Thursday, 18 December 2014

Dutch Apple Tart (Appeltaart)

Dutch Apple Tart
I first tried appeltaart in Holland earlier this year and loved it. It's not traditionally served at Christmas, but I think it makes a good alternative to either Christmas pudding or mince pies.

Although I'm not very good at making pastry, this sweet pastry is quite forgiving, as you can just smooth over any holes or bumps, and you don't need to bake it blind. I've tried out two different versions; one with the traditional butter and egg enriched pastry and one with a vegan pastry. Both turned out well, so use which ever recipe you prefer.

Serves 8

Enriched pastry
  • 200g/8oz sr flour
  • 100g/4oz chilled block butter
  • 100g/4oz sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
Vegan pastry
  • 200g/8oz SR flour
  • 100g/4oz chilled vegan/dairy-free spread/butter
  • 100g/4oz sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 kg/2 lbs cooking apples (unpeeled weight)
  • 50g/2oz soft brown sugar
  • 75g/3oz raisins/sultanas/mixed dried fruits
  • ½ tsp each cinnamon and mixed spice
  • 2 tbsp custard powder
Make the pastry by rubbing the dairy-free spread or butter into the flour. Add the sugar and cinnamon and either an egg or a splash of dairy-free milk or water to bind. This should make a soft, but not sticky dough, so add a touch more flour if the mixture is sticky.

Chill pastry for 30-60 minutes.

Grease a loose-bottomed round 7"/18cm cake tin.
On a well-floured board, roll out the pastry to around ½ cm thick.
Cut out a circle of pastry to fit the base (use the base of the tin as a template).
Put the circle of pastry into the bottom of the tin.

Re-roll the pastry and cut 3"/7.5 cm wide strips to fit around the sides of the tin; I did this in 2 sections. Join the pastry sides to the base, by gently smoothing them together with your hands, so that no gaps can be seen. Save any scraps for later.

Peel, quarter and slice the apples, fairly thinly.
Mix the apples, dried fruit, sugar, spices and custard powder together in a large bowl.
Tip as much of the fruit as possible into the (raw) pastry case - you should have a slight dome of fruit in the centre as it will sink a little after cooking. Press down lightly.

With any scraps of pastry, roll thin strips and criss-cross these across the top of the tart. 

Bake at 190C/180C Fan/Gas 5/375 f for 50 mins-1 hour, until the apples are browning and the pastry looks quite a dark golden-brown.
Sprinkle with an extra 1 tsp sugar when it comes out of the oven.
Allow to cool in the tin for 30 minutes before removing. Serve warm or cold. 

Suitable for freezing.

Dutch Apple Tart
Christmas/luxury version: 
Soak the dried fruits (or a mixture of luxury dried fruits and flaked almonds) in 2 tbsp brandy for at least 2 hours. Add 4 tbsp of custard powder to the apple mixture, to soak up the extra juices. 

Cut out holly leaves from the pastry scraps and lay these on top of the apple. 
Bake as above.

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Saturday, 6 December 2014

Chestnut and Vegetable Lattice Bakes

Chestnut and Vegetable Lattice Bakes
This is my latest Christmas Dinner recipe, for those who want something a little different from a nut roast but don't want to resort to meat substitutes. I made two different versions of these individual lattice bakes; one to my taste and one for the rest of the family. I love the combination of sweet vegetables and fruits together, so mine contained mushrooms, sweet potato and cranberries. The others hate that sort of combo, so I cooked theirs with mushrooms, white potato, celery and no cranberries!

If you don't want to make these lattices which have quite a chunky filling, you can blend the mixture to fill sausage rolls or to make a nut roast.
If you haven't cooked with chestnuts before, it's worth trying them out. On their own they have quite a strange, slightly sweet taste, but they add a great depth of flavour and texture to vegetarian and vegan dishes.

