Monday, 30 September 2013

Vegan MoFo - September 30th - The Last One!

It's the final day of vegan mofo and sourdough September!

We've had bread and cakes, date nights and take aways, cats and laziness. It's been a blast! I know some of my posts have been rubbish but at least I've stuck with it and managed  to post every day. Next year I think a more structured theme would work better. 

My sourdough has come a long way - it smells a lot better now! The loaves have good structure and taste and I've learned some great tips and techniques from the bread club. 

Thanks for sticking with me through Vegan MoFo - I hope you've found something youvd enjoyed :)

I'll leave you with a last cat photo...


Sunday, 29 September 2013

Vegan MoFo - September 29th - Not-so-lazy Weekends

I don't have any lazy weekend comfort food for you as we've been busy all weekend but I do have some sourdough for you - the last of my Sourdough September batch. (Although I will still be using this starter after September...)

I'm very pleased with he these look but we'll have to wait to see how they taste. I'm going to freeze them as we still have some of the lag tin sourdough to finish off. 


Ice had no time to show you any fancy food this weekend because my lovely hubby has been preparing for / running the Major Series for charity - Marie Curie was his choice. He's managed to raise £275 so far - if anyone wants to donate, there is a Just Giving page up here https://www.justgiving.com/Scott-Collin/?targetdevice=desktop . The Major Series is a 10km race / obstacle course, which he ran with a friend and his wife (I declined to take part - although it does sound like a lot of fun!). They all did very well!

This is Mr Hatter about to cross the finish line:


Saturday, 28 September 2013

Vegan MoFo - September 28th - Sweet Saturday (TOP SECRET)

My sweet experiment today was a recipe test for my next Iron Cupcake competition, so unfortunately I can't share it with you. I can tell you that it tasted just how I wanted it to but it didn't rise as well as I'd hoped - the tops came off and left the bases in the cases; they were a bit more like brownies than cupcakes. So it's back to the recipe to tinker and adjust - watch this space!

I did however receive some sweets through the post that I can show you! I took part in this month's vegan package swap from All About Vegan Food.


It's the first time I've done something like this and I think it's such a great idea. I signed up so that I could try new things and its certainly fulfilled that criteria! I can honestly say I've never had any of the items before (although I have had other products from Moo Free). Unfortunately, it seems that the postal service decided not to look after my package properly, as my hemp flour bag had split. Luckily though, most of the flour was still in the packet so I don't think I've lost too much. I can't wait to try the various things in my baking. I have no idea how the hemp flour or chestnut spread will taste so there are going to have to be some experiments! Yay!

Would you like an update on my sticky sourdough? It turned out alright in the loaf tin. It got a bit stuck and I lost some of the crust but once I managed to get it out it tasted pretty good. It just goes to show that even when things look like they won't work, it's good to persevere...


Friday, 27 September 2013

Vegan MoFo - September 27th - Date Night Indulgence

Tonight was hubby's turn to provide date night so he chose to cook carbonara. It was a good choice. 

Most of his dishes contain some sort of meat substitute (he's an omni), so we often have things like 'chicken' fajitas or bolognese with veggie mince (although not so much recently since a lot of the veggie mince on the market here has recently been recalled!). Tonight it also contained some 'cheese' - something I don't think he's cooked with before as he's never really been convinced by vegan cheese. I think it's a hard one to get right; there are still some that I don't really get on with. 

The photo doesn't do the meal justice, it was very tasty!

The sauce was made from vitality, corn flour, soya cream, soya milk, vegusto 'cheese', redwoods 'ham', mushrooms, salt and pepper. From what I remember of the one carbonara I had before going vegan, it was a pretty good representation of the meal. But that was many moons ago so what o I know!? Either way, it tasted great and even he with his vegan cheese dislike enjoyed it. 




Thursday, 26 September 2013

Vegan MoFo - September 26th - Bread Club Continued...

So yesterday I told you about the sourdough I made at bread club. Well, I sort of forgot to shape it today until late and it's now rather wet...


Oops!

I've given it another knead (that photo was after the kneading!) and put it in the fridge so that I have more time to play with tomorrow. Tomorrow evening I'll shape it but I'm thinking I might need to cook this one in a tin. Controversial I know but I'm not sure I can make it hold its shape otherwise! Tin shaped sourdough might work though, we'll see!

I made a bit of a mess... Need to get me a dough scraper!


I actually have a shopping list of things I want from next week's bread club. I want a couple of bannetons and a dough scraper. (For those that don't know, a banneton is a fancy basket for letting the bread prove - it makes it into a pretty shape.)

I'll let you know how the bread turns out!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Vegan MoFo - September 25th - Bread Club

Tonight was bread club. This week, we made a dough using our sourdough starter which I will bake tomorrow night. We also made little Chelsea buns - sweet or savoury. I made some with a cranberry, raisin and mixed spies filling; and some with an onion, black olive and rosemary filling. They were yummy! I could have put a bit more filling in though - I was worried I wouldn't be able to roll it up so didn't put loads in. They should maybe have been a little bigger but as its only a short class we didn't have time to leave them to prove for as long as they should do. 

The Chelsea bun recipe can be adapted to any type of filling - I can't wait to experiment with some other flavours!

These are the sweet ones as we snaffled the savoury before I got to take a photo...


Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Vegan MoFo - September 24th - Apples and Pears and Various Other Fruits

Today's post isn't really about food. It's about how I decided to update the software on my iPhone, even though it makes it look like a toy phone. However, Apple had other ideas. Instead of updating my phone, it decided that I had to restore to factory settings before I could do anything else with it. So I'm currently waiting for it to restore to the back up that I handily created. And then maybe I'll be able to get the lovely new software. But that may have to wait a couple of days as I'm not in tomorrow night. Stupid technology.

So yeah, apples.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Vegan MoFo - September 23rd - The Benefits of Bulk

I don't seem to have done very well with sticking to my themes during Vegan MoFo. Things crop up that lay waste to my best dinner plans, and then it all goes to pot.

To be honest, I didn't really plan anything for tea tonight. I was meant to do the shopping online last night but didn't get around to it, so we just had something out of the freezer instead - turns out it was chilli that I'd decided to defrost!

We generally have a stock of meal portions in the freezer at any one time. It's easier and more cost effective to cook in bulk - instead of trying to scale things down and using half of this and a quarter of that you can just throw it all in and freeze the extra. We generally make stews and soups that serve four people (there are two of us), and then portion up the remains individually so that we can reheat separate things if that's what we fancy. When I'm cooking a recipe, I'll generally make the whole thing even if it serves 6, 8, 10...

ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooi

eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeer

m99999999999999k

Ahem.

That's what happens when your kitten discovers he can make things move on the screen by climbing on your keyboard. I apologise.

As I was saying, freezing single portions is great for when you need a quick tea time or you can't be bothered cooking. You can reheat them in the oven, on the hob, or in the microwave - depending on what it is and what you like to use. I've started cutting excess cake into single portions and freezing that too so that we don't have to eat the whole thing in one weekend. Because until now we obviously had to finish it all or it would go to waste. We had no choice...

This is the naughty mister:


Sunday, 22 September 2013

Vegan MoFo - September 22nd - First Official Order Baked

I baked my first official order today! It's all ready for collection tomorrow:


I also received this lovely print through the post this week but forgot to take a photo yesterday - check out the website for more pretty word posters or create your own! (Sorry for the poor picture, I will be framing and hanging it soon...)


Vegan MoFo - September 21st - Winnar!

NOTE: It's nearly 2am and blogger is being sqwuiffy. Sorry for any strange looking things in this post :/

So I think this is the first time I've sat down today with nothing to do. I say sat down, it's 1:41am and I'm lying in bed. I've been busy lately...

Another quick update. Today seems to have been lucky for me! I won £3 on the euromillions (woop...), received an email from VegFest saying I won tickets through a VeggieVision - http://veggievision.tv/ -  competition I entered (although we thought the competition deadline had passed, so bought bogof tickets while they were on offer and they're non refundable - gah!), and I won some Vegusto cheese from the VeganMoFo team; I just have to use it in a meal and blog about it by the end of the month.

I don't usually win free stuff?!

Wish I'd waited for the VegFest tickets - I could kick myself! Still, a tenner for two tickets isn't bad in my opinion. I just hope they can give them to someone else instead.

Oh I also tried to make a yummy looking tart from a magazine but due to strange instructions (trimming the pastry case AFTER cooking?) and substitutions that didn't work, it was a but of a failure. So I'll try it again another time. 

Night night!


Friday, 20 September 2013

Vegan MoFo - September 20th - Date Night Indulgence

This is a really short post today just to tell you how lazy I am. Tonight was meant to be a lovely indulgent date night. With puff pastry pepper and pesto tarts followed by a banana caramel chocolate pie. But I'm so fed up of job hunting and finding out that jobs I've applied for aren't what was advertised that we just ordered pizza (cheese less for me). Hopefully ill do the fancy stuff over the weekend. But not today. 

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Vegan MoFo – September 19th – Vegan Mythbusters

Cows need to be milked.

 

This seems to be quite a common misconception. I’ve even seen people who seem to believe that if you don’t milk a cow, it will explode…

 

Cows only produce milk when they have a calf. They produce enough milk to sustain their calf, just like any other animal. However, dairy cows have their calves taken away within the first couple of days after birth – leaving the milk for humans to take. And because humans keep milking them, the cows keep producing milk because their body would keep producing it while the calf needed it. They are impregnated every year to continue the cycle. Imagine being impregnated against your will, having your baby taken away and then being milked dry – not a nice picture.

 

Young calves are either taken away to be grown into dairy cows or slaughtered for veal. (Veal is a whole other disgusting process that I won’t go into here!) Most males are used for veal, as they are not needed in the dairy industry.


So you see, cows don't need to be milked - their babies do it for them naturally when left alone. Soya beans and almonds on the other hand, if you didn't milk them there would be trouble!

 

Here are some cow facts to brighten up your day (courtesy of Vegan Peace -http://veganpeace.com/animal_facts/Cows.htm ):

 

- Cows can live 25 years. You can guess the age of a cow that has horns by counting the number of rings on the horn.

-The smallest type of cow is a breed called Dexter, which was bred a small size for household living.

- Per day, a cow spends 6 hours eating and 8 hours chewing cud.

- Cows have almost total 360 degree panoramic vision and are able to see colours, except red.

- A cow stands up and sits down about 14 times a day.

- In non-commercial herds, some cows will nurse their calves for up to 3 years.

- Cows are very social animals. They form large herds and will bond to some herd members while avoiding others. They "moo" and use different body positions and facial expressions to communicate with each other.



Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Vegan MoFo - September 18th - Bread Club

So... I managed to write almost my whole post on the train, got home and took some photos for it. Went to close my music app and closed blogger instead. Without saving. ARGH! I'll try to reproduce it as best I can but there are no promises it will be good.

Tonight I did something I've never done before. I went to a bread making workshop. And I'm so glad I did. 

When I was speaking to the council about setting up my bakery from home, they mentioned a lady that had set up a community bakery called LoveBread and suggested I talk to her. So we had some conversations by email about volunteering and getting some experience (hopefully will be doing some next month), and she mentioned that there was a bread club coming up. I signed up to see if it would help hone my skills and make sure I'm doing things right. 

Tonight we made a yeasted sponge dough, which I will be baking tomorrow. Our lovely leader filled hers with blackberries and white chocolate so I'll have to find something nice to fill mine with!


We also made a sourdough starter using a slightly different method to the one I already have on the go. (Raisins instead of grapes, using white and rye flour.) We've taken these away with us to feed and then we'll compare our results next week (the workshops run for 3 weeks this time around). Mine is already a little different as there is no yogurt in it. 


I'll be honest, I was pretty scared before I went. I'd had one of those days at work where I was just fed up and wanted to go home and crawl into bed but I'm glad I went to the bread club. I met some lovely ladies and we had a nice chat while we made bread - what more could you want from an evening?

But I'll tell you what, running for the bus with a bag of bread dough is, well, an experience. After my train/bus journey, the dough ended up a bit stuck to the cling film and my starter was a bit sloshed around (although still all in the container!). So I've peeled my dough off the plastic and given it a quick re-knead; it's now in the fridge waiting to be cooked tomorrow night. 

I also shaped my sourdough (my original one). The dough has been proving in the fridge for about 24 hours, and by the time I cook this tomorrow it will have been in the fridge for about 21-22 hours - long rise hopefully means better flavour? We'll see! I'm trying two small loaves this time.


Baking really is good for your mood. I feel so much better after spending time with like-minded people and creating something. Night night!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Vegan MoFo – September 17th – Spotlight On… Flax

Maybe you’ve heard of Flax, maybe you haven’t. You may have heard of it by its other name – Linseed? No? Well, it’s very handy for vegans!

Historically, flax was used to make cloth until cotton became a more popular resource. Flax is used to make linseed oil, which is used in a variety of items from paints and varnish to linoleum and printing inks. Which all sounds very appetising…

Flax is great for vegans as an egg-replacer, and also has uses as a nutritional supplement and in the form of oil. Nutritionally, flax is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and a high source of fibre.

To use as an egg-replacer:

Mix 2 tbsp ground flax seeds with 3 tbsp water and leave for a minute or two until gelatinous. Use in your recipe when you would add eggs.

NOTE: The flax seeds do not dissolve during cooking; so if using ground flax seeds in a light coloured bake the seeds will still be visible after baking. I usually use ground flax seeds for heavier, earthier bakes like chocolate cookies / cakes, loaf cakes such as banana bread, and muffins and brownies.

You can also sprinkle ground flax seeds on your cereal, mix it into a smoothie, or bake it into your bread. I tend to use Linwoods, who also do a variety of different flavours – for example, “flaxseed, cocoa and berries”.

The flax plant actually has very pretty flowers – look it up!

Monday, 16 September 2013

Vegan MoFo - September 16th - Healthy Start

Lentils are a pretty stereotypical healthy / vegan food. But who cares about stereotypes, they're yummy! Tonight we had Made-Up Lentil Daal with some more garlic and parsley sourdough. Filling, tasty, and healthy!

Made-Up Lentil Daal serves 2-3
(I say made up as I have no idea how authentic this would be!)

1 tbsp oil
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
Ground spices - cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger, salt, pepper, mild chilli powder
1 cup red lentils
1/2 cup yellow split peas
1 litre vegetable stock
1 cup frozen peas
Dash lemon juice

1. Heat the oil in a large pan. Cook the onion for about 5 min until softened then add the garlic for another minute. Add the spices in whatever quantities you like and stir. (I just dump spices in until it looks right...)
2. Add a splash of stock and stir to deglaze the pan. Stir in the lentils and split peas to coat with spice, then pour in the remaining stock and stir. 
3. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low and cook for 20 min or so, until the lentils are mushy / creamy. Add the frozen peas and lemon juice, turn the heat off and leave to sit for ten min. Adjust the spices if needed and serve with your favourite accompaniment.



Sunday, 15 September 2013

Vegan MoFo - September 15th - Lazy Weekend Comfort Food

Our Sunday tea time usually ends up being something pretty simple because who can be bothered cooking on a Sunday?? And it's often comfort food because that's easy. AND comfort food = carbs and we like carbs!

Tonight we had pasta with a vegetabley tomato sauce. This is one of those meals to use up any veg you have left from the week, since it doesn't really matter what goes into it. We used baby courgettes, tenderstem broccoli, mushrooms, carrots and a yellow pepper but feel free to use whatever you have in the fridge. Also, this was super lazy as the extra portions are doubling as our lunch tomorrow!


