Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Hot Cross Buns (Vegan)

4 vegan hot cross buns
Inspired by Paul Hollywood's Bread programme, I thought it was about time I blogged another bread recipe.

I've seen a plethora of hot cross bun recipes lately, but very few vegan ones. Traditionally, these seasonal, Easter bread-buns are made with eggs, milk and butter, so I've substituted these ingredients for vegan alternatives. I think you'll agree that they look pretty much like the traditional variety (minus the crosses, of course!).
  • 3 cups strong bread flour
  • 1 cup sweetened almond milk, or similar
  • 4 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp dairy-free spread
  • 1 sachet fast action yeast
  • 1 cup dried mixed fruit
  • 1-2 tsp ground mixed spice 
  • 1 tsp Orgran No Egg, optional
  • ½ tsp salt
Add all of the ingredients, except the fruit, to the bread maker and set on the dough setting. 
After a few minutes, add the dried fruit and allow the bread maker to run the full dough cycle. (Alternatively, kneed ingredients together in a bowl, until you have a soft, but not, sticky dough.)

Turn the dough out onto a board, but don't add any extra flour.
Kneed the dough for a few minutes and then divide into 8 pieces and roll into balls.
Flatten slightly and place, well apart, on a greased baking sheet.
Allow to prove in a warm place for 45-60 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 220C/200C Fan/425F/Gas 7. 

Mix an extra 2 tbsp of strong bread flour with 2 tbsp of cold water to form a paste. Pipe the paste onto the buns (in your preferred design), with a small, plain nozzle. 

Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 190C/180C Fan/375F/ Gas 5. Bake for a further 10 minutes, until brown. The cooked buns should sound hollow if you tap on the base.

Mix 2 tbsp of white sugar with 2 tbsp water. Heat in the microwave for 15-30 seconds on high, to form a syrup. Brush the syrup over the warm buns. 
Remove from the baking tray and cool on a wire rack.

Serve warm or toasted for an Easter breakfast. Cut in half and spread with dairy-free spread and/or jam before serving. 

Suitable for freezing.

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Thursday, 21 March 2013

Antipasti Pesto

Bowl of pasta with home made pesto
Here's my entry for this month's Pasta Please challenge. Inspired by last month's entries (in particular this one from Jen at Little Birdie) and this month's theme, I thought I'd have a go at making my own pesto; no home made pasta just yet though!
  • 2oz/50g chargrilled peppers in oil, drained and roughly chopped
  • 2oz/50g sundried tomatoes in oil, drained and roughly chopped
  • 4 tbsp oil from the antipasti jar, or olive oil
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan-style cheese, grated (omit or substitute for vegan version)
  • A handful of fresh chopped basil
  • 1 tsp chopped red chilli
  • 500g dried pasta
Put the chopped peppers, tomatoes and oil in a liquidiser/blender and whizz on a low speed. Stir and blend again. 
Add the pine nuts, cheese, garlic, chilli and basil and blend again until thick and fairly smooth.
Cook the pasta as directed and drain, leaving a little of the cooking water in the pan. Return the pasta to the pan and stir in the pesto to warm through. 
Serve topped with a little more grated cheese or a sprinkle of pine nuts.

This pesto would also work well spread on a pizza base or as a bruschetta topping.

I'm linking this post into the 3rd Pasta Please challenge hosted by Jen at Blue Kitchen Bakes and Jac at Tinned Tomatoes.

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Saturday, 16 March 2013

Golden Wonder crisps - a review

You may remember a month or so ago, that Walkers decided to add real meat products to some of their previously vegetarian crisp flavours? This sparked off a public outcry from many vegetarian and vegan consumers (me included!). Well, since I am now boycotting Walkers crisps, I have had to find an alternative crisp manufacturer to give my custom to!

The nice people at Golden Wonder must have sensed my plight, as they offered to send me some samples of their Sausage & Tomato and HP sauce flavour crisps to test out. All of Golden Wonder's crisps are vegetarian-friendly and in addition, the following flavours are vegan: Ready Salted, Salt & Vinegar, Smoky Bacon, Sausage & Tomato and Pickled Onion.

"In light of recent news that one of our competitors have decided to put REAL meat into their crisps, we want to remind everyone that at Golden Wonder, we are staying loyal to our vegetarian fans…We think our Smoky Bacon and Sausage & Tomato flavours are pretty awesome as they are, and we have no plans to use real meat because at Golden Wonder we are, and always will be, vegetarian (and pig) friendly!"

