Monday, 17 November 2014

Apricot Gems


I called these little sweets Apricot Gems because they are so pretty and look like little jewels. They are stupidly easy to make and just contain 4 simple ingredients. These bite sized treats are colourful and pack a tasty punch... they are totally natural too, no nasty sugar or flavourings.
I like to make these during the run up to Christmas as they are a good energy boost without being too sickly (unlike a lot of the sweet stuff that is around during the Festive period) They are much needed at the moment as we are busily packing up out tiny little flat in preparation to move in a few weeks time. It has been a big decision but we have decided to leave our tiny apartment (30sq metres) and head out of Central London to the coast. It's going to be a big change... no 24 hour newsagents round the corner, no endless list of galleries to visit, no Whole Foods or Plant Organic (Eek!) and no 20minute bike ride to work (just a very long commute). But we will have (a wee bit) more space and most importantly we will be by the sea! We can't wait to be in our own place for Christmas so there may be a fair few Vegetarian Christmas recipes coming your way over the next few weeks as I start nesting and making preparations! But now its back to packing and snacking!

Makes 10 - 12
1 cup of dried apricots
1/2 cup desiccated coconut (plus extra for decoration)
Juice and zest of one lemon
2 tbsp. Agave nectar / honey / maple syrup
Place all of the ingredients in a blender and whiz until a smooth paste is formed. Depending on the strength of your blender this could take a few minutes.
Next take a heaped teaspoon of the mixture and roll in your hands to form small balls. Roll each of the balls in the extra desiccated coconut for decoration.

They can be kept in the fridge for up to a week.

Little Note:

I used a blender because I find that I get a smoother texture but you can use a food processor if you prefer. You can also make these by hand by just cutting up the apricots into tiny pieces with a sharp knife.
You could use other kinds of dried fruits. Pineapple tastes delicious; like a pina colada (use lime instead of lemon).

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Savoury Spelt Cake {with goats cheese, walnuts and prunes}

We had a quiet Saturday last weekend which inevitably meant that we ended up watching the usual Saturday morning cookery programmes! I never think that there are enough vegetarian recipes on those programmes but this time there were some really yummy dishes on The little Paris Kitchen series by Rachel Khoo. I am a bit of fan of Khoo, not least because she (like me) is trying to contend with baking in a seriously tiny kitchen! I have adapted her savoury cake a little to include spelt flour instead of white flour but generally I think you could chop and change the filling of this cake quite simply. Dried figs or apricots could replace the prunes and feta cheese, more nuts or seeds could replace the goats cheese. I am always a big fan of anything that can be easily transported to work with me and a couple of slices of this cake would make a delicious lunch or snack on the go. We had ours warm from the oven with homemade pumpkin soup, it would also be delicious toasted spread with some of this Pumpkin Pâté

2 cups spelt flour
1/2 cup ground almonds
1 tbs baking powder
150g goats cheese
1 cup walnuts (chopped)
3/4 chopped prunes
4 eggs
125ml plant milk
150ml olive oil or coconut oil
Salt and pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 180c and grease and line a loaf tin.
Start by mixing together the flour, baking powder, cheese, nuts and prunes in a large mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl whisk the eggs until the light and pale and then gradually add the milk, oil, salt and pepper.
Next, gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet slowly, gently folding the mixture until it is all combined (be careful not to over-beat at this stage).
Pour into the loaf tin and bake for around 30-40mins or until a knife comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake.  Leave to cool in the tin.

Little Note:

A dairy free version of this cake can be made by replacing the cheese with roast vegetables (peppers, aubergines, courgette...) and extra nuts.
For a protein boost you could add a couple of tablespoons of pea protein or hemp protein powder. This snack would make a good post workout snack.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Mini Pumpkin Pies


It’s that time of year again. Its the Eve of Halloween and you can’t move for tripping over pumpkins of all shapes and sizes at market! I have to admit that I only tried pumpkin pie a couple of years ago, I have no idea why it took me so long... that sweet, spicy filling is so delicious!

