Baking

Elderflower & Pistachio Muffins with Lemon Curd

Elderflower & Pistachio Muffins with Lemon Curd and loads of Vegan Buttercream

It was Jane’s birthday recently and she loves elderflowers, lemon, mashed potato (that is not a typo) and CAKE, so I thought I’d combine them all. The cake was lovely but I liked the idea of making the recipe into muffins filled with the curd.  So you cut into them and get a nice surprise.  For me, elderflower is one of the tastes of summer in the UK and it’s been a bumper year. We’ve been making many vats of cordial and can’t wait for the elderberry bonza!

You know I rarely bake a ‘normal’ cake, I just can’t handle the sugar overload, but this was a birthday so I let rip.  You know the BHK, we live on the edge!!!  I tend to freestyle with baking which freaks many people out.  I see how it goes.  Sometimes it doesn’t work, but generally, sticking to some rules and with a little experience, things turn out well.  It also leads to new ideas/ creation.  Which is what fuels me in the kitchen.  After all, go back a few years and tell people you’re putting mashed potato in a cake and a few bushy eyebrows would have been raised I’m sure.  In fact, they probably still are.  I like to befriend these bushy eyebrows and I know that when they taste these muffins, they’ll be smiling

I used seived spelt flour here which worked well and had read about mashed potato as a binder years ago. Someone told me about a mashed potato cake and I thought, thats the kind of creative twist that gets me going.  I finally got to try it out and it worked a treat.  Jane’s parents really loved them, so baking with mashed potato will be played with even more in the BHK.  It is light and does help bind the cake together.

Us vegans use a lot of mashed things in our cakes, squash, pumpkin, apple, sweet potato, bananas, I think potato is as good as any and the flavour is suitably bland for a binding agent.  Some people have challenged me about using such binders and saying it will make the cake taste bizarre, I would think about it this way.  A non-vegan cake is normally filled with a load of scrambled egg!  That seems like it will mess with flavour more than a little mashed spud.  It’s just something new, thats all.

Can you guess what the secret filling is?

Vegan lemon curd is nice.  It’s not exactly, bang on, like the other stuff, but it’s getting there and benefits from being so easy to make.  Adding the elderflower cordial to it makes it better for me.  You can keep any leftovers in the fridge and it’s, of course, pretty dang good on toast.

The buttercream was a birthday pressie to Jane really (not the only one I might add!)  Icing sugar and me don’t see eye to eye.  It reminds me of church fares as a child and the cakes were always sickly sweet bits of icing with some sponge hanging off.  Or those flapjacks made with buckets of golden syrup and hard raisins.  I think my favourites were top hats made with marshmallows and chocolate with a smartie on top, but you didn’t need to bake them.  Or rice crispies, they were great.

Basically, this buttercream is old school and no one would be able to tell the difference.  There are some decent new margarine type things coming out, Pure is a good staple choice, plus Suma and Biona always deliver good products.  I just read that ‘I Can’t Belive It’s Not Butter’ have just released a ‘ICBINB It’s Vegan!’ brand, which is slightly confusing but raised a smile.  It is made with ‘real’ ingredients.  One thing that has shocked me in a nice way is the range of vegan ingredients and products in the supermarkets, what a difference a year makes (we’ve been travelling here, there and everywhere fyi).

This recipe over at Wall Flower Kitchen was a particular inspiration. Judging by this experiment, I would use seived spelt flour again, we know that its a good option from a health point of view but I love the flavour.

Our new newsletter comes out on Friday, the first one in nearly six years so don’t miss it!!  We’ll be celebrating summer with hand-picked recipes, light, simple and full of sun.  Sign up HERE.

Filled with lovely vegan lemon curd

Recipe Notes

I have toned down the sugar here, but I think it’s a perfect quantity. Not too sweet.  The icing makes up for that.  We tried the muffins without the icing and they’re ok with a cuppa, but you’re not going to fool any birthday person that they’re not lacking something.

All elderflower cordials are not made equal, especially if you are making your own.  The cordial we used was quite strong.  See recipe at the bottom.

You can use chopped almonds as a topping here, I just like the colour of the pistachios.

Best check that your lemon is unwaxed before using the zest.  If it’s waxed, and you’re just juicing, don’t worry, it will still be nice and lemony.

As you know, all ovens are different.  If your oven is fierce, check them after 16 minutes.

 

Elderflower & Pistachio Muffins

The Bits – For 12 muffins

Dry 

300g spelt flour (sieved)

100g ground almonds

2 teas baking powder

1 teas bicarb of soda

 

Wet

200g sugar

200ml almond milk

150g mashed potato

2 teas vanilla extract

3 tbs elderflower cordial

80ml sunflower oil

 

12 large muffin cases

 

Vanilla Buttercream

15g vegan margarine/ butter

150g icing sugar

1/2 teas vanilla extract

2 tbs plant based milk

2 tbs elderflower cordial

 

Vegan Lemon & Elderflower Curd

1 large lemon (zest and juice)

4 tbsp corn flour(starch)

40ml plant-based milk

3 tbsp brown rice syrup or sweetner of choice

1 teas turmeric powder

3 tbsp elderflower cordial

 

1 handful pistachios (finely chopped or pulsed in a blender a couple of times)

 

Fresh elderflowers (for nice decoration)

Eat in gardens, with sunshine and tea;)

Do It

Vegan Lemon Curd

Make the curd in advance, 1 hour before is ideal.  Place all ingredients into a blender and blitz until smooth.  In a small saucepan, bring the curd to a gentle boil, whisking as it warms.   When it reaches boiling, take off the heat and whisk well until smooth.  If you leave it, expect the curd to go clumpy.  Once it is nice and smooth, decant into a container and leave to cool.

Muffin Mix

Add the ground almonds to a large mixing bowl, sift in the flour, bicarb and baking powder.

In another bowl, combine the wet ingredients, including the sugar.

Stir the wet into the dry mix with a wooden spoon until just combined.

Line your muffin tray with muffin cases.

Using a dessert spoon, spoon enough mix into the muffin cases to fill around 2/3 of the case.  Using a teaspoon, spoon roughly 1 1/2 tbs of curd into the centre of the case.  Making the curd into a round shape before doing this helps.  Now top the muffins off with the rest of the muffin mix.  Don’t overfill the cases, they will rise when baked, fill them until a few millimetres from the top.

Bake 18-20 mins 180oC fan oven. Test with a skewer and look for any wet dough, the curd inside will make it slightly more difficult to tell.

Buttercream

Place the margarine/ butter in a bowl and whisk until creamy,  gradually add the icing sugar, whisking together until you have a thick consistency.  Add the elderflower and milk, whisk again, adding more icing sugar if needed, until fluffy.  It should be thick and spreadable and takes a little work.  If you’re not into whisking, you can use a food processor.  Place in the fridge to thicken up even more.

Allow the muffins to cool on a wire rack and then spoon on the buttecream, spread with the back of a spoon, sprinkle over pistachios, top with elderflowers.

Foodie Fact

Edible Flowers

We don’t eat enough flowers do we!?  Flowers make any bowl, plate and especially salads even more beautiful.

Summer flowers that we can eat include nasturtium, calendula, borage, broad bean flowers, chicory, chives, snap dragon, sunflower, tulip, viola, violets, wild primrose, wild garlic, coriander, cornflower, dahlia, gladioli, daisy, chives, honeysuckle, pansy, rose, sage, courgette flowers.  Quite a list and that’s nowhere near all of them.  Flowers are on the menu!

Flowers like this generally have a light flavour, it’s more about the vibrant look really.  Don’t just wander out and eat any flower though, many are not good for us, some poisonous.

Elderflower

Elderflower is said to have anti-septic, anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, it is also said to lower blood sugar and boosts the immune system.  You can also gargle (not coridal) with elderflower, which is quite nice.

Find out how to make our favourite Elderflower Cordial and Elderflower Champagne.  Elderflowers are so abundant at this time of year its a shame not to;)  One thing I haven’t tried is Elderflower Tempura which sounds delicious.  Anyone tasted it?

As ever, if you bake these muffins, we’d love to hear your comments and chat below.

PS – We very rarely get any freebies and have no sponsorship etc, we do this because we love it!  If we mention products, it’s only because we like them and want to share.  If we get free stuff etc, we would tell you.    

Categories: Baking, Cakes, healthy, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Summer, Vegan | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

Mango and Cashew Cake

Mango and Cashew Cake

Mango and Cashew Cake

With one eye on a lovely summer, here’s a quick and easy cake filled with some delicious tropical flavas! Served warm with whipped coconut cream and we’re talking something quite heavenly. I’ve added a few bananas meaning only a little sugar is needed, each slice is sweet in a naturally good way. The mango keeps the cake moist and there’s a little ginger there to give it all a kick.

This could quite easily be called a Keralan cake, a part of the world I love.  Any diet that is high in mangoes, cashews, coconuts etc I know I’m going to like.  A vegans paradise!!

ON THE ROAD

Even though I have now flown the Beach House, I’m going to try and keep the tasty recipes flowing. I love sharing what we’re cooking with you guys. I always manage to find a kitchen no matter where I end up.  Right now I’m in a little fishing man’s social club and men are playing dominos and quaffing brandy.

I don’t think I told you guys what we’re up to…….Jane is over in the States at the minute, having a wonderful time and I am in Murcia, Spain. Its a long story, but basically my U.S. visa didn’t work out so I’ll be travelling around the Med (Italy, the Balkans, Greece) and then joining Jane in Asia for some time travelling around Indonesia and beyond. We’ve got some freedom and we’re diving into it!!

Unfortunately, my new gadget has the worst camera imaginable attached to it, making every plate of food look like it’s made from limp cardboard. I’ll therefore not be on instagram for a while, but check out twitter and facebook (see side bars) for more regular updates and photos of our meanderings.  We’re both working on exciting projects and look forward to sharing news about them soon.

Back to the old school with Mum's scales - whats an ounce again!!????!

Back to the old school with Mum’s scales – whats an ounce again!!????!

Recipe Notes

The texture will be improved by 2 tbs aquafaba which is the liquid in a tin of chickpeas or leftover chickpea cooking broth (cooled). Most beans will also work well. This aquafaba works a little like an egg in that it helps to hold things together.

You don’t have to use a heart based baking tin. This is the only cake tin that I could find in Mum’s kitchen. How cool is that!!!

Fresh out of the oven

Fresh out of the oven

The BitsFor 10-12 slices
Dry
175g self raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground ginger
75g soft brown sugar

Wet
3 bananas
100g sunflower/ vegan spread (melted)
1 tsp vanilla extract

125g or half a medium-sized mango (finely diced)
2 handfuls cashews (roughly chopped)

A little more cashews or coconut for topping

Whipped Coconut Cream – For 4

1 tin coconut milk (chilled in the fridge)

Do It
Preheat oven 180oC, grab a 2lb loaf tin or 10 inch cake tin, lightly oil and line with baking parchment.

Sift all the dry ingredients into a bowl.

Beat the banana, melted margarine and vanilla extract together.

Add the banana mix to the dry ingredients and then fold in the mango until all is combined.

Pour into your waiting tin and top with sprinkles of cashews or coconut. Make sure to press any nuts sticking out down. They will catch the heat and burn.

Bake 45 – 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Turn out onto a wire cooling rack and leave to cool for 20 minutes before tucking in.

For the coconut cream – it’s oh so simple!! Grab the tin from the fridge, turn upside down and open.

Pour out the coconut water, this makes a nice drink (I’m thinking a mocktail) or base for a soup or stew. Scoop out the coconut cream and whip with a whisk of fork for a couple of minutes. You may like to add a little sweetener to it or even some lime juice and zest can be amazing.

Serve the cream straight away or put back into the freezer and give a quick whip before serving, it will go soft and floppy at most room temperatures.

Mango and Cashew Cake

Mango and Cashew Cake

Categories: Baking, Cakes, Recipes, Summer, Treats, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Decadent Double Chocolate Cake

Decadent Double Chocolate Cake

Decadent Double Chocolate Cake

A really decadent vegan chocolate cake!  This is one we find any excuse to make.  Its a lovely light and rich cake smothered in a very silky, chocolaty icing.  I think you’re going to love it!!

Nigella Lawson certainly knows her way around a cake and this recipe is based on one from her new book. Thanks Nigella! Jane found it somewhere and is such a fan of sweet things, knew it would be a wonder.  It’s one of those recipes that any non-vegan would be amazed to find out had no eggs or dairy in. The texture is wonderful and the icing is a knockout.  I don’t always tell people things are vegan anyway.  It’s just shining, delicious food.  ‘Nuff said!

THE UK COOKING CREW

People like Nigella, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Jamie Oliver and Rick Stein really kept me interested in cooking in my mid 20’s.  Mum normally had Rick and Nigella’s knocking around the house and Hugh was one of my favs. I remember him cooking things on open fires with antique looking pots dangling off his land rover and belting out ‘Baba O Riley’ by The Who with some proper chops. He seemed to be having a great time and it was infectious.  I loved the idea of grabbing a bunch of tomatoes from the green house and popping them straight into a pot.  That definitely sounded like the good life.

SIR JAMIE

A lady bought me Jamie’s first book in a hotel I used to work at, she knew I liked cooking and felt that a cheeky chap on a scooter would appeal.  I loved Jamie’s energy, skill and passion.  He didn’t go down stairs, he slid down bannister’s.  He tore stuff up, threw things, chopped things with his bare hands….  His carefree approach triggered something in me, I’d worked in a kitchen that was classically French, with big hats and all.  Simple, fresh and tasty food was where it was at and Jamie made it all accessible and fun.  That was one of the main things, it was FUN!  You didn’t have to take yourself or food seriously and this was surprisingly quite revolutionary.  Well done Sir Jamie (it can’t be long now lets face it with the sugar thing and all!!!)  Just one little question mate. When are you going fully vegan again????!  Jamie recently talked to Tim Shieff and came straight out and said that the future of food is plant-based.  Which was a really bold thing to say for a celeb chef but unfortunately, in his new book, there is not one vegan recipe.  Maybe the next one will be charged with plant power.  Fingers crossed.   I know that he loves vegan food and there are loads of vegan recipes over on Jamie’s site.

I used to try out loads of this crews recipes whenever I wasn’t working, which was quite a bit back then as I was a restaurant manager.  Cooking has always been a way for me to unwind and be creative.  I remember baking loads of Nigella cakes, there was one chocolate orange cake, oh! and who could forget the chocolate and guiness one.  I used to have it routinely for birthdays.  I just made some chocolate and stout cupcakes that I think you’ll like….coming soon.

Being a vegan chef now, I get the same feeling of inspiration that I did back in my early 20’s when I discovered the real joy of playing with pots and pans.  I can now check out these guy’s recipes and take them in a whole new direction.  The world of vegan cooking seems so vibrant and creative at the minute, I feel so lucky to be part of it.  It’s also great to see Nigella taking a step into the world of vegan baking.  There is an almost unlimited scope for brilliant baking without all that other, unnecessary stuff.  All you need is plants!!