Vegetabley Tomato Pasta serves 4

Oil (about 1 tbsp? I just tip some in)
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced/chopped/minced (whatever you can be bothered to do)
As many vegetables as you like, chopped
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 box passata
1-2 stock cubes
1-2 tbsp tomato purée
Dried herbs
Salt and pepper
200g pasta

1. Heat the oil in a large pan. Fry the onion until it starts to soften. Add mushrooms and garlic for another couple of minutes. 
2. Add the chopped vegetables and cook until softened. 
3. Add chopped tomatoes, passata, stock cube(s), tomato purée and seasonings. Continue to cook until heated through and thickened, then reduce to the lowest heat - or turn the heat off if the sauce is spitting. 
4. Cook pasta according to pack instructions.
5. Add sauce to pasta or pasta to sauce (depending on which pan is largest) and stir. Serve!

I had mine topped with nutritional yeast and a splash of Tabasco. Mmm. 


To max out on the carbs, we also had a couple of slices of my latest sourdough loaf - smoked garlic and parsley!




Saturday, 14 September 2013

Vegan MoFo - September 14th - Date Night Indulgence

Okay so I don't know why but the last couple of days I've forgotten to take a picture of my food! I guess I've just been too eager to eat it...

Tonight was hubby's turn to choose date night, which means it was also his turn to cook - score! We had fajitas, which we have pretty regularly as its one of our favourite meals. Tonight we tested Asda's chicken style pieces and they were good. We usually use a different brand but we can't find them anywhere at the moment and the Fry's chicken style strips don't seem to work the same. Apparently the Asda ones are a little harder to cook with but they taste just as good! However, I stupidly forgot to take a photo...

So it's just a short one tonight as we're now watching Warm Bodies. Enjoy your evening folks!

Vegan MoFo - September 13th - Fudgey Friday and Sourdough September Update

Yes yes, Friday’s are supposed to be date night. But tonight we had people over to play games so date night has been moved to Saturday. I baked fudgey chocolate brownies to share with our guests – hence “Fudgey Friday”. Now, I’ve made brownies before but I usually use tofu so this was a bit of an experiment, as I don’t have any tofu in! So I threw in some of the vanilla soy yogurt that I’ve got in the fridge and whatever other ingredients I could rustle up. I didn't quite have the ingredients I wanted but they turned out well, although VERY gooey - you definitely need a fork for these!

 

The sourdough starter seems to be coming along well. I baked another loaf last night, which we tested for breakfast this morning. Other than the loaf getting a bit burnt (it rose higher than I’d anticipated and got too close to the element!), it was a success! Good texture, great flavour, and less of a savoury taste than last time so we could use it for jam if we wanted to. I did leave this one to prove for longer though. I wanted to bake a loaf but didn’t have enough time to do it all in one night, so I made the dough and let it rise in the fridge overnight (maybe 8 hours?). I then shaped the dough and left that to prove in the fridge all day, until we got back from our meal (about 15 hours). Then I baked it and left it to cool overnight. I’m starting a three-week (one session a week) Bread Club next week and it’s all about sourdough! Hoping to pick up some tasty tips!



 

Fudgey Friday Brownies

 

100g plain chocolate

1/2 cup vanilla soy yogurt

125g non-dairy margarine, softened

275g caster sugar

50g self-raising flour

59g plain flour

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

100g chopped nuts or chocolate chunks

 

  1. Heat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a 20cm square baking tin.
  2. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler (or a small saucepan set over a larger saucepan containing boiling water). Stir until melted and smooth, then remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until well combined. Add the soy yogurt and the plain flour and beat until smooth.
  4. Sift in the remaining flour and cocoa powder, then add the melted chocolate and stir to combine.
  5. Add the chopped nuts or chocolate chunks (or a mixture of both) and stir in. Spoon the mixture into the tin and smooth the surface with the back or a spoon or a spatula.
  6. Bake for 35 min or until the are crusted on top and soft in the middle.
  7. Leave to cool in the tin for 20 min, then cut into squares. Sprinkle with icing sugar if desired and serve.

 No photos today because we snaffled them!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Vegan MoFo - September 12th - Vegan Mythbusters

But surely you can't eat out if you're vegan?

True, sometimes it's hard to find something to eat when you go out. We recently went to a local food and music festival where the only food I could eat was a cookie - thoughtfully made by a friend for me to test (I blogged about this previously). There was a whole roast hog (blergh), a variety of cakes and biscuits, and a stall that had savoury items. I glanced at it, thought all the veggie ones had cheese on and moved on. But Mr Hatter called me back - This one doesn't have cheese, it's butternut squash and spinach! Yay! But no, alas, when I asked the lady it turned out there was butter in the pastry. You don't need dairy for pastry! I was so close. Instead, I had two of these special cookies and two pints of cider. Woop!

But it's not always like that, especially if you're going somewhere that prepares the food fresh. Some cuisines have many options that are naturally vegan. Indian is a good example - just make sure they use oil rather than ghee, and if you don't know what a word means then ask them. Chinese/Japanese/Thai are also often accidentally vegan, you just need to watch out for egg noodles and egg fried rice.

Others are easily adapted. Italian has the scope for cheeseless pizza, pasta with a tomato-based sauce, antipasti! I even managed to get some vegan food in Beefeater (ironic, I know - most of my friends are big on meat). 

Most restaurants will be happy to check with the chef which dishes are suitable, some even have a folder with it all written down. If you can't see anything on the menu that you think would work as a vegan dish, what's to stop you ordering two starters?

If you know where you're going in advance you can check out the menu or get in touch to give them a heads up about what you need. If not and you're not sure about the menu just ask! I've had things created off menu for me numerous times, either suggested by the staff or by me asking Can I have this with that but without the cheese please?