I decided to make these little mini pumpkin pies because they are super easy to make and taste yummy with a dollop of yogurt (dairy or plant based) on the top. There is a high proportion of actual pumpkin in the filling to add a greater depth of flavour and texture (plus goodness!) without the need for lots of cream. The pastry is a made from roasted hazelnuts, coconut oil and buckwheat flour so it is gluten free and nutritious. The pumpkin flesh is so sweet that you don’t need much sweetness but I used a little maple syrup, you could use honey or agave if you wanted.

Pie Crust:
1/2 cup hazelnuts (ideally soaked for at least 2 hours)
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1 tbs coconut sugar
3 tbs coconut oil
1/4 tsp salt

1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 tbs maple syrup
1 tbs plant milk
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Yogurt and cinnamon for decorating

Grease a cupcake tray (not muffin tray, you want the smaller cupcake tray that you would use for fairy cakes) and set your oven to 180c.

Start by cooking the pumpkin. I find that the easiest way to cook a pumpkin is to roast it whole in the oven for an hour or so (depending on the size of your pumpkin) until you can easily insert a knife  into the skin and the flesh becomes soft and velvety.

To make the crust whiz the hazelnuts, buckwheat flour, salt and coconut sugar in a blender or food processor until the hazelnuts have become ground. Next add the coconut oil and pulse again. The mixture will look and feel like wet sand which holds together if you squeeze it in he palm of your hand. Take a tablespoon of the mixture and place in cupcake tray. Use your fingers to mould the mixture to the edges of the tin to create little cups (see the image below). This mixture should make around 10 cases.

Place the crusts in the oven for 10mins until they start to turn a little golden. Then leave to one side to cool.

Next make the filling by whizzing all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor until you have a nice thick and creamy mixture. Pour / spoon the mixture into the cases filling them right up to the top. Place in the oven for 10 - 15mins or until the filling has set.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before removing the pies very carefully from the tray and leaving them to cool on a wire rack. Serve with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkling of cinnamon on top.

Little Note:

I roasted a whole pumpkin and used around ½ of the flesh for this recipe and the rest for curries and pancakes. But you don’t have to, if you are short on time you could use the creamed pumpkin that you get in a can.

You could substitute the hazelnuts for almonds or pecans just stay away from walnuts or brazil nuts, I haven’t tried them in this recipe but have a feeling that they might be a bit too oily.

Because these pumpkin pies are made using mostly pumpkin flesh (instead of all the other dairy bits that you normally find in a pumpkin pie) I would recommend serving them with a plant based / organic yogurt or this cashew nut cream.


Friday, 17 October 2014

Dorset Apple Cake

A few weeks ago we spent a couple of days in Lyme Regis with my family. I hadn’t been to Lyme before and was won over by its charming beauty. Made even better by the fact that we were staying in a lovely townhouse just near the front called The Arched House. There are a couple of photos below. It was stylishly decorated and full of lots of beautifully restored furniture and old maps and coastal paintings. The house also happened to be right next door to a bakery called Town Mill Bakery. This place serves the most amazing croissants! They are three times the size of normal croissants and just taste so fresh. There are massive bowls of fruit jam and organic butter lining the shared wooden benches waiting to be drizzled and smeared over the top of these croissants. Amazing! I am not going to attempt to post a croissant recipe, I don’ think my baking skills could stretch that far and I would probably have to put a healthy slant on it which wouldn’t be the point of croissants – I think they should be left as an unadulterated buttery treat.

On their way down to Lyme my parents picked up a Dorset Apple Cake from a bakery in Bridport (another attractive seaside town) which was pretty darn yummy. A slice was perfect with a cup of tea, not too sweet and not too heavy. I thought it would work well with a bit of buckwheat flour and coconut sugar to complement the sweetness of the apples and the cinnamon spice. So here is my healthy version of a Dorset Apple Cake, inspired by a sunny weekend in beautiful Lyme.

