Friday, 30 December 2011

Cider Punch

This is a family punch recipe that we always make up for large gatherings, such as New Year's Eve. At first it's quite sweet and fruity, but as people add to it through the evening, it tends to get slightly more intoxicating!

  • 600 ml/ 1 pint pure orange juice
  • 1 litre/1 ¾ pints sweet or dry sparkling cider (hard cider - US)
  • 150 ml/10 tbsp sweet sherry, fruit liqueur or brandy
  • 1 orange sliced
Mix all ingredients together in a jug or bowl.
Serve chilled.

Alternative: To make a warm wassail-style punch, add a good pinch of mixed spice/cinnamon and warm (do not boil) before serving.
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Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Vegetable and Almond Loaf (Vegan)

nut roast with vegetarian Christmas dinner
This is a variation on my traditional Christmas nut roast recipe. This year I added extra vegetables, as suggested by some of my readers, and this worked out really well. This loaf has quite a sweet taste and slices well.

Serves 4-6
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 100g/4oz sweet potato, grated
  • 50g/2oz chestnut mushrooms, grated
  • 175g/7oz almonds, ground or finely chopped 
  • 2-3 slices of wholemeal bread, made into breadcrumbs
  • 100ml (approx) water or vegetable stock
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (I used sage and parsley), or 1 tsp dried herbs
Gently fry the onion in 1 tbsp olive oil, until soft. Then add the sweet potato and mushrooms. 
Cook for a few minutes on a low heat, until softened, stirring regularly.
Stir in the nuts and breadcrumbs and mix well.
Add the herbs and season to taste.
Add the lemon juice and enough stock/water to make a firm but not dry mixture. Add more breadcrumbs or water if needed.
Tip mixture into a greased and lined loaf tin and press down.
Cover tin with foil (uncover for the last 10 minutes).
Bake for 40-50 mins at 180C/170C Fan/350F/Gas 4.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before turning out and slicing. 

Refrigerate any left overs and use cold in sandwiches.

Suitable for freezing before or after cooking.
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Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Last Minute Limoncello Liqueur

Last Minute Limoncello Liqueur
If you want to make a last minute present, try this quick and easy version of Limoncello. You can adjust the alcoholic strength and sweetness, by adding more or less sugar and water to make the syrup.
  • 1½ cups vodka
  • 3-4 unwaxed lemons
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
Gently heat the water and sugar together until dissolved and bring to the boil for 1 minute to make a syrup. 
Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Wash the lemons, then peel the zest with a potato peeler, or zester taking care to peel thinly and avoid the white pith.
Put the zest in a large clean, sterilised jam jar.
Pour the vodka over the zest.
Add the cooled sugar syrup, put the lid on the jar and shake to mix.
Allow to steep for a few days (or up to a week for a stronger lemon flavour). 
Strain through a sieve, coffee filter paper or a piece of muslin, bottle and label.

Alternatives: To make lemon/fruit flavoured vodka, omit the sugar and water.
Change the fruits and spirits used to make different liqueurs - use orange zest and brandy to make Triple Sec, cherries and brandy to make Cherry Brandy etc.

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Friday, 9 December 2011

Aubergine and Feta Dip

This isn't the prettiest looking dip, but what it lacks in beauty, it makes up for in taste! In Greece it's know as aubergine salad.
Serve as part of a buffet/meze.
  • 1 large aubergine/eggplant
  • 100g/4oz feta cheese
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 25g/1oz olives, chopped (optional)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika (or to taste)
Prick the aubergine all over with a sharp knife (to stop it exploding!).
Grill the aubergine under a hot grill, turning every few minutes, until the skin is black and the aubergine is soft.
Allow to cool and then peel the blacked skin off and discard. Blot the aubergine flesh on kitchen paper to remove excess liquid.
Blend all ingredients together. Blend briefly for a pate-type texture or blend thoroughly if you prefer a smooth dip. 
Sprinkle with a little dried mint, or some fresh, chopped herbs and chill until needed.

Not suitable for freezing.

