Monday, 9 December 2019

Hibiscus Poached Apple Cheesecake | Gluten-Free, No-Bake, No Refined Sugar


Gosh, it's been a hot minute since I've made a vegan cheesecake. When I worked as a chef at a raw/vegan restaurant back in 2016, we made these virtually every other day. The flavours tended to be the same - strawberry or zesty lemon or mixed berries. We went through more bags of cashews and dates and coconut than you could possibly imagine.

A small part of me is a little fearful of no-bake vegan cheesecakes, mainly because there's always a small chance that it won't set properly or the filling will be too grainy. With the experience I have of making them though, I've picked up a few key tips that I'll be sharing throughout this post so that you can avoid any major pitfalls and kitchen fails.

This particular cheesecake was made for a workshop run by my friend Joy of Joy At Large. Having frozen the cheesecake the day before (in order for it to set completely), I'd left it out that morning so that it could thaw by the time we were ready to serve it. When I did cut into it, it was way softer than I would have liked. Still delicious and creamy but a tad too soft. And then it all came flooding back to me that you really aren't supposed to pull it out of the freezer until about 20-30 minutes before you need to serve it. Ergo, tip number one: always store the cheesecake in the freezer until you're ready to eat it!

In terms of the flavour, well, I've been having a whale of a time scoffing stewed and spiced apples for breakfast lately, so I decided to keep that running theme going. If you don't want to use apples, other fruit like pear, pineapple and even mango could work just as well. I chose to poach the apples in hibiscus because I knew the colour would be striking and also because hibiscus (also known as zobo) is used a lot in Nigeria. Zobo refers to a sweetened hibiscus beverage (I really must share a recipe for it one of these days). Paired with the fresh mint leaves, the remand green of this dessert screams festive Christmas.

The beauty of this cheesecake is that my Nigerian readers can make it. No unusual or niche ingredients that you can only buy from some obscure shop in the heart of London. The only ingredient that might seem like an obstacle is the maple syrup (used in place of refined sugar to add natural sweetness). If you're worried about where to find maple syrup, I found a Nigerian online store that stocks it. They even have date syrup which can be used as a substitute. If you're Lagos-based then shops like Fig Health Store in Lekki is also a great place to look.

The creamy filling of the cheesecake is a combination of soaked cashews and dairy-free yoghurt (or coconut cream). The cashews need to be soaked at least overnight because this helps with the creaminess and prevents that grainy, bitty texture I was alluding to earlier. You'll need a high-powered blender to achieve a smooth finish, but otherwise just make sure to blend for a long enough time until there are no large chunks and bits.

The crust is made with raisins, desiccated coconut and walnuts. Again, you can afford to make substitutions depending on the ingredients that are more readily available to you. instead of raisins, you can use dates or sultanas. Instead of walnuts, you can use peanuts or cashews. You can even make your own desiccated coconut by grated and drying fresh coconut. You get the picture. A food processor works best to break down the ingredients - a food blender will make it too mushy and smooth.

I used a 9 inch springform tin like this one, but you can also use a round, shallow cake tin if that's what you have at home.

If you do try this recipe, please let me know. Tag your photos @vegannigerian or #vegannigerian on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook to get a repost! :)

If you like this recipe, you might also like:
- Vegan Banoffee Pie
- Mango Cream Dessert
- Bounty Chocolate Bars

Hibiscus Poached Apple Cheesecake

Ingredients
(Serves 8-10)
For the crust:
- 200g desiccated coconut
- 200g raisins or dates
- 100g walnuts (or other type of nut)

For the filling:
- 300g unsalted cashew nuts (soaked in water overnight then drained)
- 250ml dairy-free yoghurt or thick coconut cream
- 100ml maple syrup (or other fruit syrup)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg

For the poached apples
- 3 tbsp dried hibiscus flower
- 250ml water
- 2 large apples (peeled and cut into thick segments)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 4 tbsp maple syrup (or other fruit syrup)

- Fresh mint leaves

Directions
Make the crust by blending all the ingredients in a food processor until the mixture comes together like a sticky dough.

Press the crust into a lined springform tin. Use clean fingers to distribute the crust evenly, allowing it to come up around the sides.

Make the filling by placing all the ingredients in a blender and mixing until very smooth. Tip: add the yoghurt/cream and maple syrup first as this will help the cashews blend better.


Add the filling to the prepared crust and smooth out the top with the back of a spoon. Place in the freezer overnight to firm up completely.

