Archive

Vegan

Coffee and Walnut Healthy No Bake Brownies

I would consider myself a fairly traditional baker. I suppose I had to be really, because I started this blog in my student days when my kitchen kit comprised of a cheap mixer, a scratched plastic bowl and an old fashioned set of spring scales. It was a kitchen of bare essentials, the real tool being my hands. Butter would be rubbed through my fingers for crumbles and pastries; I employed the two-fold whisking technique to ensure my arms didn’t stiffen. Everything was sight and sound and making do and I quite like that about baking. Just how you yourself make the recipe without the need for gadgets to help you along the way. Honest baking.

It therefore seems sacrilege that I have become ever so slightly obsessed with my food processor. I had entertained the idea of buying one for a while, but things like ASOS dresses and H&M jumpers always seemed to take precedent. And besides, I liked making pastry by hand and bashing digestives with a rolling pin. But I was gifted a second hand one and I approached it with trepidation. I was like a caveman when I finally managed to switch it on, jumping about three feet in the air when it whirred into action, chopped and cutting and pulsing so precisely in seconds I wondered how I would ever live without one.

Coffee and Walnut Healthy No Bake Brownies

And so, it seems like a betrayal of my hands that I bring you a wholly food processor recipe today. But I have to admit, it’s too damn good to ignore. After all the excesses of the festive period, it finally feels good to be eating well again and these healthy brownies are no exception. They are gluten, dairy and sugar free, the only sweetness coming from a healthy portion of finely chopped Mejool dates and a smidge of cocoa powder. Essentially a traybake, two types of nuts are pulsed in a machine, mixed with a teaspoon of fresh coffee and cocoa then whirred with dates to create a fudgy, sweet brownie without an egg, block of butter or pound of brown sugar in sight. I’d probably call them an alternative to cereal bars, like a health food that shouldn’t be healthy and so far I have resisted two birthday cakes in the office in favour of two of these sweet brownie thins. This is like baking magic.

A couple of things to point out – for aesthetic purposes I pressed my brownie mix into a 7 by 7 tray but it does yield rather thin brownies. Personally I like the size, but if you would prefer them thicker, you can double the recipe or press into a smaller tin such as an 18cm sandwich tin. The original recipe also extols the virtues of raw products, but I couldn’t find any cacao powder or almonds that hadn’t been blanched. I doubt it makes much of a difference but if this falls in line with your diet then go for it, I’d love to hear the results.

I do feel like I have betrayed my natural instincts to get my hands dirty with this recipe, but I am quietly excited as to how this new gadget will change my baking routine. But I can’t see myself giving up making pastry by hand. I like interspersing the traditional with the contemporary.

 Recipe slightly adapted from The Minimalist Baker

You Will Need

90g whole almonds (not blanched if possible)

80g walnuts

20g cocoa powder (or cacao if you can find it), plus extra for dusting

1 tsp freshly ground coffee or espresso powder

200g Medjool dates, pitted

No Bake Ingredients

Tip the almonds and 40g of the walnuts into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the cocoa powder and coffee and pulse again until crumb-like. Pour the nut mixture into a bowl and set aside.

Finely Ground Coffee

Place the pitted dates into the bowl of the food processor and whizz until paste-like. Remove and place in a separate bowl then re-add the nut mixture to the food processor. With the processor running, add clumps of the dates through the chute until you have a soft dough. Squeeze the mixture in your hand – if it clumps together its ready. If not, add a couple more dates or a splash of water and process again.

Raw Brownie Mix

Prepare the tray you wish to use by lining with baking parchment – I used a 7 x 7 square tin but for thicker brownies use a loaf or sandwich tin. Tip the brownie mix into the tin and add the remaining walnuts. Stir with your hands to combine then press down the mixture evenly with your knuckles. Place the tin in the fridge to allow the brownies to harden for at least two hours then remove and cut into squares or wedges. Dust with cocoa powder and serve. These brownies will last for about a week and a half in an airtight container in the fridge.

Coffee and Walnut Healthy No Bake Brownies

 

Autumnal Breakfast Rice Pudding (Dairy Free!)

