I heart Cornwall x

What a weekend! It doesn’t get much better than camping in Cornwall (beautiful Porthleven to be specific) especially when the weather is glorious and the company rocks. I’m well and truly exhausted but strangely invigorated at the same time and still trying to wrap my head around the fact we are going to be living there! I honestly can’t believe how lucky I am and all the better that we have found the perfect property.

My husband was a little reluctant to return to his hometown of Penzance and this was not helped by the fact I discovered a fantastic flat next door to his old home – weird or what? I managed to convince him to at least view it before writing it off and we both instantly fell in love with the place. You would not believe the view! As I type I’m nervously waiting on a phonecall from the estate agents because unfortunately it would seem someone else is also interested:( I don’t know which way it’s going to go but it helps that we also realised how much we loved Penzance and after seeing a rather grim property in St.Ives and battling with the tourists it became apparent this was not the place for us. Don’t get me wrong, I adore St.Ives – in my opinion one of the most picturesque towns in the world – but we’re leaving London to get away from the crowds and Penzance offers the best of both worlds.

What has all this got to do with food? Well, whilst exploring Penzance we chanced upon the most amazing health food store called Archie Browns. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better I learnt there was a great vegan cafe upstairs where I then had a delicious three bean chilli and salad. It came topped with a minted yoghurt dressing and my immediate reaction was to question the waitress thinking I had received the vegetarian version. I was a little embarrassed but pleased, of course, to be told it was in fact vegan yoghurt and let me tell you, it tasted go-od:) I know how progressive that part of the world can be particularly when it comes to cuisine but that didn’t detract from my sheer delight in realising I have a vegan haven on my doorstep. I’m sure this is just the tip of the iceberg too and I can’t wait to get stuck into my Cornish vegan lifestyle and hopefully contribute some of my own food to the local scene.

I’ve always known Cornwall was my spiritual home but visiting somewhere and living there are two very different realities. This weekend, however, has just reinforced my love for the place and I know we’re going to be so happy there. Just when I thought Cornwall couldn’t give any more we stopped off in Falmouth on the way back to Solihull to grab a bite to eat and had the most amazing meal in a wonderful little establishment called The Hut. They were so incredibly accommodating in meeting my vegan needs and ensured there was no dairy in my risotto and soup. The chef topped my risotto with half a roasted garlic that blew me away – I was a very happy diner. Everything was so fabulously fresh, seasoned to perfection and the blue poppy seeds in the salad dressing were a touch of genuis – we’ll definitely be back! The food was helped by the cosy atmosphere that just screamed Cornwall – so snug, so cute, my kind of place. It was the end of a long weekend so you’ll forgive me for just filling my face and not taking any photos.

There were some other good eats to be had – we had tofu wieners (purchased in Archie Browns), which we ate in fresh wholemeal rolls from a local bakery. Our camping pals Matt and Michelle (my Sister in law and her partner) were a bit dubious about these only to be totally won over by their wonderful taste and texture. Michelle is vegetarian and isn’t keen on fake meats, which I totally get, but she actually really enjoyed these and Matt also liked them which chuffed me no end. These are absolutely getting bought again – I’m thinking a wiener dog and soy shake house warming, oh yeah!

On Monday morning after a fun filled weekend and maybe some overindulging on the alcohol front (vegan cider and red wine) my garlic mushroom sandwiches went down a treat:)

Oh and totally randomly the costcutter near to the campsite had a fantastic spice and herb section where I managed to pick up some mega cheap bits and bobs including blue poppy seeds, which thanks to The Hut, I’ll be adding to my salad dressings.

The only bizarre vegan moment the entire weekend was when I asked about the vegan options in a pub and had crab suggested to me – you win some, you lose some!

Oh man, I am so excited now but am trying not to wish these two weeks away – all part of the new ‘enjoy the moment’ attitude I’m trying to implement. It’s so hard though because I’ve got that sea air in my lungs, those views burned into my mind and I just want to get down there pronto. Patience is not a strength of mine! For now though I just want that phone to ring and put me out of my misery. Wish me luck x

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Bulgar Wheat Lunch

We’ve got a big weekend ahead of us. Not only is it a bank holiday but we’re off to Cornwall tomorrow to visit family, go camping and we’re also squeezing in some property viewings for the impending big move – ahhhhh! We’re looking primarily in the St.Ive’s and Penzance area although we are considering Truro (the big smoke!). Our hearts say St.Ive’s because we’ve dreamed of living there for a while but our heads say Penzance – decisions, decisions! Truro is a bit of an outsider at present but there are some amazing properties to be had there and quite a few of them are these crazy progressive eco-houses, which is right up our street. Ugh, it’s so tough but at least we’ll have a better idea after seeing the places in person.

Anyway, I couldn’t leave you high and dry and without a sweet little recipe over the long weekend and seeing as I’m mega busy tomorrow (filming a short film, which is nice) this is the only opportunity I have to post.

