Vegan Blackberry Ice-cream

Can it really be called ice-cream if there isn’t any cream or dairy in it? Well I think so, especially given the fact there is coconut milk in this one – a sort of cream of the Gods….or at the very least a tree. Booja Booja get around this awkward question by simply calling theirs ‘stuff in a tub’, which makes me chuckle and then makes me want to finish a tub. By myself.

When you move into a new flat and therefore a new kitchen there are always teething problems. Mine, so far, have resulted in not being able to turn the oven on and when I do not waiting until it has sufficiently pre-heated – the light turns off when it’s ready, how confusing is that? This has meant some undercooked Linda McCartney sausages and some rather anemic looking ‘sausage rolls’ – vegans take note, they seem to be slowly converting all of the Linda McCartney range to be vegan friendly, woop woop! I’m pretty ecstatic about trialling those country pies:)

One other teething problem that has affected this otherwise flawless recipe has been my teeny weeny freezer which is built into the fridge. I’ve bunged various frozen goods in there since we moved in and haven’t had any noticeable problems. Ice cubes where good to go and my peas seemed solid so I didn’t think to check the setting – duh! I was perplexed when my ice-cream was just downright refusing to set so I had to do a bit of googling to see where I had gone wrong much as it pained me – gosh I wish I could shake the perfectionist in me.

I came across this very helpful page by the man himself, David Lebovitz and it became apparent that the problem lay with the temperature of my freezer. So I upped it to a higher setting (higher means lower in my new fridge – again, so confusing!) and et voila, frozen ice-cream. I think the slow start may have impacted it somewhat as it did have a few ice crystals but the flavour was outstanding and I think with an ice-cream maker to hand (come on amex points!) this has the potential to be one helluva scoop!

Those fresh blackberries may have helped just a bit with the full on, in yer face, lip smacking taste but I’m going to take a little credit for bringing out their loveliness. Oh, and while we’re at it, I did painstakingly put the whole thing through a muslin cloth so there was not single seed in sight – now that’s commitment to the ice-cream cause if ever there was one.

Lastly, feast your eyes on the blender, which was purchased for 2 quid at a car boot AND the cuter than cute pink bowls, which came in a large set including dinner and side plates all for only 3 quid! How do like them apples…..or should that be blackberries?

blackberry ice-cream (makes 8OO ml)

2 1/2 cups blackberries

1 1/2 cups unrefined granulated sugar

1 can coconut milk

1/2 vanilla pod

thoroughly wash the blackberries sorting through them to ensure there are no thorny bits etc.

Using a knife split the vanilla pod and remove the seeds.

Put all the ingredients into the blender and whizz until completely smooth. Taste for sweetness – you may want to add more sugar but this was sweet enough for me.

Strain the whole lot through a muslin cloth – remember, patience is a virtue, or so I’m told;)

Transfer to a tupperware container and freeze. You can, if you wish, periodically stir it but I personally think it creates more ice-crystals rather than lessening them. If you have an ice-cream maker you are one lucky duck and your ice-cream should be creamy smooth.

I froze mine for just over a day – let it defrost slightly before serving. Enjoy x



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Blackberry and Apple Crumble

Yowsas! Did we pick the hell out of those blackberries or what! Seriously, too many blackberries to know what to do with, which is why there will be three subsequent posts all with blackberries as the main ingredient. Not that that is a bad thing. Blackberries, after all, are probably my favourite berry after the delightful strawb:)

It was baking hot day yesterday – perfect berry picking weather – and we spent two and half hours along one very long country path picking the ripest ones we could get our hands on. Michelle and I made a crucial footwear error and ended up with some stings on our feet – silly girls! Of course, hubbie was appropriately dressed and managed to scramble into bushes to reach the juiciest, plumpest blackberries you ever did see:)

Michelle definitely won on quantity with my haul looking pretty meagre in comparison. My only excuse is that Hubbie and his Sister are seasoned blackberry pickers whilst yesterday was my first time foraging – excuses, excuses! We had a lovely afternoon and all the while I had ideas of what to do with the lot whirring about my head.

A crumble was a must as it’s a classic and I haven’t had one since turning vegan. Michelle had previously suggested jam with the thinking we could enjoy our blackberries in the winter –  brilliant! She’d kindly given me a little bottle of elderberry mead (a sweet Cornish homemade wine) and I thought it would make a great, if rather alcoholic, addition to the jam – the boiling will probably destroy any real alcoholic content but as mead is pretty potent I’m sure there’ll be a little kick to it;) Finally, as I’m an ice-cream obsessive (at last I managed to try Booja Booja and it rocked!) I thought a blackberry ice-cream would go down a treat.

