Sunday, 22 December 2013

Carrot, Parsnip and Nut Roast (Vegan)

carrot parsnip and nut roast in a loaf tin
Here's this year's twist on my traditional Christmas nut roast recipeAs I've seen so many mentions of Delia's Parsnip Roulade this year, I added parsnip, sage and carrot to make a moist and tasty vegan loaf. It takes about 10 minutes to prepare and is very economical - it cost me around £3 to make. 

Serve with all the traditional roast dinner trimmings plus a vegetarian gravy

n.b. I made this loaf yesterday and have frozen it uncooked to defrost and reheat for Christmas dinner (see picture). Once cooked it should be golden brown in colour. 

Serves 4
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and grated
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small parsnip, peeled, cored and grated
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and grated
  • 175g/7oz mixed nuts (I used a mixture of Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, walnuts and hazelnuts - no peanuts), ground in a food processor
  • 2 slices of wholemeal bread, made into breadcrumbs
  • 150ml (approx) vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh herbs (I used sage and parsley)
Gently fry the onion in 1 tbsp olive oil, until soft. Then add the carrot and parsnip. 
Cook for 5 minutes on a medium heat, until softened, stirring regularly.
Stir in the nuts and breadcrumbs and mix well.
Add the herbs and season to taste.
Add enough stock to make a firm but not dry mixture. Add more breadcrumbs or stock if needed.
Tip mixture into a greased and lined loaf tin and press down with the back of a spoon.
Cover tin with foil  and bake for 40 mins at 180C/170C Fan/350F/Gas 4.
Uncover for the last 10-15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before turning out and slicing. 

vegetarian Christmas dinner with nut roast
Refrigerate any left overs and use cold in sandwiches or as a pate.

Suitable for freezing before or after cooking.

Alternative: To make the loaf go further, simply make up an 225g/8oz pack of your preferred vegetarian stuffing mix. Press half of the nut roast mixture into the loaf tin and then spread the stuffing mixture on top. Cover with the remaining nut roast and press down firmly with the back of a spoon. Bake as above, but for an extra 10 minutes.
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Friday, 13 December 2013

Champagne Cocktails

a glass of Champagne cocktail
Here are three easy-to-make (and easy to drink!) Champagne cocktails that Mr O and I enjoy for special occasions such as Christmas. They can all be made with Cava or any other dry sparkling wine for a cheaper alternative.

Classic Champagne Cocktail 
Serves approx 16 people 

This is family favourite cocktail, which has been passed down to me by my dad. The recipe was a closely guarded secret, until recently, but I persuaded him to let me have the recipe and share it on my blog. It tastes delicious and is easy to drink too much of
  • 1 part/100ml/ ⅓ cup Cognac or Brandy (the cheap stuff is fine!) 
  • 3 parts/300ml/1 cup Cointreau/Triple Sec or any other orange liqueur 
  • 6 parts/600ml/2 cups good quality orange juice
  • Angostura Bitters (optional)
  • Chilled Champagne/Cava 
I serve this when entertaining friends and family, so I make the base up in advance with the brandy, orange liqueur, orange juice and around 10 shakes of bitters in a litre jug - this makes enough for around 16 glasses, using 2 bottles of Champagne/Cava). If you want to make an individual cocktail, use a desert-spoon (10ml) for each part/measure. 

Make the base mixture up and stir well
Pour ⅓ of a glass each. 
Top up each glass with Champagne and enjoy!

Alternatives: The base itself also makes a delicious cocktail served on the rocks.
Try a Granita Champagne Cocktail  in the summer - make the base up as before and freeze in a plastic tub over night (it won't set hard due to the alcohol content). Break up roughly with a fork and fill ½ a Champagne glass each. 
Top up with very well chilled Champagne or Cava.

Bucks Fizz:
  • Chilled Champagne/Cava 
  • Good quality orange juice 
Pour ⅓ to ½ of a glass of orange juice into a Champagne glass, top up with Champagne.
Non alcoholic/virgin version: Mix lemonade/sparkling water & good quality orange juice.

Kir Royale

  • Creme de Cassis (blackcurrant liqueur -  use any other berry liqueur as an alternative)) 
  • Chilled Champagne/Cava 
Pour 1 tbsp of Cassis into the bottom of a Champagne glass. Top up with chilled Champagne and serve.
Non alcoholic/virgin version: Mix lemonade/sparkling water & high-juice blackcurrant cordial.

