Just WOW! In all seriousness this is the ultimate in chocolate indulgence and the perfect way to impress guests if you’re having a dinner party. It’s a bonus that it happens to be ridiculously easy to make and when I say ridiculously I mean RIDICULOUSLY! It can also be made well in advance, which takes some of the stress out of catering for a dinner party – you gotta love that:)
When I arrived back in Derry recently, I discovered a can of chestnut puree left over from Christmas – ahhh, what is Christmas without chestnuts?! I’m a little obsessed with the stuff particularly around that festive time of year so it cheered me no end to find this can of lovely, rich excellence waiting for me on my return. What to make, what to make? That indeed was the million dollar question. It definitely called for a dessert of some sort but I was stumped – my brain still isn’t quite in gear from the past few months of hectic nonsense.
This required a google search. To my joy I came across this wonderful blog that is simply chocabloc with fantabulous recipes – it’s teaming with them! I’m jealous as well as being in complete admiration:
This blog and this dessert require a round of applause – you can maybe hold off until you make it yourself but then you must do so, okay?
Another must is what you serve it with. Vanilla ice-cream. End of. Non-dairy for moi, of course, and I heartily recommend Swedish Glace. Even the ice-cream connoisseurs amongst you are sure to love this brand; it’s the creamiest non-dairy ice cream I’ve tried to date although I have heard wonderful things about BoojaBooja – sadly not available in Northern Ireland yet, boo:(
If you like cheesecake, you are going to love this although I’m wary about calling it a Vegan cheesecake because in no way is this a substitute – it stands alone in its greatness. I myself am not a massive cheesecake lover but this is the lightest, most chocolatey, and in the words of Vegalicious, decadent dessert I have had the pleasure to eat in a long time. A crowd pleaser of the highest calibre, if you will:) So divine. So lush. So make it! x
1 can sweetened/unsweetened chestnut puree
100g bar of 70% dark chocolate (pref. organic, fairtrade, non-dairy)
1/2 pack digestives (I used Sainsbury’s So Organic, which contain no dairy – winner!)
1 tbsp cocoa powder (yep, you know what I’m gonna say: pref. organic, fairtrade etc.)
4 tbsp organic cane sugar
3 tbsp soy butter
Line a small tin.
Put digestives in a bag (or food processor for extra ease) and bash into crumbs with a rolling pin.
Empty crumbs into a large bowl. Add 1 tbsp cocoa powder, 1 tbsp sugar and 3 tbsp of melted soy butter. Mix thoroughly, empty into tin and evenly spread the mixture. Press down the mixture firmly using either your hands or the back of a spoon (my preference). Place in fridge while you make the topping.
If using unsweetened chestnut puree blend in 3 tbsp of sugar (more if you have a mega sweet tooth but don’t forget there’s chocolate going in too). You could also add a tsp of vanilla essence at this point – I’m going to do this next time around. Melt the chocolate in a double broiler (or microwave) and stir into puree ensuring it is thoroughly combined.
Empty puree mixture onto crumb base and again using the back of a spoon spread evenly to the edges of the tin. Place in fridge for at least an hour – I left mine overnight.
I know how easy pesto is. I’ve known it for quite some time. So why it has taken me this long to make it I don’t know. Now that I have ventured into fresh pesto territory, however, there is no stopping me!
It’s especially pertinent because most of the pesto available has parmesan in it, which means for us vegans it is strictly off limits. This might seem like a hardship but in truth it really isn’t. Maybe I’m just lucky but since I’ve changed my omnivore ways I haven’t had one single craving. Why would I with all this amazing, fresh and new food that I’ve been experimenting with? I’m like a kid in a candy shop, except for the fact that my candy just happens to be all kinds of veg, herbs, pulses and wholegrains.
1 bunch basil (the equivalent to a supermarket packet)
3/4 tbsp pine nuts
2 small garlic cloves
4/5 tbsp olive oil
juice half lemon
salt and pepper
Wash the basil leaves and empty them into a food processor or blender along with all the other ingredients apart from the lemon.
Blitz all the ingredients and gradually add in the lemon juice – you may not need all the juice so remember to taste and season.
Yep, that really is it!