Alternatives: Try making this dip with roasted butternut squash, sweet potato or cooked and mashed pulses instead of the aubergine.
Vegan option: Omit the cheese for a vegan dip. Pin It

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Dear Santa...

So, it's a week into December and I've only just started Christmas (or Yule as I prefer to call it) shopping...eeek! Apparently, most organised and efficient mums have their presents bought and wrapped, and their cards written and ready to send...but not me, no, I like to wait until we're well into the holiday season until I do all the above (OK, so I just don't get the urge to spend, spend, spend until we're in December!)

Anyway, I've been browsing the internet and have come up with a few vegetarian-friendly gift ideas that either I would like, or I'm thinking about buying for my friends and family.

For the cook in the family...
  • I'm hoping for the River Cottage Veg Every Day! cookbook for myself. Unfortunately, I haven't watched many of the programmes (as it clashed with X Factor!), but from what I've seen and read about the series, and my growing respect for Hugh F-W, I think this will be a good book.
  • If you're going to buy one classic cook book, I can recommend Rose Elliot's New Complete Vegetarian. I received it last Christmas, and it's become a firm favourite.
  • I love colourful cookware, and have had my eye on these Joseph Joseph stacking bowls for quite a while.
For the fashion-conscious veggie...
  • If you love make up, try Urban Decay's cosmetics, including the amazing vegan palette. I received the dangerous palette for Christmas last year and it's lovely.
For the teen veggie...
  • For the veggie twilight fan, get one of these fab vegetarian vampire t-shirts.
  • Find fashionable vegetarian 'leather' shoes, jackets and belts at Vegetarian Shoes.
  • Not necessarily vegetarian, but Blue Banana is my elder daughter's current favourite shop with loads of quirky fashion items.
For the younger veggie...
For the veggie who has everything...
  • Make up a hamper - fill with home made goodies or with shop bought items on a particular theme e.g. Sweet hamper - Goodie Good Stuff sweets, Hotel Chocolat chocolate, veggie Percy Pigs from M&S and some retro sweets,  or veggie essentials - Marmite, Goodlife Worcester sauce, Bookhams vegetarian Parmesan, packs or dried herbs/spices, veggie gravy, veggie jelly crystals etc.
  • Buy something handcrafted, like a vegan tea cup candle from Nyan Nyan or choose from a wide range of original gifts from Veg Etsy (World-Wide).
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Monday, 5 December 2011

Vegetarian & vegan buffet ideas

Here are some of our favourite vegetarian and vegan buffet/meze/canape ideas which are ideal for parties and picnics (for mums who don't shop at Iceland!)
If catering for large numbers, I generally make up some batches of buffet foods in advance and freeze them. I also make various fresh salads and dips as needed, either the day before or on the day.

All recipes are, of course, vegetarian, so I have marked vegan recipes with (v) and those which can have a vegan option as (vo).

Make in advance and freeze:
Halloumi and double potato cakes
Halloumi tarts
Courgette and potato quiches
Falafels (vo)
Spinach and cheese pies
Cheese scones
Glamorgan sausages (or use this mixture in puff pastry to make sausage rolls)
Chorizo-type sausages (as above)
Nut roast sausage rolls (v)
Scone-base pizzas
Cheese muffins
Garlic bread/dough balls/pizza (vo)
Spinach, pepper and Goat's cheese quiche
Savoury puff pastry tartlets (vo)
Quorn kebabs (vo)

Make  fresh:
Hummus (v)
Aubergine and feta dip (vo)
Pasta salad (vo)
Pesto and antipasti tart (vo)
Squash, lentil and sweet potato salad (vo)
Vegan salads (v)
Bulghar wheat salad (vo)
Marinated olives (v)
Guacamole (v)
Mushroom bruschetta (v)
Dakos (vo)
Veggie frittata/tortilla
Roasted vegetable salad
Green salad
Rice salad
Greek salad on a stick - a chunk of cucumber, a piece of feta, half a cherry tomato and an olive on a cocktail stick
Potato salad
Jacket potatoes/Potato wedges/Home made chips

Add a few store cupboard standbys:
Veggie cocktail sausages on sticks 
Cheese and pineapple on sticks
Bread sticks

Dessert ideas:
Oreo truffles
Tiffin (v)
Chocolate hazelnut truffles (v)
Mini whoopie pies
Mini desserts
Fresh fruit salad

Cider Punch
Champagne cocktails

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Thursday, 1 December 2011

Oreo Truffles

As it's the 1st of December, I thought I'd start adding some more Christmas-inspired recipes to my blog (here are some of last years' recipes).

