Monday, 30 April 2012

Pineapple, Cucumber and Sweetcorn Salsa

I'm not a big fan of the fresh tomatoes we get in the UK...even the vine ripened ones taste too tomatoey for my liking! I will eat those big, sweet juicy (and ugly) tomatoes you get abroad and can't get over here though....for some reason, our supermarkets won't sell ugly but great tasting fresh produce, but that's another story. 

Anyway, the reason I came up with this recipe was to find something to replace fresh tomatoes in a salsa. When I googled, I couldn't 
believe how many different salsa recipe there were, made up with all sorts of different fruits instead of tomatoes. I love fresh pineapple, so decided to go for a pineapple salsa and bung in various left over ingredients I had in the fridge.
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple, diced
  • ½ cup drained tinned sweetcorn (or fresh cooked sweetcorn)
  • ½ cup cucumber, diced
  • ½ small onion, diced finely
  • 1 tbsp picked jalapeño peppers, de-seeded and chopped
  • Fresh chopped coriander/cilantro leaves or flat leaf parsley to taste
  • Juice of half a lime
  • A dash or two of hot chilli sauce (optional)
Mix all of the ingredients together, adding hot chilli sauce and chopped herbs to taste.
Serve with veggie burgers/sausages, Mexican food, barbecued food or with tortilla chips for dipping. Pin It

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Vegetarian dining in Albufeira, Portugal

As always, I did a bit of foodie research before my recent trip to Portugal, to see what sort of choice we would have when eating out. I found a very helpful website called Algarve Uncovered which has loads of useful information including shopping tips and useful phrases for vegetarians and vegans.

As expected, on our first evening out, we found that meat and fish featured heavily on the Portuguese menus and traditional vegetarian dishes seemed non-existent, in the bustling tourist resort of Albufeira. The ubiquitous chicken piri piri seemed to be the most popular dish - it's a shame that vegetable or mushroom piri piri weren't available! 

Having said that, there were so many different cuisines on offer that vegetarians were fairly well catered for and vegans wouldn't go hungry. Vegetarian pizza and pasta seemed to be on many menus, but if you fancied something more exotic, you could find veggie options in the many Chinese, Indian, British and even Mexican restaurants in the area.

For our first meal out we thought we'd play it safe and try a restaurant with a decent veggie selection on its menu. The girls went for pizza, I ordered spaghetti with Algarve sauce (after checking that the sauce was 'safe'), and Mr O plumped for chicken piri piri, of course.

When my dish arrived, it looked decidedly meaty...yes, you guessed it, they'd put chicken in my pasta sauce! I sent it back, but was rather suspicious about the returning plate minus chicken! 
Needless to say we didn't leave a tip and didn't return there!

One restaurant that deserves a special mention is Eurasia, which is a mainly vegetarian/vegan buffet restaurant just off the main Albufeira strip.  For E6.50 you could choose from a wide range of starters, salads, main courses and a soup of the day. The menu seems to change daily and updates are posted on their Facebook page.  They also offer one meat and one fish dish each day, to attract the hardened carnivores; These dishes were kept separate and covered, so it really didn't have an impact on the veggie-vibe of the place!

The lady who runs the restaurant asked Miss Kahonie if she was vegetarian, and when she confirmed that she was, the lady told her that she would grow up to be more beautiful than the girls who eat meat! I thought that was really sweet, as the girls don't often hear positive comments about being veggie.

We definitely prefer Greece for the range of fresh vegetable-based veggie food available on almost every menu, but Albufeira, Portugal really wasn't too bad!
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Sunday, 22 April 2012

Green People's sun lotion - a review

I've just come back from a lovely week away with the family in Albufeira, Portugal. Not being one to miss an opportunity to thoroughly test any product I review, I took a tube of Green People's Organic Children  sun lotion to try out on my sensitive-skinned children, plus myself and the less sensitive Mr O!

Of course, all Green People products are vegetarian and not tested on animals and many of their products are also vegan (which is clearly marked), including a factor 15 vegan sun cream.

