Plum & Granola Crumble

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December is upon us and I am really ramping up the hygge factor in my kitchen. Being a die-hard crumble fan, I tend to make one a week during these crisp, cold winter months – nothing beats a warming bowl of this doused in soya cream, custard or in this instance a dollop of zingy coconut yoghurt. This is a bit of a sweet ‘n’ savoury affair … not too sweet with just the right amount of herb and vinegar action to make you raise an eyebrow. I adore the granola topping so much I think I might be reluctant to go back to the traditional variety – the nutty crunch is seriously moreish and would make a terrific granola in of itself. In you are so inclined, simply lay the mixture flat on a baking sheet and bake in a pre-heated oven (150c) for 20mins before giving it a gentle mix – return it to the oven for a further 10-15mins. Bingo, you have a wondrous breakfast at the ready. Truth be told, I would happily chow down on this crumble first thing without so much as a single guilt pang – hence my coconut yoghurt suggestion.

 

I have a lot of cooking lined up this season. I’m determined to perfect my mince pie recipe (happy with my filling but my pastry needs work) and am having a strange cracker obsession presently … so sick of buying of buying shop bought ones that are almost always ‘meh’. A bad cracker lets down a great ‘cheese board’ and now that I’ve nailed my ultimate cashew cheese recipe (all in good time) pairing it with a sub-par ‘gary’ vehicle would be a travesty. Even though this Christmas is going to be lacking in festive cheer, I’m using food as a much welcome distraction. Luckily I’ll have many willing mouths on hand to hoover up whatever I put in front of them. This crumble will most likely make a number of appearances too.

 

What you’ll need

 

for the filling

9 plums, stoned and sliced

handful of dried cherries

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg

pinch freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

50ml maple syrup, agave or other liquid sweeneter

 

for the oaty topping

70g oats

30g ground almonds

30g flaked almonds

sprig of lemon thyme

pinch of salt

2 heaped tbsp. light tahini

30ml maple syrup or agave

1 tsp. almond extract

juice 1/2 clementine

30ml olive oil

 

What you’ll do

 

Pre-heat the oven to 175c.

 

Toss the sliced plums with the dried cherries, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, balsamic and sweetener. Set aside while you make the topping.

 

Whisk the tahini, maple syrup, almond extract, clementine juice and oil together until smooth.

 

Transfer the plums to an ovenproof dish.

 

In a separate bowl, lightly mix the oats, ground almonds, flaked almonds, thyme leaves and salt together before adding the tahini mixture. Stir to combine, ensuring everything is coated.

 

Spoon the granola mixture over the plums, ensuring it is pressed reasonably flat to avoid it charring too much on top before the fruit is cooked through.

 

Bake for 20mins. Remove from oven and lightly fork through the topping to ensure the granola topping is evenly cooked. Return to the oven for a further 10-15mins or until the plum juice begins to bubble and the top is golden and crisp.

 

Let it cool briefly before serving. Adorn with lemon thyme and add a dollop of fresh coconut yoghurt to each bowl.

 

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Triple Citrus Tart

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Oooomph. Where to begin. It’s taken me nearly 24hrs to get this post uploaded – not because of the recipe, more because I’m really not sure what to say. I guess I could gloss over the election but truthfully, that doesn’t sit well with me – it’s just too damn important. Even if I don’t get it right all the time, I’m a passionate person and this Trump debacle has really got me riled. Like many, I had so much hope he wouldn’t win but deep down I knew it was a very real possibility – we had a dry-run with Brexit, which set the alarms bells officially ringing. Back then I thought the likelihood of us voting to leave the EU was slim to none and whilst I had pretty strong opinions on the matter, I kept reasonably quiet beforehand.
 