I made a very light accompaniment of finely sliced onions and pomodorino tomatoes (halved).
Softened the onion in a little oil in a frying pan, added the tomatoes to saute for a few minutes, seasoned, stirred in the fresh pesto and a little of the reserved water used to cook the pasta in.
Tossed the drained pasta into the pan and combined until it was thoroughly coated.
You could reserve a few basil leaves to sprinkle on top or indeed some toasted pine nuts – the possibilities are endless.
Fresh, light, summery and perfect with a chilled glass of wine x
I’m on a mission to simplify food. From what I’ve been reading recently there are many vegans out there struggling to feed themselves either because of time constraints and/or their confidence in the kitchen. I realise that I probably have more time than most to cook up a storm and I tend to forget that most people’s lives do not revolve around food the way mine does. So, I’m endeavoring to post some super easy recipes that can be made in batches, freeze well and are sure to please any hungry person, veggie, vegan or otherwise.
Curries are absolutely the go to meal for many vegans because there’s no adapting to do. It also makes eating out less of a pain because you can be rest assured there’ll be plenty of veg on the menu at your local Indian. This isn’t an Indian curry mind you, it is of the Thai variety, which has that gorgeous freshness permeating throughout it and being a new vegan myself I am a tad obsessed with coconut milk – what utterly wonderful stuff it is!
I am convinced that this curry is stress free and will be ideal for even the most reluctant of cooks. It is packed full of flavour and has a glorious richness that is sure to leave you feeling truly satisfied. Whilst it’s certainly not unhealthy the coconut milk does have quite a high fat content, so I would only make a dish like this once a week – be warned though, it is very moreish indeed! I would urge you not to substitute the coconut milk with the half fat kind because the watery consistency detracts considerably from the desired creaminess.
For me this is the ultimate in comfort food and is a must try for omnivores too – make it your meat free Monday meal and you’re sure to love it as much as any Chicken Korma or Prawn Saag. We’re cheating a little here with the ready made red curry paste but if there are great products available I see no reason not to incorporate them into your recipes. Saving time in the kitchen is important but cutting corners is not. These pastes might not be made with your own fair hands but they’re the next best thing and in my opinion are a store cupboard (or fridge when it’s been opened) essential.
1 cup red lentils
1 butternut squash
1 can full fat coconut milk
2/3 garlic cloves
1 tbsp thai red curry paste
salt and pepper
handful freshly chopped coriander (cilantro)
Rinse the red lentils, transfer to a small pot and cover with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then return to a simmer for 20mins.
Cut the squash into large chunks. I like to cut it in half first, lie it on a flat end and cut the skin off this way. Otherwise leave the skin on.
Finely dice the onion and then in a large pot fry in a little oil on a medium heat for several minutes. Season and add crushed garlic to the pan. Fry gently for a further 5mins.
Add the butternut squash to the pot, stir thoroughly, cover and leave to soften for a few minutes.
Drain the lentils – no need to rinse. Add to pot, stir in thai curry paste and half of the coconut milk. Stir thoroughly, cover and leave to simmer for a few minutes. Add the rest of the coconut milk, season, cover and simmer for 20mins until the squash is beautifully soft. Ensure not to overcook as the squash will lose its texture.
While the curry is cooking boil a kettle. Empty rice noodles into a wide bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to soak for 5-10 minutes. When the curry is ready drain the noodles and serve with some freshly chopped coriander.
Soups excite me. They really do. I don’t think a week goes by when I don’t have it even in the height of summer. So whilst it may be mid June and relatively warm I’m still hankering after a delicious bowl of goodness and none comes better than this sweet potato and carrot wonder. All that beta-carotene and complex carbohydrate brilliance is all very well and believe you me I do appreciate it but what is food if it doesn’t taste fantastic? We all want to be healthy and live long prosperous lives but a life without yummy eats is dull and boring and nobody wants a life that is dull and boring.
It’s so great to see how interested people are in my vegan diet. Not judgmental, not confused but genuinely intrigued. It tickles me when they ask; “what exactly do you eat?” and I take great pleasure in listing the many many amazing meals I’ve had and yet to have – because I’m always planning my next meal (food obsession? moi?). Bread is most definitely allowed, which can be a problem because a diet containing copious amounts of it is not particularly great so I treat myself to it two sometimes three times a week including pizza. This way I appreciate and enjoy it even more.