How to open and pour Champagne
These tips may seem obvious, however I thought they were worth mentioning for those who rarely drink sparkling wines...
  • Make sure that the sparkling wine has been chilled for at least a few hours before opening. 
  • Carefully remove the foil and wire cage, without shaking the bottle.
  • Place a clean tea towel over the bottle. 
  • Grip the bottle under the cloth with one hand, whilst gently twisting and lifting the cork with the other hand over the cloth, until the cork pops. 
  • Leave for a minute before pouring to allow the bubbles to subside.
  • Tip the glass at a slight angle and pour the bottle slowly, to avoid any spillage!
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Monday, 9 December 2013

Roasted Vegetable and Feta Filo Spiral

roasted vegetable and filo spiral
This tasty filo pie would be ideal for a vegetarian Christmas dinner, as it can be made in advance and reheated on the day and looks quite impressive. It's also tasty cold, if there are any leftovers.

I adapted the recipe from The Greek Vegetarian by Diane Kochilas. The original dish is called Striftopita and is made with pumpkin and seasoned with  mint. My version has a more British flavour as I've added mushrooms and sage, so that it will go with the accompaniments for a traditional roast dinner.

I recently made this dish for a dinner party. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo after I'd baked it the first time (I blame the wine!) so it looks rather anaemic in my photo below. As you can see from my second attempt, it looks much better once baked!

Serves 4-6
  • ½ butternut squash, peeled and cubed (approx 450g/1lb in weight before peeling)
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed  (approx 450/1lb in weight before peeling)
  • 100g/4oz chestnut mushrooms, diced
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 tsp fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 100g/4oz feta, crumbled
  • 4 tbsp fine bulgur wheat
  • black pepper to season
  • 1 pack of filo pastry
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
Preheat the oven to 190C/180C Fan/Gas 5/375F.
Drizzle the squash and sweet potato with 2 tbsp olive oil and roast for around 25-30 minutes, turning once or twice, until soft and lightly browned.
Meanwhile, sweat the chopped onion in a pan, with a drop of oil, until soft.
Add the sage and mushrooms to the onion pan and cook for a further 5 minutes. 
Remove the roasted vegetables from the oven and mash the mixture lightly to break up the lumps slightly.
Crumble in the feta, add the bulgur wheat and onion/mushroom mixture and stir well to combine.
Season with black pepper. 

To construct the spiral (see photo, starting bottom left corner)

Lie one sheet of filo pastry horizontally on a large board. Brush with a little oil and fold in half lengthwise.
Spoon 3-4 tbsp of the vegetable mixture in a line along the centre of the pastry to form a rough sausage shape, leaving a 5cm/2" gap at each end.
Brush the 2 long edges of the filo with olive oil.
Fold in the two short edges.
Roll up from one long edge to the other (like a long, thin burrito!) to form a cylindrical roll.
Place the first cylinder around the edge of a greased baking dish. Repeat, placing each roll next to the previous one to form a spiral. Brush with olive oil.
The pie can be covered and refrigerated at the point and cooked the next day.

Bake for 45-60 minutes until golden brown and crisp.
Either serve one roll per person, or cut a wedge-shaped slice each.

Alternatives: Swap the feta for any other white, crumbly cheese such as Cheshire or Wensleydale, if preferred. Vary the vegetables used - for my second attempt, I used fried aubergine and roasted courgette and bell peppers.
You could also roll the stuffing mixture in puff pastry to make vegetarian sausage rolls or use to fill cannelloni.
For a vegan version, omit the feta cheese and replace with toasted pine nuts or chopped walnuts.

Find an amazing range of fantastic veggie Christmas dishes at .
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Friday, 6 December 2013

Iced Cinnamon Rolls

cinnamon rolls
We loved eating cinnamon rolls/buns when we were on holiday in America and I've tried to recreate the recipe with varying degrees of success ever since. I'm sure this recipe contains significantly less butter and sugar than the ones we ate in the US, but are my best version yet and taste delicious warm. 

These would be ideal served for Christmas breakfast.