Then, in the wake of the result, I found myself so angry and full of contempt for anyone who didn’t vote to remain, I was almost blinded to what was really going on. Similarly, the US  have found themselves dumbfounded that something which had been under their noses the whole time was seemingly ignored. As I said at the time (of Brexit that is) – it’s as if the veil has been lifted and we are seeing the society we live in clearly for the first time. It’s a frightening thing when you suddenly feel like you’re surrounded by strangers – I’ll admit I couldn’t look people in the eye for a number of weeks, thinking ‘did they… ?’ ‘was it them who landed us in this mess?’ ‘what were they thinking?!!’, which only really results in a climate of collective distrust.

 

And then I realised that’s exactly how many ‘Brexiteers’ and ‘Trump Supporters’ have most likely been feeling for years. Outsiders. The forgotten ones. Voiceless and discarded. We’ve only had a few months of it but can you imagine what that must feel like on a permanent basis? I fully acknowledge my privileged upbringing and by that I mean having two parents who did everything in their power to give my Sister and I the best possible start in life. The word ‘opportunity’ has been bandied about a lot these last few days and that is precisely what I was always afforded – the encouragement to believe I could do anything, regardless of how much money we had or what my gender was. It’s amazing how powerful someone believing in you can be … I can tell you now it made me fearless.
 
However, and despite my unshakeable demeanour I do know what it feels like to be judged on your nationality – it’s hard to believe now but I used to accept someone saying to me ‘oh, that’s so Irish’ with the implication my heritage somehow equaled stupidity – and no, I wasn’t simply misunderstanding the tone or being ‘paranoid’, this is precisely was they meant. Even in recent weeks I’ve heard people referring to my fellow Northern Irish folk as a ‘bunch of misfits’ (as well as gleefully dismissing our border concerns – we don’t want one, by the way) and I can tell you it hurts … such small-fry though when you consider the hate that has consumed people recently but no less significant.
 
Trump’s election too has worryingly legitimised these beliefs and made it okay for people to freely say what they’ve obviously been thinking for years. And perhaps therein lies the problem. Do we really know what has contributed to the current hate-filled climate, where we are turning on our neighbour and saying unfathomable things to one another? How have the political, economic and social structures been a factor in cultivating beliefs that simply aren’t true … no, not all Muslims are terrorists and (despite Trumps shocking proclamations) not all Mexicans are ‘rapists and criminals’. P.S. I did a little fact check on the exact words he used, if you need further reminding of his rampant xenophobia:
 
When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.
 
What a charmer, eh? And how nice of him to acknowledge there’s a few good ones in there too. A real stand-up guy. Cripes, is anyone else missing Obama already? What I can say is, from personal experience, and having lived in an area of Chicago that had many wonderful, hardworking, talented, friendly, law-abiding Mexicans, Trump couldn’t be more wrong about this wonderful community of people. Of course, every nation has bad apples but that is something certainly not peculiar to Mexico. As an aside, I was thinking about the similarities between the Mexicans, Polish and Irish (and other countries that have suffered economic/social difficulties), and that is our readiness to go to where the work is. When times are tough, our willingness to pack our bag, get out there and survive is something to be admired, in my opinion, not something to be sneered at or derided. We like to put our best foot forward and graft … even if it means living hundreds or thousands of miles from home. It’s not always ideal but sometimes it has to be done.
 
What I’m trying to say is, in many ways, I sympathise with Trump supporters, and those who voted leave – I really do. But many wrongs do not make a right. It seems to me their identity is wrapped up in a past that no longer exists, and that is difficult to come to terms with. Luckily us Irish have had many years of practice, which means our sense of identity is kind of rock solid – we take it with us wherever we go, and I dare say it’s the same for the Mexicans et al too. All of this (feeling alienated in their own country, limited work prospects, and the rest) amounts to a collective sense of injustice, which is precisely when you hear people mouthing off about ‘immigrants taking our jobs’ and whatnot – absolute nonsense, of course, but this is what people really believe. True story – my Dad’s job was to get people into work and he told many, many stories of highly educated immigrants (I’m talking Doctors, Lawyers, Educators etc.) taking low-paid ‘menial’ jobs just to earn a buck … jobs, I might add, that nobody else was willing to do. To live in another country, respect its way of life, contribute economically and still retain a strong sense of self must feel like a slap in the face, even when it’s not intended that way. However, the blame cannot be laid at the feet of the people simply trying to do right by themselves and their families.
 