Tonight we went to a Turkish restaurant with hubby's grandma. Turkish food is pretty heavily meat based but this one offers a few vegetarian options. I had a starter of hummus and bread, followed by a main of vegetable stew in a tomatoey sauce, with rice and bread. It was yummy! There was yogurt on the salad but now I know I can ask for it without next time.

So go forth and test out your local eateries - I bet you'll be surprised at how many you can eat at!

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Vegan MoFo - September 11th - Spotlight on... Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast which is sold in the form of flakes or powder. It can be found in most health food stores and online (I bought my first tub from Amazon), and can be added to many savoury dishes.

 

Nutritional yeast is a complete protein, and offers a source of B-vitamins (except B12) – it can also be found fortified with added B12. I’ve recently bought my first box of B12 yeast (not yet opened) but I’m guessing it will taste the same.

 


The flavour is strong so I wouldn’t recommend trying it on it’s own until you’ve cooked with it first. It has a cheesy, nutty flavour so it’s great for making cheesy sauces – we often have it in Mac ‘n’ Cheese. (Although I also have it just sprinkled on top of stuff in place of cheese - hubby doesn't like this though.) It’s good in scrambled tofu, as it gives it that extra flavour and also soaks up some of the water that come out of the tofu – it makes it a bit more like scrambled eggs. Apparently it’s also good on popcorn but I am yet to try that! (Maybe that should be a post in the near future…)

 

I used to think that Nutritional Yeast was territory only discovered by veggies and the health-conscious but when speaking to a non-veggie friend a few days ago, she told me that she likes to sprinkle her kale chips with nutritional yeast! It seems word is spreading! And that’s what has inspired tonight's recipe…

 

Kale Chips

 

1 bag chopped kale

Seasonings (mix and match between salt, pepper, nutritional yeast, powdered garlic, Cajun spices… anything you fancy – I’ve even read about people having their kale chips drizzled with a bit of sweet agave nectar!)

 

  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Tip the bag of kale onto a rimmed baking tray (or two if you don’t have one large enough).
  3. Sprinkle with seasonings and toss to coat.
  4. Cook for 10-15 minutes until crispy – you will need to keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn.

You can add a tablespoon of olive oil if you fancy it, just toss it in with the seasonings. It does give the chips another layer of flavour and can help them to crisp up so it’s completely up to you!


Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Vegan MoFo - September 10th - Midweek Mix-Up! (Quick Meals for Busy Vegans)

Having a bit of a switcheroo with the themes today, as we’re off to the cinema tonight and need a quick meal. So we’re having Quick Meals tonight and Spotlight On tomorrow…

 

There are plenty of quick and easy vegan meals that you can make with relatively little effort. Last night’s teatime was a good example but tonight we’re going to make a curry. Well, I say we – Mr Hatter will be making the curry while I make my way home as he gets in before me. So it’s a super-fast meal for me! Bwahaha!

 

I know curries can sometime take a long time, as you should leave them to simmer and let the flavours marry but you can also just do them nice and quickly and it will still be tasty. I like to throw in whatever vegetables I have to hand (I seem to do that a lot…) and if you want to add chickpeas, beans, mock meat, lentils, etc etc – feel free! If you add tinned chickpeas/beans then just throw them in for the last 5-10 min until heated through. If you’re using mock meat, it depends what you’re using but I would probably add it after you’ve softened the vegetables but before you add the spices. And if you’re using lentils, add them after the veg and cook for a bit longer as they will need time to soften – I would also add maybe half a tin of hot water to help them cook.

 

Quick Curry serves 2

 

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

150g mushrooms, sliced

1 red pepper, chopped

1 yellow pepper, chopped

Curry powder – the type and amount depends on your own personal preference so I’ll leave this up to you

400g tin chopped tomatoes

1/2 cup frozen peas

1 stock cube

2 tbsp tomato puree

 

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onion for 5 min until softened. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute or so.
  2. Add the mushrooms and peppers and cook for a further 5 min or so, until softened. Stir in the curry powder.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, stock cube and tomato puree, and stir. Add a bit of hot water if the sauce is too thick for your preference – add some more stock and/or tomato puree if the sauce is too thin.
  4. Cook for about 10 min, adding yhe peas in last 3 min. Continue to heat until everything is hot and cooked through. Serve!

Monday, 9 September 2013

Vegan MoFo - September 9th - Healthy Start

Tonight's healthy tea time is also a pretty easy one and you can leave it cooking while you do something else - bonus!

I wanted to make use of the smoked garlic I bought last week and cauliflower soup seemed like the perfect vessel to carry its flavour. 



Cauliflower Soup with Smoked Garlic and Coriander serves 4

25g dairy-free margarine
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
1 baking potato, diced
1/2 bulb smoked garlic, chopped
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1.5 litres stock
2 tbsp rice milk
15g fresh coriander, chopped

1. Melt the margarine in a large saucepan and cook the onion, leek and potato for about 10 min until softened, adding the garlic halfway through.
2. Add the cauliflower and stock, bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer for around 20 min until cooked through. 
3. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth. Stir in the rice milk and coriander. Reheat gently if needed. 


Sunday, 8 September 2013

Vegan MoFo - September 8th - Sweet Sunday (Iron Cupcake!)

I know my Sunday theme is Lazy Weekend Comfort Food but Iron Cupcake: Leeds comes but once a month. I couldn't let it pass without a blog. 

The theme this month was music. That's all, just 'Music'. Such a broad theme...