In fact the first bread I ever made was a focaccia and it was such a resounding success that I was almost fearful to try it again in case it wasn’t as good. It was the perfect focaccia or maybe I’m just remembering it through rose tinted glasses. Regardless, I don’t think any focaccia since has matched it greatness yet I do my best. I tried a new focaccia recipe yesterday – very different to my usual, which only requires you to knead the bread once and has less olive oil. Initially I was disappointed with it because the texture was slightly denser but in reality it is equally lovely with wonderful depth and it is perfectly matched with this velvety smooth soup.
My only other thought on the matter is…..my gosh do the Italians know what they’re doing with bread! Bellissima!
sweet potato soup
4/5 medium sweet potato
2 garlic cloves
1 vegetable stock cube
1 sprig rosemary
salt and pepper
Finely dice the onion and sweat in a little oil along with some seasoning. Roughly chop the garlic and add to the pan. Cover and sweat for a few minutes.
Peel the carrot and sweet potato and roughly chop into smallish pieces. Add to pan along with rosemary, cover and allow to soften for 5-10 minutes stirring occasionally.
Crumble in the stock cube and cover with water. Leave to gently simmer for 20-25 minutes.
When the veg is soft, remove the rosemary and transfer to a blender and blitz to a puree. Return to pan and top up with water – you can have it as thick or as thin as you like.
Taste and season. Do not let it boil. When serving swirl in some soy cream and chilli/thyme oil (recipe below).
chill and thyme oil
1 large red chilli
few sprigs of thyme
Chop the chilli as finely as possible going over it several times with a knife until it begins to exude it juices. This can be more easily done in a pestle and mortar. Transfer to a small bowl.
Remove the thyme leaves from the stalks, finely chop and add to bowl. Pour in several tablespoons of oil, stir and allow to infuse for at least 30mins before serving.
This is also a great dip for bread.
340g plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 7g packet instant yeast
2 tbsp olive oil (more for oiling sheet and drizzling on top)
In a large bowl mix the flour, salt, sugar and yeast.
Combine the water and oil in a jug.
Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in some of the water. Using your hands or a spatula/wooden spoon gradually mix the flour into the water until a dough is created adding more water as required. If it’s too sticky add more flour and likewise, if it’s too dry add more water. Trust your instinct.
Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 10-15 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Oil the bowl and return the dough to it. Cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise for 1 1/2 hrs.
Pre-heat oven to 190 degrees. Oil and/or line a tin or baking sheet.
The dough should have doubled in size. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a further 5 mins.
Transfer to tin, cover with damp cloth and allow to rise for another 10-15 mins. During which time you can chop the rosemary.
Dimple the dough with your fingers. Sprinkle with good quality sea salt and chopped rosemary. Generously drizzle with oil and bake for 25-30 mins.
Allow to cool on a rack. Serve on a chopping board and drizzle again (if you wish and I do!) with more olive oil:)
Serve alongside the sweet potato soup in thick slices.
One of my favourite things of late is to flick through my old cookbooks and veganize all the recipes. Yes, I agree, I am totally sad. Please don’t judge though, these are my small pleasures in an otherwise uncertain life. No home, no job, no possessions makes you a little crazy so I take comfort in my new found vegan lifestyle, which gets more exciting with each and every day.
I’ve begun to realise that I am quite lucky to already be a competent cook because I know that many new vegans struggle to stay on track because of their lack of cooking prowess and I can only hope that in some small way my blog can help ease that transition.
So, it’s summer and although the weather in Derry can be temperamental to say the least I’m still busting out the salads in the hope that the sun will show its face for more than one day in the week. Salads get a bad rap, especially in Ireland where they mainly consist of lettuce, tomato, onion and if you’re lucky a few slices of cucumber – I know my Irish readers are nodding their head in agreement:) In our house the dressing of choice was always thousand island dressing, ah, the memories!
