Sunday, 15 May 2016

A Sprouting Jar for £2!

Since our old sprouter- the kind with trays that stack up- broke, we have been using jars with muslin on top secured with an elastic band. Not only does this look messy, but the damp fabric tends to drip everywhere and the elastic bands perish from time to time. After a look online, I decided that it wasn't worth paying £10 or more for something I could probably make myself for a fraction of the cost. We think a sprouting jar should be quick and easy to use, easy to clean, and look neat on your kitchen windowsill. Glass is best, too; you can give it a good scrub between batches without scratching the jar. Yesterday in Poundland, two things caught my eye, I bought them and it all worked out brilliantly! If you would like to do the same, take a look:

1: Glass storage jar with nice wide top, plastic lid and separate rim (also in purple or pink). Plastic mesh sieve. Both cost £1 each.

2: The clear plastic part of the lid was really easy to punch out with closed scissors.

3: The mesh is easily cut from the sieve with ordinary scissors.

4: I put the mesh on top of the jar, secured it by screwing the rim on lightly and trimmed off the excess mesh.

5: Ta-dah! Happy sunflower sprouts nestling in their new home in less than 5 minutes.

Do you have any kitchen tips to save money? We'd love to hear via the comments.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Chocolate Brazil Flapjacks

Maybe it's because they both come from Soutth America, but Brazil nuts and chocolate do taste really good together. A long time ago, back in the early 90s, I used to buy flapjacks from a local whole food bakery, Ceres, which were covered in carob and also contained Brazil nuts. They were my favourite treat! This is an updated version, using coconut oil and of course fairtrade 70 % vegan chocolate. Judging by the rate at which they disappeared, they are set to be a favourite treat around here, too.

Gour is my sweetener of choice when it comes to flapjacks. It's raw cane sugar with minimal processing (just that the cane juice has been boiled down to produce a solid lump) which retains  some minerals, and it melts to a perfect texture for sticking the oats together rather than using a syrup. 
500g organic porridge oats
125-150g vegan dark chocolate ( we used a 70% cocoa brand)
250g gour
200g coconut oil
150g Brazil nuts, coarsely chopped
  • Melt the oil and gour together. It won't mix completely, so don't worry about that; just make sure you don't overheat it.
  • Press into a shallow, rectangular tin which has been oiled. We use a standard Swiss roll tin.
  • Stir in the oats and Brazil nuts.
  • Bake at 180C for 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven. I used the middle shelf and checked from time to time to make sure they weren't overbrowned.
  • Remove from the oven. While they are still hot break  the chocolate and scatter it evenly over them. The heat from the flapjacks will melt it and all you have to do is gently spread it. 
  • Mark into 16 pieces before it's cooled completely so that it cuts cleanly.
  • Store in an airtight container. Perfect to take to work or school for a snack, or to enjoy at home with a hot drink.

Spring is well and truly here; the first daisies are on the lawn!

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Tofu Broccoli Wholewheat Momos

Momos are fun to cook and fun to eat! I first tried these steamed stuffed dumplings in a Tibetan restaurant by the lake in Pushkhar, India, where they were packed with veggies and served floating in broth. Filling and wholesome. 
We don't really cook with white flour, though, so when I created our version of momos I used organic wholemeal flour with the bran sifted out. I decided to go for the Nepali/ Indian version served with chutney, but with a Tibetan filling of tofu, ginger and coriander. I couldn't resist adding broccoli as the tiny florets hold in flavour and moisture so well. They may seem fiddly to make, but once the dough is kneaded, the steamer set up and the filling made, shaping these little parcels of goodness is actually rather enjoyable. You can have your chutney bubbling away as they steam, too. "Shall I make them again?" I asked the family while tentatively studying their faces as they ate (they are used to this by now as we are always trying out new things on them). The answer was a unanimous "Yes!"
As I seem to have nailed momos first time, here's the recipe to make 12-14 momos depending on how thin you can roll them. Three momos seems to make one portion, so you can feed about 4 people with this:

300g (sifted weight) wholemeal flour
a pinch of salt
1 1/2 tabs olive oil
warm water to mix- about 225-250ml.
230g firm tofu
165g broccoli
1 cup chopped fresh coriander leaves
1 dsp grated fresh ginger
1 small red chilli
2 tabs tamari soy sauce
1 tab olive oil
1 1/2 tsps salt
1/2 ts compound hing
1 tab lemon juice
  • Make the dough first, by adding the oil then the water. Knead it for a minute or two. It should be moist but not sticky, and easy to handle. Let it rest in a plastic bag while you get tthe filling together.
  • Dice the tofu small, mince the chilli, grate the ginger and cut the broccoli into really small florets, dicing any stems. the smaller you chop the ingredients, the more evenly they will be distributed throughout your filling.
  • In a wok or karhai heat the oil and add the broccoli and salt. Put the lid on, turn the heat down and steam-fry until nearly completely tender. Remove the lid, turn up the heat a little and stir in the tofu.
  • After a couple of minutes Add the coriander, ginger, hing, tamari sauce and chilli. Stir well and cook until tender. Set aside to cool. 
  • Now you are ready to make the momos! Don't worry; that twisty shape is really easy to achieve, and I've added a couple of pictures to help. Use a round cutter/ upturned dish that's about 6" in diameter. Roll the dough onto a floured surface until it's about 2mm thick or less if you can still handle it. Cut a circle and place a small amount of filling in the centre, leaving about 1/2" round the edge. Brush the edge lightly with water and fold into pleats all around, like this:

  • Gather up the pleats in your fingers, press them together at the top and twist:

  • Keep going until you have all the momos ready, or, if your steamer only takes about four like mine does, make four, put them in the steamer and then make another four. Each batch will take about 15 minutes to steam, on a medium heat.
  • You can make whatever dipping chutney you like. Something like the red sauce you get with samosas from the takeaway would be great. I kept mine simple and not hot because of the chilli in the momos. You can find the recipe here.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Quinoa Burrito Bowls

Our household has a transient and picky population of our young adults/ teens and their friends, so bowls they can grab and fill with whatever proportions they like of something brightly-coloured and inviting are the way to go for meals. That way, whatever time they drift in or however soon they rush off there's always healthy food available. Mexican flavours always go down well too. We usually serve tortilla wraps or chapattis so they can have "proper" burritos if they want, but cook quinoa or rice as well for them to make up their very own, on-trend bowls. Who needs Nando's?
We cook quinoa, make up guacamole (recipe here), prepare salsa (an idea here), salad and a vegan cheese (pictured is a mashed tofu-based one with tahini, salt, lemon and yeast flakes but there's a cashew-based one here). The main part of the bowl, however, is the beans. I don't normally make them very hot and spicy because tastes- and moods- in our house vary and the salsa provides optional heat. For a smoky recipe, see here. If you like the look of the beans in the pictures, here's the recipe:

Serves 4-5:
500g cooked red kidney beans
1 tab oil
1 can (400g) chopped tomatoes
450g diced mixed vegetables (try cabbage, sweet potatoes, green beans, courgettes, peppers, sweetcorn etc.)
2 tsps seasalt
1/2 tsp compound hing
a small pinch of chilli powder
2 tsps ground cumin
1 tab ground coriander
2 tsps dried oregano
2 tsps cacao/ cocoa powder
1 tab tomato puree
  • Saute the veggies with the oil and salt until they are soft. While this is happening, add the hing, chilli, cumin and coriander.
  • Add the tomatoes, oregano and cacao/ cocoa and gently simmer, stirring in the beans and tomato puree.
  • Layer your bowls with quinoa, the beans, salad, guacamole, olives, vegan cheese and/ or cashew sour cream and salsa.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Chocolate, Date and Walnut Wholewheat Muffins

There's nothing like a batch of freshly-baked muffins with your favourite hot drink...

We hope you all enjoyed Easter Bank Holiday weekend, and just in case you didn't get enough chocolate here's a somewhat healthier spin on a favourite sweet snack; chocolate muffins. If you're in the mood for baking, these treats are simple to make and they'll make your kitchen smell gorgeous while they're cooking, too. 
With wholemeal flour, coconut sugar and coconut oil as the main ingredients you can go ahead and have that second  third one because they'll have a lower GI (glycemic index measure), more fibre and less chloresterol than regular muffins. As if you needed an excuse anyway. C'mon; let's get baking!

(Makes 14 large muffins; more if you use fairy cake tins and cases)
400g wholemeal flour
250g coconut sugar
5 tsps baking powder
3 rounded tablespoons cocoa powder
50g walnuts, chopped
50g stoned fresh dates, chopped
400ml unsweetened soya milk/ your favourite plant milk
150ml melted coconut oil
1 tsp natural vanilla essence
  • Prepare your cake moulds and get the paper cases out ready. Preheat your oven to 180C.
  • Mix the flour, coconut sugar and baking powder together in a large bowl. Stir in the walnuts and dates, making sure the dates don't stick together.
  • Whisk together the coconut oil, soya milk and vanilla and add to the dry mixture.
  • Beat for a minute or two, then put into the paper cases. Tip: use a mechanical ice cream scoop for this; it's fast, accurate and mess-free!
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes on the middle shelf of your oven.
  • Get the kettle on and put your feet up...