To make the poached apples, add the dried hibiscus flower and water to a saucepan and bring to a boil. The water should turn a deep, dark red colour. Strain to remove the hibiscus flowers and return the liquid to the pan. Add the apple segments, along with the cinnamon and nutmeg, and boil on high heat for about 3 minutes until the apples take on the red colour. Remove the apples from the liquid and set aside.

Add the maple syrup to the hibiscus liquid and allow to boil on high heat until it reduces and forms a thick syrup. (I forgot to time this part, but just keep an eye on it and stir periodically to check how thick the syrup is getting). Remove from the heat and add the apple segments back in, stirring gently to coat all the pieces.

Bring the cheesecake out 20-30 minutes before serving. Gently pop it out of the springform tin and top with the hibiscus poached apples. Drizzle on the hibiscus syrup for extra colour and garnish with fresh mint leaves.

Stewed Apples | Festive Vegan Breakfast Idea



Spiced apples that have been stewed to perfection in under 15 minutes? Yes!

This easy vegan breakfast recipe idea is perfect for the festive season. The aroma of the cinnamon and nutmeg will leave your home smelling like freshly baked apple pies (without the hassle of baking...)

Who needs scented candles when you have these spices filling the air?

Ingredients
- 3 apples (any variety - I used gala)
- 100ml water
- 1-2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- Freshly grated ginger
- 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
- Toppings of your choice (coconut flakes, granola or more fruit!)

Chop the apples into bite-size pieces. Leave the skin on for extra fibre.


Add the water to a saucepan and throw in the chopped apples, along with the cinnamon, nutmeg and as much fresh grated ginger as you care for (I aim for about 1 tablespoon usually). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes until the water bubbles and gets a little bit syrupy.

Prepare your toppings. I like to add berries for skin-friendly antioxidants and ground flaxseeds for my daily helping of omega-3. Be creative with yours. Nuts and seeds work particularly well too.

Spoon the stewed apples into a bowl and finish off with the toppings of your choice.

Friday, 29 November 2019

Vegan Christmas Gift Guide 2019 | 20+ Vegan Gift Ideas



The festive season is upon us and it's about that time to start thinking about what to gift our loved ones.

Have you ever taken the 5 Love Languages quiz? Or read the book? If so, then you'd be familiar with the five main ways (according to Gary Chapman) that we give and receive love: words of affirmation, quality time, gift giving, acts of service and physical touch.

I've read the book and taken the test, and it turns out that my top two love languages are quality time and gift giving. It makes total sense - there's nothing I enjoy more than simply being in the presence of those I care about. When it comes to gift giving, it's all about the meaning and sentiment behind the item. Gift giving doesn't have to equal elaborate or expensive. And when you combine quality time with gift giving, what you have is the experience gift. I can't get enough of those. A weekend getaway; a pottery class; a cookery class; a spa day; a trip to the theatre - the options are endless!

Now, if you've got a special vegan in your life and you want your gift to them this year to reflect your recognition or support of their lifestyle, or if you're feeling stuck and in need of some last-minute Christmas gift ideas, then below are some suggestions spanning a range of budgets, interests and love languages!

A) The Vegan Chocolate Lover



Dapaaah Chocolates - Mmiensa Collection | £24.99

An indulgent, handcrafted collection of dark, mylk and white dairy-free chocolate.

Dapaah is making it their mission to produce luxury chocolate made from Ghana's organic, quality cocoa, thereby creating new jobs and better wages for local cocoa farming communities.


Booja Booja Organic Artist's Collection - Champagne Truffles | £21

Dark chocolate champagne ganache, enrobed in more dark chocolate. So dreamy.

These award-winning truffles come in a beautiful keepsake box that can be repurposed. The elegant, handcrafted design makes it a true piece of art.



Copperhouse Hot Chocolate Variety Pack | £9 - £29

Copperhouse is an independent vegan chocolate cafe and their signature hot chocolate collection is the stuff of dreams. 

Choose from flavours such as: gingerbread, cinnamon rose, raspberry, mint, chilli and orange!



My Gammies Free-From Petite Chocolate Cupcakes | £3

These petit chocolate cupcakes (box of 12) may be gluten-free and free from all 14 allergens, but they are unbelievably soft and delicious!

I've shared about My Gammie's in a previous post, which you should definitely check out if you want to find out more about why you should support this brilliant family business.


B) The Fashion-Forward Vegan



Moddanio Cork Bags | Starting at £28

Classic and elegant bags/accessories made from cork - a durable and excellent alternative to leather.  

