Saturday, 30 November 2013

Sprouts & Carrots with Orange, Honey & Hazelnut

Sprouts - the most divisive of vegetables.
I love them. Mr E tolerates them without too much fuss, because he knows they are healthy - and 2 veg box winters significantly increased his sprout tolerance.

However… lots of people out there are avid sprout haters, yet seem to feel obliged to eat them because they are traditional at Christmas. I'm kind of the opinion that if you hate them that much, then just don't eat them! If you're able to make the autonomous choice to try to find a recipe to disguise them, then pick another vegetable instead that you do actually enjoy, and eat lots of that, rather than a token brussel sprout.

Delicious - sweet, nutty, sprouty goodness
A fair few of the recipes for sprout haters make them more palatable by adding lots of bacon. Which I know is a delicious taste combination, but I've also got a bit of a thing about vegetable side dishes that have meat in them. Or gallons of cream  and cheese (aside from the obvious dairy issues). I think veggies should be primarily vegetarian, and reasonably healthy.

Before I get too carried away with my opining, I think I'd better crack on with my recipe!

This recipe enhances the sprouts without trying to pretend they are bacon. It's vegetarian, and if you used maple syrup instead of the honey it would be vegan too. I'd see it more as a gentle introduction to those that are a little uncertain about sprouts, rather than a dish to covert haters!

Proper Sunday dinner comfort food
Sprouts & Carrots with Orange, Honey and Hazelnuts (Serves 3 as a side dish)

  • 12 medium brussels sprouts
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • juice of 1 satsuma / clementine
  • 1 heaped tbsp skin on hazelnuts
  • Salt & pepper

Peel the carrot, and trim the outer leaves and base off the sprouts.
Slice the carrot thinly, and shred the sprouts (or quarter them - whatever you find easier).
Heat the oil in a large frying pan.
Sautee the carrot and sprouts over a medium heat until they are starting to become tender but still with a good crunch.
Add salt and pepper to taste, then squeeze in the juice of a small orange (I used a satsuma - clementine would give a more orange-y flavour), add the honey and the hazelnuts.
Stir well to combine, then cook for a few minutes longer.
Serve hot with your chosen main.

Place cards carefully written by Mini-M whilst waiting for dinner to be ready
We ate this along with cocktail sausage toad-in-the-hole and gravy which was fantastic comfort food after a very cold day outside.

The big question… did Mini-M eat them? Well, sort of. She ate several pieces of sprout and quite a few bits of carrot. The hazelnuts we soundly rejected - even though she'll happily eat them in snack mix. Kids are a law unto themselves in so many ways!

Geeky Stats Cooking: Paifala - Samoan Pineapple Pasties

I am very very slowly plodding my way through the kitchens of some of the lesser visited countries of the world, as I aim to cook a recipe from every country that I've not had a blog visitor from (according to Google Analytics stats).

So far, I've ticked off Albania, Azerbaijan, Aruba, Monaco, The Isle of Man, Georgia & Gibraltar. Pretty slow progress since it has been virtually a whole year! Must do better in 2014…

Anyway, I made this one back in July, and somehow it slipped well and truly through the blogging net!  As part of our culinary world tour, we sampled Paifala from Samoa - pineapple and custard half-moon pasties. We ate it as a weekend Sunday breakfast treat, which left Mini-M asking for several weeks after if there was any pineapple cake left. There wasn't - it didn't last long!

You can tell this isn't a recent photo…. it was clearly taken in the sunlight! Not much of that around these parts in November
Dairy free pastry is generally a bit temperamental and prone to being really tough, which made this recipe great to convert, as a fair amount of both the fat and liquid in the pastry comes from coconut milk rather than butter. 

My recipe is based on this one at Samoa Food, which itself credits this interview and recipes with a Samoan deli and cafe owner in San Diego - a circuitous route!

I've halved the quantities and made it dairy free by changing a few things here and there. Be warned - the night before you want to make these, take a tin of coconut milk and stick it in the back of your fridge to chill. That way the thicker cream and thinner milk will separate naturally.

Samoan Paifala (makes 2 large pasties which serves 4)
  • 1 tin crushed pineapple in juice
  • 100g sugar
  • 60ml coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp custard powder (the original recipe said cornstarch, but I didn't have any, and custard powder is pretty much the same thing)
  • 30ml juice from the crushed pineapple
  • 340g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 30g dairy free margarine
  • 120ml coconut milk
  • pinch salt
Carefully open your tin of coconut that has been in the fridge, and scoop off the thick cream that has risen to the top. Keep for making the crust - use the runny liquid at the bottom of the tin for the filling.