This recipe was given to me by a work colleague who generously brought some of these delicious morsels into work to help raise money for Children in Need. I'd never tried them before, but after googling, it seems that Oreo truffles are very popular, especially in the US. They're easy enough for children (or inexperienced cooks) to make, but taste quite wonderful!

These truffles would make a great dessert canape for parties (double the recipe) and I think they'd be a great Christmas gift, the only problem being is that they need to be kept refrigerated due to the mascarpone cheese in them.

Makes about 20
  • 1½ packets (200g/8oz) Oreos (or other biscuits*)
  • 100g/4oz mascarpone or other mild-tasting cream cheese
  • 150g/6oz plain, milk or white chocolate
Put the biscuits in the food processor and blend into crumbs (or put in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin).
Add the cream cheese and blend again to make a firm mixture (add a little more cheese if needed).
Refrigerate for 30-60 minutes, to allow the mixture to firm up.
Roll into small balls using your hands and then chill in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
Melt the chocolate and dip each Oreo ball into the chocolate to cover.
Remove with a fork and drain off the excess chocolate.
Place on greaseproof paper, decorate with sprinkles if wanted and chill until set.

Will keep in the fridge for up to a week.

Alternatives: Add a few drops of flavouring essence to the biscuit mixture such as vanilla, mint, orange, coffee etc.

Oreos may not strictly vegetarian as they may contain non-vegetarian whey...try using other biscuits to make different flavoured truffles (e.g. amaretti, chocolate-chip cookies, shortbread etc) - adjust the amount of mascarpone used to make a firm mixture.

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Friday, 25 November 2011

Turkish-Style Stuffed Aubergines/Eggplants

This is my variation of the Turkish dish Imam Bayildi. I add cheese which is not in the traditional recipe, so you could leave this out for a vegan meal. You could stuff other vegetables with the same mixture (even baked potatoes/sweet potatoes) if your kids don't like aubergines.

Serves 4
  • 2 medium or large aubergines/eggplants (or use large courgettes)
  • 1 large onion, sliced finely
  • 2 green bell peppers, sliced finely
  • 4 tbsp sun dried tomato paste
  • 4 tbsp cider vinegar* 
  • 200g feta, diced
  • 1 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • pinch of cinnamon 
Cut the aubergines in half lengthwise.
Drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil and bake, cut side down, for around 15-20 mins at 190C/180C Fan/Gas 5 in an oven proof dish, or casserole.

Meanwhile soften the onion and green pepper in a pan with a little olive oil.
Add all of the remaining ingredients to the pan, except the feta, and stir well.
Allow to cook for about 5 minutes and then turn off the heat until the aubergines are ready to stuff.
After 15-20 mins, the aubergines should be soft enough to carefully scrape out the flesh (with a spoon), leaving the shell intact - I do this while they're still hot, but you might want to let them cool a little first!
Cut up the aubergine flesh and add to the pan.
Add the cheese to the pan and stir gently to mix.

Divide the stuffing mixture between the aubergine halves.
Pour about 200ml of boiling water into the bottom of the dish and cover with foil or a lid. This stops the aubergines drying out.
Bake in the oven for a further 15-20 minutes.
Finally uncover the dish and cook for a further 10 minutes to give the ingredients a chance to colour and to allow some of the moisture to evaporate.

Serve hot, warm or cold with a salad or green vegetables.

Not suitable for freezing. 

For this recipe, I used Higher Nature* Organic Cider Vinegar, as I was sent a sample to review. This vinegar has a lovely fruity flavour which balances its acidity well. It can be used in a variety of recipes - especially sauces, marinades and salad dressings.
*Supplier of vitamins, supplements and organic foods Higher Nature.