I hadn't bought Golden Wonder crisps for years (mainly because none of the supermarkets I shop in seem to stock them,) but they are every bit as tasty as I remembered them...nice and crispy and packed full of flavour. We all actually preferred the crisps to Walkers, which was a pleasant surprise, and we particularly liked the HP sauce flavour which were like tomato sauce flavoured crisps with a spicy kick!

I've now tracked down a local stockist of Golden Wonder crisps (Home Bargains) and have also found that you can even order some varieties online for home delivery, so I'll certainly be buying them as my preferred crisp brand from now on.

Integrity Statement
I received some free samples of Golden Wonder crisps to review I did not receive payment, and was not required to write a positive review in return. The views expressed are genuinely those of myself and my family.

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Friday, 8 March 2013

Grasmere Gingerbread

pieces of Grasmere Gingerbread on a plate

Many years ago, I visited Grasmere on a school trip, and remember spending some of my pocket money on Grasmere gingerbread. We were all given a recipe when we were back at school, and made some in Home Economics. If you've never tasted Grasmere gingerbread before, it's like an oaty, ginger shortbread. 
I've lost my original recipe, so I tweaked one from Jane Grigson's English Food
  • 6oz/150g SR flour
  • 4oz/100g fine oatmeal (or porridge oats)
  • 6oz/150g soft brown sugar
  • 6oz/150g butter/dairy-free spread
  • 1-2 tsp ground ginger
Pre-heat oven to 180C/170C Fan/Gas 4/350F.
If using porridge oats, whizz in the food processor for a few seconds.
Mix all of the dried ingredients together.
Rub in the butter/spread or mix in the food processor - the resulting mixture should be fairly dry and will look something like the Sahara desert - don't worry, it will stick together as it cooks!
Tip the mixture into a well greased baking tray (25x30cm) and press down firmly with the back of a spoon.
Bake for approx. 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and mark into pieces with a sharp knife. 
Allow to cool fully in the tray before removing and breaking up.

Suitable for freezing.
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Monday, 4 March 2013

Pasta Please, Peppers: The round up

Thanks to everyone who entered a recipe in this months' Pasta Please. Having never hosted a linky like this before, I was a little worried that no one would enter! I was impressed by the quality of both the recipes and the photography...I really must start staging my dishes a little more creatively!

Several entries included home made pasta. I've never attempted this before, but feel I really ought to, as I'm sure it tastes much better than shop-bought.

Anyway, here's the round up:

Elizabeth's Kitchen

Seaweed farfalle & pesto with fiery chilli halloumi
I love halloumi, and was really impressed with Elizabeth's home made pasta. She added seaweed to her pesto, which makes this dish really individual and unique. The sliced chillis make the dish look really pretty and give the dish a spicy kick!

Little Birdie
Spinach and walnut pesto pasta with roasted red peppers and sundried tomatoes
Jen created another dish using pesto, but added walnuts and spinach to hers. I love the idea of this recipe and think it's one that would go down really well in my house. It would be a simple one to adapt using ready-made pesto and jarred peppers to create a really speedy but tasty dinner.

I was very impressed with Simona's home made chestnut flour gnocchetti and the fact that she even posted a YouTube video to show how to make them. I also loved the sound of the roasted pepper and almond sauce which she served with the pasta.

chestnut flour gnocchetti

We Don't Eat Anything With a Face
This was my entry for the challenge. I really enjoyed  thinking about how I could use as several varieties of pepper in one dish to create a tasty vegan meal. 

Leeks and Limoni
Katharine created a simple, economical, but delicious dish from just two basic ingredients (yes, you guessed them...pasta and peppers!). By slowly cooking the peppers, they become soft and sweet which complements the pasta beautifully.

Ev used a variety of bell peppers plus chilli peppers to make a really colourful dish. I think this would taste just as good cold as a pasta salad as it would hot.

The Taste Space
Roasted orange veggie noodle bowl
When I think of pasta, I automatically think of Italian food. Janet thought outside the box though and came up with this Asian-inspired dish, using noodles.

Roasted Orange Veggie Noodle Bowl

Lori's Culinary Creations
Southwest pasta salad
Lori came up with a great pasta salad recipe using store cupboard ingredients (let's hope we get a summer in the UK this year, so we can enjoy some al fresco eating!). She included Bacos, which I hadn't heard of, but apparently you can buy these bacon-style bits from some UK supermarkets.

Green Gourmet Giraffe
Johanna made her own spinach and walnut pesto and stirred it through her pasta. She topped this with roasted red pepper, broccolini and yogurt cheese, which sounds like an amazing flavour combination.