THE MAIN EVENT

I make this Decadent Double Chocolate Cake recipe at least once a week in the kitchen and sometimes opt for a slightly less luxurious icing, a standard chocolate butter cream icing made using plant-based spread goes down very well (see below) and is a reasonable economy style option.  The team I work with in the retreat centre get quite excited when they see this on the menu, which cannot be a bad thing (as long as there’s leftovers that is!)

If you try this recipe out, please let us know.  We’ll be over the moon to hear that you’re in a happy chocolate place.

Recipe Notes

The batter is wet here, don’t fret.  Use a tight fitting tin and line it well.  This will mean that the batter doesn’t sneak through.

Please, please (please), please…..do not open the oven door, no matter how curious you get, when baking.  Leave it for 45 minutes before peaking.  This cake is a good sinker, the bicarb makes it shoot up, but until its almost baked, will quite happily sag back down making it a bit on the heavy side.

Ovens vary and this batter takes a long time to bake but thats what gives the lovely crust and gooey middle.  A winner of a cake combo!  It may need another 10 minutes.

Unless its a special occasion, we normally substitute the coconut oil in the cake and icing for vegan sunflower or olive spread.  This works well, but lacks the ultimate richness and shine that coco oil gives.  We’d recommend treating yourself to a nice big jar of coconut oil.  Early Christmas present.

You can see that I also make a version of the cake in a rectangular tin, whatever you’ve got really.  A rectangular cake is easier to portion, but in this instance, is much wider than a circular cake tin.  This means less time in the oven as the mix is thinner.  Go with your cake instincts!

The economy version with a more everyday icing

The economy version with a more everyday icing

Have some fun with this one!!!!!

Decadent Double Chocolate Cake

The Bits – 1 large cake (10-12 slices)

225g white flour

2 tbs chickpea flour

1½ teaspoons instant coffee powder

80g cocoa

300g soft light brown sugar

1½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

½ teaspoon sea salt

375ml hot water

75g non-dairy spread or solid coconut oil

1½ teaspoons apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar

Chocolate Icing

150g dark chocolate (finely chopped)

75g coconut oil

50g light brown sugar

60ml cold water

1½ tablespoons cocoa

Decoration (optional)

1 tbs edible rose petals or flowers

2 tbs chopped pistachios or almonds

1 tbs orange zest

Do It

Preheat oven 180oC and pop in a baking tray.

For the icing – Put all of the icing ingredients except the chopped chocolate into a heavy-based saucepan and bring to a gentle boil.  Stirring and ensuring all is dissolve. Then turn off the heat and add the chocolate, stir until melted and the icing is glossy. Leave to cool, stirring occasionally.

Line the bottom of a 20cm round springform/ loose bottomed cake tin (you will need a leak proof one, this is a wet batter) with baking parchment.

Place the flour, bicarb, salt, instant coffee, chickpea flour and cocoa in a bowl and mix together.

In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar, hot (not warm) water, non-dairy spread/ coconut oil and vinegar until all has melted and is combined. Stir gradually into the dry ingredients, adding a little liquid at a time, then pour into the prepared tin and bake for 45-55 minutes.

Check after 45 minutes. When done, the cake will be coming away from the edges of the tin and a cake tester will come out clean, apart from a few crumbs. This is a fudgey style cake and you don’t want to overdo it.

Transfer the tin to a wire rack and let the cake cool in its tin.

Give the icing a good stir and check it is nice and thick, yet runny enough to spread on the cake. Pour over the cake and use a spatula to ease the icing to the edges.

A lovely light cake

A lovely light cake

Decorate the cake with scattering of pistachios, orange zest and edible flowers if you have them. Leave to stand for 30 minutes for the icing to set before slicing into the cake.

Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

This cake freezes well, without the icing. Wrap the fully cooled cake in a double layer of cling film and a layer of foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. To defrost, unwrap and place on a serving plate at room temperature for 3-4 hours. 

Pop some flowers on your cake - you won't regret it

Pop some flowers on your cake – you won’t regret it

Foodie Fact

For loads of information and nutritional facts about chocolate, or more specifically, cacao, head over to our previous post.  We had an almighty chocolate tasting recently and sampled all the wonders of cacao.

 

Categories: Baking, Cakes, Desserts, photography, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , | 17 Comments

Seeded spelt bread & simple tips to make awesome loaves

Seeded Spelt Loaf

Seeded Spelt Loaf

Here’s a simple, wholesome and tasty loaf for all made with one of our favourite flours, spelt.  In the wonderful world of bread making, this Seeded Spelt Bread is one for the beginner but will no doubt be enjoyed by everyone.  There is nothing that can beat the fresh wafts of warm bread floating around your house, although Dad’s mulled wine at Christmas does come close.  Bread wafts instantly makes a house into a home.

Shop bought bread, not even the posh deli style stuff, can come close to a lovely loaf of home baked happiness.  Some things you just can’t buy and I believe that most foods are well worth that little bit extra effort and bread is definitely one of those.

There is something priceless and utterly magnificent about the whole bread making process.  Its magical and only takes a little practice and know how.  I’ve popped a few tips below that will get you started on the road to bread brilliance.  If you’re a keen baker, and lets face it, its become a bit of trend recently, this loaf is simple and yet delicious.

A loaf of bread is surely one of the nicest things you could ever give to someone.  If I enter a persons house and they say ‘I’ve just taken some loaves out of the oven’ it’s like entering some kind of ideal parallel universe where everything is just about right.  I was once made a German sourdough loaf by some friends and I rave about it still.  It was over five years ago but I’ll be taking that loaf to the grave!  I wanted to move into their kitchen and make baked goods for the rest of my days.

In my humble opinion, making bread is one of the most soulful things you can do in the kitchen.  Really, I see cooking for people as a privilege.  Once you get the hang of it, the world of bread is yours to explore.   There is no doubting that bread making can be daunting at first and you’ll probably not knock out a perfectly risen and crusty sourdough loaf at the first time of asking.  But stick to the basics and you’ll make something wholesome and full of homemade goodness.

We don’t eat loads of bread in the BHK, I might bake one morning a week.  At work, I bake bread every morning and its one of my favourite ways of starting a day.  All that kneading wakes the body up nicely.  For me, keeping things simple first thing is always a good idea!  We make fresh bread at Trigonos for breakfast and a nice loaf to go out with soup at lunchtime.  In many ways being a chef is a good workout all round, after a ten hour shift in a busy kitchen the gym looks a little pale and tranquil in comparison.  Playing with pots and pans all day keeps chefs lithe and focused (most of the time).

Breakfast loaves at Trigonos, almost ready for the oven

Breakfast loaves at Trigonos, almost ready for the oven

This recipe has been fully approved by our resident bread expert at Trigonos, Holger.  Holger is a proper loaf lover, master wine maker (he even makes wine out of oak leaves!) and German.  Apparently, spelt is more widely available over there and is sold as loaves and rolls, well named ‘Dinkelbrot’.  I know Holger is partial to this loaf because he always goes back for seconds.  Enough said.  It’s a success!

My favourite picture of Holger - observing the 2015 solar eclipse

My favourite picture of Holger – observing the 2015 solar eclipse

WHAT IS SPELT?

Spelt is one of my favourite flours giving a lovely light and nutty loaf.  It is really different from using wheat flour and is a highly nutritious grain that many people who are sensitive to wheat can enjoy.  Sometimes known as dinkel wheat (a word I appreciate) spelt has been cultivated since 5000BC.  It’s fair to say that folk around here in North Wales have probably been making loaves like this since the Bronze age.

Spelt is basically a sub species of wheat and being an ancient grain, has not been manipulated to meet manufacturing needs (like many variations of wheat have for example).  Spelt is easy on the digestive system as the gluten in spelt is water soluble and breaks down when mixed or chewed.  Being an ancient grain, spelt has kept its hard hull intact.  Many modern wheat grains have no hull which protects the grains from pests and the elements.  These wheat grains have now developed an enzyme inhibitor that keeps pests at bay but effects the way that we digest these grains, as enzymes are an essential part of good digestion.  If you feel bloated or heavy after eating bread, switching to spelt bread may be a good idea.

SIMPLE TIPS FOR AWESOME LOAVES

Bread takes some time and effort, not to mention a little technique and skill:

  • LINING – Line your loaf tin/ oven tray with baking parchment.  If your equipment is not totally non-stick, and that attribute is quite rare, then don’t risk a sticky situation.  Quickly line with baking parchment and you are certain of a simple extraction.
  • PROVING – The texture of a loaf comes mainly from the gluten waking up and doing its thing.   This takes a long proving and some kneading.  You don’t always have to pummel your dough for a long time, you can even leave dough in a fridge or a cool place for a very slow prove, overnight for example.  This allows gluten and flavours to develop and makes for a delicious loaf.  In Wales, it is so cold and we have no central heating, we have no choice but to take it slow.  We have however been known to use a warm hot water bottle to help get our dough woken up.
  • OVEN – Baking in general will mean getting to know your oven.  They are all different and timings may vary.  Where you place loaves/ cakes in an oven has a huge effect on the outcome and results will vary depending on whether the oven is heated by a fan or the main heat source is from the base etc.  It can be trail and error at first and the only way to learn sometimes is an over baked bottom on your loaf.
  • PRESENTATION – Bread looks cool when its a bit rough I believe.  Smooth is nice but try and give the surface some texture by not playing with it too much.  Tears and bobbles are great on bread and add to the texture of an interesting loaf.  You may also like to slash the top of the loaf before the final proving.  This adds texture to the loaf and also looks mighty fine.  Dusting with flour will result in a soft crust and brushing with soya milk will result in a crisp and darker crust.  With wet doughs, the loaf will spread out in the oven a little, this is worth bearing in mind if you have a particular shape in mind.
  • OBSERVE – Its also important to remember to be patient with bread making and flexible.  Observe the bread, whats happening to it?  When proving the loaf, is it rising too quickly or too slowly.  This will all be dependent on the ambient temperature (or you forgot the yeast!!)  Gauge whether the loaf is actually twice the size and amend the timings, less or more.  Sometimes the loaf will take much longer to prove and that is fine and actually preferred.  The key factor is that the yeast wakes up and does its thing, working its magic within the bread.  A quick prove can result in off, sour aromas and big air pockets in the loaf.
  • KNEADING – A wet, sticky dough is always better than dry and floury loaf.  I use oil when kneading the loaf as this will not add flour to the recipe, changing the texture of the loaf.  Many bread makers use dough spatulas instead of hands when ‘kneading’.  The old fashioned image of sleeves rolled up and pummeling an hapless lump of dough is not always the best way to go.  When your dough can stretched easily without breaking, around 8 inches is a good gauge, then its ready.
  • STEAM – Turn your oven at home into a professional bakers oven by adding a cooking tray to a lower shelf whilst preheating and when the loaf goes in, pour some water into the tray.  Creating steam which allows the loaf to develop a nice thick and light crust.  I do this with most loaves.
  • YEAST – This is the magic dust that makes bread rise.  Always keep it separate from salt,  they don’t get along and salt can kill it.  Add them to different parts of the bowl.  You can add your yeast to the warm water before mixing, but I find that it wakes up by itself.

Recipe Notes

I like this loaf with poppy seeds included in the seed mix.  They have a lovely flavour and give a nice bite to the loaf.  You may also like to add dried fruits like dates, apricots or herbs like rosemary and thyme to the loaf.  Spices like cinnamon and even garam masala can be delicious.

Rapeseed is one of my favourite oils and is local to us in the UK.  It has a great flavour that compliments spelt well, but you can use any oil, olive or sunflower etc.

Remember that spelt proves quicker than wheat.  I have proved this loaf twice, but you can easily omit the first prove and go straight for a single 40 minute prove followed by baking.  This is of course quicker and leads to a lighter loaf and ever so slightly crumbly.  Not better or worse really, just different.

This bread can be baked in a loaf tin, this makes it easier to handle as the dough can be quite wet.  If your just starting on your bread journey, go for a 1kg tin here.  Handling a spelt loaf is different from a wheat loaf, it can be quite floppy and needs some gentle encouragement (see below).

Add white flour instead of spelt for a lighter loaf.

Due to the gluten being different in spelt, it does not take as much kneading as wheat.  This can actually break down the gluten in the loaf, as oppose to strengthen it as with wheat.

 

Seeded Spelt Bread

The Bits – For one large loaf (10-12 slices)

500g spelt flour

1 teas yeast

1 1/3 teas salt

1 tbs malted rice extract (or sweetener of choice)

2 tbs rapeseed oil (plus extra for brushing)

2 handfuls mixed seeds (choose from poppy, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, hemp etc)

350ml warm water

 

Do It

In a large mixing bowl add the flour, seeds, salt and yeast.  Stir the sweetener into the water and gradually pour the water into the flour mix. Mixing it in with your hand or a wooden spoon.   Once all of the water is combined and a dough is formed add the oil and brush/ rub all the excess dough on your hands/ spoon back into the bowl and begin to knead the dough.

If your bowl is big enough, its possible to knead it in the bowl.  Otherwise turn out onto a cool surface, ideally lightly oiled.  Knead, it will be quite sticky, don’t worry, just give a good twist and pummel.  A lightly film of oil on your hands helps with the stickiness.  Work it!  Imagine you’re a kid again playing with food.  Its fun!  Give it roughly a couple of minutes kneading.  When the dough is smooth and pliant, you’re ready.

Form a ball and lightly oil it all over, in the bowl, lightly cover with a kitchen cloth and leave in a place that is slightly warmer than room temperature for 45 minutes.  The warmer it is, the more the yeast will come to life, so keep your eye on it.  The key is that the dough doubles in size.

A nicely shaped spelt dough ball, ready for its first prove

A nicely shaped spelt dough ball, ready for its first prove

Now knock it back (or knead it again).  Basically knocking the bubbles out of the bread and getting the gluten going even more.  This will all add to the firm and chewy texture of the loaf.  Form a rough and fat ball.  It will spread out, so tall is good.

Sprinkle or roll the dough in seeds if you like.  Grab an oven tray lined with baking parchment and place your dough on it and leave to prove for 35 minutes, until the dough has almost doubled in size (ideally, in a very perfect world, leaving just a little room for expanding in the oven).

Preheat an oven to 200oc and place a baking tray on a lower shelf.

The loaf ready for its final 35 minute prove

The loaf ready for its final 35 minute prove

This is spelt so the loaf may now look like a fat pizza base.  This is fine.  Using your hands or a spatula, gently form the loaf back together into the shape you prefer, pushing it and tucking it in.  You don’t want to handle it much at all at this stage.  A bit of gentle persuasion is best.  The loaf will be quite thin, nothing like a sphere but should not resemble a gorgeous, 2D frisbee.

Pour a couple of cups of water into a the now hot oven tray (lots of steam) and pop the loaf into the oven on a middle shelf.

(The tray steaming step is not essential).

Bake for 40-45 minutes.  Tap the base, it should sound nice and hollow with a good crust.  If this is not the case, pop it back in for another five minutes and repeat the process.