Integrity Statement
I received a bottle of Higher Nature* Organic Cider Vinegar to review and use in a recipe. I did not receive payment, and the views expressed are genuinely those of myself and my family.
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Thursday, 24 November 2011

Join in the Meningitis Trust's latest campaign

There are a lot of blogs covering the subject of meningitis at the moment, thanks to the Meningitis Trust (and other charities) really embracing the digital media in the quest to raise awareness about this horrible disease.
Every time I hear or read the word meningitis, it makes me shiver, even though it's now 10 years since my daughter contracted pneumococcal meningitis.

Whilst my daughter was in hospital, we were warned that if she survived, she could be left with long term side effects. We found out that some children are left with obvious disabilities including epilepsy, profound deafness and limb loss (for those who develop septicaemia) and that others are left with less visible side effects such as learning or behavioural difficulties, co-ordination problems and headaches. As the disease affects the brain, it can impact on many aspects of a child's emotional and physical development. Thankfully, my daughter was only left with a minor hearing loss - many children are not so lucky.

My daughter was under the care of her hospital consultant for a year after she came out of hospital, and she still has an annual hearing test to check that her hearing loss remains stable. Unfortunately, I had no follow care up at all from my GP or Health Visitor. It was up to me to inform her playgroup/nursery/school about her hearing loss and my concerns that her learning and behaviour could be affected.

That's why I've signed the petition for the latest Meningitis Trust campaign for:
The automatic right for any child who has had meningitis to have timely and appropriate assessments throughout their academic life, to identify early what help they need and ensure they get it.
So, I'm asking for you to sign the petition too, to help other children in the UK get the support they need throughout their school lives.

If you want to find out more about the symptoms of meningitis, visit the Meningitis Trust's website.

Image courtesy of the Meningitis Trust. Pin It

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Herby Glamorgan Sausages

A vegetarian cooked breakfast with Glamorgan sausages

This recipe came about as we fancied a cooked veggie breakfast last weekend and didn't have any vegetarian sausages in the freezer. I had a couple of bits of cheese that needed using up, so made up some Glamorgan sausages, using the left over cheeses instead of Caerphilly.

If you have a food processor, you can make these in just a few minutes.

Makes 8 mini or 4 large sausages (or about 8-12 'meatball' sized balls).
  • 100g/4oz grated hard cheese (you should traditionally use Caerphilly, but I used feta and cheddar)
  • 2-3 slices of stale bread made into breadcrumbs
  • 1 small onion, diced finely or grated
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped herbs (I used parsley, sage and rosemary)
  • black pepper
  • ½ tsp English mustard powder or paprika
Cook the onion in a drop of oil or a knob of butter, until soft (I microwaved it in a covered bowl).
Mix the cheese, breadcrumbs, herbs and seasoning together.
Add the onion and stir in the egg to bind the mixture and make a firm dough.
Add more breadcrumbs if the dough is too sticky to handle.
Divide the mixture into the required number of pieces and roll into sausage shapes (or meat balls).
Heat a drop of vegetable oil in a frying pan.
Cook the sausages for about 5-8 minutes, turning once or twice, until golden brown.

Serve as part of a 'traditional' vegetarian British breakfast; Instead of meatballs with a spicy tomato sauce and pasta, or eat cold for lunch with a salad.

Alternatives: Add extra flavourings such as chopped sun-dried tomatoes, olives etc.
To barbecue, brush with oil first.

Suitable for freezing.

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Tuesday, 15 November 2011

10 questions meme

I've been tagged by Alison from Plus 2.4, to answer 10 questions about myself.

What you have to do if you want to join in, is:

1) Answer the 10 questions below.
2) Tag someone to do the same.
3) Go and leave a comment on the original blog post over at
Super Amazing Mum to say that you've joined in, to find out who else has been tagged and to compare answers!

So here goes….

1. Describe yourself in seven words
Vegetarian working mum with an untidy house.

2. What keeps you awake at night?

My husband's snoring.

