Posts tagged 2012
Crispy polenta crackers

I found myself in a polenta frame of mind this morning, triggered by this chocolate shortbread, of which there is now a gluten free version…recipe coming soon! It had been so so long since I’d made that shortbread, and I’d forgotten has delicately crisp and crumbly it was.

Anyway back to the polenta. There it sat in it packet on the kitchen worktop, waiting to be buried back inside my baking box, until another recipe then popped into my mind. Another recipe I’d first tried out months and months ago, and I seem to remember at the time the Boy had said, ‘Mmmm, this tastes like pork crackling’!

Er, well I didn’t think it tasted like crackling so don’t worry. But I do understand what he meant…these crackers are super duper crispy, you’d think they’d been deep fried to get that intense crunch, but nope they are simply baked.

The healthy way to a dipping chip!

The key is to slice the polenta as thinly as possible and then bake the slices on a lower heat for longer, and then double bake for extra crispiness. You can mix up the seasonings however you wish. I went for a slightly Mexican theme as I teamed these with my veggie chilli.

Recipe: Crispy Polenta Crackers

Makes one bowlful

Ingredients

  • ½  cup instant polenta
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tbs nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp cajun spice mix (chilli, garlic etc)
  • ¼ tsp salt

Method

In a sauce pan mix polenta with water, add remaining ingredients and simmer for approx. 5 minutes stirring continuously until mixture begins to thicken but is still pourable.

Pour/spoon into a small loaf tin, smoothing the top as much as possible and allow to set then firm up in the fridge.

Once set firmly, remove the polenta loaf from the tin and using a sharp knife slice as thinly as possible, laying each slice on a greased/lined baking sheet

Bake at 150C for approx. 20-30 mins depending on the thickness of the slices. If the slices are not yet crispy in the centre but the edges are done, allow to cool and then re-bake for a further 10 minutes or as long as necessary.

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Battenberg Cake…with a difference

So this month’s Daring Bakers challenge is….Battenberg cake.

Mandy of What The Fruitcake?! came to our rescue last minute to present us with the Battenberg Cake challenge! She highlighted Mary Berry’s techniques and recipes to allow us to create this unique little cake with ease.

Battenburg- the classic chequered sponge cake, sandwiched together with jam and all wrapped up in a marzipan jacket!

Marzipan is a tricky one, the traditional version is full of powdered sugar and although it's generally vegan I still have difficulty in endorsing such a sugary treat here on my blog! I have been trying to suss out a sugar free marzipan for quite some time now, with some degree of success here in my Christmas Stollen and my the toppings for the super-cute Christmas puds.

But when it comes to a rollable marzipan I have not yet had a breakthrough!

However this challenge allowed us to push the boundaries beyond a traditional Battenberg as long as we held true to the chequered sponge concept with a sweet covering whether it be marzipan, fondant or chocolate. So, one idea came to my mind straight away….

….the ‘world’s healthiest chocolate fudge’!

I had tried rolling the fudge dough previously to make these hearts and it worked really well, so I figured it could also work really well as the Battenberg covering.  That then just left the sponge and the flavours to choose. I opted for a plain vanilla sponge alongside a raspberry sponge (although it has taken on more of a brown tinge in the photos), that allowed me to use sugar-free raspberry jam as the sole sweetener in the raspberry sponge.  I opted to try my ‘easiest ever gluten free sponge’ recipe as the basis for this cake as i really wanted to go gluten free for this recipe.

In hindsight I wish I’d gone for a different sponge recipe, as whilst that simple sponge works well as a small super-simple mug cake, it just didn’t really do it for me as larger oven baked sponge. There was nothing drastically wrong with it, I just felt it could have been a lot more delicate with a lighter crumb. I also wish now that I’d rolled the fudge wrap a little thinner before wrapping the sponge slices.

The overall concept was a great success and the chocolate fudge coating worked a treat (particularly if I’d rolled it more finely), however after eating a slice with the sponge, I got the feeling that the sponge was not doing the cake justice. So what did I decide to do?  Peel the fudge off and reform it into fudge balls of course. Mmmm…much better!

Try this frosting…go on give it a go! It is so easy to form and model that you can cut it into rounds, bars, roll it out as an icing layer or even turn it into a soft piped healthy frosting as I did here with thes cupcakes.