I really love bulgar wheat and it’s a fab alternative to couscous. The instructions on the packet really make me laugh though – recommending you bring it to the boil, simmer for far too long and then drain? Really? I mean who comes up with this nonsense and how does it get printed on a packet that thousands are going to read and follow to the letter. Listen up Sainsbury’s, that is NOT the best way to cook bulgar wheat!! Try one part bulgar wheat to the same amount of boiling water, cover and allow to soak for 10-15mins and hey presto…. perfect bulgar wheat! No need to drain, no faffing with pots involved – c’mon now, you should know better silly Sainsburys.

I’m often in the house during the day and so I do have time to prepare nice lunches but even when I was teacher I would make a batch of something not unlike this and take it into school with me each day. You could totally mix it up doing a bulgar wheat salad for the first half of the week and a pasta or rice salad for the second half. Healthy, quick, filling, no lunchtime re-heating required and best of all it tastes gorge:)

bulgar wheat lunch

1/2 cup bulgar wheat

2 small carrots

1 green pepper

1 small cooked beetroot

several radishes

handful chopped flat leaf parsley

dressing

1 tsp dijon mustard

1 tsp sugar

salt and pepper

2 garlic cloves

1/2 lemon juiced

2 tsp white wine vinegar

3 tsp olive oil

Place the bulgar wheat in a large bowl and cover with 1/2 cup of boiling water. Cover with a plate and set aside.

Cut the green pepper into quarters, put on a baking sheet and place under grill. Grill until the skins are blackened. Cover with a plastic bag or put in a container until slightly cooled. Then peel the blackened skin – do not rinse under a tap as the flavour will be lost. Cut into large pieces.

Peel and grate the carrot. Wash the radishes and cut into quarters. Cube the beetroot. Finely chop the parsley.

For the dressing put all the ingredients into a jar and shake.

Fluff up the bulgar wheat with a fork and mix in all the ingredients. Pour over the dressing and mix ensuring everything is completely coated.

Have a wicked bank holiday weekend xx

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Vegan Banana and Pecan Muffins

Not that long ago I was bestowing the virtues of silicon muffin cases and here I am again, well, um, bestowing the virtues of silicon muffin cases:) The main reason being the waste that comes with making these small but perfectly formed tasty delights. As much as I love all those pretty paper cases it does weigh heavily on my mind that it is kind of needless particularly now that silicon cases are available and can be used again and again.

Ok, I know that silicon is just another type of plastic and can be pretty expensive to produce but it is a durable material that lasts a long time – so I won’t need to replace my cases for hopefully several years. I figure that this is better than using paper cases, which probably don’t come from a sustainable source and are ensuring the further depletion of our precious forests. But aren’t paper cases recyclable? Well, yes, but I think that can be a little bit deceiving because recycling isn’t as straight forward as we like to think. For instance, much of the waste we send for recycling gets exported to places like China – seriously! Surely that can’t be more environmentally friendly than buying some silicon cases that are going to prevent this kind of waste altogether.

Look, as I’ve said before, I’m not saying I’m never going to use paper cases again but for the most part and for my everyday baking I’ll be sticking to the silicon until my cakes begin to stick to them;)

Onto the muffins themselves. You might remember a recipe I posted for Nigella’s Banana and Butterscotch Muffins before I went the way of Veganism. I really loved those muffins – seriously moist, seriously good. Here then is my vegan version minus the butterscotch morsels and in place of them some much healthier pecans. These could easily be breakfast muffins or a just a mid morning or afternoon snack. Whenever you choose to eat them they’re sure to bring a smile to your face because these babies are mouthwateringly fabulous – no exaggeration.

Boy have my baking skills come a long way in the past few months. Before my vegan days I just didn’t get baking – I’m talking about the quantities here. I wouldn’t know how many eggs to use, how much liquid or the functions of either. Previously I had to follow a recipe if I was baking otherwise I’d be at a complete loss. Cooking came so naturally to me and it was a real frustration that I couldn’t as easily wrap my head around cakes and cookies. It’s a different story now though. I feel like I’ve been released from the shackles of traditional baking and I’m free to experiment with amounts and ingredients. A veil has been lifted and I suddenly get it:)

Another thing that used to bug me when I followed ‘normal’ baking recipes was the fact that they always made such huge quantities of whatever it was I was making. There’s only two of us so I don’t really want 24 of anything floating around because they’re going to get eaten and 12 muffins in matter of days isn’t exactly good for my thighs. So this is a double whammy winner because not only are these vegan muffins healthier by default anyway but the recipe only makes eight medium sized muffins or four larger ones, which in my opinion is perfectly acceptable for a weekly sweet treat.

vegan banana and pecan muffins

1/2 cup brown rice flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 heaped tsp baking powder

pinch salt

1/4 rice milk

1 tsp oil (I used nut oil)

1 tsp white wine vinegar (cider vinegar would be excellent too)

1 banana

1/4 cup pecans

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius/350 farhenheit. In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients – flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

In a small bowl or cup combine the rice milk, oil and vinegar. Set aside – it may curdle a bit and that is fine.