3. If you could be anyone for day, who would you be and why?
Oh, that's a difficult one...there's lots of people I admire, but I'm not sure I'd like to be them, even for a day. OK, how about Gordon Ramsey? I'd be him and make him only eat, cook, serve and talk about vegetarian food for a whole day! Maybe I'd pop round to the Beckham's with the kids too!

4. What are you wearing now?
Long, grey and black Per Una skirt, a black top and black boots (just got back from work).

5. What scares you?

Spiders :-(

6. What is the best and the worst thing about blogging?

The best - having somewhere to record my thoughts and recipes, plus finding out that there are like-minded people out there in the blogosphere.
The worst - feeling that I should be trying harder to 'network', when I'm really not a networking kind of person!

7. What was the last website you looked at?

Yahoo - I just checked my emails, very boring I know.

8. If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
To be tidier.

9. Slankets – Yes or no?
Nooo! What's wrong with a duvet?

10. Tell us something about the person who tagged you?
I was tagged by Alison, who's a Pagan mum of 3 kids. Like me, she loves cooking and inflicting cultural and educational days out on her children!

I'm tagging:
@Jojomololo Pin It

Friday, 11 November 2011

Aloo/Potato Masala Parathas (Vegan)

Miss Kahonie and I made our own parathas for this recipe, but it was a bit of a faff, so I'd suggest using ready-made ones (look in the frozen Asian foods section in larger supermarkets), or use chapattis or tortilla wraps instead.
If you want to made your own, I've added the recipe at the bottom of this page. 

Serves 4 (fills 4-8 parathas depending on size)
  • 1 large potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp black mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 2 heaped tsp ground coriander
  • ½ fresh chilli grated, or finely chopped, optional
Boil the potatoes until soft (as you would for mash), then drain.
Fry the cumin and mustard seeds in 1 tbsp vegetable oil, for a minute or so, until they start to pop.
Then add the onion to the pan and cook until soft.
Add the garlic, chilli and remaining spices.
Add the potatoes and a drop of boiling water and stir.
Cook for a couple of minutes until piping hot.
Crush the potatoes lightly with a fork or potato masher (the mixture should still be quite lumpy).
Spoon into warm parathas/chapattis and serve. 

Alternatives: Add a handful of frozen peas or some chopped spinach to the pan along with the cooked potatoes.

Makes 6-8
  • 100g/8oz plain flour
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Warm water
  • Dairy-free spread/butter
Mix the flour and oil together (I used my food processor), then slowly add the water until the mixture just starts to form a dough.
Chill the dough for about 30-60 minutes.
Cut into 6-8 pieces and roll each into a rough circle, on a lightly floured board.
Spread each circle with a little spread/butter. Fold in half to make a semi-circle.
Spread with a little more spread/butter and fold over again to make a triangle.
Gather up the edges of the dough and make a ball.
Roll this out to make a circle again (about 10-15cm across) .
Heat a frying pan (with no oil).
Cook each paratha for a minute or two on each side.
Keep them warm in the oven until they are all cooked. 

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Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Mocha Cream Biscuits

I fancied baking some biscuits yesterday and couldn't decide what to make. I came up with this recipe after browsing several recipe books and not finding anything I wanted to cook! They're based on a gypsy cream recipe I found in Cookies Galore .
  • 100g/4oz dairy-free spread/butter
  • 50g/2oz soft brown sugar
  • 75g/3oz plain flour
  • 50g/2oz rolled oats
  • 25g/1oz cocoa powder, sieved
Cream the butter and sugar together.
Mix in the dried ingredients to form a firm dough.
Roll the dough into 16-20 small balls, using your hands (make sure there's an even number!)
Place on a greased baking tray and flatten slightly.
Bake for 12-15 mins at 170C/160C Fan/Gas 3
Cool for 5-10 minutes before removing from the tray and cooling on a wire rack.

Mocha Icing/Frosting
  • 50g/2oz dairy-free spread/butter
  • 100g/4oz icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder, sieved
  • 1 tsp instant coffee granules dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water
Cream the butter and cocoa. 
Mix in the icing sugar, adding enough coffee to make a smooth, spreadable icing.
Pipe or spread the icing onto half of the biscuits and sandwich together.

