so for that reason  I've written the recipe up to make about 400ml, but in actual fact before it even got to the freezer, I'd doubled up, and a good thing too, as there was barely even enough left to photograph once we'd all had a taste!
What I like about this ice cream is that it has a really soft texture due to the fat content, and is easy to scoop. Make sure you melt your creamed coconut (or just make it on a hot day like I did!) to get it thoroughly blended in. You don't need to use an icecream maker; a blender will do, especially a high speed one.
Now, does anyone have a vegan cone recipe or know any vegan UK brands?

175g cashews
50g creamed coconut, melted
1 cup (250ml) water
3 1/2 level tabs cacao
60g coconut sugar
3 tabs agave
1/2tab cacao nibs

  • Grind the cashews with the water and creamed coconut in your blender. 
  • Add everything else except the cacao nibs and blend again.
  • Put in the freezer for an hour or so, then remove and blend.
  • Stir in the cacao nibs and freeze until solid.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Inspired by..... 7: Sweet Potato Poutine- can be gluten free

Koko's Kitchen is a fantastic vegan blog from Canada that is often raw, super healthy and 100 percent delicious. Koko also runs her own fresh juice company. I've been a regular reader for some time now, and I don't think I ever saw a recipe of hers that I didn't absolutely love the sound of! The other day she posted a poutine recipe to celebrate Canada Day. (Poutine, fyi, is a traditional Canadian dish comprising chips (fries) in gravy with melted cheese on top. It was not the first time I'd seen it veganised, but  Koko's lovely pictures and mouthwatering words made me decide once and for all to have a go at a Yogi Vegans version. I've used coated orange sweet potatoes for the baked "fries" and almond and tahini cheeze instead of cashew cheeze as we were out of cashews. I also omitted the garlic from the miso gravy. It's not a fussy dish to make, and our recipe serves 2-3 as a main meal, 3-4 as a starter or snack. Scroll down below the next picture for the recipe:

For the "fries":
4 medium-sized orange sweet potatoes, cut into slim "French fries"
2 tabs olive oil
1/2-1tsp seasalt or Himalayan pink salt
1/2 tsp coarsely-ground black pepper
4 rounded tabs potato flour

  • Pour the oil onto a large baking tray and toss the fries in it.
  • Meanwhile, mix the potato flour, salt and pepper in a bowl.
  • Toss the sweet potato in this mixture and return to the tray, spreading them out into a single layer- you may need more than one tray to do this.
  • Bake in an oven preheated to 200C until chewy/ crispy.
For the gravy:
2 tabs mugi (barley) miso
250ml (1 cup) warm water
1 tsp paprika
1/2tsp compound hing
1 tab tamari sauce (optional; it does increase the saltiness)
1tab olive oil
1tab wholemeal flour or gluten free flour
  • Make a roux with the oil and flour, using a balloon husk over a gentle heat.
  • Remove from the heat and blend in the miso, tamari, hing and paprika.
  • Return to a low heat and gradually whisk in the warm water. The gravy will thicken up if you leave it to stand, so you may want to dilute it before you heat to serve.
For the cheese:
125g whole almonds
225ml water
1rounded tab yeast flakes
2 tabs lemon juice
1scant tsp sea salt
1 flat tab tahini
  • First grind the almonds using a high speed blender or a grinder.
  • If you don't have a high speed blender just whisk in the remaining ingredients. If using a high speed blender,just throw them all in and whizz up for a few seconds on the high setting.
To assemble:
Just pour gravy over the fries, top with the cheese and grill if you want. Garnish with curly or flat-leaved parsley, or even coriander, like I did.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Fresh this Month: Mangetout

This (see picture) is exactly the beautiful sight I came home to the other day; an offering of freshly-picked mangetout wrapped in a rhubarb leaf sitting there in the sun on the kitchen worktop. Truly a sign that midsummer has arrived! Green and juicy from a recent wet day, their crunchy sweetness invites you to just take a bite then and there- and that's the beauty of mangetout: they are a great raw snack, either with a dip or alone. Of course, they are awesome in a stir fry, shine in salads and are superb sweated with home grown tomatoes as well.
Mangetout means "eat all" in French, and indeed you can; from the crisp green tender pods to the sweet little peas inside. Their other name is snow peas- but I'm not sure why.
Before we go any further, let's be clear that the mangetout out I'm taking about are the flat pods, not the plumper ones which are called snap beans. Our home grown mangetout grow up little sticks or fencing in our allotment, and we've even managed to get some early ones by sowing in our polytunnel, though their season tends to be short as they don't seem to like too much heat. They are such attractive little plants with their delicate white flowers and curling tendrils that I've never had the heart to take them when small, though I know pea shoots are a delicacy.
Nutritionally, mangetout are a real bonus, and children find them appealing because of their sweet taste. (My daughter used to graze on them in the allotment when she was small!) as well as plenty of dietary fibre, mangetout contain Vitamin C, Folic acid (a B-complex vitamin) and Vitamin K. They are also a source of cancer-preventing flavonoids and Vitamin A.