As per usual, because we are still in holiday mode we ate the crumble at 11pm, not that it mattered as we stayed up until 2am watching episodes of Mad Men – how I love that programme!! In my world you cannot have crumble without custard and alpro soya’s vanilla flavoured one is seriously damn good – it doesn’t even form an icky skin when cooled. The crumble itself was delicious with a capital D; not too tart, not too sweet and with a good fruit, crumble ratio – my preference is to have more fruit, as it is less heavy this way. I used half brown rice flour and half ground almonds, which added a bit more interest to the topping and I also threw in a handful of pumpkin seeds and chopped pecans for texture.

Phew! I’m almost worn out from typing out this first post but I will not let that deter me. Next up – blackberry and mead jam!

blackberry and apple crumble

4/5 cups blackberries

2 royal gala apples

4 tbsp organic unrefined granulated sugar (or whatever sweetener you like)

5 tbsp soya butter/spread (I used Pure)

1/2 cup brown rice flour

1/2 ground almonds

1/4 cup unrefined granulated sugar (and more for sprinkling)

handful pumpkin seeds

handful roughly chopped pecans

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius/350 degrees farhenheit.

Thoroughly rinse the blackberries and a put in a large pan. Peel and core the apple and cut into chunks.

Add 1/4 cup water and the sugar and bring to a gentle simmer allowing the fruit to soften but not loose their shape – about 10mins should do it. Transfer to an ovenproof dish.

In a bowl combine the flour, ground almonds, sugar and butter. Make sure the dish and butter are cold – I put the dish in the fridge/freezer for a few minutes beforehand. Work the butter gently into the flour mix using your fingers to incorporate it. You can leave it quite chunky or create a fine crumble, which is my preference. At the very end add the pumpkin seeds and pecans ensuring they are evenly combined.

Sprinkle evenly over the fruit, along with a tablespoon or so of sugar for extra crunch! Bake in oven for 30minutes until you see the juices bubbling at the edge and the topping is golden.

Serve with dairy free custard.

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Life Is Good

This isn’t a recipe post so apologies in advance if you were duped into reading in the hope of some vegan treats. I’ve never really done a post like this before mainly because I try to avoid being too personal thinking it might creep you out a bit – you know, in the same way when you first meet a person and they tell you their entire life story in ten minutes and it leaves you feeling a bit perplexed, overwhelmed and a wee bit dirty because you shouldn’t know they’ve had a terrible childhood followed by years of self destruction until they found God and finally seen the light.

Okay, I just re-read what I wrote and it probably hasn’t helped matters so we’ll move swiftly on to the reason for my posting random pictures and thoughts. I’ve moved to Cornwall – many of you may already know this but I thought it best to point it out for the benefit of newbies. I love it here. I love it so much that when I look out of either one of my windows and see that glorious view across Penzance my heart is filled with joy and I feel so blessed to be able to live in such a beautiful place. Corny, I know!

There’s something seriously magical about this place and I can’t fully describe it as much as I try – and boy do I try. Words fail me. They really do. When my Husband first brought me to his homeland I couldn’t get over its beauty and maybe it’s the celtic connection but there was a familiar mysterious, all encompassing air, that very same one you find in my own homeland of Ireland. I immediately felt at home – maybe even more so than in my own real home – because everywhere I turned there was something that made me belong. Everyone wants to belong and being no exception to the rule I seek it out in all aspects of life, this blog being a prime example. It’s probably the reason I’m a performer too. It’s all about validation sadly but as humans that is what we crave. Am I right or am I right?

Walking along the coastal path in Praa Sands yesterday was another one those typically glorious sunny days in Cornwall but I was so aware of the sense of peace that I feel here. It’s indescribable really and beggars belief why we didn’t move here sooner. Then again, I believe it’s all about timing and in truth we probably wouldn’t have been ready to move to a remote part of the country until now. We needed to get a few things out of our system first and I wouldn’t have changed the chance to live in London and Chicago for the world – seriously two of the best cities on Earth! These experiences have made us appreciate Cornwall all the more and it’s probably why seeing a mini butterfly sends me into spirals (the photo doesn’t do its minuteness justice) and also why I’m currently obsessed with these fantastic tall grasses that you see everywhere.