I will give the Battenberg another go with an alternative sponge recipe at some point soon. This fudge frosting is so versatile that I want to give it a proper chance to do my Battenberg proud!

This link takes you to the original Daring Bakers Challenge notes with  plenty of alternate recipes for battenberg to try.

Recipe: Healthy Battenberg Cake

Makes 1 approx. 7” long cake

Ingredients: chocolate fudge frosting

  • ½  can black beans- rinsed and drained
  • 1 mashed banana
  • ½ cup cocoa powder (or raw cacoa powder)
  • 1/3 cup dates
  • ¼ cup cranberries
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½  tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp stevia
  • ½ cup ground oats
  • 2 tbs ground flax
  • 2 tbs chia seeds

Method

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until a smooth pliable dough is formed. The dough should be fairly tacky but not sticky and should easy to handle.

Roll out the dough on a sheet of parchment or similar for easily handling. Roll to achieve desired thickness and then, using thr parchment to assist, carefully drape across the jam coated sponge to create the finish Battenberg.

Ingredients: simple vanilla sponge

  • ½ cup buckwheat flour (or other GF grain)
  • 3 tbs ground almonds
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ cup plain soy yoghurt (or regular)
  • 2 tbs agave (for vanilla version)
  • 2 tbs sugar free raspberry jam (for raspberry version)

Method

Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl and then add wet ingredients (other than agave and jam) and mix together well.  

Divide the mixture between two bowls and then add the agave and jam to a bowl each.  Note: to achieve a deeper red/pink colour you may need to add a few drops of food colouring.

You will now have two different coloured/flavoured mixtures. Spoon each into a 7” square  baking tin divided down the centre with parchment paper and foil to prevent the batters mixing (foil helps make a more ridged central partition).

Bake in  pre-heated oven  at 180C for approx. 15 mins until very lightly golden.

Assembling the Battenberg: 

Cut the slices of sponge into neat squares and arrange in a larger square with each flavour on the diagonal. Paint each edge with slightly runny sugar-free raspberry jam and then firmly wrap the chocolate fudge frosting around the entire cake, ensuring an overlap to seal.

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Quinoa flake breakfast bake

I have never really baked with quinoa flakes before, mainly because I struggle to get hold of them around here. But a few a weeks ago when I visited Wholefoods on Kensington High Street in London for the very first time (much, much excitement) I picked up a bag.

So on Sunday morning when I was debating breakfast, I figured a little experimentation with my new purchase was in order! As it turned out, this little experiment became a rather yummy breakfast experience. This single serve breakfast bake will see you right through to lunch…and it’s so pretty too, the perfect start to your day. This could easily be served as dessert as well, maybe add a little more sweetness if serving as dessert as I was going for more of a ‘breakfast level’ sweetness with this bake and let the banana provide all the sweetness, other than a light drizzle of brown rice syrup on the top. You can use any summer berries you wish, I happened to have a few stranwberries to hand at the time. You could mix berries through the batter, but I would be careful not to make the batter too wet.

I mixed in a few oats with my quinoa flakes, but feel free to use all quinoa if you like (it may work with all oats as well but I haven’t tested this yet). The quinoa provides a lovely light texture in an otherwise moist and dense and bananary bread. Be sure to use a dish that allows the batter to be no more than 15mm thick as you may find it does not cook all the way through if much thicker.

I used a mini fluted ceramic pie dish (a recent new purchase that I was desperate to use for something!) and the bake was quite difficult to remove neatly. You can either it eat straight from the dish or make sure you use a greased/lined tin with a removable base which should make things much easier.

Recipe: Quinoa flake breakfast bake

serves 1

Ingredients

  • 1 large ripe banana- very well mashed
  • Agave to taste if necessary (I didn’t use any extra)
  • ½ cup quinoa flakes
  • ¼ cup oats- GF if needed (or more quinoa flakes)
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp cinnamon (optional)
  • ¼ cup chopped nuts of choice
  • Soy yoghurt to mix (I used approx. 3 tbs)
  • Handful of berries to decorate
  • Brown rice syrup/agave/maple syrup to drizzle

Method

Mix all ingredients (other than berries and drizzle) together in a small bowl adding the soy yoghurt last to achieve a thick smooth consistency. Spoon the mixture into a greased/lined mini pie dish  and decorate the top with the berries. Make sure the mixture is no more than roughly 1.5cm thick as it may not cook through properly.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180 for approx. 15 minutes until the top is lightly golden.

