Saturday, 22 December 2012

Mini Halloumi Tarts

mini halloumi tarts in a mini muffin pan
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Here's my next Christmas canapé recipe. These little halloumi tarts can be baked in advance and frozen until needed. Defrost for a couple of hours then warm up before eating...et voilà!

Makes approx 24 mini tarts.
  • 8oz/200g halloumi cheese grated
  • 4 fl oz/100ml Greek yogurt
  • 1 medium egg
  • ½ tsp dried oregano plus 1 tsp chopped, fresh dill 
  • 10oz/250g (½ pack) ready-made shortcrust pastry
Preheat the oven to 190C/180C Fan/Gas 5/375F.
Mix the grated halloumi with the yogurt, egg and herbs.
Roll out the pastry on a floured board, to around the thickness of a one pound coin (about 3-4 mm or a 16th of an inch).
Lightly grease a 24 hole mini muffin pan.
Cut out 24x3.5"/9 cm circles...you may need to re-roll the pastry scraps for the final few!
Pop the pastry circles into the pan and press down (I used the end of my rolling pin for this, but you can buy this nifty little gadget from Amazon which is purpose made for the job!)
Generously fill each pastry case with the cheese mixture. 
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from the pan. Serve straight away or cool and freeze until needed.

Top tip: Grate the halloumi with a food processor or use a hand grater and chop up any bits that don't make it through the grater!
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Mini Courgette and Potato Quiches

mini quiches
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I'm in the midst of baking canapés for Christmas, so I thought I'd share a couple of recipes with you. These little vegetarian quiches can be baked in advance and frozen until needed. Defrost for a couple of hours then warm up before eating...simples!

Makes approx 24 mini quiches.
  • 4oz/100g potato, peeled and grated
  • 4oz/100g courgette (zucchini), grated
  • 1 medium onion, diced finely
  • 4 fl oz/100ml double cream
  • 1 medium egg
  • 2oz/50g vegetarian Parmesan cheese or mature cheddar, grated
  • 1 tsp chopped. fresh basil or parsley
  • black pepper and nutmeg to season 
  • 10oz/250g (½ pack) ready-made shortcrust pastry
Preheat the oven to 190C/180C Fan/Gas 5/375F.
Heat a drop of olive oil in a frying pan and fry the onions for a few minutes until softened.
Add the grated vegetables, herbs and seasonings and cook on a low heat for around 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Beat the egg and cream together in a jug.
Stir the grated cheese into the cooked vegetables.

Roll out the pastry on a floured board, to around the thickness of a one pound coin (about 3-4 mm or a 16th of an inch).
Lightly grease a 24 hole mini muffin pan.
Cut out 24x3.5"/9 cm circles...you may need to re-roll the pastry scraps for the final few!
Pop the pastry circles into the pan and press down (I used the end of my rolling pin for this, but you can buy this nifty little gadget from Amazon which is purpose made for the job!)

Add a teaspoonful of the vegetable mixture to each pastry case and top up with the egg and cream mixture. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from the pan. Serve straight away or cool and freeze until needed.

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Monday, 17 December 2012

Quick and Easy, Food Processor Marmalade

jars of home made lemon marmalade
© 
I often make pickles and chutneys, but up until now I hadn't attempted home made marmalade, mainly  because I thought it would be a messy and time consuming process. However, I thought it would make a nice addition to the home made hamper gifts which I am planning to give to some of my close friends and family for Christmas, so I dusted off my mum's old recipe and had a go. 

Now, this recipe isn't a fancy one which requires you to slice the peel into slithers, so it doesn't look quite as pretty as some preserves. But it tastes great and that's the main thing! 
It's actually surprisingly easy to make, only takes about an hour and costs around £3.50 to fill 3 x 1lb/450g jars. Use smaller jars to make more presents!
  • 1lb/450g unwaxed lemons (or any combination of lemons, limes, Seville oranges or grapefruit)
  • 2lb/900g preserving sugar
  • 1½ pts/845ml/3½ cups boiled water
Wash the lemons. Cut in half and juice into a bowl. Strain the juice to remove the pips.
Cut the lemon skins in half again (picture 1).

Put the lemons, juice and ½ pint/275 ml/1cup of the water into your liquidiser jug/food processor and pulse to chop up the fruit. Do not purée until smooth - you want to be able to see small chunks of peel.
Pour into a large pan and add the remaining water. Simmer for around 45 minutes, or until the peel has softened and the liquid has reduced by about half (picture 2).
4 pictures showing the stages of making marmalade
Add the sugar and stir on a low heat until dissolved. Then bring to the boil and boil for 10-20 minutes or until setting point. You can check the setting point by putting a teaspoonful of the marmalade onto a cold plate. Allow to cool for a few minutes and then push it with your finger. If it wrinkles and looks a bit jellified, it's ready (picture 3)! 

Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Stir and then pour (carefully!!) into sterilised* jam jars. I used a nifty jam funnel, which I recently bought from Lakeland, but you could use a sterilised jug instead (picture 4).

