Ginger Crackle-Top Cookies

Before I was vegan, I used to bake using recipes in two HUGE baking books from my mom’s bookshelf. Ginger cookies were somewhat of a specialty – they are crunchy on the outside, sweet and chewy on the inside, sparkling with sugar and intensely satisfying. Whilst visiting home, I decided to bake them (with my niece as a little helper!). They turned out the best I’d ever made them – a true testament to vegan baking not being inferior in any way, shape or form.

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Messy baking obviously runs in the family ūüôā

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 1/2 cups of plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 cup vegan butter substitute (I used vitalite.)
  • ¬†1 1/2 cups caster sugar
  • 1 – 2 tsp commercial egg replacer whisked together with 4-5 tbsp water
  • 4 tbsp black treacle
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice

WHAT TO DO:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees C. Grease 2-3 baking trays.
  2. Sift together flour, bicarb and spices into a small bowl, and set aside.
  3. In another bowl, cream together the butter substitute and 1 cup of the sugar until fluffy.
  4. Stir in the egg replacer, treacle and lemon juice. (It will curdle and it will look gross. Stick with it.)
  5. Add the flour mix and stir with a wooden spoon until it comes together into a soft dough. You may find it necessary to bring it together with your hands.
  6. Sprinkle the remaining sugar into a shallow dish/plate.
  7. Roll balls of the dough to the size of about 1.5 inches, and roll in the sugar so that the surface of the ball is covered. Place the balls evenly spaced on the prepared trays (leave about an inch between each one to account for spreading).
  8. Bake in the oven for about 15 minute, or until the tops are crackled and the cookies have started to set.
  9. Leave to cool on the trays for 5 minutes before attempting to move them to a cooling rack – they will still be soft when they come out of the oven, but as they cool they harden and become lovely and chewy.
  10. Best served dunked into a cup of tea. Enjoy!

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Coriander-gate

I recently went to The Gate in Hammersmith, which is a posh¬†veggie-vegan restaurant tucked behind a hotel. The menu reminded me of Terre a Terre in Brighton, so I was expecting something pretty visually stunning. I ordered simply “Tortillas,” and they did not disappoint on the aesthetics:

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The tortillas were filled with sweet potato, and had a kind of black bean salsa type thing surrounding them, with fresh guacamole.¬†The first bite was delicious, but as I started to get further into it, my senses were completely overthrown by the frickin’ GARDEN of coriander the chef had used in every ingredient. It has put me off fresh coriander for a LONG time. It was a real shame (especially as it cost ¬£14!). Also, as this was the vegan version, there was obviously no sour cream or cheese, but I had expected some kind of vegan substitute to provide that cooling element, but instead they’d just left it out entirely. Not very creative and pretty annoying considering you pay the same price for less ingredients.

Luke had a crusted char grilled teriyaki aubergine on a bed of stir fried noodles:

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I tasted a little and it was nice enough, and seemed a bit more 3-dimensional in terms of flavour, but still not worth the price in my opinion.

After the coriander assault on my tastebuds, I needed something to take away the herby hit and restore my faith in vegan restaurants, so I went for a vegan trifle for dessert:

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It was really lovely and light, and the cream was indistinguishable from the real thing, so kudos on that and only that The Gate.

I don’t think I’ll be paying (operative word) a visit there again any time soon, unsurprisingly. I’m really starting to get disheartened by the amount of minimalist, gourmet, style-over-substance veg*n restaurants, because if this kind of food is what non-veggies associate with the veg*n lifestyle then we haven’t got a hope in hell. All the more motivation for me to open my own caf√© in the future!

 

Bolognaise! (inspired by my lovely mother)

I am always in awe when I meet people who can’t cook, or who don’t enjoy cooking. I can’t relate to these people, and I feel sad for them, that they don’t get to experience the bursting pride that comes from absolutely nailing a new recipe, or when someone tries your food and it’s written all over their face how delicious it is (this one is a bit more difficult for me because Luke’s “eww” face is very similar to his “mmm” face, so it could always go either way).

I’m fortunate enough to have a mom who constantly encouraged me to be in the kitchen with her, chopping things, measuring things, mixing things, mashing things; anything I was capable of doing, she let me do. As I got older this turned into us sharing most of the more complicated cooking responsibilities, and eventually lead to me being able to cook a full blown Sunday Dinner for 5 of us by myself.

I owe a lot of my cooking abilities to my mom being a great teacher, and to this day we can only comfortably be in the kitchen with each other – everybody else just gets in the way (my dad is a hoverer, and Luke always chooses to do the washing up right when I’m in the middle of everything, though I do appreciate you being so domesticated darling!). This bolognaise is one of the first recipes mom taught me, and over¬†the years I have¬†cultivated it into what I consider to be¬†perfection, and now I’m going to share it with you ūüôā

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INGREDIENTS:

  • Approx. 1.5 cups dried soya/TVP mince
  • Half an onion, finely chopped
  • 1-2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1-2 tins¬†chopped tomatoes
  • 1-2 tbsp. Tomato pur√©e
  • 1 heaped tsp. Marmite (yes, really.)
  • 1-2 tsp. Soft brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp oil of your choice
  • Chopped veg, eg mushrooms, courgettes, peppers
  • Ready mixed herbs or combination of oregano, parsley, basil etc.
  • Salt and pepper to taste

WHAT TO DO:

  1. Rehydrate the mince in a bowl with hot water (just enough to barely cover the mince, be careful not to drown it), and set aside.
  2. Sauté the onion, garlic and any of the crunchier veg such as the courgettes in the oil on a medium heat until softened.
  3. Add the mince and stir for one minute until everything is mixed evenly.
  4. Add the tinned tomatoes and tomato purée and stir through. After a couple of minutes, add the Marmite, sugar and herbs.
  5. Next add the mushrooms and remaining veg, salt and pepper, stir through, cover and turn down the heat. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes while cooking your pasta or other accompaniment, making sure to stir and taste occasionally.

Eh voil√†! It is that easy. I always make sure to pack lots of veg in because it means I don’t¬†need as much pasta, so I don’t feel as full and heavy. The Marmite (my mom’s trick) adds colour and a rich depth of flavour, and I would never make bolognaise without it. I serve it piled onto penne or tagliatelle, with some home made garlic bread on the side. Enjoy!

Leibster Award – say whaaaat?

I was nominated for a Leibster Award by http://desperatelyvegan.wordpress.com/ a few weeks ago and I have only just gotten round to doing my “acceptance post!” Thank you ! ūüôā

From what I can gather, the Leibster award is an online award given to bloggers with less than¬†1000 followers, by other bloggers. It’s kind of like the blogging equivalent of a chain letter, because once you’re nominated, it is your chance to answer 11 questions given by the person who nominated you, along with 11 random facts. You then come up with your own list of questions, and nominate at least 5 more bloggers with less than¬†1000 followers to keep the chain going. So without further ado, Desperately Vegan asked the following questions:

1. Who’s your favorite celebrity chef and what one question would you love to ask them?

I don’t know of any vegan celebrity chefs, Isa Chandra doesn’t really count does she? Either way, I watch way too much food network, so I would probably choose Ina Garten because she’s ridiculous, and I would ask her if she and Geoffrey ever actually argue or are they really that happy together?

2. Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Eating spoonfuls of lotus caramel biscuit spread. Or having the ability to eat an entire sleeve of Oreos in the space of about 3 minutes.

3. What’s your comfort food?

Bangers (vegan of course!) and mash with gravy and mint sauce. Mmmmm.

4. Which country has always fascinated you and why?

Italy, because everyone always looks so healthy and glowing, and well. Pizza.

5. Is there a myth you would like to break?

Soya milk will not give men boobs. Just stop it.

6. Is there something you truly believe in that people around you don’t quite understand?

Veganism! My boyfriend wholly understands and supports me but isn’t vegan himself, my parents recently gave up dairy (after already being vegetarian since before I was born), but a lot of friends/colleagues find it strange and silly and just one of those quirky things about me I guess. I also believe in going to bed before midnight and a lot of people definitely don’t understand that!

7. The one time when you experienced absolute bliss.

Donut sticks and salted caramel chocolate sauce at Terre a Terre in Brighton. I transcended consciousness.

8. Your stress-buster?

A cup of tea and a hug from Luke. Also a good nights sleep.

9. What is the hardest thing you have ever had to give up?

Biscuits. I still fail from time to time, but I cannot be trusted around biscuits so I decided to cut them out. It’s an on-going struggle.

10. If you could live someone else’s life for a day, who would you choose and why?

Do Disney characters count? Can¬†I say Merida from Brave because she’s an absolute babe and a bad ass with awesome hair and I really like her dresses?

11. What one important thing would you definitely like to do in this lifetime that holds some deep meaning to you?

Have children.

11 random facts about myself:

1. I’m really quite anti social and am perfectly happy to spend every night at home with my boyfriend, and feel completely fulfilled by doing so. However I do cherish the friends I have and love to spend time with them too ūüôā

2. I used to have two pet stick insects called hubba and bubba.

3. I spent a whole day learning how to solve a rubiks cube, and I can now solve one in under two minutes.

4. I don’t drink alcohol¬†any more, and don’t intend to ever drink again.¬†However if some home made vegan baileys somehow falls out of a glass and directly into my mouth at Christmas well that’s not my fault.

5. I bloody love Coronation Street.

6. I can pretty much follow along word for word the films Passport To Paris, The Parent Trap and Legally Blonde.

7. My ultimate dream life would probably involve living on some sort of sanctuary farm, taking care of all kinds of rescued animals and spending the rest of my time baking.

8. I used to have 17 piercings. I now have 3.

9. I’m very confrontational, and often end up in arguments with strangers on public transport when they’re doing something appallingly disrespectful and¬†nobody else is saying anything.

10. I’m AWESOME at Mario Kart on the Xbox.

11. When I was little, I was obsessed with the idea of having glasses and contact lenses, so I once cut two small circles from an A4 plastic wallet, and stuck them in my eyes. Suffice to say it did not go well.

My questions for my nominees:

1. Why did you decide to start blogging?

2. If there was one person from history, alive or dead,¬†you’d like to meet, who and why?

3. What obscure food combination would you recommend everyone try?

4. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose and why?

5. What one thing always makes you happy no matter what?

6. What is your favourite line from a book?

7. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

8. What’s your favourite Disney film?

9. What are the three strongest principles you live by?

10. What’s your favourite Nicholas Cage film?

11. What ingredients make the best smoothie?

And there we have it! Hope you have fun reading and answering!

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I’m Not Bluffin’ With These Muffins (And The Tart Ain’t Half Bad Either!)

Me and Luke just spent a good 15 minutes trying to come up with a good title for this post so I hope you all appreciate it.

I made chocolate muffins recently, but I decided to be a bit cheeky, a bit experimental, and hid a little something extra in the middle of them before baking. One half of the batch was filled with the last of my Lotus caramel biscuit spread (you may know it as Speculos), and the other half with some vegan chocolate hazelnut spread (otherwise known as Nutella) that I picked up from Vbites Cafe during our holiday to Brighton.

The result was nothing short of magical. The¬†muffins filled with chocolate spread were rich and sweet and warm, almost truffle-like in texture due to the melting chocolatey centre, and I’m not being dramatic when I say they caused me to briefly transcend consciousness. I didn’t manage to try one with Speculos, but¬†Luke’s review¬†of¬†his experience¬†is this:¬†“It was a gooey, decadent, luxurious, chocolatey¬†treat for my mouth.”

The cake itself was moist – down to the high liquid content from the agave/maple syrup, flavourful, delicate and moreish. What more could you want from a muffin?

Here is a food-porn worthy photo of some serious Speculos ooze:

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I have put the recipe for these bad boys on my recipe book page. You HAVE to try them. Promise me?

Now you’ve all seen a picture of my muffin, lets get tarty.

I recently acquired a blender/food processor combo, and have really enjoyed creating new dishes with it, and have benefitted from the convenience of not having to manually chop onions any more!¬†Anyway, for a while now, I’ve wanted to try my hand at a tofu based dessert, so when I came across a chocolate tofu no-bake tart recipe that looked relatively simple, I gathered my ingredients and got stuck in.

The crust was made with dates, sultanas/raisins, roasted hazelnuts, walnuts, agave, and a bit of soya spread (the recipe called for coconut oil but I’m awful at remembering to buy some). I whizzed all this together and pressed it into a pie tin, then left it in the fridge for half an hour to firm up. (It was very sticky and even after sitting in the fridge with the filling inside, it didn’t firm up as much as I’d hoped, but with some gentle agitating¬†I got it out of the tin in one piece!). I then blended a block of silken tofu, with most of a big bar of melted dark chocolate, a few squirts of agave, and a dash of vanilla, until smooth and creamy. I poured this into the date and nut crust, topped with a few leftover raspberries, and left it to firm up over about 6-8 hours.

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It was slightly delicate when cutting due to the stickiness of the crust, but the filling was light, mousse-y and delicious,¬†offset by¬†the crust which¬†was sweet, chewy and satisfying. Knowing it was essentially a healthy dessert was an added bonus too. I’ll definitely be experimenting more with tofu fillings in the future – it’s so versatile and the perfect texture for so many things. In fact, I love tofu so much, that I wanted the world to know, so…

Glorified Salad for 15 Quid

During a recent outing to Regent Street with the boyf, we ended up at Tibits – a veggie buffet restaurant that I’ve heard quite a lot about during my time in London.

I was excited, and this was only enhanced upon entering the HUGE building, which is situated down a lovely little side street, opening onto a courtyard area. The buffet island inside¬†was full of colourful, appetising dishes that I couldn’t wait to get stuck into. The ceilings in there are really high, the d√©cor is modern and the atmosphere was busy and bustling – I was expecting good things.

The waiter explained that we were to help ourselves to the buffet, and the cost of our meal was calculated by how much our plate weighed. Naturally I wanted a bit of everything, but made sure to only have a tablespoon or so of each dish (which mostly consisted of various grains/cous cous/rice/slaw components, with the odd hot potato dish or onion rings). I also had a ciabatta roll for good measure.

This was my plate:

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¬£15 for that + an iced tea. But thankfully the bread was complimentary (!). I should sodding well think so after that blatant daylight robbery. I essentially had a mediocre salad tapas and they charged me ¬£15 for the privilege. Also, there was this disgusting lentil dahl thing that I had the displeasure of tasting before immediately spitting it into my napkin. The only remotely enjoyable parts of my meal were the olives and onion rings. I’d only ever heard good things about Tibits so it’s safe to say I was extremely disappointed with what ended up being a ridiculously expensive amalgamation of side dishes.¬†I will not be dining there again, and it saddens me that some people fail so miserably to provide a good meal – vegan or not – and consider it reasonable to charge the earth for it.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, because after getting wind of a 2 day only offer a few weeks ago¬†on SweetVegan.co.uk (a free tub of mini marshmallows with any order!), I treated myself to some chocolate dipped marshmallows that looked divine. This time, I was not disappointed. The tub of marshmallows that arrived with my order were also delicious, and they had even thrown in another tub containing¬†a caramel flavoured marshmallow too! All the products are made by hand, so it can sometimes take a while to receive your order, however it is definitely worth the wait – a really naughty indulgence that you don’t need to feel guilty about, because no sentient beings had to die in order to make them, and really, what’s better than that?

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Apologies and Kitchen Sink Burgers!

Oh my god I’m so shit at blogging, I’m really sorry for the big gap in between posts! I have no excuse, I’m just lazy.

I have lots of tasty updates that I will add in posts to follow, but for now I will dedicate this one to what I had for dinner tonight.

On Valentines day 2013, I made bean burgers for the first time for me and Luke. Since then I have adapted my recipe to contain everything but the kitchen sink, and the result is bloody delicious. This is a picture of tonight’s spoils:

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Ingredients change depending on what I have available, but this is how I made them tonight:

INGREDIENTS:

  • Black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Mushrooms, chopped
  • Half an onion, finely diced
  • Garlic, finely chopped or crushed
  • Tarragon
  • Cumin
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Ground coriander
  • Mild chilli powder
  • Nutritional yeast to taste
  • 1 tbsp. Ketchup
  • 1/2 cup Breadcrumbs
  • 1/2-1 cup Vital wheat gluten (seitan)
  • 1 tbsp. Corn starch
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2-3 tbsp. Water

Note: if you don’t have vital wheat gluten then just use regular flour and it will work just fine, just expect a slightly weaker structure.

WHAT TO DO:

  1. Sauté the onions and garlic in a little oil until transparent. Add the mushrooms, herbs and spices to taste and fry for a few minutes, then take off the heat.
  2. Mash the beans in a large bowl until they reach a paste like consistency and set aside.
  3. Whisk together the corn starch, nutritional yeast, ketchup and water and add to beans, along with the rest of the ingredients. Add in the wheat gluten a few tablespoons at a time, until the mixture starts to hold together and forms glutinous strands throughout. (It will seem kind of elastic.)
  4. Form into burger or patty shapes and either fry or bake until the outside is golden brown and crispy, and burger is hot throughout. Enjoy!

I haven’t finished experimenting with this recipe yet, I will always strive for the perfect burger, but I’m pretty pleased with it so far!

I’ll make sure I’m strict with myself over the next week, and will do some catch up posts with all the lovely things I haven’t been blogging about. Stay tuned!