200g coconut oil (softened; I used the mild and odourless version)
200g coconut sugar
4 eggs
200g buckwheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp of almond milk
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsps of vanilla extract
200g cored and sliced apple
Juice of half a lemon

Preheat the oven to 170c and grease a cake tin ( I used a 7inch tin but to be honest is was a little on the small size, probably best to use a larger one if you can, but note that you won't have to bake it for so long - more like 40mins)

Start by coring and slicing the apples and then place them in a bowl and cover with the juice of half a lemon to stop them from browning.

In a food processor combine the oil and sugar, then add the eggs one at a time. Next add the flour, baking powder and cinnamon and whizz until combined then slowly add the almond milk and vanilla extract. The mixture should be smooth and the colour of toffee (it's pretty had at this stage to resist licking the spoon!)

Pour half of the mixture into a cake tin and then use almost of all of the apple slices (keep a few back for the top of the cake) to spread randomly in the . Add the remains of the cake mix on top.

Finally decorate with the remaining apple slices.

Bake in the oven for approximately 50mins - 1 hour or until golden brown and a knife comes out of the cake clean. Leave to cool and then enjoy!

Little Note:

The basis of this cake recipe comes from Madeleine Shaw’s website. She is a nutritional health coach (and an amazing chef!) Her version is made with a pomegranate jam which looks gorgeous! I haven’t tried that version yet but will definitely have to give it a go especially as pomegranates are coming into season at the moment (and are full of antioxidants)

You don’t have to use buckwheat for this recipe, rice flour, gluten free flour, spelt or even plain would all work well.

Coconut oil can easily be replaced with softened butter.

Pears would also be lovely in this cake and I would imagine that plums would be pretty good too. If you experiment with another fruit let me know how it goes.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Pumpkin Pâté

Autumn is well and truly here. Pumpkins and Squashes are arriving in the veggie box thick and fast!  I normally just roast them in the oven whole (for around an hour depending on their size) and then just add them to whatever dinner we are having, whether its a salad, risotto or dahl. I thought I would try and make a spicy pâté this time round. This recipe is really simple and tastes really delicious on oatcakes or as an afternoon snack. I made mine quite firey with the chilli powder but you can just add as little or much as you want. I used one small pumpkin for this recipe but you could use half a large pumpkin instead. The picture at the bottom of this post is from a farmers shop in Kent which we visited the other day on a walk, I couldn't resist taking a snap of all those different varieties (there were even more out of shot!)

one small pumpkin (or half a large pumpkin)
1 TSB coconut oil
1 clove of garlic
1 TBS ground cumin
1/2 Teaspoon chilli powder
2 TBS organic bio yoghurt

Place the whole pumpkin on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for between 40 and 60mins at 180c. The length of time will depend on the size of your pumpkin. You want to be able to easily insert a knife into the skin of the pumpkin.
When cooked remove from the oven, slice in half and allow to cool slightly. Scoop out the seeds (you can still use these, see the Little Note below) and remove the flesh from the skin - set to one side.
Heat the coconut oil in a large pan over a medium heat then add the garlic, cumin and chilli powder and fry for a minute or so until aromatic. Add the pumpkin flesh so that it absorbs all of the flavours then transfer the mixture into a blender or food processor along with the yoghurt.
Whizz until the mixture is nice and smooth. You may need to add a little more yoghurt or water to get a really nice smooth consistency. Taste and if needed add  a little salt or more spice.

Little Note

You can replace the coconut oil with olive oil and you don't have to use yoghurt, you could use water, plant milk or coconut yoghurt  instead.

Any pumpkin or squash would work well in this recipe. You will need approximately 500g of cooked flesh (without the skin and seeds).

You can change the spices if you wish, you don't have to add the chilli powder if you don't want to. Adding Garam Masala would give a milder more aromatic flavour.

The pumpkin seeds can be tossed in oil and salt and placed on a baking sheet. They can go into the oven at 180c for a approximately 15mins or until they are nice and crispy. They make a delicious snack or you can add them to oatcakes (as I did in the photo above) or bread.
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