Makes 4 individual bakes or around 20 small sausage rolls.
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 100g/4oz cooked chestnuts, roughly chopped. I used Merchant Gourmet vacuum packed chestnuts.
  • 100g/4oz mushrooms, chopped
  • 50g/2oz walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 50g/2oz macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium sweet potato (swap for 2 medium parsnips, 1 large, white baking potato or a mixture of chopped root vegetables), peeled and diced into 1cm chunks- approx 200g/8oz peeled weight
  • 25-50g dried cranberries, optional (for the more savoury version, use 2 sticks of chopped celery, or just omit the cranberries)
  • 1-2 tsp dried sage or 2-4 tsp chopped fresh sage, to taste
  • nutmeg and black pepper to season
  • 1 pack of ready rolled puff pastry
Heat the oven to 190C/180C Fan/Gas 5/375F.
Drizzle your chosen root vegetable/s in olive oil and roast for around 30 minutes until golden brown and soft, turning once or twice.
Meanwhile, heat a drop of olive oil in a large pan and soften the onions. Add the mushrooms and celery (if using). Cook down to evaporate most of the moisture.
Remove from the heat and add the remaining ingredients (except the pastry!).
Season and add sage to taste.
Remove the root vegetable/s from the oven and crush/mash lightly, so that you still have recognisable lumps of vegetable. Turn the oven up to 210C/200C Fan/Gas 6/400F
Mix all ingredients together.

*At this point you can decide whether to blend the ingredients, to make a nut roast or sausage roll mixture.

If making the lattices, cut the pastry into 4 equal pieces.
Cut 8 lines into the outer thirds of the pastry (see photo).
Spoon a good 2-3 tbsp of mixture along the middle of each piece of pastry, and press down to form an oval mound.
Dampen the edges of the pastry and cross over the first 4 strips from each side alternately. Repeat from the other end of the lattice, so that you end up crossing the last strips over in the centre.
Brush with oil and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown.

*Alternative cooking instructions: If making sausage rolls, reduce the cooking time to 20-25 mins.
If making a nut roast, blend the mixture, tip 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. 
Freezing: If you want to make any of these in advance and freeze them. Slightly under cook and allow to cool. Wrap in foil and freeze. Defrost completely before re-heating. 

For more Christmas recipes, including exclusive step-by-step videos from Alex Mackay, and details of the full product range visit

I received some complimentary Merchant Gourmet products for recipe development. All views expressed are genuine. 
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Thursday, 4 December 2014

The Great Veggie Christmas Gift Guide & Give Away

I'm sure Yule love my seasonal gift guide! I've included several products which I have reviewed over the year, plus some of my other favourite goodies. Of course it wouldn't be fair for me to tempt you with all these lovely things, without offering something in return, so I have a massive give-away for one lucky on to find out what you could win!

Books for foodies

I've been lucky enough to review some fabulous new books this year. One of my favourites being Fragrant Heart by Miranda Emmerson, which is a memoir and travelogue of Miranda's time spent travelling through S.E Asia. Although this is not a cook book, each chapter ends with one or two recipes from the region, with both a meat-based and a vegetarian version of each recipe. 

I also really enjoyed reading The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C Morais which tells the life story of Hassan, a budding young Indian chef whose career takes off in a very different direction to the one his family have planned for him, after they move first to England and then to France.This book has since been dramatised into a film starring Helen Mirren.

Gaia's Feasts by Julia Ponsonby (and friends at Schumacher College) is one of the latest cook books which I've reviewed. It features a collection of simple-to-follow, healthy vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free recipes. This is an ideal book for those catering for large numbers of friends and family over the festive period, as each recipe is adapted to serve either a family of 4-6 people or up to 50 people! If you cook for a community group or run your own catering business, this would be the ideal book for you. I have a copy of this great book to give away
In case you don't win, I also have a SPECIAL OFFER for you: You can get your hands on your own copy of Gaia's Feasts for just £13.99 (30% off the RRP) and free delivery in the UK using this exclusive voucher code: WDEAWAF14 at Green Books. Offer valid 2nd December to 17th December 2014.

