Wednesday, 30 December 2015

BANOFFEE PIE (RAW VEGAN)























I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and are looking forward to the New Year. I've been home over the holiday season, basking in the peace and relaxation that comes with being surrounded by family and having zero responsibilities. If life could be this way all of the time, I honestly wouldn't complain. While I've been home, I've had the opportunity to share a handful of vegan recipes with my family, one of them being this raw vegan banoffee pie. I first made this at work, and while I'm so used to the flavour that it doesn't seem all that special to me any more, I figured this was one dessert they had to try at least once. And I think you should too :) It's raw, vegan, sugar-free and incredibly indulgent.

You'll need a loose base tart/quiche tin or spring form tin, which you can find easily on Amazon:



Ingredients
- 6-8 ripe bananas
- 2 cups coconut cream
- maple syrup 
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- cacao powder (or cocoa)
For the crust:
- 1 cup desiccated coconut
- 3/4 cup ground almonds
- 1/2 cup pitted dates
For the caramel:
- 1 cup pitted dates
- 1 ripe banana
- juice of 1 lemon
- water (as needed)

Start by making the crust. Blend the coconut, almonds and dates in a food processor until the mixture sticks together when you press it between your finger. Tip this into the base of your tart tin or spring from tin, using the back of a spoon or spatula to spread it evenly to cover the base. Set aside.

To make the raw caramel, blend the dates, banana and lemon juice in a food processor, adding a little bit of water if needed, until you have a relatively smooth, thick, spreadable caramel consistency. Set aside.

To make the coconut cream, use the coconut fat from refrigerated tins of coconut milk (this always rises to the top of the tin). Discard the liquid and transfer the 'cream' to a mixing bowl. Add some vanilla extract and maple syrup (for sweetness) and mix gently.

Slice the ripe bananas into rounds or strips.

To assemble the pie, layer the sliced banana over the crust. Then spread the caramel evenly over the bananas. Gently spread the coconut cream over the top and dust with some cocoa powder. Refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.

Done!



Monday, 14 December 2015

PUMPKIN SPICE PUFF PUFF (RawSpiceBar)

Why eat plain ol' puff puff this Christmas when you can spice things up with a festive pumpkin pie spice blend? This blend, which contains cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise and a bunch of other sweet spices, was sent to me by the RawSpiceBar team to try. Click here to read my full review of their spice box concept.

If you have no clue what puff puff is then you probably need to go read my original puff puff post :)

I hope you enjoy this Christmassy version; let me know what you think in the comments below!



Ingredients
- 2.5 cups plain flour
- 1 cup caster sugar
- 4 tsp dried yeast
- 2 tsp pumpkin spice mix
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups warm water
- sunflower oil
- icing sugar (for dusting)

In a large bowl, place all the ingredients and mix to form a thick batter. Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place for 1 hour.

Uncover and use a wooden spoon to knock out some of the air bubbles that have formed.

Heat a generous amount of sunflower oil (medium heat) in a deep frying pan and add a small amount of the batter - you'll know the oil is ready for frying when the batter browns and floats to the surface.

Using a teaspoon or tablespoon (depending on the size of puff puff you want, drop the batter into the hot oil. Be careful not to crowd out the frying pan. 2-4 drops of batter at a time should suffice. Allow the puff puff to brown on one side then flip to brown on the other. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and drain the puff puff on some kitchen paper.

Fry the rest of the puff puff and allow to cool before dusting generously with icing sugar.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

ETHIOPIAN FUL MEDAMES (RawSpiceBar)

Using Ethiopian Mitmita and Berbere spice blends from my RawSpiceBar box (click here to read my full review), I had a blast creating this delicious meal. Ful Medames is essentially a serving of fava beans with lots of garlic and olive oil, and topped with fresh ingredients; it is usually served with bread and is eaten throughout East Africa in countries such as Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea and of course, Ethiopia.





















Ingredients
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup red onion (minced)
- 1 tsp Ethiopian Mitmita
- 1 tsp Berbere spice
- 2 cups cooked fava beans
- salt to taste
- 1 stalk green onion (thinly sliced)
- 1 large tomato (diced)
- 1/2 cup roasted mushrooms (chopped)
- red chilli (finely chopped)

Place a large pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, and fry the garlic and onion until tender. Add the mitmita and berbere spices and cook for another 1 minute. Add the cooked fava beans and 1 cup of water and simmer for 5 minutes.