Suitable for freezing.

Alternatives: Substitute the coffee for orange or mint extract, and up to 1tbsp boiled water.

Make mini biscuits (divide mixture into 32-40 balls), sandwich together as before and then dip each biscuit into melted chocolate. Leave to set on greaseproof paper. Package up in cellophane and give as presents, or add to a homemade hamper.

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Friday, 4 November 2011

Paneer and Vegetable Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala may be Britain's most popular food, but vegetarians don't have to miss out on a tasty alternative to this delicacy... It's taken me a while to come up with this recipe, which is as close as I can manage to one of my family's favourite Indian take away dishes - Paneer Tikka Masala.

I've added extra vegetables to make it into a slightly healthier meal, but this doesn't detract from the flavour of the sauce/gravy. I still think there's some sort of spice missing, so I'll update this recipe if I ever work out the secret ingredient/s!
Miss Ony said that this was my best curry recipe yet, which is praise indeed.
  • 100g/4oz paneer cheese, cubed 
  • 1 small onion, diced finely
  • 1-2 bell peppers, sliced or diced into chunks
  • 50-100g/2-4oz sweet potato/butternut squash, peeled and diced into small cubes
  • 8 chestnut mushrooms, sliced thickly
  • ½ tin chickpeas or other pulses, drained and rinsed
  • 250ml passata
  • 25g/1oz cashew nuts, ground (or ground almonds)
  • 25g/1oz creamed coconut
  • 2 tsp tandoori/tikka masala powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground fennel seeds
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1" piece of root ginger, grated
  • ½ red chilli, grated or finely chopped, optional
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp double cream, optional
Marinate the paneer in the tikka masala powder mixed with 1 tbsp lemon juice. Leave in the fridge for an hour or so.

Fry the onion in a drop of vegetable oil until soft.
Add all of the remaining dried spices, ginger, garlic and chilli and cook for a minute.
Add all of the vegetables and coat well in the spice mixture. Cook for a further 3-5 minutes on a low heat.
Pour in the passata and add the chickpeas.
Increase the heat slightly and bring to a simmer.
Allow to simmer for about 15-20 minutes, with the lid on, until the vegetables are soft.

Meanwhile, fry the paneer in a drop of vegetable oil (in another pan), until warmed through and slightly crisp.
Add the paneer to the saucepan once the vegetables have almost cooked, and stir well.
Finally add the sugar, cashew nuts, creamed coconut and cream.
Stir well and allow to simmer for a few more minutes, or until the creamed coconut has melted.

Alternatives: Use any combination of vegetables or pulses, or use extra paneer and less veg.
You could also swap the paneer for vegetarian chicken-style pieces (marinate and fry as per paneer).
For a vegan curry, replace the paneer with firm, drained tofu (marinate and fry as per paneer), extra pulses or extra mushrooms. Omit the cream.

For a BBQ version, thread the marinated paneer on skewers along with chunks of onion, pepper and mushroom, brush with vegetable oil and barbecue. Make the gravy separately on the hob and pour over the cooked kebabs.

For more Indian-inspired recipes, pop over to A Celebration of Indian Food at Lisa's Kitchen.

More sweet potato and Indian recipes. Pin It

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The very chocolaty Hotel Chocolat giveaway

You may have gathered from all the chocolaty recipes on my blog, that I like chocolate. I particularly like good chocolate and I especially like good, dark chocolate. So how pleased was I, when the people at Hotel Chocolat chose me as one of their Christmas product tasters? Well, pretty chuffed, to be exact.

I hadn't actually ever tried Hotel Chocolat chocolate before, so I was really looking forward to receiving one of their products to review...

I was excited to find a beautifully presented dark chocolate advent calendar on my door step the other morning. I noticed (for blogging purposes) that it contained 175g of 70% cocoa solid, vegan/dairy-free chocolates, but then as Miss Ony and Miss Kahonie were around at the time, I had to stop reading the back of the box and get on with the tasting. I also had to share the first chocolates with them, rather than sneak them indulgently without the kids knowing!