I’m taking pleasure in the small things and I’m also learning to be patient – restoring old furniture is a great exercise in practicing patience, let me tell you. No sooner had I got the wicker chair sorted we purchased an authentic 60′s coffee table from a carboot sale in Hayle. You have to see this thing to believe it, it truly is awesome! I love nesting and making a house a home – I feel like I’m in a series of Kirstie’s Homemade Home.

Of course, there is the food  - I’m spoilt now with local organic produce on my doorstep and farmers markets galore. At the moment there are pumpkins sitting on the sides of country roads and all you do is choose the one you want and leave the money in the honesty box – see, small pleasures. These are some serious pumpkins too – Tim Burton eat your heart out! I found my little squash, however, at the local organic grocers down the street (and when I say down the street, we are a two minute walk from the best shopping street in Penzance). It’s almost too cute to eat but it will be going in my noodle salad at some point this week – sorry squash!

Then there are the blackberries. They are everywhere and immediately after I finish this post (and my husband buys a cable – what is it with men and cables?) we are going blackberry picking. I really want to make blackberry and mead jam but they’ll probably end up in a crumble of some sort. To think I’d never picked a blackberry and ate it until I moved here. There have been many firsts of late and I’m sure there are many more to come, which is why everyday now I thank my lucky stars to have the life I have right now. Life, most certainly, is good.

p.s. I can’t bear to leave you without a recipe so why not try this Ottolenghi Quinoa and Fennel Salad featured in this weeks Guardian.

p.p.s. if you’re in need of any inspiration check out this wonderful blog. It’s been on my blogroll for ages but I rediscovered it the other day and it really is brilliant. I’m totally envious of her yoga abilities, cooking prowess, beautiful writing and stunning good looks. Veggie Wedgie is a must read and follow!

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Tom Yum Noodle Soup

When you’re living the way are at the moment sometimes packet food is a blessing. I was planning on making a coconut soup until I realised we didn’t have a can opener and as we are skin flints presently we decided to order one from ebay because we have a paypal account with a bit of money in it – unexpected foresight can be a very good thing! I’d hoped it would arrive in time for my coconut soup dinner but alas no. We had to go into town anyway because we needed batteries for the doorbell and on our way back we decided to use a different route, which to my delight led us right past an amazing mini Chinese supermarket. The lady inside could not have been sweeter – she was actually closing but stayed open for us to have a quick browse. Luckily for me I didn’t have any more time in there otherwise I’d have bought the entire shop, which would not have been good for our budget!

Anyhoo, Chinese supermarkets are great for vegans because they’re not big into dairy anyway and whilst they do love their pork and seafood there is still an array of delicious goods to choose from. The main attraction was the range of noodles. Noodles are a hard one for me because they are my ultimate comfort food (up there with spaghetti, which, let’s face it is an Italian noodle) but supermarkets mainly stock the egg noodle sort:( So yesterday was a minor triumph for me and I stocked up on fine wheat vermicelli noodles and some fabulous buckwheat ones. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the film Ponyo but I like to think this is the exact face  I pull when presented with a bowl of steaming hot noodle soup (minus the ham, of course).

I’ll not bore you with the other purchases although there was one special sweet treat that I plan to do a post on but for the moment I’m keeping schtum. Whilst we were paying I noticed a stand full of soup pastes. I hurriedly picked up the tom yum one, glanced at the ingredients (it was a ‘may contain’ product but that’s cool with me) and decided it would solve my soup/can opener problem.

For those of you not familiar with the ‘may contain’ business it is probably something only people with allergies or special diet requirements notice. If a product does not contain a certain ingredient yet was made in a factory that does use it in another product by rights they have to put this on the packet – mainly to cover their asses should anyone have some weird reaction. As a vegan it doesn’t bother me because these machines have to be thoroughly cleaned etc before embarking upon the next batch of whatever product. Plus it means I get to still enjoy Jammie Dodgers, Hobnobs and the like – all ‘may contain’ products. I know some vegans are more strict and even limit themselves to only vegan brands but I think this can be a little counterproductive but each to their own as they say.

Away from the food for a second and onto photos. The space we are living in is pretty much like a studio come gallery – the entire place is painted white including the floor boards, yikes! Luckily I like cleaning, eh? It makes for a perfect place to take photos and even though we recently bought a fancy schmancy flash to combat my late night cooking/photographing problem – so many problems;) – I have not had to use it once in our new flat, the light is THAT good! This makes me a very snap happy girl:)

tom yum noodle soup

1/2 fennel

4 large chestnut mushrooms

1/2 bag stir fry veg (carrot, cabbage, broccoli etc)

handful beansprouts

1 large spring onion

2 nests flour vermicelli noodles

1 large clove garlic

small piece of fresh ginger

1/2 mild chilli

soy sauce

1 packet tom yum soup paste (ensure it contains no fish sauce!)