Makes 12

For the dough
  • 3 cups strong plain bread flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • milk
  • 1 oz/25g butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 1 sachet fast action dried yeast
  • ½ tsp salt
For the filling
  • 2 rounded tsp ground cinnamon (add more or less to taste)
  • 2 oz/50g softened butter
  • 2 oz/50g soft brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cornflour/corn starch
For the icing
  • 4oz/100g icing sugar
  • boiling water
Crack the egg into a measuring jug/cup. Top up to the 1 cup mark with milk.
Add all of the dough ingredients to the bread maker pan.
Set on the dough setting and leave to run. 
If you don't have a bread maker, mix the ingredients together in a large bowl and knead for 5 minutes until you have a soft, but not sticky dough. Cover the bowl and leave in a warm place for 1 hour.
When it has finished proving, tip the dough onto a large board covered with cling-film (don't add any extra flour, the clingfilm will stop it sticking to the board.)
Roll out into a large rectangle.

Mix the filling ingredients together and spread over the dough.
Roll the dough lengthwise, as tightly as you can (like a Swiss roll).
Making sure the dough roll is seam-side down on the board, cut into 1"/2.5cm slices using a sharp knife.
Place the rolls on a greased baking sheet, s
paced about 1"/2.5cm apart.
Cover loosely with cling-film and allow to rise for a further 30-45 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200C/190C Fan/Gas 6 .

Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a couple of minutes, before moving to a wire rack.

Mix the icing sugar with enough boiling water to make a runny glacé icing.
Spoon, brush or drizzle over the cinnamon rolls while still hot.
images showing how to make cinnamon rolls in stages

Vegan alternative: For the bread dough, use 1 cup of sweetened almond milk and omit the egg.  Use dairy-free spread instead of butter. Replace the egg with 1oz/25g of ground almonds plus an extra 1 tbsp of dairy-free spread.
For the filling use dairy-free spread instead of butter. 

Suitable for freezing. Defrost and reheat for about 30 seconds in the microwave on a medium setting.
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Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Barber’s 1833 Vintage Reserve Cheddar - a review plus a recipe for Mini Cheese Soufflés

 Barber's 1833
You may have noticed my penchant for good cheese in some of my other posts, so when Barber's (the people who make the award winning 1833 Vintage Reserve Cheddar) invited me to come along and taste their products at the BBC Good Food Show Live (Winter), I jumped at the chance.

The Barber family have been farming and making cheese at Maryland Farm in Ditcheat, Somerset (near Cheddar) for six generations, since 1833, hence the name of the cheese! Of course, all their cheeses are suitable for vegetarians, but what makes Barber's 1833 different from other Cheddars, is that it's still made from traditional liquid starter cultures rather than dried cultures which most other cheese makers now use. This allows the cheese to develop its unique taste as it matures over a two year period. Apart from Cheddar, Barber's also produce a range of British regional cheeses and butter under the Maryland Farm brand.

Miss Ony came along with me to the show and we were both
very excited to be shown into the press area and be given press passes (even if they did spell her name wrong!). Once in the arena, we headed down to the Barber's stall and met the very welcoming and enthusiastic Giles and Charlie Barber who told us lots about their company, their cheeses and cheese making in general. We then got to taste the cheese. I must admit that I'm already a fan of extra mature/vintage Cheddar, so I didn't take much convincing...but the Barber's 1833 did have that wonderful sweetness combined with creaminess and a strong, full-bodied Cheddar flavour that I love.

We were also shown around the World Cheese Awards area and have never seen so many weird and wonderful cheeses before! Barber's 1833 won a gold award in the Farmhouse Cheddar category this year, which is impressive once you've seen number of cheeses in competition with it.
images from the BBC Good Food ShowAfter having a wander through the show arena, trying out a number of food and drink samples, and purchasing a few Christmas gifts, we headed back to the Barber's stall to pick up our goody bag full of ingredients to make twice baked mini Cheddar soufflés*


  • 225ml/8fl oz milk
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 40g/1½oz butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 40g/1½oz plain flour
  • 125g/4½oz Barber’s 1833 Vintage Reserve Cheddar,
  • grated plus 2 tbsp for sprinkling
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1 tbsp chopped chives
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 150ml/5fl oz double cream
  • Salad leaves, to garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4. Butter 6 individual pudding basins or ramekins.
  2. Place the milk, shallot, bay leaf and peppercorns in a saucepan and bring slowly to the boil. Strain into a jug. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and cook, stirring for 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually stir in the milk. Simmer gently for 2-3 minutes. Add the cheese and stir until melted. Stir in the egg yolks, chives, salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.
  3. Whisk the egg whites until holding soft peaks then fold into the cheese mixture. Divide between the prepared ramekins. Stand the dishes in a roasting tin and pour in boiling water to come two thirds up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 15-20 minutes until well risen and firm. Leave to cool.
  4. When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6. Run a knife round the sides of the ramekins and turn the soufflés out into an ovenproof dish. Pour over the cream, sprinkle with grated cheese and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden. Serve with salad leaves.