I wrote down LOADS of ideas for this when I started thinking about it. I thought about doing something to fit in with the music I generally listen to (metal, industrial, alternativey stuff mostly) but wasn't sure how accessible that would be for the judges - I didn't want to be too obscure. However, one of my initial ideas was 50s rock 'n' roll. I love polka dots, vinyl is quite iconic and who hasn't heard of rock 'n' roll? So I set out looking for traditional 50s recipes to modernise. My inspired husband hit upon the idea of a coke float flavoured cupcake. Perfect! A very American, 50s, rock 'n' roll era flavour. But how to do it??


I managed to find a traditional cola cake recipe and updated (and veganised) it (see below). I ended up using cola flavour as well as Coca Cola, as my test run didn't have a very strong cola taste. The problem of how to make the icing taste like ice cream was a challenging one. I eventually found an example where someone had used a milk and flour base to make a thicker frosting. The texture was good but it didn't really taste like ice cream. So I played around with it, using vanilla soy milk which gave a much more ice-creamy taste. I decided to make fondant vinyl records for the decoration. 


The competition is always quite nerve wracking when you get there and see all the amazing things other people have brought! But I must have done something right as I won the Appearance category - yay! Got myself some lovely plunger cutters and a tote bag. Thanks Iron Cupcake!


50s Rock 'n' Roll Coke Float Cupcakes

For the cake:
1/2 cup soy milk
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cup plain flour
1 cup golden granulated sugar
4oz dairy-free margarine
1 tbsp cocoa powder
3/4 cup coca cola
1/4 cup soy yogurt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cola flavouring

1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with cupcake cases. 
2. In a measuring jug, mix together the soy milk and vinegar and leave to curdle. Combine the flour and sugar in a large bowl.
3. Melt the margarine then add the cocoa powder and cola. Pour over the flour mixture and stir until well combined. Add soy yogurt, baking soda and cola flavouring. Mix well. 
4. Fill cases 3/4 full and bake for 23-25 min, until a cocktail stick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 min, then move to a wire rack to cool completely. 

For the icing (adapted from Tasty Kitchen):
1 cup vanilla soy milk
1/4 cup plain flour
Pinch salt
1/2 cup dairy-free margarine
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (e.g. Trex)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup golden caster sugar

1. Whisk together the soy milk, flour and salt in a small saucepan. Cook over a low heat until it thickens and looks like pudding. Cover with cling film and refrigerate until cool. 
2. Beat together the margarine and shortening then add the sugar and vanilla and beat until creamy. 
3. Once the pudding mixture has cooled add to the buttercream by the tablespoon, beating well after each addition.
4. Use an ice cream scoop to top your cola cupcake with their floating ice cream!

(I would recommend starting the icing first then doing the cakes, as the cooling of the pudding mixture can take a while.)

Vegan MoFo - September 7th - Sweet Saturday

I know it's technically not Saturday anymore but I've not gone to bed yet so this still counts!

I'm not a huge fan of treacle tart (I find it a bit too sweet and for me that's saying something!) but Mr Hatter likes it so we've managed to find a recipe that satisfies both of us. Also, treacle tart is pretty much vegan anyway - you just need to replace the butter in the pastry. 

Treacle Tart

For the pastry
225g (8oz) pain flour, plus extra for dusting
110g (4oz) margarine, chilled & diced
For the filling
450g (1lb) golden syrup
85g (3oz) fresh breadcrumbs
1 tsp ground ginger
1 lemon, zested and juiced

1. Put the flour and margarine into a mixing bowl and rub in until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. 
2. Mix in water with a knife by the tablespoon until a dough starts to form. Gather together gently into a smooth dough. 
3. Roll out the dough and use it to line a 23cm (8in) loose-bottomed tart tin. Prick the base all over with a fork and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 min. If you have any spare pastry you can use this to make a lattice for the top of the tart. 
4. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Line the pastry with foil and fill with baking beans. Bake blind for 10 min, remove the foil and beans (carefully!) and put the pastry back in the oven for a few more min to brown.
6. Mix the filling ingredients together in a bowl and tip into the pastry case. Top with lattice strips if desired. Put back in the oven for another 30 min. Serve warm or cold but make sure you let it cool down enough not to burn you!



Friday, 6 September 2013

Vegan MoFo - September 6th - Date Night Indulgence

Once a week we have date night. It's a time when we can have a nice meal, watch a film and chill out together. So it's nice to have something a bit indulgent.

I was meant to make risotto tonight but what with needing to sort out my sourdough I decided it would eat into our evening too much if I had to stir risotto for ages. So instead we had chilli. 

We like chilli. It's an easy go-to meal that you can adapt to use whatever ingredients you have to hand. Not very indulgent though you might think. Just wait til you see the pile of nachos we had with it! And we had sautéed asparagus. Asparagus is indulgent, right? Right?


Anyway, I have a recipe for you. My chilli usually contains onions, garlic, mushrooms, peppers and kidney beans but you can swap in whatever veg and beans you have. I usually put more spice in than this but I do it by eye and taste test so play around to see what works for you. 

Basic Chilli Recipe

2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
250g mushrooms, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
Salt and pepper
2x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 stock cube
1x 400g tin kidney beans

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and cook for 2-3 min. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. 
2. Add the mushrooms and cook until the water is released. Add the peppers and cook for 3-4 min. Stir in the spices, marjoram and salt and pepper. 
3. Add the tinned tomatoes to the pan, along with the stock cube and tomato purée. If it looks a little thick then stir in half a can of hot water. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for at least 15 min. The longer you leave it, the more the flavours will develop. 
4. Add the kidney beans and let sit for 5 min until heated through. Serve!

