Thursday, 30 December 2010

Pasta Salad with Halloumi

As my previous halloumi recipe has been pretty popular, I thought I'd post my recipe for a quick and easy pasta salad with halloumi, which is a loose variation on a Greek salad. I've found that most kids like this dish, as the dressing is mild and sweet.

Of course, if you're vegan you could omit the cheese or replace it with some small pieces of fried firm tofu, or vegan cheese.
  • 150g/6oz dried pasta - I generally use fusilli or conchiglie.
  • ½ a green pepper, diced
  • 8-12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 5cm chunk of cucumber, diced 
  • A handful of olives, sliced
  • ½ a pack of halloumi, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp tomato ketchup or puree 
  • Some finely chopped fresh parsley or dried oregano
  • A little black pepper
Cook the pasta.
Meanwhile, bake or fry the halloumi until golden brown.Rinse the pasta under cold water to cool, and drain well.
Make the dressing up and mix well. When the halloumi is cooked, remove from the heat and pour the dressing over the warm cheese to marinate.
Toss the chopped vegetables in with the pasta.
Add the halloumi and dressing, and mix well, to coat the pasta.
Chill until needed.

Alternative: For a more traditional Greek salad flavour, use feta cheese instead of the halloumi, but omit the tomato sauce/puree and the cooking stage.
Use cooked and cooled rice instead of the pasta if preferred.

You can make a nice salad with roasted vegetables instead of raw ones. Use chopped pepper, onion, courgette and tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for around 20 minutes. Cool and stir into warm or cold pasta.

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Monday, 27 December 2010


Bizarrely (or maybe not) when checking my blog stats, I've found that around a third of my page views come from Germany, so I would like to take the opportunity to welcome my German readers. 

I say bizarrely, as I visited Alzenau in Germany, many years ago on a school exchange trip, when I was 14. Although I wasn't vegetarian then, I didn't eat red meat and this was viewed with much suspicion from my host family. When I refused salami and other cold meats at breakfast, they weren't quite sure what to offer me. I seem to remember chewing on rye bread, which is an acquired taste when you're used to British bread. I also remember potato and apple soup and potato pancakes with apple sauce, neither of which I have attempted to recreate back in the UK. I did however see some beautiful schlösser (castles) and enjoyed some very yummy kuchen (cakes) and schokolade (chocolate)!

My parents love Germany and have friends who live there, but they have said that little has changed on the vegetarian front especially when eating out. I would love to return one day to see the sights and travel on efficient and clean public transport, so if anyone lives in Germany or has a German vegetarian food/travel blog, do feel free to leave a comment and a link to your site. Pin It

Monday, 20 December 2010

Wishing you a very veggie Christmas!

I'm beginning to regret singing 'Let it Snow' quite so loudly in the car the other day, as it really is deep and crisp and even outside! Brrr. Never mind though, we're snug and warm at home and our Christmas preparations are almost over. Presents have been bought, the tree is looking pretty with our 'vintage' fairy in pride of place, and the cards have been sent out and are now at the mercy of the Royal Mail. Let's hope they arrive by next Christmas!!!

Food-wise, our vegetarian Christmas dinner is well on its way to being prepared. The nut roast and goat's cheese tarts have been made and frozen, the pudding is ready to be steamed and the hamper gifts have been labelled and wrapped. We'll prepare the vegetables on Christmas eve and then everything will be well and truly ready for the big day.

Miss Ony and Miss Kahonie have elfed themselves (and us), have planned their Christmas day outfits and have been busy making some yummy chocolate truffles as presents for the Grandparents.

Meanwhile, I've had a little time to look into the cost of Christmas for the average UK family. According to the What price website, people spend around £67 to feed and water a family of 4 on Christmas day. Now that sounds a lot to me, but without having to worry about the cost of a turkey and other such stuff, I reckon, we'll spend less than half that on our Christmas fayre and that's including a bottle of Champagne (ok, it was on special offer)!

Merry Yuletide Everyone! Pin It

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Because I'm worth with an edge!

I love Urban Decay make up! I discovered the brand last year after searching for cruelty-free cosmetics online, and was pleasantly surprised at the cost and quality of their products. Not only that, but the packing is eye-catching, original and looks great on your dressing good in fact, that 12 year old Miss Ony, keeps 'borrowing' my make up!

Their products come in an amazing range of long-lasting pigment colours, which are fabulous for the party season and would make a lovely last minute present for a friend (or yourself!)
Their new vegan eye shadow palette includes vibrant teal and silvery-green shadows plus four rich neutrals. It also includes a mini eye pencil and (non-vegan) primer. It costs around £23 and is available online and from selected Boots, House of Fraser and Debenhams stores.