Add a wax disk to the top of each jar and then seal with the lids. Re-tighten the lids as the jars cool. Store unopened jars in a cool dark cupboard for upto a year.

Just in case you're worried that I might spend Christmas in jail after breaking the new EU jam jar law, here's the technical bit from food.gov.uk!
There have also been recent reports in the media claiming that the FSA / EU had banned the re-use of jam jars and that this would adversely impact on charities and voluntary events. This is incorrect. An individual can reuse jam jars for occasional events. In doing so, they obviously need to ensure proper sterilisation and good hygiene in preparation. 
*Sterilise jars by washing on a hot wash in the dishwasher, or by putting clean jars and lids in a cool (110C/Gas ½) oven for 5 minutes.

I have entered this post into this month's festive NCR (if I'm not too late!)
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Thursday, 13 December 2012

Vegetarian Christmas on a budget

Well, it's less than two weeks until the big day, so you've probably bought and wrapped your pressies and ordered your food shopping. Or if you're like me...maybe not! If money is tight this year, I've got a few hints and tips to help you save money before and after Christmas without scrimping too much...

Gifts and decorations
Good, old fashioned paper chains and snow flakes are fun to make with the kids, look pretty in a fashionable, vintage way and cost next to nothing. Older children can make some beautiful felt decorations, which are pretty enough to give away as gifts. Cinnamon and apple sauce decorations are also lovely to make and smell gorgeous.

Make cards for your nearest and dearest, such as these pretty teabag folded Christmas tree cards, instead of buying them, using cheap card and paper from pound stores.

If you can't afford to buy presents for anyone other than close family and friends, but would like to give others a 'little something', make some home made hamper treats. Wrap in cellophane or cover jam jar lids with pretty material, and the gifts will look far more expensive than they really are. Fill cheap, pretty mugs with home made truffles or pound store stationary and wrap in cellophane for another budget friendly gift

Christmas Dinner
Whether you're vegetarian, vegan or just thinking about cooking a veggie Christmas dinner, you're already well on your way to saving a packet. According to The Guardian, the average price for a UK family Christmas dinner is a whopping £129.47 (a huge 14% increase on last year!). Of that, the turkey costs around £17. Swap the turkey for a nut roast and you save instantly! Smoked salmon is also very expensive this year, so swap that for goat's cheese tarts, or maybe a vegetarian pate with Melba toast and the savings start to mount.

Make a meal plan for the whole of Christmas week so you know what to buy in and so you don't waste money on things you really don't need. Think about breakfasts and lunches, snacks and puddings, as well as main meals.

Do your grocery shopping online through My Supermarket which automatically finds the cheapest store for you to shop with, depending on which items you need. Then send your trolley to your preferred retailer and book your Christmas week slot ASAP. You can always amend the items you need before your shopping is delivered, but try not to be tempted by too many 'special offers'. Alternatively, try Aldi, which is usually cheaper than the major supermarkets, although their vegetarian chilled and frozen food ranges are limited. You might also like to check out Approved Food for end-of-line and out-of-date products which often includes premium brands and some luxury foods well below RRP.

Although supermarket 3 for £5 deals sound good value, when you realise how many canapes you can make with a pack of puff pastry, a bit of cheese and a few vegetables, you might think again. So, m
ake some of your buffet foods for Christmas and New Year in advance and freeze until needed. Make your own dips on the day too/night before...they're really easy, so even the kids can help.

Left overs
Don't through away Christmas dinner leftovers. 
Save all of your left over Christmas dinner vegetables (including roast potatoes,parsnips, sprouts etc.) and gravy in air tight container and pop in the fridge or freezer until needed. Fry a chopped leek or onion in a little oil, then add the diced, left over cooked and raw vegetables and some extra stock (I use 1 litre of stock in a soup to feed 4 people) and simmer for around 20 minutes, then blend to make a delicious soup. 

Sliced, cold nut roast tastes great on Boxing Day with salads, a batch of home made chips (fries) and pickles. You can also use it up as a pate in sandwiches or on crackers if you're peckish later on!

Food between Christmas and New Year
After you've used up all the Christmas left overs, go super-budget and use store cupboard standbys for a few days. That way, you should be able to afford to put on a good spread for New Year's Eve/New Year's Day without blowing the budget.

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

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PKTMNY: A new way to manage your children's pocket money

Money has been a bone of contention in the Onykahonie house lately...mainly regarding a certain 14 year old  fashion-enthusiast with shopaholic tendencies and a busy social life! So when I spotted the opportunity to test out a new website, which allow parents to set up an account for their children and manage their pocket money online, I thought it would be well worth trying. 

PKTMNY is aimed at children aged 8 to 16 years old and allows them to keep track of their savings and manage their own money, rather like online banking. The children even get a real Visa card which they can use both online and in the high street. 