Mash the banana and chop the pecans.

Add the banana to the dry mixture and pour in half the liquid. Combine with a spatula adding more liquid as necessary. You want a thickish batter so if you’ve reached the desired consistency before you used all the liquid then that is fine. If you think it is too thick then feel free to loosen the mixture with a little more rice milk.

Stir in the pecans. Make sure not to overwork the batter as the muffins will loose their lightness.

Divide mixture into the cases filling them half way up and bake for 18-20mins. Keep and eye on them – every oven is different and yours may be ready after 15mins. Insert a toothpick into the centre – if it comes out clean they are ready.

Allow them to cool before removing from the silicon cases.

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An Ode to Marmite (and a pretty fantastic vegan onion gravy recipe to boot!)

Oh Marmite, I hardly knew ye

Then I went vegan and your loveliness threw me

You took me by surprise and now I’m in rapture

Your dulcet tones sing to me ’cause I think I’ve found my cheese cure

So deep is your colour, so strong is your taste

Not a drop of that b12 nectar do I want to waste

Who knew you’d been waiting there all this time

Until I discovered you and wrote this wee rhyme:)

Um, don’t give up the day job? Moving swiftly on to the reason for this post – my knew found love for Marmite. You know, the ‘you either love it or hate it’ stuff? I never really got that because there was a period of my life (all of it until now) were I neither loved nor loathed it. I’d tasted it. It was fine, inoffensive, pleasant even but nothing that sent me into head staggers. So what’s changed? Well, in a nutshell, my tastebuds. They are alive with the taste of food right now and I’m loving it.

I don’t know what it is about going vegan but your senses become heightened – seriously, I kid you not! Everything tastes better now and my tongue and palate are super sensitive to strong flavours like…..marmite. It’s all my Husbands fault really because he came home one day enthusing about the marmite and toast he’d experienced that day at work – he’s was particularly excited that it contained the illustrious b12 vitamin:) Hmmm, marmite, I thought. So, the next time I went to Sainsbury’s I popped a jar in the trolley and moseyed on home to have a slice of marmite toast myself – this is a little bit of a fib because my Hubbie actually made the toast. Anyway, hello! Seriously, I couldn’t believe how delish it was – really and truly an eye popping moment.

Hubbie compared it to a strong mature cheddar and I can totally see where he’s coming from. It’s got a depth of flavour that is so unusual and moreish that I’m now hooked. I find myself gazing at that little pot of sticky, dark awesomeness and wondering what else I can use it in. For the first time since  renouncing meat we had vegan bangers and mash with onion gravy. It suddenly dawned on me that luscious goo might work well in this most wonderful but perhaps now slightly lacking sauces. I’m desperate to ensure my veganised dishes aren’t just a poor replica to my previous meat masterpieces so I’m forever trying to push the boundaries in order to pack those meals with flavour and boy did it work this time! I mean really work!

There’s no going back. Marmite has entered my life and I have a feeling we’re going to have a long and very happy relationship x

vegan onion gravy with marmite

1 onion

1 organic vegetable stock cube

1 tsp marmite

1 tbsp sugar

1 tsp brown rice flour

1 tbsp oil

boiling water

salt and pepper

Thinly slice the onion lengthways. Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion, season and gently fry until it begins to soften.

Add the sugar, season again and allow the onions to caramelise for up to 10-15mins on a medium heat.

Boil a kettle. Add the stock cube to the pan and pour over enough water to cover the onions completely. Stir the sauce/gravy ensuring the stock cube has completely dissolved. Allow to simmer for a few minutes before adding the marmite. Stir until the marmite has completely dispersed into the gravy.

Put the brown rice flour into a small bowl and add some of the liquid from the gravy to make a paste. Add to the gravy along with a little more water (how much you add is up to you – how much you want and how thick/thin do you like it?) and mix thoroughly making sure there are no lumps and the sauce is beginning to thicken and take on a gravy like consistency.

Taste, season if necessary (you may not need to – I didn’t) and serve with vegan sausages, mustard mash and peas – absolute heaven.

Whoever said British food doesn’t rock needs to eat this and then their words;)

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Savoury Sweetcorn Pancakes

Summer means barbecue and barbecue means sweetcorn. In my opinion there is nothing better or more summery than a deliciously charred corn on the cob, which I’ll admit to previously smothering in butter but since going vegan I’ve finally been able to appreciate how divine that naked corn actually is. What was I thinking masking that fabulously sweet flavour all these years? Bbq’d corn needs nothing to enhance its already perfect taste.

I was more than surprised then to find this most perfect of treats in a rather unusual place. Unusual in in the sense that it would never normally have entered my head to visit this establishment when I was a meat eater and more so now that I do not consume animal products. But when you’re in a strange city at 10 o’clock at night starving hungry and surrounded by nasty take-out joints and noisy bars, Nando’s seemed like a safe haven.