"Our natural sunscreens contain antioxidants and anti inflammatory ingredients with skin vitamins A, C and E (Green Tea, Olive, Avocado and Rosemary extract) to help support the skin's immune system and protect against cell damage." 
The SPF 25 sun lotion we tried out was unscented, as Miss Ony has been known to come out in a nasty all-over skin rash when she uses scented sun creams and the eczema-prone Miss Kahonie says that most sun creams (even unscented ones) make her face sting. The Green People lotion was thick, rich and easy to apply, although it did take more rubbing in than a spray-on sun lotion would; It felt very moisturising too.

© Albufeira old town beach
I'd normally buy a factor 50 cream if we were going abroad in the summer, but thought that a factor 25 would be fine for this time of year in the Algarve or on a rare sunny British summer day. Interestingly though, Green People say that the frequency of application is more important that the factor you use:
"SPF25 sunscreen offers 96% protection from rays while SPF50 offers 98%. SPF 30 sun lotions do not offer twice the protection of SP15. Applied properly , SP15 filters out 93% of UVB rays, while SPF 30 filters out 97%. Even the highest SPF100 offers 99% protection against UVB rays. It is far more important to apply sun lotions regularly and liberally."
The cream protected us all well, even on hot sunny days (with several applications) and neither of the girls suffered any reaction to it. Miss Kahonie's dry skin actually looked better after using the cream for a few days.

At £15.95 for a 150ml tube, the cream is not cheap, but worth the money if you can't use cheaper lotions. As we generally go through 4-5 bottles of sun lotion between us on a summer 2 week holiday in the sun,  I reckon that buying a tube of Green People for us all to use on our faces and then getting a cheaper store's-own unscented product to use on our bodies is a good compromise between cost and sensitivity!

Green People stock a wide variety of skin, body and hair care products, which can all be purchased from their
online shop

Integrity Statement
I received a 150ml tube of Green People children's sun lotion to review. I did not receive payment, and the views expressed are genuinely those of myself and my family.  Pin It

Friday, 13 April 2012

Pesto and Antipasti Puff Pastry Tart

You know what it's like when you're due to go food shopping and you've hardly got any fresh ingredients in, but you have a few bits and bobs in the fridge that need using up?  Well that how this tart recipe came about; I had some pesto, half a jar of antipasti, a few olives and some cheese left in the fridge, plus a pack of puff pastry in the freezer. I bunged them all together and came up with this tart!

If you had to go out and buy all the ingredients I used, it would work out quite expensive, so just add whatever needs using up for a cheaper version. If you use fresh vegetables (courgette, peppers, aubergine, mushrooms etc), they need to be lightly pre-cooked to stop the pastry going soggy!

Serves 4-6

  • 1 sheet ready rolled puff pastry
  • 3 tbsps (about half a small jar) vegetarian red or green pesto
  • A handful of olives, sliced
  • Half a jar of vegetable antipasti, drained and chopped (or about 100g/4oz of cooked vegetables)
  • 1 tbsp jalapeño peppers, chopped (optional)
  • Fresh chopped basil
  • 125g/5oz fresh mozzarella, diced or sliced
Pre-heat the oven to 220C/200C Fan/Gas7
Place the pastry on a greased baking sheet.
Score a margin around the pastry, (with a sharp knife) about 2cm in from the edge.
Spread the pesto on the pastry up to the margin.
Top with all the remaining ingredients, finishing with the cheese.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the pastry has puffed up and the cheese is golden brown.

Serve with salad and new potatoes.

 Make individual tarts by cutting the pastry into 4 or 6 pieces before topping.
Vegan option: Use vegan pastry, sun-dried tomato paste/vegan pesto and a dairy-free melting cheese.

