Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Vegetarian Mincemeat

I'm not usually a big fan of mince pies, as I find them too sweet and too pastry-y. Despite this, I decided to have a go at making my own vegetarian mincemeat last year as I wanted to give some away in home made hampers, and found that it tasted gorgeous (even if I say so myself!).

Makes around 3 jars
  • 350 g/12oz 'normal' dried mixed fruit (currants, raisins, sultanas, peel)
  • 100g/4oz chopped 'posh' dried fruits (any combination of apricots, cranberries, dates, cherries, prunes etc)
  • 200g/8oz peeled, cored and grated apples (cooking or eating are fine)
  • 100g/4oz vegetarian suet or chopped block butter
  • 150g/6oz soft dark brown sugar
  • 50g/2oz chopped nuts (not peanuts or cashews) 
  • Zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon 
  • 4 tbsp brandy or orange liqueur
Put all of the ingredients into a large pan and and stir well.
Simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Allow to cool in the pan and then stir well.

Mix in the brandy/liqueur.
Spoon into sterilised jam jars, cover with wax discs and seal the jars.
Store in a cool dark place for upto 3 months. Pin It

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Chickpea Curry/Chana Masala (Vegan)

This very cheap, easy and quick to make recipe is one of my favourite Indian side dishes.
Serve with a vegetable curry, rice, chapatti or naan.

Serves 4 as a side dish.
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 onion, diced
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 2 heaped tsp fresh grated ginger plus 2 crushed cloves of garlic (or 1 tbsp garlic and ginger paste)
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • ½ green chilli, deseeded and chopped finely (optional)
  • ½ carton (250ml) passata/creamed tomatoes
  • 1 tin chickpeas, drained 
Heat the oil and add the cumin seeds. Cook for 1 minute.
Add the onion and cook gently for a couple of minutes.
Add the garlic, ginger, chilli, pepper and turmeric and cook for another minute or so.
Add the passata and drained chickpeas and simmer gently for around 20-30 minutes.
Stir in the garam masala and add some fresh, chopped coriander before serving.

Alternatives: If you don't like chickpeas, you could use any other tinned beans instead.
To make into a main meal, add some fresh chopped spinach, sliced mushrooms and a chopped green pepper before adding the passata. Cook for a few minutes to soften before adding the passata and chickpeas.

Can be frozen, but the chickpeas may go a little mushy when re-heated!

Slow cooker method: Put all the ingredients in the slow cooker and mix well. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Pin It

Friday, 26 November 2010

The new look Vegetarian Society website

In case you haven't seen it yet, I thought I'd give a quick plug for the lovely new-look Vegetarian Society website. The site now has a brand new forum, which is open to members and non-members alike, plus the old favourites such as recipes, news, resources and campaigns. 

They have some really useful information for vegetarian parents/parents-to-be, including fact sheets on raising veggie children, from pregnancy to weaning and beyond. If you have any questions from well-meaning family members/friends/health professionals, just hand them a copy to save yourself the bother of explaining that it is perfectly safe (and in fact, healthy) to raise children on a vegetarian diet!

They also have a whole section just for young veggies, which includes recipes, fun stuff and the option to join 2 kids clubs (Twiggy club for younger kids and Team Veggie for tweens and teens.)

I particularly like the look of this year's Christmas Recipe page, which is full of ideas for very posh looking veggie nosh at recession-beating prices! It certainly makes you wonder how restaurants and pubs have the nerve to charge the same extortionately high prices for their sad and uninspiring vegetarian option, as they do for their meat and fish based meals (fancy a festive bowl of soup and veggie lasagne anyone?)

If you haven't done so already, register on the website and pop a post or two on the forum...I have!

Image courtesy of the Vegetarian Society. Pin It

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Brussels sprouts...love them or hate them?

Evil sprouts!
Being a vegetarian, I have to by default, eat a lot of vegetables. Try as I might though, there are a few vegetables I just can not bring myself to like, no matter how many times I try them. One of those is the Brussels sprout. To me, the sprout is a true abombination of the vegetable kingdom!

To look at, the humble sprout is really quite cute. A tiny baby cabbage, round and perfectly formed with crisp, green layers of tightly packed leaves. But once cooked, it transforms into an evil, foul-tasting nugget of repugnance! Sorry sprout-lovers, but I obviously have superior phenylthiocarbamide receptors to you!

Here's the science bit: Sprouts and other brassicas contain a chemical similar to phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) which only some people can taste. This chemical is also present in some poisonous plants, so it makes sense to be able to taste it and not eat potentially poisonous foliage...that's my excuse anyway!

