Friday, 31 January 2014

Mexican Rice with Beans

Mexican rice with beans
Here's my last recipe for Veganuary; this is another copycat recipe, adapted from the ingredients list of a well known brand of packet rice. If I had an uncle and his name was Ben, he might well make a rice similar to this! Needless to say, this home made version is significantly cheaper than the ready-made variety and contains a higher proportion of pulses and vegetables.

Serves 4-6 as a side dish
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced finely
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp sweet paprika
  • ½ tsp mild chilli powder
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • salt and black pepper to taste (optional)
  • 1 cup long grain rice, rinsed and drained 
  • 2 cups boiled water or hot vegetable stock
  • ½ can borlotti/pinto beans, drained and rinsed 
  • 1 tbsp pickled jalapenos, finely diced (optional) 
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp fresh/frozen chopped coriander
Heat the oil in a large frying pan (on a low to medium heat).
Add the onion and saute for 2-3 minutes, before adding the green pepper and garlic.
Cook gently for a further 2-3 minutes.
Increase the heat slightly.

Add all of the dried herbs/spices. Stir well and cook for a minute or so.
Add the tomato puree and cook for about 2 more minutes.
Add the drained rice and water/stock. Stir well and bring to a gentle simmer.
Reduce the heat slightly.
Cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes.

Stir, season and then add the beans, lime juice, jalapenos and coriander. Add a little more water/stock if the rice is starting to stick to the bottom of the pan.
Cover again and cook for a further 3-5 minutes, until the rice is just tender.
Stir. Turn off the heat and leave the covered pan to stand for a further 5 minutes.  

Serve with chilli, tortilla chips and guacamole/salsa.
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Saturday, 25 January 2014

Vegan Pizza Whirls

vegan pizza whirls
During Veganuary, I've been experimenting with various vegan alternatives in my cooking. This pizza whirl/pinwheel recipe is one I've adapted from a favourite family recipe, which is great for kids' lunchboxes and parties. I usually use Mozzarella in them, so decided to test out and review a dairy-free Mozzarella-style cheese. There isn't a lot of choice in my local area, when it comes to buying vegan cheeses, so I bought Cheezly - Mozzarella style from my local Holland & Barrett store.  

I was surprised that on opening the packet, it actually smelled quite cheesy (kind of like cheese-flavoured crisps)! It had a slightly grey appearance and was quite soft, but it grated well. I wasn't too keen on the taste/texture of it raw, but once cooked, it gave the pizza whirls a mild, cheesy flavour and was a good alternative to dairy cheese. 

Makes around 16

For the pizza base
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cups strong white bread flour 
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp fast-action dried yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
For the filling
  • 1 bell pepper diced
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 50g/2oz sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp dried oregano (or use 1 tbsp fresh basil)
  • 4 tbsp tomato puree
  • 100g/4oz vegan mozzarella-style cheese, grated
  • 2-3 tbsp of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes/olive oil
  • black pepper to taste
Put all the dry bread ingredients in a bowl (or bread maker) add the wet ingredients.
Mix well until you have a smooth dough (on dough setting in bread maker).
Add a little more flour if the dough is too sticky.
Cover the bowl and allow to rise in a warm place for 30-60 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan and saute the onion, pepper and garlic gently for a few minutes. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, oregano and black pepper. Allow to cool.

Roll the dough into a large rectangle.
Spread with the tomato puree and top with the vegetable mixture. 
Sprinkle the grated 'cheese' over.
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, spaced 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 around 10-15 minutes, or until well-risen and golden.
Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Suitable for freezing.

Alternatives: Use any of your favourite pizza toppings (try sweetcorn, olives, roasted vegatables, vegan pepperoni etc.) but do include the oil, as the vegan cheese dries out as it cooks, unlike dairy-cheese.

Integrity Statement
I bought the Cheezly myself and was not asked to review it. I did not receive payment, and the views expressed are genuinely those of myself and my family.
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Friday, 17 January 2014

Mushroom Biryani

mushroom biryani
One of my favourite Indian take-away dishes is Mushroom Biryani, but it's not a recipe I've ever cooked before. As part of my Veganuary challenge, I've been broadening out my vegan repertoire, so I thought I'd have a go at this classic Indian rice dish.

As none of my extensive collection of recipe books contained an authentic recipe, I started browsing Indian blogs and came across this recipe from Prathibha who has a vegetarian blog called The Chef and Her Kitchen; Her biryani looked just the sort of thing I was looking for. Although I didn't quite have all the ingredients needed, I decided to try the recipe out, simplifying the cooking method slightly to speed up the preparation time.