All products are certified vegan, eco-friendly and sustainably sourced, making them an excellent choice for the conscious consumer.

Votch Watch | £120

Vegan 'leather' watches that are high-quality and stylish? Look no further.

All of their watches are lovingly packaged in recyclable materials with low environmental impact.  A luxury unboxing experience awaits your recipient.

C) The Vegan Foodie


Organic Livity Macarons Gift Box | £22

The finest French Macarons made with organic, plant-based ingredients by pastry chef extraordinaire, Sidney Marton.  Perfectly presented in a sustainable, eco-friendly box.

Available in boxes of 8, with flavours including: blue spirulina/vanilla, hazelnut and dark chocolate. Made fresh to order without any additives or preservatives or artificial flavouring. Contain nuts. No gluten.


All four flavours of delicious Marie's Little Jar sauces in a beautifully presented box.

These aromatic, all-natural sauces are lovingly handmade by Carine whose products are influenced by her Cameroonian heritage.

Carine and I previously collaborated on a plantain social event and her sauces were the perfect accompaniment to our plantain creations!



Zero Waste Cutlery Set by Jungle Culture | £8.99


For the foodie who dines out a lot, this reusable cutlery set is indispensable. 

Lightweight and portable, this set can slip into any bag easily and is great for camping trips, festivals and events.

A stylish and eco-friendly way to ditch single-use plastic utensils!




GUTXY Reset+ (Microbiome Testing) | £342

This makes for a totally unique gift! GUTXY Reset+ is a program that helps you track how dietary changes affect your gut, allowing you to see what you should be eating to feel your best. Gifting a DNA ancestry test is cool and all, but this is next level brilliant and will go down well with the health-conscious foodie in your life.


All Nations Vegan House - Restaurant Gift Voucher | £22

All Nations is a family-run Caribbean vegan restaurant, serving up hearty and tasty meals in the heart of Dalston! Treat a loved one to a gift voucher so that they can experience the deliciousness. Voucher valid until February 2020.


Vegan Nigerian Dinner for 2 - Gift Voucher | £85

Open to residents in London zones 1-3.  

Treat a loved one to a Vegan Nigerian dinner gift voucher, allowing them to enjoy a three-course meal with another guest of their choice.  

They'll get a full private chef experience, with the meal prepared and served fresh in the comfort of their home - at a time and date that's convenient for them!  

The voucher is valid for up to 6 months.


D) The Vegan Chef




Tofu Press | £23.18

It doesn't get more vegan than a tofu press - designed to press the water out of a block of tofu, which helps improve the overall taste and texture.

For the experienced chef, it can also be used to make tofu from scratch.

Bespoke Binny Oven Gloves | £24.99

How utterly beautiful are these oven gloves?! Chef or not, I imagine that anyone would be thrilled to receive them.

Choose from a range of African print designs. The gloves are of the highest quality, lined with plain cotton and a specially formulated heat-resistant wadding.


Spiralizer | £17.23

I wouldn't blame you if you haven't used or come across a spiralizer. It's a fun, nifty kitchen gadget that transforms vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers and courgettes into pasta-shaped ribbons. Many a vegan dish incorporate this technique.

There's a lot of fun to be had with it and the compact design means that it doesn't have to take up too much space on the counter.


Electric Stand Mixer | £64.99

As a chef, if someone gifted me this, I'd love them forever and ever and ever.

This mixer is ideal for the vegan baker in your life and could be a win-win as they whip up cakes, breads, cookies and desserts that they then share with you. Just sayin'!



The Vegan Beauty Guru



SuperfoodLx Quinoa Shampoo & Conditioner | £29

 These highly nutritive formulas are vegan and SLS free.Formulated with hydrolyzed quinoa, chamomile, aloe vera, avocado and gentle plant based sugar and coconut cleansers to strengthen and fortify the hair.Their lightweight hair, skin and nail oil (£22) also make for perfect stocking fillers.

Soapnut Soap Gift Box Set by Living Naturally | £15

These beautiful handcrafted soaps, packaged in a natural Kraft box, make for the perfect gift. Soapnuts or soapberries are dried fruit shells which contain real natural soap and are 100% non-polluting, compostable, and a great alternative to conventional synthetic soaps!


Suitable for both men and women, these reusable safety razors are a far more environmentally friendly alternative to single-use plastic razors.

The razors are available in two beautifully distinct natural bamboo grains and come complete with a hessian travel bag and gift box.





