Baking

Apple Crumble Cookies – Gluten-free, Vegan

Apple Crumble Cookies – Gluten-free, Vegan.  Yes please!

If you’re a fan of apple crumble, you’ll love these!  The cookie version.

I wanted to combine the best things about an apple crumble into a cookie, just to change things up a bit.  That lovely crunchy crumble and the sweet tartness of the apple sauce.

These cookies are crisp on the outside and very apple-y inside, with that lovely warming cinnamon and plenty of oats.  They’re even gluten-free, but you can make them with wholemeal flour and normal oats.  I’d just like to invite as many people as possible to the good food party!

These cookies are sweet!  But balanced with the tartness of a green apple, I’ve used russet style apples from our neighbours garden, donated, not scrumped (see all our scrumping talk on our last post).  I think an apple with good acidity and a bit of bite is what we’re looking for here.

The best things about a crumble, wrapped up in a cookie!

Please don’t worry about us, we’re still eating plenty of Apple Crumbles this autumn.  Jane loves ’em too much!  But these cookies were a big hit with everyone who’s tried one, even our neighbour Meirion, a man who dearly loves a good crumble, is a fan of the cookie variety.  That’s when I knew this was a winner, they got the nod from our Meirion.

We’re just fixing our fire at  the minute, autumn is giving us those signals, nice and crisp at mornings and at night.  The occasional dramatic storm.  I do love sunshine, but I admit that a roaring fire on a cold night is very tempting.  Just need to get a big pipe and stick it onto the back of the fire.  Some of you know all about my DIY skills, so I’ll probably get the fire man in.  I’m better off with the pots and pans!

The North Wales coastline is stunning in Autumn, awesome sunsets

Another bonus of autumn is all the produce, I’m just blown away at the minute.  I just got the list through from our local organic farm and it knocked my socks off.  As a cook, I almost don’t know where to begin with it all.  I feel very lucky to have such problems!!  We’ve got a couple of events coming up this month, check them out here, so we’ll be taking our amazing Snowdonia produce for a ride down to London and over to Anglesey.

I’m back cooking at Trigonos this week and I love to create new recipes like this.  There are many gluten-free visitors who need catering for, the Trigonos cooks come up with all kinds of gluten, sugar, oil, nightshade, salt etcetc free dishes.  I’ve always found it a great challenge, but having dishes which are gluten-free and vegan is a sound start to planning a menu.  These cookies can be enjoyed by loads of people!  Maybe you’re gluten-free, but I bet you know someone who is.  The mystery of gluten-free baking is disappearing as more and more people experiment with new ways of making cookies, cakes, scones and tray bakes.

Chop those apples nice and small

Chopping your apples up nice and small is one of the keys to success with these cookies.  Of course, take all the pips and core out, but I leave the skin on.  These apples had nice, thin skins and I reckon there’s some nice flavour there when baked.  You can see the apples turn a lovely golden brown in the oven, something like apple crisps.  They’re good these cookies!

These kind of cookies are going to make this autumn very sweet!  Hope you get to try one soon.

 

Recipe Notes

You can use flax seeds instead of chia seeds.  Pop the seeds into a blender and blitz until a fine powder is formed.  Then mix that with water until a gelatinous mix forms.  It only takes 5 minutes or so to get nice and thick, ready to bind our cookies together.  Ground flax and chia are ideal egg replacers in vegan baking.

You can also use light brown sugar in these cookies, although I prefer the texture using the golden caster sugar.

I used a Dove Farm white gluten-free flour mix here.  It works really nicely.  Gluten-free oats are available in most supermarkets.

I use cold pressed rapeseed oil here, but you can use most, neutral flavoured oils.  I prefer cold pressed oils.