Am I seriously saying that the home of Peri-Peri chicken was a safe haven for a vegan? Well, kinda. What I will say is that I was more than pleasantly surprised at their veggie offerings – three ‘burger’ options: veggie, beanie and portobello mushroom. I went for a portobello mushroom pitta with pineapple and a side of corn on the cob. I was slightly concerned about the sauce which looked creamy so I had to ask what the ingredients were. I sorta felt like a dufus because Nando’s is basically one notch up from McDonalds and I wasn’t really expecting the employees to know anything about the food and what went into it. So when the waitress brought out a book with all the nutritional information laid out clearly I was amazed. There it was in black and white  – ‘safe for vegans’. Written in the official Nando’s book! I can’t believe us vegans were even taken into consideration given that the place is famed for it chicken.

Now, I do realise many vegans would take issue with me even contributing to the consumption of an unhealthy amount of white meat but I gotta tell ya I was pretty darn happy I discovered another place I could frequent in the ‘real’ world. Why do I even want to be part of the ‘real’ world? Well, it’s like this really – I figure if I don’t eat in ‘normal’ restaurants and make a point of enlightening these places to the fact that not everyone eats meat or dairy then they’ll be more reluctant to put any veggie options on the menu because no-one is ordering it. Whether we like it or not that’s the way the world works and all I’m trying to do is change it one meal at a time – or two if you include my Hubbie’s order;) Sure I could take myself out of the equation completely and only eat at vegan places or at home but what good is that going to do? The more we bring awareness to our vegan needs the more likely we are to be catered for in the future.

So I take my hat off to Nando’s for thinking of us veggie’s when they had no real need to because there are no shortage of peri-peri chicken lovers out there. Maybe the next time you find yourself in a Nando’s why not broaden your horizons and try one of their non-chicken options. I know I’ll be having a side of ratatouille as well as that sumptuous chargrilled corn.

savoury sweetcorn pancakes (make 6 medium sized pancakes)

1 cup flour (I finished off the buckwheat flour I had but will use plain next time)

1 heaped tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 cup soya milk

1 can organic sweetcorn

1/2 onion

2 cloves garlic

pinch of chilli flakes

small handful chopped parsley

oil

salt and pepper

Heat a little oil in pan. Finely chop the onion and add to pan. Season, add the chilli flakes and allow to soften for a few minutes.

Mince the garlic – I like to do it by hand because I hate washing the garlic press and there’s no waste! Add to pan and cook for a few minutes.

Drain the sweetcorn, add to pan and allow to heat through before tossing in the parsley and mixing thoroughly.

In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Pour in the soya milk bit by bit until you get the correct consistency – thicker than a normal pancake batter but still pourable. You may need a little less milk or a little more, that’s why I recommend not pouring it in all at once.

Lastly mix in the sweetcorn ensuring it is evenly dispersed throughout the batter. Wipe the pan clean, heat a little more oil and ladel or pour in the mixture – I was able to fit two medium sized pancakes in my pan. Wait until it starts to bubble slightly and then turn over for a minute or so until the other side is cooked. Keep warm in the oven (a very low heat is recommended) or in a pancake warmer – I want one sooooo badly:(

I served mine with a baked sweet potato and a colossal salad – yum!

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Come Dine With Me – part dieu:)

Okay, so I promised you more recipes from my vegan dinner party and here I deliver. I’m still on a bit of a high from not just the success of my dinner party but also the amount of views I’ve had on my blog over the past few days – it has truly blown me away. This is all thanks to The Vegan Society because they were kind enough to post a link to my blog on their facebook page:)

I feel like I’m in a new phase of my blog, which is very exciting and it can only get better! The next big change will come from our move to Cornwall when I finally have my own kitchen – of course I’m totally exaggerating when I say ‘finally’ because in reality it’s only been a few months but it feels like an eternity:( My main requirement is a gas stove because I am at the end of my tether with electric hobs – those things are a fully fledged nightmare, aaarrrrggggh! No temperature control whatsoever and I have a habit of turning on the wrong one and wondering half an hour later why my spuds aren’t boiling – not amusing.

Anyway, time enough for my house hunting post. For now some shameless product placement;) I don’t cheat when cooking. I like to do everything myself from scratch. It’s just the way I am. However, when I discover a product that not only makes my life a little bit easier but is also vegan friendly in a ‘I can’t believe that’s Vegan’ kinda way I feel compelled to use it just in case they stop making it because of people like me who would rather slave over perfecting said dish than simply buying it from the supermarket freezer.

Jus-Rol is one of those products. From the get go let’s get one thing clear, not all their pastry is vegan friendly. As far as I’m aware it is only the puff and shortcrust – which would obviously leave the filo as the odd one out, which is cool bananas by me. It does say ‘vegan friendly’ on the box so just have a look if you’re worried.