Make the filling first - it has to cool to room temperature before being used.
Put the pineapple, sugar and coconut milk in a small saucepan and heat slowly and gently until the sugar has dissolved, then bring up to a simmer.
Carefully mix together the custard powder and pineapple juice to a paste, then add it to the mixture in the pan, stirring until completely dissolved. 
Continue to cook over a low heat for a couple of minutes until the mixture thickens.
Take off the heat and allow to cool down completely to room temperature before continuing.
Preheat the oven to 190C (170C fan).
For the crust, mix together the flour and baking powder and pinch of salt. Rub in the margarine, then stir in the coconut milk and mix until combined. Don't overwork otherwise it will get tough - you want it to be just sticking together as a dough.
Split the dough into two pieces, and roll each one out into a circle that is between 0.5 and 1cm thick.
Pile half of your filling onto half of each circle - leave a generous border of around 2cm to make sure the filling doesn't leak out during baking - and run a dampened finger around the edges.
Fold over the pastry to make a semi-circle, and use a fork to crimp down the edges.
Spike a couple of holes through the top of the pastry to let steam escape.
Place on a greased baking sheet and bake for around 35 minutes until golden.
Cool before eating - molten pineapple custard filling is painful!

Patience…. good things come to those who wait. Burned mouths come to those that don't
You could make smaller individual ones, however I wanted to minimise the amount of rolling and reworking I had to do to the pastry.

Although it would be less traditional, this pastry would work well with lots of fillings - sweet or savoury - since it is unsweetened itself. Continuing the fruity theme, I think a cherry version would pretty special - or good old apple which is always a winner, particularly with the custard. 

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Another instalment of Recipe-less wonders

I'm on holiday today - woop woop! I'm starting it off by dying my hair which has been overdue for about a month and is so grey that Mini-M asked me in a very confused way the other day "But what colour actually is your hair Mummy?" Which is probably a fair question since it has mainly grey roots with the last bastion of natural very dark brown still hanging on, and dyed but wearing out and starting to go slightly auburn brown ends. Not high in the glamour stakes - more mangy mongrel than yummy mummy!

So, hair dye is on, and I'm trying very hard to make sure it doesn't drip on the laptop whilst I wait the obligatory 30 mins…

Continuing my crusade on my backlog of blog posts, here are some that I know are recipe-less, but nevertheless looked pretty tasty, so I snapped them anyway.

Sparkly banana loaf
Apple & cranberry loaf 
Eggs fried in bagel holes
Mulled wine trifle - prior to getting its whipped coconut cream topping 
Asparagus egg rolls with dipping sauce
Sweet potato, spinach and peanut stew
Beetroot barley risotto 
Celeriac and carrot soup (I think!)
Chard pesto
Gluten free, dairy free, vegan spiced apricot and chocolate cake
Chicken and cherry cola curry
Buckwheat, banana and pear cake 
Chocolate avocado brownie
Crispy potato topped chicken chilli pie
Cupcakes. With something in them - possibly blueberries?
The makings of raspberry chia seed jam
Cauliflower fritters before frying 
Very chocolatey brownie 
Haggis bobotie
Cupcakes filled with mincemeat
Quinoa with tofu and kale kimchi

Gluten & dairy free marmalade crumble slice 
Filo pastry chicken, vegetable and houmus pies
Baby corn cornbread muffins 
Chicken, pepper and tahini stew 
Scones of some variety! 
Chunky beef broth
Spicy potato crackers 
Hummingbird cake cupcakes 
Apricot, coconut and cashew truffles
Coffe and chocolate rock buns
Peaches on french toast
Pear & chocolate strudel
Pretty apple pies
Savoury scones made with dripping rather than butter
If some of these have already been posted in a previous roundup, then apologies! They were still in my to-be-blogged folder, but rest assured they will now be deleted - phew! Job done :o)

Monday, 25 November 2013

Almond Poppyseed and Lemon Loaf

Another recipe without too much pre-amble to help me get through my blogging queue… I made this for a colleague's last day at work and it went down well with everyone - no-one guessed it was gluten and dairy free, and even once they new, they went back for seconds. It is adapted from Nigella Lawson's Damp Lemon & Almond Cake, but I've made enough changes for it to have deviated significantly from her offering. Although I've had her buttery version back in the dairy days, and it is really lovely - it comes highly recommended.

