Posts tagged oct2011
Pumpkin scones

I keep my promises…

…and as promised here is my pumpkin scone recipe to share with you all. It's late at night and my bed is calling but I was determined to post this recipe on Halloween itself- and I made it with 5 minutes to spare!

I took the entire batch of scones to work today to share with my colleagues as an afternoon snack. Everyone had a taste and there were many ‘noises’ of approval around the room. Maybe they were just being nice… well, why not find out for yourself! 

I’ll save you the guess work- they were very yummy indeed! Warming and delicately spicy just the way you would imagine a thick cut wedge of moist ochre coloured tea bread.

If autumn were a food she would definitely be a pumpkin scone!

We ate the scones warmed from the oven split open and spread with butter and drizzled with a little syrup (well, they did and I had a dollop of soy yoghurt). They are perfectly moist and moreish all on their on but a topping always finishes it off nicely- nut butter could also work well!

I have to admit I feel as though I somewhat cheated a little. I had planned on buying a pumpkin and preparing the puree from scratch, but all the ones I saw in the shops were huge pumpkins ready to be carved. Then I remembered I had a bottle of pure organic pumpkin puree already tucked away in my baking box. Teamed up with some pumpkin seeds sprinkled across the top and you have your perfect recipe for all year round. I imagine the pumpkin could just as easily be substituted for squash or even sweet potato!

Recipe: pumpkin scones

Makes approx. 12 wedges (in a large circle)

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup rapadura plus ¼ tsp stevia
  • 3 ½ cups mix of white and wholemeal spelt flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 3 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ cup coconut butter
  • 2 cups pureed pumpkin
  • Handful of pumpkin seeds

Method

In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients. Mix through partially melted coconut butter to achieve a crumb consistency to the mixture. Add pureed pumpkin and combine well until a dough is formed.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough a few times, pushing it into a large circle a (generous) inch thick. Sprinkle the top with pumpkin seeds and press lightly into surface.

Place dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet and score the dough into 12 (or 8 larger) triangular pieces. It is easiest to do this once the dough is on the baking sheets ready to go straight into the oven as it may be hard to transfer to the baking sheet once cut. Don’t worry if the dough is sticky and difficult to cut all the way through, the segments should just serves as a guide and can be cut fully once cooked.

Bake at 200C degrees for approx. 15 minutes until golden. Allow to cool slightly before slicing and serving.


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Vanilla extract (prepare it now for xmas!)

When it comes to the flavours and spices in my baking, I have a few favourites (other than chocolate!!) cinnamon, ginger and vanilla are my top three, they also happen to team up well with chocolate…..

It occurred to me a few weeks back that I get through a lot of vanilla, and for good quality (I use Nielsen-Massey) it gets pretty expensive.  Hmmm, I wonder if I could make my own?

Subsequent investigations revealed that yes indeed I could, and actually it’s pretty cheap and simple to do.  The instructions I have listed below are quite paired back and are the summary of my findings as a quick-fire user friendly set of instructions to follow as you go.  I did however review a variety of sources in putting these together. This is the best resource I found giving much more in depth background information, and also here is another recipe resource you may also find as a useful guide.

All the reviews indicated that the extract would be ready to use after about 8 weeks, and that it would continue to infuse for the months to follow. Quick… make some up now and you’ll have fab little Christmas gifts for the foodies in your life!!  

Recipe: Home-made vanilla extract

Ingredients

  • 35-40% rum or vodka
  • Vanilla beans

That is it!

I am making a few bottles each of rum and vodka for a taste comparison. I purchased six empty 250ml bottles or the vanilla and one 70CL bottle each of rum and vodka- thus three small bottles of each type of extract. (perfect pressie options… unless I keep them all to myself!) I used approx. 50 vanilla beans all together- Ebay have some great deals in organic beans. I used cheap alcohol varieties as my consensus (and the consensus of my integrate searches) was that once fully infused the extract will dominate any of the original alcohol flavouring.

Method

Sterilise all equipment prior to use with boiling water.

