Category Archives: vegan cookery

Three gluten free and dairy free Christmas desserts

In the run up to Christmas I have my annual date with the Portmeirion Food and Craft Fair . Now in its sixth year the market combines all that’s best of our local crafters, small businesses and food producers.

I have a love hate relationship with Christmas. I detest the corporate grasp, on what was once a pagan festival to mark the shortest day and a turning point as the light creeps back in. Even the Christian story is the antithesis of what Christmas has become. On the other hand I love a traditional family Christmas; I love small handmade presents, gifts with meaning and sentiment, carefully chosen or made. I love to make my own presents, food gifts wrapped in tissue and ribbon, bottles of home-made liqueur, chocolates and Christmas puddings and I love browsing the stalls of Christmas markets; eating mince pies and drinking mulled wine as Christmas carols drift along on the breeze.

My kids are now older; both wish for nothing more than hard cash towards a fight to India (the twenty-one year old) and a new drum kit (the fifteen year old). But I still take pleasure in getting them little presents to go along with this distinctly unromantic Christmas gift.

This was my fourth year presenting on the demo stage at Portmeirion. I tend to stick to dessert making as the stage is always heavy with meat offerings, so its nice to provide a contrast, something different that can be recreated at home. I’m also very aware that more and more people have special dietary requirements, myself included, so I concentrated on some tasty alternatives. On the menu this year was traditional Christmas pudding (but a quicker, Gluten free version), mulled wine oranges and fruit and nut dairy free chocolate fudge. The oranges are an awesome accompaniment to the Christmas pudding, on their own with dairy free ice cream (or normal ice cream) and the fudge is a great alternative to pudding if you end up too full to eat Christmas pudding, but want something sweet with coffee. The fudge also makes a great present for anyone avoiding dairy.

Let’s begin with the mulled wine oranges..

To serve four

  • 4 medium oranges
  • 190ml red wine
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 star anise
  • 3 allspice berries
  • 6 black peppercorns

Peel off 6-8 thin strips of zest from one of the oranges

Put the wine and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves.

Add the pared orange zest and remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer, then bubble gently for about 10 minutes until the wine is reduced by about half and is lightly syrupy. Leave to cool completely.

Slice the peel and pith away from the remaining oranges. Slice the oranges horizontally into 3mm thick rounds, then put them in a large bowl along with any juice.

Pour the cooled mulled wine syrup over the orange slices. Cover and leave to macerate in the fridge for at least a few hours for the flavours to develop.

Take them out of the fridge half an hour or so before serving, to bring to room temperature. You could also warm them again gently. The oranges and their sweetly spicy liquor are delightful just as they are – but a little ginger biscuit or two on the side is rather good, as is ice cream, or use to pair with Christmas pudding.

IMG_2396 (2)

Easy Christmas pudding

175g gluten free plain flour

2 teaspoons mixed spice

1 teaspoon ginger

Half a teaspoon nutmeg

175g gluten free breadcrumbs

175g butter

175g brown sugar

850g mixed fruit

75g mixed peel

Rind and juice one orange

2 eggs

120ml gluten free brown ale

Mix the dried ingredients together (the first five on the list)

Rub in the butter until it resembles course breadcrumbs. It doesn’t have to be perfect)

Stir in the sugar

Add the fruit and stir to combine then mix in the wet ingredients (orange zest and juice, eggs and beer. I used a beer from Cwrw Ogwen, our local micro brewery, which I’m aware is not gluten-free. But there are several gluten-free ales now on the market that can be substituted).

Turn into a pudding basin (3 pint) and cover with greaseproof paper or a pudding cloth and foil

Steam for 6 hours topping the pan up with boiling water if it gets low

Cool, change the paper and store in a cool dry place. It will keep for months!

When ready to use steam for another 2 hours.

***For the speedy version: Make smaller puddings and use individual pudding basins then cook in the oven. Set the oven at 160 degrees/ gas mark 3. Fill a roasting tray with water and cover the puddings as above. Stand the bowls in the tray so the water comes half way up the sides. Cook for two and a half hours. Cool and rewrap as before. When you want to use them reheat in the same way, heat the oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 5 and reheat for 30 minutes.

