Sweet Potato Casserole

A week between posts? This will not do!

Never fear my friends, the tour is coming to an end and not a moment too soon is all I can say. My blog will soon be back on track and I will be back home and in my kitchen – whoop, whoop!! The PeaSoupEats adventure will continue, as if this weird, traumatic blip never happened….I hope. I’m sure by now you are sick and tired of my whining and I do feel really bad about that – this is supposed to be a food blog not a moaning minnie one.

Moaning Minnie will be banished after these two (hopefully short) weeks are completed and I will return to my cheery, if not complicated, self, all content with my Hubbie, my flat and my food.

As it is for many people, food is such a comforter for me and I’m with Nigella when she says she never wants to waste a meal – meaning every mealtime is the opportunity to create something wonderful. It doesn’t have to be complicated or fussy. I find that sliced avocado on toast with a sprinkling of salt, a good grind of pepper and maybe a splash of tabasco is enough to send me into head spins. Simpler definitely can be better.

Some dishes, of course, are a little more involved and take a bit more care and effort and that’s fine. I’m into slow food too. I love the prep, don’t mind the waiting and adore the end results because what is cooking without the eating afterwards? The fruits (or veg) of our labour as it were.

Sweet potato casserole is such a dish – one that can’t be made in an instant. Mostly associated with Thanksgiving or Christmas I personally think it can be and should be enjoyed anytime of the year but especially during those winter months following Christmas when everything seems a bit more gloomy and dull. January and February are strange months to me. Apart from Valentine’s welcome interjection they are a bit blah really, wouldn’t you agree? They are ‘in between’ months that we need to get out of the way before enjoying the joys of Spring and Easter when the world suddenly awakens and becomes brighter.

We must do all we can in that case to make these boring months bearable and what better way to add a splash of colour to our lives than by making a bright orange side dish that acts as both comfort food (mashed anything will do that) and as a dash of optimism in these bleak days before the flowers bloom and we can venture outside once more.

Forget convention and replace that boring old mash potato with this exquisite sweet potato version this coming Sunday. I guarantee it will make you happy, if not just for the wondrous colour but the gloriously sweet and savoury taste too.

inspired by a recipe found on fatfreevegankitchen

sweet potato casserole

2 large sweet potatoes

1 tbsp olive oil

splash of soya milk

2 tablespoons soya/sunflower spread

1 tsp vanilla extract (not essence)

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

salt and pepper

topping

1/4 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup muscovado sugar

1 heaped tablespoon flour

2 tbsp soya or dairy free sunflower spread and a little more dotting on top

1 or 2 tbsp date syrup

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degress celsius/390 fahrenheit. Treat the sweet potato as you would a normal baking potato by pricking it all over with a fork and rubbing it with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Place directly on to the oven shelf for at least an hour until the skin is soft and you can see caramelisation happening (the potato will excrete gorgeous dark sugary juices).

Set to one side until cool enough to handle. Lower the temperature of your oven to 175 degress celsius/350 fahrenheit. Halve the sweet potato and scoop out the flesh into a large bowl. Season with the salt and pepper, add the splash of soya (or any non-dairy) milk, soya butter, vanilla extract, cinnamon and nutmeg and mash. You could for ease put it in a blender but I prefer it not to be puree like consistency.

In another bowl mix together all the topping ingredients using a spatula.

Transfer the mashed sweet potato to a casserole dish and spread evenly using the back of a spatula. Pour over the rumble topping and dot with a little more ‘butter’. Bake in the oven for 30-40minutes.

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Cranberry Sauce Muffins

Yes, I know! Christmas is long gone but am I the only one to have a glut of cranberry sauce? In my opinion it’s better to make too much of the stuff lest you run out over the Christmas period and not have any to hand when eating those wonderful leftovers and that would be a disaster! Well maybe not a disaster but it would suck.

I’d made plenty to see us through two huge dinners plus several snacks and I wanted to find a way to use the remainder that didn’t involve dolloping it on the side of a plate. I also wanted to find a sweet outlet for this fabulous sauce because it’s mainly (always?) eaten as an accompaniment to savoury food. The idea came to me, not surprisingly, at breakfast – I think I do my best work early on a Saturday morning. I’d returned home for the weekend and was in much need of some cooking therapy – the kitchen on tour is not conducive to anything other than very minor cooking endeavours. It’s always a relief then when I return to my small but perfectly formed Cornish kitchen. That precious part of our home never fails to inspire me, which is something I am seriously struggling with on tour – f.y.i.  it’s an inspiration void.