Stocking fillers and other gifts

I love these political slogan tea towels from The Radical Tea Towel Company. I have one with a fabulous vegetarian quote from Einstein on it and have an identical one to give away. The tea towels are great quality and are sure to raise a smile with the lucky recipient. They also do aprons, bags, Christmas cards and other political gifts, so if you know a radical feminist, staunch environmentalist or even a verdant vegetarian, do take a look at their quirky and original range of products!

As a Suma blogger, I've had the chance to test out lots of delicious Suma products, but didn't realise until recently, that they also do a lovely range of toiletries. I had the chance to try out 2 of

their natural handmade, vegan soap bars, which both smelt and looked amazing as they are packed full of botanical ingredients. Even better than that I have the whole range of 12 fragrant soaps to give away. If you aren't lucky enough to win them, they retail at a very reasonable RRP of under £2 per brand are totally palm free and BUAV approved. Available from many high street health food stores.

You may remember my review for Crystal Spring deodorants earlier in the year? Well, the company who have been trading for over 20 years, also stock a fabulous range of skin care and home fragrance products, starting just £3.50 for the travel sized toiletries. I particularly like the look of their natural candles and bath milk, both of which are on offer at the moment, with 50% off.  All of their natural beauty products are clearly labelled and beautifully packaged. Available from Crystal Sping and health food stores. I have one sweet orange candle to give away.

The Ethicoco Vegan Organic Chocolate Company is a recent discovery of mine. Ethicoco make four varieties of bean-to-bar vegan chocolate, all of which are soy free, dairy free and and nut free.These include: Ecuadorian with Oat Milk, Ecuadorian with Oat Milk and Raisins, Peruvian Dark Chocolate and Peruvian Dark Chocolate with Cranberries, The bars cost between £2.99 and £3.99 each. I have 4 bars (one of each variety) to give away.

Luxury Gifts

I must say that I've been really impressed with my Optimum 9400 professional blender. It really has put my old blender to shame! Although it certainly is a luxury product and not within everyone's budget, I would say it's worth the investment if you make your own nut milks & butters, soups and smoothies on a regular basis. I have been amazed at the way it blitzes whole nuts in seconds and turns a selection of slightly-past-it fruits into a delicious (smooth!) smoothie.

So just to surmise, one lucky, random person will win all of the following prizes:

  • 1 copy of Gaia's Feasts
  • 1 Radical Tea Towel  Company vegetarian tea towel 
  • 12 handmade Suma soaps
  • 1 Crystal Spring candle
  • 4 bars of Ethicoco vegan chocolate
  • ...and a partridge in a pear tree (or maybe not!) 
Just enter with the Rafflecopter widget below and leave me a comment to tell me what you hope Father Christmas will be bringing you this year! UK ONLY, competition ends midnight Friday 12th December. The more entries you make, the greater chance you have of winning! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This is an advertorial feature, featuring some products which I have reviewed over the year, plus some which I have been offered to give away in return for a mention in my gift guide. However, all views expressed are genuine.
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Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Gaia's Feasts - A Review, a Recipe and a Special Offer

 Gaia's Feasts
As I'm sure you know, I love cookbooks, so I jumped at the chance to review a copy of Gaia's Feasts, by Julia Ponsonby. This book is quite different to most cookbooks, as each recipe is formatted to make either a family meal or a feast for up to 50!
"Filled with delicious recipes and mouth-watering pictures, this book is a must-have for anyone who loves exciting, tasty and original vegetarian food. Alongside the quantities needed for cooking for a group of 4-6 family members or friends, Gaia’s Feasts offers the unique option of scaling up the recipes in order to cook for groups as big as 50, making it ideal for large family gatherings or community events."
The recipes featured in Gaia's Feasts also follow several key themes, including:
  • Food and the environment
  • Slow Food and Local Food movement
  • A celebration of food
There is a good balance of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free recipes (plus handy tips and variations), mainly based around cheap and easy-to-find, wholesome ingredients. I have tried out a couple of recipes from the book and both turned out looking pretty much like the illustrations in the book, which is a good sign that quantities and cooking times are reliable. 