IMG_2397 (2)

Dairy free Chocolate fudge

375g very dark chocolate (at least 75% cocoa solids)

1 can of full cream coconut milk

Icing sugar

(Chopped pecans / fruit soaked in rum or brandy/cinnamon/vanilla)

Break chocolate into a bowl

Heat sugar and coconut milk in a saucepan until just bubbling

Pour over the chocolate and stir briskly to melt

Add cinnamon or spices / vanilla (feel free to experiment!)

50g of fruit and 50g nuts (I used a berry and cheery mix soaked in rum overnight and chopped pecans but you can experiment with your favourites)

Turn in to a dish lined with greaseproof paper  and refrigerate. Cut into chunks and serve. Or package in neat little boxes and send as presents.

I couldn’t pay a visit to Portmeirion without adding to my photo collection, or getting fuelled up on Poblado coffee. It must be one of THE most photogenic places I’ve ever visited; even in the mud, rain, or on a cold dull Welsh winters day I see a new angle, a new view… a wander with the camera and a warm, smooth coffee from one of our best Welsh producers (they roast their own coffee) and my afternoon wound up perfectly.

 

1 Comment

Filed under British food, Christmas, Christmas menu's, Food festival, Food travel, home cooking, local produce, photography, Recipes, travel, vegan cookery, Wales tourism, Welsh produce

Recipe…i’ve finally cracked it! Perfect falafel

IMG00305-20130411-1841[1]

I love Middle Eastern food and one of my most frequently made staple snacks (mostly because the kids love it to) is falafel.

Falafel originated in Egypt and is another one of those recipes that varies wildly, although like many does have some basic principles.

Many seem to use broad beans although I prefer to make them with just chick peas.  In Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s book Jerusalem (Ebury) they recommend using only one clove of garlic..while other recipes use up to six! During wild garlic season I use a handful of this instead, but otherwise I would use about 3-4. I like a good hit, but not so I OD on it.

Cumin is the standard spice in most recipes and I don’t differ in that respect. A good teaspoon or two is enough for me along with a handful of fresh flat leaf parsley and a handful of coriander.

Some recipes use onion or spring onion but I like to use a small red onion…its sweeter and varies the flavour.

The mixture should be roughly blitzed in a food processor. A good sturdy model is essential. In the past my attempts to make perfect falafel with a small domestic food processor proved futile.  My all singing all dancing Magimix 5200XL is the best machine I have ever used for the job…no amount of chickpeas can daunt it!

Once ingredients have been blitzed I, like Ottolenghi and Tamimi, add a teaspoon baking powder and a spoon full of flour and leave it to rest in the fridge (I have to say I don’t always leave the mix for an hour though).I roll the balls in sesame seeds which give a nice finish and lovely crunchy texture when deep-fried.

The Perfect Falafel Recipe

Ingredients
500g chickpeas, soaked overnight with half a teaspoon bicarb of soda

3-4  garlic cloves, crushed or a handful of wild garlic leaves

a small red onion, chopped finely

a handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped

a handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped finely

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

a sprinkle of paprika

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tbsp plain flour

sesame seeds for rolling the balls in

vegetable oil for deep-frying

Combine the drained chickpeas with the garlic, onion, parsley and coriander leaves. Blitz in a food processor until roughly chopped.The mixture should not be a puree, but should retain texture.  Add your spices, baking powder, flour, salt and about four tablespoons of water. Leave to rest in the fridge for up to an hour.

Either heat up a deep fat fryer (which is safest) or half fill a large heavy-based saucepan with vegetable or sunflower oil.

Form the falafel mixture into small golf ball sized portions and roll in sesame seeds. When the oil is hot drop in falafel carefully.

IMG00292-20130408-1730[1]

Don’t overload the pan/fryer…cook about 5 or 6 at a time then when golden remove and drain on paper towels.

