Monday, 26 May 2014

Iron Cupcake - Afternoon Tea With A Twist

The theme for this month's Iron Cupcake: Leeds was "Afternoon Tea with a Twist". I wanted to take a traditional cake that you would find at an afternoon tea, and turn it on it's head. I ended up making a "Topsy-Turvy Bakewell Tart Cupcakes" for my entry...

I looked at a lot of cakes traditionally used for afternoon tea, and settled on the Bakewell Tart as it had a number of factors that I felt I could play with in cupcake form. My cupcake retained the important parts of a Bakewell Tart - almond sponge, raspberry jam, pastry (in the form of shortbread stars made with raspberry and rose herbal tea), and it was even topped off with custard flavoured frosting! (And scattered with pink glittery powder...)

There were lots of great ideas at the competition - some were very inventive! (You can take a look here.) Unfortunately, I don't get to try anyone else's cakes unless the theme is "Vegan"...

Anyhow, on to the judging!

The first prize to announce is usually the Bakers' Panel - where people who have paid to both bake and eat get to choose their favourite entry, based on the technical work that has gone into it as well as just what they think tastes/looks best. The idea is that because they are bakers themselves, they have knowledge of what is hard to do, what has been done well, etc and they can use this knowledge to judge.

This month, the Bakers' Panel was just one person (which is the first time I've seen it happen)! AND... I won! Despite my cake not being a flavour she would choose (I'm not sure which part she wasn't keen on), she thought that it fit the theme and had been accomplished well. Yay! It's always nice to hear good things from other bakers - very reassuring!

I was also lucky enough to have been voted top in the Taste category (which is one that I think is very important!) - so I'm going to have to start baking these to sell next time I have a market stall I think! I came away with 2 silicone tea cup cupcake moulds, a biscuit tin, and a free entry to a future competition.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Banoffee Brownies (with optional salted caramel)

This was my breakfast yesterday morning:

Don't you just love weekend breakfasts??

I said on facebook that I would post the recipe and let you decide how healthy it is. As you can see below, there are a lot of healthy ingredients, such as coconut oil, dates, banana, cashews, coconut sugar. However, it still comes in at 333 calories per brownie (using soya milk - this may be less with other non-dairy milks). 

For the brownies:
1 ripe banana
½ cup non dairy milk
½ cup melted coconut oil
½ cup coconut sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup wholemeal self raising flour
½ tsp salt (I used himalayan pink salt)

For the caramel sauce:
1 cup pitted dates
½ cup cashews
½ cup non dairy milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp melted coconut oil
½ tsp salt

To decorate:
grated chocolate
salt flakes, to taste (optional - if you like salted caramel)

  1. Start by making the caramel sauce: Soak the dates and cashews in freshly boiled water for 30 minutes. Drain, and then add to a blender with the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth, adding extra splashes of non-dairy milk if needed.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170C. Line an 8x8 inch square brownie pan with greaseproof paper.
  3. Mash the banana in a large bowl, add the non dairy milk and oil and blend together. Vigorously mix in the sugar then add the vanilla.
  4. Sift in the dry ingredients and mix until smooth. Add a little extra non dairy milk if the batter seems too dry.
  5. Spoon into the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and spread a layer of caramel over the part-baked brownie (carefully). Sprinkle with the grated chocolate and salt flakes, and return to the oven for a further 25 minutes. Allow to cool in the tin, before slicing into 9 portions.
For a lighter alternative, I would recommend just using half of the caramel sauce as you do get a very thick layer of caramel using the whole recipe:

(I think I went a little overboard on the salt flakes...)


This is a rather delayed post about my box from The Vegan Kind, which I received a few weeks ago...

This month's box contained:

1. Hectares Sweet Potato Crisps
2. Wholeplus Hot Pot
3. BIO D Concentrated Non Bio Laundry Liquid Sample
4. Scoff Sweets Chocolate Fudge
5. Dormouse Tea Company Loose Leaf Tea and Tea Bags
6. Golden Apple Hazelnuts and Peppermint Raw Biscuits

1. Hectares Sweet Potato Crisps

I took these crisps to work as a snack on a day when I wouldn't be home til late, and they definitely served their purpose. I'm not a big crisp eater really, and when I do get crisps I usually go for the thick chunky ones rather than your standard Walkers (or whatever), but these were nice. They do taste quite different from normal crisps, what with being sweet potato, but the spice blend was nice and I like sweet potato anyway.

2. Wholeplus Hot Pot

This little packet of taste was a mix of oats, coconut milk powder, and the "vanilla spice" sprinkle topping. All you have to do is add hot water and stir - you couldn't really ask for anything more simple for a quick breakfast (or snack). It was full of flavour and I imagine it would be great to take to festivals, if you wanted to boil up your own water (or buy a cup from a vendor). Good stuff!