Whilst still warm drizzle with a little syrup and serve immediately.

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Double whammy banana cake (gluten free)

The past few days have flown by in a whirlwind!

As well as recovering from a compressed nerve in my spine (which totally obliterated any form of cooking opportunity for most of last week), I needed to somehow bake a big batch of various cakes for a stall I had planned at the Love Architecture event at the architectural company where I work…. It was touch and go whether I would recover in time.

As it happens the pain killers I’d be prescribed finally kicked in and I was up to the challenge.

So what did I bake?

I wanted a varied selection to satisfy all tastes. Yes, there had to be a lot of chocolate involved but also lots of other treats for the not-so-chocolate lovers!

I settled for chocolate orange and gingerbread smoosh bars…my favourites!  Toffee blondies which were closely based on m sticky toffee pudding recipe, raspberry almond chocolate torteplus a peppermint cream variation on that theme…and last but not least (at the request of my colleagues) banana cake.

I have made banana bread for the blo here before (way back in the early days) but until now I hadn’t attempted a gluten free version. 

I called this new version ‘double whammy’ because I used both fresh bananas and dried chewy chunks for extra depth of flavour and texture. If you can’t find dried bananas (they need to be the chewy natural dried ones not the crisp banana chips covered in sugar!) then you can just sub extra dates of you wish or simply omit altogether.

My usual gluten free flour combo also worked really well, everyone said that they would never have known it was GF which makes it a huge success! I baked the banana cake in 4 small loaf tins (approx 15cm long), but a larger loaf tin (note: I haven’t tested this so baking times will need to be modified) or muffin tins would also be fine.

The cakes sold really well and the few that remained I brought home to freeze as treats for me, so all is good! I also had some business cards designed and printed, hence why you may have noticed a few changes around here with a new colour theme and a new logo! I'd love to hear your thought's and feedback! I didn't know what my title on the business cards should be...so decided upon 'Cakemaster', quite fitting I think, ha ha!

Recipe: Double whammy banana cake

Makes approx. 4 mini loaves

  • 4 ripe bananas- well mashed
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • ½ cup coconut butter- melted
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup agave plus ½ tsp stevia
  • 2 cups GF flour (1 cup buckwheat, ½ cup ground almonds, ½ cup tapioca flour)
  • ½ cup dried bananas- chopped
  • ¼ cup dates- chopped (optional)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon/mixed spice
  • Soy milk (or other liquid) as necessary (I used approx ¼ cup)

Method

Mix together wet ingredients in a small bowl. In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and mix lightly but well with spoon. Add a little soy milk last as necessary to achieve desired consistency (not too stiff).

Once combined, pour the mixture into 4 small/2 medium greased and lined loaf tin or muffin cases and bake at 180C for approx. 20-30 minutes depending on pan size. Test with a toothpick to ensure the centre is cooked. If the top begins to brown before the centre is cooked through lightly cover the pan with tin foil.

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Cheezy vegan crackerbread

Recently I’ve been testing out some new ingredients courtesy of Real Food Sourceand this little recipe was a great way to do so.

The main ‘new thing’ for me is red palm oil, there are loads of links to shops and resources out there, but for further reading I came across this article. Red palm oil has a very strong deep yellow/orange colour and a distinctive savoury taste that’s hard to describe, I would suggest using this for savoury foods instead of sweet unless you have a very strong dominant sweet flavour such a chocolate or spices. It can be used in place of coconut (or other oils of choice) and has amazing health properties in part due to its rich red hue which is rich in carotenes.

I really wanted to exploit its colour and so a ‘cheezy’ recipe seemed the obvious answer. Teamed up with nutritional yeast and some spices… these little dipping crackers have a lovely mild and nutty cheesy flavour, perfect served with a dip, relish or chutney. I also went one step further and made a cheezy roll using  a combination of salsa, sundried tomatoes and fresh and dried herbs spread across the rolled out dough, and the wrapped this up into a roll. If you do this be careful as the dough is quite fragile and will also expand as it cooks so it is likely to will get cracks across the surface of the roll. The sundried tomatoes tasted amazing in this combination so you may like to simple roll some chopped sundried tomatoes onto the surface of the dough, score into slices and then bake as slices instead of rolling it up.