Update: 07/06/12 I am saddened to hear that Urban Decay will no longer be cruelty free, after they decided to sell their products in China. Whilst Urban Decay won't be testing their own products, it is likely that the Chinese policy of animal testing will mean that their products will have to be tested before they are allowed to go on sale. Therefore Urban Decay will no longer be able to use the leaping bunny symbol or claim to be cruelty free.

Update: 06/07/12 I am very happy to hear that Urban Decay have done a U-turn and have decided not to expand into China. Well done everyone who expressed their concerns and well done to Urban Decay for listening to your customers :-)

Images courtesy of Urban Decay.
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Saturday, 11 December 2010

Pickled Onions/Pickled Cabbage

jars of homemade pickled shallots and red cabbage
I'm busy preparing my homemade Christmas hamper recipes at the moment - this weekend I'm in a bit of a pickle!
  • Pickling onions/shallots and/or red cabbage
  • Salt
  • Pickling vinegar OR malt vinegar plus pickling spices
Peel your onions/shallots or half the cabbage and slice it finely.
Put into a bowl and cover with brine (2-3 tbsp salt in 1 litre of water).
Cover with cling film and leave over night.

Next day, rinse well with cold water, drain and pat dry with kitchen roll or a clean tea-towel.
Pack raw ingredients into sterilised jars (wash jars well and heat in a cool oven for 5-10 minutes) and press down well.
Pour vinegar over until covered.
Top with lids and tighten.
Store in a cool, dark place for 2-3 weeks or until needed.

Alternatives: For pickled beetroot, cook, cool, peel and slice, and then pack into jars and top with vinegar (omit the salting).
You can pickle almost any vegetable - try cauliflower, gherkins, mushrooms, peppers or a mixture of veg.

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Friday, 10 December 2010

Talking Turkeys

I love this poem by Benjamin Zephaniah and thought I'd share it with you ...

Be nice to yu turkeys dis christmas
Cos' turkeys just wanna hav fun
Turkeys are cool, turkeys are wicked
An every turkey has a Mum.
Be nice to yu turkeys dis christmas,
Don't eat it, keep it alive,
It could be yu mate, an not on your plate
Say, Yo! Turkey I'm on your side.
I got lots of friends who are turkeys
An all of dem fear christmas time,
Dey wanna enjoy it, dey say humans destroyed it
An humans are out of dere mind,
Yeah, I got lots of friends who are turkeys
Dey all hav a right to a life,
Not to be caged up an genetically made up
By any farmer an his wife.

Turkeys just wanna play reggae
Turkeys just wanna hip-hop
Can yu imagine a nice young turkey saying,
'I cannot wait for de chop',
Turkeys like getting presents, dey wanna watch christmas TV,
Turkeys hav brains an turkeys feel pain
In many ways like yu an me.

I once knew a turkey called...Turkey
He said "Benji explain to me please,
Who put de turkey in christmas
An what happens to christmas trees?",
I said "I am not too sure turkey
But it's nothing to do wid Christ Mass
Humans get greedy an waste more dan need be
An business men mek loadsa cash'.

Be nice to yu turkey dis christmas
Invite dem indoors fe sum greens
Let dem eat cake an let dem partake
In a plate of organic grown beans,
Be nice to yu turkey dis christmas
An spare dem de cut of de knife,
Join Turkeys United an dey'll be delighted
An yu will mek new friends 'FOR LIFE'.

By Benjamin Zephaniah

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Thursday, 9 December 2010

Easy Basic Bread Recipe for the Bread-maker

Here's my basic bread recipe which I adapt as needed (try making it with kids - it's better than playdough!). You can use this recipe to make mini pizzas, garlic dough balls or flat breads.

Makes 1 loaf, 8-10 rolls/mini pizzas, 16-20 dough balls or 2 pizza bases.

  • 1 cup water/milk (or 1 egg made up to 1 cup with water/milk)
  • 3 cups strong bread flour (any combination of white/granary/wholemeal)
  • 1 tbsp olive/vegetable oil/butter
  • 1 tsp fast-action dried yeast or 10g fresh yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Flavourings (optional see below*)
Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl (or bread maker) add the wet ingredients and flavourings.
Mix well until you have a smooth dough (on dough setting in bread maker).
Add a little more flour if the dough is too sticky.
Cover the bowl and allow to rise in a warm place for 30-60 minutes.
Place the dough into a greased loaf tin, or shape into a ball, flatten and place on a greased baking tray (or follow alternative ideas below**).
Allow to rise for a further 30 minutes.
Bake at 200C/Gas 6 for around 20 minutes - or until well-risen and golden.
Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Bread-maker version: Place all of the ingredients in the bread-maker and set to a medium, basic white loaf setting. If making rolls or pizza bases, use the dough setting.