3. BIO D Concentrated Non Bio Laundry Liquid Sample

BIO D is a name I've seen before for laundry liquid but never tried (and I've still not got around to trying the sample either). It bears the BUAV and Vegan Society trademarks, is suitable for sensitive skin, and is made from naturally derived, sustainable ingredients.

4. Scoff Sweets Chocolate Fudge

The name "Scoff" is rather appropriate for this sweet company, as that's exactly what happened to the fudge! This is possibly the best vegan fudge I've had (with the exception of the vegan options from Fudge Kitchen). It was beautifully smooth and creamy, with a great chocolate taste.

5. Dormouse Tea Company Loose Leaf Tea and Tea Bags

I'm not a big tea drinker, so haven't tried these yet but it is very pretty and the little DIY teabags are ever so cute! I think this may be one of those things that I end up giving to someone who would appreciate it more than me... but it is a lovely set!

6. Golden Apple Hazelnuts and Peppermint Raw Biscuits

These raw biscuits are suitable for vegans, diabetics, and people with impaired gluten intolerance. Unfortunately, I don't really like mint so although I tried the biscuits, I didn't really enjoy them. Mr Hatter tried them but didn't get on with the texture (they were sort of dry but sort of chewy... I think this is just because we haven't had raw biscuits before though!).

The recipe card this month is for "GF SCD & Veggies' Roasted Butternut Squash Dip", which is made with butternut squash and haricot beans. It does sound rather tasty!

This month's charity is Give A Dog A Bone, who work to bring animals and elderly people together so that both sides can have mutual companionship. I've followed them on facebook for a while and they do have some very heartwarming stories!

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Vegan Package Swap - April

Hello my lovelies!

I seem to have been busy recently, and so I have quite a few blogs to write... oops! I'm hoping to catch up on a few with it being the bank holiday weekend...

I thought I'd better start with telling you about my Vegan Package Swap for April (!) as I've just received the one for May.

I was very excited about my April swap, as I was paired with someone from America - and there are lots of yummy vegan things you can get in America that you can't get in the UK. I only requested one thing, which was some coconut chips that some friends had brough me back from their trip to America last year - and they were AMAZING.

So, the box contents was:

Pad Thai noodles
Liquid Aminos
Dang - Toasted Coconut Chips
Dried pineapple slices
Chicken flavour stock cubes
Fruity strips
Kale chips
Citrus sipper
Sesame spread with vanilla and almond
Field Greens smoothie mix
Dishwasher powder
Moisturiser samples

I've not managed to try all of it yet but what I have tried has been very nice!

The first things to go where the coconut chips, mixed up with some chocolate coated soya beans by Landgarten (discovered in a TVK box). Yum yum yum!

I also tried out the liquid aminos and the pad thai noodles in one go, and both were good. The pad thai noodles were sweeter than I would have made them myself but were still a good quick meal.

I also tried the sesame spread on toast, and it was quite different to what I expected! The almond bits gave it a good texture, and the vanilla meant it had a well rounded flavour. I bet you could make nice cheesecake with it if you had enough...

And I still have lot of lovely things left to try!

The citrus sipper looks interesting... the idea is that you screw it into a piece of fruit (like an orange), drink the juice and then you are still able to eat the fruit afterwards! I've also been told that this brand/flavour of kale chips is one of the best on the market... Yay!

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Foodie Friday - May

This month's "Foodie Friday" happened a little later than usual this month due to the Easter and May bank holidays - but we got there in the end!

This time around, I only sampled the Noonshine Cafe lunch time menu (opting not to go to the Brandon Street Night Market, as we had a lot on).

The Grub & Grog Shop guys had another great menu lined up - with two vegan options! I got to choose between a hot sandwich or a stew; I opted for the sandwich (and I think I chose well!).

I can safely say I've not had carrot prepared in this way before, and it has given me a new perspective on cooked carrot! When I was younger, I really didn't like cooked carrot as it always seemed to be mushy and tasteless but the carrot in this sandwich was fantastic! I always seem to pick something from the Noonshine menu which contains a pickled item - honestly, this isn't on purpose but it is great! I had to look up what "mooli" is, and discovered that it is another name for daikon (which I had previously tried thanks to its inclusion in one of my boxes from The Vegan Kind... it's a type of radish).

The Grub & Grog guys are very helpful - one of them must have seen me struggling to eat my massive sandwich (yes, I do make a mess when I eat) and came over with a knife for me!