SPECIAL OFFER: You can get your hands on your own copy of Gaia's Feasts for just £13.99 (30% off the RRP) and free delivery in the UK using this exclusive voucher code: WDEAWAF14 at Green Books. Offer valid 2nd December to 17th December 2014.

My family all enjoyed the following Walnut and Fig Loaf (although I swapped the figs for cranberries as suggested as an option in the recipe). This slightly sweet and nutty loaf would be great with cold Christmas left overs such as nut loaf, salad and cheeses...

Walnut & fig (or cranberry or apricot) bread
Ruth Rae’s light brown, fruit-and-nut dappled bread is delicious with cheese and can also be served at teatime with jam and honey. It also provides the opportunity to experiment with a little decorative knife work – which is something Ruth is well practised at! Simply cut through the floured surface of the rising bread using a sharp knife (which could be serrated or just very sharp – some people use a scalpel). You’ll also need swift, confident strokes – and a clear, simple concept.

For 1 loaf                                                                                       For 6 round loaves

300g (10oz / 2 cups) strong white flour                                        1.8kg (4lb)
150g (6oz / 1¼ cups) wholewheat flour                                        900g (2lb)
55g (2oz / ½ cup) golden walnuts                                                 350g (12oz / 3 cups)
85g (3oz / ½ cup) dried figs (or dried cranberries or apricots) 500g (1lb / 3 cups)
1 tsp dried yeast or 10g (1/3-½oz / 2 tsp) fresh yeast                2 tbsp dried or 75g (2½oz) fresh
300ml (10fl oz / 1 cup + 2 tsp) warm water                                 1.5l (2¾ pints / 3½ US pints)
1-2 tbsp olive or sunflower oil                                                       100ml (3-4fl oz / ½ cup)
1 tsp molasses                                                                               2 tbsp
1 tsp salt                                                                                          2 tbsp

1. Preparing the fruit and nuts: Just cover the dried fruit with hot water and soak for 30 minutes (figs or apricots) or 10 minutes (cranberries). Meanwhile, chop the walnuts roughly with a knife – each walnut half will go into about 4-6 pieces. After soaking, drain the softened fruit, reserving the water to go into the dough. Chop the figs or apricots) into small chunky pieces (about 1cm / ½" wide). Remove the woody stalk part of the figs if it’s tough.
2. Measure 250ml (9fl oz / 1 cup) of warm water into a jug and stir in the molasses and the dried or crumbled fresh yeast. If using dried yeast, leave to froth up; with the fresh yeast, simply stir until dissolved. Easy-bake or fast-acting yeast can go in with the flour or with the water.
3. In a large bowl, combine the flours, salt, and chopped fruit and nuts.
4. Stir in the yeasty water, the rest of the warm water and the oil. Mix until you have a soft dough and all the ingredients are evenly distributed. Knead gently on a floured surface or in the bowl for a few minutes until fairly smooth, then return to the bowl to rise. Using a (dedicated) plant mister, spray the top with water to prevent it drying out, or cover the bowl loosely with a lid or tea towel. Leave to rise in a warm place for an hour.
5. When the dough has doubled in size, tip it on to a lightly floured surface and ‘knock back’. Knead lightly and then divide into 6 if you are making the large quantity, then knead each ball again. Shape into rounds or ovals. Keep the joints at the bottom and make sure the top skin has not been over-stretched: if there is any sign of surface splitting, loosen it with a little gentle rocking, or let it rest and then knead again in a few minutes, being careful not to shape it too tightly.
6. Place the round cushions of dough on a baking tray, either floured or lined with baking parchment. If you’re making more than one loaf, they should be placed about the width of your hand apart, to allow for spreading as they rise. Spray (or paint) with water and dredge with flour for a dusty finish. Use a sharp knife to cut a few criss-crossed lines at 2-3cm (1") intervals and about 2-3mm (1/8") deep – these will open up as the bread rises, creating an attractive textural contrast. Ruth also likes to cut a simple leaf-vein or ‘winter tree’ design into her loaves – a real classic for artisan bakers. Leave the bread to rise in a warm place for about 40 minutes.
7. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F / Gas Mark 4), 10 minutes before the bread is ready to go in.
8. When ready to go in the oven, the bread will have doubled in size. If you press it with a finger, the dough will be slow to spring back. Any sign of dimpling on the surface means it has over-risen, so rush it into the oven. It is better to put it in the oven when still – just – on the rise, so that its last burst of rising is stimulated by the heat of the oven. Bake mid-oven for about 45 minutes. Test by turning over and knocking: the loaf should sound hollow. Cool on a wire rack.