For more vegetarian antipasto recipes pop on over to Tinned Tomatoes.
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Saturday, 7 April 2012

Simnel Cake

I know it's a bit late to post a Simnel Cake recipe, but I didn't have time to make it any earlier. This might not be a traditionally decorated cake in the Christian sense, but as my family doesn't celebrate Easter as such, Miss Ony and I made a welcoming in the spring cake instead! She decorated the cake with her own design, which I think looks lovely, and suitably seasonal.
  • 150g/6oz softened butter or margarine
  • 150g/6oz soft brown sugar
  • 3 medium eggs, beaten
  • 150g/6oz plain flour
  • ½ tsp each of cinnamon and ground mixed spice 
  • 400g/1 lb mixed  dried fruits (eg: raisins, currants, sultanas, glacé cherries and mixed peel)
  • 4 tbsp amaretto or your choice of spirit or liqueur 
  • zest of ½ lemon
  • 1 block of marzipan
Soak the dried fruit in the spirit/liqueur for 2-3 hours or over night.

Preheat the oven to 160C/150C fan/Gas 3
Roll out the marzipan (on a board sprinkled with icing sugar) and cut 2x7" circles using the cake tin as a cutter/template.
Grease and line a 7" round cake tin.

Cream the butter and sugar.
Add all of the remaining ingredients (except the marzipan, of course) and the soaked, dried fruits and mix well.
Spoon half of the mixture into the cake tin.

Place the marzipan onto the cake mixture and press down.
Top with the remaining cake mixture and smooth with the back of a spoon.
Bake for around 1½ hours, or until firm to the touch and brown on top.

Cool in the tin for an hour, then turn out onto a wire rack until cold.
Brush the top of the cake with a little warmed apricot jam or golden syrup.
Place the remaining circle of marzipan on top of the cake and press down.  At this point, or when the cake is fully decorated, you may wish to brown the marzipan under a hot grill/broiller (or use a blow torch as I did).

Get the kids to roll the left over scraps of marzipan either into 11 balls (for a traditional cake) or cut out whatever spring symbols you like (flowers, bunnies, chicks etc). Stick these to the top of the cake with a little water.
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Friday, 6 April 2012

Aubergine/Eggplant and Cheese Bake

Unlike traditional melanzane parmigiana, my aubergine bake doesn't contain Parmesan, although you could use some vegetarian Parmesan-style cheese if you wanted to. I don't salt my aubergines (life's too short to salt an aubergine!), and I only fry them in a little oil  -  well, a little compared to some traditional recipes! The secret to this dish is to cook the aubergines until they are soft, before baking them.

This dish can be prepared in advance and 
chilled over night, so it's great for dinner parties and special occasion meals.
  • 2 large aubergines, sliced into 1cm circles
  • 1 quantity of tomato sauce, made with 1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley and an added pinch of cinnamon - or a jar of good quality ready-made sauce.
  • 100-200g feta/hard goats cheese/mozzarella/vegan melting cheese, sliced or grated
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/170C Fan/Gas 4.

Heat a large non-stick frying pan and add 1 tbsp olive oil.

Fry the aubergine slices in batches until golden brown and soft, adding a little more oil to each batch. You can tell when they're done, by pressing down on the aubergine with a spoon or spatula; When they release their juices, they're cooked.

Spoon 1 tbsp of the tomato sauce into the base of each of 4 ramekins and top with a couple of slices of aubergine. Continue layering the sauce and aubergine, until you have either used up all the aubergine or almost run out of space! 

Top with the cheese and a sprinkling of dried oregano.

Put a lid or piece of foil over each ramekin and place on a baking tray.

Bake for 30 minutes, then uncover. Bake for a further 10-15 minutes to allow the cheese to brown a little, and for the sauce to thicken.

 from the oven and allow to stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.
Serve with pasta or salad and garlic bread.

Suitable for freezing.

You could make this in one big dish instead of individual ramekins, but I find it's quite difficult to serve if you want to keep it looking nice!
Add a combination of vegetables if you want to. Courgette/zucchini, potato and sweet potato work well with the aubergine. Fry these off in batches as before.

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