IMG00303-20130411-1834[1]

5 Comments

Filed under home cooking, middle eastern food, Recipes, seasonal food, vegan cookery, vegetarian dishes

Keeping it raw

I’ve never been one for food fads although I once did one of those ‘detox’ diets back in the 90’s when they were THE big thing to do. My dad and I embarked on it together; a seven-day programme of toxin free eating to purge our bodies of the impurities of modern life. In all honesty we were rubbish. On day five I found my step-father head in fridge, guiltily stuffing chunks of cheese into his mouth at half past twelve in the morning. Meanwhile I walked around ready to kill, driven crazy by the lack of nicotine entering my system.  We both cracked. Totally unable to cope without our morning shot of caffeine or hefty dose of protein during the day. We decided together that the toxins weren’t that bad after all.

It’s not that I’ve ever had a particularly unhealthy diet. I was, until I started living with my then boyfriend (now husband), a strict vegetarian. I’d even dabbled with veganism for about six months, but that was in my late teens when I wasn’t so keen on vegetables and there just wasn’t the variety of products on the market tailored to vegan living. It was only when my teen was little that I started to eat a bit of fish and occasionally chicken. Back then I shopped in the supermarket and couldn’t afford organic meat so it was easier and cheaper to eat vegetarian most of the time.

My knowledge of raw foodism (is that the correct term?) was pretty sketchy. I’d always imagined raw foodists as a strange sub-group of vegans; pale and unhealthy looking hippy types (yes I’m just going to generalise wildly here so please forgive me) eating salad for breakfast lunch and dinner. These days it seems that more and more people are choosing a raw way of life…and for the most part they look pretty damn good doing it. It’s still not totally mainstream but people like Mike Nash (buff American author of Aggressive Health), David Wolfe (curly-haired ‘rock star’ of superfood) and chef Chris Massamba from Sundia foods (opening night chef at Global Feast 2012) are doing their best to pioneer the trend and tell all about the benefits. If you think it’s just another fad diet I think you would be wrong, it’s a lifestyle (they do all look incredibly wholesome, toned and squeaky clean…which is enough to put me off and make me feel quite grubby). This lifestyle they espouse doesn’t seem to have much room for moments of stodgy cake, booze, cocktails or dare I say it, the odd cigarette but there are plenty of people following suit and lots of websites with recipes and tips on how to do it.

This week I received an invite to Raw Dave’s night of raw food.  A three course raw food dinner with talks and demonstrations. I wasn’t sure what to expect (what with my sweeping generalisations and large chuck of cynicism) but with so few food events (let alone interesting and different food events) cropping up in these parts I knew I’d kick myself if I turned it down. In any case I know the chef, Raw Dave (as he is known locally) so I was genuinely interested in what he had to say and prepare for us.

You’d be forgiven for imagining Raw Dave as a gruff feral man, part Tarzan part Neanderthal, emerging from the undergrowth after an extended forage. In contrast Dave is a gentle, laid back self-effacing guy who clearly loves food, experimenting, preparing and eating. He does have a hint of the clean and glowing about him but  along with his lovely and massively enthusiastic assistant Gill (for whom all of life is AWESOME. Favourite adjective of the night) they managed to enthuse all the guests with the same amounts of bounce and anticipation.

The totally awesome Raw Dave and Gill

The evening was hugely interactive, well planned and I learnt masses. Guests liberally fired questions across the table which Gill and Dave answered with relaxed honesty and openness. It felt like a cross between a supper club (I had that feeling of deja vu witnessing the birth of a new foodie project) and a food lecture. I’d never have guessed that this was the first time they’d run such an event. They were fun, entertaining, enlightening and interesting. I sat with Jules (from the Incredible Edible Hedgerow project) and a couple of her friends, plus Pete who is a veteran supper club guest. The conversation and debate provoked by the food, how we eat, grow, shop and what the effects of eating such a nutrient rich, unusual diet might be on our systems were definitely a highlight of the night.

