Sunday, 18 October 2015

Tuscan Vegetable and Bean Stew - Recipe Feature

Tuscan Vegetable and Bean Stew
To me, the name Cranks is synonymous with great tasting, wholesome vegetarian food. You might not know that their first restaurant and deli opened on London’s Carnaby Street in the swinging 60's; those were the days when people were considered to be cranks if they were vegetarian or vegan! Over 50 year later, the brand is still going strong and have a restaurant, Cranks Kitchen, in Devon, published several recipe books, and have recently launched a new, exclusively vegetarian, sandwich range. As a long standing vegetarian, I was amazed and a little humbled that such a well known vegetarian brand would want me to develop a seasonal recipe for them...

This is my economical and vegan adaptation of the traditional Tuscan stew, Pollo alla Cacciatore (hunter's chicken). I know you don't have to hunt very far to find vegetables and pulses in your local supermarket, but I find they work well with the flavours in this recipe and are hearty enough to make this a warming, winter dish.

If you prefer, you can cook this dish in the oven or slow cooker.

Serves 4:
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or crushed 
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 200g/8oz chestnut mushrooms, wiped and halved or quartered 
  • 200g/8oz chantenay carrots, peeled or scrubbed and cut in half vertically 
  • 100g/4oz green beans, trimmed and cut into 5cm pieces
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes (add 1 tbsp tomato purée if you use economy tinned tomatoes)
  • 250ml/1 cup vegan, dry white wine 
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp fresh, chopped parsley
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tin cannellini beans, drained
  • 50g/2oz pitted olives
Heat  the oil in a large saucepan, on a medium heat.
Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook gently for a few minutes, until softened. 
Remove from the heat and sprinkle in a heaped tsp of cornflour. 
Add all of the remaining ingredients (except for the tinned beans and olives), place back on a medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. 
Simmer for 25-30 minutes with the lid on, until the carrots and green beans are almost tender.
Add the tinned beans and olives to the sauce. 
Simmer with the lid off for a further 5-10 minutes, to allow the sauce to thicken slightly 
Remove the bay leaf and sprigs of rosemary before serving. 

 CranksServe with your choice or rice, pasta, potatoes or rustic, crusty bread.

Alternatives: Swap the wine for a vegetable stock, if preferred.

Sponsored Post
I received payment for recipe development and ingredients, from Cranks. All views expressed are genuine.

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Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Custard Creams (Gluten-Free & Vegan) - Suma Blogger's Network

My latest recipe for the Suma Blogger's Network is one I have road -tested, by baking the biscuits with 60 five year olds!

Cookery in primary schools is back on the curriculum with the aim of 'instilling a love of cooking'. As I work in a school, I often get asked to come up with recipes or ideas for our food-related activities. We have to be careful with allergens and various other dietary needs, so I came up with this recipe for Custard Creams. I had to make sure the recipe was easy to make, but it also had to be nut and egg-free, so I thought might as well go the whole hog and make it gluten and dairy-free too!

Having not used gluten-free flour before, I found it was made a slightly less-pliable dough, than wheat flour would; therefore you have to handle it more gently. Once cooked, it produced robust, crispy biscuits, which were easy to handle, so were great for the kids to decorate. Taste-wise, the gluten-free flour gave a courser texture to the biscuits, which was slightly gritty.

Makes 8-10 sandwich biscuits

Biscuit dough
  • 100g/4oz margarine/dairy-free spread
  • 150g/6oz gluten-free flour
  • 100g/4oz caster sugar
  • 50g/2 oz gluten-free custard powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 190C/180C Fan/375F/Gas 5
Cream the spread and sugar together, then beat in the custard powder and vanilla.
Mix in the flour to form a firm dough.
Refrigerate for 15 mins.

Carefully roll the dough out on a lightly floured board, until it is about ½cm thick - if it cracks in places, simply smooth over the dough with your fingers.
Cut out around 16-20 biscuits  with a rectangular cookie cutter (or whatever shape you prefer) and place on a greased baking tray.
Bake for 15 minutes.
Cool on the tray for a few minutes, then remove and place on a wire rack to cool.

When cold, sandwich together with the butter cream...

For the filling
Cream the spread, custard powder and vanilla together.
Slowly beat in the icing sugar, adding 1-2 tsp of boiling water, if needed, to make a thick, spreadable icing .
Spread or pipe the icing onto half of the biscuits.
Sandwich together with the remaining biscuits.

Keep in an airtight box for 2-3 days.
Suitable for freezing. 

     Suma Blogger's Network
  • You can make these biscuits with plain wheat flour if preferred; you may need to add a little extra to make a firm cookie dough.
  • If you don't want to sandwich the biscuits together with butter-icing, they can be decorated with glacé icing instead.
  • Make larger biscuits and cook for a few minutes longer, to make gluten-free ice-cream sandwich cookies.
  • Swap the custard powder (in both the cookie dough and icing) for unsweetened cocoa powder to make bourbon biscuits.
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