Heat a little oil in a wok.

Chop the fennel as finely as possible and add to wok with a little seasoning. Mince the garlic, ginger and chilli and add to wok, giving it a good stir and not allowing it to colour.

Chop the stir fry veg as finely as possible (it makes the soup much easier to eat!) and add to wok. Season with a little soy sauce.

Slice the mushrooms, add to wok, stir fry for a few minutes and fill the wok with cold water – not to the brim as woks can be a little unstable making it dangerous to move later. Bring to the boil and then add the tom yum paste (if you’ve made your own even better!).

Gently simmer for a few minutes before adding the noddles and beansprouts. Stir the noodles encouraging them to seperate – a few minutes and they should be soft enough to serve. I lift the noodles into the bowl using a fork first and then pour/ladel over the broth.

Finely slice the spring onion and arrange on top. I think a spritz of lime would work brilliantly to finish off the dish but my husband disagrees – he says  it would mess with the hot and sour.

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One Pot Moroccan(ish) Couscous

We’re in! Finally, here we are in our new flat – you know, the one with the smeg cooker, the walk in closet, the amazing views? Sorry, I don’t mean to boast but when you are living in your dream flat it’s hard not to. It is so nice to be in a kitchen again with a fantastic hob at your disposal and lots of surface space. Our living space is open plan so I can cook and chat to hubbie at the same time, which is exactly how we like it. I know some people don’t get the open plan thing and prefer their spaces to be separate but not us. If we could be attached at the hip 24/7 we would. It’s just how we roll.

I have a few business items to attend to before I launch into another long winded recipe build up. I am super thrilled to be in this months No Crouton’s Required cookery challenge. I don’t expect to win because there is some super stiff competition but it’s the taking part that counts, right? One of the entries is from a fav blog of mine,  Allotment 2 Kitchen and her entry looks sublime – I think I’ll be voting for this one. I’ve made a few of her recipes now and they really are supberb and packed full of flavour. Please do take a look at all the entries and vote for your favourite one. Obviously I’d be so pleased if you did vote for my humble Sweetcorn Chowder but don’t feel obliged if there is another recipe you prefer. I should say that when I first posted this recipe I wasn’t yet vegan and therefore there is milk in the recipe – I now just swap this for a non-dairy variety (usually soya) and it is equally tasty if not more so because soya milk is lovely and creamy. Be sure to use the organic unsweetened sort for best results.

Okay, back to my flat;) Bored yet? We’re still waiting on our furniture (grrrr!) so we are making do with odds and ends. The thing about living near family now is that they are so kind to give us stuff to tide us over until our shipment arrives from the States (3 months and counting!). So far we have accumulated the most gorgeous spindle back sofa (amazingly retro!), a fantastic vintage duvet cover and a cuter than cute wicker chair, which I am in the process of cleaning, stripping, painting and hopefully restoring to its former glory.

As I’ve mentioned, we’re on a majorly tight budget at the minute – this moving house business ain’t cheap – and because we’re quite frugal anyway we’ve been hitting up the charity shops and came across some great finds including: a set of 10 plates/bowls for 3 quid, a groovy duvet and pillowcase set for 4 quid and my favourite….his and her teacups and saucers for 99p each. The one reluctanct purchase we made was a wok. We own so much kitchen equipment it seemed ridiculous to needlessly buy more but the one thing we don’t actually have is a wok. My thinking behind it was its versatility – you can fry, boil water (for tea – we have no kettle), make soups, sauces, you get the picture. So my challenge for the week is to make as many one pot or indeed one wok wonders as possible. The first had to, of course, be a stir fry – I thought it blasphemous to do otherwise – and last night it was Moroccan inspired couscous dish that by the time I’d finished dealing with the sofa and partially cleaning the wicker chair was served up at just after 10:15 in the evening – ah, the joys of moving!

Amidst all this moving chaos I did something unforgivable. I forgot my Mum’s birthday:( I feel absolutely terrible about it and whilst this won’t make up for it, if you are reading this Mum, I’m truly sorry and I vow it will never happen again. You are wonderful and the best Mother a daughter could ask for x

One Pot Moroccan(ish) Couscous

1/2 onion

1 large carrot

2 small yellow courgettes

several large closed cup/chestnut mushrooms

handful fine green beans

2 tomatoes

1 can organic chickpeas

1 cup couscous

olive oil

3 garlic cloves

1 tsp vegetable puree

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp chilli flakes

1/2 lemon

handful flat leaf parsley

salt and pepper

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a wok. Finely dice onion and add to wok along with some salt and pepper. Gently sweat for several minutes before adding the minced garlic. Cook for a further 5 minutes.