Lovely light spelt loaf with a good thick crust

Lovely light spelt loaf with a good thick crust

Once baked, leave the loaf on a wire rack (with a few inches of clearance underneath, too close to the surface and you’ll end up with a soggy bottom, which is never pleasant).  I give it at least 30 minutes before tucking in.  If you are in a hurry to cool the loaf down, cut in half or quarters.  This will release the steam making the loaf cool much quicker.

Serve

Makes a brilliant slice of toast and is ideal with soups especially.  I like it best warm with a drizzle of nice rapeseed oil or a little pot of balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Just a quick dip in that and then………woahhhhhh!  Lovely stuff.

Foodie Fact

Spelt is a good source of protein, dietary fibre, some B vitamins and minerals, especially manganese with good levels of iron.  It makes for a highly nutritious loaf.

Categories: Baking, Healthy Eating, photography, Recipes, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Coconut Scones

Coconut Scones (Vegan)

Coconut Scones (Vegan)

Mum’s here!!!! (and Dad)  When Mum visits we get stuck into loads of cooking.  We always have done and I’ve had these scones in mind for a while.  I knew Mum would love ’em!  Coconut + scones = genius.

This is a light, rich and crispy scone recipe especially for all those Mum’s out there. It’s MOTHERS DAY!! (Well it was yesterday when we made them!)  This will make any afternoon tea a little bit special.  Just add your favourite jam or Mum just had one with chocolate spread.  Yowzah!

These little beauties are based on the awesome recipe sent across to us by Janice at Nourished by Nature.  A place we visit regularly for nutritious, delicious, healthy recipes.  Janice is so passionate and creative and we love the way she cooks!  These scones even scooped the ‘Sweet Treat’ award at our last cookbook giveaway.  We just had to share our version of the recipe.

I love making scones and must admit, that at the moment I make more savoury scones.  Rosemary scones being my favourite.  They work so well with a nice hearty vegetable broth in these chilly winter months.  I have some great memories of Mum’s baking as a child.  Mum’s walnut and date scones were always amazing!  They were at least three times the thickness of these little guys.  I must remember to ask very nicely for a recipe…..

I have never used a food processor to make scones before, but I will again.  If used with care, i.e. not over working the mixture, the resulting scones are light with a delicious crispy crust.  I do not have a massive sweet tooth but these are right up my street!  A brilliant twist on a classic, just what we’d expect from Janice.

Mum busy with scones.  Always amazing to see Mum in the kitchen!

Mum busy with scones. Always amazing to see Mum in the kitchen!

Recipe Notes

I use the coconut oil here in solid form. This works best.

Feel free to use vegan spread instead of coconut oil, which I realise is quite expensive.  I must admit, I prefer the coconut oil ones.  Richer, lighter and with a crispier crust.

These scones can be made thicker, but I find thin scones great because there is less leftover mixture at the end and that means more lighter scones.  Once we start to reform the leftover straggly bits, the scones become heavier (although still very tasty).  Try weighing them in your hands, you’ll see what I mean.

Remember when baking scones, cookies etc they will seem a little underdone when removing them from the oven, they tend to firm up on the cooling rack.  This is perfectly normal and its best to take them out slightly undone than slightly overdone I feel.  Check the tops and bottoms, if they are beginning to brown, you’re there.

The Bits – Makes 8 medium-sized scones

225g self raising white flour

2 level teaspoons baking powder

50g unrefined white sugar (unprocessed)

100g coconut oil or vegan spread (olive, sunflower etc)

55g desiccated coconut

4-5 tablespoons plant based milk (soya milks works well)

2 tbs soya milk (for brushing)

2 tbs desscated coconut (for topping

Do It

Preheat an oven to 200oC (180oC Fan Oven)

In a food processor, add all the dry ingrdients and pulse a few times until a loose crumb forms. Add the soya milk gradually whilst pulsing until the mixture just starts coming together.

If you are not using a food processor, place all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and crumble the mixture using your fingers and thumbs (think breadcrumbs). After a while it will form a fine crumb, add the milk gradually, mixing with a spoon.

Fresh out of the oven

Fresh out of the oven

Pop the mixture onto a floured surface and bring it together with your hands. Do not over handle at this stage or your scones will be dense. Light scones will come about from very little handling.

Roll out the mixture using a rolling pin to a depth of 1 – 1/2 inches and cut out the scones using a cutter of your choice (Janice using a very cool heart shaped one). These ones will be the lightest, gather together the straggly bits of pasty and make into extra scones.  

Place on a baking tray lined with parchment and bake on a middle shelf in the oven for 12-14 minutes until the tops are have browned.

Coconut Scones - one ain't enough!;)

Coconut Scones with Rhubarb and Blueberry Jam – one ain’t enough!;)

Serve

You know how you love ’em!  A scone eaten still warm from the oven is a thing of rare beauty (blazing fire and purring cat on lap optional).

Foodie Fact

Coconut is an incredibly good thing in so many ways.  It is high in fat, giving it that gorgeous richness.  The fat in coconut is no ordinary fat however, a large portion of it is known as lauric acid.  A fat which has been shown to heighten our good cholesterol levels.  A medium coconut covers all of our energetic, mineral and vitamin needs for a whole day!   If you are ever in a tropical country and feeling the heat, reach for coconut water.  It is excellent at rehydrating the body

Categories: Baking, Cakes, Nutrition, photography, Recipes, Treats, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , , , , | 11 Comments

Banana, Buckwheat and Walnut Slices (Yummy, easy and don’t cost the earth!)

Banana, Buckwheat and Walnut Slices

Banana, Buckwheat and Walnut Slices

A nice slice of proper, old fashioned cake here. I love baking these traditional style cakes, you can’t go wrong with them.  Its so quick and easy to get together and it is also very cheap.  I doubt you’ll be able to cobble a cake together for much less.  This recipe is a request from one of our lovely guests at Trigonos, Debbie. It is a Trigonos classic and a variation on Ed’s (long serving chef and all around superhero) recipe that has been served to many thousands of artists, meditators, yoga students etc over the years. One of the best things about it, is its ease in preparation. Never a bad thing when working in a busy kitchen!

I was going to make Jack Monroe’s awesome looking Extra-Wholesome Banana Loaf and will be soon as I am always open to adding coconut oil to cakes.  I think its the closest we vegans can get to butter in baking and certainly adds richness and a fuller texture to your favourite slab of sweet happiness.  The extra-wholesome element in this cake is the buckwheat.  Adding great nutrition and a depth to the flavour of the cake.

PLEASE EAT MORE CAKE:)

Afternoon tea at Trigonos is always a highlight for most of our guests. It seems that this tradition is fast disappearing, maybe Great British Bake Off is reversing the trend a little, but a nice sit down with a cup of tea is a British institution that is dwindling due to our now fast paced lifestyles.  I think eating cake is essential to a balance, healthy, blissed out existence.  A little sweetness brings a smile.  Even if its a piece of fruit or one of the vast array of healthy cakes out there now; no sugar, gluten free etc.  We’re making one today actually, something revolving around polenta, garden blackberries and gram flour.  Watch this space (idea pinched from the brilliant Laura at Whole Ingredient blog!)

THE LUCKIEST CHEF ALIVE!

Trigonos is rocking at the minute with local produce.  I’m the luckiest chef living to be able to cook everyday with glorious organic produce.  Its all thanks to Judy and Owain who work their socks off year round to make the conditions right for these summer gluts.  The team have just podded over 200lb of peas alone, the sun has been out a little recently meaning the tomatoes are finally going red and we’ve a whole poly tunnel of them to munch, roast and/ or jar up.

Lovely to see the Ruby Chard back on the Trigonos Menu

Lovely to see the Ruby Chard back on the Trigonos Menu

As a cook, its a busy time of year, but a wonderfully satisfying one.  Our freezers are beginning to burst at the seams with blanched and fresh veggies, prepared for the more leaner months.  Our guests at the retreat centre really appreciate the fact that a lot of the food they eat was grown on the land, it certainly adds to the dining experience.  You can’t beat the flavour and vibrancy!

The courgettes are just taking off and that’s always interesting, overnight they can turn into something resembling a canoe crossed with a marrow.  They just blow up!  Sometimes these are great stuffed, as a real centre piece.  Basil has also ran wild this year, meaning many pesto/ pistou’s.  An abundance of basil is always a rare gift.  I’ve been loving Toasted Cashew and Sun Dried Tomato Pesto, hopefully I’ll get the recipe on the BHK soon.  Jane and I are also doing a few house renovations and working on plenty of Beach House/ Peace & Parsnips based projects.  More news of those to follow soon.

Overall, I’m consistently amazed at how the Trigo guys eek out such abundant harvests from what is quite a damp and overcast part of the world with fairly dodgy volcanic soil. Its taken 17 years to get it to this stage.  I think that is the main lesson with organic farming/ veg growing.  Patience.

Gorgeous summer peas - post pod

Gorgeous summer peas – post pod

This recipe makes roughly 24 slices. It comes directly from my Trigonos recipe book (a cluster of precious, undecipherable scrap paper) where recipes are normally fit to serve 20-30.  Please feel free to scale it down a little.  I’ve also made this with added tahini and sesame seeds (no walnuts) and it becomes even richer with a nice chewy texture.  You may also like to add seasonal berries to the cake.  Raspberries and blackberries, for example, work beautifully.  As ever, use this recipe as a base and go wild!  Feel ever free to experiment…………  Use any oil you like, of course unrefined is much better, preferably with a neutral flavour.  If you don’t have buckwheat flour, you can use all wholemeal.

IDEAS FOR REPLACING EGGS

The bananas here act as a egg replacer.  Other vegan options for helping to bind things together when baking are apple sauce (cooked apples), silken tofu, mashed sweet potato/ squash, ground flax seeds……there are loads of healthy and effective plant based options.

This one’s for you Debbie!!!!!!!x

Trigonos farm - looking a bit misty yesterday.  We're having a pretty good year with produce, but unfortunately, much less sunshine than last year.

Trigonos farm – looking a bit misty yesterday. We’re having a pretty good year with produce, but much less sunshine than last year.

The Bits – 24 Slices

Do It

11 oz (310g) self raising wholemeal flour

5 oz (140g) buckwheat flour

10 oz (285g) unrefined brown sugar

 

1/2 pint (285ml) sunflower oil

1/2 pint (285ml) soya/ rice milk

4 ripe bananas

3 oz (85g) crushed walnuts

 

Do It

Oil and line a 10 inch x 14 inch (roughly) pan with baking parchment.  Preheat an oven to 375oF (190oC).

Sieve the flour and sugar into a large mixing bowl.   Mash your bananas in a seperate bowl with a fork, until smooth.  Make a well in the flour and sugar, gradually pour in your oil and milk followed by your bananas.  Stir until all is nicely combined (not too much).

Pour into the baking pan and pop in the oven for 40-45 mins.  Until your trusty skewer comes out clean when pressed into the centre of the cake.

Turn out onto a wire rack (removing the baking parchment) and leave to cool for 20 minutes.  Devour at will.

Banana. Buckwheat and Walnut Slices - This recipe makes a load, but don't worry, it freezes well!

Banana. Buckwheat and Walnut Slices – This recipe makes a load, but don’t worry, it freezes well!

Serve

Big cups of tea with your neighbour or granny.   Cats are also nice to have around when eating good cake.

Foodie Fact

Buckwheat is a great, gluten free alternative when used as a flour or grain.  Buckwheat is classed as a whole grain but is actually a fruit and is related to sorrel and rhubarb.  Buckwheat is a good source of magnesium and has other properties that promote good cardiovascular health.   Fibre is so important in a well balanced diet and buckwheat, being a whole wholegrain, is full of it.

I use buckwheat, both flour and grain, loads in Peace & Parsnips, things like Buckwheat Pancakes, Toasted Almond Buckwheat Crumble, Kasha with Rosemary, Apricots and Walnuts…….  It’s such a nutritious and tasty thang.

Categories: Baking, Cakes, Local food, photography, Recipes, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

No-Knead Pizza Dough

Roasted Med Veg Pizza with Toasted Peanut Pesto and White Bean Puree

Roasted Med Veg Pizza with Toasted Peanut Pesto and White Bean Puree

A super easy way to make pizza or flatbread dough and the best thing is that it sits happily in your fridge for days, waiting patiently to be used.  No knead, a few stirs with a trusty wooden spoon and the flour’s gluten develops in the fridge and leaving it this way makes for a full flavoured dough.

Making pizza is always a load of fun, especially when kids are thrown into the mix.  Jane’s niece and nephew were visiting this week so we had to get some pizzas in the oven!  Jane and I don’t eat much white flour at all, but pizza night is our one exception.  I like a whole wheat base, or other flour, but a white flour base just seems like a treat and traditional.  After visiting the south of Italy last year, I don’t think Jane and I’s approach to pizza and pasta will ever be the same.  We now have very regular Italian feasts and making your own pizza bases is superbly simple.   We have used plain, all purpose flour here, but finer ground flours like strong/ bread flour or even ’00’ flour would be interesting.  ’00’ especially makes for a pizza base with more texture, a bit more chewy.

I love the way that flavour develops in dough when left for a time, of course sourdough bread is amazing and its that patient build up to a fantastic bread that really makes it a special food, a cooking process that is riddle with magic and mystery.  Yeast is just a very interesting thing!  Given the right care and attention, it works wonders on our humble ground grains.

Vegan toppings are super healthy and we always try to get as many veggies on our pizza as possible.  The pizza we made last night has toasted peanut pesto (very similar to the recipe in Peace & Parsnips) and white bean puree on for added richness.  It also has a layer of reduced tomato passata, roasted Mediterranean vegetables and red onion.  Overall, a highly OTT and delicious affair that left all around the table (vegans and non vegans) commenting how tasty pizza can be when cheese-less.  I ate Marinara (just tomato sauce and the occasional, single basil leaf) in Italy for over two weeks and never got sick of it.  I think I’ve always appreciated the base as much as the toppings!?  We are not huge fans of vegan cheeses, other than the homemade variety.  We are ever open minded however.  We’d love to think that one day, some clever sort will invent a cheese that melts like a dream and is also full of healthy plant power.  Otherwise, we’ll stick happily to nut and bean based cheese-like happiness.

Have you ever tried a pizza with a cauliflower base?  Its not exactly traditional, but a delicious alternative to flour if you are gluten free or looking for something that radiates good health.  We may get a recipe together soon and pop it on the BHK.  In fact, we’re turning into a right pair of dough balls this week.  We’re going baking mad.  With loaves and cakes all over the place.  I have just made a chocolate and coconut loaf that I’d love to share here soon.  Chocolate toast!  We’ve been lathering it with our neighbours home grown raspberry jam.  We only managed a handful of raspberries this year from our juvenile bush.  What a difference the length of a garden makes, Dawn’s razzers are rampant!