Recipe used with kind permission from Gaia's Feasts, by Julia Ponsonby, published by Green Books. 
I received a complimentary copy of Gaia's Feasts to review. All views expressed are my own and those of my family.
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Saturday, 22 November 2014

Caramelised Roast Parsnips

Caramelised Roast Parsnips
This is my vegan version of honey roasted parsnip's, made without the honey! I absolutely love roasted parsnips but, unfortunately, none of the family do, so I make the full quantity below and freeze any left overs for another meal...or eat them cold the next day!

Serves 2-4 as a side dish.
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons soft brown sugar
  • 1lb/450g parsnips, peeled weight
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp fresh chopped Rosemary
Heat oven to 190C/180C fan.
Peel the parsnips, cut into halves or quarters, and remove the woody cores if the parsnips are large. Cut into thick batons.
Place oil and sugar in a roasting pan and mix together. Add the parsnips and coat with the mixture. Season with black pepper and sprinkle the chopped rosemary over.
Cover tightly with foil and roast for 30 minutes.
Remove the foil carefully (to allow the steam to escape) and turn the parsnips gently, so that they don't break up too much.
Roast the parsnips, uncovered, for a further 10-15 minutes until lightly browned.
Serve with Christmas Dinner.

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Thursday, 13 November 2014

Turkish Beans with Lemon & Herbs

Turkish Beans with Lemon & Herbs
After cooking my meat-free Coq au Vin, I had plenty of carrots, celery and parsley left, so I came up with this Turkish-inspired recipe. I used 2 lemons the first time I made it, which Mr O and I loved, but the girls said it was too lemony; so I cooked it with just one lemon second time around, which they preferred.

Serves 2-3 as a main course, 4-6 as a side dish.
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced finely
  • 100g/4oz green beans, sliced in 2-3cm pieces
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 sticks of celery, de-stringed and sliced 
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped or crushed
  • 1 tin of chickpeas/garbanzo beans or other pulses, drained and rinsed
  • 1 green chilli, finely sliced or chopped
  • Juice and zest of 1 or 2 lemons (depending on how lemony you like your food!)
  • 100ml/4floz vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp chopped, fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp chopped, fresh dill
Heat the oil in a large pan, on a medium heat.
Add the onion and garlic and cook gently for a few minutes, then add the carrots, celery and green beans. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
Add the stock, chilli and herbs and stir.
Cover and simmer on a low-medium heat for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are almost cooked. Add the lemon juice and zest along with the tinned pulses.
Cover and cook for a further 5-10 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
Serve hot, warm or cold (as a salad).

I'm linking this post up to the this month's Extra Veg Challenge, created by Fuss Free Flavours and Utterly Scrummy. 
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Thursday, 6 November 2014

Champignons et Légumes au Vin (Mushrooms & Vegetables in a Red Wine Sauce)

I was left in charge of cooking a vegetarian/vegan version of Coq au Vin for a dinner party with friends. Only 3 of us were veggie, but I made enough to serve 4-6 as I knew the meaties would want to try some too! I've stuck pretty well to the original classic French version, but bulked the casserole out with extra mushrooms and vegetables.

I think this meal is tasty enough to work as a vegan Christmas dinner alternative, especially as it can be prepared in advance and will go with all the traditional Christmas dinner vegetables.You could serve it as it is, as a pie filling, or even in a giant Yorkshire pudding! 