As I said, this is totally open to substitutions. For example, I had no peppers today so I missed them out and added green beans and sweetcorn at the end instead. I also used pinto beans instead of kidney beans. Oh and I almost forgot! I tried some smoked garlic in this. I found it the other day at the farm shop near work so I used it instead if regular garlic. It has such a strong smell! I'm going to use the rest in hummus and/or bread I think. 


Finally, I'm going to update you on my Sourdough September progress. The starter still stinks and I've now put some of it into a dough which needs to prove for a few hours. I'll shape it before bed and bake it in the morning. Mmmm fresh bread for breakfast!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Vegan MoFo - September 5th - Vegan Mythbusting

“But where do you get your protein?”

We all know that to stay healthy you need to eat the right amount of protein, but what is the right amount and how do you make sure you get it?

The UK Reference Nutrient Intake for protein is 0.75g of protein per 1kg of body weight, which for me works out at 57g protein per day. This is probably a lot less protein that most people think you need – for example; the nutrition calculator that I sometimes use advises that I should have 90g protein per day. That’s quite a difference! And it is possible to have too much protein. (However, please note that vegans might need a little more protein than meat-eaters due to the digestibility difference between plant- and animal-based proteins.)

There was a theory that originated in the 70s (and is the basis of Diet for a Small Planet, which has some interesting recipes – although many are vegetarian rather than vegan) that suggested that it was necessary to combine various types of protein to ensure that all the essential amino acids were eaten at the same time. However, it has since been decided that this is not the case – so long as you have a protein from a variety of sources throughout the day you will get the nutrients you need.

There are tons of sources of plant-based protein out there just waiting to be eaten. Let’s take a look…

Pulses – Peas, beans, lentils. This includes soy products such as tofu and tempeh.
Nuts and Seeds (Bear in mind that some nuts are better sources of protein than others – high protein nuts include cashews, almonds, peanuts and pistachios).
Grains – Oats, wheat, quinoa, buckwheat, etc. This also includes cereal products such as bread and pasta. (Rice is relatively low in protein though.)

Some simple food that is choc-full of lovely protein…

Tofu (100g-200g depending on brand) = 20g protein
Wholemeal bread – 2 slice = 10g protein
Baked Beans – 200g = 10g protein
Red or green lentils – 40g = 10g protein
Wholemeal pasta - 75g = 10g protein
Chickpeas – 140g = 10g protein
Quinoa – 50g (dry) = 7.5g protein
Pumpkin seeds – 20g = 5g protein
Cashews – 25g = 5g protein
Peas – 70g = 5g protein

Vegan sausages, mince, and other mock meats also provide protein – check the packet for details.

It’s easy enough to get protein into your meals. Cereals/grains alone account for about 22% of protein consumption in an average UK diet. You could replace the traditional meat aspect of a meal with lentils, beans, tofu, tempeh, or mock meat (depending on the recipe). You could throw a handful of nuts and seeds into a stir-fry or a cupful of beans or lentils into a pasta bake. You could make endless combinations of sandwich flavours! Even the simple meal of baked beans on wholemeal toast has around 20g protein!

(There are also some brands of vegan protein powder floating around, however I know nothing about these…)

Hummus is one of my favourite ways to get my protein and is so easy to make:

Take a tin of chickpeas (drained and rinsed), a couple of cloves of garlic (peeled), a dash of lemon juice and a pinch of salt. These are the very basic ingredients. Stick them all in a food processor (or blender, or liquidiser, or mash them heartily with a fork if you’re desperate!) and pulse a few times. Blend, adding water a little at a time until it reaches the consistency you like. Adjust salt and lemon juice to taste. And there you have it – super simple hummus!

I like to add tahini to my hummus before adding the water. You can also use olive oil in place of water for a richer taste, or a combination of the two. You can add any herbs/spices that you fancy – mine usually has at least cumin, coriander, and paprika. And then there’s the added fun of choosing any extras you want to throw in there. This could be chopped olives, roasted peppers, caramelised onions… Mmmmm now I want some hummus…

And because I'm giving you another post with no pictures, here's another kitty...



The vegan society website has some more detailed information on protein if you want to look further.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Vegan MoFo - September 4th - Not What I Was Planning

Well. Tonight's post was meant to be about cooking quick, tasty meals. I'd picked my recipes and everything. But some days you just need to eat junk so hey ho.

Instead, I'm going to talk to you about my sourdough starter. 

It's day three of the starter so time to check on it...



Looks good (I think)! Smells vile, which I guess is the idea. Hubby says it looks and smells like baby sick... Lovely. It does seem to fit the description in the book though so fingers crossed its going the right way! You can see that the starter has risen and fallen from the marks on the jar (black line is where it started originally) so there's definitely something going on in there!

I've discarded half the mixture and added an extra 100g flour and 100ml water, so now it needs to sit for another day or two and then I can hopefully get baking with it!

Apologies for the short post today - I didn't think you'd want to see a post about my take away curry...


Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Vegan MoFo - September 3rd - Spotlight on... Tofu

Tofu.

The word strikes fear into the heart of omnivores. The unknown substance that is a bit squidgy, a bit crumbly, a bit solid. But what is it??