Pizza dough ready for action and a random niece (lovely Martha)

comment Pizza dough ready for action and a random niece (lovely Martha)

The Bits – 4 medium pizza bases
325ml water (lukewarm)
1 1/2 teas yeast
2 teas salt
1/2 tablespoon brown rice syrup (or sugar)
85ml olive oil
475g unbleached all-purpose flour

Extra flour and oil (for finishing the bases)

The dough proves and matures nicely in the fridge adding good flavour and texture

The dough proves and matures nicely in the fridge adding good flavour and texture

Do It

Sprinkle the yeast into the warm water, stir and set aside for a few minutes.

Add all dry ingredients to a container, mix with a wooden spoon/ spatula.  Gradually pour in the water, mixing all the time.  Then pour in the olive oil, mixing as you go.  The dough with now be taking shape, give it a few more good stirs.  Cover loosely with oiled cling film and leave to prove in a warm place for 2 hours.  Then cover again with cling film, loosely, and pop the dough into the fridge.  Use the next day.  This dough keeps nicely for 10-12 days in a fridge, you can use it little by little.  We have made double the quantity, meaning you’re sorted for pizza or flatbreads for over a week.  Very convenient.

Best to bring the dough out of the fridge an hour before you need it, let it get back to room temperature.  You can scoop some out with a spoon if you’re not using the full amount.  Maybe you’re just looking for a couple of quick flatbreads?

On a cool, well floured surface, knock the dough back by kneading it a few times.  You will need to sprinkle extra flour over here.  Sticky is good and will make a pizza base with great texture.  Once the dough is knocked back, cut into pieces.  One decent pizza base is about the size of a apple.  Wipe your surface down and lightly oil a piece of baking parchment (makes things a lot easier).  Rub some oil into your hands and begin to form the dough into your desired pizza shape.  Do this by stretching the dough with your finger tips and the heel of your hand.  I like my pizza thin crust, meaning roughly 1/2-1cm depth.  Use more oil on your hands if its sticking.

Gently lift the parchment onto a baking tray and set aside for 15 minutes before adding your toppings.   You may need to stretch out the dough again at this stage, it might shrink a little.  Bake in a very hot over (220oC+ fan) for roughly 8-10 minutes.  You may like to swap it around 2/3 of the way through cooking depending on your oven (one side can cook quicker than the other).  You know your oven!  The all have their own little characteristics.

Vegan Pizza!!!!!!

Vegan Pizza!!!!!!

Serve

This dough is highly versatile and can be rolled out into thin or thick flatbreads, depending on what you’re eating.  Just remember to leave it for 10-15 minutes before putting it into the oven for the yeast to wake up and do its thing.

Foodie Fact

There is really very little good to say nutritionally about white flour in general, other than stock up on nice healthy toppings (go vegan!) and then enjoy the deliciousness.  Maybe pencil in a few extra push ups or lengths of the pool (see below)….

Swimming off all that pizza down at Dinas Dinlle

Swimming off all that pizza down at Dinas Dinlle

Categories: Baking, photography, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gooey Choco Nut Cookies (Gluten Free and Vegan)

 

Choco Nut Cookies (Gluten free)

 

Here’s my best attempt yet at gluten free cookies.  There are many gluten free folk attending retreats at Trigonos (where I cook).  The people attending last weeks mindfulness course loved these cookies and to be honest, there was very little difference in texture between the normal cookies that I made. Chewy and gooey in the middle, with plenty of chunks of melted chocolate.  Quite a treat!

I use trail mix in these cookies, but you can substitute any dried fruits and nuts you like.  Xantham gum is something that most gluten free cooks will have around, it really helps to bind GF baked goods together. I don’t normally use it in the BHK, as it is like gluten in being hard to digest.  The difference in texture though is pronounced.  I never thought I’d say this, but Xantham has changed the way I cookie!

Simple, crispy, gooey (gluten free) cookies, we salute you!!!

Based on the recipe ‘Brazil Nut and Chocolate Spelt Cookies’ taken from ‘Peace and Parsnips’.  I made these cookies for Steve Wright on BBC2 Radio and he loved ’em!  Hear my full interview with Steve here.

Brazil Nut and Chocolate Spelt Cookies (from Peace and Parsnips)

Brazil Nut and Chocolate Spelt Cookies (Original recipe from Peace and Parsnips)

The Bits – Makes 8 cookies

Dry

1oog gluten free white flour mix (Doves Farm do a good one)

30g brown rice flour

1/2 teas ground cinnamon

100g unrefined brown sugar

1/2 teas bicarb of soda

3/4 teas baking powder

Large pinch salt

2/3 teas xantham gum

 

Wet

90ml vegetable  oil

1/2 teas vanilla extract

30ml water (splash more if needed)

 

1 big handful vegan dark chocolate (roughly chopped into chunks)

1 big handful of trail mix (or mixed dried fruits and nuts of your choice)

 

Do It

Preheat an oven to 180oc/ Gas Mark 4.

Sift all the dry bits into a large bowl.  Mix all the wet together in a measuring jug, make a well in the centre of the dry bits and pour in the wet, stirring as you go.  Mix in the chocolate and trail mix.  Things should come together, but still be a touch powdery (nothing like a cake mix for example).  Add a splash more water if needed to bind things together.

Make small balls, smaller than a squash ball, in your hands.  Press in some of the goodies (choc and nut) and place on a lightly oiled baking tray.  Press them down a little with your fingers to form a fat disc, they’ll expand in the oven, bear this in mind when spacing them out.  Leave a 5cm gap around each cookie.

Pop in the oven and bake for 11-13 minutes.  Ovens vary, if its a fan oven, check after 11, otherwise 13 minutes is good.  A little overbaking will make them crispier, but I like them gooey in the middle.  Remember, cookies are done when they have a crisp coat around them, they will be soft, but firm up on the cooling rack.

Leave the cookies to cool on the tray for a couple of minutes and them transfer carefully to a wire cooling rack.  Eat as soon as cool enough to scoff!

Serve 

Have you ever made a cookie ice cream sandwich?  Go for it, especially when they’re hot.  Place on cookie into a bowl, spoon over some ice cream and place the other cookie on top.  WOW!

Foodie Fact

Eating small quantities of dark chocolate daily can help the heart, assisting blood flow.  It also contains several compounds that make you feel good, even the chemical that is released when we fall in love!  Flavanoids are also present that help to regulate blood sugar and it is packed with anti oxidants.  These are just a scattering of the incredible benefits of our favourite sweet nibble.

Working on the land yesterday at Trigonos.  Planting some Crown Prince Squash, one of my favourite varities.

Working on the land yesterday at Trigonos. Planting some Crown Prince Squash, one of my favourite varities.

 

Categories: Baking, Desserts, gluten-free, photography, Recipes, Snacks and Inbetweens | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Blueberry and Hemp Muffins

Mighty MUFF - Blueberry and Hemp Muffin (gluten free)

Mighty MUFF – Blueberry and Hemp Muffin (vegan/ gluten free)

I love playing with vegan and gluten free food.  It’s a challenge.  How can we make a muffin taste, look, feel as good as a ‘normal’ muffin without the things that can muddle our bodies.  So many people are giving gluten a miss, it seems like a good idea as many people struggle with it.  I love bread, but its a treat and not an everydayer nowadays.  I did make a tasty loaf the other day using predominately ground sunflower seeds, it worked a treat.  I feel a shift, things are changing in the foundations of how we eat.  The next generational food norms will be very different indeed.  Gluten free and vegan will be as normal as fish and chips or black forest gateau.

I cook in a place called Trigonos, an idyllic retreat centre and organic veg farm.  It’s a blessing.  There I encounter all sorts of dietary requirements, every group that I cook for has a long list of specific dietary needs.  The most regular are vegan and gluten free (we are a pure veggie place), but there are so many people out there waking up to food intolerances.  We are all unique and beautifully different, what works for me, might not work for you.  But eating less gluten and animal-based saturated fat can only be a good thing for your health.  That is a widely held, universal, food understanding.  So these muffins are nice…..  They can be enjoyed by almost anyone and there is no sacrifice in the taste or treat departments.

Nobody who eats these muffins would think they are vegan or gluten free.  They are really quite healthy but very delicious.  Any berry can be used here, depending on the season.  We managed to get some blueberries and I admit, they are one of my favourites.  The berries sort of explode in the muffins, creating lovely fruit pockets of happiness.  There is plenty of richness from the coconut oil and a little bit of bite from the polenta flour (very fine polenta that is, not the course grain stuff we use normally).

GLUTEN FREE BEHAVIOUR

We tend to make our own gluten free flour mixes, we still haven’t got round to making the definitive Beach House Bread Mix.  But its coming.  I always like to have buckwheat flour around, one of my favourite grains/ seeds.  In moderation, it makes for a light addition to baking with a good hearty flavour.  Banana helps with the binding here, but you can use stewed apple instead.  This is also very nice and works well when using blackberries in this recipe.  We’ll be doing his later this year for sure.  The brambles are already winding their wicked way all over the back of the garden and in Autumn, it will be an oasis for big, juicy blackberries.

FLAX EGG?(!)

Making flax eggs is so easy. Grab some flax/ linseeds and grinder them in a coffee grinder, blender, something like that.  You are looking for a fine powder, but a few whole seeds is absolutely fine.  You can also buy ground flax seeds or flax meal.  This can then be added to all baking shenanigans in order to add a very nutritious binding agent.  In the absence of eggs, I find them the best.  They even have a vaguely egg-like texture, very gelatinous and gloopy.  For 1 tbs of ground flax, I add 1 1/2 – 2 tbs water, stir and leave for a short time.  You’ll see the change very quickly.  Ground flax is also an amazing way of adding nutrition to your morning cereal, yoghurt or smoothie.  Ground flax also helps to make a substantial and chewy loaf of bread or pizza crust.  Fibre is so, so important to a healthy diet.  It cleans you out in more ways that one!!!!

See here for more about flax eggs and other vegan baking substitutes.

 

I love using hemp seeds although they are a little rare.  You could try sunflower seeds here, but the hemp seeds (hulled ones anyway) are so creamy and light.  They seem to blend into the muffin adding richness.  Sunflower seeds will be more of an  obvious presence.  Tasty non-the-less.  Hemp is a wonderful plant and is becoming more and more popular for its uses in making fabric and even paper.

On the beach, with a shell

On the beach, with a shell

What with promoting our new book PEACE & PARSNIPS (out tomorrow I may add)  and cooking, cooking, cooking…..there seems little time to squeeze in blogging, let alone glorious beach walks.  Which is a shame.  We will hopefully get some more of our recipes up on the B.H.K very soon.  It is almost impossible to keep up.  I love writing about food, but I must say, I love cooking much, much more.  I’m an out of balance food blogger.  Forgive me!!!!  I just bought a new computer to replace my ancient little Filipino net book gadget, hopefully this will make me vastly more efficient.  You never know!

These muffins are light and fruity…..healthy and delicious….give them a whirl!!  All of your guilt-free dessert dreams are coming true….right here:

Fresh from the oven- THE SMELL!  THE AROMA! (yum)

Fresh from the oven- THE SMELL! THE AROMA! (yum)  PS – I ran out of mix so the top left muff is a bit of a half-ling

The Bits – Makes 6 muffins

50g buckwheat flour

50g rice flour

25g polenta flour (not coarse polenta, it should be fine like flour)

(or try 125g of a pre-mixed gluten free flour)

30g hulled hemp seeds

2 tbs coconut oil (softened)

½ teas bicarb soda

½ teas apple cider vinegar

¼ teas sea salt

1 teas vanilla extract

1 banana (mashed)

4-6 tbs rice syrup (depending on how sweet your tooth is; I’m a 3 and Jane’s an 8 – on this scale)

30-50ml soya milk

1 flax egg (1 tbs ground flax seeds mixed with 1 1/2 tbs water and left for 15 minutes)

100g blueberries (or berry of your choice)

When baking, always have a tea towel thrown over your shoulder.  It makes you look like you know what you're doing!

When baking, always have a tea towel thrown over your shoulder. It makes you look like you know what you’re doing!

Do It

Set the soya milk aside and then mix together the dry and wet ingredients separately.  Then mix both together until just combined, adding the soya milk as need.  The batter should be sticky, but not wet.  Gently stir in the blueberries without popping any if poss (no drama if you do, they will have cool purple streaks).

Spoon the batter into oiled and lined muffin trays.  Use muffins cases if you like, I prefer cutting out squares of baking parchment, oiling them and using them.  They look far cooler.  Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick test comes out clean and not sticky.  Remember, a little moisture in a muffin is a good thing of course, over baking them would be a shame.  Use your muffin-sense here.

Leave to cool in the tray for 20 minutes before enjoying liberally with mugs of your favourite chai.

Blueberry and Hemp Seed Muffin

Blueberry and Hemp Seed Muffin – Difficult to be this close without taking a bite…..

Foodie Fact – Flax Seeds

Flax seeds contain soluble fibre, a gel forming substance called ‘mucilage’.  This means that they are brilliant for slowing down the release of sugars into our bodies, helping us absorb more nutrients from our foods and resulting in us being fuller for longer.  2 tbs of flax seeds contains 4 grams of dietary fibre.

Flax seeds are also the very best source of lignans, which provide the body with anti-oxidant and fibre-like benefits.  In fact, flax seeds are actually higher in anti-oxidants (polyphenols) than blueberries!  Not bad for a little grass seed.

Flax seeds are also ridiculously high in Omega 3 fatty acids, probably the highest to be found in nature.  Omega 3’s help to keep our hearts healthy.

Categories: Baking, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

No-Knead Everyday Loaf

No-Knead Everyday Loaf

No-Knead Everyday Loaf

Risk free, no brainer baking.  Perfect!  If you have never made bread before, start here…….if you’re a pro kneader, give this one a whirl, you’ll be surprised by the results.

This is bread making without all the fuss and mess.  In fact, its as simple as; combining, baking, eating.  This is a light loaf, with a slightly crumbly finish, like an Irish soda bread (without the faint twang of soda).  You can really taste the yoghurt which is a nice addition, giving richness to the loaf.

This is a bread that we make regularly and is perfect for a quick loaf in a hurry.  There is no proving or hanging around with this one.  Mix it up, whack it in the oven and before you know it, your whole house is fragrant with the joys of imminent warm bread.  Homemade bread is the only way to go and with recipes like this, its hassle free.

Adding sparkling water to your baking really adds a lightness to proceedings.  Normal water works fine here also.

Jane nibbling on a Tostada con Tomate - One of the recipes in our new cookbook - Peace and Parsnips

Jane nibbling on a ‘Tostada con Tomate’ – One of the recipes in our new cookbook – Peace and Parsnips

Modified from the awesome vegan baking book ‘The Vegan Baker’ by Dunja Gulin

The Bits – Makes a 1/2kg loaf (around 8-10 slices)

275g unbleached white flour

125g wholewheat flour

2 teas baking powder

50g rolled oats

1 ½ teas salt

250ml soya milk

225ml water (sparkling water is best)

4 tbs soya yoghurt (unsweetened)

2 tbs olive oil

Everything in neat bowls, probably the tidiest bread making recipe (no flour everywhere for a start)

Everything in neat bowls, probably the tidiest bread making recipe (no flour everywhere for a start)

Seed Mix

3 tbs rolled oats

1/2 teas caraway seeds

2 tbs flax/linseeds or sunflower seeds (any seed will do….)