Want the proof? Here it is: Scientists discover that Neanderthals hated Brussel sprouts. Pin It

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Oh my goodness...chocolate heaven on a plate!

Miss Ony, Miss Kahonie (daughters) and myself had a girly day out shopping today, as hubbie was at the (football) match. After a couple of hours of vigorous shopping, we decided to take a pit stop at Costa Coffee. Unfortunately our favourite cafe was packed, so we crossed the road to check out the previously undiscovered (by us) Caffe Nero.
Miss Ony went for a mint-choc frappe milkshake, Miss Kanohie (being a milk-a-phobe like myself) opted for the Sicilian lemonade, while I chose a regular tea (no milk).

We were feeling decadent, and a bit hungry, so after checking out the decent range of veggie options, we decided to share a slice of White & Dark Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake...OMG!!!  It was delicious...a chocolaty explosion of tongue tinglingly melty flavours!

We went home, feeling satiated in both shopping and food, but I also felt a little bit guilty. Maybe there was gelatine lurking in all that cheesecakey yumminess. I checked on the Caffe Nero website which thankfully confirmed that there were no nasties. 'But hang on, maybe they don't understand what vegetarian means', I thought, so I checked on some non-vegetarian products and saw the heart-warming words "...Contains gelatine, so this product is not suitable for vegetarians" and " Due to the Gorgonzola cheese containing animal rennet, this panini is not suitable for vegetarians".

Yay to Caffe Nero, they do great cakes and they understand what vegetarians (and vegans) eat/don't eat! Sorry Costa Coffee, we now have a new favourite cafe.
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Saturday, 20 November 2010

Baked Feta Cheese

This is a recipe that I made up after eating several different variations on holiday in Greece. If you don't like the taste of feta, you could try it with a soft goat's cheese instead.
Serve as a starter with a salad and fresh crusty (or pitta) bread, as part of mezze, or as a sauce over pasta.
Serves 2-4 
  • ¼ portion of tomato pasta sauce (whole recipe made with 1 tsp dried oregano rather than the fresh herbs).
  • 1 pack (200g) of feta cheese
  • Hot chilli powder or hot chilli sauce 
Make the sauce up and add a pinch of dried chilli or a dash of chilli sauce to the portion you're using in this recipe. Freeze the rest.
Pour the sauce into a small oven proof dish.
Top with the whole piece of feta and sprinkle with a little more oregano.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200C/Gas 6 for around 15-20 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is starting to brown.

Alternative: If you don't like tomatoey sauces, try this version instead - Slice an onion and a green pepper thinly and lay on a piece of baking foil. Place the feta on top. Sprinkle with oregano and dried chilli and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap tightly in the foil and bake as above.
You can also bake this on a barbecue.

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Friday, 19 November 2010

Christmas Nut Roast

I have adapted this nut roast (loaf) recipe from several other recipes I liked but weren't quite right and veganised it, to make sure that all the guests can enjoy it!
The cold roast tastes great with salads and in sandwiches, or you can freeze it.

Serves 6
  • 1 onion, finely chopped or grated
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil 
  • 75g/3oz fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs
  • 150g/6oz ground/chopped mixed nuts, not peanuts
  • 75ml boiled water 
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley or fresh mixed herbs/1 tsp dried mixed herbs
  • Grated zest of and juice of 1 lemon
  • Ground black pepper
  • 75g/3oz of dried (vegan) packet stuffing, made up, as per pack
Fry the onion and garlic in the oil, until soft, but not brown.
Add the breadcrumbs, nuts and other ingredients (except stuffing) and mix well.
Spoon half the mixture into a greased and lined loaf tin.
Top with the made-up stuffing and finish with the remaining nut roast mixture.
Cover tin with foil (uncover for the last 10 minutes).
Bake for 40-50 mins at 180C/Gas 4.
Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out and serving.
Serve with all the usual vegetarian Christmas dinner trimmings.

Alternatives: Omit the stuffing and use the nut loaf mixture to make 'sausage' rolls, stuffed flat mushrooms or filo tarts.
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Thursday, 18 November 2010

Traditional English Christmas Pudding

a traditional Christmas pudding with brandy

Shop-bought Christmas puddings are an oddity to me, tasting neither Christmassy or puddingy! Luckily, I only need taste these manufactured monstrosities very occasionally in unsocial situations. This moist and luscious vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free pudding recipe has been handed down to me through three generations...obviously the original recipe contained suet, so I have adapted it slightly!
I can only hope that my children will pass it onto the next generation. 

