Friday, 12 December 2014

RAW VEGAN MINCE PIES

My raw vegan interpretation of mince pies is so healthy it's almost embarrassing. But want to hear the best part? They taste insanely delicious! This idea came to me late at night when I was already tucked up in bed and ready to take a trip to the land of zzz's. Filled with this sudden burst of curiosity and excitement, I pulled my coat on and made my way to the local grocery store (only a 5 minute walk away, thankfully) to source out all the ingredients I'd need to create these beauties the next day. Interesting how most of my spontaneous acts involve food in some way. 

Forget waiting 12 hours for an almond flour/cashew nut base to solidify in a dehydrator (only to disintegrate at the slightest touch), this method is quicker, easier and delivers on flavour. It's gluten-free, fat-free, sugar-free, junk-free, but - in anticipation of any snarky sceptics out there - definitely not taste-free. I honestly had no idea how this would turn out and I'm going to be real with you: I was blown away by how amazing they turned out. I ate my way through 3 of these in one sitting, with not an ounce of guilt. 

As you can already tell from the picture, I used hollowed out apples for the 'crust'. I've used green apples in this case as they are not as sweet as the red varieties and therefore provide a nice contrast to the naturally sweet mince filling.

Give this a try yourself this Christmas season and let me know what you think! Don't forget to share if you like it and leave a comment with your feedback!

Wishing you all a delicious Christmas in advance.

[More pictures below]
























Ingredients
(makes 8-10)
- 2 cups mixed dried fruits (raisins, sultanas, diced apricots, cranberries)
- 1/4 cup desiccated coconut (plus extra for garnish)
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1.5 tsp mixed spice
- 1/4 cup fresh apple juice
- 4-5 small apples
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice

To make the mince pie filling, place the mixed dried fruit, desiccated coconut, mixed spice, juice of 1/2 a lemon, and apple juice in a food processor and blitz on high speed for a couple of minutes until you have a chunky paste that holds well together.

To make the apple 'crust', remove the stem, peel the apple completely and cut in half. [You can also slice off an extra thin layer off the top of each half to use as a pie cover later]. Using a small teaspoon, carefully scoop out the inside of each apple half. If you're 99.9% percent sure that you won't slice a finger off, then use a small knife to assist with the hollowing out process, otherwise I strongly recommend that you stick with a small spoon. Coat the apple 'crusts' in generous lashings of fresh lemon juice to prevent unnecessary discolouration.

Don't worry about having to throw all the scooped out apple away. Simply discard the seeds and add the rest of the pulp to your mince pie filling, blending again for a couple of seconds to combine.

Spoon generous amounts of the mince pie filling into your apple 'crust'. If you sliced off any extra thin layers to cover the mince pie then go ahead and place that on top, otherwise you can also decorate with little shapes cut out from the apple peel (can be a bit fiddly, so don't worry about perfection).

If you have any leftover mince filling, simply place into a container, refrigerate and use within 2 days.







Tuesday, 9 December 2014

FESTIVE BRUSSELS SPROUTS

I got my hands on some organic brussels sprouts recently. Almost around the same time that I noticed some healthy conversations going on over at Aloha, and I thought I would join in! Brussels sprouts is a fitting recipe to share because not only have we crossed the threshold into the festive season (yay Christmas...!) but brussels sprouts is often relegated to the far, dark corner of any Christmas spread - not truly enjoyed, but present for old time's sake - and hopefully this recipe will show that sprouts can and should take centre stage; that a side dish as mundane as brussels sprouts can put a smile on your face and the face of your guests...unless maybe they're little kids, in which case, good luck trying to convince them!

There's nothing dull or bland about the festive season - think of all the lights and tinsel and bright smiles from strangers who are in a good mood for no reason. So why not bring that same sort of energy to your healthy vegetable side dishes? There's nothing worse than chowing on tasteless, soggy brussel sprouts. Spruce it up a bit! Add a dash of imagination! Make it delicious!

And speaking of delicious, if you'd like some more inspiration on tasty recipes that are also just downright good for you, then head over to Aloha and you won't be disappointed! You can also follow them on Facebook!

























Ingredients
- brussel sprouts (all you can eat...or fit in the pot)
- olive oil
- crushed chilli flakes
- mixed herbs
- sea salt
- hemp seeds or crushed peanuts

Steam the brussel sprouts for about 5 - 10 minutes. Avoid overcooking to prevent a bitter, unpleasant taste.