Scrape the carrot and cut into large chunks – I like to cut them diagonally – and add to wok along with the cumin and paprika. Gently cook for several minutes allowing the carrot to soften and the spices to infuse.

Cut the courgette into large pieces and add to pan. Season. Chop the tomatoes into smallish pieces. Add the vegetable puree, chopped tomatoes and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then simmer gently for 15-20minutes. Make sure to top up with water the entire time.

Rinse the chickpeas and add to wok. Cook for a few minutes. Season.

Quarter the mushrooms and cut the green beans into thirds. When the veg in the wok has sufficiently softened add the mushrooms and green beans cooking for a few short minutes – you don’t want the mushrooms to shrivel or the beans to lose their crunch. Taste and season.

Finally, add the couscous, give it a thorough stir, cover (I used leftover tinfoil and a teatowel to seal it in completely) and leave to stand off the heat for 10minutes.

Remove foil and stir in the freshly chopped parsley. Season if necessary and serve.

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Thai Red Curry

I’ve got to be quick as the battery is very quickly draining from my little notebook. This is our last night in Merlin – he’s served us well keeping us dry and cosy for the past week. We are so grateful to Matt and Michelle for entrusting their beloved campervan to us else we would’ve been well and truly homeless! Tomorrow we finally get to move into our new flat – woo frickin’ hoo! I’m a bit nervous because I’m one of those worrying types that always thinks something is bound to go wrong. Experience tells me it will not be straightforward but as ever we will deal with whatever surprises come our way and muster on ’cause that’s what we do.

Our last supper in the Merlinster was a curry for ease as much as anything else. I fancied a bit of spice and had some red curry paste leftover from Solihull (yes, I did bring it with me – we’re on a major budget, y’know!). The gas hob in Merlin is pretty bloody amazing for a campervan and the oven is a little beast too – I coulda and shoulda made some muffins just to prove the point. Hey ho, we were too busy having a sweet time in Cornwall and as much as I love cooking the sun beckoned.

Yesterday we went to the ‘Fair For The Future’, an eco-friendly, environmentally aware affair with good stalls, great music and even better food. We had some fresh apple juice, which rocked my world in the few gulps it took me to down it. What a fantastic vibe there is in Cornwall – I’m still glorying in the fact we live here now:)

Next up we went to Sennen to visit our friend Toby who lives in possibly the nicest house I’ve ever been in – what a view that place has! You can see the whole of Sennen Cove and then some and it’s so chilled there I always feel mega relaxed at his home. His parents are super hospitable and are very kind to let us stay over whenever we’re in the area. We cooked, ate, drank, played computer games and slept until noon – my kind of weekend;)

Right, the recipe! I’m getting there but desperately trying to not leave anything of importance out. Oh yeah, there was a stall at the fair from which you could take whatever you wanted…for free! How awesome is that! I took a little basket that is going to look too cute in our new flat.

Eek! Cooking tip – put your ginger in the freezer and it is soooo much easier to slice, mince, grate, whatever you do with it. Thanks Michelle – wi(en)nner! Also, cheers for letting me borrow your spice grinder, what a wicked little tool that is:)

A note about the photos. They were taken in very dim light (Merlin has his limits) with my pink digital fuji. Essentially, couldn’t be bothered to find the panasonic Lumix and/or the flash. Anyway, I think they evoke that make do camping feel, which we’ve been living for the past week:)

One more sleep. One more sleep. Can you tell I’m excited? The shambolic nature of this post says it all probably.

Peace out x

thai red curry

1/2 onion

1/4 fennel

5/6 baby new potatoes

1 courgette

handful of green beans

8 closed cup mushrooms

3 garlic cloves

1 tbsp freshly minced ginger

1 tbsp freshly ground cumin

2 tbsp thai red curry paste

1 can coconut milk

salt and pepper

Heat a little oil or soy butter in a pan. Finely dice the onion and add to pan along with the chopped fennel. Allow to soften for several minutes.

Mince the garlic and add to pan along with the ginger. Sweat for several minutes allowing the flavours to infuse.