People are angry then and have turned to Donald Trump, of all people, for help and guidance. Sigh. The man that has espoused so many offensive, nasty, vitriolic things over the past year and a half is entering the Whitehouse, and will reign supreme as of January. Misogyny aside (that’s a whole post in of itself and Hadley Freeman has already done a better job than I ever could in how it overtook the campaign), Trumps win this week has given the almighty thumbs up to blatant racism with a fair old nod to fascism too – the far right have readily claimed the victory as their own, which can only have a unsavoury ripple effect around the world. No, not all Trump supporters are racist but when you align yourself with the likes of the KKK and Marine Le Pen, you must know you’re headed in the wrong direction for answers and solutions, no? Then again, I would probably be described as one of these mythical ‘Champagne Socialists’ I keep hearing about … even though my budget is more cava and I left my hardcore socialist tendencies back at college. Side note; I did enjoy canvassing for the socialist alliance with Mark Steel once back in the day … that man is an absolute hoot and I thoroughly enjoyed trundling the streets of southeast London with him even if we came nowhere close to winning. In case you’re interested, his column on the whole Trump catastophe is way more insightful (and hilarious – I may have howled, ahem) than mine, so I wholly recommend you give it a read, especially if you’re in need of a laugh. I know I was.
 
Ugh. So what to do now. Well,  in addition to sharing every relevant Guardian/Greenpeace article I come across (yup, I am one of those annoying left-wing people – hi there!) and spamming Facebook and Twitter like a maniac, I’m also going to try and properly connect with my community more. No, really. Those disenfranchised people we’re alluding to? They actually exist – and they’re not all evil or want every immigrant deported asap. Equally though, that doesn’t mean we have to tolerate the bile that has been spewing from people’s mouths nor do we stand by when others are being abused for their religion, race or sexual orientation. We move forward, we come together but we emphatically do not sweep the hate that has been openly incited under the carpet because otherwise it’s all been for nothing. I could write a list of further concerns from the environment to planned parenthood and beyond but I get the sense you came here for a recipe and were greeted with a rant and for that I can only apologise. If you would like to add your tuppence-worth, by all means leave a comment below … just remember there’s enough hate out there at present to fill a thousand arks, so let’s keep it on the right side of kind. Instead, let’s give each other a much needed virtual hug and enjoy a nice slice of Citrus Tart. M’kay? M’kay.
 

what you’ll need

 

for the crust

50g desiccated coconut

50g pistachios

50g brazil nuts

pinch of salt

1 tbsp. coconut oil

4 medjool dates

 

for the filling

150g cashews

juice 1/2 lemon

juice 1/2 orange

zest & juice 1/2 grapefruit

1 tsp. lemon extract

1 heaped tbsp. agar agar flakes

1/4 cup/60ml water

1/4 cup/60ml agave

pinch of salt

 

to garnish

 

20g crushed pistachios

 

what you’ll do

 

place the cashews in a large bowl and cover with freshly boiled water. set aside for 30 minutes.

 

pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.

 

place the coconut, pistachios and brazil nuts in a food processor and pulse until it becomes like fine rubble. add the coconut oil, salt and dates and pulse again until it just comes together – pinch some of the mixture between your fingers to test … if it sticks, you’re good to go.

 

transfer the crust mixture to a small tart tin and press into the mould using your fingers. refrigerate for 10 minutes to harden slightly before baking for a further 8-10 minutes in the oven – you can add baking beans if you wish but it shouldn’t make too much of a difference. remove from oven and cool in the fridge until needed.

 

drain and rinse the cashews and add to a blender.

 

place the agar agar flakes in a small saucepan along with juices and water. simmer for 5-10 minutes or until it completely dissolves. this will also intensify the citrus flavour.