How do you like yours? As they come, fresh from the garden, or cooked in some way?

Monday, 22 June 2015

No-Cook Chocolate, Lemon and Lime Cream Pie- sugar and gluten free

Summer is here! And on Midsummer Day, which also happens to be Fathers' Day in the UK, I felt like diving back into the blogosphere with a special treat. It is no-cook rather than raw because I've used tofu, but a raw version could be made with cashew or almond cream. This recipe is the first in which I have used coconut flour; we were given some the other day. So far We're really impressed with the texture and flavour; it's oilier than regular flours and sweetish without being overly coconutty, and promises to be a versatile ingredient.
This dessert is loosely based on key lime pie, except that these are Mediterranean limes and lemons and I've swapped the meringue for chocolate, the richness of which offsets the citrus tang of the fruit perfectly. The firm, chocolatey base is a great contrast to the creamy, citrus-flavoured filling, which does eventually set more if you refrigerate it (should there be any left to keep in the fridge!) Next time -and that may be quite soon- I'll try a raw version with nut cream instead of tofu.

1 1/2 cups porridge oats (make sure they are labelled gluten free if you need them to be, as most brands are milled on lines which also handle wheat and will contain traces)
1 cup coconut flour
1 1/2 rounded tabs cacao
8 small fresh dates
1 cup melted coconut oil

  • Put the oats, coconut flour and cacao into a blender and whizz for a few seconds, until the oats are broken down into a coarse meal.
  • Remove the dry mixture and put into a mixing bowl.
  • Remove the stones from the dates and blend them with the melted coconut oil until smooth.
  • Combine the date and oil mixture with the dry mixture and press down into a lightly oiled tin/ mould with dampened hands. It will be soft and sticky at this stage. Place in the fridge, where pretty soon it will harden up as the coconut oil solidifies.
the grated zest and juice of 2 small lemons and 2 small limes
1 litres of soya milk plus about 6-8 tabs bottled lemon juice for curdling it
1 1/2 tabs tahini
4 tabs agave nectar
  • Bring the soya milk to a fast boil and stir in the lemon juice, turning down the heat.
  • Place the curds in a sieve over a bowl to drain.
  • When cooled and drained, it should look a bit like cottage cheese. 
  • You are now ready to whizz all the above ingredients in the blender until smooth. You will only need 1 tab of the zest, and the juice should be no more than half a cupful.
  • Spoon onto the base and put in the fridge.
To Decorate:
Sprinkle with a little lime and lemon zest (not too much as it can be bitter) and drizzle with home made raw chocolate made by combining cacao, agave and melted coconut oil. The drizzles will set when you return the pie to the fridge.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Fresh this Month: Rocket

We often grow red wild rocket with mixed salad leaves

 Left: rocket, centre: red wild rocket growing with mizuma in our polytunnel

Rocket, also known as arugula or roquette, is a flavoursome and versatile green that's awesome in salads, sandwiches, wraps or even on top of a pizza. It's easy to grow and one small patch in your garden will provide you with cut-and-come-again saladings from the whole season, self seeding as well if you let it. But did you know that rocket is also one of the most nutritious of greens? 
Rocket is a member of the mustard family, which includes those goodness-packed cruciferous veggies like kale and broccoli, so you can guess it will be good for you. Here's the lowdown:

  • Per 110g, rocket provides nearly half your RDA of potassium, 25% of your Vitamin C, 16% of your calcium, 8% of your iron and 11% of your magnesium.There's also 5% of your daily Vitamin B6 in there.
  • The sulfur compounds that pungent rocket leaves contain, in common with other members of the brassicas/ crucifers are potent anti-cancer agents.
  • The chlorophyll in rocket is great as a blood cleanser and for healthy skin.
  • Rocket, along with cauliflower, is a source of vitamin K, which helps the bones.
  • Rocket's high water content helps keep you hydrated.
  • The high levels of iron and copper in rocket make it a great substitute for spinach
  • The potassium found in rocket promotes cardiovascular health.
  • Rocket is an alkaline forming food and reduces inflammation in the body.