I am really excited to share this recipe with you today. Not just because its two years since my very first post, but because of the lightbulb moment that went off in my mind as I devoured this bowl of rice pudding, standing by a window dressed in flannel tartan jim jams in between large slurps of black coffee. In that moment, I felt like I had finally started to understand free from recipes.

I haven’t mentioned it much on here, but I have been cutting down on my dairy intake, specifically milk, almost to the point where I don’t have it at all. I’ve swapped my little pint of semi-skimmed for almond and coconut milk and to be honest the only place I have noticed the difference is on my waistline. A portion of oats soaked in a good glug of the stuff makes a delicious and filling breakfast and my morning smoothie has a nice nutty edge from the almonds. But I have been reluctant to try cooking with it until I had an intense craving for rice pudding last week. I hesitantly whipped up this batch on a quiet, gloomy October morning and was hit by how simple and delicious it was.  And what’s more, I didn’t even notice it was made with coconut milk.

pumpkin spice rice pudding

I wanted to bring a comforting warmth to this pudding and the use of my favourite pumpkin pie spice filled my kitchen with the sweet and spicy notes of cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. The brown sugar dissolves into a beautiful caramel flavour that works well with just the tiniest amount of vanilla paste. Topped with my current obsession of toasted pecans and a good drizzle of maple syrup, this is the only way to truly kick start your day. What’s more, this recipe makes the perfect single portion. Sorry, I am not sharing mine…

 

You Will Need

70g arborio rice

260ml coconut milk (I use this one) + a little extra if required

1 packed tbsp soft light brown sugar

¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice mix

Dot of vanilla paste (optional)

 

To serve

2 pecans, toasted and chopped

Maple syrup for drizzling

 

Note: Naturally gluten free, risotto rice also makes this breakfast dessert hybrid completely free from however do check the packaging in case it has been processed in a factory handling gluten products, especially if you are medically gluten sensitive.

Four ingredients for autumnal rice pudding

In a heavy bottomed pan, whisk together the coconut milk, brown sugar, spice mix and vanilla if using. Stir through the risotto rice and place over a medium heat until bubbling, stirring occasionally.

making rice pudding in a le creuset

Turn down to low and cover, cooking for 20-25 minutes and stirring occasionally until the rice is soft. You may need a little more coconut milk to loosen the pudding slightly – just stir in to desired consistency then remove from the heat.

Spoon the rice pudding into a bowl and top with toasted pecans and a generous drizzle of maple syrup.

autumnal breakfast rice pudding

Quick Peach Vanilla Jam with Scone

When I think of making jam, there is just one essential that springs to my mind – the iconic and ridiculously sized berry pan. I have two in my family; one at my Granny’s which used to reside at the top of her kitchen cabinets next to vintage scales and a ‘pig’ hot water bottle before her recent kitchen refit. My Grammy’s pan (her mother’s I believe) now lives at my Mam and Dad’s underneath the hob as a sort of large container for kitchen odds and ends – last time I checked it housed ice lolly moulds and a game for table-top curling. Yet despite their decorative and storage uses, they have helped to make jar after jar of luscious fresh fruit jams, lemonades, a batch of ginger ale and one ingenious use that involved cooking a very large lobster.

I remember a good few summers of jam making with my sister and Granny, lugging plastic punnets up row upon row of strawberry and raspberry plants at Pick Your Own’s in the north-east, sneaking handfuls of Scottish ripened soft fruits into my mouth. The sweetness that comes with the varied seasons – all sun and rain of it – ensure those fat Scottish strawberries will always trounce their sun-soaked sisters in Spain. It almost seems criminal to pour bag upon bag of sugar over the hulled fruit, but as it breaks down and becomes so deliciously jammy, you understand the reasoning behind it. Blipping contentedly as you stir…and stir…and stir some more. But a word of warning – wearing a white t-shirt during this process is ill advised. There is a suitably goofy looking picture of me aged 14 with an even goofier fringe with a big raspberry splatter up my GAP t-shirt. Aprons are advised.