The Law Student's Cookbook
Spaghetti with roasted red pepper pesto
This dish also included a home made pesto to make a simple, tasty meal, perfect for hungry students!


Tinned Tomatoes
Roast Pepper & Sundried Tomato Pasta Salad with Feta
I love the sound of Jac's colourful combination of anti-pasti, feta cheese and pasta. This is another dish which would taste good hot or cold.

Amuse Your Bouche
I've never thought of putting pasta in a soup before, but Becca's recipe has convinced me that I must try it soon! The addition of red peppers gives this dish a wonderfully rich colour.

I've really enjoyed hosting this round of Pasta Please, but it has opened up my eyes into how much work goes into these things! It's been great to discover new dishes, and better still, some new blogs. Thanks to everyone who entered a recipe.

Next month, the challenge with be hosted by Jen over at Blue Kitchen Bakes and the theme will be home made pesto.

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Friday, 1 March 2013

Vapiano Italian Restaurant - a review

Vapiano Italian Restaurant
Vapiano is a well-established European restaurant chain, but brand new to the UK, having only two outlets in London so far (one on Great Portland Street and one on Southwark Street/Bankside), so I felt privileged to be invited to sample their menu from a vegetarian view point.
"Vapiano is an innovative European concept serving made-to-order fire roasted pizzas, fresh, house-made pasta and hand tossed gourmet salads...Customers use a 'chip card' to personally order their food or drinks from the bar or from the individual fresh pizza, pasta or salad stations."  
We visited the Southbank restaurant to fit in with a trip to the Tate Modern (which is about five minutes' walk away). I wasn't too sure what to expect, but having viewed the menu online, I was pretty sure that we would all find something we liked. In total, I counted 7 vegetarian pizzas and 11 main course pasta dishes (some contain Parmesan which can be omitted on request), including 4 vegan pasta dishes. Young children are well catered for too, with a selection of pastas and pizzas in child-size portions (and at half the cost of adult meals).

It was lovely to have such a wide range of choice and to see our chosen meals being cooked in front of our very eyes! The great thing about Vapiano, is that everything is prepared as you wait, so if you don't want Parmesan cheese on your pasta, or if you fancy a vegan pizza with some extra mushrooms, you can get exactly what you want. The pizza bases and pasta are both made freshly each day on the premises and are both suitable for vegans; What's more, their prices are exceptional value (especially for London) as all of their main course pizza and pasta dishes cost between  £6.75-£9.75.
"The name Vapiano is from the Italian proverb: Chi va piano va sano e va lontano. This translates as: People with a relaxed attitude, live a long and healthy life."
Vapiano don't accept bookings, so you turn up and sit where there's space; this may mean a short wait in the comfortable bar/lounge area, or may involve sharing a table with other customers. However, we dined at around 2.30pm after the lunch time rush and had no problem in finding a free table all to ourselves. On arrival, each customer is given a chip card so you can all order and pay individually, if required. You take the chip card up to the appropriate counter and swipe it to order your food. The food is then cooked freshly to order...the only downside I can see to this, is that the pasta dishes are prepared faster than the pizzas can cook, so some of you may have your food before others.

A selection of vegetarian dishes from Vapiano Italian Restaurant
Our main course pasta dishes were ready in a few minutes, while Miss Kahonie's pizza took a few minutes longer, however this wasn't a problem for us, as it gave us time to try each other's dishes. The pasta was al dente and each dish tasted distinctly different (not always the case for vegetarian dishes in other Italian restaurants!). The pizza had an authentically thin and crispy base and was generously topped.
We all really enjoyed our meals and Miss Kahonie said that her pizza was one of the best she'd ever tasted.

Although all of the main course portions were very generous, we felt it would be rude to leave without sampling a dessert or two! Unfortunately, the menu is not marked with a 'v' to indicate vegetarian dishes, and we were a little disappointed to find that about half of the desserts contained gelatine. I must admit that the desserts we chose, weren't up to the same standard as the main courses, but were perfectly adequate and at £3 each certainly wouldn't break the bank.

One of the nicest things about the restaurant (apart from the food) was not being rushed by waiting staff. As you order your own food when you're ready to, you can leave a gap between each course and order when ready to, or if you're in a rush, order straight away and have your food on the table in a matter of minutes.

I will certainly be recommending Vapiano to friends and family, and really hope that they'll be opening up a branch near me in the near future!

Integrity Statement
I received free meal for 4 at Vapiano. I did not receive payment, and was not required to write a positive review in return. The views expressed are genuinely those of myself and my family.

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