*Flavourings -
Any combination of : 2-4 tbsp chopped sun dried tomatoes/anti pasti/stoned olives, 1 tsp dried herbs/1 tbsp chopped fresh herbs, ½ cup grated hard cheese with 1 tsp dried paprika/mustard powder, ½ cup chopped nuts/sunflower seeds/pumpkin seeds, ½ cup chopped dried fruit, ½ cup chocolate chunks/chips, 1 tsp ground cinnamon.

  • For bread rolls - Divide into 8-10 pieces. Place on a greased baking sheet and allow to rise for 30 minutes. Cook for 10-15 minutes.
  • For pizza bases (or mini pizzas) - Divide into 2 (or 8-10 mini) pieces. Flatten into circles on greased baking sheets. Spread with tomato puree and sprinkle with dried herbs. Add toppings (peppers, mushrooms, onion, olives, sweetcorn, pineapple, cheese etc) and bake for 10-15 minutes.
  • For garlic flat bread (or dough balls) - Divide into 4 and flatten on a greased baking sheet (or make 16-20 balls) . Make garlic butter using 50g/2oz softened butter/dairy-free spread mixed with 1 crushed clove of garlic and some chopped parsley. Spread garlic butter over unbaked dough and bake for 10-15 minutes.
Suitable for freezing.

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Saturday, 4 December 2010

Apple & Pear Chutney

Homemade Apple & Pear Chutney

This sweet and spicy chutney goes well with cold nut roast or Quorn roast, buffet food, cheeses and in sandwiches. It also makes a lovely home made hamper gift.

Fills approx 3 x 250-300ml jars.
  • 350g/12oz cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 350g/12oz under ripe or firm pears, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 100g/4oz raisins
  • 100g/4oz chopped dried dates
  • 500ml/1 pint vinegar (white wine vinegar, malt vinegar or pickling vinegar)
  • 350g/12oz soft brown sugar
  • ½  a finely chopped red chilli or ½ tsp cayenne powder
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • A pinch of mixed spice or cinnamon (optional)
  • Black pepper, to taste 
While peeling and chopping the fruits and onion, warm the vinegar, sugar, salt and spices in a large pan. Stir to help the sugar dissolve.
Add all of the fruits and the chopped onion and mix well.
Bring to the boil and cook, stirring occasionally for around 30-45 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced by half and the fruits are soft.
If you like a smoother chutney, mash the mixture with a potato masher.
Reduce the heat and simmer for a further 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until you have a fairly thick mixture.
Remove from the heat and spoon carefully into hot, sterilised jars*.
Cover with a waxed disk, or a circle of greaseproof paper and put the lids on.
When cooled slightly, re-tighten the lids.

Label and store in a cool, dark place. Will keep unopened for 3-12 months.

*Sterilise jars by washing in the dishwasher, or by putting clean jars and lids in a cool (110C/Gas ½) oven for 5 minutes.

Alternatives: You could use all apples or all pears if preferred.
Try with other gluts of seasonal fruit if you're feeling brave!

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Cloned milk and meat is safe?

So, it's official, the meat and milk from cloned animals is safe! Yipee, the world will be a better place and famine will be a thing of the past...or maybe not!

What actually are the benefits of cloning animals, apart from giving bored scientists something to do? They're initially cheaper to produce, I guess, but surely genetically identical animals will be far more prone to being wiped out by diseases like foot & mouth and BSE, which would have a huge economic impact on farmers. I also wonder what other long term costs to nature and the environment may be seen in the future.

It's up to consumers (and non-consumers!) to make sure that the demand for cheap meat does not lead to the mass production of cloned animals. This might well be a case of shutting the proverbial stable door after the horse cow has bolted though, as apparently cloned meat has already been sold in the UK (by 'accident'). Nice to know that the stringent standards of novel food regulation are in place then!

For more information see the Food Standards Agency website. Pin It

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Vegetarian & Vegan Christmas Dinner Menu

Here's my un traditional 5 course vegetarian Christmas dinner menu. I've included a selection of my own family favourites (goat's cheese and cranberry tarts followed by nut roast) plus a few variations for those who want something a little different. 