(Sources: Wikipedia, healthmunsta)

Rockin' Rocket Fact: it is called rocket because it grows so fast!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Cacao Fudge Ripple Icecream- vegan

See the chocolate swirls and the fudge pieces?

You won't believe this is vegan!
If ever there was a recipe with the power to convince sceptics that vegans do not miss out, this is probably it. It's rich, creamy and sweet with caramel, chocolate and fudge flavours and a lovely gooey texture that's really satisfying. Despite all this though, the only cane sugar here is in the fudge; the ice cream itself uses coconut sugar (which gives the caramel flavour) and the chocolate ripple sauce is made using agave. I made the fudge myself using our recipe from here,  (omitting the cherries) but you could save time and effort and buy some vegan vanilla fudge. I've tried the one from Sainsbury's Free From range- in fact I got the inspiration for our own fudge recipe from it- and I'm sure it would work really well.

Here's the recipe for you to try; you don't need an icecream maker, but I did use a high speed blender, which got plenty of air in and broke up the ice crystals nicely to give quite a soft finish. It makes just under a litre of icecream, with some cacao sauce left over for drizzling or to use in something else.
About 150g vegan fudge, chopped into small cubes/ broken into small pieces
2x 13oz cans coconut milk
1 3/4 cups coconut sugar
2 tsps vanilla essence
2 rounded tabs cacao powder
2 tabs agave nectar

  • Whizz up the coconut milk, coconut sugar and vanilla essence in a blender and put in the freezer until partly frozen.
  • Meanwhile, mix the cacao and agave together for the chocolate syrup.
  • Blend the icecream again to break up any ice crystals,
  • Return to the freezer.
  • When the icecream is firm again, carefully stir in the fudge pieces and make swirls of chocolate syrup. (I couldn't wait for it to get firm enough, so my fudge pieces all sank to the bottom of the tub!) Reserve any leftover syrup for serving on top of the icecream if you like.
  • Freeze until solid but scoop-able.

Do you have an "I can't believe it's not vegan" recipe in your repertoire that's great for impressing your omnivorous friends or family? If so, do let us know by leaving a comment.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Vida Food Dehydrator Product Review

Pride of place on the worktop: our new Vida dehydrator
 We were delighted to hear from Vida Appliances offering us a dehydrator to review, and took them up on it straight away! We already have an Excalibur dehydrator, but although it's excellent, because of its size and the amount of power it takes we don't use it as often as we would like, so this smaller machine was right up our street.

It sits on the worktop without taking up too much space, or you could easily keep it in a cupboard when not in use. We've kept it out so far, because as you can see, it's quite an attractive-looking model. It is round, has 5 plastic racks for drying and a clear lid on top, with a base unit where the minimal controls are; an on-off switch, an LED timer and a temperature dial in degrees C.

A close-up of the simple controls
The instruction manual is rather uninformative, as they often are, but then the controls are so simple to understand and use that you don't really need it. However, for dehydrating newbies it would have been good to include a few recipes to start off with. (Fruit leather, kale chips, seed crackers and courgette rolls all spring to mind...) Beyond some safety advice, there is also no information about the finer points of use, such as whether you should put the foods straight on the racks or on greaseproof paper etc. So trial and error it was, then...
Take a good look at the easy-to-clean trays...
... and the first thing we tried was kale chips- after all, you can't go far wrong with those, can you? After washing the kale and tearing it up I massaged in a little olive oil, seasalt, smoked paprika, chilli powder and yeast flakes then spread them out directly on the racks. As long as you follow the advice in the manual about putting smaller pieces on the lower racks, they should dry evenly. After only 2 hours- and believe me, that's not long at all in dehydrating terms- at 65 degrees, they were done. Result! We all love munching on kale chips, and regular readers will know that it's one of the few ways I actually enjoy these nutritious greens so I made sure I got my share ;-)
Encouraged by this success, I then tried something new; chewy ginger rhubarb pieces. They came out soft and tangy after about 3 hours on the highest temperature, but the recipe needs refining to get the balance of flavours right so we're not publishing it yet. These I started off on greaseproof paper until the initial moisture was driven off, and then I put them directly on the racks to increase air circulation while as they finished off.
Two positive things struck me as I used the machine:
Firstly, it's a lot quieter than the Excalibur, and if like me, you cook with music playing or the radio on, you will hardly notice it.
Secondly, it is really easy to clean. We are used to using and cleaning various gadgets appliances in the course of cooking a day's meals, such as a juicer, blender or food processor so it was really good to use something that actually fits in our average-sized sink like the racks do. and to be able to wipe the base clean with a damp cloth.

