Sunday, 20 September 2015

The Hungry Student Vegetarian Cookbook: A review and giveaway

The Hungry Student Vegetarian Cookbook
My children are growing up way too quickly; Miss O has finished her GCSEs and has started at 6th form college (she's studying for A Levels in English, History, Drama and Art History, if you're interested!) and Miss K has just started her GCSEs in year 10.
If all goes well with their studies, it won't be long until they leave for university. Like most parents, I worry about how well they'll cope in the big, wide world, despite the fact that they have both helped me with shopping, cooking and household chores since they were little (sometimes reluctantly, sometimes willingly!).

With this in mind, I was glad to be able to review The Hungry Student Vegetarian Cookbook, as it seems like a great book to give to vegetarian teenagers or young adults who can cook more than beans on toast, but aren't quite ready for Ottolenghi. The book contains a wide range of cheap and simple to cook dishes, including breakfasts, lunches, main meals and a few cocktails too!
...The Hungry Student Vegetarian shares more than 200 quick and cheap meat-free recipes that are so tasty, even hardened carnivores will keep turning up for dinner. There are also indispensable tips on budgeting, lunchbox ideas, healthy eating and how to get creative with leftovers. All the recipes in this book are balanced for a healthy vegetarian diet, and they each have an affordability stamp to help with budgeting as well as detailed instructions to make them accessible to even the most novice cook. 
I do have a couple of criticisms of the book; one is that most recipes feed four people, rather than one or two; I can't imagine that my girls are going to find three fellow veggies to share food and cooking with, although this would obviously make their living costs much cheaper. The other thing I noticed was that quite a wide array of herbs, spices and curry pastes are suggested in different recipes. I find curry pastes are pretty expensive and don't keep well compared to whole or ground spices, so I'd suggest investing in the basic spices - cumin, coriander, garam masala, turmeric, cinnamon and paprika - rather than buy curry pastes.

Having said that, I love the handy tips at the start of each section, they really are worth reading and set this book apart from other budget-friendly/student cookbooks.

I set 14 year old Miss K the challenge of cooking one of the recipes from the book by herself. She chose the Cheddar burgers with cucumber salsa. These burgers are mainly made from beans, cheese, carrot and onion, so with the salsa and a bread roll, they are budget-friendly and cover all the food groups. Miss K made them easily and with the use of a burger press, they held together well, were simple to cook and tasted really good.

The Hungry Student Vegetarian Cookbook: More Than 200 Quick and Simple Recipes, Published by Spruce, £7.99, 

I have two copies of the book to give away. Just tell me your favourite cheap-and-cheerful/student dish in a comment below, using the Rafflecopter widget. UK ONLY. Closes midnight Sunday 27th September.

You can find my own student recipe ideas and tips here.

Integrity Statement
I received a complimentary copy of the book for the purpose of this review and two copies to give away. All views expressed are genuine.

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Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Toffee Apple Waffles

quick and easy, basic sweet waffle
After trying out my new Sage No-Mess Waffle Maker for a few weeks, I think I've perfected my basic, sweet waffle recipe... 
I've used cup measurements to make these as quick and easy as possible to make. Many waffle recipes I've looked at involve separating the eggs and whisking the egg whites. Not something I have the time to inclination to do when making breakfast waffles! I reckon the addition of a touch of bicarb does the job to make these waffles light and fluffy.

Makes 4 large, sweet waffles
  • 1 cup SR flour
  • ¼ cup caster sugar
  • ¼ cup melted butter, cooled
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
For the topping
  • 4 dessert apples, peeled, cored and sliced thickly
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 8 tbsp dulce de leche or caramel sauce
  • ground cinnamon and cream to serve.
To make the waffles
Heat the waffle maker to a medium setting; I used setting 4.

Put the dry ingredients into a bowl.
Mix the liquid ingredients together in a jug.
Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl and mix to combine.
Pour the batter back into the jug.

When the waffle maker is hot, pour around ¼ of the mixture into the centre. 
Gently close the lid and cook until the machine bleeps (or until the waffles are golden brown).
Remove and keep warm in a low oven while you cook the remaining waffles.

For the topping
Heat a large frying pan on a medium heat and grease with the butter. Gently cook the apple slices for about 4-5 minutes minutes on each side - until starting to soften but not breaking up. 
Add the dulche de leche and stir gently to coat the apples and warm through - add a splash of water or cream, for a thinner sauce.
Top the warm waffles with the toffee apple mixture and serve with a dollop of cream and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon

Top tip: If you don't have a waffle maker (why not?!) then you could cook these in a heavy based, non-stick frying pan or griddle.