The list of ingredients might look a bit daunting, but the resulting taste is worth it (the whole family agreed that it was as good as our normal take-away biryani!). If you don't have a wide selection of spices, improvise with what you do have, or simply swap the ground and whole spices for 1-2 tbsp of a good quality Indian curry paste (preferably one containing fennel and cardamom), it might not taste quite as good, but should be a pretty close alternative. 
Providing you do have a good selection of spices or already have a suitable curry paste, this meal costs under £2.00 to make.

serves 4-6
  • 1 cup of basmati rice soaked for 10 mins then washed till water runs clear and drained in a sieve
  • 1 large onion, cut in half and finely sliced
  • 100-150 g/4-6 oz chestnut mushrooms, washed and sliced
  • 2 tsp grated fresh ginger plus 2 cloves of crushed garlic or 1 tbsp garlic/ginger paste
  • 1-2 tsp finely chopped chilli
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 whole green cardamom pods
  • 1 small stick of cinnamon
  • 1 whole star anise
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds, whole
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds, ground
  • salt  and black pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
While the rice is soaking/draining, heat 1 tbsp oil in a large frying pan, add the onions and fry until golden brown.
Remove the onions from the pan and keep to one side.
Heat a further 1 tbsp oil in the pan and add the garlic, ginger, chilli and spices cook for 2 minutes.
Add the mushrooms  and cook until the mushrooms begin to brown.
Add the drained rice and half of the cooked onions, and stir to coat in the spice mixture.
Add 1 ¾ cup boiling water. Stir well.

Cover with a lid and cook for 12 minutes, or until the rice is almost cooked and the water has been absorbed.
Turn the heat off, and leave the pan on the warm hob with the lid on. 
Allow the rice to stand for a further 15 minutes.
Fluff with a fork (discarding the whole spices if you can find them!) and top with the reserved fried onions.
 Bookmarked Recipes
Either serve with tarka dal / chana masala or add a drained tin of chickpeas to the rice (just before it's cooked), for a protein-rich complete meal.

I'm adding this recipe to January's Bookmarked Recipes over at Tinned Tomatoes and to this month's Credit Crunch Munch which is co-hosted by Fab Food 4 All and Fuss Free Flavours.

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Sunday, 12 January 2014

Coffee and Walnut Cake (Vegan)

Miss K and I made this cake as a Veganuary experiment, to try out the tub of xanthan gum I had recently bought. Xanthan gum is a binder and emulsifier which is often used in gluten-free baking - it can be found in the baking or free-from section of most big supermarkets and costs around £2.50 for a tub. I would recommend buying xanthan gum if you bake a lot of egg-free or vegan cakes.

I've made several different versions of vegan sponge cakes now, with varying degrees of success (mainly down to texture), so I based this recipe on my vegan Victoria sponge recipe and tweaked it a bit.

You may be interested to know that for my first attempt, I replaced half of the 'butter' with a mashed avocado, as avocado is supposed to be a good egg replacer, however, whilst not too unpleasant, the resulting cake had a definite taste of avocado which wasn't overly popular in the Onykahonie household! Attempt two, without the avocado was much more palatable!

As you can see, the resulting cake has a good texture and might even be firm enough to make into a giant cupcake, although I haven't tried this yet. This is my most successful vegan sponge cake yet, both taste and texture-wise, and I would challenge anyone to tell this was vegan in a blind tasting. 

I left Miss K to make the icing and ice the cake herself. I think she did a pretty good job, don't you? Of course she had to try a slice afterwards just to make sure it was fit to appear on the blog!

For the cake
  • 100g/4oz dairy-free spread
  • 150g/6oz soft brown sugar
  • 200g/8oz SR flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tbsp coffee granules dissolved in 200ml/8 fl oz boiling water and allowed to cool (or cooled espresso/filter coffee)
  • 1 tsp. white wine or cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 4oz roughly chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts) - reserve 25g/1 oz to top the cake 
Make up the coffee and set to one side to cool.
Pre-heat the oven to 170C/160C Fan/325F/Gas3.
Cream the spread and sugar.
Add all of the remaining ingredients (reserving 25g/1oz of the nuts) and mix until just combined.
Divide the mixture between 2 greased and lined 7" sandwich tins.
Bake for 20-25 mins until the cakes are firm and spring back slightly if pressed gently in the centre.
Turn out onto a wire rack and remove the greaseproof paper.
Allow to cool before icing.

For the vegan butter-cream icing/frosting
  • 1 tbsp coffee dissolved in 3 tbsp boiling water
  • 200g/8oz icing sugar
  • 50g/2oz dairy-free spread, softened
Soften the spread in a bowl and stir in the icing sugar. 
Mix together, adding just enough of the coffee to make a thick, spreadable icing.
Spread in the middle and on top of the cake.
Decorate the top of the cake with the remaining nuts.

Suitable for freezing.