Background

The origin of tofu dates back some 2000 years to China – legend tells us that prince Liu An invented the stuff (but who knows!!). It then spread to other parts of East Asia, and is still a staple food source there. The English word “tofu” (also known as “bean curd”) is derived from the Japanese “tōfu”, which comes from the Chinese “dòufu” which is “bean” plus “curdled” / “fermented”. 

Tofu is made by coagulating (curdling) soy milk and pressing the curds into soft blocks. It can be fresh (produced directly from soy milk, usually sold in water) or processed (produced from fresh tofu – e.g. fermented, flavoured), and comes in many varieties including firm, soft and silken. It has a very mild flavour that makes it perfect for using in both sweet and savoury dishes to soak up stronger flavours.

Nutrition

Tofu is fairly low in calories and high in protein, with little fat. This, combined with its high iron content makes it a great food for vegans as it ticks the protein and iron boxes (also calcium in some cases, depending on the production process used). Protein values in tofu can range from around 5-10%, and it is said that 25g tofu per day can help to reduce cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.

Uses

One of my favourite ways to use tofu is just to scramble it. You can add any herbs or spices that you like; a bit of nutritional yeast (which will be covered in a later post) to thicken it up and add another depth of flavour; make it as wet or solid as you like; add vegetables, seeds, etc… The list goes on. And it’s quick!

Tofu is also tasty fried or baked, after being pressed and marinated. You press the water out of the tofu to help it absorb the flavours of the marinade. This also gives it a firmer texture, rather than the wobbly stuff it generally is when it comes out of the packet.

Tofu is a great egg-replacer. As I’ve said above, you can scramble it like eggs (and I’ve heard that with the right seasonings you can even make it taste like scrambled eggs if you want!) and I’ve seen a few recipes floating around online for tofu “fried eggs” that I’ve not found time to try yet but look yummy. Using tofu also makes a lovely texture for eggless quiches and frittatas, or creamy sauces – the possibilities for dinner (or breakfast! or lunch!) are endless!

Blended silken tofu is a popular substitute for eggs in baking. Using 1/4 cup of blended silken tofu (measured after blending) is equivalent to 1 egg and just needs to be mixed in when you would normally add your eggs. It works best in heavy cakes like brownies and pancakes – if you want something light and fluffy go for soy milk and vinegar instead. Again, you can use tofu to thicken up your creamy sauces and give them sweet flavours if you want to.

The most widely available tofu where I live is Cauldron which is available in most supermarkets these days. There are plenty of recipes available online if you want to try your hand at cooking with it!

And because there haven't been any photos in this post - a kitten!



Monday, 2 September 2013

Vegan MoFo - September 2nd - Healthy Start

Right then, day 2 of Vegan MoFo – bring it on.

My husband and I generally try to start the week healthily. (We do eat healthily a lot of the time but we’re not health-nuts. I like cake too much!) It seems to be a lot easier to make a healthy meal at the start of the week before you’ve had a few days at work; before things have had time to go wrong; before you just plain old can’t be arsed.

So Mondays and Tuesdays are generally pretty healthy. Wednesday meals tend to need to be fast as we’re usually busy on a Wednesday (although not at the moment). Then Thursday onwards you’re just gearing up to the weekend…

Seeing as I’m starting the week on a healthy note, I thought I might as well start this first one with some food that is probably what people imagine to be stereotypically vegan – brown rice, steamed veggies and beans. However, I’ll be showing you that these ingredients don’t have to be boring! Especially when paired up with a lovely rich miso sauce. Yum yum yum.

But first of all, let’s have a look at why this is a healthy dish.

Brown rice – Only the outermost layer (the hull) of the rice is removed to produce brown rice, leaving many nutrients in tact (compared to white rice where the milling process destroys up to 90% of some nutrients!). Brown rice is high in manganese (helps to produce energy), selenium (reduces the risk of colon cancer), magnesium (lowers the risk of type-2 diabetes) and fibre (essential for a healthy digestive system).

Steamed veggies – Steaming helps to retain more of the nutrients in the vegetables than boiling, where the nutrients can seep out into the surrounding water. It also helps them to stay nice and crunchy rather than school-dinner reminiscent mushy veg!

Beans – Beans are generally low in fat (except soy beans) and offer complex carbohydrates, dietary fibre, and essential fatty acids. When combined with grains (such as brown rice), they form complete proteins, which is said to be good for people that don’t eat meat (please note – I have read some controversy surrounding whether it is necessary to eat “complete proteins” or if you still get the same nourishment if eaten separately, however I’m not going to go into this today!).

Miso – Miso is a fermented product, made from rice, barley, and/or soybeans, which comes in a thick paste and is then watered down during cooking. Today I will be using brown rice miso but it comes in many varieties. Miso is said to be high in vitamin B12 (although this has been contradicted in some studies). Miso is high in a number of nutrients, including vitamin K, protein, and fibre.

Enough learning! To the food!

Start with these ingredients:


Cook the rice to packet instructions, steaming the broccoli and carrot over the rice pan. Add the peas to the rice in the last five minutes. 

Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a small pan, combine 1 tbsp miso with 1 tsp soy sauce and 1 tsp lime juice (not pictured for some reason). Mix 1.5 tsp arrowroot powder with 1 tbsp cold water and add to the miso. Stir to combine. Add enough hot water to make a sauce and heat, stirring until thick. Add more water if needed.

Cook beans briefly until warm. 

Put rice and peas into a bowl, top with veggies and beans and smother with sauce. Voila!