Topping ideas: Fruit compote and Greek yogurt; Nutella and chopped banana/strawberries; peach Melba (peach, raspberries and vanilla ice cream), fresh fruit salad and maple syrup... 

I'd love to know your favourite waffle toppings, so please feel free to tweet me or leave me a comment below.

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Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Sage's No-Mess Waffle Maker™ - a review

no-mess waffle maker
I love a kitchen gadget, so couldn't believe my luck when I was asked to try out the new Sage by Heston Blumenthal waffle maker. The No-Mess Waffle Maker™ has non-stick plates, a wrap-around moat to catch (and cook) excess batter and a built-in timer, so it makes waffle-making super-quick and easy. It's also a sturdy and good-looking piece of kit, but is compact enough to fit in the corner of a cupboard, without taking up too much space.

I've tested the waffle maker out in various ways... Obviously the first thing I did was make some sweet, breakfast waffles. Setting 4 was just right for golden-brown, hot, fluffy waffles. My girls and their friends loved them after a sleepover, for a breakfast treat. Then I tried out some posh waffles with a few different toppings, which would be great for impromptu desserts.

Now, I'm not sure I'd pay the RRP of almost £100 for a machine that only made waffles, so I decided to try out some other recipes, which I thought might work; cookies, muffins, omelettes/frittata and even home-made veggie/bean burgers all worked well, so long as they contained egg (I did try a couple of vegan recipes, which didn't hold together so well). I reckon almost anything which cooks from a batter or a dough-like mixture, and sets whilst cooking should work. Don't try burritos or toasted sandwiches though, as I found that molten cheese wasn't the easiest thing to clean out of the waffle plates!

My only real criticism is that there is no implement included to remove the hot waffles from the machine; A pair of plastic tongs would be useful, so that you don't scratch the non-stick coating.

As the machine is so sturdy and versatile, it would make a great gift for any foodie, or even a student starting uni. My teens have found it really easy to use, and have enjoyed coming up with different waffle creations. Look out for my next post, covering some of our favourite waffle-maker recipes and toppings!

The No-Mess Waffle Maker™ RRPs at £99.95 and is available from John Lewis, Amazon and Sage Appliances online.

Integrity Statement
I received a complimentary waffle-maker for the purpose of this review and for recipe development. All views expressed are genuine.

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Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Puff Pastry Empanadas with Black Beans

Puff Pastry Empanadas with Black Beans
These quick and easy veggie empanadas make an idea starter or tapas dish. They would also work well in kids' lunch-boxes, as an alternative to sandwiches.
Obviously you can make your own pastry if you have time, or use shortcrust pasty if you prefer.

Makes 18-20 small empanadas

  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 large, or 2 small bell peppers, diced 
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 fresh chilli, de-seeded and finely diced, optional
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp smoked or plain paprika
  • 1 tin black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tbsp chopped, fresh coriander
  • 100g/4oz Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese, diced
  • 500g/1lb pack of ready made puff pastry
  • 1 egg, beaten
Gently fry the onion, garlic and bell pepper in a little oil, until soft. Add the herbs and spices, and cook for a further minute. Set to one side to cool.
When cool, stir in the chunks of cheese.

Pre-heat the oven to 220°C/Fan 200°C/Gas Mark 7/425°F

Roll out the pastry as thinly as possible, on a lightly floured board.
Using a large cutter (10-12.5cm/4-5") or small plate/bowl and a sharp knife, cut as many circles from the pastry as you can. Re-roll any scraps of pastry and repeat.

Brush the perimeter of each circle with beaten egg.
Spoon 2 tsp of the filling into the middle of each piece.
Fold the pastry carefully over the filling, to make a semi-circle.
Press firmly to seal, then crimp with a fork, or by folding the edge over in the traditional way (YouTube tutorial here!).
Brush each mini-pasty with beaten egg to glaze.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the pastry has puffed up and turned golden brown.
Remove from the oven and cool on a wire tray.
Eat warm or cold with your favourite dips.

Suitable for freezing. Defrost before re-heating.

Vegan version
Most brands of puff pastry are vegan, so this recipe is easy to veganise. Swap the dairy cheese for your preferred alternative, or omit and add some extra beans or vegetables. Seal the empanadas with a little water and brush lightly with olive oil to glaze.

Top tip: If you don't have time to make empanadas, use the same filling for quesadillas - just pop 2-3 tbsp of the beany mixture onto a tortilla, fold in half and pop in a sandwich press or hot pan for a few minutes to warm through and melt the cheese.

Although I haven't attempted to make my own puff pastry, I'm linking this post to Lisa and Jen's Pastry Challenge, hosted this month at United Cakedom.

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