Up I was bright and early conjuring up these anytime, but particularly great at breakfast, muffins and I suddenly felt like myself again. Isn’t it funny how your identity can be totally screwed up when you don’t have an outlet (in my case culinary) on a regular basis. My cooking is so entwined with my sanity and I get very edgy when I’m away from my kitchen for any length of time so these weekend trips home (expensive but necessary!) have been a saving grace when it comes to my coping with this emotionally challenging tour. Being back in my kitchen full time is just one of the many things I am looking forward to when this hellish experience is over. That and my darling Husband, of course – I’ve vowed to never be away from him for any length of time ever again.

Ugh. I shall console myself for the present with presenting to you these beautiful cranberry sauce muffins – tart, tangy, sweet and moist.  Enjoy!

cranberry sauce muffins

1 cup spelt flour

1/2 cup wholewheat flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup cranberry sauce (pref. fresh but jarred will work too)

3/4 cup soya milk

1/4 cup oil

1 tsp cider vinegar

handful dried cranberries

handful chopped walnuts

Pre-heat oven to 175 degrees celsius/350 degrees fahrenheit.

Line a tin with muffin cases (mine had dinosaurs on them – eek!) or use silicon muffins cases if you don’t need to transport them.

In a large bowl combine all the dry ingredients.

Do the same with the wet ingredients ensuring they are thoroughly combined – I like to use a large whisk.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry adding a little more soy milk if the batter is too dry. Carefully fold in the dried cranberries and walnuts using a spatula. Fill the muffin cases 3/4 full and bake in the oven for about an hour. I know this seems like a long time but they are being baked at a lower heat for longer rather than blasting them for a shorter period of time. Keep checking them (every oven is different) and when you think they look ready (golden on top) insert a toothpick or chopstick into the centre. If it comes out clean they are ready!

Allow to cool before eating – I did try one straight out of the oven (the one in the photo below was warm) and whilst it was nice I much preferred them when they were completely cool. They should keep for up to a week if stored in an airtight container.

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Whiskey Warmer

I am in cocktail mode at present and when that happens anything goes! I had been previously, albeit briefly, crowned the ‘cocktail queen’, thanks to my efforts at a house party. My technique at the time (with the aid of a few cocktails myself) was to toss just about any spirit and mixer into a glass and hope for the best. Funnily enough some of those cocktails turned out pretty darn drinkable but I’ll be darned if I can remember what on earth I put in ’em.

This time I’m a little more cautious because a. alcohol is expensive and b. I have a serious fear of failure. So I use other cocktails as inspiration and try to include what booze I have at my disposal. My weeny little cocktail bar isn’t brilliantly stocked but there’s enough to be working with. Obviously over Christmas I discovered the fantastic Winter Fizz and despite us being unable to find martini glasses anywhere the Candy Cane Martini’s I served to my sister in law Michelle went down an absolute storm despite them being served in a cactus style margarita glass – whoever said I wasn’t classy?!

So I thought I’d carry on the cocktail momentum and rustle up a few other winners, which is how the ‘whiskey warmer’ came about. This is a unusual drink that found its origins in the classic Stiletto Cocktail. As nice as the stiletto is I’m certain the whiskey warmer pips it to the post in the taste stakes. You may screw your face up when you read that one of the ingredients is cider but all I can say is trust me, this works!

Bottoms up!

whiskey warmer

1 part scotch

1 part disaronno

3 parts cider

2 parts ginger ale

Firstly ensure your selected cider and scotch is vegan friendly. Next up make sure the ginger ale and cider are nicely chilled.

You’ll need a champagne flute – it will work in other glasses, of course, but I find the flute works best.

Measure out and pour in one shot of scotch followed by the disaronno. Tip the glass slightly to pour in the chilled cider (I use to work on the champagne bar in the Roundhouse) and then carefully and slowly top with the ginger ale.

Serve immediately.


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Easy Vegan Sushi

Sushi is divine. When we lived in Chi-town we would frequently dine at Sushi restaurants and Chicago has some fantastic ones. Our favourite establishment Coast just happened to be a stones throw from our house and whenever I was feeling lazy and in need of some nourishment a trip here would never fail to lift me. I loved their spicy miso so much I had to recreate it in my own kitchen and I was more than pleased with the result. In fact, on more than one occasion we made Coast our first port of call after landing from our frequent and numerous longhaul flights from London and what a welcome that was! Fond memories indeed.