Missing cookies? Has anyone seen these cookies. 15 minutes after leaving the oven, they were never seen again. Another batch coming soon:)

 

Apple Crumble Cookies – Gluten-free, Vegan

 

The Bits – For 10-11 small cookies

Dry

125g oats (or gluten-free oats)

100g whole wheat (or gluten-free flour mix)

1 ½ tsp baking powder

1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon

⅛ teas salt

 

Wet

100ml cold pressed rapeseed oil

3 teas ground chia seeds (mixed with 7 teas cold water)

1 teas vanilla extract

125g golden caster sugar

 

175g or 2 small green apples (cored and finely diced)

 

Do It

Preheat a fan oven to 180oC.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.  In another mixing bowl, mix together the sugar and the wet ingredients.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.  Don’t over do the stirring.  Fold in the apples.

Line a baking tray with baking parchment, form roughly two heaped tablespoons worth of cookie dough and apple in your hands, roll into balls.  Press the pieces of apple into the cookie ball as you go. The apple keeps the cookies nice and moist.  Press this ball down gently onto the baking tray, forming a rotund disc shape.  Continue until the mix is used up.

Bake for 17 – 20 mins on a middle shelf, until the apples are golden brown and the cookies form a nice crust.  Leave to cool for 20 minutes on the tray before enjoying.  Remember that the cookies will firm up as they cool, don’t worry if they are a little soft to the touch.

We had ours warm, dipped into vegan creme fraiche.  Yes!  It was very good.

These cookies will keep nicely in sealed container for a few days, they do get slightly softer.

Just before they hit the oven – Apple Crumble Cookies  This was an early attempt, these apple chunks are a wee bit too big.  Go for very small pieces. 

Foodie Fact

An apple a day keeps the doctor away.  Why?  Because my Nana told me that, what more proof do we need?!

Apples are a good source of fibre and vitamin C, plus potassium, which is good for the heart.

 

 

This recipe was voted for over on our Vegan Cooking Facebook group, you can join here.

I like to see what you think about recipes before I post them.

Plus there’s loads of vegan cooking chat and pictures over there.  Pop over, sign up and show us what you’re cooking?

 

 

Categories: Autumn, Baking, gluten-free, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

Bilberry and Spelt Scones

Bilberry and Spelt Scones – Vegan

Autumn is settling in nicely and it’s definitely time for a scone.  Fresh out of the oven.  You know what I’m talking about there.  Plenty of jam and whipped cream.  Yum!!

We went for a long walk yesterday and it really felt like a touch of winter was in the air, the trees are changing; all those bronze, crimson and golden colours are coming.  It’s such a beautiful time of year up here in Snowdonia.

I made these scones using local bilberries, you can use blueberries, mulberries or blackberries here, if you’re not close to bilberry bushes.  These berries were picked somewhere up a mountain, near a beautiful lake, in the Welsh mist.  My kind of ingredient!

I’ve made the recipes as easy as possible, these scones are served in slices which means very straightforward preparation.  They’re a wholesome style, not your light and fluffy sort, but delicious and satisfying.  They’re also low in sugar, are packed with berries and contain local cold pressed rape seed oil, basically, I challenge anyone to make a tastier and healthier scone!  PS – I know cakes aren’t supposed to be healthy, but I still like to try!

 

Autumn = Scone time

Every autumn I like at least one new scone recipe.  Last year we made Coconut Scones, which are a real treat.  I even got invited onto BBC Radio Wales to talk about them.  That’s how good they are!!  Totally different scone style to these.

Really, this is our Beach House version of a Mabon cake, aka the autumn equinox, we’ll talk more about that on our upcoming newsletter coming out this week.  Sign up here (takes a few seconds).  Loads of news, events, promotions and a very special interview over there this time.

 

Spelt – A Love Affair

Readers of the blog will know my love for spelt flour, we’ve had a long romance through the years.  If I can, I’ll find a way to add spelt or other flours like rye, to my baking adventures.  I just love the flavour and texture.  I like that some of my friends who struggle with gluten can enjoy spelt.

I have a similar love affair with cold pressed rapeseed oil.  One of my favourite things about the last few years of living and cooking in Wales and the UK.  Just a brilliant ingredient on every level, local, healthy, tasty and inexpensive.  I buy rapeseed oil from small producers whenever I can.  Because small producers are ace!  I also wanted to avoid vegan butter/ margarine type things in this recipe.  Not a huge fan of it.