Use approx. 8 vanilla beans for each 250ml bottle of extract. Cut each of the beans in half exposing the 'caviar' in the middle. Some guides suggested scraping out the caviar to get a greater surface area when it is all added to the bottle, however I felt that this wasn’t necessary as there was still a lot of exposed surface area once the bean was slit and it seemed like unnecessary mess (I usually love a good bit of mess but had wastage!) Fill the bottle(s) evenly with the split beans and then add the alcohol of choice. Secure the lid (I used a screw top with a pourer) then give a good shake, keep shaking… shaking…. Shaking!!

Shake once a day for about a week and then a few times a week thereafter for 8-12 weeks until ready. 

I can’t wait to take a good sniff of the stuff once its begun to deeply infuse… oooh the anticipation.


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Blueberry banana pancakes

Sunday morning brunch…. quite possibly one of my favourite meals.  This is the time of the week where I feel that anything goes, time to be a little bit crazy and go for whatever it is you really fancy!

And today I really fancied…..pancakes!!

This notion had originally been inspired a few weeks back by this recipesuch a simple concept and I figured that it wasn’t actually so far removed from my usual oats combo! A few tweaks and one hot frying pan later, one plate of pancakes were all mine!

Recipe: Blueberry banana pancakes

Makes approx. 6 medium sized pancakes. (serves two for brunch or desert)

Ingredients

  • ½ cup mix of wholemeal and white spelt flour
  • 3 tbs rolled oats
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½  tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tsp agave (if needed)
  • 1 mashed ripe banana
  • 1/3-1/2 cup soy milk
  • Handful of blueberries (fresh or frozen defrosted)
  • Topping- soy yoghurt layered through the stack topped with a few more blueberries and a drizzle of maple syrup if desired.

Method

Mix the banana, soy milk, agave and vanilla in a bowl. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl then add the wet and mix. Add blueberries last and lightly mix through. Spoon dollops on a lightly oiled hot frying pan and fry until golden for a minute or so each side. Serve in a stack with soy yoghurt and blueberry topping as desired.

Mmmm, lovely warm and ooooozy, they were dripping everywhere as I rushed to take a few photos!


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Raspberry Crumb Top Cake

Well, I figured we were in much need of another sweet treat as I came to my attention that my last few posts were a little lacking that department!

I’d been meaning to tackle a ‘crumb top’ style cake for a while, and then one day one of my colleagues brought in a version that he’d made over the weekend.  Of course, this contained the usual eggs, milk, butter and refined sugars, but I was curious to see whether I could come up with an equally yummy healthy vegan alternative. A couple of days later, upon my request, I found his recipe in my inbox, so the challenge was set!

The original recipe followed a different methodology to the route I eventually took at this used fresh yeast to create a kind of dough for the base, although it had the texture of sponge. I figured that my best bet was to opt for a more standard ‘sponge’ style with the fruit layer and crumb topping to boot. After doing a little research I settled on  this recipe by The Post Punk Kitchen to give me my starting point.

This cake was pretty yummy. The sponge was light and the topping crumbly (in my opinion a bit too dry and crumbly so I’d be tempted to use agave as noted below). Also don’t skimp on the amount of jam/fruit as this gives the cake moistness and a beautiful layer of textures.

Recipe: raspberry crumb top cake

Makes one 9’ cake pan (round or square)

Ingredients

Cake base:

  • ¾ cup soy milk
  • 1 tsp cider vinegar/white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup rapadura plus ¼ tsp stevia
  • 2 tbs coconut butter
  • 2 tbs apple puree
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ cups white spelt flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt

Topping:

  • ½ cup sugar free raspberry jam (or another berry jam)
  • ½ - ¾  cup raspberries
  • 1 cup white spelt flour
  • 1/3 cup rapadura (using agave may be better as will be stickier)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup coconut butter melted

Method

Mix the soy milk and vinegar and set aside to curdle in a large bowl.

For the topping mix the dry ingredients then add the coconut butter (and agave if using) and mix with fingers until the mixture clumps into fairly large lumps that don’t crumble away immediately. Add extra oil if needed.

For the cake base, mix the remaining wet ingredients with the curdled soy milk. Add the dry ingredients and mix well until the batter is very smooth. Pour the batter into a greased/lined cake pan, ‘blob’ the jam onto the top and mix through a little. Break up the raspberries a bit and evenly cover the top of the batter. Sprinkle the crumb topping across the cake evenly and press down into the batter a little.