Remove from heat and mash the beans until you have a mushy consistency. Season to taste and return to the heat for another 2 minutes, stirring continuously.


Serve the mashed beans with a topping of chopped green onions, tomato, mushroom, red chilli, and an extra drizzle of olive oil. Sprinkle some extra berbere over top and enjoy! Can be served with bread rolls.


BERBERE ROASTED CARROTS, FENNEL & MINT (RawSpiceBar)

What's that? You haven't read my review of RawSpiceBar and their spice blends yet? Click here to check it out first! :)

This recipe was one of the suggestions sent along with my trio of Ethiopian spice blends. It's a delicious warm salad with simple ingredients that are given a fiery, smoky boost thanks to Ethiopian berbere spice.























Ingredients
(serves 2)
- 1/2 tbsp berbere spice
- 3 carrots (peeled and cut into strips)
- 1-2 fennel bulbs (thinly sliced)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- sea salt
- handful of fresh mint (chopped)

1. Preheat oven to gas mark 5. Toss carrots and fennel with olive oil, salt to taste and RawSpiceBar's berbere spice mix until well coated. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Turn vegetables and roast for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until tender with a fork.





2. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Toss with chopped mint and serve.


RAWSPICEBAR REVIEW

All the way from sunny Santa Monica, California, I was sent a trio of spice blends to try by the lovely team at RawSpiceBar. Thanks to them, I have been transported into the world of Ethiopian cuisine (*waves across the continent*), Christmas themed puff puff and an unforgettable day spent creating a mini feast.


RawSpiceBar is a company that's dedicated to delivering you a selection of flavourful, vegan-friendly, freshly ground spice blends from different parts of the world. For a subscription that costs as little as $6 a month, you'll get three authentic spice blends delivered straight to your door.

I was sent their Ethiopian spice box, which consisted of carefully portioned pouches of:

- Berbere 
- Ethiopian Mitmita
- Pumpkin Pie Spice

All of this came with a two-sided information and recipe sheet, offering recipe suggestions and an insightful background story on the cuisine in question and key points about the spice blends. 


I've never made an Ethiopian dish before, nor have I eaten at an Ethiopian restaurant. My to-do list has now been updated to include an extensive exploration of other cuisines in African countries beyond West/North Africa. These spices piqued my interest and got me looking high and low for Ethiopian recipes. 

1.

I was pleased to see that one of the recipe suggestions was vegan, and so I decided to give it a try: Berbere Roated Carrots, Fennel & Mint. Using the Berbere spice mix, I coated some sliced carrots and fennel before roasting for 25-30 minutes and then tossing with chopped mint. Click here to see the full recipe and a step by step guide on how to make this salad. I was very happy with this meal. The spices had a great kick to it - just the way I like it - and turned a perfectly simple dish into an impressive, flavour-packed warm salad that would make a wonderful starter or side dish. I can see this salad being featured on any Christmas dinner table this festive season. 

Berbere spice ingredients: dried chiles, sweet paprika, coriander, ginger, cardamom, fenugreek, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, black peppercorns.




2.

The second recipe I created was an Ethiopian, vegan version of Ful Medames (fava beans), using a combination of the Ethiopian Mitmita spice mix and the Berbere spice mix. Ful Medames is essentially a serving of fava beans with lots of garlic and olive oil, and topped with fresh ingredients; it is usually served with bread and is eaten throughout East Africa in countries such as Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea and of course, Ethiopia. Click here for the full recipe. Once again, the spices turned a bland pot of fava beans into something quite special. The African bird's eye chili peppers in the Mitmita blend stood out the most for me and I could tell that they were of high quality. As well as working well in stews and beans, mitmita can also be used in place of hot sauce or Siracha as a dip or condiment.

Ethiopian Mitmita spice ingredients: African bird's eye chilli peppers, dried red chillies, cardamom, black peppercorns, garlic.




3.

Finally, I decided to use the Pumpkin Pie Spice blend to jazz up a Nigerian favourite - Puff Puff! This version is absolutely ideal for the festive season and you'll want to spoil your guests with this sweet treat. For the full recipe, simply click here! The aroma of this spice blend invaded my entire kitchen and I really couldn't complain. This spice mix would do wonders in your Christmas cookies, breads, and other baked goods.

Pumpkin Pie Spice ingredients: cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, mace, star anise.