Dinner parties can be a tad stressful. Juggling different dishes, making sure everything gets to the table hot. Ensuring the whole evening flows seemlessly from one dish to the next so sometimes a shortcut is welcome – especially if it’s a specialist item like pastry, which, let’s face it, requires a knack and I’m not entirely sure I have that knack.

To aid this seemless flow and give the illusion that I’m actually in control I try to prepare most of my menu in advance. I would go as far to say that I do very little cooking when my guests arrive, which usually means preparing some things the day before like the nibbles and dessert. On the day I make sure everything is ready to go especially if I’m doing a hot dish for either starter or main. So that means being sad enough to chop everything and put them into little ramekins – y’know, like in those cookery shows? I sometimes worry about myself.

I assure you if you do the same it will take a lot of the worry out of your dinner party and mean you can spend more time with your guests. I wouldn’t say I’m the perfect host but I’m definitely getting better. I reckon in a few years time I will have nailed this ‘hostess with the mostess’ lark!

minted pea, apsaragus and caramelised red onion tart (made with jus-roll puff pastry)

1 1/2 sheets jus-roll pastry

1 pack of fine stem asparagus

2 cups frozen peas

4/5 red onions

handful freshly chopped mint

juice half lemon

olive oil

sugar

salt and pepper

Remember to put the pastry in the fridge to defrost several hours before you need it.

To make the minted pea puree place the peas in a bowl, cover with freshly boiled water and leave to sit for a few minutes. Drain and place in a food processor along with the chopped mint, a glug of olive oil, lemon juice and seasoning. Blitz until you get a coarse puree – try to not to over do it, as  few whole peas here and there is nice. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large frying pan. Finely slice the red onions lengthways. Add to the pan, season and allow to sweat for several minutes before sprinkling on a tablespoon of unrefined, organic, fairtrade sugar. Add a little more oil is necessary and allow to gently sweat for 30mins. You can add a touch sugar half way through to encourage the caramelisation. Set aside.

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degreed celsius/350 degree celsius. Cut the pastry sheet into 4 squares and half the other half sheet (this is to make 6 tarts).

Spread on the pea puree ensuring to leave a rim around the tart for the pastry to puff up. Place the prepared asparagus (washed and trimmed) on top of the puree and then the red onion. Bake for 25-30mins.

individual summer puddings

loaf of white bread (a good loaf not the plastic bread sort)

2 punnets blackberries

2 punnets raspberries

1 punnet blueberries

1 cup frozen cherries

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

Place the berries in a pan with the sugar and water. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer for several minutes until the berries begin to exude their juices and soften. Keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t soften too much. Take off the heat and leave to one side.

Cut the bread into thick slices and remove the crusts. Use teacups for your moulds. Dip the bread the summer fruits so it soaks up the juices. Shape the bread to fit the teacup ensuring there are no gaps. Fill each with the summer fruits mixture to the brim. Cover the top with some more soaked bread.

There may be juice left at the end so just spoon it evenly over the top of the cups. Place in fridge overnight. To serve loosen the pudding with a knife, placing a plate on top, turning it over and gently tapping with the handle of a knife until the pudding easily slips out.

whipped coconut cream (from Chloe Coscarelli’s blog)

1 can full fat coconut milk

1/4 cup powdered sugar

Place the coconut milk in the fridge overnight. Do the same with the bowl and whisk you’re going to be using.

The next day scrape the top layer of cream out of the top of can leaving the remaining liquid at the bottom. Place in the cooled bowl along with the powdered sugar and whisk until fluffy. Put the cream into a serving bowl, cover and place in fridge until ready to use.

This cream is delicious beyond words – trust me! My Mum licked the bowl clean:)

p.s. major apologies for the rubbish pics – these are from the night and I already felt a bit weird taking photos in front of my guests so they are hurried mess. Och well!

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Come Dine With Me – Vegan style!

So, I had my dinnerparty last night, which is being covered by a local magazine here in Derry and i’m glad to say it was a success:) I was happy with how all the food turned out – okay, a few little tweaks here and there maybe but on the whole it went as I had hoped it would.

I most probably took on a far greater task than I should have; four nibbles, two of which had two or three different compenents -yikes! I must need my head checked! Being a hopeless perfectionist a few little things irked me – one being that I forgot to put the herbs into my linguine with breadcrumbs but in reality it didn’t massively affect the overall taste. I also forgot to sprinkle my toasted almonds (that I’d made a point of toasting even though I was pushed for time at that point – jeez!) onto my potato salad but I remembered in the nick of time and brought them to the table for people to use if they’ve wished. This inadvertently worked out quite well, as I had totally forgotten one of my guests isn’t keen on nuts – phew, close call!

Obviously there are way too many recipes to list in one blog post so I’m going to pick a few at a time – and in fact I may not get through all the recipes on the menu. Ah, the menu! I went for a summery feel with an emphasis on freshness – salads, summer fruits, which even extended to my choice of pre-dinner drink. I think each dish worked well in its own right as well as working as a cohesive menu – I probably over thought the whole thing but hey, ho, old habits die hard, eh?