Bilberry and Spelt Scones – so simple to make

Bilberries – A taste explosion!

Are a real taste explosions!  Much more intense and flavourful than their bigger and more watery relatives the blueberry.  Have a look around for a local bilberry bush, they grow all over the UK and are ripe for the picking.  You’ll probably find them in wilder places like moors though.  Keep your eyes peeled.  They tend to grow together in big clumps.  They’re not normally city dwellers.

Other berries will be great in these scones too.  Maybe blackberries are more local for you?  Either way, foraging for these berries is loads of fun and free.  Or you can do what we did, get a friend to pick them for you!!

 

What to serve vegan scones with?

So whipped cream and butter are long gone.  Great!!  You’ll find some excellent vegan creme fraiche in the shops nowadays, this is awesome with scones.  Blended up cashew nuts is also a great idea.  Just soak some cashews until soft, then blend, adding a little water to get your desired consistency and sweeten with whatever you like.  Just a touch of sweetness will do.  Whipped coconut cream is another great, treat option.  These all add delicious, and much welcomed, creaminess when tackling a scone.  Jam?  Grab your finest jar.  Jane’s Mum’s Strawberry 2017 is a fine vintage indeed.

Bilberry and Spelt Scones – Full of flavours and ingredients from Wales, with local berries and rapeseed oil

Let us know if you makes these scones in the comments below.  If you like the look of this recipe, you’ll find hundreds more here and you may like to join us for an event this year, from Spain to Manchester, London to Snowdonia, we’re travelling and cooking all over the UK.  All our BHK cooking events are here.

 

Recipe Notes

When making scones, try not to over mix.  Just enough until things are combined.

Do your best to not pop the berries when you’re combining with the mix.  A few popped ones are fine, you can see I popped a few and they give the scones a cool purple look!

You can buy white spelt flour, but I’ve used the organic brown version here.

All flours are different when you’re baking, the amount of liquid can vary depending on many factors.  4 tbs plant milk is a guide here, we’re looking for quite a dry scone mix.  Just enough liquid to keep it all together.

No spelt flour, no probs.  Use a good quality wholemeal flour instead.

The same goes for rapeseed oil, you can use any cold pressed oil (sooooo much better than refined oils).  I’ve been loving cold pressed sunflower oil of late. But, let’s face it, if you don’t use spelt and rapeseed oil, we’re only talking a very distant cousin of these scones.  I think they’ll still be nice, but I can’t offer any formal BHK approval.  Let us know!

Perfect autumn tea time treat!  Served with Jane’s Mum’s Strawberry Jam

Bilberry and Spelt Scones

The Bits – For 8 slices of scones

Dry 

250g spelt flour

2 teas baking powder

60g light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

 

Wet

80g rapeseed oil (cold pressed)

60ml (4 tbs) plant milk

 

1 big handful (75g) bilberries or blueberries

 

For brushing

A dash of plant milk and rapeseed oil

 

Do It

Preheat a fan oven to 180oC.

 

Place all the dry bits into a mixing bowl, and mix together.  Add the wet and stir to combine.  Mix into the bilberries, being as careful as you can not to pop them.

 

Line a baking tray with parchment.  Form the mix into a disc shape, roughly 3/4 inch thick.  Mix together a dash of plant milk and rapeseed oil in a small bowl, brush your scone with this mix.

 

Bake on a middle shelf of the oven for 20 minutes, the scone will have a nice golden crust around the edges.  Ideally, leave to cool on the tray for 20 minutes before enjoying!

 

Serve topped with whipped coconut cream and your favourite jam or more berries

 

Foodie Fact

Spelt is said to have been cultivated since 5000 BC!  It is a member of the wheat family and is a great source of energy, the Romans called it ‘marching grass’.  It is high in minerals like magnesium, copper and iron and also boasts a load of thiamin, protein and fibre.