Clearly there are long-term health benefits to such a diet. Dave explained his own journey. He’d always been fit but a big guy and as he approached his thirties he felt himself becoming lethargic, achey and slowly he piled on the weight. As he topped 23 stone his Mum developed hypertension and his dad had a heart attack. He found he was developing the same symptoms so decided it was time to make a change. He didn’t become a raw foodie over night (in fact Dave strongly advised against doing anything so drastic and so suddenly…as he said it’s not about putting yourself through withdrawal and feeling crap it’s about improving the diet and feeling healthy), he started by drinking green smoothies and slowly replaced unhealthy snacks with healthy ones. Over a three to four year period he became almost totally raw. In the process and without watching what he ate (raw chocolate plays a massive part in his life) his weight dropped to an astounding 12 stone. He looks healthy. He brims with energy and he no longer aches in the morning.

We started our meal with one of his famous green smoothies. A dark green high chlorophyll (which makes you feel buzzy and uplifted) concoction of 1 juiced apple, 1 juiced pear, a hand full of spinach and a stick of celery juiced, spirulina, sea algae (high in Omega 3), agave nectar.

It was more tasty than it might seem, although Dave had put plenty of Agave nectar in it to make it more palatable. The apple and pear flavours were strongly in evidence and not over powered by the celery and spinach at all. We were also treated to some raw chocolate bites to go with it. High in phenathlamine (among other things!) they offer a natural high and topped with dried fruit (I can’t remember what Dave said the dried fruit was on top, something like kumquat I think) they were very nice.

raw chocolate: coconut oil, raw cacao powder with a dried kumquat like fruit on top

One of the purported benefits of eating raw is that it boosts your energy levels. With the high nutrient content, added Omega 3 (spirulina), natural ‘good’ bacteria in algae, natural caffeine and chemicals in the raw chocolate I certainly felt quite buzzy and high after the chocolate and smoothie appetizer.

We moved on to starter; a mixed leaf, herb, flower salad with mixed seeds and Green Dragon dressing.  Leaves and flowers were harvested from the on iste permaculture garden and the dressing made from half a scotch bonnet chilli (which apparently helps to open up the cells inside us, replacing the bad stuff-toxins, with good stuff), half an onion, a handful of coriander (good for the detox of heavy metals), 7 fl oz tamari soy sauce (a wheat free variety), a couple of dropper full of flax oil (Omega 3 rich, it’s very good for reversing a deficiency but if used too much can cause an imbalance), nine fl oz apple cider vinegar (lower in ascetic acid than balsamic vinegar), good olive oil and pink Himalayan salt (the purist kind and most contaminant free apparently). These were all blitzed in a blender.

The dressing had real punch (from the chilli) but was also slightly sweet and sour. The sweet came from a drop of agave nectar (from the blue agave plant; the same thing they make tequila from…something else I learned that night).

Main course was courgette spaghetti with a marinari sauce and raw pesto. To make the courgette spaghetti Dave used a spiraliser, a Japanese gadget, that Gill demonstrated (after bouncing up and down saying “can I do it, can I, can I” )

Gill using the spiraliser (not the best picture sorry)

This was my most coveted piece of kit for the night. I have to get one of them!

Courgette spagetti with marinari sauce and raw pesto

I don’t think I was paying attention when the demonstration was going on as I didn’t make a note of the ingredients. I think we were too busy being excited by the spiraliser and passing round vegan parmesan substitute. Made by Marigold it looks a bit like fish food and has a yeasty kind of taste, but isn’t unpleasant. It comes into its own when it’s added to dishes. Dave used it in the pesto, which was very nice.

Pete’s extrodinarily long piece of courgette pasta

Although it is supposed to be summer, the sauce would have benefitted from lightly warming as it wasn’t the warmest evening, although this did not detract from the taste; perfectly flavoured and seasoned.

Dessert was raw tiffin with mint sauce. The ‘biscuit’ part (which can also be used as a cheesecake base) was a combination of walnut halves, dates and pink Himalayan salt, blitzed together in a blender until it begins to hold together.

Next coconut oil warmed in a bain marie was mixed with melted raw cacao powder and what we arrived at was, in the words of Gill

“chocolatey joy in a bowl”

Thank you Gill, that is exactly what it was. Once set they cut the tiffin into chucks and served it with a simple pureed minty sauce and a strip of strawberry fruit leather. I’m rarely defeated by dessert but this was so rich half of it made me feel like I’d over eaten!

During the evening my dinner companions and I came up with two questions. Would we be able to sleep after so much buzzy food and would we feel full at the end of the meal? I asked one more silent question of myself. What would it do to my insides? This seems a strange question to ask, but I’m not used to eating solely raw food. As Dave said, “you’re not just getting five a day, you’re getting twenty-five a day”.

Question two was answered easily. Yes we all agreed we felt full and I continued to feel full for a long time afterwards.

The first question was answered later…no I couldn’t sleep. Apparently Sean listened to me talking at him in an over elated fashion while we lay in bed. He listened for a while before he finally fell asleep. He was sure I carried on even then.

My own question was answered the following day. The over abundance of vegetable made me feel quite bloated. The following day my stomach spoke to me in gurgles. Now, without getting too grim about the details, suffice it to say I couldn’t have felt more purged if I’d had a colonic irrigation. Despite this I didn’t feel ill, I felt rather light and energetic until I started getting a headache and a craving for a really big ham roll. Sorry Dave, my toxins rule my body.

Lizzy Hawley and the girls behind the newly revamped Hendre Hall Arts Cafe and Permaculture Garden hosted the evening. It’s a fab place which is now being used as a base for lots of local craft people as well as a venue for weddings, special events and a monthly local produce market. If you would like to attend future events they are mostly advertised through Facebook or word of mouth, so its worth checking their page for news.

Thank you to lovely Lizzy, resplendent in Green taffeta, and the rest of her glamorous assistants for all their hard work and of course to Gill and Dave who were truly AWESOME!

 

3 Comments

Filed under British food, cookery courses, eating out, Pop-up cafe, raw food, Recipes, salads, seasonal food, secret supper, Uncategorized, vegan cookery

My new love…..a Magimix 5200 XL and a recipe for vegan chocolate mousse cake

My husband has this theory. He says that there a male power tools and female power tools. Male power tools go in things (like big powerful drills) while things go in the female equivalent (like food processors and vaccum cleaners). I think he’s talking a load of sexist crap myself, cement mixers (male tool) have stuff put in them and hand blenders (female tool) goes into stuff. He does have a point though when he says I have developed a very male obsession with my new power tool (because, while were on the sexist crap theme, men do become rather obsessed with their tools, don’t they?)

My new obsession borders on love actually, and my brand new girly power tool, a lovely new Magimix 5200XL food processor, is the object of that love. From the moment it arrived, as I ripped open the packaging to see its sleek, shiny, good-looking body, I was in awe. It looked good in and out of its packaging, but at the same time its strong, sturdy and practical design (like the perfect man perhaps? the perfect combo of substance and style) suggested it would stand the test of time. Yep, you got it, I’ve fallen for it big time!

For years I’ve wanted a Magimix. I’ve stared in desolation at images online longingly desiring that unattainable bit of eye candy for the kitchen. I’ve seen other serious cooks use them and tried them out myself. It made me want one even more. Now that I actually have my own I’m like a giggly, nervous teenager experiencing my first crush.

Of course like every new relationship it has to be tried and tested, and this weekend I certainly put through its paces. I’ve grated, shredded, blended and pulsed. Since it is an extra-large model, designed for catering as well as household use, it has three bowls in one, all of differing sizes. I’ve tried out each. The smallest is perfect for smaller quantities of blended sauce or puree. I made a sauce verde with parsley, coriander, mint, a squeeze of lemon juice, some salt and some olive oil. I only needed enough to marinade my chicken for the barbecue and the machine managed it admirably.

The next size bowl is designed for use with a grater or shredder attachment, I guess it’s so you don’t have to wash the large bowl every time. My lovely machine grated and had plenty of room for 500g grated carrot (and I could have fitted in more). It also grated it in super fast time compared to my poor old machine that has been on its last legs for a while, and took forever. The teen watched,

“Woah, has it done it?” she said, not quite believing how quick it was.

For its next test I let the teen have a go. Smoothies are her favourite. I’m sure she would live on them given half a chance, but as my smoothie machine blew up a while ago (after she used it I might add) she’s been sadly deprived and longing for an adequate replacement. This was the perfect opportunity to see how it fared.

.

We threw some mango, strawberries, banana and a handful of frozen blackcurrant’s in to the largest bowl along with a splash of semi-skimmed milk and some apple juice. If you like it sweeter you can also add a trickle of agave syrup or honey. I clicked the lid in to place (even doing this feels smooth and efficient) and the machine switched on. Less than two minutes later we had four glasses of perfectly smooth, thick smoothie.

For our last test of the weekend I decided to experiment. With another wedding coming up, for which I need to cater for half a dozen vegans, I thought I’d have a go making a vegan chocolate mousse cake. I’d recently been sent a couple of blocks of Willie’s Cacao (made by Willie Harcourt-Cooze) and thought it the perfect opportunity to try it out. Willie’s cacao is a serious cooks chocolate and not for the faint hearted. Its strong, pure cacao, quite expensive, but I love it and its worth it. Plus it sounds like you are buying something elicit with names like Madagascan Black and Venezuelan Black!! It’s not a chocolate you can eat straight from the wrapper so don’t even try! Its sharp and bitter because it has no added sugar or sweeter like other chocolate and although the hint of fruitiness is still in evidence, it’s strictly for adding to dishes.

I found a recipe on Vegan.com that I tinkered with to create something that suited our palate. It consisted of a thin cake layer topped with a chocolate mousse, plus a layer of fresh fruit.

For the sponge I used:

100g flour (I used dark rye but it made the cake too heavy so I would use half rye and half white next time)

half a teaspoon bicarb of soda

a good pinch of salt

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

95g caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

3 tablespoons sunflower or ground nut oil.

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

up to 100ml cold water

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Make a well in the centre then add oil, vanilla and cider vinegar. Stirring lightly with a fork, add enough cold water to make your cake batter. Turn into an oiled and lined 7 inch loose bottom cake tin. Bake in a preheated oven gas mark 4, 180 degree C for around half an hour. Keep checking after 25 minutes.

In a the large bowl of the new food processor in placed 1 block (about 300g) silken tofu, 1 teaspoon cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon vanilla essence, a pinch of sea-salt, 2 tablespoons vegan milk (soy milk) which I blitzed for a couple of minutes. To this I added 1 block of Willie’s cacao (I used the Madagascan Black) which I had melted in an oven proof bowl on the lowest shelf of the preheating oven and between 1 and 4 tablespoons (or as much as you need) Agave syrup.

The texture was fantastic. Mousse like, smooth and creamy. My old processor would never have managed to blend the tofu so effectively so I was over the moon with this.

The mixture was then smoothed over the cooked and cooled cake base which was then placed in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Finally I removed the mousse cake from the tin and decorated it with sliced strawberries.

The verdict? Well, apart from the base being a little firm, it was a great hit!. The mousse itself was light and creamy with enough dark chocolate taste to satisfy the hard-core chocolate lover. Hubby was less impressed. He’s not that keen on very dark chocolate, but then he doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth anyway. Teen loved it, as did the kid. Sadly we didn’t find any vegans to help us out, but it would never have lasted that long anyway.

So a weekend of success? Yes very definitely. I would recommend a Magimix to anyone. Perhaps not such a large model for the average kitchen, but they do lots of smaller models in gorgeous funky colours. Is my affair going to last? Well so far so good….but I will let you know after I’ve made hummus and salad to feed 500 next weekend!!

6 Comments

Filed under British food, cakes & Baking, Cooking equipment, Recipes, Uncategorized, vegan cookery