Almond Poppyseed and Lemon Loaf (makes 1 large loaf)
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 200g dairy free margarine
  • 4 eggs
  • 50g rice flour
  • pinch of xanathan gum
  • 200g ground almonds
  • 25g poppy seeds
  • zest & juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 tsp almond extract
Preheat oven to 160C (150C fan). Grease and line a 2 lb loaf tin.
Beat together the caster sugar and margarine until fluffy.
Add the eggs and rice flour and beat until well combined.
Stir in the xanathan gum, ground almonds, poppy seeds, almond extract lemon zest and juice (basically all of the other ingredients).
Pour into the prepared tin.
Bake for around 1hr until golden on top and set, and a skewer inserted comes out clean.

I covered it with a quick and easy icing made from a couple of tablespoons of plain soya yoghurt, to which I kept adding icing sugar until I reached a reasonable drizzling consistency. I also added a few drops of lemon extract for flavour. And to give it that classy edge, I decorated it with some jelly lemon and orange slices, which are usually well and truly in Mini-M's cake decorating territory!

 And in the back of the shot, there are some white chocolate truffles that also went down a treat, also waiting to be blogged. But now, it's time for bed...

Uber Cookie

This is a no-frills post!
Recipe with very little chat, since I've got a BIG backlog of photos and scraps of paper with ingredients written on them. Some have no titles, and ingredients jotted down so incoherently that not even I, as the writer, have any idea what the recipes were actually for. This one, however was recorded neatly and legibly (in gold glittery pen no less, on the back of a receipt - I'm not proud - I'll use the first think I can lay my hand to!)

Giant Uber Cookie (Cuts into 8-10 pieces)

  • 300g SR flour
  • 150g dairy free margarine
  • 150g granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tbsp Oatly oat milk (other types of milk would also work perfectly)
  • 80g filling - I used a raw chocolate peanut butter, but most jams or spreads would be delicious

Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) and grease a flat baking sheet (or line with a non-stick liner).
Sift the flour into a bowl, then rub in the margarine.
Stir in the sugar.
Beat the egg and oat milk together.
Stir until combined - you are looking for a sticky dough - you may need to add a little splash of extra milk.
Half the dough mixture and grease your hands with a little oil, then take half of the mixture and squash it out onto the baking sheet into approximately an 8-9 inch circle.
Spread the nut butter over the dough, leaving a gap of approximately and inch around the edges.
Oil your hands again, and on a piece of parchment squash the other piece of dough into a similarly sized circle (the dough is too wet to properly roll out), then carefully place it ontop of the base.
Give it a token press around the edges to seal.
Bake for around 25 minutes until golden on top.
Allow to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes at least before eating - particularly if you've chosen jam as your filling: much as warm baking is delicious, jam burns are not!

Free-From But Still Delicious - Nakd Orange Chocolate Vegan Cheesecake

Time has been whizzing past recently - the result of a busy a job and a three year old with boundless energy, enthusiasm and ambition.

As a result I've been a little bit behind on the blog posting, and one of the things I've been meaning to post since mid October is these individual serving double chocolate orange cheesecakes. Or technically "cheese"cakes since they are dairy free, gluten free and vegan, so there's no real cheese in sight.

I developed this recipe for Natural Balance Foods who make the fantastic nakd bars that as a family we are possibly slightly addicted to. They are our default on-the-go snack food, and we are on the go a lot!

They're going to be posting one of my recipes in the Community section of the website every month, and once it is up, it will then appear here too with a few more photos and a little bit more chat - particularly if Mini-M has been helping in the kitchen. In fact, my second recipe is already up - for Fudgy Fruit Cake, so I've got some blog catching up to do.

I have to say that I was initially sceptical about the concept of a dairy free cheesecake, however I jumped in with both feet a while back, figuring I had nothing to lose and concocting the raspberry Anti-Cheesecake which was delicious, so I'm now well and truly a convert. As long as you find a nice mild vegan cream cheese you're onto a winner, and if you don't tell your dinner guests, they'll honestly never guess there's no Philly in sight.

So onto the recipe...

Double Chocolate Orange Cheesecakes (makes 4 individual servings)

For the base:
  • 1 nakd Cocoa Orange bar
  • 1 large allergen friendly ginger biscuit
  • 1 tbsp skin on whole almonds
  • 1 tsp rice syrup
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
For the filling:
  • 4 tbsp vegan cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp orange marmalade
  • Juice of 1/2 small orange
  • 1 tbsp rice syrup
For the topping
  • 4 squares dark chocolate
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
Preheat the oven to 170C (160C for fan ovens).
Chop the nakd cocoa orange bar into pieces then blitz with a hand blender along with the biscuit and almonds into coarse crumbs. 
Add the syrup and coconut oil and heat the whole lot for 15 seconds in the microwave to soften the coconut oil, then mix well.
Press into the base of four mini flexible cake moulds.
Beat together all of the filling ingredients then divide between the four cases.
Place on a baking tray and cook for around 20 minutes. The filling will bubble, turn lightly golden and set.
Remove from the oven and cool.
Melt the chocolate and coconut oil together, then divide evenly between the four cases and spread out to evenly coat the top using the back of a spoon.
Chill for several hours in the fridge to allow the filling to finish setting.
Gently ease out of the cases and enjoy!