As you can see from the photos, these crackers are soft and more like a dense bread slice than crisp crackers. I have used coarse coconut flour here, but regular coconut flour (or other  GF grains) should work although it may alter the texture, I haven’t tried this. You could also sub part polenta meal if using regular coconut flour as this should assist with creating a grainy texture if desired. The recipe itself is ideal as a basis for experimenting with alternative types of flour and oils. If you give it a go let me know how you get on.

Recipe: Cheezy crackerbread

Makes approx. 7 strips (or double the recipe and roll into a pinwheel)

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup coarse coconut flour
  • ¼ cup fine almond flour
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 3tbs nutritional yeast
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Pinch garlic powder
  • Pinch mustard powder
  • 2 tbs red palm oil- melted
  • 2 tbs ground chia plus 5 tbs hot water
  • 1 tbs sesame seeds (optional)

Method

Mix the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl then add the wet ingredients and mix well to form a dough. The dough should be neither too crumbly nor too sticky to roll out on a piece of baking parchment. The dough may crack as it is rolled, but just aim to get as even a sheet as possible.

Slice the rolled dough into inch thick strips and bake at 180C for approx. 10 mins until golden at the edges. Allow to cool before serving.

Great served with a dip, relish or chutney.

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Spicy red pepper risotto

A few weeks ago a friend informed me that she had a vegetarian and wheat free guest coming for dinner….’what should she cook?’

Looking back through my recipes I realised that I had a shortage of substantial main meals since many of my recipes are healthy sweet treats or those that are savouries are snacks, sides or lighter bites.

However my winning recipe and the one I recommended to my friend is my sweet potato chickpea curry

….one of the first meals I ever made when transitioning to the vegan lifestyle, and still one of my favourite go-to recipes even now. Even the meat-eaters love this dish. 

Mmmmm...sweet potato curry!

I have also had a similar discussion in recent days with my dad who has been struggling to break out of a vegan food rut and bring some simple but interesting protein rich meals back into his diet. Getting a healthy balanced vegan diet does require a little effort to make sure you hit the nutritional quota…but luckily I love the challenge and so was all the more up for getting a variety of substantial main meals on the table.

So, in order to address this balance I will hopefully be adding a few more ‘main meals’ to the recipe collection in coming days and weeks. Meals that are both vegan and gluten free but most importantly should satisfy even the hardcore meat-eaters in your life! There will still be plenty of sweets as well!

Here is a little recap of some of my other ‘main meal’ dishes so far, you can find them all under my newly organised recipe collection- see this link.

For today I wanted to get the ball rolling with a simple one-pot dish, perfect for both the summer or winter months.

Serve a smaller portion with a large side salad in summer, or a larger heartier portion to warm you through during the winter months. This spicy red pepper risotto had a kick to it, so feel free to go easy on the spices if you prefer!

In addition I used red palm oil to create a rich deep yellow, but this is in no way essential.

Recipe: Spicy red pepper risotto

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

  • 1tbs red palm oil (for orange colour) or use coconut oil or olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • (crushed)
  • 1 red or white onion-finely chopped
  • 2 red peppers- cut into slices
  • A pinch of salt
  • ¼ tsp parika
  • ¼ tsp turmeric (optional- if you want a yellow colour without the red palm oil)
  • ¼ tsp chilli flakes (add more or less to taste)
  • 1 1/3 cup risotto rice
  • 2 ½ cups vegetable stock
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine (or more stock)
  • 1 can red kidney beans

Method

In a deep saucepan, fry onions, peppers, garlic, and spices in oil for about 5 mins.

Add the rice and mix through for 1 minute.

Add the wine and vegetable stock a little at a time over the space of 5 minutes and then simmer for a further 15 mins stirring occasionally so rice does not stick.

Add the beans about 5 minutes before the end. It is ready when most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice has a slight bite.

Freeze left over portions in individual bags.

