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.

Pin It

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. 
Pin It

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.
Pin It

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.
Pin It


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...