Since moving back to the UK though, decent sushi is hard to come by. Supermarket sushi is generally vile and I haven’t seen too many sushi restaurants in Cornwall although the little sushi place in my hometown of Derry was a surprising winner.

I’ll concede making sushi terrified me. Sushi chefs train for years so how can I possibly recreate that surely complex deliciousness at home? Well, believe me, you can. Okay, okay, it might not be totally authentic but it’s a good alternative to eating out or (the horror!) going without – the latter sounds pretty awful to me especially given the distinct lack of sushi eateries in my area.

So homemade sushi it is and to that effect here is my recipe for the easiest Vegan sushi this side of the pond.

easy vegan sushi

3 nori sheets

1 cup sushi rice

1/2 cucumber

1/2 yellow pepper

1/2 avocado

3 tsp umeboshi plum paste

2 tbsp sushi rice seasoning

sushi rolling mat

wasabi

soy sauce

Firstly rinse the rice and then soak in 1 1/2 cups of water for 30mins. Bring to the boil, cover and then simmer for 10mins. Transfer to a baking sheet and spread out to allow it to cool.

Peel, de-seed the cucumber and slice into thin strips (as long as the nori sheet if possible). Finely slice the yellow pepper and the avocado – spritz a little lemon or lime on the avocado as it brown otherwise and affect the presentation of the rolls.

When the sushi rice is sufficiently cooled pour over the sushi rice seasoning and mix thoroughly with a spatula.

Place the nori sheet on the rolling mat. Spread out a third of the rice over the nori sheet leaving 1cm or so gap at the top of the sheet. Make a indent half way up the rice and spread over 1 tsp of the umeboshi plum paste. At the bottom of the sheet (the end closest to you) place a third of the sliced cucumber followed by the avocado (which can be placed over the umeboshi paste) and then the yellow pepper. Don’t overfill and don’t worry if some rolls are better than others. Using the mat tightly roll the sheet using your fingers to tuck in the filling. Place the sushi roll on a wooden chopping board ensuring the join is underneath.

A good tip for slicing the sushi is to fill a tall glass with water and wet your knife (which should be sharp!) between each slice. Try, as best as you can, to cut medium sized slices for ease of eating. I also like to mix my wasabi into my soy sauce before dipping – so yum! You could, if you wished, use chilli dipping sauce or make a spicy vegan mayo.

A few other filling ideas:

roasted pepper and edamame (soya beans)

tempura vegetable

sweet potato and chopped spinach

vegan cream cheese and sliced carrot

The possibilities are endless!! I can’t wait to work up another sushi storm this weekend.

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Vegan Banana Pancakes

I’m writing this post on a train, which is a new one for me and I can’t help but think the person seated behind can, and is, reading the words I’m currently tapping. Paranoid much? I also can’t seem to get my dongle thingy to work, which means I can’t show the ticket inspector my booking confirmation email – the machine was broken at the station I departed from! I’m a tad confused as to why she needs to see anything other than my reference number though. I mean, what would happen if I didn’t have a laptop or a phone that could access the internet? Ugh, nothing is ever straight forward! To add to my list of woes (they’re not really woes just minor grumbles) I’ve run out of credit on my phone and am afraid to top up because we’d agreed I would go on a contract to try and avoid such situations as this. edit: I did try to top up after i wrote this and couldn’t because the signal was so rubbish – nothing is ever straight forward!

What I am happy about is the fact I get to go home for the weekend! Whoop and whoop again. This feels like the best thing that’s happened, well, all week. It’s almost like a late Christmas gift and couldn’t come at a better time because isn’t the weekend after New Years supposed to be the most depressing one of the year or something? I suppose it could be really, I mean, it should be for us considering every last one of our direct debits seemed to come out of our account this week so we are broke brokety broke. Thank heavens for amex! How I do covet that little card sometimes and never more so than now when it has enabled me to be with my ludicrously amazing husband for two whole nights.

Apparently I have lovely cooked breakfast to look forward to tomorrow, including vegan hash browns, which Hubbie discovered in Sainsbury’s (labelled ‘n all – v.exciting!). I think this evening, however, will most definitely call for a large glass of red, chocolate and cuddles.