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Broccoli and Cannellini ‘Get well soon’ Soup

I’m an invalid. I’m rubbish at being a poorly person as I’m just no good at sitting still and doing nothing. But sometimes your body simply has other ideas.

I appear to have a trapped nerve behind my shoulder which has sent awful aches, pains and numbness all down my left arm. Try as I might to simply ‘carry on as usual’ it just isn’t happening and so for the last three days I’ve pretty much been stuck in bed and catching up with bits and pieces on my laptop as much as I feel able!

Yesterday evening I did manage to make it in to the kitchen to concoct some soup with the help of my trusty Thermomix. I made a big batch so that I could have the left overs today…good job really as I feel worse today (typing parts of this blog post one handed!) and so don’t think I could have managed anything much today. I struggled enough just to take these few photos- I wasn't going to give in!

My dinner companion yesterday proclaimed that this soup tastes like ‘chicken soup without the chicken’ and since chicken soup is supposed to be the heal-all wonder…well the ‘get well’ title seemed entirely appropriate…whether you  think it tastes like chicken soup is another matter.  I think I just tastes like 'simple goodness'- delicate, wholesome and nourishing, and with some added pasta or quinoa (I served it with quinoa yesterday) you have yourself a good meal, Invalid or not!

I had so many plans in the kitchen this weekend, not least because I have a little stall at an event next weekend (more on all that soon) that I needed to get preparations underway for. Fingers crossed I am back in the saddle very soon. In the meantime, with only my laptop for company, I have been organising my recipes into more easily searchable categories, hopefully I’ll get that up later once the next dose of painkillers kick in!

Recipe: broccoli and cannellini soup

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 tsp dried mixed herbs
  • Few leaves fresh rosemary
  • 400g (approx. two small heads) broccoli- chopped into fairly small pieces
  • 100g (approx.½) courgette- grated (optional)
  • 400g can butter beans/cannelli beans
  • 800ml hot vegetable stock
  • 100g quinoa or small cooked pasta shapes- optional
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Heat oil in a large saucepan and gently fry the onions and chopped garlic for around 5 minutes until soft.

Add the herbs and broccoli and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add all remaining ingredients (other than quinoa/pasta if using) and simmer for a further 10 minutes or until broccoli is cooked.

The quinoa/pasta can be cooked separately and spooned over to serve, or added to the pan during cooking time as appropriate.

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Coconut oatmeal cookies

It’s crazy to think that with my love of oats I have not yet attempted a full on oatmeal cookie!

Well all that has now changed!

A few days ago, some of you may have seen this picture pop up on my newly created Instagram account (subtle hint: come follow me here!!)

These cookies are soft and chewy and rich and buttery…they taste like a regular soft and buttery sugary oat cookie yet without all the naughtiness. The inclusion of coconut, in the form of coconut sugar and coconut flakes (along with coconut oil although you can’t taste that!) gives these cookies a deep caramelly richness and a crazy cool chewy bite. The touch molasses further intensifies the depth of flavour but that is entirely optional.

I initially made a small batch of these cookies as a test. The recipe below makes about 8 medium cookies but you could easily double it up to make a more ‘normal’ sized batch. I also kept it plain and simple here so the oats could take centre stage, but you could add raisins or choc chunks if you wish. Next time I make these I may also sub half of the oats for quinoa flakes to see how that changes the texture. I also fancy a peanut butter version subbing the coconut oil…Mmmmm.

Recipe: Coconut oatmeal cookies

Makes approx. 8 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup oats (gluten free if necessary)
  • ½ cup buckwheat flour
  • 3 tbs tapioca flour
  • 3tbs coconut sugar (plus pinch stevia- optional)
  • 1 tbs agave
  • 1 tsp molasses (optional for richness)
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp mixed spice or nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2tbs coconut oil- melted
  • 1 tbs ground chia and 3 tbs water/soy milk
  • 3tbs desiccated coconut
  • ¼ cup raisins/choc chinks- optional

Method

In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and mix well with spoon. Add choc chunks/raisins last (if using).

On a parchment lines baking sheet roughly roll cookie dough into apricot sozed balls and press flat with fingers.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 10 mins until lightly golden. Cool on baking sheet, then store in air-tight container once fully cool.

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