It felt rather naughty opening the first door of the advent calendar before October was even over, but we soon got over that! We found that each piece of chocolate was either inscribed with a little message, or shaped into a cute little Christmasy motif. They were dark and glossy and snapped in two with a satisfying crack (I'm not sure why, but this is a sign of good chocolate apparently.) 

The chocolates had a strong, smooth chocolaty taste, and were pleasantly sweet (I find some dark chocolate too bitter). They melted deliciously on my tongue, and left me wanting another one! My children and husband all thought the chocolate were lovely too, although they're not quite as fussy about their chocolate as I am!

I must admit that at £17, the price of the calender is rather more than I would usually spend, but it would make a lovely gift for someone special. Hotel Chocolat also have a yummy-looking range of Christmas stocking fillers starting from just £5, so there's something suitable for all budgets.

Helpfully, they mark all their products with their suitability for different dietary requirements, including vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free, so you don't have to look through lists of ingredients, before deciding what to buy. 

So to the giveaway - I have one dark chocolate advent calendar to give away, just like the one I reviewed.

COMPETITION NOW CLOSED: Winner is @maxineflossy
  • All you have to do is visit Hotel Chocolat's Christmas page and tell me which product you would like to find under your Christmas tree this year.
  • For an extra entry, follow them on Twitter and tweet this message @HotelChocolat @FacelessFood - I entered the Hotel Chocolat giveaway to #win a chocolate advent calendar #vegan #vegetarian
  • Leave me a comment below for each entry (maximum 2 per person), with some way of contacting you.
UK residents only.
Competition closes at midnight Saturday 12th November.
I will announce the winner here and on Twitter.
The winner will be picked randomly and contacted within 48 hours.
If I don't hear back from the winner within 7 days of this, I reserve the right to re-draw and offer the prize to someone else.

Integrity Statement
I received a chocolate advent calender to review and one to give away on my blog. I did not receive payment, and the views expressed are genuinely those of myself and my family.
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Sunday, 30 October 2011

Gingersnap Biscuits/Cookies (vegan)

Gingersnap Biscuits/Cookies
These ginger-snap biscuits are really quick to make in the food processor. Younger kids will love rolling out the dough and decorating the finished cookies, while older children will be able to make these with minimal supervision.
  • 300g/12oz SR flour
  • 100g/4oz dairy-free spread/butter
  • 100g/4 oz soft brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 2 tbsp black treacle/molasses
  • 2-3 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2-4 tbsp cold water/milk
Heat oven to 190C/180C Fan/375F/Gas 5.

Blend the spread/butter into the flour.
Add the remaining ingredients (except the water) and blend well. 
Add just enough water to form a firm dough.
Chill the dough for about 20 minutes before rolling out.

Roll out the dough on a floured board and cut out shapes with a cookie cutter.
Place the shapes on a greased baking sheet. Re-roll any scraps to make extra biscuits.
Bake for around 12 minutes, or until golden brown.
Allow to cool on the tray for a minute or so, before transferring onto a wire rack to cool.

Decorate with glacé icing when cool (optional).

Suitable for freezing.

Alternatives: Decorate the cookies accordingly for any occasion - we made ours for Halloween, but you could use different shaped cutters and different coloured icing for birthday parties and Christmas.

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Saturday, 29 October 2011

The Midlands vegan festival - a review

I didn't think there were many vegans, or even that many vegetarians in the West Midlands, but by today's turn out at the Midlands Vegan Festival, I must be wrong - the Wolverhampton Civic Hall was packed with people of all ages. There were all sorts of stalls including various animal-welfare and environmental-type charities, cruelty-free products and best of all, lots of folks offering tasters and selling oodles of yummy vegan foods.

There were talks, music, cooking demonstrations, kids activities, a vegan cupcake competition and even vegan speed-dating on offer (I declined visiting the latter!) and it only cost £1 for adult entry - what a bargain!

