Buckwheat has become a bit of a regular in my kitchen for no other reason than I like the texture it brings to baked goods – sweet and savoury. Delicate, versatile and gluten free, I find myself turning to it more and more frequently. These brownies were one such experiment and whilst they were lovely, I’m not done with them yet … a few minor tweaks here and there just to perfect an already solid little recipe.
Whilst I know ‘refined sugar free baking’ is all the rage at the moment this concoction was actually borne out of necessity rather than choice – namely, my sugar supply was at an all time low. So, I pooled what sweeteners I had at my disposal (agave, maple and date) and this was the result. But seeing as the chocolate addition does contain some sugar I can’t claim that these are entirely ‘healthy’ although you could probably sub with cocoa powder, however, you may end up compromising on intensity. Left to my own devices (and proximity to any kind of general store) this would’ve been an all-singing, all-sugar affair because I’m not terribly bothered about keeping my diet completely ‘clean’. Ah, buzzwords, don’t you just love ’em?!
The beetroot puree can easily be substituted for sweet potato or mashed banana but seeing as you can’t even detect it, it makes for a nice little binder with impressively subtle results – no overriding root vegetable flavours here. It goes without saying you should use pre-cooked beetroot not stored in vinegar. I simply blended it to a smooth puree before adding it to the other wet ingredients, which included a boat-load of melted chocolate and (crucially) a shot of espresso … I emphasise: the coffee inclusion seriously makes this recipe, in my opinion.
Be sure to bake it for less time than a regular brownie or else you risk it becoming crumbly … buckwheat doesn’t take well to being over-baked. I recommend 15mins max and let it completely cool before slicing – the more is ‘rests’ the better it will taste. Oh, and don’t scrimp on that sea salt sprinkle either. It finishes the whole dish off to a ‘T’. Sweet and salty? Hand it over.
what you’ll need
200g buckwheat flour
50g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
100g pre-cooked beetroot
140g dark chocolate
4 tbsp vegan margarine or coconut oil
3 tbsp agave
3 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp date syrup
1 x shot of espresso (strong)
60g roughly chopped walnuts or pecans
for the chocolate drizzle
100g dark chocolate
1 tbsp vegan margarine or coconut oil
1 tbsp maple syrup or agave
what you’ll do
pre-heat the oven 180 degrees celsius.
whisk the dry ingredients (buckwheat flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt) in a large bowl until combine and no lumps remain.
blend the beetroot to a smooth puree and transfer to a bowl.
gently heat the chocolate, margarine and 1 tbsp of the allocated agave (and a pinch of salt) in a saucepan until smooth and glossy. add to the beetroot along with espresso shot and stir to combine.
make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the chocolate mix. fold gently until combined before stirring through the walnuts (or pecans) and transfer to a line brownie tin. smooth to the edges using the back of a spatula and bake for 15 mins – check at 12 mins just to be on the safe side.
remove from oven and let it cool on a rack before cutting into small bite-size squares.
melt the chocolate, margarine and syrup in a pan until smooth and glossy before generously drizzling over the entire brownie. let the chocolate cool slightly before sprinkling over some sea salt. set aside to let the chocolate firm and the brownie ‘rest’ … enjoy!
Following on from my post yesterday, this is an extension of my recent blogging musings only today I’m banging on about photography. Again. I know this is a topic I have touched upon more than a few times but what can I say, the struggle is real. Just as soon as I think I’ve grasped even the most basic of techniques, I go and forget everything I seemed to have learned … settings are my nemesis. Cloudy? Tungsten? Who knows – sometimes I really do despair.
Whilst I do deliberately attempt to create an ‘effect’ on many of my images (is stylized the word?), mostly I’m after a more natural feel. Not so much Kinfolk but absolutely along the clean, wholesome and most importantly inviting lines. Okay, so maybe it’s not just the photography I’ve yet to get completely to grips with – perhaps the styling plays a part too. I know what I like (see my Pinterest boards for reference) and definitely know what I hate – and truthfully, sometimes I really hate what I put out there. Why do it then, you ask? Well, partly because by not putting it out there means I’ll never get any better. Plus, I desperately try not to be afraid of failure … great things come from multiple (continuous, endless) failings. Or so I’m told.
I look at photos I took three or four years ago and it’s clear to me that I’m actually getting worse. No, seriously. I seemed to have peaked in 2011 and have gone downhill ever since. You could say I’ve lost my way. Ugh. In such regularly occurring defeatist moments, I find myself repeating the mantra ’embrace your weaknesses, embrace your weaknesses’. It sometimes helps. Sometimes.