I’m here to redeem the humble summer salad because I know how fantastic they can be. Obviously this can only be done in installments else I overload you with salad awesomeness. This particular one is from Tana Ramsey’s Homemade recipe book, which might not first appear to be very vegan friendly but I beg to differ – I’ve even been able to take some of the sauces meant for meat and put them to good use!
I just adore beetroot and have put it in many a salad (f.y.i. amazing in couscous) but I was looking for a way to allow it to shine in its own right and this dish seemed perfect. It’s like a summery sweet ‘n sour mix of freshness that encapsulates all that is wonderful about long hot days and cool lingering evenings – okay, I know I’m not on a Greek Island but I can dream can’t I?
2 small cooked beetroot
handful flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons organic white wine vinegar
3/4 tablespoons olive oil
Cut the beetroot into medium slices.
Slice each end off the clementine and carefully cut away the peel – like you would if you were going to segment an orange. You want medium clementine slices also, the same thickness as the beetroot.
On a plate neatly arrange the beetroot and clementine slices, as in the photo:)
In an empty jam jar (we’re green here and never throw away a good glass jar!) shake up the vinegar, olive oil and finely chopped parsley. Pour evenly over the salad and leave to infuse for a few minutes before serving as an accompaniment to, well…….anything!
Easy. As. That.
Phew! What. A. Week. I seriously have not had time to breathe since my last post and I really hate leaving a week between recipes. So much cooking and eating has happened in that time but unfortunately due to me being a complete dufus and allowing the adapter for my laptop charger to get packed with our possessions, which will arrive in Ireland in ummm, approximately 8 weeks, arrrrgggh, I couldn’t physically blog! See? Complete dufus. This is already a rambling post so I’ll start as I mean to go on. Brace yourselves for an avalanche of completely useless information about, well, me.
So, where do I begin? We had the movers in last Wednesday – we are moving from Chicago to Ireland (temporarily until we sort our lives out) – and they were a total and utter nightmare, the less said about them the better apart from the fact they packed all our food, which I specifically told them not to. Give me strength!
I had my first vegan dinner party, which went down a storm. Very happy about that:) Bearing in mind I was using scraps from the cupboard and fridge – oh and I did get the movers to unpack the food – I think I didn’t do too badly. For starters we had mixed bean soup (yum) followed by Aloo Gobi and fresh naan (officially my best naan to date, winner!) and finishing with strawberries dipped in chocolate (vegan, of course) and my now completely vegan truffles (otherwise known as fudge babies), of which half I covered in chocolate and the other half I covered in chocolate and then coated in shredded coconut (my personal favourite). We ate in a ramshackle fashion, as we had basically no furniture or proper crockery – my husband ate his out of a rice cooker bowl, haha! You know what though, it was one of the most relaxed and enjoyable dinner parties we’ve ever had. Just goes to show you that good food and good company are all that really matters.
Moving swiftly on to my aeroplane eats. In a word: diabolical. Thank goodness they had a small tub of tabbouleh to go with the meal (I ate mine and hubbies) else I would’ve starved. BA are currently on strike so I couldn’t order a vegan meal and I wasn’t organised enough to provide my own snacks. Lesson learnt. As soon as I arrived at Heathrow I made a beeline for Marks and Spencer, which was like a shining beacon that I couldn’t get to fast enough. Couscous never tasted so good!
So, fine, we arrive at our temporary London abode, have a nap and head out for dinner in Covent Garden. We end up in this lovely little Italian and both have Spaghetti Arrabiata (could’ve been spicier but was very fresh) with a side of Mediterranean veg roasted in balsamic vinegar – gorge! Couple of glasses of red with a friend in Fulham, a half hour walk home and we are ready for bed? Not quite, we spend a couple of hours tossing and turning, staring at the ceiling, talking and giggling before admitting defeat. At 4am we get up and I know the only cure for the zombie like state we’re in is hummus. The problem is I only have a can of butter beans in the cupboard that I accidently bought for a risotto that actually required broad beans – I was having an off day. Butter beans have never been my favourite pulse, which is why the can was still sitting there months later. Funnily enough though I have been curious about this fava dip of late and now was the perfect opportunity to try it!