In summary: I found the RawSpiceBar box to be incredibly inspiring to me as a foodie. In fact, the more I think about the concept, the more I fall head over heels. Who wouldn't want a different selection of spice blends from around the world every month? Think of all the cuisines that could be explored; all the meals that could be enjoyed; all the fun that could be had in the creative process of trying each one out. If you'd like to add some excitement to your cooking, then I highly recommend RawSpiceBar. You can subscribe online and they will ship to all parts of the US, Canada and internationally. Follow them on Facebook & Twitter! :)

CREAMY SPAGHETTI WITH "MHEAT", MUSHROOMS, GREEN BEANS & RED CABBAGE (Sgaia Review)


Hello again. This month is rolling by so fast and there's still so much to do! Somebody make it stop! :') Before we know it, the year will be up and we'll be making/breaking resolutions, reflecting on life and the path we're on, thinking of ways to make next year better than this year...all that deep stuff. 

But before we get tooo deep (and off-topic!), let's move on to the main point of this post: a review of the product "Mheat" by the company Sgaia. Notice the 'h' in the spelling of "Mheat"? That, according to the makers, stands for 'healthy, happy, herbivore...and hungry' :) With that positive intro, things can surely only get better.

If you're unfamiliar with seitan, it's a meat substitute made with the gluten extracted from wheat flour. It originated in China around the 6th Century and remains a popular stand-in for meat in terms of taste and texture. The first time I ever tried seitan was at a vegan restaurant in West London and I've wanted to make my own ever since. One day, one day....

I was very excited to try this seitan product - hand-made by the creative duo, Hilary and Alberto - no less because it would be my first time cooking with seitan at home.  The seitan is made using the traditional method but with a few tweaks. 'Mheat' is low in fat and high in protein, and you'll be encouraged to hear that the ingredient list is very short: wheat gluten, soya protein, water, shoyu, molasses, garlic, sea salt, and yeast extract. No hidden junk or chemicals, which is how all food should be made.

The product arrived in the post in a chilled pouch to keep it fresh, and was packaged in a really elegant box with the name of the company and product printed clearly on the front. 


The 'Mheat' itself was inside a clear, vacuum-sealed pack. As you'll see in the image below, the 'Mheat' does have the appearance of real meat. The possibilities are endless in terms of what you can do with it - stir-fries, stews, cooked as a 'steak', etc. I opted for this pasta dish and the inclusion of 'Mheat' took it to a whole new level. I'm not exaggerating when I say that this is one of the best pasta dishes I have ever made, and the addition of 'Mheat' made it more hearty and filling. It is also worth mentioning that when pan-fried, the strips became crispy on the outside, which gets a thumbs up from me.


If you'd like to try out Sgaia's 'Mheat' for yourself, you can buy it directly from their website or from one of their stockists. It's perfect for transitioning vegans who still crave the texture of regular meat, and also for other vegans who want to experiment with new recipes and cooking techniques using seitan. Follow Sgaia Foods on Facebook and Twitter to find out more about them! :)

Now on to the recipe!

Ingredients
(serves 2)
- 2 servings Spaghetti
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- Sgaia 'Mheat' (cut into strips)
- 1 red onion (thinly sliced)
- 5 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
- 1/2 scotch bonnet pepper
- 1 cup red cabbage (shredded)
- Handful green beans (steamed or boiled)
- 4 Mushrooms (sliced)
- 250g Coconut Cream
- Salt to taste
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- Watercress (optional)


1. Start by cooking your spaghetti in a pot of lightly salted boiling water until al dente. Throw in the green beans towards the end of the cooking time to blanch them. Drain and set aside.


2. Heat the coconut oil in a frying pan and add the strips of Mheat. Fry until browned on the outside - turn the pieces over if necessary to brown evenly.



3. Add the sliced onions, garlic, scotch bonnet and red onions. Sauté for a couple of minutes, then add red cabbage, and mushrooms.



4. Add the coconut cream, reduce the heat and allow to simmer for five minutes. Season to taste and add the dried thyme and a vegetable stock cube. Add the spaghetti and green beans to the creamy sauce and allow to cook for another five minutes on medium heat until the pasta has soaked up most of the liquid.


5. Serve hot with a generous garnish of watercress or other fresh greens you have at home.


Note: This review has been organised by the VEGAN lifestyle ASSOCIATION. It has not been paid for and the products were sent free of charge. This is my genuine and unbiased review of the product. 