Blah, blah. Anyway. Everyday Oatmeal. What better way to practice my slowly diminishing photography skills than by snapping my breakfast. Nothing fancy but certainly delicious – and this got me thinking too. Why am I forever uploading recipes that I only ever make now and again when there is a bounty of standards that I rely on every single week? Recipes like my everyday oatmeal. Sure, it’s just porridge but everyone has their own fall-back method and this just happens to be mine …
what you’ll need
3 tbsp oats
1/2 cup water
1/2 almond milk
1/2 tbsp maple syrup or agave
handful of raisins
plum chia jam
what you’ll do
place the oats in a saucepan along with the water. bring to a boil and then quickly reduce to a simmer until most of the water has been absorbed … about 5 mins.
add the almond milk and sweetener and very gently simmer until it becomes thick and creamy. toss in the raisins and keep the oatmeal on a low heat for a minute or two whilst you chop your apple.
serve with a dollop of chia jam, handful of apple matchsticks, sprinkle of ground cinnamon and a smattering of crushed seeds. et voila, breakfast is ready.
apple matchsticks … i slice my apple into thin rounds before stacking them and cutting into matchsticks.
plum chia jam … the plum jam couldn’t be easier either. simply halve about six plums, place in an oven-proof dish and cover with the juice of half an orange, a vanilla pod (plus seeds) and some sweetener. cover with foil and roast for 30mins until completely soft – doesn’t matter if they lose their shape, in fact, all the better. press through a fine mesh sieve and sprinkle in 1/4 cup of chia seeds, stir to combine and set aside to cool before refrigerating until needed. if you want a thicker jam, simply add more chia seeds. easy.
I have so much to say in this post, I almost don’t know where to begin but seeing as we need to start somewhere let me open with this. Learning. We never stop. As a food lover, recipe writer, blogger and general human being I never stop learning new and interesting things. Sometimes these are things I chance upon and other times I actively seek out this new info, like the hungry hippo I am … gobble, gobble, chomp, chomp. At the moment, I’m in the midst of a YouTube cookery show binge (anything and everything but especially Nigella) and also reacquainting myself with a few blogs that I used to religiously follow … Joy The Baker and The Pioneer Woman being just two. These are the originals, to my mind, and the sages of the blogging world from which we can learn a great deal – the first and most important lesson being … never take yourself too seriously. And, if you’ve ever read either one of these ladies witty, smart (and downright hilarious) posts you’ll know what I mean. This isn’t just about food – this is about life!
Okay, so you might be thinking, why would a vegan gal such as myself read meat ‘n’ dairy heavy blogs like these – or indeed indulge (an unhealthy amount) in the televised works of arguably the greatest kitchen goddess to ever walk this green earth, Nigella Lawson. The answer is simple really. I learn SO much. Whilst I know I’ll never recreate these dishes verbatim in my own domain, I can at least imbue (or at least try to, ahem) a little Lawson magic in my food or all too infrequent soirees. Same goes for Ree and Joy … I just adore their enthusiasm, sarcasm and, of course, the way they seem to effortlessly throw a dish together.
Like I said, this isn’t just about food, it’s about how people connect with it, handle it and ultimately create something great from it. Meat ‘n’ dairy aside, these gals have one other thing in common … magnificent palettes – I don’t need to make their food or eat it to know this. Also, I’m pretty adept at compartmentalising so I can watch, read, immerse with ease – I try not to block myself off from inspiration, whatever form it comes in, and sometimes this is where I derive some of my best ideas and recipes. What can I say, it’s my process and it works for me. I honestly couldn’t fathom shunning a whole world of cookery books, writers, blogs and shows just because they’re not vegan – case in point, I am mildly obsessed with Nigel Slater who is neither vegetarian nor a vegan but boy does that man know how to make vegetables shine. It truly is a gift.
This brings me neatly onto another current obsession of mine … bread. Yup, whilst the whole world is running away from gluten and all things wheat based screaming, I am sprinting full pelt towards it with both arms open hollering ‘gimme, gimme’! Spelt is featuring heavily in this fascination, in all its ancient wholegrain glory. I use it in breads, muffins, cakes and now cinnamon rolls … although I will confess that I think a mix (i.e. 2/3 spelt, 1/3 plain white flour) in this instance would probably be beneficial – just a little heads up for you for you there, if you’re after a slightly lighter bun. With that said, I really did adore these miniature treats. Nutty, satisfying and full of cinnamony goodness – they’re such a delight and one even the most cautious of bread-makers can tackle.