I visited with Miss Ony, and we spent a pleasant couple of hours at the festival. We both particularly enjoyed Lizzy Hughes' cooking demos and tasting quinoa for the first time.
I hadn't been to the vegan festival before, as I wasn't sure how family-friendly it would be, but I'll certainly go again next year. Pin It

Monday, 24 October 2011

Bookhams vegetarian 'Parmesan' - tastes as good as the real thing

Chances are that if you're reading this, you'll already know that real Parmesan cheese isn't vegetarian as it contains rennet extracted from calves stomachs. The Vegetarian Society recently ran a campaign to highlight this, but many restaurants still mark dishes containing Parmesan as vegetarian.

Bookham Fine Foods have come up with the ideal solution to this issue, by developing their own vegetarian Italian-style hard cheese wittily called 'Not Just A Pasta Cheese' as they weren't allowed to call it vegetarian Parmesan!

My family have been putting some of Bookhams products to the taste test, including Not Just A Pasta Cheese (which we had with pasta!) We also tried their pasta sauce, penne pasta, Sussex Charmer cheese and butter.

"At Bookhams, we're real people who eat real food, just like you do. Our philosophy is 'for taste', inspired by Italian Cuisine, achieved through the use of sensitively sourced, British & traceable natural ingredients. All our products have now been approved by the Vegetarian Society. What's more, our Dried Pasta and Pasta Sauces are great for Vegans too"
Not Just A Pasta Cheese is a fantastic substitute for Parmesan - it has very similar texture, grates well and has a good strong, almost nutty taste. It went really well over a bowl full of Bookhams penne pasta and their spicy tomato sauce. Although I don't usually buy ready-made sauces, this one really tasted home made, and would make a good alternative for a quick family meal, when you don't have time to make your own pasta sauce.

Their Sussex Charmer cheese also went down well with my cheese-loving family. It's a farmhouse-style cheese with a lovely mature but not over-powering flavour. We tried it with fresh home made bread spread with Bookhams South Downs butter - which made a lovely combination.

As a family, we were all impressed with the Bookhams products we tried and would happily purchase them ourselves.

Integrity Statement
I received various products from Bookhams to review and a discount code to share on my blog. I did not receive payment, and the views expressed are genuinely those of myself and my family. Pin It

Thursday, 20 October 2011

National Baking Week with Baking Mad - Doughnut Muffins & Vegan Mint Cake

Not only is it the week of my blogoversary, but it's also Mr O's birthday and National Baking Week. That makes it the ideal week to bake something special to celebrate all 3 events!

Baking Mad are also celebrating National Baking Week, and asked me to try out some of their recipes and blog about them. It took me a while to choose, but I eventually settled on 2 quite different ones: The delicious-sounding jam doughnut muffins (edit - now know as duffins!) and Eric Lanlard's indulgent-looking vegan mint chocolate cake.

I made the muffins earlier in the week. I didn't have any buttermilk, so I substituted this for half plain yogurt and half water. I also made a combination of lemon curd, strawberry jam and Nutella filled muffins to please all the family. They turned out perfectly, although they didn't rise as much as I expected. They were absolutely delicious whilst still warm - really light and fluffy - and they tasted a bit like freshly cooked American waffles. They tasted pretty good cold too, and I found they froze and defrosted well.

I decided to halve the vegan chocolate cake ingredients, as I wasn't sure how well it would keep. I was a little worried about making the cake, as I expected the recipe to contain dairy-free spread or vegetable oil, but the actual cake is fat-free. The mixture made quite a runny batter, which again was a little disconcerting! The cakes rose quite well and looked quite light, but needed a little persuasion to come out of their tins!

I couldn't find vegan cream for the ganache icing, so I had to improvise using dairy-free spread and a splash of soya milk along with the chocolate. I also added quite a bit of peppermint extract, to get a good minty flavour.

The cake had a unusual chewy texture, but tasted good with the mint-chocolate ganache smothered all over it! I think the cake would benefit from the addition of some margarine or oil, as I reckon this would make a softer textured cake (sorry Eric!)

Myself, Mr O and the children all enjoyed both the muffins and the cake. I'm not sure I'd make the cake again, but I'll definitely be making the muffins again soon. 

For more recipes and tips on baking and cupcake making, visit the Baking Mad website.

Integrity Statement
This is a sponsored post.

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