Slice the courgette into moon shapes and add to pan. Quarter the potatoes and add to pan along with the ground cumin. Cook for several minutes before adding half a can of coconut milk. Stir in the curry paste and allow to simmer for a few minutes before adding the rest of the coconut milk. Season and gently simmer for 15mins.

Place a cup of basmati in a large pan. Cover with 2 cups of water, clamp on lid, bring to a boil and then simmer for 10-12mins. There should be no need to drain. Fluff with a fork.

Halve the mushrooms and add to the curry towards the end of cooking. Trim the green beans and add about 5mins before the curry is ready to be served.

Season to taste. Eat.

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Vegan Cookies

I cannot believe it’s been almost a week since I last blogged – totally and utterly out of my hands my friends! Before I go any further though let me tell where I am right now. I’m currently sitting in Merlin (campervan belonging to my sister in law Michelle and her partner Matt) watching the sun set over an old tin mine in Pendeen, Cornwall. Hubbie is sitting opposite on his laptop and we’ve just had a lovely cup of tea with some vegan snacks bought in the local shop (a Cornish winner!) – local produce, organic vegan wine, get the picture? I think I may have officially landed in the land of corn and me likey mucho.

So whilst I have been stressing about the lack of battery power on my little purple Dellboy the glorious surroundings and general calmness has made the situation more than tolerable. Of course, I have been thinking about food and recipes the entire time but that is only natural – a foodie’s mind never stops working!

I’ve talked before about my baking lightbulb moment when everything fell into place and I suddenly was capable of tossing those predictable recipes aside to crack on with my own. Well, the success story continues and these cookies are the result of being able to bake with sheer abandon, not worrying about the doomed consequences. No longer do I watch cakes through the oven door waiting to save them when they erupt over the sides spilling onto the bottom of the oven, which then takes forever and a day plus plenty of elbow grease to clean. Gone are the times when I um and ah over why there has to be two instead of three eggs in this particular cake and debate with myself over those silly metric measurements, which made no sense to me then and make even less sense now.

Thank goodness for American cup measurements. Praise the stars for eggless cooking. Blessed be that turning vegan has transformed me from a mediocre, trepidacious baker to one that can whizz up sweet delights without giving it a second thought. Just another gift that living the kind life has afforded me. The not so great end to this story is that vegan treats, whilst being better for you than ‘normal’ ones, are still calorific – let it be known people, they are not called treats for nuthin’! Which is why I’m desperately trying to limit myself to baking once a week. That plan, in case you were wondering, is not working out very well so far;)

vegan cookies

1 cup brown rice flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup dried fruit and nuts

1/4 cup roughly chopped almonds

pinch salt

juice 1 clementine

1 cup soy milk

1 tbsp oil

Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees celsius/300 fahrenheit.

In a large bowl mix the dry ingredients, i.e. flour, sugar, baking powder, salt fruit and nuts, chopped almonds.

In a small bowl combine the clementine juice, soy milk and oil. Set it aside for a few minutes allowing it to curdle.

Gradually pour the liquid into the dry ingredients. When a dough is formed stop adding liquid – this is why it is crucial to add it a bit at a time.

Take a tablespoon of dough, roll it into a ball and place it on a baking sheet. Repeat until you have used all the dough. Bake in oven for 15mins. Do not allow the cookies to colour too much. Once they are golden and ever so slightly cracked on top they are ready. You want them soft on the inside so avoid leaving them in too long or they will be dry.

Carefully remove from baking sheet whilst still warm and allow to cool on a rack.

They will keep in an airtight container for up to a week.

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Mexican Lasagne

No, not Chilaquiles although that is next on my list! It’s no secret that I adore Mexican food and as this cuisine happens to champion beans it makes for a complete nutritious vegan meal, which is all good in my book. It may also be no secret that I’m a bit of a perfectionist and whilst I try to resist these urges on a daily basis when it comes to cooking I don’t fight it because food deserves to be perfect.

You might recognise the components of this dish – they’re pretty much the same as my Enchillada recipe, which was a big hit with many of you – yay and thankyou! Whilst I really liked this dish myself I couldn’t help but think it could be bettered so here I have transformed it from a great dish to a fantastic one.