Bake for approx. 30 mins at 180C until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool fully before slicing.


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Thai green noodle soup

Soups can tick all the boxes....

A hearty substantial meal or a light midday snack

A thick warming meal when it’s cold outside or a light refreshing dish when it’s too hot for comfort!

Either way, it’s easy to cater for all options and with a rich dish full of spices and veggies it's always going to be a winner!

Today was a lovely warm and sunny October day (hang on a minute didn't this happen the last time I made soup!) Perfect autumn day for this soup which has the light creamy base of coconut milk but with a hot and spicy kick, so it’s a bit of a contradiction (a bit like today's weather for this time of year!) The addition of the noodles makes it a more substantial meal- but you could use more or less noodles depending on your preference.

­Feel free to vary the veg in this soup, just make sure you cut the chunks into small similar sized pieces. I haven’t yet tried freezing it, if I was to do so I’d cook it up without adding the noodles and then cook those in a wok separately before adding to the soup once it has been defrosted and warmed through.

Recipe: Thai green noodle soup

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp vegetable or coconut oil (not coconut butter)
  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • 2 tbs thai green curry paste
  • 1 red chilli finely chopped
  • 300g vegetable stock
  • 300ml coconut milk
  • 150g mix of chopped veg suitable for stir frying (I used beansprouts, carrot, soy beans, and kale)
  • 150g sachet rice noodles

Method

Heat oil in a pan and cook the onion for 5 minutes until soft. Stir through the curry paste and half the chilli and fry for another minute. Add the stock and coconut milk and bring to the boil.  Stir through the vegetables and rice noodles and simmer for 5 minutes. Garnish with the remaining chilli.


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Homemade Coconut Butter

In many of my recipes I use coconut oil or coconut butter. This is the healthiest type of oil (particular if organic, cold pressed and raw). Coconut butter is rich with lauric acid; a medium-chain fatty acid. Medium chain-fatty acids differ from long chain fatty acids, found in animal fats. They are small, absorbed directly by the liver and convert quickly into energy; unlike long-chain fatty acids that are deposited in fat cells and convert much more slowly. The white meat of the coconut is also packed with fiberprotein, vitamins B1, B6, C and E, folic acid, calcium and iron.

For more info on the health benefits of coconut oil see here, where there are various links for reference. 

The only downside to coconut oil is that it tends to be so expensive at around £10 (or more) for a 450g tub. Coconut butter on the other hand can be very cost effective due to the fact that it is very simple to make your own as long as you have a high powered blender.

Coconut oil and butter are not the same thing and they are not always directly interchangeable. Coconut oil is the pure ‘oil’ with no flesh, whereas coconut butter is the oil and the flesh combined (approx. 70% oil and 30% flesh) so the resulting product when melted in its usable form is much thicker- think yoghurt or thick cream consistency- and opaque compared with the clear very runny oil.

When it comes to baking I have tried countless combinations and substitutions using coconut butter and often it does the trick, however there are times when the butter just won’t do and a very runny oil is needed, see this cookie recipe to get a better understanding in context. Coconut butter works best when used in place of ‘softened butter’ or ‘shortening’ i.e when you are not relying on the runniness of oil to combine ingredients into a dough, and other liquid ingredients are also used. To get a really ‘crisp’ cookie where oil is the primary liquid then don’t skimp on using pure oil!

So, to make your own coconut butter, it is really so simple it barely needs a recipe but I’ve added one for completeness!

Recipe: Coconut butter

Ingredients

200g-500g Organic dessicated coconut (unsweetened and not defatted- just the usual stuff bagged up in health food stores/supermarkets. Use an amount appropriate to the size of blender- don’t use too little as the volume reduces a lot when it liquefies and I find in my Thermomix that it is more difficult to work with a small amount as it just flings itself to the side of the jug.

That’s it!!  You just need coconut!