Fresh peaches in a bowl on white background

After all those fond memories of ‘proper jam making’, it seems criminal to throw away the ratios, do away with properly sterilised jars and saucers stacked in the freezer for setting points. To not have jar upon jar stacked in the cupboards like preserved fruit jenga, just waiting to cascade on the floor as you search for the lasagne tin. And to not use those beautiful berry pans that bring back so many memories. But time and space are an issue in this baby sized kitchen I share and so one deeply delicious, seriously satisfying jar of fresh peach jam is just enough to curb the cravings of well set raspberry preserve.

The original recipe I adapted from called for a jam thermometer and a temperature of 190oc to 200oc before taking off the heat, but my digital one refused to go past 90oc. I admit I discarded the thing and played it by ear, added a touch of boiling water when it looked a little dry towards the end. But the end result is still a lusciously thick jam that will fill your kitchen with the summery fragrance of peaches and vanilla. Try smothering on toast, scones or dollop on rice pudding.  With only a shelf life of around two weeks, it doesn’t last long but when jam tastes this good, I promise you will be eating it straight from the jar in no time.

Adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen and Shutterbean

You Will Need

600g ripe peaches (around 5-6 will do)

80g granulated sugar

2-3 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice

½ tsp vanilla paste

Quick Peach Vanilla Jam Ingridents

Remove the stones from the peaches and cut into quarters. Place in a large heavy bottomed pan and add the sugar, 2 tbsp of the orange juice and the vanilla paste. Place over a low to medium heat and stir to combine the ingredients.

Peach Vanilla Jam

Once the juices begin to release, turn up the heat to medium and cook for around 15 minutes. Keep stirring to avoid the sugars catching. The jam should go a deep sunset colour and resemble a puree. If it looks a little dry, add a splash or two of water from a kettle to loosen a little.

Cooling Peach Jam

Towards the end, taste for sweetness – add a little more sugar and the remaining orange juice if you like your jam a little sweeter. You can use a thermometer to check if the jam is ready, which is around 190oc to 200oc. However I took a teaspoonful out and left to rest for around 15 seconds. If it feels jammy to the touch and is holding its shape, it should be ready.

IMG_4593

Remove the pan from the heat and spoon into a clean bowl to cool completely, stirring occasionally to release the steam. Prepare a jam jar by washing then covering in boiling water (this is the quickest way of sterilizing I find). Once the jam is cold, spoon into the clean dried jar and keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Peach Vanilla Jam Close Up

Is there anything more refreshing to dine on in the morning sunlight than fruit salad? It’s like a morning palate cleanser, clearing up your mind after a long languid lie in. Gone are the days when fruit salad was in a large Pyrex bowl, filled with halved grapes and soggy banana; the fruit salad of the future is pretty, sweet and full of grown up textures. Raw rhubarb, one of the highlights of the season, is julienned, macerated overnight with ruby blush grapefruit and served with pretty last minute additions. Fresh orange, segmented and served with its juice, is added alongside little lemon diamonds, glistening like tart jewels. A last minute addition of frozen berries are sprinkled over, acting like fruity ice cubes that cool the dish down for the morning. Topped off with a delicate chiffonade of mint, this is a breakfast for kings. Goodbye mushy banana, there’s a new fruit salad in town.

 

Serves 1

You Will Need

1 10cm piece of rhubarb

1 ruby blush grapefruit

1 orange

1 slice of lemon

A small handful of frozen berries

A small handful of mint leaves

Caster sugar, if required

 

Place the stick of rhubarb on a chopping board, flat side down and slice lengthways into thin strips. Cut each strip into three matchsticks and place in a bowl.

Top and tail the grapefruit with a serrated sharp knife, and carefully cut down the skin, removing the bitter pith and exposing the flesh. Using a small vegetable knife, cut into each segment and tease out the slices of grapefruit. Once finished, add to the bowl of rhubarb and squeeze over the skins and pith to extract any extra juice. Cover with clingfilm and leave to macerate for at least 20 minutes, but preferably overnight.

Once ready to eat, segment the orange in the same way as the grapefruit and add to the bowl. Carefully cut the skin off the lemon slice and with your fingers, pull out the little segments and add to the fruit. Toss the salad together and taste; if you prefer your fruit a little sweeter, add a sprinkling of caster sugar.

Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle over the frozen berries. Roll up the mint leaves loosely and slice into ribbons. Sprinkle over the salad and serve.

If you liked this post, then please click on the link on the right to nominate me for best food blog at the Cosmo Blog Awards 2012! Thanks!

I appear to be on some sort of liquid diet at the moment. I think in the past two weeks, me and my flatmates have consumed over eight different types of smoothies, milkshakes and frappacinos, interspersed with the solid food group that is Kettle Chips. My logic, however skewed, is that all that fruit means I’m allowed to eat a large bag of said crisps as I watch Masterchef. Now there’s a foodie-contradiction.

But I’m reforming my ways. Partly due to having no Sea Salt and Malt Vinegar crisps left, but also my new breakfast regime. Gone are the days of two coffees and then finally eating about 2pm, I am now in love with my freezer muffins and a morning burst of fruit. Ok, so I might sneak in the odd coffee, but I’m trying to be good, honest. And what better way to do so than sip a smoothie that’s crammed full of vitamin C?

Kiwis are the answer it would appear. Filled with vitamins and a good source of fibre, they are the perfect start to a morning smoothie. Add a couple of juicy pears, a sliced apple and a squeeze of lemon and you have a breakfast smoothie filled with goodness in a totally healthy shade of green. Serve up with a straw and a Blueberry and Lemon Crumble Muffin and the day will start to look brighter already.

Makes 1 large smoothie

You Will Need

2 kiwis

2 pears

1 small apple

A squeeze of lemon

Slice the kiwis in half and scoop out the insides into a jug. Squeeze the skins as well to get out as much juice as possible and discard. Peel the pears and apple, then core and slice. Add to the jug alongside a squeeze of lemon and blitz with a hand blender until smooth. Taste and adjust with more lemon or a dash of honey if required. Serve immediately with a straw and a couple of ice cubes alongside a breakfast muffin.

Mushroom soup isn’t exactly renowned for being an extraordinarily pretty thing. It’s usually grey, the type of grey that lines the skies just as you step out your flat in a great Spring outfit ensemble. Ominous, dark and depressing, grey isn’t a nice colour.

But this soup is different. It is completely and utterly vegan, which is good news for my friend Georgia, who is contemplating going over to the vegetable side, and asked me to make a vegan recipe a while back. This little bowl of goodness tastes just as good as cream of mushroom, without getting all heavy on the cream. Instead, the soup is lightened with home-made cashew cream, a blend of nuts and water to the thickness of single cream. Totally natural, totally creamy and it’s been nowhere near a cow. Food magic!

This vegan soup is enhanced with all types of natural flavours. Pungent garlic, the fungi’s best friend (arf) is thrown in alongside woody rosemary, to give a great herby flavour. Plus a zing of lemon zest will put a spring in your step alongside a very-Italian drizzle of olive oil and some fresh rosemary needles. This soup is pretty and tasty and quite possibly 100% nicer than the tinned stuff. Go fresh, natural and vegan this March. Make Soup!

 

Recipe adapted and inspired by Joy the Baker

 

You Will Need

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 white onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 rosemary sprig, stalk removed and finely chopped

700g mushrooms, sliced

600ml vegetable stock

¼ pint plain cashew nuts

¼ pint water

Zest of 1 lemon

Plenty of salt and pepper

Olive oil and rosemary needles to finish

Place a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. Throw the chopped onion into the pan and cook slowly for around 7-8 minutes until translucent and golden. Add the garlic and the rosemary and cook for a further minute.

Throw all of the sliced mushrooms into the pan and cook down for around five minutes, turning every so often to fully incorporate the onion mixture with the mushrooms. Pour over the stock and leave to simmer for 15 minutes.

To make the cashew cream, fill a measuring jug with cashews up to ¼ pint. Add ¼ pint of cold water and leave to soak for 5 minutes. Using a hand blender, carefully blitz until the mixture is smooth and resembles single cream. Set aside.

Once the mushrooms have cooked, remove from the heat and blend the soup until smooth. Stir through the cashew cream and season generously with salt and pepper and the lemon zest. Place back on the heat to warm through.

To serve, plate up into bowls and top with fresh rosemary needles and a drizzle of olive oil.