The inclusion of the homemade refried beans has given this dish the edge it needs to truly make it a Mexican triumph. I couldn’t stop there, of course. I used passata in the mexican enchillada version but I think I prefer the tomato sauce to be less thick plus it makes for a better addition to the lasagne as the passata has a tendency to dry out. I like my sauces to be saucy;)

So there you have it – the new and improved, tweaked and tampered, perfected and primed (as in, ready to be eaten) Mexican Lasagne. If you liked my enchilladas you are gonna LOVE this! I guarantee it will be a hit with adults and children alike because a) who doesn’t like lasagne? and b) Mexican food makes you happy. Fact.

mexican lasagne

1 onion

2/3 sweet potatoes

2 cups organic sweetcorn

2 cups cooked black beans

1 can cooked borlotti/pinto beans

1 can chopped tomatoes

4 wholewheat flour tortillas

4 garlic cloves

1 scotch bonnet

1 heaped tsp cumin

paprika

1 tbsp tomato puree or organic ketchup (this is all I had)

few sprigs thyme

2/3 bay leaves

large handful chopped flat leaf parsley

2 sliced tofutti mozzarella slices (optional)

refried beans

Finely chop the onion and mince two garlic cloves. Heat a little oil in a saucepan and add the onion, season and allow it to soften gently for several minutes. Add the garlic along with the cumin and 1 tsp paprika. Cook for several more minutes.

Drain and rinse the borlotti beans. Add to the pan. Remove the thyme leaves and roughly chop before adding to the pan. Season, cover with water, add the bay leaves and simmer for 30-40minutes topping up with water if necessary.

Remove the bay leaves and mash using the back of a fork or a masher. Season. It shouldn’t be too dry but if you think it is add a little water. Keep warm on a very low heat, stirring frequently.

tomato sauce

Empty the tomatoes into a frying pan. Mince the remaining two cloves of garlic and finely chop the chilli. Add to the tomatoes along with the tomato puree/ketchup, sugar and seasoning. Stir and allow to gently simmer for 30mins.

Towards the end of the cooking time add the chopped parsley.

roasted sweet potatoes

Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees/300 fahrenheit.

Wash the sweet potatoes, dry and chop into large chunks. Place on a baking sheet and coat in paprika, seasoning and bake in oven for 30-40mins.

assembling the lasagne

coat the bottom layer of a baking dish with a small amount of tomato sauce – just enough so the tortilla doesn’t stick to the bottom. Halve all the tortillas and layer one plus another half onto the  bottom of the dish. You can fill in the gaps by halving the tortillas again.

Spread the refried beans onto the tortillas, spoon over half the sweetcorn and black beans and top with half the roasted sweet potato and a little tomato sauce.

Repeat and top with with the remaining tomato sauce. Break the mozzarella slices into pieces and place on top if using.

Bake in oven (same temp as you baked the sweet potatoes) for 30minutes.

Serve with freshly chopped parsley.

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Pear and Almond Muffins with a Chocolate Drizzle Topping

Yep, I’m using ‘dem silicon muffins cases again. It’s getting to the stage were I’m really missing having my own kitchen with my own equipment and it’s becoming a tad boring just making cupcakes and muffins all the time:( The good news is we got the flat we wanted (yay!) so I’m one step closer to having my own kitchen again. There was quite a bit of negotiation to be had before we secured it but it’s been worth the stress because we absolutely adore the apartment – I will post photos soon. The other good news is that our stuff will be arriving in the country next week and by the 20th we should be moved into our new place with all our familiar things around us. I cannot wait!

I’ll have to make do with my silicon cases for now, which is no major hardship I suppose, especially when you discover little winners like these pear and almond muffins. Again, this recipe makes a small batch of six – perfect for a weekend treat.

There are a few things I’d change the next time. I’d prefer not to use white sugar because it’s highly processed and refined, which is just bleugh for our bodies really. But because the sugar was already in the flat when we arrived and we hate waste we’ve decided to use it up before buying anymore. I’d also like the drizzle to penetrate the cake more but unfortunately I was hindered by the amount of chocolate I had left so it only coated the surface really.

Speaking of chocolate, the one I used here was a vegan ‘milk’ chocolate made with almond milk. It’s quite delicate – not at all like dark chocolate – and not very sweet, which is how I like it. I’ve never been a fan of Cadbury’s and don’t think I’ve ever bought a bar dairy milk. That sickly sweet, stick to the roof of your mouth, shouldn’t even be allowed to be called chocolate, confectionery is not my bag. Call me a chocolate snob but in my opinion you do have to pay for quality when it comes to the fruits of the cocoa plant and I for one am willing to go that bit extra for the good stuff. This Artisan de Chocolat one is about 3 quid for a small bar – I managed to get two for a fiver in Selfridges, as they were on offer. They also have a range of heavenly dark chocolate that is suitable for vegans. So, you have no excuses now, you can be a vegan and have your ‘milk’ chocolate and eat it!

pear and almond muffins

1/2 cup brown rice flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp baking powder

pinch salt

1/4 cup flaked almonds plus more for decorating

1 pear

1/2 cup soy milk

1 tsp white wine vinegar

1 tsp olive oil

topping

1/2 bar chocolate of your choice

splash of soy milk

chopped almonds

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius/350 fahrenheit.