And the best thing of all about this dehydrator? The price: you can get it from Vida's website (see the link in the first paragraph of this post) for £29.99 and on other websites for about the same, or a little under. At 230-260W it's not expensive to run, either, at nearly 10 times less output than an oven and almost quarter of the wattage of many microwaves. Bear in mind that a large Excalibur dehydrator is 600W too. (When working out how much energy you will use compared to other appliances, though, remember to offset the dehydrator's lower wattage against its much longer operating times.) At the Yogi Vegans we believe passionately that healthy, plant-based food should be available to all and this dehydrator now puts kale chips, fruit leather, raw crackers and all kinds of goodies within reach of many more people. You can now make them yourself for very little initial outlay instead of buying expensive, ready- dried products from the shops! In fact, we've been inspired to think about creating a whole new bunch of raw recipes with our Vida dehydrator, so stay tuned...

Disclaimer: We were not required by Vida to write a positive review, so this article is our own unbiased opinion. Anyway, we think that the merits of this product speak for themselves!

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Probiotic Chia "Yoghurt"

The tapioca-like version...

The smooth- but- grainy version
Oops! We've been away for over a fortnight with no real excuse apart from being tired and busy; I guess that's the beauty of amateur blogging; things like that don't really matter. (Hope you did miss us, though!)
This quick and easy breakfast is like chia pudding, only more yoghurt-y. I used coconut milk and chia seeds as usual (I think any plant milk would do though) with a little agave for sweetness. Then I added some lemon juice for the yoghurt-y sourness effect, which did work really well. The thing that makes it not entirely a cheat, though, is the addition of a spoonful of probiotic powder (we use Probio-Easy) so it will have similar digestive benefits to cultured yoghurt. I left some of it bumpy like chia pudding and put the rest in the blender to see what would happen The result was not completely smooth and sort of grainy, but it was still yummy.
If you fancy something different for breakfast, why not try your own version of this? Let us know what you added, and how it turned out!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

More Affordable Vegan Ayurvedic Skincare products

You may remember that just over a year ago I reviewed Ayuuri Turmeric and Bergamot Wace Wash. The other day, when I went to Asda to get some more, I found that it was out of stock- but that they had lots of other Ayuuri products too, all very reasonably priced at around the £4 mark for 200ml tubes. There are no animal products in these cosmetics and toiletries, and they are not tested on animals, making them suitable for vegans despite the fact that they don't bear either the Leaping Bunny or Vegan Society marks. The "Ayurvedic" in the label means that they contain natural fruit, flower and herbal extracts in accordance with the ancient Indian health and beauty system of Ayurveda. I bought the Neem and Tea Tree Face Wash and, as I was nearly out of moisturiser, the Rose and Jasmine Face and Body Cream and after a week of using them, here's what I've found:
The face wash is cleansing but not too drying, with a pleasantly medicinal pepperminty smell. It contains no parabens but does include sls as a foaming agent. I think I would alternate between this one and the turmeric and bergamot as I have skin that sometimes gets oily. The product is easy to use; perhaps too easy though, because you don't need much and it's hard not to squirt a massive blob of it out of the tube every time.
Despite the fact it comes in a handcream-like tube, the rose and jasmine cream does make a good face and neck moisturiser, though it's not very rich so ideally I'd get something else for at night. It contains no sls, parabens or mineral oils, but it does, however, contain alcohol. It smells beautifully sweet and flowery and the scent lingers on your skin for some time. My face actually feels a little softer from using it, too. It is certainly a very good budget-friendly stopgap between my more expensive Dr Organic moisturisers, though probably not rich enough for me to use in the long term.
I would recommend both these products if you want quality at budget prices and easy availability; I found them in the "ethnic beauty" section of my local Asda superstore. Oh, and just so you know, I wasn't approached by the company to review them, nor was I sent any free samples, so this review is totally my own unbiased opinion.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Garden Pizza