Enough of my babbling.

Today, I offer you a humble pancake recipe. Banana ranks up there amongst my favourite pancake varieties and whilst normally I love to toss in chopped pecans I opted for the au natural version on this occasion. Sometimes simpler is better and never was this so apparent than last night when I managed to ruin a perfectly lovely cauliflower mash by throwing in three huge minced garlic cloves. I loves me some garlic I do but this was too much even by my standards and in one fell swoop I turned triumph into tragedy – a lesson learned my friends! Back to the topic at hand….despite my pan/skillet troubles (f.y.i. my designated pancake pan is forever ruined – a story for another time) I managed to eventually turn out some light and fluffy pancakes that were delicate in taste and didn’t fill you up so much you didn’t want lunch – can you tell that bothers me? There are three opportunites in the day for eating and I for one am taking full advantage, so medium sized, light, small stack pancakes are always a winner in my book.

If I weren’t having a delicious cooked breakfast in the morn I would most certainly be busting out a few of these bad boys again. Welcome to the weekend!

vegan banana pancakes

1 cup organic plain flour

1 heaped tsp baking powder

1 tbsp sugar (or agave nectar/brown rice syrup etc)

splash of vanilla extract

pinch salt

3/4 cup soya milk (or any non dairy milk)

1 ripe banana

1 tbsp soya butter

In a bowl mash the banana with a fork and set aside.

In a large bowl combine all the dry ingredients and thoroughly stir with a spatula.

Combine the soya milk, banana and vanilla. Add to dry ingredients and whisk. If it is too dry add a little more milk. You want the mixture to be pourable but not too runny. They should easily form they’re own shape when poured or ladelled into the pan.

On a medium heat melt the butter in a frying pan/skillet and then add to the pancake mix. Give it another thorough whisk and then carefully pour into the pan – the size depends on you, my preference is small to medium. When bubbles appear on top it is ready to flip over. Cook for a minute or two on the other side and keep warm in a very low oven or a pancake warmer if you’re lucky enough to own one. Repeat.

Serve simply with maple syrup.

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Mont Blanc Cheesecake

Sweetened chestnut puree is gift sent from heaven in my opinion – okay, technically speaking it’s from the Ardeche but let’s not get bogged down with details right now. This wondrous little ingredient is so perfect for a seasonal cheesecake that simply reeks of festive cheer(I’ll be honest, I ain’t feeling too cheerful right now but I am trying). Am I delusional to think that you want yet another Christmas inspired recipe? As far as I’m concerned it’s still cold out and should you happen to be skiing in the alps they sure as heck would be serving this decadent puree in some form or another. There, I think I’ve suitably justified this post – to myself anyway.

I adore Mont Blanc. The dessert that is. Although the mountain is pretty awesome too. I tried to make Mont Blanc the official Christmas Day dessert a few years back but it never quite replaced the traditional Christmas pudding so I’m back with a new vegan offering that will wow. I could’ve easily Veganised the traditional Mont Blanc dessert that consists of meringue, sweetened chestnut puree and whipped cream. I’ll admit to preferring Nigella’s quickly scaled version anyway, which eliminates the meringue entirely but does include some tempting chopped (or in my case grated) dark chocolate – swap the freshly whipped cream for a soya version or indeed whipped coconut cream and et voila you have yourself a vegan Mont Blanc! It’s almost too easy.

Me being me though, I had to go one step further and create an entirely new sweet that would incorporate all the best elements of the Mont Blanc and with this cheesecake I really think I’ve succeeded. The chestnut puree becomes chewy, almost toffee like around the edges and the smooth thin layer of cheesecake is totally irresistible and just enough because believe me this packs a punch in the sweet stakes.

A little digression now. 2011 has gotten off to a great start for me with regards to my blog. I was featured on foodpress, had a great statistics report from wordpress with my Blog-Health-o-Meter currently running at ‘wow’, I was so pleased and always surprised to get another photo accepted tastespotting and my plans are coming together nicely for the future of peasoupeats. The only slight hitch is be still being on tour when all I want to do is be in my kitchen creating great food and giving my blog the attention it needs. It’s time to get serious – the only problem being that I am seriously lacking in time at present! Six more weeks and then I’m free to explore this exciting new future I have envisaged for myself that definitely doesn’t involve me being away from home for weeks on end.