Sgaia Foods are listed with the VLA and you can see their listing here.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

FRY'S SOY & QUINOA COUNTRY ROAST (REVIEW)



It's almost that time of year again, when families gather for the festive season and indulge in some good cheer, good food, and perhaps some good ol' bickering too (well..hopefully less of the latter!). If you're the only vegan in your household - like moi - then chances are you're already racking your brain as to how to navigate or contribute to the dinner table come December 25. On the one hand, you don't want to be a burden and put on the family member(s) in charge of the meal that day. On the other, you don't want to be left with a sad looking plate of side-dishes-turned-main-meal while everyone else chows down on fully loaded plates. To avoid any of that awkwardness (especially if you're not the one doing the meal planning), you'd do well to come prepared. OR, if you have the will, time and stellar skills of persuasion, you can offer to take over completely and get your family to try an exclusively vegan Christmas meal this year, in which case you'll need something totally amazing to knock their socks off.


This is hopefully where Fry's Country Roast should come in. If you read my last post on their Rice Protein & Chia Nuggets, you'd have seen how enamoured I was with that product. Consequently, I had very high expectations of this particular one, and I was not disappointed.


The Soy & Quinoa Country Roast (500g) easily serves up to 4 people and so I had the pleasure of sharing it with a couple of friends who also weighed in with positive comments about the taste, although one did voice - and I agreed - that she would have liked to see even more quinoa in the product.

The roast, which comes in a handy rectangular, oven-proof foil tray, took about 30 minutes to cook at gas mark 4. It sliced well, held its shape completely and had a crisp finish on the outside. It was packed full of flavour (it contains a generous selection of herbs such as parsley, coriander, rosemary, basil, marjoram, oregano, sage and thyme) and stood well with a serving of maple-roasted mixed vegetables. With more time, I would have liked to have served it with a nice vegetable gravy, but even without that, the roast was delicious and succulent. According to the cooking instructions, the roast can also be steamed in the foil packet, which I imagine would make it even softer and more succulent if that's the desired result you want.


Now on to some health and nutrition info. As well as being high in protein and omega 3 fatty acids (flaxseed oil is listed as one of the ingredients), the roast is also a non GM product and contains no antibiotics, so you can feel safe and confident about serving this to your family.

I love how this roast is designed to conveniently take the stress out of Christmas cooking. I'll be heading home myself on the 23rd of this month and I already have plans to stuff a couple of these in my suitcase. I have a feeling I'm going to be that vegan who tries to take over the Christmas meal this year. Family, you've been warned...

Fry's Country Roast is available to buy online and at Morrison's stores across the UK. For a full list of stockists, visit their official website for more info.


Note: Thanks to the Vegan Lifestyle Association for the opportunity to carry out this review. It has not been paid for and the products were sent free of charge. This is my genuine and unbiased review of the product.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

FRY'S RICE PROTEIN & CHIA NUGGETS (REVIEW)



"Where do you get your protein from?" - that old, tired question that every vegan hears at least a few dozen times along the way. The question is so tired that I got slightly droopy-eyed writing it out a second ago...

In all seriousness though, I am really excited to share this vegan product with you, and the next time you get the protein question, you might feel inclined to gently shove a plate of these under the asker's nose.

Fry's, established in 1991, is a company that produces a wide range of veggie food products - from veggie sausages to burgers, pies & pastries to these awesome kid-friendly nuggets.


The nuggets are made using rice protein, chia seeds, soy protein and a host of delicious seasoning such as rosemary, sage, marjoram, turmeric, ginger and black pepper. These are all encased in a golden, gluten-free coating consisting of rice flour, gram flour, maize starch, paprika, salt and pepper. One of the stand-out things to mention is that all the ingredients are non GM, free from hormones, antibiotics & chemicals, and high in fibre, protein & omega 3's - proving that fast, convenience foods do not have to be riddled with unhealthy ingredients.

This product seriously exceeded my expectations in terms of taste and texture. I must admit that I was a little sceptical when I saw that they are also gluten-free. It's terrible of me, I know, but whenever I think of gluten-free versions of normally gluten-containing foods, I immediately imagine them to be dry, grainy and unappealing. These were far from that! I enjoyed every single bite and couldn't believe that it was all vegan. I served mine with a sweet potato, broccoli and spinach salad (click here for the recipe) and it made a filling, satisfying dinner. They took only 15 minutes in the oven (at gas mark 4) and they turned out lovely and crispy on the outside, and succulent on the inside. The nuggets are well seasoned, which is one of the most important things I look out for in food.