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Baked Tofu and Sweet Potato bowls

Shown here with soba noodles, steamed broccoli, roasted pumpkin and roasted aubergine. You can just about see the sauce, but in actual fact the whole dish is sitting in a pool of it.

I have to admit that it's so long since I made this, I actually lost the recipe. Luckily I remembered roughly what went into it, so I hope this will do. It was very tasty and definitely worth reproducing. 
I made firm tofu and baked it, cubed, in a little oil and grated fresh ginger with equal-sized cubes of orange sweet potato. The Malaysian-style coconut curry sauce is so easy to throw together too. Find the recipe here. Add some steamed and/ or roasted veggies of your choice and layer it all up in a bowl with lashings of tasty sauce to serve. Yum!

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Raw Chocolate Maca and Ginger Truffle Mini Easter Eggs

As it's Easter Sunday next weekend we thought we'd share something you can rustle up  to celebrate Spring. It's the Vernal Equinox here in the UK today and as you can see from the pictures even though it's still a little chilly, the garden is telling us that Spring is at last here.
These raw chocolate delicacies are a little fiddly to make; you have to ensure the truffle filling holds together without crumbling and that the raw chocolate is still quite liquid before you attempt to coat them. But it's well worth the trouble to make these as gifts. Our recipe will make 8 or 9 mini eggs, plus you will have a little raw chocolate left over to use as you like.

For the truffle:
1tab finely-grated fresh ginger
3tsps maca powder
75g coconut flour
50g coconut sugar
1tab cacao powder
Water to mix to a shape- able consistency; at least 6 tabs
For the coating:
125ml agave
50g cacao powder
45 ml cacao butter
45 ml coconut oil
Cacao nibs for sprinkling
  • Make the truffle first: grind the coconut sugar and mix all the dry ingredients together. Add the water last, making sure the mix is neither too dry nor too wet; it should hold together without crumbling. Form into egg shapes and set aside. Mine turned out rather like dinosaur eggs, but that could be a plus if you're making them for kids. (And anyway, Spring has always been Spring, even in the Mesozoic; we don't want to be speciesist about extinct reptile chicks, less cute and fluffy than chickens as they were, now do we?)
  • For the raw chocolate coating, mix the agave and cacao into a paste, then melt the oils together and stir in.
  • While the chocolate is still runny, carefully coat the eggs and scatter them with cacao nibs. Lay them  on baking parchment and refrigerate until set. They are now ready to eat. Keep them in the fridge though, as they get sticky if left out for any length of time.
Happy Spring!

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Walnut Fruit Cake- no cane sugar

Walnut fruit cake

Fruit cake must be one of the easiest things to vegan-ise; it doesn't need much raising so as long as you add oil to bind and a raising agent like baking powder, the egg is obsolete. This recipe is an adaptation of "Prune and Brazil Nut Cake" from Cintia Stammers' "The Book of Egg Free Cakes", a real baking classic I've mentioned before. I've doubled the quantities, used coconut oil instead of sunflower oil, added orange juice and taken away the lemon peel, changed the clove powder to mixed spice, made the flour wholemeal, substituted the Brazil nuts for walnuts and replaced some of the prunes with vine fruits and apricots. The cooking method and oven temperature remains the same, though. Actually, on reflection, I think this recipe is far enough away from the original to be "inspired by" rather than just an adaptation of the original. Credit due to Cintia Stammers, though, for providing me with cake inspiration time and time again...

200g dried fruit- a mix of unsulphured apricots, pitted prunes and vine fruits
200ml orange juice
200ml hot water
400g plain wholemeal flour
6 tsps baking powder
200g roughly chopped walnut halves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground mixed spice
200g coconut sugar
150ml melted coconut oil

  • Chop the apricots and prunes and soak with the vine fruits in the orange juice and water.
  • Meanwhile preheat the oven to 180C.
  • Prepare a tin/ silicone mould. I used a rectangular one which I filled to about 2"deep so it would cook through evenly.
  • In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, spices and nuts.
  • Drain the liquid from the dried fruits and add that to the coconut oil.
  • Add this to the dry mixture with the fruit and beat for 1-2 minutes.
  • Bake for about 50 minutes in the centre of the oven. Don't turn it out if the tin until it has cooled or it may crumble.
How far do you adapt a recipe before you feel you can call it your own? What do you think about stating your source of inspiration? Do you always do it?