I made them a couple of times and tested out two varying methods to figure out which one I preferred. Needless to say my Husband’s opinion differed from mine, which only made things a tad more confusing, so I packed him off to work with his favoured batch and I’ve kept these mini ones for myself. The main points of difference were the point at which I added the yeast and when I chose to knead the dough. For the mini rolls, I added the quick acting yeast to the dry ingredients before gradually pouring in the almond milk and oil. After bringing it together into a rough dough, I then tipped it out onto a floured surface before kneading for around 10mins until it was reasonably smooth and elastic … oil it, place it back in the bowl, cover with cling and set aside in a warm place (tip! I put it beside my pre-heating oven) for around 30mins. So far, nothing unusual there. The dough will expand, not massively, but it will be noticeably bigger and at this stage I rolled it out very thinly (less than 1/4 inch), brushed over my oil and generously sprinkled it with ground cinnamon and light brown sugar. Roll it tightly into a long but even sausage shape before slicing into rolls (about 2cm thick). Line a round oven-proof tray and arrange the rolls with the coil facing upwards – it might be a squeeze but that’s fine. Set aside for a further 20mins before baking in a hot oven for 10-15mins. They won’t rise a huge amount but will have a beautifully crispy yet light texture – almost like the central piece to their regularly sized counterparts, which, let’s face is usually the best bit anyway. This is probably why I liked them so much! As soon as they come out of the oven, brush them generously with maple syrup and sprinkle over some crushed nuts or seeds – et voila, mini spelt cinnamon rolls ready to eat.
Now for the second method. This will render a much larger bun, much more ‘bread-like’ and infinitely more substantial than the little morsels seen here. For this you will need to activate the yeast in the warm almond milk and once it froths pour it, along with the oil, into the dry ingredients. Mix as usual until it’s fully incorporated and forms a rough but reasonably smooth dough ball – tip! hands are your friend here. Still in the bowl, lightly coat the dough with a little oil to prevent sticking, cover with cling and set aside in a warm place to rise, as per usual. You’ll notice here, that I didn’t knead the dough immediately and this is the crucial difference – mini rolls, knead first, larger rolls, knead later. After 30mins, tip the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for around 10-15 mins until smooth and pliable. Roll it out but this time ensure the dough is about double the thickness (1/2 inch) before brushing with oil (or melted margarine), cinnamon and sugar. Slice into much thicker rounds, place coil-side up on a lined tray (about 2cm apart) and lightly brush with oil. Cover with cling and set aside to rise for a second time (this should take about 30mins) before baking in a hot oven for 8-10mins … yes, the mini ones do take a little longer to bake, which is confusing but accurate. As per the mini rolls, brush with maple syrup whilst they are still warm and sprinkle over some crushed pecans or seeds.
So, the rest is up to you. By all means, experiment yourself – not only with the dough but also with the add-in’s (I’m tempted to do a pb&j next and I may or may not add a little bicarb to the mix) but above all don’t shut yourself off from a good learning opportunity when there’s one to be had. In my humble opinion, the best vegan recipes come from the most unexpected of places – well, that’s my excuse anyway.
Mini Spelt Cinnamon Rolls
adapted from Nourish Atelier
what you’ll need
190g spelt flour
pinch of fine salt
7g (or 1 1/2 tsp) quick acting yeast
120ml hand-hot almond milk
1 tbsp agave or maple syrup
4 cardamon pods
2 tbsp olive oil plus more for brushing
1 heaped tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp light brown sugar (or palm sugar)
crushed seeds or nuts
what you’ll do
Pre-heat your oven to 220 degrees celsius.
Gently heat a little almond milk, agave (or maple syrup) and cardamon on a hob until it’s hand hot … test it on the back of your wrist for temperature, ensuring it is not too hot – if it is, set it aside until it cools a little and don’t forget to remove the cardamon pods. Side note: If it is too hot it may interfere with the yeast activating.
Whisk the flour, yeast and salt together in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Gradually add the almond milk and oil (if it makes it easier you can add the oil to the almond milk but I prefer to do it separately) working it slowly into the flour – the wetter the better. Once you have formed a rough dough ball, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for around 10mins until reasonably smooth and elastic … remember this is spelt so it won’t be quite as pliable as plain white flour. Lightly oil the dough, return to the bowl, cover with cling film and set aside in a warm places to rise for around 30mins.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll into a thin rectangular shape, about 1/4 inch thick. Brush over some olive oil, followed by a generous sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar before rolling tightly into a sausage shape. Slice into 2cm rounds and arrange neatly in a lined dish, coil side up. Lightly brush the tops with oil, cover with cling and set aside for around 20mins to allow the dough to expand and rise a little more.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for 10-15mins – every oven is different so just keep an eye on them.
Remove from oven and whilst they are still warm, brush over a little maple syrup and sprinkle over some crushed seeds. Serve immediately or store in a container until needed … in fact, I just keep them in the dish and cover with foil.