Look, I know I can be rather over the top when it comes to my enthusiasm for food, recipes and new discoveries but don’t let that be an excuse for you to take these words lightly: Fava, totally, completely and entirely ROCKS!! In fact I posted a thread in my new fav forum and the title was – Move over Hummus……..Hello Fava! And it’s true. The creaminess, the rounded flavour, the fact that the texture was truly melt in your mouth without any effort (I did not have a blender, it was a fork and me baby!). Oh, and then the flatbreads! Tearing pieces off those fabulously chewy little breads and scooping the dip up was exactly the kind of soothing we needed at, by the time I made everything, 5am. My oh my, were we ready for some zzz’s after that. I realise that in such places as Egypt (which we’ve been to but curiously never came across fava) this is a breakfast dish but in all honesty all I wanted afterwards was my pillow. I slept like a baby and arose fresh as a daisy several hours later.
The cure for your own jetlag is as follows:
1 can butter beans
1 tablespoon tahini
salt and pepper
chilli powder/cayenne pepper/paprika
Drain and rinse the butter beans.
In a bowl crush the beans with the back of a fork until completely smooth.
Add a tablespoon of tahini, water and olive oil and mix with the fork. Even at this stage try to smooth the mixture with the back of a fork.
Season, stir and if necessary add a little more water or olive oil. You want a smooth texture but not runny. You’ll know when it’ll be easy to scoop up in a flatbread – just trust your own judgement and taste.
Before serving drizzle over olive oil and sprinkle some chilli, cayenne or paprika. Do not set it in the fridge, it needs to be at room temperature.
1 cup organic unbleached flour
1 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tsp yeast
salt and pepper
Empty the flour into a large bowl along with the yeast and seasoning. Mix thoroughly.
Make a well in the centre of the flour. Add the oil to the water and pour into the well. Using your hands gradually work the flour into the water until a soft dough is formed. If it’s too sticky add more flour, if it’s too dry add a little more water. Again, trust yourself and don’t panic. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently for 10mins. Oil a bowl, turn the dough in it, cover with a tea towel and leave to sit for 10mins.
Heat a frying pan/skillet until it starts to smoke. Tear off a piece of dough and form into a round(ish!) shape. You don’t need a rolling pin, just use your hands. Place in pan and cook for mere minutes before turning over. The other side should only take seconds really. You want a few brown marks dotted around the bread, that is all. Keep warm under a clean tea towel. You should get 5/6 flatbreads from these measurements depending on how large you want the breads.
Relax, enjoy and sleep (perchance to dream of Fava).
What I must say very quickly though is that this, in my humble opinion, is the holy grail of baked falafel recipes. I have searched high and low for the perfect one and I really do think this is it: crunchy on the outside, moist on the in, packed full of flavour and the right amount of spice, healthy because it’s baked, you can use canned chickpeas and they won’t fall apart – need I go on? Suffice to say this is not my creation although I would love to take credit for them. A much better cook and blogger than myself posted about these frickin’ fabulous darn diggity awesome balls of loveliness and all I am merely doing is passing on the love:
Yes, I may be an inferior being to the wonderful chow vegan but that’s fine because the most important thing is that we all get to enjoy these mind blowingly good, veggie equivalent of the hearty meatball, and all round chickpea crowd pleaser.
Lastly, I owe my tabblouleh inspiration to the one and only Ottolenghi, an omnivore who sure as hell knows how to work those vegetables:
p.s. In salads I prefer scallions to red onion mainly because having onion breath all day is not my idea of fun:)
Didn’t do very well with the not waffling bit, did I? Sheesh, I tire myself sometimes!
1 can organic chickpeas
2 cloves garlic
2 heaped tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons flour
tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 375 degress fahrenheit/190 celsius.
Drain and rinse chickpeas. Transfer to a small bowl and crush with a fork.
Finely dice the onion. Add to the chickpeas along with the garlic, cumin, chilli, parsley, baking, flour and mix thoroughly. Next add the juice of half a lemon, tablespoon of olive oil, seasoning and combine until it begins to come together. It will still be a little crumbly so don’t worry. Whatever you do, do not be tempted to throw everything into the food processor – we’re not making hummus:)
Take a tablespoon of the mixture and as best as you can roll into a ball. You may have to coax it by pressing it firmly together so it will adhere. You should get approximately 9 balls. Set in fridge for up to an hour.