My lovely Friday lunch was rounded off by a piece of carrot cake made by That Old Chestnut. They are a completely vegan bakery, who provide cakes and other goodies to a variety of shops and cafes in West Yorkshire. I had previously tried their cake when taking part in the Depressed Cake Shop, and I'd been waiting for a chance to try another cake. I was not disappointed!

I would highly recommend both The Grub & Grog Shop and That Old Chestnut to anyone who wants to try some tasty food... and who doesn't, right? At a grand total of £6 for my lunch (£3.50 for the sandwich and £2.50 for the cake), I don't think you can really go wrong... Noonshine Cafe is on every Friday lunchtime at Outlaws Yacht Club in Leeds, so get yourself down there!

Friday, 9 May 2014

Vegan Hastings

Last weekend (May bank holiday), we went to Hastings. I was born in Hastings and we have friends down there, so it's always nice to go back - and we generally do, once a year, for the May Day celebrations. There is a wonderful Jack in the Green festival held down there - it's a lot of fun!

We usually end up eating the same sort of thing while we're down there but this time we had some new experiences - I do love discovering new vegan places! My mum and sister are leaning towards turning vegan, so I think that was an added incentive to look for some vegan food.

The first place we visited was called Land of Green Ginger, and can be found on the High Street in the Old Town. It is a pretty little cafe which I've noticed before but never been into - the name always struck me as somewhere that sounds vegan friendly! It turns out they have a good selection of vegan dishes, and a lovely garden area that you would never expect to find in such a small cafe:

After much umming and ahhing, I opted for the following dish:

Bubble and squeak - homemade bubble served with vegan sausages and our own onion gravy – £8.50

The homemade bubble was lovely, as was the onion gravy (although there was a lot of it!) and I guess you can't go wrong with some Linda McCartney sausages. After seeing the falafel dish that my sister ordered though, I wish I'd picked that! I think it was just because it was a warm sunny day, and sausages and gravy seem like more of a winter warmer. That being said, it was a very good meal and I'm always happy when I see clearly labelled vegan options!

The second place I want to mention is one of the food stalls that was at the Jack in the Green festival - Whambam. I ate from here last year but I don't think I blogged about it. This stall was very popular - I'd been in the queue for about half an hour before I was close enough to take this photo!

Whambam serve a selection of bhajis and pakoras, all of which are vegan and gluten free - they even grind their own flour! The food is freshly made at the stall, and you can see it all being chopped and prepared in front of you. You can opt for a small or large tray, with 2 or 3 sauces depending on which one you choose. Mr Hatter and I went for a large tray each as we were rather hungry by this point!

This is my large tray, full of bhajis and pakoras (although I wasn't lucky enough to get any cauliflower this year!), with mild mango chutney, hot mango chutney, and not-so-hot lime pickle (which was still pretty hot). It was £6 well spent, as it kept me full well into the evening!

So if you're a vegan in Hastings, you have options. And I'm sure there are many more that I haven't yet explored! I shall be hunting them out when I'm down there next year. (I know of at least one more vegan place that I have to try but haven't been able to yet - 1066 Cake Stand. They have two vegan kitchens, one of which is gluten free, and they bake a variety of sweet and savoury treats. I was lucky enough to be able to sample their cinder toffee in box number 4 from The Vegan Kind.

To finish off, here's a picture of us in our green outfits, ready for the bank holiday celebrations:

And this is our spoils from the arcades (because you can't go to the seafront and not play on the arcades apparently...) - Mr Hatter is pretty good at the grabber machines!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Live Below The Line

Last week, I took part in the "Live Below The Line" campaign to raise money to support people who are living below the extreme poverty line - the money my team has raised is going to UNICEF. The idea is that you get people to sponsor you for living "below the line" - so you can only spend £5 on your weekly food/drink (5 days), using no more than £1 per day in total. The people living below the extreme poverty line only have the equivalent of this amount to spend on everything - it has to cover food, drink, travel, school, housing, heating, etc etc. Luckily for us, the campaign only applies it to food and drink.

If you read this blog, you can probably see that I'm pretty passionate about food. I love food. So last week was a tough week. This is the second year I've participated in this, but it was still difficult. Living on very little money takes a lot of planning and preparation - which isn't something you feel like doing when you're tired and hungry!

Thanks to all the planning, I managed to get a reasonably nutritionally balanced diet - although I was still very tired by the end of it!

A few things I learned last week:

- cold Tesco Value kidney beans are not tasty
- bananas are amazing
- peanut butter rice pudding is easy and yummy (and I imagine even more so if you use a non-dairy milk instead of water... recipe to come??)
- Tesco Value curry powder is awful

If you would like to check out my week in more detail, you can find my Live Below The Line blog here.