For your perusal, my lovely readers, here is my ‘Come Dine With Me’ menu – vegan style, of course;)

Pre-dinner drink (Aperitif – if we’re being posh!): Elderflower Prosecco Cocktail.

Nibbles: Butternut Squash Crostini. Roasted Tofu with Basil Pesto. Hummus and Guacamole with tortilla chips and crudites.

Starter: Linguine in a Breadcrumb Sauce.

Main: Minted Pea, Asparagus and Caramelised Red Onion Tart served with a Green Bean and Potato Salad in a Lemon Dijon Dressing and Summertime Succotash.

Dessert: Summer Pudding served with Cherry Sorbet and Whipped Coconut Cream.

A big shout out to the beautiful fairtrade flowers I found for the dinner table and room – you made everything look so pretty and girly. Talking to flowers? I really must’ve lost it!

Summertime Succotash (from Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet)

3 cups frozen broad beans

2 cups frozen sweetcorn

2 cups cherry tomatoes or similar small toms

1 onion

1 garlic clove

handful freshly chopped flat leaf parsley

handful freshly chopped basil

1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar

salt and pepper

Heat some oil in a pan and gently fry the onion until soft. Season with salt and pepper. Add the minced garlic and cook for a few minutes. Place broad beans in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit for a few minutes before draining. Peel the broad bean from their skins – it’s a bore (or therapeutic!) but worth it. Place the sweetcorn in a bowl and also cover with freshly boiled water – leave for a few minutes before draining. Wash and halve the cherry tomatoes.

Add broad beans to the pan with the softened onion. Then add the sweetcorn and allow to just heat through before tossing in the tomatoes. Season and allow the tomatoes to soften just a smidge – ensuring they don’t lose their shape etc. before tossing in the herbs, seasoning and white wine vinegar before giving it a good stir and then placing it in the fridge for later.

Green Bean and Potato Salad with a Dijon Lemon Dressing (From VeganEats)

1 bag of salad potatoes

1 bag of green beans

3 spring onions

large handful of finely chopped dill

handful flaked almonds

salt and pepper

dressing:

2 tsp dijon mustard

juice of one lemon

1 tsp sugar

4 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper.

Put the potatoes in a pan, salt and cover with water. Boil for 12-15 mins until just soft.

Blanch the green beans in boiling water for mere minutes – like 2-3mins – before draining and then plunging into a bowl of iced water. This way they will not lose their colour.

Gently toast the almonds in a dry frying pan – watch them the whole time. Give them a flip periodically so they toast evenly on both sides. Set aside.

Finely slice the spring onions and dill and set aside, covered preferably.

For the dressing put the dijon mustard into an empty jam jar. Add the sugar, some sea salt and then pour in the lemon juice and oil. Put the lid on, give it a good shake. Taste – it might need more lemon, more oil, more salt, more sugar – it’s your dressing, you decide:)

Finally, put the green beans, potatoes ands spring onions into a large bowl. You can season if you wish – I chose not too because I thought the dressing would suffice and it did. Pour over two thirds of the dressing, mix thoroughly before adding the dill (and the toasted almonds! Lord I even forgot them when I was writing up the recipe – sheesh!)and the remainder of the dressing. Give a final, thorough mix and then place in fridge for later.

See what great recipes these are for a dinnerparty – mostly all prepared in advance. Bingo!

Roasted Tofu with Basil Pesto (adapted from Chow Vegan)

1 packet firm tofu

1 tsp chilli flakes

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

For the tofu, remove from the packet, rinse and pat dry. Cut into large cubes. Make the marinade by mixing the chilli flakes, oregano, olive oil, salt and pepper. Carefully coat the tofu cubes and leave to marinade in the fridge for a few hours to infuse.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius/350 farhenheit. Bake the tofu for 30 minutes, checking periodically and turning if needs be.

For the pesto look at my previous recipe for Basil Pesto. I wanted a chunkier consistency this time so I simply used a couple more tablespoons of toasted pine nuts, which I toasted in the same way as the almonds and added slightly less oil. It was go-od!

Cherry Sorbet

1 bag frozen cherries

1 cup sugar (the fairtrade, organic, vegan friendly sort)

1 cup water

Put all the ingredients into a pan, bring to boil and then simmer (not gently but not a running boil either) for 10-15 minutes until the cherries completely soften. Taste – if it isn’t sweet enough add another 1/4 cup sugar.

Let it cool for a bit before blitzing in a food processor until completely smooth. Place in an appropriate container – I like glass ones but you must ensure the mixture is pretty much completely cool before placing in the freezer.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – do not periodically stir like it recommends in most sorbet/ice-cream recipes. In my experience (and other home cooks I have spoken to) this only creates more ice crystals, not less! So, just leave it alone to do its thing – overnight is best.