Lightly oil a baking tray and transfer the balls. I like to flatten them a little by pressing down with my fingers. That way they get a nice crispy top and bottom.
Bake for fifteen minutes each side and serve with……
1 cup bulgar wheat
3 scallions (spring onions)
1/2 bunch (a large bunch) parsley
1 heaped teaspoon cumin
1/2 lemon (the other half!)
2/3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper.
In a bowl measure out 1 cup bulgar wheat and add to it one cup of boiling water. Cover with a plate and leave to soak for 30mins.
Finely chop the scallions and dice the tomatoes. Gather your bunch of parsley and chop as finely as you possibly can, going over it repeatedly if you have to – careful not to bruise it and avoid the food processor at all costs.
When the bulgar wheat has soaked for a sufficient amount of time transfer to a large bowl. Some people like to rinse bulgar wheat before and/or after. I don’t and it always turns out beautifully – it’s a matter of choice I guess. Add the rest of the ingredients: scallions, tomatoes, parsley, cumin, seasoning, lemon juice and oil. Mix thoroughly. As Ottolenghi said ‘the parsley is the star of the show’, so if you feel the ratio of bulgar wheat to parsley isn’t right then add more herbage. I felt mine was just about perfect for mine and hubbie’s tastes.
Set in fridge and go about making the other accompaniment….
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Peel the cucumber. Slice very finely. In a shallow bowl or dish spread out the cucumber and sprinkle with sugar. Pour the white wine vinegar evenly over the cucumber and set in fridge for 10-15mins, giving it a stir once.
This is also lovely sprinkled with some freshly chopped dill.
Phew! Well that’s it:) Totally worth it in every way I promise and I think it would work really well for a dinner party because you can prepare everything beforehand – can’t ask for better than that!
Are we all ready for an avalance of truly awesome meat-free recipes? Well here goes! This is one of my all time favourite recipes and hubbie requests it more often than any other dish. Seriously! Have I trained him well or what? Anyhoo, if you don’t like mushrooms you might want to check out now because this is all about the shrooms. Oh wait, did I tell you this was a practically no cook, do it in fifteen minutes type of a recipe? I didn’t! Okay then, this is a no cooking (bar the boiling of some pasta) do it in fifteen minutes type of a recipe that will wow anyone who is lucky enough to come into contact with it. It’s gloried assembling is what it is, which means that anyone with a busy schedule and a decent palate is going to love, love, love it. And then love it some more.
Honestly, I had no clue until I made this dish how incredible mushrooms can be. Their texture is totally lost when you fry, grill or boil them. To appreciate them in their true, how they’re supposed to be, glory you have to eat them like this. Don’t be afraid. They are not raw. Let me repeat, they are NOT raw. You could say this is a vegetable cevice because the lemon juice tenderises them so beautifully that you too will wonder what you’ve been doing your whole mushroom eating life. Be warned – there is no going back from this point forward.
If you’re brave enough to take the plunge and give these ickle shrooms a chance your taste buds will thankyou forever more or at least until your husband (wife, boyf, girlf) requests another batch of lemony, thymey, garlicky wonderfulness.
nb. this is a slightly altered recipe from Nigella Express.
200g chestnut mushrooms
2 cloves garlic
5/6 sprigs of thyme
3/4 tablespoons olive oil
handful of grated parmesan (omit if you’re vegan)
Bring a large pan of water to the boil.
Finely slice the mushrooms. Transfer to a large dish. I like to use a dish instead of a bowl because the flavours are more evenly distributed.
Zest the lemon. Chop the thyme. Press the garlic. Transfer to the dish. Squeeze over the juice of the lemon. Drizzle over the olive oil. Season and mix thoroughly. Leave to stand (and for all the flavours to infuse) until pasta is ready.
Grate the parmesan.
Salt the water for the pasta. Cook until al dente – around 10mins. When it is ready to drain be sure to reserve a little (a ladelful) of the water – you’ll need this in a minute.
In a large bowl add the drained pasta, parmesan and then the mushroom mixture. Add the reserved liquid. Toss thoroughly ensuring every strand is coated.
Serve in bowls x