Serves 4-6
  • 2 cups/500ml full-bodied vegan red wine (for a lighter version, use white wine, cider or half wine/half vegetable stock)
  • 4 medium carrots, thickly sliced
  • 4 celery sticks, de-stringed and thickly sliced
  • 20 baby onions or small shallots, peeled but left whole 
  • 1lb/450g button mushrooms (or mixed, chopped mushrooms), wiped
  • 1 small clove of garlic, crushed
  • 2 or 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp chopped, fresh parsley
  • a sprig or two of fresh thyme and/or rosemary
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
Heat the olive oil in a large pan, on a medium heat. Add the onions and saute for around 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.
Add the rest of the vegetables, garlic, herbs and seasonings and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
Stir in the flour and coat the vegetables. 
Pour in the wine slowly, stirring all the time and bring to the boil to thicken the sauce.
Turn the heat down and simmer, with the lid on, for around 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. 

Add a little extra wine or stock if the sauce becomes too thick.

Serve with roasted potatoes and parsnips and/or seasonal vegetables.

Money-saving tip: I used baby onions and button mushrooms as they look appealing, but it's much cheaper to use 'big veg.' instead. You could add pretty much any combination of root or firm vegetables in this recipe, such as green beans, potatoes or squash.

Protein alternatives: As I've removed the chicken from this recipe, it doesn't contain very much protein. To replace the protein, reduce the amount of vegetables slightly and add 4-6 chicken-style meat-free fillets (after you have added the wine), or a drained tin of pulses or pack of cooked, whole chestnuts (10 minutes before serving).
Cooking with Herbs Lavender and Lovage
Alcohol-free option: If you avoid alcohol for religious reasons, simply swap it for a good, rich vegetable stock and add some extra herbs and garlic.

I'm adding this recipe to Carole's Chatter: Low Carb Dinners and Lavender & Lovage's Cooking with Herbs.
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Saturday, 1 November 2014

Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles (Vegan) - Suma Blogger's Network

Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles (Vegan)
I know it's a bit early, and you probably don't want reminding that Christmas is only 53 days away, but as it's the 1st of November, I thought I would start blogging some festive recipes! These vegan chocolate truffles are really easy to make, will keep in the fridge for a week or so, and make great home-made Christmas presents. 

This recipe makes Nutella or Ferrero Rocher flavoured truffles, which are totally dairy-free!

Makes around 10-12 truffles.
  • 200g/8oz dairy-free dark chocolate (I used Plamil chocolate drops)
  • 90ml/6 tbsp Ecomil almond cream (use 75ml/5 tbsp of cream if using liqueur as the flavouring)
  • 90ml/6tbsp Meridan crunchy hazelnut butter 
  • 1 tsp vanilla or other flavouring extract
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder, desiccated coconut, coconut sugar, roasted chopped hazel nuts, grated chocolate etc. to coat.
  • 2-4 tsp date/agave syrup to sweeten (optional)*
Heat the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl, in the microwave, until melted - Stir every 10-15 seconds, to make sure it doesn't burn.
Add the almond cream, vanilla and nut butter and mix well - Taste and sweeten* at this point if you prefer a sweeter truffle.

Chill the mixture for an hour or two, until firm.

Remove from the fridge and working quickly, shape heaped teaspoonfuls of the mixture into balls, using your hands.
Roll the truffles in your preferred coatings and pop into sweet cases. Refrigerate until needed.
Wrap in cellophane bags to give as presents.

*These truffles have quite an adult dark-chocolate taste, so may not appeal to younger children. For a more child-friendly option, use a dairy-free 'milk chocolate' and sweeten the mixture with 2-4 tsp date/agave syrup.

Flavour options: Vary the recipe by using different nut butters and flavourings; use 1 tbsp liqueur, 1 tsp flavouring extract or a little grated lemon/orange zest instead of vanilla extract. Try using almond or cashew nut butter instead of hazelnut.

As a member of the Suma Blogger's Network, I will receive a selection of complimentary products from Suma every two months, to use in recipe development, and will blog an original recipe for the Network. 