Loaf ready for the oven

Loaf topped and ready for the oven

Do It 

Preheat an oven to 220oC (425oF).

Sift the white flour with the baking powder, then stir in the oats and salt.  Mix well.

Mix in the wet ingredients and combine well with a trusty wooden spoon until a sticky dough is formed.  It should be easy to spoon, add a touch more water if needed.

Line a loaf tin with oiled baking parchment, the neater, the better.  Sprinkle half of the seed mix on the base and then spoon in the bread mix.  Level with a spatula (a wet one works best) and sprinkle over the rest of the seed mix.

Pop in the oven and lower heat to 200oC (400oF) and bake for an hour.  If you’re using a fan oven, check after 30 minutes that the top is not burning (our oven is a beast and tends to burn tops).  Cover with more parchment if this is happening.

Remove from oven and allow to cool in the tin. Turn out and peel off paper.  Leave to cool further on a wire rack, the crust will now crisp up nicely.

Store as you do, this bread lasts well, 5 days.

We let it cool outside, meaning you can start eating it sooner!

We let it cool outside, meaning you can start eating it sooner!

Serve

Warm with Marmite and good olive oil or some of Jane’s lovely Apple and Tomato Chutney (coming soon on the B.H.K).  This loaf is a good toaster.

Foodie Fact

Oats are a concentrated source of fibre and nutrients, a pocket battleship so to speak.  They are very high in minerals like manganese, phosphorous and copper.  It contains beta-glucan, which is a special type of fibre that actually lowers cholesterol.  Isn’t nature kind!  Have loads of fibre also means that oats help to stabilise our blood sugar level, meaning a better metabolism and less freaky weight gain.  Oats are very cool.

Sunset last night from the BHK window

Sunset last night from the BHK window

 

Categories: Baking, Peace and Parsnips, Recipes, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Brazil Nut and Banana Breakfast Cookies and the Trials and Tribulations of Vegan Travel

Brazil Nut and Banana Breakfast Cookies - Fresh from the oven

Brazil Nut and Banana Breakfast Cookies – Up close and personal

Warm, healthy cookies for breakfast.  Yes, please!!!!!!  A fine start to any day and even the sleepiest of heads can cope with the simplicity of getting these together.  This is a nourishing and energy giving breakfast on the run and one of these cookies contains much more nutrition than your average bowl of cereal.

A strange post to be winging it across from the Turkish Med, but the weather in the port town of Antalya is dreadful.  Jane and I are tucked up in bed with cups of well stewed Turkish tea.  We were here two weeks ago and the sun was blazing, it now resembles a supermarket car park in Leicester town centre in a November hail storm (with the occasional roman aqueduct thrown in).  Amazing the difference some pants weather can make.

THE BEACH HOUSE ON TOUR

A quick update as to our wandering ways.  We’re in Turkey, as mentioned and have been whizzing around in a hire car for two weeks, covering thousands of kilometres in this fascinating and rich land.  Firstly, Turkey is a country with many layers of incredible history and culture, stunning and varied landscapes, but the real star (as ever we find) is the people.  The folk we have met have been absolutely brilliant, wonderfully hospitable, kind and funny.  Jane and I have felt very at home ever since, on the first night, a genial waiter Abdullah, offered us his house to stay in for as long as we like. We declined his more than generous offer, so he halved our bill and sent us on our merry way.  This has become quite normal, every day we are confronted with bare faced kindness and highly welcoming behaviour.

The view from our hotel in Antalya on the first day, now it looks considerably greyer with occasional lightning forks crackling over the mountains.

The view from our hotel in Antalya on the first day, now it looks considerably greyer with occasional lightning forks crackling over the mountains.

We’ve been so active in the last 14 days its quite hard to recap that’s been done.  Having taken in most of the Turquoise coast, with its stunning ancient Greek and Roman Ruins and beautiful beaches, we headed up to Pammukale, which is a massive calcite wave with hot thermal springs (and an almost token vast ancient Greek settlement on top).  We then whisked our little Fiat up through the Alpine clad mountains, inland and across a vast Anatolian steppe to Konya (the resting place of the poet Rumi and the home of the whirling dervishes) and then spent a few days exploring and hiking in the ridiculously unique and surreal rock features of the Cappdocian valleys.  We stayed in a luxury cave, carved out of compressed volcanic dust.  The beauty of having a car is being able to stop alot along the way and get lost.  Getting lost I find is the best way to get to know a country properly.  The out of the way places are always more fun than the tourist ‘hives’.

Now we’re back on the coast, having traced the silk road for a while and hung out in caravaserai’s.  We’re readying ourselves for a weeks volunteering and cooking on an organic farm and animal sanctuary (meaning sitting down for a day).  Phew!  In a nut shell, its been intensely brilliant.  It feels like we’ve been away for years.  Pictures will hopefully follow when a better internet connection arises.

THE TRIALS AND TRAVAILS OF VEGAN TRAVELER 

Being a vegan foodie traveler outside select parts of LA  is never going to easy, but many Turkish staples are easily veganised and we haven’t struggle for sparkling sustenance thus far.  Saksuka, corba (soup, lentil normally), bean stews, gorgeous pides (Turkish pizza), village rice dishes, shepherd salads, smoked aubergine and pepper salads, many clay pot roasted veggie variations (in wood fired ovens), and lashings of white bread ( no whole grains on the horizon) have kept us ticking over quite nicely.  All washed down with plenty of tiny glasses of Turkish Whiskey (well stewed tea normally grown around the Black Sea).

We do have a very unique diet in the Beach House Kitchen and we always feel the pinch the first few weeks of a travel.  Gone are the 6 vegetable morning juices and rampantly organic raw salads and layered tofu bakes.  Having said that, back here in the big city Antalya (population 11 million) we have just enjoyed a slap up mezze-fest in a white table cloth joint.  Radical selections of local leaves, beetroot, funky turnip juice, fresh steaming white bread, melt in the mouth aubergine dishes (known as the ‘sultan’ of vegetables in Turkey and quiet revered), interesting and intense tomato rice (the shape of which I’d never seen before, very squat and dumpy grains).  Great stuff and an open fire to boot.

Generally travelling as a vegan means scouting out as many fruit and nuts as you can find.  I’m not a huge supplement fan, but do travel with some Spirulina which I picked up in India, see this article I wrote for more info on this wonder green powder.  Getting balanced nutrition is a happy quest when on the road.  A vegan traveler has to be more patient with food and accept the occasion stray lump of cheese or gristle with grace and impeccable manners.  After all, we are ambassadors of something highly  positive, why ruin it all with a restaurant rant.  It can get a little embarrassing on occasion, especially when in a home.  No matter how much you explain yourself, language barriers can become chasms when ordering in a restaurant.  It is quite an alien concept in most parts of the world.  So far, on this trip, I have been fine and had no encounters with surprise ingredients.  There is an element of keeping it simple and realising the the cornucopia of local food is generally out of bounds and you will have to settle with some simple veggies dishes and many baffled and perplexed looks from local waiting staff and restaurant owners.  Jane and I also make alot of salads and simple veggie dishes ourselves, we always travel with a good knife and some plates.  This keeps costs down a little and means that we can pack loads of gorgeous local veggies into diets with relative ease.  Overall, Turkey is a great country for vegan travel and much of the produce is organic and seasonal.

I made these cookies just before we left the Beach House for our travels around Turkey, Spain and India.  They were a real hit with our friends over coffee and chats.  As usual with our sweet things, they are an attempt at taking a gorgeous cake/ cookie recipe and making it as healthy as we can, without compromising on delicousness.

These baked beauts are packed with nutrition and low GI, all that shebang!  They are also super tasty and almost a meal  in themselves.  After one of these for breakfast, we feel pretty much sated for the morning.  We’ve basically put loads of the things that we love in a bowl and baked it, most are ingredients that we believe will do our body the most amount of good first thing in the morn.  A novel way of approaching cookie making you may say?!  But the cookie taste it there, it just so happens that we snook in a few wonder foods as well.  We’ve got oats, flax seeds, bananas, maple syrup, brazil nuts, cinnamon……it’s like a health food shop condensed down into small disc of crispy happiness!  All these things are going to make your body smile and sing.

Gluten free folk may like to try buckwheat flour or your favourite gluten free flour mix instead of the wholewheat flour, we haven’t tried it, but are sure it will lead to magic results.  Gluten free oats are also readily available.  You can also just use oats, but the cookies won’t quite have the density and firm texture that these will.

Fresh out of the the oven

Fresh out of the the oven.  Would you call this a cookie or a biscuit?

SO WHEN IS A BISCUIT A BISCUIT, AND A COOKIE A COOKIE?

I think this is a matter of cultural surroundings and varying criteria.  Personally, a cookie is moist and chewy and a biscuit is crunchy and crumbly.  Cookies are normally fatter and biscuits are thinner.  Cookies are not traditional in the UK, so any new and magical ingredients normally take things in a cookie direction.  What do you think?  I know in the States biscuits are served with savoury dishes, they seem to be more like a semi-scone, but generally quite heavy.  I know one thing, there is no way anybody would refer to these whoopers as a biscuit, maybe a ‘slab’ would be better way of describing them, or a ‘chunk’.

Use any variety of nuts and seeds here, whatever’s handy (although poppy seeds are probably best used only if you love ‘em dearly).

Once baked and cooled fully, these cookies will keep for a few days in a tight fitting container or biscuit tin and don’t just eat them for breakfast, eat them all day if you like!

 

The Bits – 6-8 big cookies

200g Scottish oats (50g more reserved)

30g wholewheat flour

2 bananas (mashed with your hands)

3 tbs sunflower seeds

1 ½ tbs flax seeds

1 handful brazil nuts (roughly chopped)

200ml sunflower oil/ light olive oil

3 tbs maple syrup/ brown rice syrup/

1 teas bicarb of soda

1 ½ teas ground cinnamon

1 teas almond extract

In the mix

In the mix

Do It

Preheat an fan oven to 180oC.

Mix together all the bits in a large bowl until a smooth dough is formed, then add the rest of the oats and stir in.  This will give the cookies a little bite and texture.

For soft cookies bake for 10 minutes, for slightly crisper cookies, turn the tray and bake for a further 2-3 minutes.

Breakfast is served!

Breakfast is served!

Serve

Using a flat spatula, place on a wire rack and leave for 15 minutes to cool.  Best served with a nice big cuppa tea.

Foodie Fact  

Many people believe bananas to be high GI (Glycemic Index) foods, meaning they release their carbohydrates straight into your blood stream and leave you with a ‘sugar spike’ that can lead to blood sugar level mayhem and long term ailments.

Bananas are actually low GI and are our friends, meaning they help against diabetes and keep our heart healthy.  The greener your banana, the less sugar present.  Plantains have the lowest sugar levels.

Goodbye from the Med!  (expect more pics soon)

Goodbye from the Med! (expect more pics soon)

 

Categories: Baking, Breakfast, Recipes, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Quick Blackberry and Rowan Jelly Tart

 

Quick Blackberry and Rowan Tart

Quick Blackberry and Rowan Tart

Following on from the ‘Simple Blackberry Compote‘, we take the next reasonably logical step, the ‘Quick Blackberry Tart’.  The Beach House is beginning to resemble mound of blackberries at the minute, our garden and the neighbouring horse fields are a sea of green with many purple patches.  Forgive us for our bramble based indulgence, but they’re so tasty.  It seems that horse muck is the ideal breeding ground for giant blackberries, although horse manure seems to benefit all plant life, our tomatoes definitely appreciate it.  Even though our neighbouring horses are a little wild and aloof, we thank them for producing their fertile goods.

As with the compote, cooking rarely gets easier than this.  Three ingredients and minimal fuss make this the perfect last minute/ lazy moment dessert.  It is of course, greater than the sum of its parts and is one of those recipes that punches well above its weight (not sure if that analogy is particularly Beach House-ified!)  I use frozen puff pastry for very obvious reasons, any brave soul who attempts to make their own puff pastry cannot be described as ‘lazy’ in anyway.  Its quite a labour intensive process involving advanced folding and rolling techniques.  I have made a type of parantha that is similar, but a parantha is a very forgiving format (like a fat flaky chappati).  Puff pastry is something we have in the freezer and use when our folsk visit, they all seem to love a bit of crumbly dough.  Dad is here at the minute and he approved of this tart, eating the leftovers for lunch which is not a bad sign.

The rowan jelly has been kicking around our fridge for a while and this tart is the perfect home for it.  We have plenty of rowan berries and elderberries loitering around the Beach House and we are planning on a mass harvest very soon.  Hopefully next year we’ll have homemade rowan berry jams to sample and probably whack in a cake/ tart.

There are so many differing ways that you can take this tart.  The astringent rowan here works well with the sweet blackberries, our berries were very sweet and you may like to add a little more sweet jam/ jelly if you have a batch of more tart fruits.  Once you’ve made the base, you choose the toppings.  Something like a pizza desert.  This recipe is simply what was to hand, seasonal and looking good. We’ve had it with apples and marmalade, strawberries and cashew cream, plums and star anise, pear and cinnamon, banana and custard……the list goes on.  All of them simple and very quick to get together.

The pastry base is best blind baked, depending on the tart filling, the pastry may seem ever so slightly soggy in the very middle.  It is cooked and is just a result of the liquid wetting the pastry and having something like a steaming effect.  Think a Chinese dumpling as opposed to a pasty (like a Jamaican Pattie).  The combination of soft middle and flaky outside only adds to the textural fun.

The Beach House Potato Patch (looking a little sorry for itself after a serious blight infestation, theres always next year!)

The Beach House Potato Patch (looking a little sorry for itself after a serious blight infestation, theres always next year!)

The Bits – For 4

250g block of puff pastry (frozen is much easier)

6 big handfuls of blackberries (or as needed)

4 tbs rowan jelly (or other fruit jam)

 

1-2 teas vegetable oil

 

Do It

On a lightly oiled surface, using a rolling pin, roll out your pastry in a roughly rectangular shape.  Flipping it over a few times, whilst rolling, giving the  pastry a good even thickness and light coating of oil.

Place on a baking parchment and give it another few rolls.  Score a 1 inch border around the edge of the pastry by running the tip of a knife around.  Cut roughly 1/2 way through the pastry with a sharp knife.  Poke the base (not the border) a few times with a fork, this will lessen the rising.

Preheat an oven to 180oC and when warm, pop in the tart base bake for 12 minutes.  Until lightly golden and well risen.   Press the base of the tart down, leaving the border slightly raised.  Spoon in and spread the jelly/ jam and scatter over a good layer of berries, packing them in tightly.  Place back in the oven and bake for a further 15-20 minutes, until the border is dark and golden and the fruit is soft.  Leave to cool for 10 minutes and serve warm.  You know your oven, if its not a boss fan oven, then flip the tart around halfway through cooking to balance the bake.

The tart fresh out of the oven

The tart fresh out of the oven

Serve

Dad is here, we had custard!!!  There is hardly any difference between normal custard and vegan custard, try making custard with almond milk, its extra yum!