Drizzle the sprouts with olive oil and season with chilli flakes, mixed herbs and sea salt. Throw in some hemp seeds or crushed peanuts (as much as you want) and toss it all together until the sprouts are well-coated. Serve hot or warm as a side dish. Also makes a great meal on its own if you're in a particularly brussel-sprouty mood :)








Thursday, 4 December 2014

HEMP CREPES - GOOD HEMP REVIEW

Hemp products first caught my attention when I attended a handful of vegan/vegetarian events over the summer. If you'd asked me back then to tell you what this superfood is all about, I'd have scratched my head and given a blank stare. In many ways, I'm grateful that the kind people at Good Hemp Nutrition sent me a selection of their products to review because it has allowed me to delve a little deeper and learn a lot about the nutritional benefits of hemp seeds and its variations. And no, these hemp products won't make you high as they don't contain THC (the substance found in Cannabis)...It's all good! ;)
  • Hemp seed is naturally rich in omega 3 and 6
  • It is a COMPLETE source of protein, which is music to any vegan's ears
  • It contains a high amount of protein that is more easily digestible than other protein sources
  • It does not require any pesticides or herbicides to grow so is totally natural
  • Great for healthy hair and skin
  • Improves cardiovascular circulation and helps lower blood pressure
  • It reduces the symptoms of PMS 


The three products I received were: Good Oil, Good Hemp Milk, and Good Seed (shelled hemp seed). My first instinct was to bake something using all three ingredients, bringing them together in one harmonious tray bake or tower of seeded muffins. Alas, I happened to start craving crepes and this presented the perfect opportunity to experiment! Before tossing all the ingredients into my mixing bowl, however, I had a taste of each product individually. I appreciated the light nutty taste of all three but was particularly impressed with the milk which has a silky, creamy consistency and sweet aroma - something I can imagine using regularly in my cup of tea or bowl of porridge. 
The shelled seeds are soft and chewy, and while I wouldn't necessarily snack on them on their own (the taste is too intense and overpowering for me!), it's great for sprinkling over a number dishes - both sweet and savoury. Think cereal and porridge and soups and salads and desserts and...you get the picture. The crepes in this recipe are also infused with the shelled hemp seeds and worked great as a garnish, adding extra texture and flavour. 

The hemp oil also has a strong smell and taste, so a little goes a long way. I see this 250 ml bottle lasting me a very long time as I probably won't use more than a tablespoon per recipe - it is that flavourful! Good Oil is cold pressed, making it a healthy oil to use for cooking and in salad dressings. What's more, I discovered that hemp oil has 40% less saturated fat than olive oil and is rich in omega 3. When I asked readers on my Facebook page for tips on what to do with the products, one suggested using some hemp oil in smoothies and I must admit, I'm eager to try it out! 

Overall, I've been won over by the highly nutritious aspect of these hemp products and I would recommend that you try them out for yourself. If you want to find out more about Good Hemp Nutrition, you can visit their website or connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

Now, who's ready for some crepes!?

Ingredients
(serves 2-3)
- 1 cup plain flour (or gluten-free flour of your choice)
- 1.5 cups hemp milk
- 2 tbsp shelled hemp seeds (and extra for garnish)
- 1 tbsp hemp oil
- 1/2 banana (mashed)
- 1/2 banana (sliced, to garnish)
- pure maple syrup
- coconut cream






Mix the flour, hemp milk, hemp seeds, hemp oil and mashed banana in a large bowl until the batter is smooth and lump-free. 

These crepes are quite delicate so extra care and attention is needed to get them right. Make sure your frying/skillet pan is always lightly oiled to stop the crepes from sticking, or use a non-stick pan if possible. You will also need to keep an eye on the heat and make sure the pan never gets too hot. When this happens, take it off the heat for a couple of minutes between each crepe to cool down slightly. Don't worry if the first crepe turns out looking like its been run over by a truck and thrown against a concrete wall...this is normal...the first attempt is usually the worst one, and then it gets better!

Ladle some of the batter into the pan, swirling it round to coat the bottom and form a nice round shape (use the back of a spoon to spread it out more thinly, if necessary). Wait a few minutes for the top to start bubbling and until the crepe lifts easily around the edges. Flip it over and cook the other side until lightly browned.

Cook the rest of the crepes in this way until your batter runs out, remembering to keep an eye on the heat.

Serve with your favourite toppings. Here, I've sliced the other half of the banana and arranged that on top, with a generous sprinkling of hemp seeds, a dollop of cold coconut cream and a drizzle of pure maple syrup. Breakfast? Dessert? You decide!