I was so so happy with the result of this sorbet – it might’ve been the highlight of my meal – as it was completely smooth and the perfect sweetness for me (I just ate a bowl for my breakfast – nice!). By the way, if you are reading this my lovely wonderful husband that doesn’t mean I don’t want my ice-cream maker!

Okay then! I shall post a few more recipes tomorrow. A note on the photos: the ones I have mega tampered with are from the actual dinnerparty – the light was dismal, as I’m sure you can imagine, plus I didn’t have the lumix and my little fuji doesn’t cope very well in those conditions. I used the leftovers for the brighter shots, which I took today – I couldn’t help but take a few superfluous ones of those incredible flowers too:)

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Mutabal and Tahini Sauce

A mega quick one, as I’m off to catch a flight in about an hour! I’m flying to my hometown of Derry to see the Fam but also to host a Vegan dinnerparty, which is being covered by the local magazine Pure – eek!!! They have a section called ‘Come Dine With Me’ – the concept being loosely based on the tv show of the same name although thank goodness I don’t have to cook for strangers. That might be a stress too far. I’m so excited because this is their first ever Vegan dinnerparty so the pressure is most certainly on!

In preparation for the dinnerparty I’ve been testing a few recipes particularly for the nibbles. I need to create a good first impression so the nibbles are pretty important to me. I thought a couple of dips plus a small selection of canapes would be nice and because I’ve pretty much nailed hummus it was time to perfect my mutabal – sometimes known as baba ganoush (that name makes me giggle). I first discovered mutabal whilst working at The Roundhouse in Camden. It was a stonkingly good mutabal too and I always hoped for leftovers at the end of day so I could take some home – couldn’t get enough of the stuff.

Great in sandwiches, as a dip, spread on toast – versatile, yummy with a very distinctive taste, I can’t speak highly enough it. It always comes as a surprise to me when someone doesn’t share the same enthusiasm for a dish I am stir crazy about. According to my Hubbie aubergines are an acquired taste – that didn’t stop him from wolfing down a whole load of it with his falafel dinner last night mind you!

Right, I really must stop talking. One last thing before I go – the tahini dressing is also great with falafel, as a dressing for salads, mixed through pasta, rice. Again, really versatile, really delicious and apparently there’s calcium in sesame seeds so great for us wee Vegans:)

mutabal

ingredients:

2 aubergines (eggplant)

2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup tahini

juice one lemon

2/3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling on top

handful freshly chopped parsley

salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius/350 fahrenheit.

Cut the aubergines lengthways and place them on a baking sheet. Bake in oven for 30-40 minutes until the flesh is soft.

Allow to cool before removing the flesh from the skin. I use a spoon to scoop it out. Chop finely with a knife and then go over it with a fork ensuring there are no lumps. You could put it in a food processor for ease but I find you get a nice texture this way.

Place the flesh into a bowl along with crushed garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Give it thorough mix before stirring in the tahini and finally the parsley. Taste, season and place in fridge until needed.

tahini sauce

ingredients:

1/2 cup tahini

1/4 lemon juice

2 cloves garlic

2/3 tbsp olive oil (i used extra virgin)

1 tsp white wine vinegar

salt and pepper

warm water

Put the tahini into a bowl. Add the crushed garlic, season and then pour in the lemon juice and olive oil. It will become quite stiff – that is fine. Loosen it with warm water until you get a smooth consistency.

Add the vinegar. Taste, season and lastly stir in the chopped parsley. Store in a clean jar and place in fridge – it should keep for quite a few days. Use as you would any dressing.

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Vegan Buckwheat Pancakes With Cherry Sauce And Toasted Almonds

This is really an exercise in photography for me – hence the twenty uploads (uh-huh, twenty!). I’ve been a bit bored of my recent photographic endeavours so I wanted to put a little more thought into my pictures rather than my usual impromtu ‘quick, get a photo before it goes cold’ effort.

I’m pretty pleased with the results (they’re not brilliant, but there’s a few good ones amongst them) – I’ve certainly come a long way since I first aired this little food blog so that contents me. Of course, these pics are helped by mother nature, i.e. those glorious black cherries, which can’t fail to look like gorgeously edible summery morsels that just happen to be super girly – I think anyway:) You may have noticed too that I’ve updated my blog and it does have a very girly, feminine feel to it, which aptly reflects how I’m feeling at the moment.

It all ties into the positive mood that is permeating my life at the moment. I can’t quite put my finger on why this may be but I ain’t complaining – long may it last!

The food featured here is the perfect photo food – it behaves well;) I don’t need to panic because if it goes a little cold it’s still going to taste delicious. Plus, I was organised enough to make the cherry sauce the day before – this is not a normal occurrence but one that paid off. So, the key is organisation – who knew? I have a feeling this kind of post is going to be a rarity but all I can do is my best. I don’t fancy stressing myself out making sure every photo is perfect because that isn’t what this blog is about. Being a little ramshackle suits me anyway and who was it that said a leopard can’t change its spots?