Afrocenchix Travel Set with Bag and Eye Mask | £45

This afro hair care set includes:  Mini Seal (30ml), Mini Swish (60ml), Mini Sheen 60ml), Mini Smooth (60ml) and Mini Soothe (20ml), eye mask, bag.  Their cruelty-free, natural products are free from: SLS/sulphates, parabens, silicons, parfum/artificial fragrances and harsh chemicals.


The Vegan Cookbook/Book Collector

Ageless Vegan by Tracye McQuirter | £18.99

Food activist, public health nutritionist, and longtime vegan Tracye McQuirter (50-years-old-going-on-30) teams up with her mother Mary (80-years-old-going-on-50) to share their secrets for staying young, vibrant, and healthy (hint: it's all in the greens), along with 100 delicious plant-based recipes. 

The McQuirters break down the basics of nutrition, how to build a vegan pantry, and how to make sure you're getting the best nutrients to promote longevity and prevent chronic disease, along with 100 recipes that are perfectly seasoned and full of flavor.


Activist and illustrator Sara Botero details the many reasons to make the change – animal welfare, our health, the environment – and offers tons of practical advice on nutrition and diet, including sections on alternatives, baking and drinking. Also covered are tips for vegan living, from clothing and make-up to cleaning and travelling. 

Finally, the Toolkit offers advice on vegan etiquette, activism and living in a ‘non-vegan’ world.  Writing with passion and expertise, and bringing a wealth of information to life through her charming illustrations, Sara Botero inspires us to extend our compassion to every living being.


Explore more than 100 plant-based, gluten-free recipes for every meal of the day, including contemporary twists on classic Ayurvedic dishes, such as turmeric-ginger kitchari. 

Packed with practical guidance and beautiful photography, Eat Feel Fresh integrates traditional Ayurvedic wisdom with modern nutritional science, inviting you to change your relationship with food and connect to your highest self.


Herbs can heal and rejuvenate but the art of herbalism is not understood as much as it should be; especially amongst generation Y & Z.   

This herb guide aims to change that. In this book Paul takes you on a journey from the history of herbs to the present day uses. 

The perfect gift for the health-conscious and anyone interested in discovering how herbs impact the body.


Rachel Ama's Vegan Eats | £13.74

Rachel takes inspiration from naturally vegan dishes and cuisines as well as her Caribbean and West African roots to create great full-flavour recipes that are easy to make and will inspire you to make vegan food part of your daily life.   

Rachel’s recipes are quick and often one-pot; ingredients lists are short and supermarket-friendly; dishes can be prepped-ahead.


In this lively, accessible, and provocative collection, Aph and Syl Ko provide new theoretical frameworks on race, advocacy for nonhuman animals, and feminism. Using popular culture as a point of reference for their critiques, the Ko sisters engage in groundbreaking analysis of the compartmentalized nature of contemporary social movements, present new ways of understanding interconnected oppressions, and offer conceptual ways of moving forward expressive of Afrofuturism and black veganism.


Cooking with Kids by Kirly-Sue | £12.50

Kirly-Sue (aka Susanne Kirlew) is a vegan food writer, radio & TV presenter and published author. Her most recent publication is a vegan cookbook for kids! Perfect for the little vegans or vegan parents in your life. 

The 80+ child-friendly vegan recipes are tasty, easy to follow and guaranteed to spark creativity!


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In full disclosure, this post contains some affiliate links (particularly the Amazon links), which means that you're getting the best price on the item but I receive a commission when you buy. All of it is reinvested in the blog and keeps it chugging along, allowing me to create and share the free content that I do on a consistent basis :)

Monday, 25 November 2019

Vegan Nigerian Cookery Class in London

Back in May, I led a community cooking class in collaboration with Life After Hummus, teaching a handful of vegan Nigerian dishes to the public. Be sure to check out the video and highlights from that class!

It was exciting to be back again, this time with brand new recipes that included boiled plantain, boiled yam and scrambled tofu,  eba, okra stew and a papaya/avocado salad.

The video below captures how the evening went:



If you couldn't make it to this class, keep an eye out for future events by joining my mailing list or following on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

I also offer private cooking lessons to London residents, so if you'd like to find out more, get in touch!

Low-Fat Tofu Scramble



Still on my low-oil/no-oil cooking streak and absolutely loving it. I've shared a scrambled tofu recipe before (paired with boiled yam) but this one is quite different in look and flavour. The fact that it is oil-free doesn't hamper the deliciousness - if anything, I actually think I'd sooner always make it this way.