a mini twice baked cheese souffle served with salad and chutney
I've never made a soufflé before, so I followed the recipe to the letter. They worked perfectly and tasted delicious. As they can be make the day before eating and reheated, they would make an ideal starter for Christmas dinner or for a dinner party. 

Barber's 1833 is available online, from the deli counters in good farm shops, and selected Sainsbury's, Waitrose & Morrison's stores.

*Recipe and pack image reproduced with kind permission from Barber's 1833.
Integrity Statement
I received complimentary tickets to the Good Food Show and the ingredients to make the souffles. I did not receive payment, and the views expressed are genuinely those of myself and my family.

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Sunday, 1 December 2013

Three Festive Gravies for a Vegetarian Christmas Dinner

I was asked by one of my Facebook followers to post some gravy recipes suitable for Christmas dinner, so I've come up with three different variations which should suit various vegetarian and vegan options such as nut roast, mushroom Wellington or a meat-free roast turkey substitute e.g. Quorn roast.

Port and Cranberry Gravy
This is a rich, sweet gravy, best served with a robust, savoury dish such as nut roast.
  • 2 rounded tsp original Bisto powder (or any other vegetarian gravy powder/granules)
  • 120ml/½ cup port
  • 2-4 tbsp cranberry jelly (depending on how sweet you like your gravy)
  • 350ml/1½ cup hot vegetable stock or vegetable cooking water
Mix the Bisto with a little cold water, in a pan.
Add the port and cranberry jelly and mix well.
Add the hot, but not boiling vegetable stock (or water that you have boiled the vegetables in).
Bring to the boil stirring occasionally, until the jelly has melted and the sauce has thickened.
Simmer for 5 minutes to reduce the alcohol content!
Add a little more water/stock if you prefer a thinner gravy.

Creamy Mushroom & Tarragon Sauce
This herb-infused, creamy sauce goes well with meat substitutes and is a tasty alternative to a traditional brown gravy. Omit the cream or swap for dairy-free cream for a vegan option.
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 shallots, finely sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 100g/4oz button mushrooms, finely sliced
  • 150ml/  cup dry white wine 
  • 300ml/1⅓ cups vegetable stock or vegetable cooking water
  • 1 level tbsp corn flour/corn starch
  • 1 tbsp fresh tarragon leaves, finely chopped
  • 5tbsp/100ml double cream (optional)
Heat the oil in a pan. 
Add the shallots and garlic and saute for a few minutes on a medium heat, until soft, but not coloured.
Add the wine and simmer for a couple of minutes - strain through a sieve and retain liquid.
Add the mushrooms and tarragon to the pan and cook gently until most of the moisture has evaporated. 
Remove from the heat.
Season with a little black pepper and stir in the corn flour.
Add the stock and wine slowly to the pan, stirring well and making sure there are no lumps.
Return to the heat and bring to a simmer, stirring regularly, so that the gravy thickens..
Before serving, remove from the heat and stir in the cream, if using.

Cider Gravy
This tasty gravy would go well with savoury pies, mushroom Wellington or anything containing sweeter vegetables such as squash or sweet potato.
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion finely sliced
  • 1 stick celery, finely sliced
  • 1 level tbsp cornflour/cornstarch
  • 225ml/1 cup dry/hard cider
  • 225ml/1 cup stock made with boiling water and 1 veggie stock cube
  • 1 tsp fresh sage, finely chopped
  • Black pepper
Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a pan. 
Add the onion, sage and celery and saute for a few minutes until soft. 
Remove from the heat and stir in the cornflour.
Slowly stir in the cider and stock, making sure there are no lumps.
Season with a little black pepper.
Return to the heat and bring to a simmer, stirring regularly, so that the gravy thickens.
Serve as it is, or blend or strain before serving if you prefer a smooth gravy.

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