I am going good guns with this YouTube melarkey, I tell ya. I set myself the task of uploading one a week and so far that’s what I’ve done (click here for the video) … although I won’t deny I’ve had a wee bit of help in the process, ahem. This week I opted for a sweetened cashew cream recipe served with hot griddled oranges – simple but so delicious. You’ll also notice I’ve donned a 70s lurex vest (hey, lurex is ‘in’ again … apparently!) and cut my fringe myself (er, maybe I got a bit scissor happy) … shall we say, double fail? Anywho, something that didn’t fail me was my blender. Since ‘The Boss’ came into my life my cashew creams have never been better; silky smooth, whipped to perfection and scarily akin to the real thing. Yup. Totally obsessed.
Truthfully, I don’t have many go-to appliances in my kitchen (I’m pretty hard to please) but I honestly couldn’t live without a blender – I’m sure most seasoned vegans would agree it’s a crucial piece of kit. Personally, I’ve been through a number of ’em (and definitely put them through their paces in the process) so I like to think I know what separates the good from the great – and ‘The Boss’ is without a doubt ‘great’. Not only does it have a setting for ‘green smoothies’ (I know!) but it also (and crucially, for me) makes mincemeat of nuts … and that’s exactly why it’s ideal for this recipe.
Because I like to add as little liquid as possible when making creams and cheeses, it’s been quite tricky in the past for me to get the desired consistency without relenting and adding that extra bit of water or juice. You’ll see here that I recommend adding 75ml maximum to the cashews but in reality I didn’t even use the full amount (more like 50ml) and it still rendered it utterly flawless – in a nutshell, my nutbased creams have been revolutionised. Enough blathering though and onto the recipe – the weekend beckons:
what you’ll need
200g soaked cashews
75ml filtered water
2 tbsp agave (or maple syrup)
pinch of salt
1 tbsp orange juice
1/2 tsp orange extract
2 x oranges
finely grated dark chocolate
what you’ll do
Soak the cashews overnight in filtered water. Drain, rinse and add to your blender along with 50ml water, 1 tbsp agave and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides occasionally and adding a touch more water if necessary. It will go through several stages so persevere until you achieve the desired silky smooth consistency.
Once smooth add the orange juice, remaining agave and orange extract and blitz to combine. Transfer to a bowl and chill for at least an hour.
Heat a griddle pan on a medium/high heat. Slice the skin off the oranges and cut into thickish rounds (otherwise they will disintegrate on the pan) and place on the pre-heated griddle pan. Sear the orange slices for a minute or so on each side before transferring to a large platter or dish.
Spoon the chilled cashew cream in tothe centre and finish with a little grated chocolate and/or orange zest.
I don’t do a huge amount of baking … if I make it, I’ll eat it, so muffins, breads, cakes and cookies are invariably now and again affairs. These heavenly morsels are borderline healthy, however, so they make an appearance more frequently than most – I use the easy batter as my base and add whatever I have to hand; this time it just so happened to be raspberries and chocolate. They also work wonderfully with berries (strawberries, blackberries and blueberries) and nuts (walnuts and pecans are particularly great options) although I really do love this crushed raspberry, chocolate chip mix … lush with a capital ‘L’. Not only are they are a terrific breakfast option, especially if you’re in a hurry first thing, but also act as the perfect mid-afternoon pick-me-up with only a fraction of the usual ‘muffin induced’ guilt.
Refined-sugar free and containing wholesome spelt flour, they are filling without being stodgy – I don’t know about you but baked goods often leave me feeling a tad bloated … not so with these beauties! Sure, there’s a little plain flour in there but if you wanted to round off the spelt flour instead then by all means go ahead. I personally like the lightness the plain flour brings to proceedings but it’s not a crucial addition. My other ‘health’ concession is the fact the mixture will only stretch to six (medium) muffins – I find that portion control is much more effective than abstinence and baked goods are always better fresh anyway, so this way you won’t have any lingering around for days. Obviously if you’re baking for a brood then simply double the ingredients … and don’t forget to get creative with the ‘add-ins’.
what you’ll need
100g spelt flour
50g plain flour
25g ground linseed (flaxseed)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
1 ripe banana
120ml plant milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
40ml maple syrup
50g dark chocolate chips
what you’ll do
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Line a muffin tin with 6 muffin cases.
Lightly whisk the flours, flaxseed, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt together until combined.
Mash the banana to a smooth puree and transfer to a large bowl. Add the plant milk, vanilla extract, agave and maple syrup, and whisk vigorously until thoroughly combined.
Make a well in the flour mix and pour in the banana/plant milk mixture. Fold gently until combined. Roughly mash the raspberries and add to batter along with the chocolate chips. Stir through until distributed ensuring not to overwork the mixture.
Divide the batter between the muffin cases and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow the muffins to cool completely on a cooling rack.
Serve with a cup of hot coffee.