 

add the liquid to the cashews along with the lemon extract, grapefruit zest, agave and salt. blend until it is completely smooth, scraping down the sides from time to time. this will take anywhere between 10-15 minutes, depending on your blender and will go through several stages … coarse, nubbly, thick and then smooth. if it is not entirely silky, you must keep blending until you achieve the desired consistency otherwise it will negatively affect the texture.

 

pour the filling onto the cooled crust and smooth with the back of a spatula. cover with clingfilm and freeze until set (about 2 hrs) before transferring to the fridge for at least and hour or preferably overnight.

 

roughly chop the remaining pistachios and scatter around the edge of the tart before serving. serves 4-6

 

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Coffee Cacao Cake

 

What a week! Moving whilst juggling deadlines and dealing with leaks, a new flat (that needs a lot of TLC) is not for the faint hearted I can tell you. But! We made it in one piece and I’m feeling pretty good – no, make that great. In fact, to be perfectly honest with you I feel ruddy awesome … hallelujah, stop the press, she’s actually (wait. what’s that?) happy! Shifting our lives back into a bustling little town has seriously been the best thing we could’ve done. I usually get to Friday having not stepped foot outside the door … yes, there was glorious scenery but a mere dander away (and I did enjoy my afternoon walks during the summer months) however, my anxious nature did not fare well in a teeny tiny village. More on that another time when I’ve had time to properly process it all. Anyway, suffice to say, I’m much better programmed to function in a larger town surrounded by lots of people – must be all those years living in cities. I actually don’t fear big cities or towns in the slightest but put me on my own in the countryside and I’m a cowering wreck. Anyway, to celebrate my super productive week I decided to get a bakin’ … mainly because I had half a cafetiere of coffee staring at me and my first though was ‘cake’! Coffee and chocolate is an obvious but delicious combo – leftover coffee makes for a seriously awesome addition too … delicate yet moist (that word makes me shudder but I can think of no other) and utterly, utterly moreish. I even plan on having it for breakfast tomorrow smeared (make that smothered) in peanut butter and handed to me by my Husband. No shame.

 

what you’ll need

200g spelt flour

2 tbsp raw cacao or cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

pinch of fine salt

1 x banana

100g dark brown sugar

1 tbsp maple syrup (molasses would also be awesome!)

3 tbsp olive oil

200ml leftover coffee

 

what you’ll do

pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees celsius

 

whisk the dry ingredients together. in a separate bowl, mash the banana and whisk in the sugar, maple syrup and oil until combined.

 

make a well in the centre of the flour and add the banana mixture. gently fold, add the coffee a little at a time until combined.

 

grease a tin and pour in the batter. tap it firmly on the kitchen surface to get rid of any air bubbles. bake for 30 mins before cooling on a cake rack.

 

gently ease the cake from the tin. whisk together 1 tbsp of icing sugar with a splash of coffee and brush over the cake whilst it’s still warm. let the cake cool completely before slicing.

 

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(Almost raw) Cinnamon Chocolate Slice

 

I almost didn’t post this recipe … not because it’s not delicious but because I often play around in the kitchen with similarly yummy results but for whatever many and varied reasons never get around to blogging about it. However, with that ‘New Year, New Me’ mantra still swirling around my head I’m determined to change that pattern, and even though (again) I’m not entirely happy with the images, they’re passable enough to warrant a post. I definitely deserve the ‘over-thinkers achievement award’, don’t you agree?

 

Brasil nuts are a new fav of mine when it comes to raw (or almost raw) desserts, particularly (especially!) for the base. The texture is almost sponge-like when ground and their wonderfully mild flavour ensures the chocolate ganache remains the star of the show – sprinkled with a little cinnamon, it is sure to blow yer socks off. In fact, I’ve been making a conscious effort to buy less and less processed food (yes, even us vegans fall into the convenience trap) and this is where raw desserts really come into their own. For me, there’s nothing more satisfying than a bliss ball or raw slice – it satiates that nagging sweet tooth and gnawing pre-dinner hunger in one fell swoop, with the added bonus that your blood sugar levels don’t sky rocket meaning you’re less likely to falter before your evening meal. Our usual routine usually involves a cup of tea with a slice of something at around 6pm because we don’t eat until 9pm, which I know sounds crazy to some people but it’s just normality to us – basically, we are night owls and we eek out every second of our evenings together.