 

Categories: Autumn, Baking, Cakes, healthy, Nutrition, plant-based, Recipes, Vegan, veganism, Wales | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Almond and Orange Biscotti – Vegan, Gluten-free

Almond and Orange Biscotti – Gluten-free and vegan

Delicious crunchy biscuits with toasted almonds and a touch of orange.  I love biscotti on their own, but they are so versatile and seem to go perfectly with ice cream.  Not sure why?  Something about that crunch!  They keep well and make lovely gifts, when nicely wrapped.  Early Christmas presents!!?

I’ve been working on a gluten-free version for a while and I’ve cracked it!  Sometimes recipes happen quickly and they’re great, sometimes they takes years to develop and seem to improve naturally each time, a tweak here, a few minutes more in the oven there.  I love this biscotti base recipe and play around with the flavourings and nuts regularly.  I like them spiced up of course, a little cinnamon and cardamom with the orange works really well.  I recently made some coconut and lime biscotti, which whilst not being very Italian, went down a treat

I know, quite well, what it’s like cooking for people with dietary requirements.  It seems like most of us do nowadays.  I love recipes that tick most of the boxes like this one.  Vegan.  Tick.  Gluten-free.  Tick.  Yum.  Big tick.  Because let’s face it, just because we’re baking gluten-free we still want awesome results.  It’s a brilliant challenge and I don’t think anyone will tell the difference with these biscotti.  If anything, I prefer them to the other, wheat ones.

There’s a magic combo here of gram (chickpea) flour and corn flour which I use quite a bit in vegan baking.  The cornflour really helps to bind things together and gram flour is just one of my favourite things.  People can’t believe it when you tell them it’s got chickpeas in.  The shock can lead to dropped biscuits!  But just to confirm, when baked, gram flour has no chickpea flavour.  No worries.

As with all my baking, I try to keep the sugar to a minimum.  I do some ‘sugar-free’ baking, but generally I find that can mean substituting one sugar for another sugar (maybe in liquid form).  I like coconut sugar, but I’m not a fan of it’s price tag.  I try to use good quality brown sugar in baking.  Mostly labeled as light brown sugar.  Some cakes may not be as light, textures do change, but I rarely bake with white sugar.

Biscotti and a brew – Yes please!!

We’ve been talking soup over on the Facebook page, the autumn is settling in nicely up here in Snowdonia.  A nice nip in the air and the nights are creeping in.  The blackberries are going wild!  I love winter but I’m loving getting together our Viva Vegan!  Spain Holiday with the sensational Aine Carlin.  We’re even running an Awesome Autumn offer, £70 off. All the details are here.  We are good to you!!  I’m planning my menus this week and really getting into Mediterranean mode.  Moroccan today.  I love cooking global dishes in Wales, we’ve got such amazing produce to play with.  Especially at this time of the year.  It is strange sometimes thinking about Tangiers and looking at the Snowdonia hills.  They’re pretty different places.  It may seem a little early to be thinking of a winter sun break, but November is just around the corner.  Winter’s coming!  So come with us to Spain and we’ll do all the cooking!!  Can’t wait.

I know you can buy biscotti easily in the shops, but homemade is the way forward right!?  So much better than shop bought and simple to bake.

If you try out the recipe, please let us know  in the comments below, or just say a quick, ‘Hello!!’   We love hearing from you, especially when you’ve just eaten a warm biscotti!

If you’re on Facebook, why not pop over to out Beach House Kitchen Vegan Cooking Group.  You’d be very welcome and we post all kinds of food pictures and chat over there.

PS – Who likes the Campervan mug?

 

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Recipe Notes

If you don’t have gram flour, you can use a gluten-free flour mix instead.  Don’t substitute the polenta, it gives the biscotti a nice bite.

Like I said, use hazelnuts or cashews if you like and any citrus you fancy.

I mentioned in the recipe, but do keep your eye on the biscotti when you’re getting to the end of baking.  There is a fine line between bang on and overdone with biscotti, I think it’s because we bake them for so long.  If your oven is a strong, fan oven, maybe drop the heat 20oC when you go for the second bake.