Growing up, bread and egg was my jam. Pillowy soft agege bread topped with eggs that had been scrambled with onions, peppers and all sorts of vegetables. Ask any Nigerian and they'll tell you that this is considered the breakfast of champions. In many ways, this vegan version is a worthy upgrade and most certainly holds its own.

I served mine on some dense rye bread which made for a great vegan brunch meal. And of course, if you're on the hunt for a filling vegan breakfast to get your day started right then this is definitely worth trying.

Ingredients
- 1 green chilli (finely chopped)
- 1 cup mushrooms (chopped)
- 1/2 cup sweetcorn
- 2 cups cabbage (shredded)
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 block firm organic tofu (drained)
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp hot sauce (optional)

Add 100ml water to a large frying pan or saucepan.

Add the chopped chilli, mushrooms, sweetcorn and cabbage. Water-fry on medium-high heat for a couple of minutes until the mushroom and cabbage have softened. Mix in the curry powder and turmeric.

Crumble the firm tofu into the pan, add the nutritional yeast and stir for about two minutes to combine. (If it looks a bit dry at this stage, add a little water, but the moisture from the tofu should prevent this - you're after a nice, creamy consistency).

Serve on some toasted bread and drizzle some hot sauce for extra heat and flavour.


Sunday, 3 November 2019

How to Photograph a Self-Published Cookbook

It's been a whole year since I self-published Plantain Cookbook and to mark the occasion, I've put together this short, no-fuss guide to food photography, aimed specifically at anyone who is interested in self-publishing a cookbook but perhaps worried about getting the quality of photographs just right. This was a major concern for me, and so you can imagine my relief when compliments about the food photos started rolling in as people purchased the cookbook.

I used my trusty Sony Alpha A58 to take all my food photographs. This handy camera with 18-55mm lens has served me well for about five years now. But any reliable DSLR or one of these (Professional) Mirrorless Cameras will do the trick. A DSLR is worth the investment and will give you more control over the final outcome of your photographs.

Still, whether you have the most basic or advanced camera/equipment, there are a few principles to keep in mind when it comes to taking beautiful and eye-catching food photographs. Forget brushing your food with glue or any of those other crazy hacks you've probably heard of. Read on to discover a more down-to-earth approach to food photography.

1. Use Natural Light
You'll want to schedule your shoots for when you've got the most natural sunlight streaming in. At the time of writing my cookbook, I was also working a full-time job, so that meant favouring weekends or early mornings to do all my photography. As tempting as it is, avoid using lamps, artificial lighting or your camera's built-in flash. Move around and try different parts of your house. Don't forget to use a diffuser (this can be a white foam board or white sheet held up against direct sunlight) to soften any shadows. The image below was taken in my housemate's bedroom because it had more natural sunlight than our kitchen at certain times of the day.

Fruity Plantain Loaf

2. Use Props
Get creative and use props to tell a food story. If there's already a lot going on with the dish, with lots of eye-catching elements and colours, then you can scale back on the props or go for more neutral tones. Sometimes less is more. Otherwise, try using complimentary props such as coloured napkins, mugs, jars, textured tiles/fabrics, cutlery, ingredients or plants to bring a shot to life.

Plantain Scones

3. Try Multiple Angles
Better to have a lot of different shots to choose from than to regret not taking enough. Certain dishes look better from different angles - whether overhead or from the side - so be sure to capture as many sides as possible so that you can pick the one that best showcases the meal.

Plantain Dumpling Soup

4. Understand Basic Editing
Natural lighting will allow your food colours to pop, but if for any reason you discover something off about a photograph you've taken, the last thing you want to do is make the entire dish again and repeat the process. A good photo editing tool will allow you to make certain colours vivid or adjust the white balance or fine-tune the exposure - these little tweaks can make all the difference! Adobe Photoshop, Fotor and Pixlr Editor are just some examples of editing platforms I've used in the past.

Plantain Choc-Chip Pancakes

5. Make the Food Look Tempting
Once you've got your lighting, props and angles down, you're well on your way and can be as experimental as you want. But how's the actual subject looking? Try layering ingredients, add greens and fresh veggies/fruits where necessary to brighten up the meal. Remember, we eat with our eyes so if you're not tempted to lick or bite into the picture then you're probably doing something wrong!

Baked Plantain Burger
And remember...have fun! No, seriously. Banish perfectionism. The process of photographing your cookbook should be as enjoyable as possible. That's the empowering part of self-publishing - there's no limit to how creative you can be. Good food photography is a never-ending learning process and the more you play around with it, the better it will get.