Method

The key here is to keep blending beyond the point you think it’s finished- I made this mistake the first time I tried as even though it looked ‘ready’ it still had a fairly grainy consistency. In my Thermomix I use 500g of desiccated coconut and blend this at high speed for 3 ½ minutes- stopping a couple of times to scrape down the sides of the bowl. My machine also has an independent temperature setting which I set at 37 degrees to help release the oils a little better. The temperature is by no means a necessity but it may simply take a little longer to blend. Taste test after 3 ½ minutes and keep going until you have the consistency of thick cream and no graininess.

Once ready it should pour smoothly and effortlessly in a jar where it can be stored in the cupboard for use. I’d advise against storing this in the fridge as it will go very hard and will be more difficult to use. At room temperature coconut butter is typically solid but on a hot day it will liquefy, this is absolutely fine and in no way degrades the butter, it will solidify again when the temperature drops.


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Quick and easy marinara sauce

Marinara sauce (as previously seen on my vegan meatball sub) is ahugely versatile and simple dish and can be jazzed up with various other ingredients to give it a bit of a twist- let you imagination run free….

Make a big batch to freeze in portioned size containers, then at a moment’s notice (well, ok 10 minutes tops!) you have a simple tasty meal- heat and mix through spaghetti topped with sweet corn, beans or whatever you happen to have to hand. You really can’t go wrong!

Recipe: Marinara sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 fresh tomatoes- coarsely chopped
  • 1 carrot- grated
  • 1 small onion- finely chopped
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • Dried herbs- 1tsp parsley, 2 tsp Italian herb mix (or oregano and basil) or use fresh if you have them!
  • ½ tsp garlic granules or puree (or 2 minced cloves)
  • 1 tsp Tabasco sauce or chilli flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Sauté the carrot and onion in the olive oil for 5 minutes. Add all other ingredients (except tomatoes) and blend wither in a blender/food processor or with a hand blender until almost smooth, add chopped fresh tomatoes (or add along with the other ingredients if you prefer a smooth sauce). Bring to the boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Note: To make this a super quick and efficient recipe, I have used dried herbs and spices as these are always available in my cupboard whereas I don’t always have fresh to hand- feel free to use fresh if you prefer!


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Mega meatball sub

A couple of weekends ago on a ‘lazy’ Saturday morning (I do try but I just can’t do ‘lazy’ as I just end up being fidgety if I sit still for too long!) the boy set me a challenge ‘can you make me a meatball sub’ ….(wait there’s more)…. ‘but not just any meatball sub, I want vegan meatballs with marinara sauce, jalapeno peppers, caramelised onions and sweetcorn, all wrapped up in a nice big homemade sub roll’

Ok- the challenge was set! First I needed to do my research and figure out a healthy, tasty fool-proof ‘meat’ ball recipe.  The one I settled on was based on a recipe by 'My Vegan Cookbook' with a few minor tweaks of my own.

It took me most of the morning but we got there in time for lunch. Oh yeah it was good!!  I had made a double batch of everything (except the veg) so I had leftovers to freeze for ‘round two’ another time.  The meatballs are great to freeze so I’d encourage you to make the full batch as below (or even double) and freeze the remainder for a quick and easy spaghetti dish at another time. There is also a fair bit of work involved in pre-cooking the rice and lentils, another good reason to make a big batch! 

Recipe: vegan ‘meatballs’

Serves 3-4

Makes approx. 12 balls

Ingredients

  • ½ cup cooked lentils
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • ¼ cup oats
  • 1/3 cup wheatgerm
  • 1 tbs ground flax
  • 2 tbs soy sauce
  • 2 tbs oilve oil
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup wholemeal spelt flour (or standard wholemeal flour)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • a pinch of nutmeg
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp parika/cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp molasses (increase this to 2 tsp if you like a stronger taste but personally I find it overpowering)
  • 2 tsp mustard
  • 1 tsp smoky chipotle pepper sauce (gives the balls a spicy smoky kick but don’t worry if you can’t get hold of it)

Method

Mix everything together in a large bowl. Mixture should be sticky but manageable. From apricot sized balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 180C for 25- 30 minutes turning over half way through.

For frozen meatballs, place on a baking sheet and cook at 180C for approx. 20 minutes straight from the freezer.


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