Overall, I would wholeheartedly say that these nuggets deserve a try. Click here for a full list of stockists and information on where to buy this product. Find out more about Fry's by visiting their website and following them on social media! :)

Note: Thanks to the Vegan lifestyle Association for the opportunity to carry out this review. It has not been paid for and the products were sent free of charge. This is my genuine and unbiased review of the product.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

BROCCOLI, SPINACH AND SWEET POTATO SALAD WITH CHILLI COCONUT DRESSING






















Warm, simple and healthy. This salad is a combination of some of my favourite food ingredients. I can't get enough of broccoli; sweet potato needs no introduction; spinach is a staple in my fridge; then you have the flavour of delicious coconut running through all that with a whole lot of heat from the chilli. The simplicity of this dish allows each ingredient to shine through. Your taste buds will absolutely thank you.

Ideal as a side dish, or a quick lunch/dinner.  

Ingredients
- Broccoli (as much as you care for)
- 1 sweet potato (peeled and cubed)
- 2 handfuls baby spinach
- 2 tbsp coconut oil (melted)
- 1/2 red chilli (finely chopped)
- pinch of dried thyme
- salt and pepper to taste
- dried coconut flakes (optional)

1. Steam the broccoli and sweet potato until they are cooked through and tender. (Broccoli can still have a bit of a bite to it). Add the spinach at the last minute and steam for a couple extra minutes until the leaves have wilted.

2. To make the dressing, add the chopped chilli and dried thyme to the melted coconut oil. Season generously with salt and pepper.

3. Assemble your salad, using the wilted spinach as a bed and piling the broccoli and sweet potatoes high on top. Drizzle the coconut/chilli dressing over the top. Garnish with some dried coconut flakes.


Thursday, 26 November 2015

EXPLODING POPCORN CAKE


I'll admit that the title is a tad dramatic, but let's roll with it :p
I got the idea for this cake when my sister told me that she wanted a popcorn-themed cake for her birthday this year - kinda like the tie-dye cake with popcorn frosting I made for my mum back in April. As I'm not a big fan of making the same things twice, I decided to create a variation and reverse the structure, which led to this popcorn-filled cake.

To recreate this cake, you'll need to start with three basic sponge cakes, and you can feel free to use any gel food colouring in the batter to make the inside more eye-catching. I already have a recipe for sponge cake, so simply quadruple the quantities.

I also used ready-roll fondant icing to cover the cake, and this can be found at supermarkets/online, or you can try making your own from scratch by following a reliable recipe.

You can also use shop-bought popcorn, but I like making it fresh. Follow my tips from this recipe for making perfect popcorn every time. Sprinkle some icing sugar over the popcorn for sweetness.

To achieve the gold sheen, I used a gold edible lustre spray like the one below (available on Amazon):


You'll need:
- 3 sponge cakes (click for full recipe)
- gel food colouring (optional)
- popcorn (sprinkled with icing sugar for a sweet finish)
- chocolate ganache (200g dark chocolate; 200g cocoa powder; 1-2 cups almond milk)
- 2 packs of fondant icing
- piping bag

Steps
1. Trim and level your three sponge cakes, making sure they are all the same size.

2. Take one of the sponges and cut a hole in the middle of it, using a small bowl as a guideline to trace around.



3. Place one of the full sponges on a cake board, spreading a little chocolate ganache on the bottom to help it stick in place. Place the second sponge layer on top - the one with the hole in the middle - making sure it aligns well. Spread some chocolate ganache between layers if you wish.


4. Fill the empty space with a generous helping of sweet popcorn. Then place the final layer on top. If necessary, use a serrated knife to trim around the cake to get an even surface all the way around.



5. Cover the entire cake with the rest of the chocolate ganache.


6. Roll out your fondant icing on a surface dusted with some icing sugar. Lay it carefully over the cake and smooth around the edges. Trim off any excess and use to create any additional design you'd like - I went for a simple leaf pattern all the way around. Spray the entire cake with the edible gold sheen and allow to dry completely before adding any final touches such as a ribbon or piped lettering/designs.