Jane and Dad getting stuck in!

Jane and Dad getting stuck in!

Foodie Fact

Rowan berries grow all over the UK and can be seen a mile off due to their vivid red colour.  These berries have long been regarded as fantastic for health; they boost the immune system, help the digestive system, prevent certain cancers and reduce bacteria infections.   They also make a very tasty jam.

These little red suckers are packed full of vitamin C and fibre and also contain a very powerful blend of antioxidants (aka disease fighters).

Do not eat rowan berries without cooking or freezing them for a decent period of time, they are quite toxic.  They contain what is called parasorbic acid, which is no good, but when heated or frozen this acid transforms into sorbic acid, which the body loves.  Rowan berries are technically a ‘superfood’ that lives on our doorstep.  They can also make for a potent and eye popping liqueur!  (Isn’t that what they call the best of both worlds!!!?)

Rowan berries are one of the many hedgrerow goodies that seem to be overlooked.  I don’t think it will be long until many more folk are out there at this time of year, harvesting the bounty of fruits and leaves that are springing out of our hedgrerows, many boasting fabulous health giving properties and a diversity of flavours and textures.

Categories: Baking, Desserts, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

What is a Flax Egg? and Other Vegan Egg Substitutes

This is!  (Flax Egg)

This is! (Flax Egg)

THE VEGAN EGG

A flax egg is basically 1 tbs of ground flax seeds mixed with 2-3 tbs of water. Left to sit for around 15 minutes, it becomes gloopy and a little egg-like. Ideal for binding vegan baked fare and highly excellent from a nutritional point of view.

The flax seeds should be as well ground as possible, depending on the equipment you have to hand.  It is best to use something like a high powered food processor or coffee grinder.  We use the later after a good rinse (old coffee grinders smell a little like ashtrays, have you noticed?)  We also try to use a pestle and mortar and after lots of elbow grease and caveman grunting; pounding and crushing, we were left with the consistency above. Namely, not very ground up at all. They are hardy little suckers, maybe it’s because they are so full of good things.  Even when only semi-bashed, they still work well.

OMEGA 3 POWER!

Flax seeds are full, full, full of healthy Omega 3 fatty acids, one of the highest sources in nature.  In fact, flax, chia and hemp seeds contain more Omega 3’s than any type of fish, which may also contain heavy metal contaminants.  Recent studies show that baking or cooking these fats is no problem, these amazing polyunsaturated fats will not wilt in the heat.

One of their main uses for the Omega fats in the body is to aid and stimulate metabolism.  Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown, in tests (by people wearing white coats clutching clipboards) to help with cumulative conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and strokes and can also assist with inflammation and may potentially help with cancer and mental health.  None of these ‘white coat’ tests seem conclusive but we can be sure that Omega-3’s (and their sibling linolenic fat, Omega 6) help with the healthy development of brains, eyes and nerves.  Other fatty acids in flax seeds give us shiny hair, strong nails and keep our cells firing on all cylinders.  Do I need to go on……………….!!!!  They’re great!

Glorious flaxseed (or is it a linseed?)

Omega 3 fatty acids come in different lengths, and without getting too scientific (because I am a cook), the longer the chains (called EPA and DPA), the easier it is for the body to synthesize these glorious fats.  Plants provide our bodies with short chain fatty acids (ALA), which can be converted into longer chain fatty acids (with more bonds open for chemical reactions) but the conversion rate depends on whether you are male or female, your age and on your diet.  Flax seeds contain roughly 10 times more omega 3 fats per serving than fish, so there is a pretty good chance you will be getting a good dose of the finest EPA’a and DPA’s if you use things like flax eggs, to regularly add flax seeds to foods; cereals, stews, baking, vegan/ veggie burgers, breads and pizza dough etc.  Once you make the decision to give up animal products, you are definitely not saying goodbye to our Omega 3 friends.

LIGNANS AND FIBRE

Flax seeds are also by far the highest source of lignans in nature (some say 800 times the amount of their nearest rivals!!!!), which basically translates as a whole bunch of anti-oxidant benefits. In fact, most people think that anti-oxidants rich foods are normally berries and brightly coloured foods, but flax seeds are well up there in the anti-ox states. Not bad for a grass. Flax seeds are almost 70% fat, but will not make you pile on the pounds. These fats are all beneficial to the body and are essential to a healthy, well balanced diet.

Flax is packed with fibre, which helps, especially in baking, when you are adding sugar to the mix. Flax seeds will help to put the brakes on sugar leaping into our systems and creating metabolic havoc and subsequent weight gain. These little seeds actually help to kickstart the metabolism, perfect morning food.  Flax seeds are widely used to help the bowels, they are cleansing and maintain ‘regularity’.  Especially good for I.B.S., diarrhea and constipation.  Try taking a tablespoon of flax seeds before a meal and you may feel fuller, reduce hunger and stimulate your digestive system.  Healthy bowels also have the knock on effect of you losing a little weight.

—————-

1 tbs of flax seeds contains a similar amount of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and lignans as 30 cups of Broccoli. 

Fibre wise, 1 tbs flax seeds = 30 slices of wholewheat bread 

—————–

Wow!  What a thing.  See this great site, Healthelicious, for more in depth info.

FLAX OR LIN-SEED?  WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

There is no difference, its all in a name.  Just be aware that boiled linseed oil is best for your shed or garden furniture and not for eating.  Things bought in DIY shops are normally not great on the plate!  Linseed oil is actually a brilliant wood preservative and perfectly natural, unlike the horribly toxic alternatives (creosote et al).  Golden linseeds and flax seeds (a dark reddish brown colour) are very similar things and both can be utilised in the same way.

OTHER VEGAN EGGS (!?)

There are many options out there for vegan egg-subsitutes, most come in packets and plastic wrapping. There are powders you can buy, but I have always found ground flax eggs to do the trick, they are like ‘an egg with benefits’.  As I’ve already harped on about, they are proper nutritional powerhouses.  Baking recipes with lots of eggs in are normally out of bounds for vegans, but if its something like a quiche or dished with boiled eggs in, tofu or tempeh will make for a perfect substititute.  I have used plain silken or firm tofu, blended together with gluten free flours like tapioca, potato or gram, this also works well in cakes and vegan burgers/ sausages.  It is always best to blend tofu first, as it may leave chunks in your lovely cake.  I have also used mashed sweet potato as a very funky binder.

Vital wheat gluten (or ‘Seitan’ as its called when formed into chunks) is a great addition to breads and burgers.  It  is basically flour, washed until only the gluten remains.  It acts as a string binding agent when added to things like vegan burgers or sausages.  It is, of course, highly non-gluten free and I like to enjoy it in moderation.

Chia seeds, when ground and soaked in a similar way to flax seeds, offer a decent gloopy texture and as you may know, wondrous health benefits.  Bananas and stewed apples/ fruit can also be used to replace eggs in some recipes, but non of these option offer the ‘fluffiness’ that eggs, especially egg whites can give to baked goods.

Here are some top tips from PETA on egg replacement options:

• 1 egg = 2 Tbsp. potato starch

• 1 egg = 1/4 cup mashed potatoes

• 1 egg = 1/4 cup canned pumpkin or squash

• 1 egg = 1/4 cup puréed prunes

• 1 egg = 2 Tbsp. water + 1 Tbsp. oil + 2 tsp. baking powder

• 1 egg = 1 Tbsp. ground flax seed simmered in 3 Tbsp. water

• 1 egg white = 1 Tbsp. plain agar powder dissolved in 1 Tbsp. water, whipped, chilled, and whipped again

Read more: http://www.peta.org/living/food/egg-replacements/#ixzz3BmJLmnW5

The egg-options mentioned here are a reasonable solution to the vegan baking egg dilemma with the added bonus of being amazing for the heart (and all parts of the body for that matter). See our Juicer Pulp Muffins with Pecans, Fig and Turmeric for flax seed eggs in full effect.  It is fascinating what you can do when baking vegan, and although some recipes will be slightly denser than those with eggs, the obvious health and ethical advantages far out weigh the textural differences.

And flax eggs make these, Juice Pulp Muffins

And flax eggs make these, Juice Pulp Muffins with Pecan, Fig and Turmeric

Categories: Baking, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Pecan and Fig Muffins (Vegan, Gluten Free, Sugar Free)

Juice Pulp Muffins with Pecan and Fig

Juice Pulp Muffins with Pecan and Fig

GLUTEN FREE, VEGAN, SUGAR FREE, LOW GI, HIGH FIBRE, …….whatever you want to call them, these muffs are very cool.

The worlds healthiest muffin?  Almost, possibly not.  The worlds strangest muffin?  Quite possibly.  The worlds tastiest muffin?  (Probably) YES!

These are muffins if Doctor Parnassus made them in his Imaginarium (any Terry Gilliam fans out there?)  Containing what can only be described as pscycedelic pulp (great name for a surfer rock band).  This is what you could call a classic Beach House post, we woke up and all of a sudden made some pink-ish muffins with turmeric in them, then thought we’d write about the experience.  I trust you don’t think any of these posts are planned or orchestrated in anyway.  This is adventure is all the food we are eating right NOW.  Steaming on the plate/ wire rack.  You can probably tell by the rushed looking photo’s, a hungry camera man is a complacent camera man.  Thankfully these freakish muffs are totally delicious, have an almost succulent texture and are happily brimming over with health giving properties and the main thing (that we almost forgot) is that they are a pleasing receptacle for your leftover juice pulp.

Yes,these sweet thangs are ‘sugar free’, although I don’t quite get this new movement.  The whole sugar free thing seems mystifying; you can’t eat one type of sugar but can eat other types of sugar.  Its like being vegan, but you can eat goats cheese because its lower in fat????  Can someone please explain the ‘Sugar-free’ craze?  Anyway, these are sugar free as they only contain dried fruit and maple syrup, which are not classed as ‘sugar’ by some.   They are of course, much better than processed, bleached, alien sugars, meaning all white sugar (which isn’t even vegetarian as it can contain bone meal!!!!).  Low GI seems the way forward, or eating fructose with fibre (like a banana) which naturally slows he absorption of sugar into the blood stream.

PULP (NON)FICTION

Jane and I would be nowhere without juice.  Our lives have changed since we got our first juice machine and we are now a happier shade of orange (too many carrot and ginger juices, you have been warned!).  We have been curious about juice pulp muffins for ages.  How can we use up all of this wonderful looking chaff.  Its almost pure fibre and we’re not eating it?  Quite a conundrum!  How can we utilise this excellent commodity, other than adding to the ever grateful compost bin.  What better way that baking with it!  We discover a great webpage that gives ‘20 smart uses for using up leftover juice pulp’ from making ‘pulpsicles’ to a face mask, there are so many creative ways of putting pulp to work.  Check it out!  We also like to add it as balast ie replacing, rice, lentils etc, to vegan burgers and patties (falafels, sausages, frisbee…….or whatever shape is being moulded), it can also be incorporated into a wholesome and frugal soup.  No doubt, more pulp-based Beach House posts are coming this way….watch this space for Pulp Gazpacho.

A bucket full of pulp derserves a home

A bucket full of pulp derserves a home

PULP NUTRIENTS VS JUICE NUTRIENTS

The leftover pulp from juicing is primarily fibre, although there are some other good things in it as no matter how good your juicer, dry pulp is virtually impossible to extract.  Too much pulp is not great for the system as the high fibre content may lead to ‘blockages’.  Some would say, and this makes perfect sense, that juicing inundates the body with concentrated nutrients that it may not be quite ready for and eating whole foods is the way forward.  We’d agree with this.  The enzymes needed to extract the nutrients of most foods can be found in the food you’re eating.  How cool is that!!!!  When we juice, we seperate the ‘whole’ food, so eating the pulp later means that all of the nutrients are not necessarily available to the body.

Another theory is that the nutrients from vegetables is in the juice and the nutrients from fruit is in the pulp.  Meaning, juice your veggies and eat your fruits.  This is due to the flavanoid content in the skins of especially citrus fruits.

This is not in anyway us angling against juicing, just give some differing opinions.  Juice is the finest way to start any day and we’d whole heartedly recommend it to anybody.  For us, it is the cornerstone of healthy, vibrant diet.  Juicing is a truly awesome way to offer our bodies potent nutrients and is a sublime wake up call to our system first thing.  How often would we normally eat 4 carrots, 2 apples, 1/2 beetroot, 2 inches of ginger and loads of kale (our juice ingredients this morning) in one sitting, especially one glassful!  You can just imagine what good that is doing our bodies and it shows the effect of bags of energy and a sense of ‘fullness’.  Normally after a breakfast juice, I won’t eat again until at least lunchtime.

These here psyco muffins are beautifully moist due to the high pulp content, we baked ours for between 35-40 minutes (37 1/2 minutes to be exact!) any more and you’d loose some of that ‘gooey in the middle, crispy on the outside texture’ that is so drop, dead gorgeous.  Also, under baking vegan/ gluten free goods will not mean that you catch anything or have dodgy digestion for the rest of the day, so there is no risk going for gooey.

Maple syrup is so precious on this hill, we did a half/ half mix between malted rice syrup and the glory sap (maple syrup).  Anything is better with more maple syrup, so go wild accordingly.  You could use any combo of dried fruits and nuts in this recipe.  With the bright purple beetroot content of these muffs, I thought at one stage that pecan and fig just didn’t go.  For some reason, they didn’t seem fun enough for pink!?  Peanut and cranberry seemed better, and still sounds nice.  Hazelnut and dried apricot, walnut and date, almond and prune……..The dried fruit used will alter the sweetness, especially if you’re going for dried dates.  I’d say this recipe is moderately sweet and would make the perfect, post juice, mid morning nibble.

If you’re not very keen on spice, omit the cardamom and turmeric (adding 1/2 teas more cinnamon), although the latter especially is one of the finest things you could ever wish to consume (health wise).  Turmeric also gives these muffins a very funky colour, especially when combined with beetroot pulp (although the raw mix hue does tame slightly when baked).  You can use most juice pulp here, but things like celery will take things in a more savoury, eclectic direction.  Things like carrot, beetroot, greens (maybe not cabbage), any fruit, ginger are all fine pulp fodder for baking sweet things.

So if you try one muffin this morning, fill it with psychedelic pulp.  Don’t worry, I’ve ate four of them whilst typing this with no obvious side effect (other than a goon like grin and a misty/ vacant look in my eyes, “Parnassus you rogue, is that you!!!!!??????”,,,,,,,,,,@).  All is well in the BHK!