Saturday, 22 November 2014

BREAKFAST #8 - BEANS ON PLANTAIN TOAST

It's a simple concept. Beans and plantain reunited yet again on a plate. Except this time, the context is a little different. Breakfast. The most important meal of the day. Or so they say.

When I spied the can of baked beans in my Hodmedod Vegan Box (see here for previous review), the idea for this recipe came instantly. I would create a simple fusion dish using a classic, everyday pantry item in a new way; pairing it with an ingredient that deserves its own spot in a foodie hall of fame: plantain! The fava beans used in the unique baked beans recipe by Hodmedod add an extra richness to the dish.. a highly satiating and nutritious start to your day. 
I used plain flour in this recipe, but you can also achieve a gluten-free version using gluten-free flour. I've added a range of these to my store, if you're wondering where you can find some.

When it comes to vegan cooking, I'll try anything once. If it doesn't work out, then so be it, but I'd rather always try something first and fail miserably than not to try at all. It's a good rule of thumb in the world of creative cookery, and probably also a good rule of thumb in certain areas of life too. Fearlessness. 
Before this post turns into a full-on ramble, let's get on with how to make this simple but scrummy breakfast dish.


Ingredients
- 2 ripe plantains
- 4 heap tbsp plain flour or gluten-free flour
- salt to taste
- pinch of chilli flakes
- coconut oil (to grease baking dish/tray)

Peel and roughly chop the plantains. Place in a large mixing bowl with the flour, salt and chilli flakes, and mash to a sorta smooth consistency.


Grease a medium-sized rectangular baking dish or tray with some coconut oil and pour the mixture in and spread nice and flat. Place in the oven for 45 minutes, gas mark 5, or until the mixture is firm, springy to the touch, and nicely browned on top.


Take out of the oven and leave to rest for a few minutes. Cut out as many square 'toast' pieces as you can get. For extra crispiness, place the pieces under a hot grill for 1-2 minutes, turning over once to grill the other side too.

Serve with a generous helping of warm baked beans. Enjoy!






Thursday, 13 November 2014

SWEET POTATO AND FAVA BEAN SOUP (HODMEDOD REVIEW)

Hodmedod's Big Vegan Box is packed full of wonderful beans, peas and quinoa. As soon as I opened my box, I was blown away by the variety and vibrancy of the products in front of me. In it were canned fava beans, baked beans and vaal dhal, as well as four cartons of dried beans and peas, a pack of quinoa, and a selection of roasted beans and peas. A million and one things popped into my head in terms of how I could turn these ingredients into delicious meals. To me, this box is a winner during the cold season as the beans, peas and quinoa provide the perfect base for a range of hot soups, curries and veggie casseroles. I've never cooked with fava beans before and so I was super excited to expand my culinary repertoire. Such is the nature of following a vegan diet; I find that I am now more likely to try new plant-based ingredients that I never would have given a second glance before. 

I highly recommend this box to anyone who is keen to support local, sustainable food in the UK. Hodmedod was founded by Nick Saltmarsh, Josiah Meldrum and William Hudson in 2012 with the aim of promoting and supplying indigenous and less well-known grains and pulses in Britain. If your curiosity is even a little bit piqued, then you should definitely check them out and try a box!

Show Hodmedod some love by following them on Facebook and Twitter. You can also find out more about their product range on their official website.



In this recipe, I've gone ahead and made use of the tin of fava beans and the pack of lightly salted roasted fava beans. Forget regular croutons, the roasted fava beans give a deliciously crunchy element to the soup and complements the flavour of the fava beans infused in the soup. By blending half a can of the beans with the sweet potatoes, I was able to achieve a rich, creamy consistency. This soup is comfort food at its best, chock full of nutrients and vitamins from top quality whole foods - no hidden nasties here! It's also oil-free and gluten-free, nudging it high up there on the healthy, clean eating scale.

Ingredients
(serves 2)
- 2-3 medium sized sweet potatoes 
- 1 clove garlic (crushed)
- 1 tin of Hodmedod's British Fava Beans
- Handful of Hodmedod's British Roasted Fava Beans (lightly sea salted)
- Pinch crushed chilli flakes
- Pinch dried thyme
- Pinch curry powder
- Salt to taste
- Chopped fresh herbs

Wash and dice the sweet potatoes into small pieces. I chose to leave the skin on as it is packed full of nutrients, but you can peel the skin off if you prefer. Place in a large saucepan with the crushed garlic and fill with enough water to cover the potatoes completely. Boil for 20 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are soft.