Make the pudding at least a two or three weeks (preferably longer) before Christmas and store in a cool, dark cupboard until needed

Serves 8
  • 100g/4oz currants
  • 100g/4oz raisins
  • 100g/4oz sultanas
  • 4 tbsp brandy/rum/sherry
  • 50g/2oz plain flour or GF flour
  • 50g/2oz fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs or GF breadcrumbs
  • 100g/4oz vegetarian suet or softened butter
  • 100g/4oz dark soft brown sugar
  • 2 medium eggs or equivalent egg replacer
  • 2 eating apples, peeled and grated
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1 lemon or ½ orange, zest and juice
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
Put the dried fruits into a large bowl and soak overnight with the brandy/rum/sherry. 

Add all of the other ingredients and mix together.
Spoon into a greased 1 litre/2 pint Pyrex pudding bowl.
Cover the bowl with a layer of greaseproof paper and a layer of baking foil.
Tie securely with string (around the edge of the bowl).
Steam in a pan half-filled with water (simmer with the lid on) for 3 hours, on a low heat. Top up with water as needed.
Cool and store in a cool dark place.

On Christmas day, reheat the pudding, by steaming for an hour as above, or remove the foil and paper and replace with pierced cling film - microwave on medium-low for around 5-10 minutes, or until piping hot.
Remove foil/paper/film and turn out onto a warm plate.
Make an indent in the top of the pudding, using the back of a spoon. 
Pour some slightly warmed brandy over the top.
Stand well back and light before serving!

Serve with brandy butter, custard, cream or ice cream.

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Fairy Cakes

I've just found out that we're having a cake sale at work tomorrow, to raise money for Children in Need. I'm going to make a double batch of fail-safe all in one fairy cakes and ice them. Here's the recipe:
  • 100g/4oz softened butter/sunflower spread
  • 100g/4oz caster or granulated sugar
  • 100g/4oz SR flour
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1tsp vanilla flavouring
Put all the ingredients in a bowl or food processor, mix together until you have a smooth mixture.
Spoon into a lined bun tin.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C/Gas 4 for 10-15 minutes until golden and firm to the touch.
Cool on a wire rack and ice when cold.


  • 100g icing sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp boiling water
  • A few drops of colouring/flavouring (optional)
Mix the icing sugar with a little water at a time until you have a fairly thick but spreadable mixture (a bit like PVA glue!). Add the flavouring/colouring if used and stir well.

Alternative: To make chocolate cakes, swap 2 tbsp of the flour for 2 tbsp of sieved cocoa powder for the cake mixture and swap 1 tbsp icing sugar for 1 tbsp sieved cocoa for the icing mixture.

© Image by Onykahonie Pin It

Monday, 15 November 2010

Tomato & Vegetable Pasta Sauce (Vegan)

This economical and versatile pasta sauce freezes well, so you can make up a big batch (double this recipe), freeze it in portions and pull a tub out of the freezer when needed. Leave the sauce chunky if your kids will eat it, if not, blend after cooking for a 'hidden vegetable' sauce...sneaky!
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 red or orange pepper, chopped
  • 4 mushrooms, chopped or sliced 
  • ½ courgette (or a carrot), chopped
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 500 ml carton of passata/creamed tomatoes (or a tin of chopped tomatoes) 
  • Fresh basil or parsley, chopped (or use ½-1 tsp dried herbs)
  • Black pepper to taste
  • ½ tsp sugar
Gently fry the onion, garlic and chopped veg. in 1 tbsp olive oil.
Add the tomato puree and cook for 1 minute.
Add the rest of the ingredients and stir.
Put the lid on the pan and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.
Blend if desired.

Alternatives: Add a drained tin of chick peas or other pulses for a more filling sauce.
Use a base for spaghetti bolognese, lasagne or chilli.
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Saturday, 13 November 2010

The kids party dilemma

We all want our kids to be popular and have lots of friends, but how do you deal with the dreaded McD's party invite from a parent you don't know, when you and your children are vegetarian? Maybe something like this...