Place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.

Peel the pear, cut into smallish pieces and mash. You could also use tinned pears and cut them into chunks instead of mashing for extra peariness:)

In a small bowl combine the soya milk, vinegar and oil. Set aside and allow to curdle.

Chop the almonds allowing some larger chunks/pieces to remain for texture.

Add the mashed pear to the dry ingredients and gradually pour in the soya mixture. When it forms a thick batter stop adding liquid. If, however, it is too dry add a touch more soya milk.

Stir in the almonds and combine throughly. Do not overwork the batter as it will lose it lightness.

Divide the mixture between six muffin cases and bake in oven for 12-15minutes. Every oven is different so be sure to keep an eye on them. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a rack before taking them out of the cases.

Melt the chocolate and soya milk in a pan over a low heat. When the muffins are completely cool, poke several holes in the top using either a chopstick (this was all I had to hand) or a toothpick. Carefully pour the melted chocolate over the top, repeating until the entire top of the cake is completely covered.

Chop a few more almonds and sprinkle on top of the melted chocolate. Set aside for an hour or so until the chocolate has hardened.

Eat them all at once or store them in a container for a few days.

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Pepper and Black Bean Chilli

This is the second chilli recipe on my blog, the other being a bit of a meat feast. Why not just remove it from my now vegan blog you say? Well, I kinda feel that’s a bit of a cheat, almost like denying my meat eating past and duping people into believing I’ve always been a virtuous consumer of plants and nothing else.

I ate meat. I liked meat. I’m sure I would still enjoy the taste and texture now but I have absolutely no compulsion to eat it. The desire to have it has left me and there’s no sign of it returning. I have no need to delete my past because I’m proud of my transformation. I’m not ashamed to keep all those recipes on my blog because it clearly illustrates that someone like me who used to rely on meat and dairy three times a day can easily transition to a plant based diet. So, they’re staying.

What I am doing, however, is slowly veganising all those delicious meals that were a regular feature on our weekly menu. One of those standby classics is, of course, Chilli con Carne, which has now been magically changed to Chilli sin Carne. Ok, not so magical because veggie chilli is nothing new but this chilli is seriously spicy and soooo easy it will have you shouting ‘arriba’ after the first mouthful.

I like to serve it with tortillas – either the crunchy kind or two wholemeal flour ones. I use the crunchy tortillas to scoop and the flour tortillas to make little chilli wraps:) Either way is delicious.

My advice is to keep the pepper chunks large to give you something substantial to chew on and the black beans are so perfect in this as they kind of replace the mince. If you’re concerned about feeling unsatisfied or hankering after that meaty texture you normally associate with a Chilli fear not because this dish covers all bases and the flavour packs such a punch I guarantee you’ll not miss the ground beef and you may want to forfeit carne in some of your other meals too;)

chilli sin carne

1 onion

1 red pepper

1 yellow pepper

1 green pepper

1 box/can organic black beans

1 can chopped tomatoes

large handful of chopped flat leaf parsley

2 garlic cloves

1 scotch bonnet pepper

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 tsp chilli flakes

1 tsp sugar

salt and pepper

Heat a little oil in a pan. Finely dice the onion and add to pan. Season and allow to sweat for several minutes.

Mince the garlic and add to pan along with the cumin, paprika and chilli flakes. Add a little more oil if it becomes too dry. Finely chop the scotch bonnet and add to pan.

Chop the peppers into large chunks. Add to pan and thoroughly stir so that the onion and spices lightly coat the peppers. Allow to gently soften before pouring in the tomatoes. Add the sugar and season. Fill the empty tomato can with water and some to pan. Throughly mix and simmer for 30mins topping up with water if again it becomes too dry.

Drain and rinse the beans, add to pan, top up with water and simmer for a further 10-15mins.

Taste, season if necessary. It shouldn’t need more spice but if you would like it spicier add a few splashes of tabasco and/or chilli flakes.

Finely chop the parsley and add most to the chilli reserving a little for serving. Serve in bowls with folded tortillas and sprinkle with the remaining parsley. I recommend eating with a spoon:)

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