The pictures were taken before the pizza was baked; it didn't really look much different afterwards. The leaves were added to the hot pizza when it came out of the oven, rather than being cooked.
We are using up the very last of 2014's pumpkins, beetroot and parsnips, and at the same time we now have this year's kale, spinach and red mustard greens- time for some creative thinking in the kitchen, and that's how this seasonal crossover pizza came to be! If basic pizza is defined as being yeast, cheese and tomato-based then this one really stretches that definition as the only conventional pizza ingredients here are a little tomato and the wheat flour. With all that veggie goodness, though, it's perfect for fuelling a sunny afternoon's work in your garden or allotment. Here's how it's made:

  • The base is organic wholemeal flour with some ground linseed (flax) added; our recipe is here. It was precooked (but not browned), the toppings added and then it was returned to the oven for about 15 minutes.
  • Instead of using tomato sauce, I pureed some pumpkin, added a little tomato puree, miso and a liberal sprinkling of sweet smoked paprika. the result was tasty, sweet and earthy.
  • Pre-cooked sliced beetroot, strips of re-hydrated sundried tomato, olives and green peppers make up the bulk of the pizza top, along with a sprinkling of black pepper.
  • The "cheese" is almond feta- get our recipe here. The salty, lemony flavour offsets the beetroot beautifully; well worth rubbing off all those almond skins for...
  • Finally, when the pizza came out of the oven I added some peppery red mustard greens and wild rocket that I found in our polytunnel.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Fresh this Month: Rhubarb

Our allotment rhubarb patch in April 2011, showing a rhubarb flower.
Our allotment is full of the stuff, and it will be ready any day now; forced rhubarb has been creeping into the shops from Yorkshire (the rhubarb-growing centre of England) since January and those thick, pink and green stems which end in large, dramatically-crinkled leaves will no doubt be the pride of many a country produce show come early Summer- but what can we do with rhubarb, apart from crumbles, jam and compote with custard? Is it a fruit or is it a vegetable? And is it even worth eating this tart, oxalic acid-rich stem anyway? We have the answers here:
Rhubarb is a plant which originated in the cooler climes of China and Russia, cultivation subsequently spreading through Northern Europe and into Greece, Turkey and the Levant. Now it is also grown in North America. Only the stalks are edible, the leaves being too high in oxalic acid, which is toxic and can also cause kidney stones. (In fact, rhubarb stems picked in cold weather can also be too high in oxalic acid, so it's not advisable to eat those either.) Rhubarb is technically a vegetable as the edible part is the stem, but is usually classified as a fruit since it is used like fruit.
In terms of medicinal use, rhubarb has laxative effects and it was for its therapeutic value that rhubarb was originally grown. It was not until sugar became more commonly available in the 17th century that people in Europe began cooking with rhubarb.
So if we do eat rhubarb, what benefits does it have? Rhubarb contains many vitamins and minerals, but those in nutritionally useful amounts (I reckon this as 10% or more of the recommended daily intake per 100g) are vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium and magnesium, with calcium very close at 9%. Contrary to popular belief, the stems are perfectly edible raw, though very tart. You may want to use rhubarb traditionally in jams, pies, crumbles or as a sweetened compote with custard, but bear in mind that it is probably healthier to use either gour (evaporated cane juice) or an alternative to cane sugar such as xylitol, stevia, coconut palm nectar or agave nectar.  Rhubarb, lemon plus a sweetener and water makes a refreshing cold drink. If you want to maximise the vitamins in your rhubarb, then eat it raw; one way of doing this is to dehydrate it into chewy chunks, infused with fruit juice to make it sweeter- watch this space to see how it turns out when we try it. 
Rhubarb pairs well with orange and ginger; they detract from its acidity and add warmth. Here are some of our rhubarb recipes, both sweet and savoury:

A spicy condiment not for the faint-hearted!

Delicious dairy free icecream

A Summer teatime treat

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Crispy Coated Veggies two ways-gluten free, ekadasi friendly

Crispy baked sweet potato chips

Nut-coated marrow/ kadoo rings

You get a double whammy with this post- not one but two recipe ideas which are simple, delicious and add a little interest to your veggies. as well as that, you can eat them on grain-free fasting days too!
First up we have crispy sweet potato chips- baked to make them healthier. Simply scrub and cut your orange sweet potatoes into fries, roll in a mixture of potato flour, salt and pepper and bake at 200C on a lightly-oiled baking sheet until soft inside but crispy outside. Perfect to dip into cashew sour cream...
Next we have nut-coated marrow (or kadoo) rings. Peel the marrow, de-seed and slice into rings. dip in pancake batter (made from potato and buckwheat flour) and coat in chopped nuts- we used almonds. Deep fry carefully.