Alternatives: To make a chocolate cake, swap the cold coffee for almond milk or water. Use 175g/7oz flour plus 25g/1oz unsweetened cocoa powder. Swap the nuts for 100g/4oz dairy-free chocolate chips. For the icing, swap the coffee for boiling water and add 25g/1oz unsweetened cocoa powder to the icing sugar. 
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Friday, 3 January 2014

Pasta with Greek Tomato Sauce (Vegan)

Pasta with Greek Tomato Sauce
After many years holidaying in Greece, I'm still yet to recreate an authentic copy of the Greek version of Napoli/Napolitana sauce. I've tried various variations from a very basic sauce with just onion, garlic, herbs and tomatoes, to a sauce with different combinations of vegetables (courgettes, peppers and carrots), but none are quite's probably due to the fresh, ripe, Greek tomatoes, but may be due to some other hidden ingredient, which I am yet to discover. 

Do let me know the traditional recipe if you have it!

Anyway, here's my take on the dish, which is low-fat, only takes about 30 minutes to make and costs a very economic £2 to serve 4-6 people. It has lots of garlic plus an added kick of chilli and a touch of fragrant cinnamon - simply omit these for an Italian rather than Greek-style sauce. I generally make a double batch of this sauce and freeze half. You can use the sauce for lasagne, bolognese, veggie meatballs, aubergine parmigiana etc.

Serves 4-6
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • 1 bay-leaf
  • ½ tsp dried Greek oregano (optional)
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon/½ cinnamon stick (optional)
  • ½ tsp fresh red chilli, very finely chopped
  • 2x400g/14oz cans chopped tomatoes (use good quality, not an economy brand for the best flavour) - or about 800g/1lb 12oz fresh, ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped
  • ½ tsp sugar (optional)
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 450g/1lb dried pasta (rigatoni, penne etc.)
Heat the oil in a large pan.
Add the onion and cook on a medium heat for a few minutes, before adding the garlic.
Allow the onion and garlic to cook without colouring.
Add all of the remaining ingredients (except the pasta) and simmer for 15-20 minutes with the lid on.
Remove the cinnamon stick and bay-leaf (if using).
Blend briefly with a hand blender if you prefer a smooth sauce.

 pasta pleaseReturn to a low heat and allow to reduce whilst cooking the pasta for 10-12 minutes. Drain the pasta and serve topped with the tomato sauce.

For vegan garlic bread, simply mix a further small crushed clove of garlic with 2 tbsp dairy-free spread and a little chopped fresh parsley. Spread generously onto fresh crusty bread and bake in a hot oven for 5-10 minutes, or until golden brown.

I'm linking this post to this month's, garlic-themed Pasta Please Challenge hosted by Tina at The Spicy Pear and started by Jac at Tinned TomatoesPop over and take a look at the other great pasta dishes all using garlic.

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Wednesday, 1 January 2014

A cheap and lower-fat vegetarian/vegan meal plan for Veganuary

vegan meals
Happy New Year! I hope you've all had a good holiday and eaten plenty of great vegetarian/vegan food!

So, it's January again and after a couple of weeks of over-indulgence, I thought that rather than starting a diet-themed series of posts for the new year, I should just cut down on the cheese and dairy products in my recipes and embrace the essence of Veganuary. In case you don't know, Veganuary is a campaign in association with Viva! to encourage people to go vegan for January and "Eat delicious, healthy food, save lives and help the environment."

Whilst we won't go completely vegan for the month, as I know we won't all be able to stick to it (and as I have lots of non-vegan products to use up in my fridge and freezer), I will make a conscious effort to buy fewer products containing dairy and eggs and reduce the amounts I use in my cooking for the month, which I reckon will also make things cheaper. 

Although not all of the recipes below are vegan, they are all budget friendly, relatively low in fat and can all be easily adapted (for example, if the recipe uses Quorn or cheese, swap for a vegan alternative.) For a 31 day vegan meal plan, take a look at the official Veganuary menu.

Week 1
Spiced carrot and parsnip soup (no cream) with home made bread
Pasta with spicy pepper, aubergine and tomato sauce
Enchiladas (no cheese or use vegan cheese) with salad
Vegetarian Jambalaya 
Lentil and pesto veggie burgers with home made potato wedges and baked beans (use vegan pesto)
Pasta with Greek tomato sauce
Chickpea curry with chapattis

Week 2
Spaghetti Bolognese
Vegetable curry with rice
Pisto manchego (no egg) with jacket potato and salad
Reggae Reggae chickpea wraps 
Quorn souvlaki with potatoes (use vegan meat-free pieces)
Vegetable biryrani with dal
Turkish vegetable stew with cous cous or quinoa 

...and some vegan cakes and desserts 
(ok these aren't low fat, but we all need a treat some times!)
Apple cake
Bread pudding

Chocolate microwave mug cake
Chocolate orange cupcakes
Chocolate tiffin
Fairy cakes/cupcakes
Fruity flapjacks
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