Dr Parnassus himself would be proud of such a mound of goodness

Dr Parnassus himself would be proud of such a mound of goodness

The Bits

2-3 cups juice pulp (ours was beetroot, carrot, apple)

1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour (we used 1 cup rice flour, 1/2 cup cornmeal/ fine polenta)

1/2 cup vegetable oil (coconut oil is also wonderful)

1/3 cup whole bean, organic soya milk (any non-dairy milk will do)

1/2 cup maple syrup (brown rice syrup or liquid sweetener of your choice.  Adds to the crispy exterior)

3 tbs flax seeds (ground well and mixed with 6 tbs water.  Leave for 15 minutes to become gloopy)

3/4 cup dried figs (roughly sliced)

1/2 cup pecans (roughly chopped)

1/2 tbs vanilla extract

2/3 tbs bicarb of soda

1 teas ground cinnamon

1/3 teas ground cardamom and 1/2 teas turmeric (optional but awesome)

For additional oomph! and new flavour directions (especially if you’re making a breakfast style muffin):

Add 1 heaped teaspoon of ground coffee/ wheatgrass or spirulina/ lemon or orange zest – and let us know how these go……we are trying the wheatgrass version next week.

Do It

Simple as.

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl with a trusty wooden spoon.  Form into big balls with your hands and pop into a muffin tray.  You don’t need a special muffin tray for this recipe, you can form big balls with your hand and place them on a lined and oiled baking tray and then fashioned them into a muffin shape.

Preheat an oven to 180oC (fan oven) and bake for 35-40 minutes, turning the tray/ trays after 20 minutes.  Our oven is a beast and can burn the items closest to the fan (do you have that problem?).

Leave to cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack before nobbling one or two.  Best served warm and slightly steaming.

The psychedelic interior (dampened slightly by baking)

The psychedelic muffin interior (dampened slightly by baking)

Serve

As quickly as possible.  We ate ours with some homemade blackberry and apple compote, just because it was on the hob.  I’d imagine some cashew cream or soya yoghurt would be pleasant.  You will of course need your favourite brew (that means a cuppa tea, not a beer in these parts, we are drinking alot of ‘Iron Buddha’ tea at the minute.  From China.) to hand.

Foodie Fact

Pecans.  These little beauties are members of the hickory family and like all nuts, are packed with the things we need and thrive upon.  Full of very good and useful fats, huge amounts of energy, good cholesterol and dietary fibre.  They are also rich in anti-oxidants, especially an excellent source of vitamin E which protects our cells and skin from free radicals.

Categories: Baking, gluten-free, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Jane’s Easy Seeded Wholemeal Loaf

Jane on the beach this morning (Dinas Dinlle)

Jane on the beach this morning (Dinas Dinlle)

Jane has been running wild with the bread vibe recently, all kinds of doughy goodness has been rising and getting crusty around the BHK. The most impressive is the most simple recipe, which is just the way things should be.

Jane has taken a few steps out of your average bread making venture and the result is a light and crispy loaf, with decent density. It makes a great base for regular bread making and avoidance of all that strange stuff made by big supermarkets etc masquerading as bread (when we really know that some strange practices have happened behind the scenes). When you taste good quality, homemade bread, you will not be hurrying back to buy some ‘fly away’ seeded loaf from a luminous aisle. This is the real deal.  You also know what goes into your loaf, there can be some strange things done with wheat, bits taken out then added later, all kinds of additive and preservative action.

Whenever we turn the oven on, we pop a loaf in. It makes sense. Turning the oven on is a real event for us, not only does it heat our kitchen (where we have no heating!!!) it also gets our minds tuned into baked goods. What can we rustle up? Rustling things up is very prevalent in the way we do things over here on Tiger Mountain.

Last year we posted something like a ‘Simple Loaf’ recipe, but this takes things even further in the simplicity stakes. If you know of an easier way to make a decent loaf, please let us know.

Jane and I have both decided that bread is cool. We have tried going off it for lengthy periods, but in moderation, toast is a wonderful thing (especially with loads of Marmite lathered on). I don’t think either of us are gluten intolerant (although we all probably are to one degree or another). I am yet to find a decent gluten free recipe for homemade bread, I’ve tried a few, but many of them contain eggs and there is a limit to the way that silken tofu can substitute the richness and binding properties of an egg. I will keep trying though.

Serving suggestions. You have to love the way that companies incorporate a serving suggestion on most of their processed products. I was looking at a can of beans the other day and it was just a picture of a load of beans, underneath stating ‘serving suggestions’. Serve beans, as beans! Who knew!!!! Serving suggestions here are bowls of soup, try this one, or here’s another beauty or maybe a raw soup would be nice?  You can of course go old school and just toast it up and spread on some bramble jelly of even make a little crostini, with chopped tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and fresh basil or oregano.

Have you tried spelt? This is my new favourite loaf and I will be posting a recipe for my ‘Roman Loaf’ very soon. Spelt has an awesome toasty taste and is filled with nutrition and relaxed gluten. Also barley is ridiculously high in fibre, natures highest in fact and makes for a magic crusty lump.

WHOLEWHEAT OR WHOLEMEAL?

When buying flour, try to get whole meal/ wheat.  Stoneground seems to the the most traditional way of doing things.  Sometimes ‘whole meal’ is not actually ‘whole wheat’ and this can mean a decrease in the nutritional value of your loaf.  These terms change from country to country, but we are looking for wheat with all the bran and germ etc intact and certainly not removed. Some brown looking flours can be mixed with other grains, so its worth checking the ingredients.  Also look for unbleached white flour, as bleach and food just don’t mix.  In fact, bleach and life just don’t mix!  You can easily make this loaf 100% whole wheat and experiment with different types of flour (see above).  The white flour is only really there to make it lighter and tighter (if you catch my drift).  As you all probably know by now, I’m the rough, crusty flapjack side of the ‘Beach House Bakery’ and Jane is the more frilly scone and tinsel approach.  This loaf is a compromise of sorts…..

Over to Jane for the simplicity masterclass:

For one average sized loaf (you know that bread tin shape)

The Bits

500g flour (roughly 300g whole wheat, 200g white)

7g fast action yeast (roughly one sachet)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp brown rice extract or barley malt extract

1 big handful of seeds (sunflower, hemp, pumpkin, poppy…….mixture of these?)

1 1/4 teas salt

 

Do It

Mix the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl with your hands.

Dissolve the oil and sweetener into 300ml luke warm water.  Stir this mixture into the dough.

Bring it together and turn out onto a lightly floured or oiled surface.  Knead well for 5 minutes until the dough is mixed, add the seeds now.  The dough should not be dry, and should still be sticky to the touch.  Roll dough into a fat oval shape.

Pop into a pre-oiled loaf tin and press down into the edges.  Leave in a warm place covered with cling film of a kitchen towel.  After 1 hour the dough should have doubled in size.  Make deep slashed on the top of the loaf with a very sharp knife.

Pre heat oven to 190oC and bake for 30-35 minutes, until dark golden and risen.  Loosen the edges with a spatula or pallet knife and turn out onto a wire rack.  If it is sticking, leave for a few minutes and have a go after its rested.  It will come out!  Tap the bottom of the loaf with your fingers, it will sound pretty much hollow when it is ready.  If it still feels solid and dough-filled, pop it back in for 5-10 minutes.

Leave to cool for 15 minutes before diving in.

Easy Seeded Loaf

Easy Seeded Loaf

Serve

See the ‘serving suggestions’ above.  Bread is of course best munched fresh out of the oven.  We tend to slice up old bread for croutons or crostini and freeze them.  You can do the same with breadcrumbs, which can come in very handy when making vegan bangers or burgers.

Foodie Fact

Wheat actually originates from South Western Asia and humans have been enjoying it for at least 12,000 years (and counting).   We only got it in the West when Columbus came back from his pilfering missions.

When wheat is processed, at least half of the minerals and vitamins are lost.  If we are eating pasta, breads, flours etc that are processed, we are normally getting very little of the good stuff that is present in natural whole wheat.

Wheat in its natural state is a very nutritious grain indeed, with bags of minerals like manganese and magnesium and barrel loads of fibre.   Sourdough breads are normally a better choice if you feel a gluten intolerant, they also boast better nutrition.  Interestingly, even though wheat is one of the fibre powerhouses of nature, raspberries still contain more fibre!!!!  How cool is that!  Maybe we’ll make a raspberry loaf next time……

And finally.....Buster in a box

And finally…..Buster in a box

Categories: Baking, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Gertrude’s Chocolate Cake filled with Dark Cherry Jam

Gertrude's Chocolate Cake filled with Dark Cherry Jam

Gertrude’s Chocolate Cake filled with Dark Cherry Jam

A quick one here that goes out to the Tasmania crew, Fran and Steve of The Road to Serendipity fame.  Fran has requested Gertrude’s (Jane’s Nan) recipe ever since seeing it on a previous post.  Well Fran, here it is, better late than later.  Soz…….

Just to rave about Fran and Steve for a moment, their blog is a massive slice of living off grid (with two cool dogs Bezial and the mighty Earl and bags of awesome looking food, nature, ideas, good livin’, love and plenty of peaceful vibrations).  They really are shining examples of living close to nature and Tasmania looks incredibly beautiful judging by their photos.  There can be few more dedicated and prolific bloggers than our Fran and we always appreciate her enthused feedback.  It is people like Fran who keep this little old blog rocking!  Cheers guys for your constant stream of inspiration and kindness.  You make the blog world a brighter place to be.

This recipe is taken from a scrap of paper written by Gertrude, who is no longer with us.  Gertrude lived to the ripe old age of 96 and dictated this recipe as Jane made it and Keith (Jane’s Dad) scribbled it all down word for word, quaint little sayings and all.  Goodness knows how many times this cake was made, Jane was brought up on it.  All of this means that this is a recipe we hold very dear and even closer to our hearts.  It also makes a lovely light chocolate cake and is ever so easy to make.

This will make one small sandwich cake, double the mix for a big ‘un.

The Bits

4oz margarine (good stuff), 4oz caster sugar, 1/2 teas vanilla essence, 2 eggs (beaten), 4 oz self raising flour (sieved), 1 heaped tbs cocoa (sieved), pinch salt, 1 teas milk (if needed)

Do It

Preheat oven to 190oC (360F)

In a mixing bowl, paste the margarine and caster sugar together with a wooden spoon.

Slowly add the eggs to the paste, stirring nicely.

Gently add the the flour and cocoa, fold into mix.

Add salt and milk if mixture is too dry, should be thick batter texture (that plops off a spoon).

Pour into two small round baking tins (6 inch) with marg rubbed on sides and bottom.  Use baking parchment if you don’t trust the non-stickness of your tin.

Clean out bowl with finger, give to Jane.

Get Nan to smooth it over.

Slam tins on table twice each.

Place in oven, 2/3 the way up.

Check in 1/4 hour with a wooden chopstick or skewer.  It should be clean when retracted.

Serve

We filled our with a fine dark cherry jam and grated dark chocolate on top. Although I hear Gertrude was quite partial to a little butter icing.

We Love It!

‘Cause Gertrude made it.

Foodie Fact

Eating cake makes you happy.

 

Categories: Baking, Budget, Cakes, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Raw Chocolate, Hazelnut and Goji Cookie (Gluten Free/Vegan/No Added Sugar)

P1210707

Raw Chocolate, Hazelnut and Goji Cookie – The Worlds Healthiest Cookie

The worlds healthiest cookie!?  Very probably, certainly one of the dang tastiest.

These beauties are so easy and satisfying, not to say as addictive as broad beans fresh from their little green sleeping bags (lunch today, once you pop……) and we all know how addictive the world of fresh podding can be!?

Healthy cookies!!!!??^*^#**^*#  What!!!!!!  I know, but really, they are not laden-ed with spinach or spirulina, but are an amazing treat for the tastebuds that is also amazing for the body and I dare say the soul.  Eating one of these will have you soaring in a world of food goodness.

These cookies boast raw cacao (super, super food), nuts (just plain super) and tahini (seriously super); all raw, with no flour, no added sugar or dairy in sight, but oh so rich and sweet.  Add to this the odd goji berry and you are flying in cookie heaven.  Ground control to major biscuit!

Lunch - what a great time of year!

Lunch – what a great time of year!

Gojis are cool for many reasons, primarily it’s down to the name.  GOJI, or as some call them ‘Wolf Berries’ (almost equally as cool), they are popular ingredient in the East, especially China.  Goji berries can normally be found in Asian food stores for a fraction of the price of your average ‘health food’ shop and most I have found are not ‘organically’ grown anyway.  Gojis have a pleasant flavour eaten alone, but for some reason, really compliment nuts.

THE ESSENCE OF NON-BAKING

Is it just me or is there something quite Zen about this whole non-cooking thing.  Today, we are non-baking.  Baking, without baking…….Heating very gently, maintaining goodness.

Non-baking/cooking is basically keeping everything below 46oC (or thereabouts) over which vitamins and enzymes simply die, never to enrich thy body.

Non-baking is so much easier and generally alot simpler than conventional baking.  The food processor is the key piece of equipment for getting things together and then the dehydrator takes over, replacing the oven.

They could be baked on a gentle setting, we are looking for a cookie with a moist centre and a crisp outer layer.  Something like 150oC for 45 minutes (I am guessing).  We used our little dehydrator to get the cookies nice and crispy and we even had the pleasure of eating some straight from the dehydrator, like fresh bread from the oven, you can’t beat it.

I remember reading of raw food people eating ‘warm’ things from the dehydrator and thinking it quite odd, but its strange how quickly things change.  Like the wind.  We now love our dehydrator and use it daily for all sorts of things.

WHAT IS RAW CACAO?

Tastes like chocolate and really it is unprocessed chocolate, with all the superb health qualities of the worlds favourite treat preserved.  Cacao is the cousin of the roasted and processed bean that is used in the vast majority of chocolate making.  Raw cacao has a mild stimulant, theobromine, which helps to cure depression and does give you a little buzz (similar to coffee, but without the come-down).  Traditionally in the Americas, chocolate (cacao) has even been used as a medicine.

Raw cacao has alarming levels of anti-oxidants and plenty of dietary fibre.  Having said all of this, eating too much chocolate is not a good thing.  It can irritate the kidneys and liver and can even lead to sexual dysfunction.  Ouch!!!!  Still, nutrition news morphs fast, its hard to keep track sometimes.  A few, peaceful squares on chocolate on a comfortable couch is something whole-heartedly promoted (and practiced) by all in the BHK.

A COOK DREAMIN’ OF SWEETER ONIONS

Last night I looked up and saw our pots hanging there and remembered that cooking is possible in the house.  I am not missing the washing up I can tell you!   I do however miss frying onions and garlic, reducing sauces until they’re thick and potent, I miss roasting spices, roasted and sweet veggies in general and the joys of homemade bread.

I have been cooking loads recently and playing with many recipes, mostly vegan.  I have reached the unenviable stage of actually dreaming about food.  It has become quite serious, dreaming of recipes.  The main problem being that when you wake up you either forget them, or they turn out to be complete nonsense.  Fortunately, in last nights dreamland, I was lost in India on pretty funky looking bus, then in Delhi getting my palm read by an old, toothless gypsy crone.  Then a cobra!  A welcome return to dreamland form.  Food just doesn’t fit in other astral plains, its surely just a humanoid pass time.

So cooked dishes will be returning to the BHK shortly, but raw food is still a real blast!  Raw food will always play a major role in our diet, but some cooked goodies will be incorporated.  Some things are actually better for you when cooked, tomatoes being one.  Raw food is awesome, whole food is awesome, all food is awesome!  What a wonderful way of giving our body energy, breathing and eating (not at the same time please).