With a few tweaks here and there this could very easily also become a delicious chocolate raspberry and vanilla cheesecake: use a Cocoa Delight nakd bar instead of a Cocoa Orange bar, replace the marmalade with raspberry jam, and add a few drops of vanilla extract instead of the orange juice. In fact, just thinking about it is making my mouth water!

And if you want to see more of my cooking adventures, head to the nakd website where each month the team will upload one of my scrummy vegan-friendly recipes :-)

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Bake in a Bag - toddler style

Mini-M is super keen to bake and cook, which is probably not that surprising since Mr E and I both spend a lot of time experimenting with new recipes, trying new dishes and most of the time putting tasty food on the table for all three of us.

Ready and raring to go
I'm happy to encourage her, since knowing your way around a kitchen is a useful skill to have - however I'm definitely more keen on the cooking rather than the baking, since there really is a limit to how many batches of toddler decorated cupcakes and dodgy scones you really need in your life!

3 mangetout quote added
Tonight's tea was definitely cooking, definitely achievable - Mini-m did most of it herself under supervision - and most of all, definitely tasty.

Pepper dissection in process
The secret to its success was using multipurpose bake/microwave/roast bags. Attempting to fold neat little packets, under toddler supervision, with toddler patience levels whilst preventing raw fish being eaten, sharp knives picked up or chairs fallen off would have been challenging…

Adding the salmon
There are infinite variations on this theme that would work, depending on your tastes and the age of your kitchen pixie. Here's what we did:

Salmon & Noodles Baked in a Bag (Serves 2 adults & 1 child)

  • 3 multi purpose oven baking bags with ties
  • 1x 360g bag fresh stir fry rice noodles
  • 2 salmon fillets
  • 1/2 a red pepper
  • 1 spring onion
  • 9 mangetouts (Mini-M decided we needed 3 each)
  • A handful of fresh spinach leaves
  • Lemon juice
  • Soy sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Sweet chili sauce (or ketchup if you're Mini-M)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Divide the noodles into your chosen serving size proportions between the three bags.
Let you kitchen pixie loose on preparing the veg. We couldn't find Mini-M's scissors so instead she snapped the mange touts and hacked at the pepper with a butter knife!
I sliced the spring onion, since I didn't think the butter knife could handle them.
Share the veg out between the bags - we got equal shares of peppers and mangetout, and Mini-M gave herself more of a token gesture of spinach, and no spring onions.
I took the salmon off the fillets with a sharp knife and chopped it into chunks, then Mini-M did the sharing out. (She was keen to try the fish raw too, but I'm not convinced that's a good habit to start - not really a problem with raw salmon, not so great with  raw chicken).
Onto the fun part - sprinkling in the sauces and seasonings to taste, before sealing the bags with the tiers and giving them each a very good shake, then put the bags in a casserole dish for baking.
If you're cooking with a toddler, put into a cold oven in an elaborate four-handed casserole dish holding manoeuvre, whilst they tell you they can do it on their own, whilst simultaneously not being able to lift the weight of the dish unaided. If you're cooking on your own as a grown up, you might want to preheat the oven first!
Either way, bake for 20-25 mins at 180C.
Allow to cool for a few minutes, then carefully snip the bags open.

Shake well (and carefully if you are standing on the very edge of a chair…)
In our case we enjoyed ours whilst being prompted at about 2 minute intervals by Mini-M to thank her for making yummy tea. She's not yet learned that compliments don't really count if you ask for them!

Cut open carefully
This would work with any fish, with just a selection of veggies, probably with pre-cooked tofu pieces, with chicken, with noodles, with rice - anything you can think of really, as long as the pulse/grain/starch that you use is at least part cooked first to keep the cooking time the same as the fish/chicken.
Tip out
We're going to try a rice one next.

10 points for presentation
Mini-M wants to make one with fruit. Further questioning is needed to work out if it is a fruity savoury one, or whether she is imagining some sort of crazy sweet noodle bake. The former sounds good - am less convinced by the latter!

There was also much 'cheers'-ing since we had wine glasses out.


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