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Far Out Lime and Berry Tofu Cheesecake (uncooked)- no cane sugar

Excuse the messy picture; the beautiful ones from before it was served were taken on my camera, which then decided to malfunction :(

Yes, you read the name right. 
Look away, I'm going to boast now: it was pronounced "the ultimate" vegan dessert when I shared it out at home and when I looked for a synonym for "ultimate" I found "far out", and that's what it is, because you wouldn't think it's free from all dairy products and cane sugar too, yet still so rich and sweet and yummy...
That richness comes from a smidgin of coconut oil and a dollop of tahini in the filling, just to round out the virtuous tofu and make it all creamy and naughty. But not too naughty. I'd imagine this dessert still has less calories than traditional dairy cheesecake. And the best thing? It's actually really quick and easy to put together once you have gathered the ingredients. It is not raw because of the tofu, but it is uncooked. A high speed blender, of course, makes it even creamier, but if you don't have any kitchen machinery, you could beat or whisk the filling together by hand and buy the almonds for the base ready ground.

100g porridge oats
1/2 cup (125ml) organic coconut oil, melted
100g almonds
75g coconut sugar
3l unsweetened soya milk curdled with 9 tsps lemon juice
1 tab coconut oil
4 tabs agave nectar
1 tab lime juice
1 tab light tahini
about 2 cups fresh or frozen (and defrosted) berries
*You will also need a 7 1/2" loose-bottomed or springform tin.

  • First make the tofu by curdling the soya milk with the lemon juice once the soya milk has reached a fast boil. You need to leave it to drain in a sieve over a bowl for about half an hour, until it is like firm tofu that has been scrambled.
  • Make the base by throwing the almonds into your blender first to grind them, then adding everything else. Pulse in the oil last. Press into the base of your oiled tin and leave it in the fridge to set while you make the filling.
  • Blend all the filling ingredients together; don't worry about melting the coconut oil. It should be thick like trifle custard. Fold the tahini in last. (If you aren't a tahini fan, fear not; you won't taste it in the finished product.)
  • Pile the filling on top of the solidified base and cool. I actually put mine in the freezer for half an hour to help it set.
  • Add the topping just before you serve it. If using thawed frozen berries, they will drip juice rather attractively down the sides (see pictures) so watch it doesn't make the whole thing too soggy.
  • If you're a stickler for clean-cut, precise slices you could serve the base and filling completely frozen, with fresh fruit on top. I would have tried this out for you, but I couldn't wait ;)

Friday, 5 February 2016

Bubble'n' Squeak with a twist

If you mash the cooked kale with the potatoes it breaks into tiny pieces and turns the patties greenish: great for hiding it from the greens- averse!
At this time of year there isn't much in the vegetable garden, but kale, that hardy, leafy green that just happens to be a superfood is in full swing. Yay!
The ratio we used for potato: greens was roughly 3:2, the greens being measured uncooked. When cooked, they wilt down to a much smaller bulk.
Steam it down and add to some mashed potato along with salt, a little plant milk and a dollop of tahini. Mash further until smooth, or, if you like, leave some little pieces of potato for extra texture. Add some mild Madras curry powder; just enough to give the mixture a spicy tang. Form into patties and coat in a fine layer of gram (chickpea) flour. You can either bake or fry them, turning so that both sides are browned. These make a fantastic Winter brunch, served with relish and grilled tomatoes.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Ekadasi muesli- gluten free

Perfect gluten free crunchy cereal, to enjoy with your favourite plant milk!

A very belated happy 2016 to all our readers!
Are you making changes on your daily diet for the new year? Do you want to cut down on wheat? If so, this is a yummy change from wheat and oat based cereals, and you can even have it on Ekadasi as buckwheat does not count as a grain. We recently discovered buckwheat flakes in the Suma catalogue, and we love their versatility! (My husband is currently perfecting a vegiburger based on them.)
As you can see, the muesli is made from buckwheat flakes, sultanas, cashews and pumpkin seeds. We gently toasted the flakes, nuts and seeds in a little coconut oil before adding the dried fruit to make a granola-style crunch; delicious with some home made almond milk!
We are planning to return to posting here more regularly from now on; we missed you all! It's good to be back 😊
This recipe makes 3 or 4 helpings:
2cups buckwheat flakes
1/2 cup chopped almonds or cashews
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
11/2 tabs coconut oil
2 tabs coconut sugar
4 small fresh dates, stoned and chopped
1 tab raisins
1 tab sultanas

  • Mix the buckwheat flakes, nuts and seeds together.
  • Cook them gently in a shallow pan in the coconut oil, until the nuts begin to toast. Be careful not to overlook the mixture.
  • With the mixture still in the pan, stir in the coconut sugar and turn off the heat..
  • Pour into a bowl and stir in the dried fruit once it has cooled down.
  • Serve with plant milk. We think hemp milk is especially good with this cereal.