Allow to cool slightly, then place the potatoes and garlic in a food processor, along with the liquid broth it was cooked in and half a can of fava beans. Blend on a low-medium setting for 1-2 minutes or until you are satisfied with the consistency.

Pour the soup back into the large saucepan and return to the heat. Season with a pinch of crushed chilli flakes, dried thyme, curry powder and salt to taste. Add the other half of the tin of fava beans.
Heat the soup for no longer than 5 minutes.

Serve hot and garnish with a handful of lightly salted roasted fava beans and a sprinkling of fresh herbs (I used parsley).






Wednesday, 12 November 2014

CHOCOLATE FUDGE CAKE (GUEST POST)

Here is a guest post from my lovely friend, Nemi. Who else is super excited to try out this mouthwatering recipe?!

You can follow Nemi on Facebook and check out her blog at www.anemistyle.com.

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A few months ago, Tomi (VeganNigerian.com) and I created a vegan challenge where people had to create a sweet and savoury dish with the secret ingredient 'Beans'. We decided to do the challenges ourselves and for me it was a fun and exciting culinary journey. After lots of failed experiments, I tried this chocolate fudge cake and it was delicious! I seriously could not believe it was so tasty and there was no hint of beans whatsoever.

I decided to test this recipe on an unsuspecting member of the public (Le Husband). After work one evening, I told him I fancied dessert after dinner and asked if he would be interested. Of course he said yes, so I went into the kitchen and secretly performed the beanie magic and voila! Chocolate fudge cake - crispy on top and gooey inside.  After devouring the 'creation', I asked him if anything felt different and he couldn't find anything other than the cake tasting a bit gluten-free....ha!

I later revealed the secret ingredient, leaving him feeling hoodwinked lol!

This black bean chocolate fudge cake is a gluten-free and healthier alternative to the usual chocolate cake. It is especially great for women during PMS and pregnancy because it is chock full of so many good-for-you nutrients like:

Folate - Great for women's reproductive health
Fibre - Keeps you fuller for longer
Protein - Building blocks for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin
Copper - Balances cholesterol and an antioxidant
Manganese - Strong bones, smooth skin and controls blood sugar
Iron Supply oxygen to blood, brain health and sustained energy

Here is what you will need:

1.     1 can of 400g black beans- washed and drained
2.     1.5  teaspoon of baking powder
3.     3-5 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
4.    Half a cup of sugar (can be substituted with sweetener)
5.    1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
6.    3 tablespoons of coconut oil
7.    Pinch of sea salt
8. 1 flax egg (2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed and 6 tablespoons of water, leave to soak for 15 min)



Step 1


Preheat oven at 170 degrees Celsius and grease muffin tin or cake pan.

Step 2

Prepare the flax egg by mixing 2 tablespoons of grounded flaxseed and 6 tablespoons of water.

Step 3

Put all the ingredients (from the ingredient list) in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.



Step 4


Scoop mixture into a greased muffin tin or cake tin.


Step 5

Bake in the oven for 15-25 minutes until a skewer comes out clean or the top dries up.



Tuesday, 4 November 2014

VEGAN GUIDE TO NANOWRIMO SNACKING

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is upon us again and thousands of people across the world will be picking up their pens (or opening up their laptops) to try and reach a target of 50,000 words by 12 midnight November 30th. I took the plunge last year and will be attempting it again this year (gulp!)

If you're anything like me, then you probably know that smart snacking can go a long way to helping you get through any colossal task (how do you think I got through my essays at university??).

So, for those late nights you'll spend trying to get up to date with your word count; for the moments when you hit a brick-wall and your plot starts to unravel; for the times when you lose inspiration and come down with a severe case of writer's block, you know you can refresh and replenish yourself with a few of these useful suggestions:

1. Juices and Smoothies

It's quick, it's nutritious and your brain cells will thank you for it. Pack in your favourite fruits (and veg) and sip away as your novel comes to life. Some of my favourite combinations include mango & orange, banana & strawberries, apple & carrot. 













2. Popcorn

As you pause to allow imagined scenes and plot twists to play out your head, why not have a bowl of popcorn sitting near by. Your own personal movie (sort of!) - that will soon be transformed into glittering prose - requires popcorn too ;) Try my curry and thyme flavoured popcorn for something a lil' different.















3. Home-made bars

These take a bit more planning and prep time but once you have a stash of them, you can nibble to your heart's content. The best part? You get to decide what goes into it. Have a go at my oat bar recipe or modify it to include even more super brain-food ingredients such as flax seeds, chia seeds or brazil nuts.