Treat yourself, go a little Choco Nut Tahini today.

Makes 8 decent cookie sized cookies:

The Bits

1 1/2 cups cashews (soaked 3 hours), 1 cup almond (soaked 3 hours), 3/4 cup chopped dates, 1 cup almond milk (or your favourite milk), 2 tbs dark tahini, 2 tbs goji berries, 4 tbs raw cacao, 1/2 cup whole hazelnuts

Mash it up!

Mash it up!

Do It 

In a food processor, blend your cashews, tahini, cacao, goji, dates and almonds to a rough paste (scrapping down the sides regularly).  Begin to add your milk slowly until a sticky, dough-like paste is formed.  You want it to be a little wet, as this will dry out in the dehydrator/ oven and leave a nice moist middle.   At the end, add your hazelnuts and pulse a few times to incorporate, but not break up too much.

Spread into your dehydrator shelf for a tray bake approach or as we do, cut out squares of baking parchment (lightly oiled) and form small balls in your hands (like a slightly small squash ball).  Pat them onto the baking parchment until it resembles a cooking, they will shrink a little when dehydrated, but not much.  Pop a whole hazelnut on top to finish things off nicely.

Pre-non-bake

Pre-non-bake

Leave to dehydrate for around 5 hours for a moist centre of for 8 hours for a crisp cookie.  Whichever you prefer.

Leave to cool in the rack for 30 minutes, then place in a tupperware to keep them nice and crisp.

Serve

Ideally warm, we had ours with a magic ‘peach melba cream’ (raw vegan, recipe to follow).

Raw Choco, Nut and Goji Cookies

Raw Choco, Nut and Goji Cookies

We Love It!

Because when you can have your cake and eat it, it is always best to do so with gusto and smiles!

Foodie Fact

I think all berries are good for you, except those deadly nightshade things (although they did look enticing as a child even with that name!)

Goji berries have long been heralded as a ‘super’ food, mainly because they contain ridiculously high levels of vitamin C (some say the highest around).

They contain 18 amino acids, 21 minerals, glyco-nutrients for cell communication, and more beta-carotene than any other food on earth.  They also contain a substance that stimulants the release of growth hormones in the body, making them an anti-aging gift from nature.

Categories: Baking, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Raw Food, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Dark Chocolate, Ginger and Beetroot Cake with Orange Cream

Dark Chocolate, Beetroot and Ginger Cake with Orange Cream

Dark Chocolate, Beetroot and Ginger Cake with Orange Cream

This was Jane’s birthday cake this year and quite a treat it turned out to be.  I was trying to combine J’s favourite things into a delicious lump of sweet goodness.  It’s a turned into a flavour explosion!  I think it worked out rather well and has been gobbled up in double quick time.

Everytime I make a cake, Jane and I say the same thing; ‘we’ll never eat all of this’.  Two days later we have an empty cake tin and smiles on our faces!  This is our last blast of cake for a while as Raw Earth Month approaches, we’re going raw again but taking it to another level, more to info will follow.  What a way to go out though!

Jane’s birthday was spent wandering around a beautiful local estate with champagne and a picnic under some redwoods, we then had coffee up at the local vineyard, Pant Du, and even managed to wander across to Beaumaris on Anglesey for a slap up feast with free flowing wine.  Not bad for a couple of country bumpkins!

This makes a large cake (probably enough for ten slices) in the Beach House that means a day’s worth of cake!  This recipe is supposed to be light, but I found it to be quite heavy, like a brownie texture.  I’m sure I did something wrong, but I’m not sure what?  I made it in a hectic blur of birthday preparation and was wrapping presents and whipping eggs at the same time, multi-tasking has never been a strong point of mine.  Let us know if yours turns out all light a fluffy.

I served the cake with whipped cream, I thought about a chocolate ganache, but that seemed like chocolate overkill.  The orange cream works out nicely, adding a touch of citrus to what is a slice of real richness.

I am not a huge fan of following elaborate baking recipes, but this was lovely J’s bday, so extra effort and focus was required.  The thing about baking like this is that you end up using every bowl and utensil in the kitchen and cover every work surface with globs of ingredients and flour ends up in the strangest of places.  I did enjoy making this, I loved the ingredients and got some extra special chocolate and cocoa in, working with good ingredients is always special.

Kitchen carnage - the caking making process in full swing

Kitchen carnage – the caking making process in full swing

I’ve used ounces here as that what the original recipe was in and I don’t have any prejudice regarding metric units etc.  An ounce is an ounce, a cup a cup, a whatever a whatever.  Hope it doesn’t cause any hassle.

Use any excuse to make this cake, a distant cousins birthday, the anniversary of your local post office, whatever it takes…BAKE IT!

The Bits

8 ounces fresh beets, 7 ounces fine dark chocolate (70%) 125g, 2 tbs coffee liquer, 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons butter, 1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder, 1 1/2 cup good quality cocoa powder, 1/2 cup finely diced crystallised ginger, 5 eggs, 1 cup caster sugar

To Serve – 2 cups whipped cream, 1 tbs orange zest

Do It

Lightly butter an 8-inch cake tin (spring form is good). Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line base with baking parchment if you prefer.

Cook the beets, whole and unpeeled, in boiling unsalted water. Depending on their size, they will be tender within 30 to 40 minutes. Young ones may take slightly less. Drain them, let them cool under running water, then peel them, slice off their stem and root, and process in a blender or food processor until a coarse purée.

Melt the chocolate, broken into small pieces, in a small bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Don’t stir.  When the chocolate looks almost melted, cut the butter into small pieces and add to the melted chocolate, leave to soften.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and cocoa. Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a large mixing bowl. Stir the yolks together.

Now, working quickly but gently, remove the bowl of chocolate from the heat and stir until the butter has melted into the chocolate. Let sit for a few minutes, then stir in the egg yolks and coffee liqueur. Fold in the beetroot.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then fold in the sugar. Firmly but gently, fold the beaten egg whites and sugar into the chocolate mixture. A large metal spoon is what you want here; work in a deep, figure-eight movement but take care not to over-mix. Lastly, fold in the flour and cocoa.

Transfer quickly to the prepared cake pan and put in the oven, decreasing the heat immediately to 325 degrees F. Bake for 40 minutes. The rim of the cake will feel spongy, the inner part should still wobble a little when gently shaken. Test with a toothpick , if it is still gooey in the center, continue baking just until moist crumbs cling to the tester.

Chocolate and Beetroot Cake

Chocolate and Beetroot Cake

Set the cake aside to cool (it will sink a tad in the center), loosening it around the edges with a thin icing spatula after half an hour or so. It is not a good idea to remove the cake from its pan until it is completely cold.

Whip up some cream until getting thick and stiff, mix in orange zest and combine well.

Serve

In very thick slices, with lashings of whipped orange cream and poppy seeds (if you have them, we didn’t!).  The more whipped cream, the better.

Dark Chocolate, Ginger and Beetroot Cake

Dark Chocolate, Ginger and Beetroot Cake

We Love It!

This is a dark, rich cake and has a pleasing full texture.  It is dense, but still moist and certainly beats your average chocolate sponge.  The beetroot adds a little earthiness and the peices of ginger are a pleasant surprise.

Foodie Fact

This is a cake with added healthy benefits, yes you’ve got your sugar and all but there is also ginger, beetroot and some wickedly dark chocolate.

Dark chocolate is just a wonderful thing, much, much better than milk or white it also boasts bags of nutritional extras.  Good for the heart and brain, full of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals, it even packs a mild stimulant similar to caffeine to give you a little bump in the right direction.  Eaten in moderation, dark chocolate is a real super food hero.

Jane and I heading out for a birthday dinner bonanza

Jane and I heading out for a birthday dinner bonanza

 

Categories: Baking, Cakes, Desserts, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Monkey Puzzle Nut and Jaggery Muffins (Vegan)

The Beach House Kitchen (and a box of carrots)

We’re on the road in France and Spain at the minute, but here’s one we did earlier…….

We have some lovely friends of the Beach House Kitchen to thank for these nuts, Rachel and Axel over on Anglesey, who somehow man-handled their monkey puzzle tree into letting go of its precious nuts.  Not an easy task, these trees are seriously covered in sharp spines.

We saw this technique being executed by the British wild food guru Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on his TV programme ‘Veg Everyday’ recently and he needed the help of a tree expert and a hydraulic lift.  From what Rach tells me Axel simply shimmied up a neighbouring tree and shook the hell out of the top, using only a snake catching pole (Axel is an expert in all things snakes and adders) and net.  Unconventional harvesting techniques demand an unconventional recipe me thought.  Hugh made a tasty looking summer cous cous salad out of his puzzle nuts, but we were on a different page all together.

Monkey Puzzle Nuts

So I had a bowl of these beauties, I roasted them and tried one, tastes a little like a chestnut merged with a pine nut.  They are probably best just eaten as they are, but I couldn’t resist sticking them in this vegan muffin recipe that I’ve been sitting on for a while.  A word of gentle warning, these nuts do go a bit dry after roasting and when baked.  CRUNCH!

Jane has been fantasising about cake now for a few days and I have finally got around to making my poor, long suffering lady something resembling a sweet thing.  This is as close as I get really, all that white flower, butter and sugar makes me feel a little queasy.  These muffins are packed with the good stuff and still taste mighty fine.

Monkey Puzzle Tree

What on earth is a Monkey Puzzle Nut?

The monkey puzzle tree (or Araucaria araucana if you’re Latin speaker) is an evergreen that can grow up to 40 metres tall with a trunk of two metres wide!  The tree is covered with sharp, blade-like, ‘reptilian’ leaves or spines that make the monkey puzzle nut one of natures toughest morsels to harvest.  The tree is native to the low Andean slopes of Chile and Argentina but seems to do well on this little grey island.  It is a hardy conifer and you regularly see them sticking out of gardens and stately home driveways.  I don’t think there is a more incongruous tree on this island than the monkey puzzle.

What on earth is Jaggery?

Jaggery is an unrefined sugar used in many parts of the world, known as Gud in India.  It  has an amazing toffee-like texture and can be made with palm, coconut or date tree sap.  Jaggery has a powerful, caramelised flavour that sets it apart from any sugar I have come across.  It is high is sucrose and can be used as a healthier alternative to refined sugar.  Great in a chai.  I like to bake with it because it flavours and sweetens.

You could use a good unrefined brown sugar as a substitute, or even something like molasses, as jaggery can be a little hard to track down.

These muffins make for a great breakfast (they are nice and dense) and are best served warmed through.  A cold muffin has an air of austerity to it that a baked good should not possess.  If you are storing them, make sure they are in a well sealed container or well cling filmed, they can get a little dry these vegan sorts.

I used polenta and oats here as they were in the cupboard, another flour like spelt, rye or tapioca will work really well.  Polenta isn’t quite fine enough to bind and bake as well as other flours.  The oats add alot of ballast and ‘feel’ to these wonder muffs.

Monkey Puzzle Muffins in the mix

Makes for six hearty muffs.

The Bits

2 cups polenta, 2 cups oats, 1 teas cinnamon, 1 teas baking powder, 1/2 teas bicarb,  1/4 teas sea salt, 2 mashed bananas, 1/2 cup coconut oil, 1 grated carrot, 1/2 cup jaggery, 8 finely diced dates (finely chopped), 1 teas vanilla extract, 2/3 cup monkey puzzle nuts (or pine nuts/ your favourite nut), 1/3 cup chopped dark chocolate (finely chopped), 1/3 cup roasted pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup soya milk (or your favoured milk)

Do It

Preheat your oven to 375ºF and grease six muffin cups (or use silicon muffin cups).  In a bowl, mix with vigour the polenta, oats, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In a food processor, blitz together the banana, coco oil, jaggery and vanilla until relatively smooth with just some small banana lumps remaining.  Add wet mix to dry and add carrot, chocolate, seeds and milk.  Fold and stir together nicely until just combine.

Muffins pre-mix

Divide the batter up between the six muffin cups, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until slightly browned on top and a thin knife inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Ready to bake

Serve

With a cup of fine tea.  Best warm from the oven, but great in a packed lunch too.

Lovely looking muffs

We Love It!

Simply put, we know of no cooler muff.

Foodie Fact

Jaggery is unrefined and a more complex carbohydrate than normal white sugar.  It contains magnesium and salts and good levels of the antioxidant selenium.  Jaggery also contains iron, which helps ease tension.

Monkey Puzzle and Jaggery Muffin

Categories: Baking, Desserts, gluten-free, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Sun & Oat Loaf

Oat Loaf

So while the baking of the ‘Almond and Olive Oil’ cake was going on, I decided to fill the oven. Why waste all that heat.  I whipped up our staple of ‘Sun and Oat Loaf’.

Normally I would just use oats, we are limiting the amount of gluten we eat, but this one was for Mary’s birthday meal and I know that Mary likes her bread.  So this is a compromise.

This little loaf is really easy to get together and toasts up a treat, an ideal substitute for other loaves.

You can add anything to this loaf to flavour it, we have tried beetroot (of course!), dried fruits and nuts, apple and cinnamon, spices etcetc……..

If you are gluten-free, this works well with polenta replacing the flour.  Even gram flour is ok, but it can get a little dry (although still very tasty).

If you are not using an oven, you can cook this in a pan.  Just get a good-sized frying pan with a nice glug of oil, heat on medium, add mix and spread well, cook for 15 mins on one side and the go for a mighty flip (which is tricky!) or just stick under a grill (low heat) and cook until golden.

The Nantlle Valley, our back garden view

Here goes the oven variety…..

The Bits

It really depends on how big you’d like it.  We use a standard sized loaf tin and this recipe half fills it for a decent small loaf.

2 1/2 cups of oats, 1 1/2 cup of wholewheat flour, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 teas bicarb of soda, 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds, 1 cup of soya milk (or your preferred milk for richness, just water is fine), s+p, extra water as needed.

Do It

Put all ingredients into a bowl and mix up with a wooden spoon. Give it a good few twists of black pepper and some real elbow love (that’s a good stir).

Add warm water as the mix stiffens, you should be left with something resembling dry, sticky porridge.

Well oil your favourite loaf pan, or cake tin, depending on your preferred bread shape. Spoon in mix and push well into all corners of the tin. Scatter a few sunflower seeds on top and press them in.

Cook at 180oC for around 30 minutes. The middle should still be slightly underdone and the outside nice and crisp and golden.

Leave on a wire rack to cool.

Serve

As you wish. We recommend it warmed in the toaster with a large bowl of homemade veg soup.  The crumbly texture of the bread means that sandwiches are not easy, but can be achieved with great balancing skills and care.

We Love It!

Oat bread seems to compliment our rough, mountainous landscape perfectly. Warmed with a little honey, it is a heavenly thing!

Foodie Fact

Oats actually lower cholesterol and are a brilliant fuel for our bodies.  They also act as central heating for our bodies on cold days.

Beetroot Oat Loaf

Categories: Baking, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Recipes, Snacks and Inbetweens, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: