Food Blog

Rhubarb Crumble Granola (and what is a 'natural flavour'?)

Over the last few month I have been working behind the scenes to develop my Wholeplus flavour range, it is still in the works but I hope to unleash the exciting new products and creative philosophy very soon!

A huge part of my investigation process was in aligning optimal taste and texture with highest quality ingredients. When I launched Wholeplus I initially only had three flavours in the range- chocolate, cinnamon and vanilla as these were the only real food powders I could get and I was resistant to explore 'natural flavours' because I didn't understand them. It was very limiting.

So, what are 'natural flavourings'? 

Taken from the web: 'Natural flavourings are flavouring substances or flavouring preparations which are extracted from vegetable or animal materials and are not further chemically modified or changed.

So basically, natural flavours come from natural sources — the original ingredient is found in nature and then purified and extracted and added back into the food. This is the only way it is truly possible to have foods in certain flavours, and nearly all companies use them including most of the health brands I know.

This has become sensationalised in various articles online with headlines such as 'is beaver butt used to flavour your food?' (Yes indeed the anal secretions of beavers can be used in foodstuffs and is actually pretty wide spread in the perfume industry as a musky smell- who knew!)  BUT Don't worry this DOES NOT appear in my products!

My biggest takeaway from this process of investigation is to be fully aware, do you own research and ask questions of the manufacturer if you are unsure how ingredients are derived. 

My investigations brought me to Foodie Flavours and after doing some thorough research to understand what natural flavours really are, a face-to-face meeting with the company, and confirmation that all of their products are indeed vegan, gluten free, sugar-free and made in the UK, I was gifted some flavours to take home for my trials.  

As well as Wholeplus Toppers recipes, I decided to put the Foodie Flavours to good use and created a granola recipe in a couple of flavours combinations. Both were great, but I have a real thing for the sweet and sour tang of rhubarb which is amazing.

Of course you can use any other 'flavouring' types you like- any extracts of choice or vanilla bean, cinnamon ginger etc.

Granola is a perfect snack all on its own, but in a 'smoothie bowl' (top pic) that was almost like custard in its consistency it was a wonderful combo of smooth and crunchy.  This was simple to whip up with water, frozen banana and cashews blended up. Yoghurt gives a similar creamy contrast too.

I also love how the freeze dried beetroot gives a great nutritional boost and lovely pink hue to compliment the rhubarb.  Beetroot powder would also work well I imagine but I think beet juice would make the resulting granola too wet and soft.

You could add any chopped nuts or seeds you like, I used roughly half pumpkin seeds for some flecks of colour and the rest a combo of mixed chopped nuts.

Other flavours that would make great granolas...

  • Chocolate orange with cocoa and orange flavour (or zest)
  • Cinnamon ...because cinnamon with everything works ;-)
  • Bakewell tart- almond flavour with flakes almonds and some dried cherries (stir those in after!)
  • Banana Bread- I have tried this mashed with fresh banana and dried bananas chunks and it's great. These was my first granola recipe experiments that used pureed fruit.
  • Tropical Trip with a tropical flavour and then coconut curls and dried fruit chunks mixed through once cooked.
  • PB&J granola- this recipe made great chunky clusters!

What are your favourite flavour combos? 

Recipe: Rhubarb Crumble Granola (with Foodie Flavours)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup oats
  • 1 cup chopped nuts/seeds
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • 3 tbs coconut oil- melted
  • 1/4 cup mild syrup of choice (I used coconut syrup)
  • approx 8 drops Foodie Flavours rhubarb flavour* (they suggest 20 drops per kg of product)
  • 1/4 cup freeze dried beetroot powder* (optional for colour)

*You could omit the beetroot and/or use an alternative flavour type of your choice. I also tried 'dulce du leche' flavour as seen below in the lighter variation. 

Method:

Stir together all ingredients in a medium bowl until well coated.

Spoon onto a lined baking tray in a thin even layer and bake for approx 15-20 mins on a medium heat- roughly 160C until lightly golden and toasted. Allow to cool thoroughly before storing in an airtight container. I found the granola lost it crispness after a couple of days, but it still tasted good!

The dulche du leche version. Great with yoghurt too- this is the new Alpro 'Greek style' version I fancied trying out!

The dulche du leche version. Great with yoghurt too- this is the new Alpro 'Greek style' version I fancied trying out!

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The 'Bliss Cake' (aka a mega bliss ball!)

I have another Bliss Ball Workshop coming up this weekend and last weekend I was in full on recipe development mode last weekend which included making loads of Bliss Ball mix... but I fancied a different presentation to the norm to change things up a bit and so the 'Bliss Cake' was born.... Oh My Gosh..... a touch of heaven on earth!!

Whaaaaaaa.... Why have I not create this before!

I love eating raw cakes BUT I am not typically big fan of making them, simple because of the time it often takes to make and freeze the different layers and also because they are often very neat and super slick and well, I guess I am a little more rough around the edges ;-) Basically, I like to keep things as simple and as quick as possible!

So this beauty ticked those boxes for sure. Be warned if you make it, it is VERY yummy and VERY moreish and a little slice is very rich and will go a long way!  As with blss balls themselves, you could literally make any cake base and then decorate with any toppings... as you can see I added as many colourful things as possible (I was trying out new freeze dried fruits from RealFoodSource at the time).

My base was a blend of dates, almonds, raw cacao and a touch of orange extract.

Other great options could be..... these turkish delight balls, these 'cake like' truffles, or a gingerbread slice. Or why not try a double-decker cake and layer it up- it will barely take any longer as you could just make the full mix without any cocoa, divide in half and add cocoa to the second half, press the first half into the plan followed by the second. 

If you wanted to add a frosting, then the raw frosting I used on these mini sweet potato muffins below (full muffin recipe here) would go down a treat!  Basically you mash slightly softened coconut oil, with a little syrup of choice and cocoa powder, the spread on top in rough peaks and store in the fridge.

Or this lighter frosting (my classic go-to) uses silken tofu and is a total winner! (it just means the topping is not raw, if you were going for the raw cake thing!)

See... now you understand just how versatile the 'bliss cake' is! It;s going to be my new party piece for sure, I will be able to change up the flavours to suits my recipients favourite on a whim!

Recipe: The Bliss Cake 

Makes one 8" cake (or a deeper 6")

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups medjool dates or soaked and drained deglet noor dates (I use the latter)
  • 1 cup ground almonds (or any ground nut/seed base)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa (for a non choc option use a little extra dry ingredient)
  • 1 tsp orange extract (optional- rose water, mint or almond would be fab too)
  • Toppings galore!!!

Method:

Simple blend everything together in a food processor, you may need to do this in two batches defending on the side of your processor (mine is a 2 litre Thermomix). You want a fairly smooth texture with no big pieces, some texture if ok as it makes it 'cake'.

Press fairly firmly into a springform cake pan (or a silicone pan works too) then press into lots of amazing toppings. Or feel free to first it (you will need to keep in the fridge if frosted).

Keeps in the fridge for a couple of weeks (unfrosted) or on the counter for a few days. 

Let me know if you make your own 'bliss cake' tag me @johodson on Instagram as I'd love to see!

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The Raw Retreat experience. no. 2 (and my favourite 'meat'ball and chunky tomato sauce recipe!)

Last weekend saw the second Raw Retreat Experience take place... and it was just as epic as the first!  

The moment I walked through the front door of the hall, I breathed a sigh of relief and all my worries fell away. The weekend was ours. The energy of the simple unassuming village hall in the quirt Derbyshire countryside is incredible! Half of the participants had also been to the first retreat, and as they came through the door I heard a couple of them say "it feels like coming home". It did indeed.

As it says in the details, the Raw Retreat weekend is stripped back experience to remove luxury and create an environment for deeper connection with your inner spirit. As we arrived we each set up our beds and got cosy for the evening. There is a wonderful childlike sense of having a 'camp out' throughout the retreat, even when people have a little snooze during the day, or take time to zone out and meditate, there is a special energy about it all taking place in the same environment where someone maybe reading, eating or crafting just a few meters away. 

The focus throughout is on connecting with our senses... through food, movement, nature, crafting, conversation, space and stillness to go within.

Some of the tribe shared with wonderful words about the experience and it makes me heart smile, I can't wait to create more retreats for more deep connection...

"It felt like coming home, space to BE!"
I have learned loads about myself, I met wonderful people that feel the same as me inside. This is the closest I get outside 'recovery' in connection with feelings, emotions and understanding".
"Lovely vegan food, lots of walking, lots of talking and brilliant company." 

My friend Dionne at Manabika yoga led us through energising morning yoga practices and a yoga nidra bedtime session on the first evening.  Then there was the food.... wonderful food (if I do say so myself, ha!) Thought the focus was not on raw food (just healthy vegan food) Dionne also created a masterpiece of a raw cake... recipe to come soon.  One of my favourite recipes are my 'meatless meatballs'.... I can't believe I haven't shared them on my blog before (I even had to double check!) as they've been a favourite at both Lanzarote retreats and both Raw Retreats!

They are so versatile, can be rolled into balls or pressed into larger burger style patties, they can be made with beans or mushrooms or a combination. They also freeze well- so I always make a big batch!  Seriously- what's not to love?

The recipe for the 'no-meat' balls and my chunky tomato sauce is below, but first I want to share with you the energy of the retreat in photos. I plan to run 3 or 4 of these retreats a year so keep your eyes on the main info page for the latest dates!

The wonderful raw cake... mmmmmm!

The wonderful raw cake... mmmmmm!

Here we all are in our PJ's and onesies... having just woken up, drinking mugs of hot lemon and ginger water before morning yoga! ha ha

Here we all are in our PJ's and onesies... having just woken up, drinking mugs of hot lemon and ginger water before morning yoga! ha ha


Recipe: 'Meat' balls

 Makes approx. 30 balls (they freeze well but you can halve the quantities if preferred)

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cooked beans* (mix of red and black or just one type)
  • 1 cups sunflower seeds (approx 350g) soaked and drained
  • 1 cup oats
  • ¼ cup flax seed
  • 2 small red onions
  • ¾ cup sun dried tomatoes
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 heaped tsp mixed herbs
  • 1 lemon- juice
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Approx. ¼ cup soy sauce

* Note: I used beans as one of the participants on the retreat had a mushroom allergy, but I have also used mushrooms instead of beans (arguably even more authentic!) pulsed in a the food processor to get a 'mince' style texture. Pat with kitchen towel to take as much of the moisture out to prevent wet balls.

Method:

Pulse beans in a processor until you have a loosely blended mixture. Set aside.

Pulse remaining ingredients together until you have a smooth but still chunky mixture. In a large bowl add the mushrooms and mix through well.

Roll the mixture into meat ball size balls and place in a lined baking sheet. Bake at 180C for 25 - 30 minutes until crispy and golden. (also great eaten cold)

Serving options: spaghetti (or courgetti) and tomato sauce, pasta, quinoa, topping for a salad or in a wrap. Also make great burgers.

 

Recipe: Chunky Tomato sauce

Makes approx. 3 cups worth

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 small onion sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves crushed
  • 1 tsp Italian herbs(fresh basil optional)
  • 2 tbs cup tomato puree
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 carrot finely grated
  • approx. 4 dried apricots - chopped
  • 250ml vegetable stock

Method:

Heat oil, onion, garlic and spices for a few minutes, then add the puree and cook for another couple of minutes. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes.

There photos above are of the 'bean' version as served on the retreat, below are a couple of photos I had taken previously when I made the 'mushroom' version as balls and burgers at home. The result is darker (and more meaty looking?) I love both options. Just be aware that the mushroom version can become a little too wet if the mushroom mix has a lot of moisture once chopped up and isn't pressed/patted dry.

Let me know if you make them and how you serve them... I'd love to hear!  Tag me @johodson on Instagram ;-)

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NEW Workbook Launch.... and Sweet Potato Choc Orange Muffins!

Yesterday I finally completed something I have actually been working on for some years now!

As you will gather from the title of this website, and this little story I shared a few weeks ago... quitting refined sugar BUT still eating treats is a huge factor in optimising my own life! It's something of a mission for me to share with the world :-)

In my opinion it is in one of the BEST things you can do for your body and mind equally, regardless of what kind of diet you follow. Vegan, vegetarian, paleo, gluten free etc ....everyone can benefit hugely from cutting out refined sugar from their diets!

A couple of years ago, after immersing myself in countless books, data, articles etc all about sugar, and even having this article published in the first ever edition of Vegan Life Magazine (huge proud moment!) I wrote the copy for an 8-week course I planned to run through a dedicated Facebook group in the lead up to summer. I created all the graphics and promo too.

It was literally all set to go.... but then 'life' for in the way and I didn't run it at all. All the wonderful content lay dormant on my laptop, even though I knew it had the potential to change so many peoples lives.  I feel a little embarrassed now admitting this to you all.

But I never forgot about it.

A few week ago I saw Star Kechara's passive income challenge to create a interactive workbook. It suddenly clicked.... all that wonderful copy I had written could be remodelled (and added to of course with all my new knowledge) into a workbook that people could fill in and work through at their own pace. A resource for life. It felt such a good fit!

So here it is! Now complete in all it's glory!  PLUS as an added bonus I have written a (pretty incredible) extended version of my 'sugar-free recipe book' as the perfect companion to the 4-week workbook challenge.

AND...I am offering this HUGE bundle (pictured above) for the price of the workbook alone until January 31st 2017!

You can find all the info with a sneak peak of what you'll get in the details here!

Or if you want to check out just the recipe book alone... details are here!


In the mean time I want to share a new recipe a from the recipe book with you... a little gift! This is a direct page grab from the book so you can see exactly how the recipes are laid out. 

These mini muffins are perfect for Christmas but any time of year really.... and it just so happens to be my favourite flavour combo (remember my little story!) True to nature they also pack some veggies in. I used sweet potato but this is a spin on my classic 'crazy courgette cake' so courgette or even carrot would work well here too!

I hope you make them, and enjoy them.... please tag me if you do! It always makes me smile. :-)

 

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Bliss Baubles... fun Christmas gift (and the Ultimate Guide!)

At the beginning of this month you may recall I launched a simple advent gratitude challenge on Facebook. I've been feeling festive now that all the adverts are on TV and the countdown to Christmas is in full flow...  I am also feeling very reflective and setting in motion what I want to create in 2017! Maybe this is what triggered the gratitude challenge.

I also ran another 'Bliss Ball' workshop a few weekends ago (we also had one on my last two retreats) and it was so much fun!  As I was making up all the mix I had an idea for a simple gift idea...

Mini bliss balls in a bauble! Yay!

Simply, blend up some dates, nut butter and cacoa (or use your favourite bliss ball recipe) roll into small balls then dust in extra cacao. 

Below are the rough ratios (I rarely measure bliss ball ingredients these days!)... basically make sure you process the ingredients well and end up with a mix that tatses good and isn't too sticky to handle. Add more dry ingredient or chill for a while if too sticky.

The guide is my go too recipe when it comes to bliss ball making. The perfect beginning 'base'.

Guide recipe:

  • 2 cups medjool dates or soaked deglet noor dates (drain them very well!)

  • 1/2 heaped cup desiccated coconut, ground almonds or nut butter

  • 1/4 cup cocoa or raw cacao (plus extra for dusting)

  • few drops of flavour extract to taste (optional) - peppermint, orange and rosewater are my favourites!

Pop a handful of balls in a plastic bauble- the type made in two halves (I found a set of 8cm baubles on Ebay) add a ribbon and a gift tag with a little message if giving as a gift... or just hang on the tree! 

I didn't take a great photo as I hadn't initially planned to blog it (only Instagram it), but I thought it was such a lovely idea, I wanted to share it here too!

They'd make great stocking fillings, thank you gifts or healthy Christmas tree candy! 

Here is a pic from the workshop in Lanzarote.... messy hands!

Here is a pic from the workshop in Lanzarote.... messy hands!

As I am such a big lover of bliss balls/power balls/energy balls... (whatever name floats your boat). I made a fun guide 'The Ultimate Bliss Ball Guide' and you can buy it here for just $5. You can simply view it digitally or print as cut into a card set as I have designed it be used :-)  No excuse for not having healthy, indulgent, energising snacks to hand any more!

Packed full with 20 EASY NO-BAKE RECIPES. Complete with lots of variations for endless fun and exploration!

Enjoy... be sure to tag me if you make any of the recipes!


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Baked 'Bakewell' Pie.... New favourite easy festive 'bressert'!

I have found my new Christmas breakfast for this year!  Or more accurately 'bressert' - when  dish i heathy enough for breakfast but indulgent enough for dessert!

It's a spin on my equally wonderful classic Christmas baked oats from over 4 years ago now (wow time flies!) and it's the new recipe I'll be making for my family on Christmas morning. 

This year we are spending Christmas Day at my brother and his girlfriend's house in Winchester, and knowing they both love 'Bakewell Tart' flavours I was inspired to create a breakfast in their honour. The mini bliss balls pressed into the top are added indulgence as I had some mix in my fridge from the recent workshop I ran (more workshops in the New Year if you want to come!) but you could omit these or simply use marzipan and roll into balls if you have that to hand! Or you could use Bakewell Nakd bars chopped up, ha ha (not a sponsored link!) I will say the balls do make an incredible addition to this breakfast so add them if you can.

The three big things I love about baked oatmeals are...

  1.  they literally take minutes to mix up in one bowl and you can just as easily make breakfast for two or eight by just changing at the quantities (and the size of the baking dish)
  2. There are almost endless flavour combinations (I have loads on my blog already)
  3. They are healthy enough for breakfast but indulgent enough for dessert!

If you want more 'bressert' ideas.... I have a whole section of recipes dedicated to them HERE!

The bliss ball recipe I used is available here in my newly launched 'The Ultimate Bliss Ball Recipe Guide'. It has 20 recipes AND loads of alternative options for each so the ideas really are limitless... this guide will be a great addition to a January health kick too!  I made the book as a 'printable layout' so you can print and cut the cards up to give as gifts with a recipe you've made.  

It's the little things that make me happy! :-)

 

Now, back to the Bakewell Pie recipe...

Recipe: Baked 'Bakewell' Pie

Serves 2 (could just as easily be doubled or tripled....)

Ingredients: 

  • 3/4 cup porridge oats
  • 1 1/2 cup non dairy milk
  • 1/2 cup flaked almonds
  • 1 tbs ground flax seed or chia seed
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 cup roughly crumbled frozen raspberries*
  • bliss balls or marzipan balls (optional)
  • approx. 1 tbs maple syrup to taste (or any unrefined sweetener of choice) 

*I didn't have cherries to hand (which would have made a more classic bakewell). I use frozen fruits as they are more readily available for me at this time of year. Their colour does not bleed so much as I mix then through, and they do not risk burning in the oven.

Method:

Mix everything together adding the raspberries in the final strokes. Spoon into a medium oven dish, add a few extra almond flakes into the top if you like. Don't addd the bliss balls yet! If you are making your own bliss balls, you have a 10 minute window to make them now.

Bake at 180C for a total of approx. 25 mins until the topping is golden. After 10-15 mins whilst the top is still quite soft (and not golden) add the bliss balls, pressing them lightly into the top. Continue baking until golden on top.

Serve immediately, alone or with non-dairy yoghurt, cream or (ice-cream for dessert!) Also great eaten cold the next day.

raspberry almond oatbake 3a.jpg
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Spiced Apple & Pear Porridge

Hey! I'm popping in quickly on this Saturday afternoon, (whilst steaming my Christmas puddings) with a little recipe combo I've been eating quite a bit recently... I hadn't initially planned to write a blog post but then figures these photos weren't actually too bad, and since it was a lovely wintery warmer full of festive spice, it was too good not to share!!

P.s If you want to know what recipe I used for my Christmas pud I shared it here on Facebook. I thought it best not to blog it just yet since I won't know how well it's worked out until I taste it, but if you are going to make your own this is the latest time you should ideally be doing it, so that it can sit and mellow before the big day!  Fingers crossed it's as tasty as the non-vegan one I remember so well from years gone by.

So, back to the porridge... I used ingredients from two of my favourite companies for purchasing ingredients. RealFoodSource and Steenbergs (this is not an affiliate post but I did get some ingredients gifted to me to try in my recipes).

The freeze dried apple powder is great as an alternative whole food sweetener to syrups, it's literally ground up freeze dried apple! Teamed with Christmas Chia spice (regular ground cinnamon or mixed since would also work) it was delicious... I made two different variations, one with a sprinkle of cranberries an extra spice and another with dark chic chips and a drizzle of almond butter. Both were yum!

I sliced my pear longways and griddled it, but you could also cut into cubes and pan fry to warm through or serve raw.

Recipe: Spiced Apple & Pear Porridge

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup porridge oats
  • 1 1/2  cups non-dairy milk of choice
  • 2 tbs freeze dried apple powder (more to taste if needed)
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp christmas chai spice (or cinnamon/mixed spice)
  • 1 pear- sliced and griddled in a touch of coconut oil
  • Topping: dried cranberries or choc drops and almond butter (or everything!)

Method:

Add the oats, non-dairy milk, apple powder and spice to a small saucepan, bring to the boil then simmer for five minutes or so until cooked. Meanwhile griddle (or pan fry) the pear until softened.

Serve the porridge into a bowl then top with the pear slices and other toppings of choice. 

If you love porridge... check out my book 'Not Just For Goldilocks'  for over 50 unique porridge recipes with options to suit all tastebuds and dietary requirements.

Porridge is amazing and so versatile... it's literally my favourite meal ;-)


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Baked Falafel Pie... an easy feed a crowd meal!

Wow... you're getting two recipes within a week.... it's like the days when I first started my blog when I often used to get three recipes up here per week! That's when I had a full time job as an architect too.... crazy days, how did I find time to do it all!

These days I develop so many recipes for destinations beyond this blog itself... such as for Real Food Source, my own ebooks and other publications that sometimes this space loses the battle of priorities. I am looking to charge all that again- with one new recipe per week from the New Year onwards- an early resolution of sorts?

Anyway, back to this recipe!

This came about a couple of week ago as I was developing new recipes for my Lanzarote retreat.... I wanted something that was delicious, filling and easy to cook for 8-10 people (though the recipe below is halved to feed about four). This is a total winner and a lovely spin on the more traditional falafel balls.

It's not my brainchild- there are loads of similar creations across blog land- I got the idea from a general Pinterest search looking for meal image ideas rather than any one recipe in particular. I imagine you could tweak this to add in other herbs or spices to suit. You could also add a chunky salsa, guacamole or other topping instead of hummus if you preferred.

I realised this recipe would be also very similar to my classic nut roast (still a go-to favourite and great to have on standby in the freezer) and so I used that as the base and made a few ingredient tweaks.

Let me know what you think.... I'll let you know how it goes down with the guests on my retreat ;-)

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Recipe: Baked Falafel Pie

Serves 3 portions with salad or 4-5 if serving as part of a larger dinner

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup chopped nuts of choice
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • One onion diced
  • One large garlic clove minced
  • 2 sun dried tomatoes (optional for extra depth of flavour)
  • 1 large carrot grated
  • 1 medium courgette grated
  • 1 cup chickpeas
  • 1 cup oats (or cooked rice or quinoa or dry wholemeal breadcrumbs)
  • 2 heaped tbs flax (or tapioca or potato flour)
  • ¼ cup fresh corriander
  • 1 tbs grund cumin
  • 2 tbs soy sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Topping:

  • 1 tub hummus (or homemade if possible)
  • 2 sliced avocados
  • a sprinkle of salt and pepper

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 180C. coarsely grind the nuts and set aside. Finely chop and sauté vegetables in olive oil for 5 mins until soft. Mix all remaining ingredients in large bowl and add vegetables and nuts to it.

Mix and mash together well. Add more oats (or another dry ingredient) if mixture is too wet or a little water or stick if too dry.

Press mixture firmly into a greased and lined medium baking dish (it should be around a generous inch thick). Bake for approx. 45 mins until golden on top, the inside will still be moist. Add hummus and avocado slices to serve with salad or cooked greens.

 

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