 

I say this is ‘almost raw’ because I’ve added a heaped tablespoon of coconut milk/water (the canned variety) but if you want to skip that part and swap out the agave addition for something else then feel free – any kind of vegan syrup would also work but I do like the lift it gives the ganache in addition to the palm sugar. Just my preference but you may want to ‘rawify’ it a little further – totally up to you.

 

My urge to purge the last few ‘processed’ items currently in my cupboards and fridge has arisen again after taking a bit of hiatus. Like most people, this miserable Winter weather had me reaching for comfort foods like cookies and whatnot but with Spring (almost) in the air, my body is already telling me to ditch the oreos and replace them with something a little less toxic. Don’t get me wrong, when Ben & Jerry’s finally release their dairy ice-creams I’ll be the first in line to sample the delights but until then I’ll be dining out on slightly healthier desserts like this. I hope you’ll join me too!

 

what you’ll need

for the crust

1 cup brazil nuts

3 medjool dates

1/2 tbsp coconut oil

pinch of pink himalayan salt

 

for the topping

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 heaped tbsp coconut palm sugar

1 heaped tbsp raw cacao

1 tbsp coconut cream

1 tbsp coconut water

1 tbsp agave or other vegan sweetener

generous pinch of cinnamon salt (available from the Cornish Sea Salt Co.)

or a pinch of regular sea salt mixed with grated or ground cinnamon

 

what you’ll do

place the brazil nuts in the blender and blitz to a fine meal. stone the dates and add to the processor along with the coconut oil and pink himalayan salt. blitz until it form a fine rubble before transferring to a lined tin. press firmly with the back of a spoon or spatula and refrigerate for at least an hour.

 

melt the coconut oil in a small saucepan and add the palm sugar. allow it to slowly dissolve before adding the cacao. whisk vigorously until combined … don’t worry if it still looks a bit grainy at this stage. add the coconut cream, coconut water, agave and salt, and whisk again until smooth – you can do this over a very low heat to loosen the mixture.

 

pour over the brazil nut crust and spread out using a spatula. garnish with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon salt.

 

refrigerate for several hours (or ideally overnight) until set. slice and serve … this dessert is quite rich so a small serving will suffice.

 

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Chia Bia Balls


 

Ugh, I’ve been meaning to upload this recipe since before the weekend and here I am on a Sunday night still faffing about with photos/words – and for what reason I do not know. Call it procrastination or complete laziness but sometimes I just simply cannot get it together … a perpetual mental stumbling block or general over-thinking – I realise I’m alluding to things and bordering on the vague here so please forgive me. It has little or nothing to do with the recipe (they’re bliss balls for pete’s sake!) and everything to do with me. Yup, silly old self flagellating me.
 

Okay, so let’s get off one nutty train and onto another … the kind that involves actual nuts and my new obsession, milled chia. Until Chia Bia sent me a bunch of their awesome products, I’d actually not come across ‘milled chia’, so I was pretty excited to give it (them?) a whirl. I thought it best to start with the basics (and it doesn’t get much simpler than these energy bites) but I have a feeling this ‘new to me’ ingredient is going to be making frequent appearances in my kitchen experiments – next up, I’ll be testing them out as an alternative binder in muffins and breads!
 