 

Almond and Orange Biscotti – Vegan and Gluten-free

 

The Bits – For 24-ish

 

Dry

200g gram flour

25g cornflour

75g polenta

1 ½ teas baking powder

¼ teas salt

 

1 handful toasted almonds (roughly chopped)

 

Wet

125g coconut oil (melted)

150g light brown sugar

½ tbs well ground chia seeds (mixed with 3 tbs water)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbs orange zest

 

Do It

Preheat fan oven to 180°C.

Mix the wet ingredients in one bowl, and the dry ingredients in another bowl, then pour the wet into the dry and mix well with a spoon. Don’t worry about over stirring; this is gluten-free.

Line a baking tray / sheet with baking parchment. With wet hands form the dough into two even balls, then fashion into two long flat sausages / logs. The biscotti will rise and spread out a little when baked, but not much.

Place the two logs / sausages onto the baking tray and into the oven for 30 minutes. Turn your tray 90o once if your oven is hotter at one end than the other.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly on the tray. When cool enough to handle, place the two sausages / logs on a chopping board and with a sharp knife cut into biscotti sized slices, roughly ¾ inch in width. Grab the baking tray and flip the individual biscottis on their sides and bake again for 10 more minutes each side. Keep you’re eye on them after the last flip so that they don’t burn. Once there are very crunchy place on a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy with ice cream or a nice coffee (or both!)  We just had them with roasted peaches and coconut ice cream with raspberries on the side.  Must take a picture next time.

 

Foodie Fact

Almonds not only taste amazing, they’re really good for us too.  They’re really high in anti-oxidants, which are in the skin, so try and eat almonds skin-on.  They’re high in Vitamin E, and minerals like manganese and magnesium, plus plenty of fibre and good fats.  Of course, they’re nuts!  Loads of protein there.

Categories: Baking, Desserts, gluten-free, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Chocolate, Sea Salt & Quinoa Cookies (Gluten-free)

Chocolate, Sea Salt and Quinoa Cookies (Gluten-free)

Perfect weekend treat cookies!  Rich, light, chocolaty and yeah, made of quinoa.  More of that later, but these cookies are delicious!  I could eat a whole tray of them with a really big cuppa.

This recipe comes by popular request from our vegan cooking group over on Facebook.  It seems the combination of chocolate, sea salt and quinoa flour has got us curious, maybe some a little skeptical?  But it all works very nicely!

So, let’s start this weekend as if we mean it, with a big plate of warm, freshly baked cookies.  Made with love.  The whole house smelling like one big yummy cookie.  This recipe will make you many new friends, please neighbours, pacify children and generally help us to incorporate more cookies into our diets.  Which is important!

Try something new!

These are not just any old cookie though, they’re made with quinoa flour.  Yup!  It’s a thing.  And a mighty fine thing it is.  They’re a full chocolate flavour with added richness coming from the tahini/ peanut butter plus a little twist for the topping, sea salt.

I’ve been looking for a use for a bag of quinoa flour for a while, it just sat there staring at me from the cupboard, asking “Why am I here?”  I was challenged, I tried a few things out that I wasn’t happy with (you cannot make tofu with quinoa flour!  You can however make inedible grey sludge instead).  Then we had a big bake off, Jane’s Tea and Cake Day, loads of friends, loads of cake.  What better time to unveil a quinoa cookie?!  I really like them, these are soft, light cookies.

So, quinoa in cookies, whatever next you may say?  Well, quinoa flour is a healthy choice and more accessible now in shops.  It has some protein, a little fibre and a good lump of iron in there.  The protein in there helps with the baking, gluten is a protein, so flours rich in protein are best to use when baking gluten-free.  I like to add it to gluten-free bread recipes, it gives a good texture and makes for light baked goods.

Salt on sweet things? “Why?”

I know it sounds strange, in fact with the quinoa element also, these cookies may not be getting you that excited.  But trust me, salt is an essential component of most desserts and sweet things.  It brings dishes to life!

A little salt will make all the difference and sprinkling good quality sea salt on these cookies really enhances the deep chocolate flavour, salt also goes very well with peanut butter.  You’ve all tried salted caramel and most people seem to like that sweet and salty thing.