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Saturday, 25 October 2014

Boureki - Greek Potato & Courgette Bake

This is another Cretan vegetarian recipe, which is filling and warming - great for the winter months ahead. It does take a long time to cook, so I would suggest making two and freezing one for another meal.
Traditionally, boureki is made with mizithra cheese which is difficult to find in the UK, so I've used feta instead.

Serves 4

  • 2lb/900g (unpeeled weight) baking potatoes
  • 1lb/450g courgettes/zucchini
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped mint or 2 tsp dried mint
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped dill leaves or 1 tsp dried dill
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 8oz/200g pack of feta
  • black pepper, to taste
  • ½ pt/280ml hot vegetable stock (made with a stock cube)

Pre-heat the oven to 170C/160C Fan/325F/Gas 3.

Peel and slice the potatoes as thinly as possible. This is best done using a food processor or mandoline slicer.
Thinly slice the courgettes the same way.

Grease an oven proof dish (approx 25x20cm) generously with olive oil and place a layer of courgettes in, slightly over lapping. Repeat with a layer of potatoes and another layer of courgettes. Crumble half of the feta over, and sprinkle with black pepper, half of the mint and half of the dill.
Continue layering up the vegetables, finishing with a layer of potato.

Mix the rest of the herbs into the stock and carefully pour the into the dish over the vegetables.
Top with the remaining cheese, an extra sprinkle of mint and drizzle the remaining olive oil over.
Cover the dish tightly with foil and place in the oven.

Bake for 2-2½ hours until the potatoes are soft (insert a sharp knife into the potatoes, to see if they are tender) - believe me, it will take this long to cook, as I have tried to reduce the cooking time and ended up with under cooked potatoes! 
If liked, remove the foil for the final 10-15 minutes, to brown the top of the boureki. Allow to cool for around 10 minutes before cutting into squares.
Serve with seasonal vegetables or salad.

Seasonal variation: Try swapping the courgettes for sliced squash, pumpkin or celeriac.

Vegan version: Swap the feta for a vegan feta-style cheese. When topping the bake, mix the crumbled 'feta' with the remaining olive oil before sprinkling over the potato, to help stop it from drying out too much.

Slow cooker version: Although I haven't tried this, I reckon this dish could also be cooked in a slow cooker. Follow the recipe above but reduce the amount of stock by half. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 7-8 hours. Brown under the grill before serving. Do let me know if this works!

I'm linking this recipe up to Ren Behan's Simple and in Season event for October.

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Sunday, 19 October 2014

Spicy Vegetable & Bean Burgers

Spicy Vegetable & Bean Burgers
I've been trying to perfect a spicy bean burger recipe for some time and this is the best version I've made so far, in both flavour and texture. The mixture holds together well without the need for egg, so it's vegan too. My version is slightly chunky, but you could blend the mixture briefly, if you want to hide the vegetable pieces from fussy children!
  • 1 small tin/½ big tin refried beans - approx 8 oz/200g
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 bell pepper, finely diced
  • around ¼ of a butternut squash or 1 sweet potato, peeled and finely diced
  • 1-2 tsp green harissa paste or chilli sauce, optional
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 2 tsp chopped coriander leaves (I used the frozen type)
  • 2 slices of stale bread, made into breadcrumbs
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/170C Fan/350F/Gas 4,
Put all of the chopped vegetables in a baking dish and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil. Cook for around 15-20 minutes turning occasionally, until the vegetables have softened and browned slightly.
Mix in all of the remaining ingredients (except the breadcrumbs). 
Finally mix in enough breadcrumbs to form a firm, but not dry, mixture.

Form the mixture into 4 large burgers, using your hands or a burger press, and chill for at least half an hour to firm up. Fry the burgers in a further 1-2 tbsp olive oil for 6-8 minutes on each side.

Top with salsa, guacamole or ketchup and serve in a bread roll or with chips/sweet potato wedges.

Leftover tip: Make this recipe using any combination of left over boiled or roasted vegetables, to make it even more economical.