Onto the nitty gritty. Or should that be ‘itty, bitty, nitty gritty’? It is, in my opinion, the perfect bliss ball addition because unlike their whole seed counterpart, they refrain from taking on that jelly-like quality so associated with chia. Once milled, they can used almost like flaxseed – I’ve been liberally sprinkling it on my oatmeal and yoghurt in case you’re interested, for an added Omega 3 boost in the morning (alongside their capsules, which are also a new fav). There’s also a crazy awesome recipe in Susan Jane White’s latest book ‘The Virtuous Tart’ that calls for milled chia (i’m referring to her Amazonian Truffles – can you say yum?) although until now I’ve been using regular chia seeds (with success, I might add!) in lieu of the milled variety so we shall see how they compare when I inevitably make a batch this week. I’m thinking it will elevate them from fabulous to fantabulous. Just a hunch.
 

I couldn’t decide what to call these little blighters and toyed with the idea of giving them some sort of ‘protein boost’ tagline just because I’ve managed to cram so many nuts in there but I went with ‘Chia Bia Balls’ in the end, in honour of the brand that brought this wondrous little ingredient to my attention. We’ve been munching on ’em since Friday and I can safely say they are the perfect pick-me-up snack – in fact, my Husband is so taken with them I’ve had to squirrel them away at the back of the fridge … mwahahaha, more for me! We’ve got a busy week ahead, which means these are going to come in very handy indeed. Anyway, enough of my rambling, here’s the recipe:
 

what you’ll need

90g soaked cashews

50g milled chia

50g dessicated coconut

50g almonds

50g raw cacao

4 large medjool dates

50g raisins

2 tbsp almond butter or smooth peanut butter

pinch of pink himalayan salt

1/4 tsp of freshly grated cinnamon

 

to coat

blueberry chia mix

dessicated coconut

 

what you’ll do

place the milled chia, almonds, cacao and coconut into a food processor and blitz to a fine powder. add the remaining ingredients and blitz until it forms a sticky rubble, scraping down the sides from time to time.

 

roll a teaspoon amount of ‘dough’ into ball, toss in either the blueberry chia mix or dessicated coconut and repeat until all of the mixture has been used.

 

refrigerate for at least an hour before eating.

 

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Festive Mincemeat Galette

 

How in the heck is it the 1st of December already? Whilst part of me is jumping for ‘Christmas-is-coming’ joy, the other half is screaming ‘stop, the year can’t be over just yet’! Yes, I love Christmas but really it’s the build-up I adore more than anything … I mostly find the day itself a bit of a let-down. There’s always so many people to see and it’s usually a little tension-filled (lest it be anything less than perfect) which is probably why I eek out every last drop of Christmas Eve. Granted, the pressure I feel is mostly self-inflicted although I’ve been working on my Christmas Day zen mode the last couple of years. Can’t say I’ve been entirely successful just yet but at least I’m trying, right?

 

As always, I seek solace in the kitchen. I’ve already made some rather wonky looking star cookies (that’ll teach me to shove my baking equipment in a box) and as I type my Husband is making me a snowflake cutter on his fancy 3d machine thingy – exciting! Today though, I really fancied a dessert. More specifically, I was in the mood for mincemeat. Oh, lordy, do I love mincemeat. Not only have I necked about a dozen pies since they appeared on the supermarket shelves (in .. er, early November) but now I’m toying with a handful of recipes that utilize this most British of festive fillings. Sure, I could make it from scratch but why bother when most shop bought versions are vegan anyway – in case you’re wondering, I bought this one in the Co-op and it was spot on. Mincemeat Galette a go-go.

 

what you’ll need

 

for the pastry

80g spelt flour

40g plain white flour

50g icing sugar

pinch of salt

50g chilled coconut butter or marg

1 tbsp water

 

for the filling

400g mincemeat

 

to garnish

toasted flaked almonds

icing sugar

 

what you’ll do

 

sieve the flours, icing sugar and salt into a bowl. work the coconut butter into the flour mix until it resembles breadcrumbs. add the water and work it into a dough ball using your hands. wrap in cling film and chill for around 30mins – 1 hr.

 

pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.

 

flour a clean surface and carefully roll out the pastry into an oval shape. transfer to a lined baking sheet.