If you have to oven-share with turkey eaters, these ideas
don't take up too much room in the oven and can be covered with foil if you need to protect them from contamination!

The recipes can all be scaled up or down depending on how many veggies you need to cater for and I have included vegan options when appropriate. All of the recipes can be made in advance and reheated on the day (except the truffles, of course!)...and don't forget the crackers!
Please note that (v) indicates vegan dishes and (vo) indicates those with a vegan option.

Five Course Vegetarian Christmas Dinner Menu

Your choice of Champagne cocktails

Main Courses
Nut Roast (v) , Vegetable and Almond Loaf (v) or Carrot, Parsnip and Nut Loaf (v) served with vegetarian gravy, roast potatoes & parsnips, runner beans and purple sprouting broccoli (sprouts optional!)
Stuffed Butternut Squash with tomato sauce, roasted potatoes and seasonal vegetables.
Aubergine and Feta Bake with roasted potatoes and seasonal vegetables.
Roasted Vegetable & Feta Filo Spiral (vo) with roasted potatoes and seasonal vegetables
Champignons et Légumes au Vin (v) with roasted potatoes, parsnips and seasonal vegetables
Chestnut & Vegetable Lattice Bakes (v) with roasted potatoes, parsnips and seasonal vegetables
Rustic Christmas Pies (vo) with roasted potatoes, parsnips and seasonal vegetables

Christmas Pudding (vo) or Mince Pies (vo) served with cream, custard, ice cream or brandy butter.
No-bake Mini Desserts
Ricotta & Amaretti Cake

To Finish
Coffee and...
Chocolate Truffles 
Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles (v) 
Panforte di Siena (v)
Cheese Board and Port

Catering for vegetarians or vegans this Christmas? Here are my top tips:
  • Remember to omit or check for animal fat/suet and animal by-products in stuffing, mincemeat/mince pies, Christmas puddings and gravy
  • Please cook our roast potatoes/parsnips in vegetable oil and not around the meat.
  • Most vegetarians avoid cheese made with rennet e.g. Parmesan, Grana Padano and Gorgonzola.
  • Vegetarians do not eat fish, gelatine or certain food additives, especially E120 (cochineal/carmine). Vegans do not eat any animal products including dairy, eggs and honey.
  • Strict vegetarians and vegans may also appreciate a glass or two of a vegetarian/vegan wine. Most wines are now labelled.
  • If in doubt, or if you really don't care, please ask your veggie guests to bring their own food/drink - we really would rather do that than have to turn down unsuitable offerings!

Find my top tips for a budget-friendly Christmas here.
Find my Boxing Day buffet ideas here.
Find my festive gravy recipes here.

For some more veggie Christmas meal ideas, please take a look at the Vegetarian Society Christmas Menu.

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Goats Cheese & Cranberry Tarts

I usually make these cheese and cranberry sauce tarts as a starter for our Christmas dinner, as they always go down well with vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. They can be made in advance and chilled or frozen until needed.*

Serves 4 as a starter (1 medium or 2 small tarts per person).
  • 200g/8oz soft goats cheese
  • 1 pack of filo pastry
  • Cranberry sauce
Cut the filo pastry into 10cm squares.
Line 8 sections of a greased muffin tin with 3-4 layers of the pastry, brushing each layer with a little melted butter or vegetable oil.
Put a small teaspoonful of cranberry sauce in the bottom of each pastry case, followed by around an eighth of the cheese.
Bake for 10-15 minutes at 200C/190C Fan/Gas 6/400F, or until the pastry is golden.
Remove from the tin and serve with warm port and cranberry sauce and a side salad.

Port & cranberry sauce
  • 4tbsp cranberry sauce/jelly
  • 4 tbsp port
  • Lime juice to taste, optional
Heat the cranberry sauce/jelly and port together and bring to the boil.
Sieve/strain to remove the cranberry pips and skin (omit this step if using cranberry jelly)
Add a little lime juice to taste, so the sauce is not too sweet.

Alternatives: Use vegetarian Brie, Camembert or other mild-tasting cheese instead of goat's cheese if preferred, or for a vegan alternative, use a vegan 'cheese' or finely sliced and sautéed mushrooms instead of the goat's cheese.
Make the tarts in a bun/fairy cake tin for smaller, buffet-sized tarts - using 8cm squares of filo, or shortcrust or puff pastry.

*Recipe adapted from Rose Elliot's Goats Cheese and Cranberry Parcels

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