After setting up an account each for Miss Ony and Miss Kahonie, I deposited an initial cash sum for each child, added a set amount of pocket money to be added automatically each week and then decided on some specific chores with 'wages' that they could earn in addition to their basic weekly pocket money, e.g. £2 for cleaning their bedrooms and changing their sheets once a week. I then discussed this with the girls, so they were aware of just how to earn extra money and save for specific targets. There is fee for the service (£5 to join and a monthly £1 fee), but if it means that I'm not constantly handing over cash to my girls, this may well be worth the price, and could even save me money in the long term!

Having this in black and white seems much more of an incentive than just a verbal agreement as they can now do their chores and see the money go straight into their accounts.

I'm hoping that PKTMNY will encourage both girls to earn and manage their own money and stop asking for quite so many 'handouts'. I'll post again in the new year, with an update on whether this has worked or not!


Sponsored post: This post is part of a project with BritMums, sponsored by PKTMNY, highlighting it's launch. The new tool allows parents to easily pay and monitor their children's pocket money online, whilst allowing their children to earn, save, spend and manage their money in a totally safe and fun way. We have been trialling the service and all thoughts and opinions are our own.

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Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Savoury Puff Pastry Tartlets

©
I'm testing out a few Christmas buffet and canapé recipes at the moment. These little bite-sized tartlets can be filled with your choice of vegetarian or vegan fillings. I have added a few suggestions below, but you can use pretty much anything you fancy.
  • 1 block of ready-made puff pastry
  • Your choice of fillings
Grease a tartlet/mini muffin/bun tin and preheat the oven to 220C/200C Fan/425F/Gas7.
Roll out the puff pastry until it is fairly thin. Using a cutter just bigger than the top of your tartlet or bun tin (holes wells indents...what do you call them?), cut out circles of the pastry, as close together as possible, so that you don't waste too much pastry. 
Pop the pastry circles into your tin and press down in the centre to make space for the fillings.
Fill and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until well risen and golden brown. Only add a little filling to each tartlet as the pastry will rise quite a lot. 
When cooked, remove from the tin and serve hot or warm.

I filled mine with 3 different combinations:
  • Greek (pictured left) - chopped olives, roasted red pepper and sundried tomatoes. Top with a little feta cheese and a sprinkle of dried oregano.
  • Roasted piri piri vegetables (pictured centre - vegan) - finely chop some bell pepper, courgette, mushroom and onion and fry in a drop of olive oil for around 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in 2 tbsp piri piri sauce. 
  • Roasted squash and goat's cheese (pictured right) - cube the squash and roast with some ground fennel seeds for about 15 minutes. Top with a little goat's cheese.
Suitable for freezing

If you wish to make these in advance, slightly under-cook them (so the pastry is firm but still pale). Cool and freeze. Defrost and reheat at 180C/170C Fan/350F/Gas4 for around 5 minutes.

Other ideas include: chopped tomato, basil & mozzarella, blue cheese & mushroom, roasted vegetables & pesto, garlic mushrooms, refried beans and salsa etc. Just remember to cook raw vegetables lightly first, to remove some of their juices, otherwise your tartlets will have soggy bottoms!
If you want to make mini quiches or add sweet fillings (including chutneys), use shortcrust pastry instead, as puff pastry will not hold these fillings well. 
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Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Oaty Florentines

Oaty Florentines
I had some crunchy oat cereal to use up, so I thought I'd experiment with it, to make a budget version of Florentines. I also made a dairy-free version, as I wouldn't want my vegan friends to miss out on such a tasty Christmas treat! This recipe can also be made nut-free if needed, depending on which cereal you use.

Make these a few days before Christmas to add to your home made hamper, or wrap in cellophane as gifts for friends, family or teachers. 
  • 1 ½ cups of crunchy oat cereal/granola, crushed with a rolling pin if needed 
  • ½ cup chopped dried fruit and/or nuts
  • 4oz/100g soft brown sugar
  • 4oz/100g butter/dairy-free spread
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 8-10 glace cherries, chopped
  • 4 tbsp double cream (substitute for golden syrup/maple syrup for vegan option)
  • 8oz/200g chocolate/dairy-free chocolate
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/170C Fan/ Gas4/350F.

Melt the butter and sugar together in a saucepan on a low heat.
Remove from the heat and stir in the cream or syrup.
Mix in the flour and stir until you have a smooth mixture.
Add all of the remaining ingredients and mix well. Add a little more cereal if the mixture seems too runny.  

Place small spoonfuls of the mixture on greaseproof/parchment paper on a baking tray. Space well apart (5 or 6 per tray) as they WILL SPREAD!
Bake for 7-8 minutes, then remove from the oven.
Using a palette knife, gently neaten up the shape of the Florentines, by pushing the edges in a little, to make them round. 
Return to the oven for a further 1-2 minutes, until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to harden for about 5 minutes, before removing from the tray and cooling completely on a wire rack.

When cold, melt the chocolate in the microwave or in a bowl oven a pan of boiling water.
Spread a teaspoonful of melted chocolate onto the back of each Florentine and allow to set for around 10 minutes. Before it has completely set, make wavy lines in the chocolate using the back of a fork.

Not suitable for freezing. Will keep for up to a week in an airtight container. 

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