 

spoon the mincemeat into the centre of the pastry, leaving a generous amount of pastry around the edge. roughly crease the edges around the filling and bake for 30 minutes.

 

serve hot or cold with soya cream.

 

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Barmbrack Bundt

 

{singing} ‘It’s the most wonderful time of the yeeeeeeeaaaaaarrr’ … or spookiest, or something. Anyway, long story short, I am a Halloween fruitcake – which, is just as well, seeing as I made one to celebrate. Getting back to my Irish roots I opted for a spiced Barmbrack of sorts – this is my version and it’s half way between a bread and cake. The bundt tin wasn’t just a frivolous decision either. It’s actually a bit of a nod to the ‘ring’ that is usually secreted inside the bread. I’m not a big fan of putting choke-inducing items in my food (even if they are wrapped in baking parchment) so the ring shape will have to suffice.

 

If you didn’t already know most of those awesome Halloweeny traditions we love so much originated in Eire – yup, even pumpkin carving, although we apparently used gourds/turnips back in the day. The celts seem to share a lot of the same folklore, which probably goes some way to explain why I feel so at home here in Cornwall … they too were a fan of the old turnip head around this time of year. Also, if you think America has the monopoly on Halloween, my home-town of Derry topped a recent USA Today poll for ‘Best Halloween Destination’ ahead of Salem and Transylvania no less – I actually feel pretty lucky to have grown up in a place with such a rich Halloween heritage and have so many fond memories of dressing-up and trick or treating as a kid. Side note; if you want to be truly terrified google ‘Irish Jack-o’-lantern’ – not for the faint hearted but would definitely have done a great job warding off those evil spirits. Me? I’ll be sticking to my usual goofy face.

 

Back to the Barmbrack. Typically a yeasted bread, I honestly couldn’t be bothered to faff about with kneading yesterday – I was still exhausted from my trip back to Cornwall, and needed something to ease me back into the kitchen. I did, however, opt for a spelt/strong white flour mix, which resulted in a wonderfully bready texture … perfect for slathering in dairy-free butter and serving alongside a hot cuppa. I soaked the raisins in cold tea leftover from breakfast (yes, I do use a teapot – such is my tea addiction) and once drained I poured the reserved liquid into my bread batter for extra oomph. It might not be the most authentic barmbrack in the world but by golly does it taste good. In fact, I’m going to treat myself to another slice, right … about … now.

 

what you’ll need

130g raisins

100ml cold black tea

250g spelt flour

200g strong white flour

100g plus 1 tbsp light brown sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger, allspice and nutmeg

250ml almond milk

3 tbsp vegan margarine

1 tsp molasses

 

for the glaze

3 tbsp light brown sugar

 1 tbsp water

 

what you’ll do

place the raisins in a bowl and pour over the cold tea. set aside to soak for about an hour. drain and reserve the cold tea liquid.

 

pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.

 

sift the flours, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl.

 

gently heat the almond milk, margarine, molasses and 1 tbsp of light brown sugar in a milk-pan. once the margarine has melted, whisk the mixture until frothy and combined.

 

make a well in the centre of the flour mix and pour in the warm almond milk mixture along with the reserved tea. fold gently until combined before stirring through the soaked raisins.

 

transfer the batter to a greased bundt tin and bake for 45-50 mins or until a skewer comes out clean. let the bread cool slighty before gently tipping out onto a cooling rack.

 

whilst it cools, make the glaze by placing the sugar and water into a small saucepan. simmer until it reduces before brushing over the warm bread. let the bread cool completely before slicing. serve with a generous smear of vegan butter and a hot cup of tea.

 

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Buckwheat Beetroot Brownie Bites


 
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

seasalt

 

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!

 

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Mini Spelt Cinnamon Rolls


 
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)

 

to serve

maple syrup

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.

 

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Raspberry & Chocolate Muffins


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

60ml agave

40ml maple syrup

50g dark chocolate chips

80g raspberries

 

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.

 

 

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