I'm linking this post up to the This month's Extra Veg Challenge over at A Mummy Too, created by Fuss Free Flavours and Utterly Scrummy. 

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Sunday, 12 October 2014

Peanut & Tamarind Falafels for National Curry Week

 The Spice Tailor sauce range
 The Spice Tailor chutni rangeAs you may have realised, my family all love Indian food. So we were excited to find out that Anjum Anand's The Spice Tailor range has now been extended to include a delicious array of curry sauces plus a tasty selection of chutnis. I've been testing out the whole range on my family over the past couple of weeks and they've been really impressed how tasty and authentic the sauces are. I've also loved how quick and easy they are to use.

I've been experimenting with different variations of falafels lately and decided to come up with an Indian-inspired version for National Curry Week, using The Spice Tailor products. I used two varieties from the new chutni range, which are a delicious addition to almost any Asian meal, either as a condiment or as an ingredient.

Makes 12
  • 1 tin of chickpeas, drained
  • 5 tbsp Spice Tailor peanut & tamarind chutni
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1-2 tsp chilli paste/ hot chilli sauce
  • 1-2 slices of wholemeal bread, made into breadcrumbs
Peanut & Tamarind Falafels

Put all of the ingredients, except the breadcrumbs, into a food processor and blend for a minute or so. Scrape the ingredients down from the sides of the bowl and repeat until you have a fairly smooth mixture.
Add just enough breadcrumbs to form a fairly stiff, but not dry, mixture.
Roll into 12 balls and flatten slightly.
Chill in the fridge for around half an hour.

Heat 2 tbsp of vegetable oil in a large frying pan, on a medium heat.
Cook the falafels for around 4-5 minutes on each side until lightly browned.

Wrap in a chapatti with salad and your favourite dip, sauce or chutney; I served mine with onion salad and mint sauce:

Onion salad
  • 1 tsp Spice Tailor mint leaf chutni
  • 1 small onion, halved and very finely sliced
  • 1" cucumber, halved, deseeded and finely sliced
Indian mint sauce
  • 1 tbsp Spice Tailor mint leaf chutni
  • ½ cup natural or vegan plain yogurt
  • a pinch of sugar, optional
The Spice Tailor range is available from most major UK supermarkets and online.
I received a selection of complimentary products from The Spice Tailor to review and to use in recipe development. All views expressed are my own and those of my family.
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Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Spicy Mexican Bean Soup

Spicy Mexican Bean Soup
Autumn has well and truly arrived in England this week, and the nights are drawing in, so I thought that this hearty, protein-packed, bean soup would make an ideal week-night meal. You can make this soup as smooth or chunky as you like, depending on your family's preference. I decided to blend the soup and then add the beans for a bit of texture, but you could blend the whole soup (including the beans), or not blend at all if you want a more rustic, chunky soup.
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, diced 
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 3 cups vegetable stock, made with 1 stock cube
  • ¼ cup dried red lentils
  • 1 tsp mild chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tin beans, drained and rinsed - I used mixed beans but you could use any type
  • 2 tsp fresh chopped coriander
  • a little hot chilli sauce, to taste
Heat a drop of vegetable oil in a large pan. Add the onion and garlic and saute gently for a couple of minutes. Add all of the remaining ingredients, except the beans and coriander leaves, and simmer for around 15-20 minutes, until the lentils and vegetables are tender. 

At this point you can blend the soup (I used my tried and tested Optimum 9400 blender) and then add the beans, or vice versa, or don't blend at all!
Return the the soup to the pan for a further couple of minutes to heat the beans through before serving.
Season with hot chilli sauce to taste and sprinkle with the coriander leaves.

Serve with warm home-made bread.

I'm entering this recipe to this month's No Croutons Required Challenge, co-hosted by Jacqui at Tinned Tomatoes and Lisa at Lisa's Kitchen

I'm also adding it to this month's Credit Crunch Munch, created by Helen and Camilla and hosted this month by Hannah at A New Addition

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