Me "Hi, thanks a lot for the invite, my daughter would love to come."
Party Mum "Great, thanks for letting me know, see you there."
Me "Erm...just one small thing I need to mention...she's vegetarian."
Party Mum "Oh" (Silence) "Does she eat chicken?"
Me "No, she doesn't eat any meat." (She's vegetarian!)
Party Mum "They do fish fingers."
Me "Sorry, she doesn't eat fish either!" (Erm, don't you understand the word vegetarian??) "She can have the chips and drink though!" (OK, I know the chips might have been cooked in the same frier as the fish, but I'll turn a blind eye to that, so she can go to her friend's party!)
Party Mum "Oh, OK, see you there."

"Phew" you think, as you put down the phone, but little do you know that the worst is yet to come. On arrival to the party you'll need to brace yourself for the McD's party host whispering "Oh what a shame" and glancing pitifully over her shoulder toward your child, when party mum orders the kids meals and mentions your animal-free request.

Inevitably, on
e or more of the other mums will over-hear and then quiz you on your and your children's dietary habits, which will generally include a random selection of the following questions: Do you eat fish, are you vegan, do you eat eggs, do you drink milk, what do you eat, why are you vegetarian, why don't you let the children decide when they're older, how long have been vegetarian, don't you miss bacon, is your husband vegetarian?

So, my advice is to be prepared and give the following answer to avoid further questioning  "Oh, we forage in the hedgerows for nuts and berries!" OK, maybe it's better to think that one rather than say it out loud, unless you want to avoid further party invites too! Pin It

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Oat and Raisin Traybake

This is another quick and easy recipe. It literally takes 5 minutes to throw the ingredients together. It's nice as a 'home from school' or packed lunch snack for the kids and is much cheaper than the over-priced cereal and flapjack bars you can buy.

Makes 12 bars

  • 100g/4oz butter/sunflower spread
  • 100g/4oz soft brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup or honey
  • 150g/6oz plain flour
  • 150g/6oz porridge oats
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp ground ginger or cinnamon
  • 100g/4oz raisins (or use chopped dried apricots, dates, cherries, mixed dried fruit etc.)

Heat the oven to 180C/170C Fan/350F/Gas 4.
Melt the butter, sugar and syrup together in a large heat proof bowl in the microwave (for about 1 minute on a medium setting).
Add the dry ingredients and egg and mix well (it should make quite a firm dough).
Spoon the mixture into a greased 20cm x 15cm baking dish. 
Bake for around 20 minutes, or until it's golden brown and firm to the touch.
Cut into bars while still warm and in the tin.
Turn out of the tin when cool.

Suitable for freezing.

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Sunday, 7 November 2010

The Marks & Spencer £2 chicken

I was shocked by M&S's recent advertising campaign for their special offer £2 chickens. £2 for a whole chicken, bargain. That's about the same cost as a pack of Quorn mince or an organic butternut squash!

To tell you the truth, I expected more from them. I know they haven't broken any laws or anything, but it worries me that if M&S are going back down the 'cheap meat' route to make a few quid from cash-strapped consumers, we can only expect that the less ethically aware larger supermarkets will follow the trend.

I wanted to know just how concerned M&S are about the welfare of their cheapo chooks, so I visited the M&S website to find out. By reading between the Politically Correct (Plan A) lines, I found out that the slow growing Oakham breed are given a paltry (excuse the pun) 1 metre square of space for every 30kg/66lb of live poultry. Now, maths isn't my strongest subject but that doesn't sound like a lot of room to stretch their redundant wings and their oh-so-tender legs.
I reckon, assuming that the live weight of a mature (ready-to-eat) chicken is 6lb, that's equivalent to 11 chickens per square metre. Cosy!
Don't worry though, they have straw bales to perch on. Pin It

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Roasted Vegetables with Halloumi

All my family like this light meal, which is simple to prepare and contains plenty of '5-a-days'. Fussy kids can easily pick out the bits they don't like, as the vegetables are all in nice big chunks. You could swap the veg. for anything else in season, such as celery, fennel, aubergine etc.
  • 2-3 peppers (red, orange and yellow are sweeter)
  • 1 onion
  • 8-12 mushrooms
  • ¼ butternut squash (peeled) or 1 courgette
  • 2 carrots
  • ½ pack of halloumi cheese
For the dressing
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon/lime juice or balsamic vinegar
  • 1 crushed clove of garlic
  • 1tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Chop/slice all the veg. and place them (except the mushrooms) in a roasting dish.
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with black pepper and some fennel seeds if you have them.
Roast for approximately 30 mins at 180 C/Gas 4, or until the vegetables are almost cooked.

Turn the vegetables and add the chopped mushrooms and halloumi cheese.
Return to the oven for a further 5-10 minutes, or until the cheese starts to brown.