A note on the food. It’s worth the time and effort to toast the almonds. They toast so quickly though so be sure to watch them the ENTIRE time! It might be tempting to just leave them off entirely but I urge you not too because they bring the whole dish together – these are my Husband’s words, not mine:) Also, the buckwheat has a very particular texture – maybe a little more mealy than normal flour. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s an acquired taste but just be aware it is different to plain white flour. I hope that doesn’t sound like I’m pointing out the obvious too much but I thought it was worth a mention:)

Breakfast beckons – now get thee to the kitchen (if you’re reading this in the evening I’m just prepping you for the morn) x

cherry sauce

ingredients:

1 cup cherries

1/2 cup apple juice

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup sugar

Wash and pit the cherries and place in a pan with the sugar, apple juice and water.

Bring to a boil for 15-20 mins, giving it a stir now and again. Coax the cherries by gently pressing them with the back of a wooden spoon. You will notice them changing texture and colour.

If you want the sauce a little thicker mix a spoonful of the juice with some cornflour or flour and stir back into the cherries. Give it a few minutes to thicken before taking it off the heat.

Let it cool before storing it in the fridge – it should keep for a few days.

toasted almonds

ingredients:

1/4 cup flaked almonds

Heat a dry frying pan. Add the almonds ensuring they are evenly spread out. Give them an occasional flip (getting your wrist action in gear for those pancakes!).

You want them lightly toasted so a few minutes each side will suffice. You must stand over them – do not leave them for a second as they can go from golden to burnt very quickly!

buckwheat pancakes

ingredients:

1 cup buckwheat flour

1 heaped tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

1 cup soy milk

1/4 apple juice

1 tbsp soy butter

1 tbsp oil

Pre-heat oven to a fairly low heat – you’re only going to be using it to keep the pancakes warm.

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl – i.e. flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.

Pour in the milk. Combine using a whisk and then add the apple juice. The consistency shouldn’t be too runny.

Heat the oil and butter in a frying (the same one you’ll be using for the pancakes would work best). Pour the melted butter/oil into the pancake mixture. Thoroughly combine and then pour a ladelful onto the already heated pan – this should ensure your first pancake is as good as the last, none of this eating/throwing away the first pancake nonsense!

This mixture should make up to 8 substantial pancakes depending on how big you like them.

Serve up – small stacks with cherry sauce spooned over the top and sprinkled with those perfectly crunchy toasted almonds. This really is a perfect Saturday morning breakfast (brunch in our case – were so lazy!) x

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Lunchtime Brown Basmati Pilaf

First off, I am totally aware that my use of the word Pilaf may be contentious but seeing as there are so many meanings attached to the word anyway I think I can get away with  it….just.

Next, I should say this dish is served cold. I had it for lunch – for which it is perfect and filling in every way – however, you could serve it as an accompaniment to your evening meal. It would go nicely with some marinated tofu, a large portobello, maybe some freshly baked flatbreads – it’s a really versatile dish that doesn’t fit into one specific cuisine. I’ve combined ingredients from Italy, Asia and Greece and let me tell you, it works!

Additionally you should know this is another impromtu blog post. I was spurred on to grab the camera after the first bite because I knew it was too delicious not to share. I  liked it so much I’m making it again for lunch today:)

This is my kind of cooking – I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a matter of throwing everything into a bowl and hoping for the best because that would kinda be doing it a disservice. Luckily I had some super adaptable ingredients in my fridge but I drew the line at using everything I had in the there – you could say my choices were somewhat discerning.

I do love it when a plan comes together x

pilaf

ingredients:

1/2 cup brown basmati rice

1/2 cup frozen soy beans

2 spring onions

2 sundried tomatoes plus 2 tsp of the oil

1/2 large roasted red pepper (from a jar)

1/2 green chilli

1 garlic clove

handful freshly chopped basil

sauce

ingredients:

1/2 cup hummus

juice 1/2 lime

cracked black pepper

Place 1/2 cup of brown basmati rice in a saucepan and cover with 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil then simmer for 25mins or until all the water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and leave to cool – you could transfer to a plate for this if you like.

Place the frozen soy beans in a bowl and cover with water from a freshly boiled kettle. Leave to thaw for several minutes, drain and set aside.

Finely chop the garlic and chilli. Also chop the tomatoes, peppers and spring onions into small pieces.

In a medium sized bowl add all the ingredients to the now cooled rice – mix thoroughly. At this stage add the oil from the jar of sundried tomatoes. You shouldn’t need because the sauce will add moisture. If you think it’s looking a little dry drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil – not too much mind, this is a healthy lunch:)

Lastly stir in the freshly chopped (or torn, your preference) basil.

For the hummus ‘sauce’ just simply thin it out by adding the juice of half a lime and a generous grind of black pepper.

Plate up the rice – I recommend a bowl – and top with the hummus.

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