The memory of this cheesecake will have to suffice for now. Also, I hope you like the image of my messy kitchen, hehe.

mont blanc cheesecake

1 tub plain vegan cream cheese (I used tofutti)

1 can of sweetened chestnut puree

1 pack gingernut biscuits

juice of 1/2 lemon

splash of vanilla extract

4 tbsp soya butter

to serve:

whipped soya cream (my preference is GranoVita’s Organic CremoVita)

grated dark chocolate

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius/390 degrees fahrenheit.

For the crust, blitz the gingernut biscuits in a food processor until you get a fine crumb. Transfer to a bowl. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add to the biscuit crumb and mix thoroughly. Line the bottom of a pie tin with the mixture and press with your fingers until all there are no cracks.

Open the chestnut puree and spread half on top of the crust.

In a large bowl and using a spatula mix the cream cheese, lemon juice, vanilla extract and add the remainder of the puree. The consistency will be fairly thin but don’t worry it will set. Pour into pie tin. Gently tap to release any air bubbles. Transfer to oven and bake for at least an hour – I kept mine in for an hour and ten minutes but as I’ve said before every oven is different so just keep and eye on it.

Allow to cool completely before refrigerating overnight or for a few hours if you’re short on time. Whip the soy cream and heap on top of each slice. Finish with a grating of dark chocolate.

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Festive Slaw and Winter Fizz

A Happy New Year to one and all!!! As you can tell I am desperately clinging on to the last days of my holiday and with that I give you two recipes that use up all (or at least some of) those leftovers. I’ve had ten days of eating, cooking and indulging heaven and now that I finally feel back to myself I have to return up North to complete my panto tour:( For now though I remain cheerful and am relishing in being able to bust out a few more recipes before my departure tomorrow.

We are currently gorging on the most superb banana bread and last night seen us having a very late evening (try 10pm) feast of chestnut, mushroom tart, potato dauphinoise and roasted veg followed by my own creation; the magnificent Mont Blanc cheesecake, which features one of my all time favourite festive ingredients, sweetened chestnut puree – yu-um!

Back to the recipes at hand, that delightful slaw and fizz. I must admit to not being a huge coleslaw fan, well, not the mayo doused slop kind. For me slaw has to taste fresh, crunchy and should definitely not be masked in a thick coating of anything. This is why the dressing is so important and yet so versatile. You’ll notice I’ve included some juice from the jalapeno jar in this particular dressing but that is only because I was serving it in a Mexican style wrap. You could include whatever flavoured vinegar you wish but just make sure you shake that jar long enough so the dressing emulsifies and turns in a silky smooth sauce.

Christmas and the Holidays would be nothing without a good cocktail and whilst I was very happy to be sipping on Nigella’s Poinsettia on Christmas Day I discovered this combo worked even better. We’ve been indulging on them for several nights and they are the perfect pre(and post!)-dinner drink. Mind you, they are pretty potent and a little too easy to drink so go easy.

I am so excited about 2011 and have so many plans for PeaSoupEats. After I get over this six week hump it’ll be onwards and upwards – I am busting to spread that Vegan love! I may have said this before (but then again I do have a habit of repeating myself) but in all seriousness, watch this space……

festive slaw

1/2 red cabbage

8-10 brussel sprouts

1 large carrot

1 red onion

dressing

1 heaped tablespoon dijon mustard

juice 1/2 lemon

1 tbsp jalapeno juice (from a jar)

1 tsp red wine vinegar

5 tbsp olive oil (or whatever you have to hand)

generous pinch of sugar

salt and pepper

Finely slice the red cabbage, brussel sprouts and red onion. Peel and grate the carrot. Transfer all the ingredients to a large bowl and give it a thorough stir.

Put all the dressing ingredients in an empty jam jar. Shake vigorously until it emulsifies. Taste and adjust to own preference – you may want to season further or add a little more sugar for sweetness etc.

Pour the dressing over the slaw and mix ensuring every strand is coated in the dressing.

Wash it all down with some….

winter fizz

cointreau

vodka

prossecco (or any sparkling wine)

ginger ale

pomegranate juice

For each glass combine 1 part cointreau with 1 part vodka, 3 parts prossecco, 2 parts ginger ale and 2 parts (or the rest) pomegranate juice.

It tastes so much better if everything has been suitably chilled beforehand.

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