4. Chin chin

This sweet, crunchy Nigerian snack is ideal for boosting your mood as you power through your main character's dilemma. My baked chin chin recipe also ensures that you are not packing in unnecessary calories as you would with the fried version.
















5. Crackers

What is a snack guide without crackers? These hot saltine crackers can be enjoyed on their own or with your favourite vegan spread lashed on.
















6. Hummus, carrot sticks, flat bread

You could run out to the shop to pick up a tub of hummus OR you could make some yourself and take out any writing frustrations by crushing little chickpeas to a pulp. (Hopefully you have very few frustrations and more joyful, inspired moments...but just in case). This chunky hummus recipe is delicious, filling and comforting. Perfect with vegetable batons or soft flat bread.















7. Fresh fruit 

Last but certainly not least, a good stash of fresh fruit is the way to go. High-carb fruits like bananas and mango will give you the energy to keep going, providing your brain with a healthy source of glucose that won't see you crashing with a sugar low just when you're getting to the juicy part of your chapter. Nature's fast food also requires little to no preparation so you won't be wasting valuable time procrastinating but actually getting that novel done!






If you're a fellow writer, I want to hear from you: which snacks keep YOU going when you're trying to get through a piece of writing? And if this post doesn't quite apply to you, share it with the aspiring Chinua Achebe's and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's in your close circle.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

PANTILES FOOD FESTIVAL 2014 (PICTURES)

Just in case you don't follow my social media, here is a picture update of what turned out to be a successful event. The two-day Pantiles Harvest Food Festival took place in Tunbridge Wells back in September (20th and 21st). It was successful for a number of reasons:

1. I learnt a lot about the vegan/health food market. (It's not enough to just be plant-based; there is a massive gap in the market for gluten-free and sugar-free options too)

2. I met some lovely, encouraging people who made me think that perhaps my passion for [vegan] food and cooking - and wanting to base a career around it - is not all that crazy.

3. On a more practical level, I nearly sold out and made a profit. The late nights and colossal shopping trip for baking ingredients paid off!

4. I got non-vegans to admit that vegan cakes are actually pretty awesome.











Sunday, 5 October 2014

BEANS AND PLANTAIN RAVIOLI

In the spirit of the last vegan recipe challenge, I put together this ravioli dish. Freshly made pasta filled with a lightly spiced mixture of beans and plantain, topped with sautéed red pepper and garlic. Another great idea would be to include sweetcorn in the topping - yum! It's easy to make this look fancy by garnishing with fresh herbs and small mounds of julienned cucumber. The only real effort is getting the pasta dough just right. 

I made the mistake of blending the filling for too long in the blender and I ended up with a filling that was smoother than I would have liked, so I've adjusted the instructions below. Enjoy!























Ingredients
For the pasta:
- 1 2/3 cup all purpose flour
- 2/3 cup water
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp olive oil

For the filling:
- 1/2 cup cooked beans
- 1/2 boiled plantain
- pinch of chili powder
- pinch of paprika
- salt and pepper to taste

For the topping:
- 1/2 red bell pepper (finely chopped)
- 4 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
- 1/4 scotch bonnet pepper (finely chopped)
- olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste

Start by making the filling. Place the cooked beans, boiled plantain and spices in a bowl and mash with a fork until you have a chunky mixture. Set aside.

To make the pasta, combine all the pasta ingredients in a large bowl using a fork to bring the mixture together. With floured hands, bring the mixture into a dough. If it feels too dry, add a little bit more water. If it's too wet, add a bit more flour. Knead for about 10 minutes on a floured surface until the dough is smooth and pliable. Leave the dough to rest for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare your topping by sautéing the chopped red pepper, garlic and scotch bonnet in some olive oil (medium heat), until the pepper is nice and soft. Season with salt and pepper.

Back to the pasta. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions and roll each one out into a square/rectangular shape, as flat you can get it. Both pasta sheets should be roughly the same size and shape.

Spoon the beans/plantain mixture in small mounds across one of the pasta sheets, making sure to leave enough space between each one and around the edges. Cover the whole thing with the second pasta sheet and press down lightly around the edges and between the mounds. Use a sharp knife to cut out your individual ravioli squares. Trim any irregular edges.

Fill a large pot with salted water and a drop of olive oil, and bring to a boil. Add your ravioli squares to the hot water in small batches and cook for no longer than 5 minutes. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon.

Place as many as you want on a plate, spoon over the pepper/garlic topping, and garnish with fresh herbs and julienned cucumber.

Phew!


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