Meanwhile make up the dressing.
Pour the dressing over the veg. and return to the oven for 5 minutes to heat through and cook the garlic.

Serve with hummus and pitta bread/wrap/flatbread, or mix the roasted vegetable mixture into some cooked rice or pasta.

Alternative: For an Indian version, sprinkle the vegetables with 2 tsp garam masala before cooking. Swap the halloumi for paneer cheese, and omit the dressing. Serve with plain/natural yogurt and chapatti/roti.

Vegan alternative: Add marinated or basil tofu instead of the cheese, or use a vegan cheese.
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Friday, 5 November 2010

I've made a food discovery...

Frozen butternut squash!
This might not be a revelation to some, but I didn't know it existed until I discovered it lurking in the frozen foods section of Waitrose this week. At £1 for 500g, it's a great price too.

I love butternut squash (which is a fruit, not a vegetable!) but unfortunately, the rest of the family aren't so keen, so I don't buy it that often. Now I have a bag of the stuff in the freezer and can pull out a few chunks anytime I want to. I have some roasting in the oven as I type! Pin It

Cinnamon Apple Sauce Decorations

These cinnamon apple sauce Christmas decorations are fun to make with the kids and smell amazing...don't let them eat the mixture though! I was sceptical that this recipe would work, but it really does. You can buy cheap, large packets of cinnamon from the 'world foods' section of large supermarkets...look for East End or TRS brands.
  • 2 cups home made or bought apple sauce
  • 2 cups cinnamon powder (you might need more)
  • 4 tbsp PVA, white glue
  • 1 tsp fine silver or gold glitter
Mix everything together to make a dough. If the mixture seems too wet, add more cinnamon until you have a cookie-dough kind of mixture.
Flatten the dough on a sheet of grease-proof paper, to around ½ cm thick.

Cut out gingerbread men or Christmas shapes using cookie cutters.
Use a drinking straw to punch a hole in the top of each shape.

Leave in a warm place to dry over night, turn the next day and repeat until they are hard - alternatively put on a baking tray in a very low oven, for several hours.
Once dry, decorate with glitter glue and thread with ribbon to hang.

Not edible!

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Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Chocolate Ganache Truffles

Chocolate truffles are really easy to make, and will keep in the fridge for a week or so.  They are great as a gift for any occasion...Christmas, Mothers' Day, Easter, whatever! Vary the recipe by using different chocolates and flavourings. If you make them with milk chocolate and vanilla extract, they taste pretty much like Lindor chocolates!
  • 250g/10oz chocolate (plain/dark or milk - shop's own brand is fine, but don't use cooking chocolate)
  • 150ml/10 tbsp double cream (use 125ml/9 tbsp if using liqueur as the flavouring)
  • 25g/1oz unsalted butter
  • Flavouring (1 tbsp liqueur, 1-2 tsp flavouring extract or a little grated orange zest)
  • Cocoa powder, drinking chocolate powder, icing sugar, grated chocolate, crushed chocolate flake etc to coat.
Heat the cream until hot (but not quite boiling) in a heat-proof bowl in the microwave.
Add the chocolate and butter allow to melt (you might need to warm the mixture slightly if the chocolate doesn't melt). Mix well, adding the flavouring, if used.
Chill the mixture for an hour or two, until almost solid.
Remove from the fridge and working quickly, shape heaped teaspoonfuls of the mixture into balls, using your hands.
Roll the truffles in the cocoa powder etc to coat (or if you're feeling adventurous, try dipping them in melted chocolate and leave to set on greaseproof paper).

Place in mini-muffin/sweet cases and chill until needed.

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Homemade vegetarian Christmas hamper ideas

I've been making my own vegetarian food gift hampers for the past few years. They always go down well as the recipients always appreciate the thought and effort that has gone into making them.

Home made gifts are not only a great budget option, but are also an incarnation of the saying "It's the thought that counts". After all, how long does it take to pop into Boots and pick up 3 uninspiring gifts for the price of 2, compared to making a jar full of aromatic chutney and a box of mouthwatering chocolate truffles? Even Kirstie Allsopp's at it, and I'm sure she's not short of a penny or two!

Packaged nicely (try Hobbycraft for jam pot covers and cellophane), these recipes make great home made gifts for friends, family and teachers too!

Hamper recipes:
Apple & pear chutney
Aubergine chutney
Pickled onions/Pickled cabbage

Cherry & almond fudge
Oreo truffles

Limoncello liqueur

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