Although it’s distinctly not for everyone, our friend popped over and tried a cookie, I totally forgot to mention the salt and the face she pulled was impressive and a bit worrying.  A face filled with pure shock and disgust.  “What the heck is that?!”  Pointing at the salt.  Eyes blazing.  “SALT!!!”.  Then came a saddened shake of the head, and a defeated, pitiful, “Why?”  She has tried most of my far out there experiments with food, many of them are just a bit weird, but for me, salt on cookies is cool.  It works.  But is obviously not for everyone.  What is?

Make your own quinoa flour

I realise that we all don’t regularly stock quinoa flour in our cupboards.  But quinoa grains are more popular.  All we need to do to make quinoa flour is blend the grains in a high speed blender for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until nice and fine.  Then pass this through a sieve, taking out the lumps, and leaving you with light quinoa flours.  This works for most grains if you’re running low on specialist flours.  Try toasting the flour or the grains in a pan for 5-7 minutes, on a medium heat, tossing regularly.  You’ll smell a toasty flavour and see the quinoa change to a darker shade of brown.  This adds a deeper flavour.

How do you feel about these cookies?  Are you going to give them a go?  Do you like a little salt in your desserts?  Let us know in the comments below and, if you have an question at all, fire them across.

Have a sweet weekend!

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Recipe Notes

Not into salt on cookies.  That is perfectly fine, just omit it, no topping.   But please leave the touch of salt in the cookies, as I said, it’s important.

Not a fan of tahini/ peanut butter (there are a few out there), I would imagine any nut or seed butter would be fine, but I haven’t tried them out.  Don’t omit the nut/ seed butters, they give the cookies a nice richness.

Don’t over bake the cookies, 10 minutes should be enough, just till they form a crust.  They will be soft to the touch, just leave for a few minutes to cool on the tray.

Try to use a nice olive oil for these cookies.  I find the flavour of olive oil works brilliantly with dark chocolate.

Chunks are nice.  Of course!  You can keep the chocolate chunky for a nice chocolate surprise, or I also like to blitz the chocolate a few times in a blender and stir it into the cookie mix.  More and more richness!

I went off quinoa for a while, preferring more local grains, but in recent years, there are many sources of British grown quinoa.  Hodmedod’s is one.  They do some really interesting grains and pulses, I haven’t tried their smoked quinoa from Essex, but it sounds very cool indeed.  You will also find quinoa flour in places like health food shops and in some supermarkets (try the Free-from sections for example).

These cookies are absolutely brilliant with Dulce de Leche, see our recipe here.  Like a vegan coconut caramel.

Fresh out of the oven.

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Chocolate, Sea Salt and Quinoa Cookies

The Bits – For 10 cookies

 

Dry

100g quinoa flour

3 tbs cocoa or cacao powder

1/2 teas bicarb of soda

1/2 teas baking powder

 

Wet

80g light brown sugar

2 tbs tahini or smooth peanut butter

75ml olive oil

1 teas vanilla extract

2 tbs flax egg (1 tbs ground flax mixed with 3 tbs water)

1/4 sea salt

 

60g broken up, good quality dark chocolate (I used 80%)

Extra sea salt for sprinkling

 

Do It

Preheat fan oven to 180oC.  Line a baking tray with baking parchment.

Make your flax egg, mixing the ground flax seed with the water.  Leave it for 10 minutes, it will thicken.  Add a little more water if needed and stir, we’d like it gloopy and thick, but not totally solid.

Place the dry bits into a bowl.  Place the wet bits into a bowl, mixing them until combined.  Now mix the wet bits into the dry, until a thick dough is formed.

Roll roughly 2-3 tablespoons of cookie dough into little balls in hands, then press down onto the baking tray, making small disc shapes.   They will expand a little during baking.

Bake 10 minutes until thin crust forms over the cookies, but they are still soft in the middle.  Leave to cool on the baking tray and get the kettle on!

 

Foodie Fact – Quinoa

Quinoa is actually a small seed and is a rare plant-based source of complete protein, meaning it contains all the 20 amino acids we need.

It’s rightly regarded as one of the most nutritious grains going; high in fibre and folic acid.  Quinoa is naturally gluten-free and contains good levels of minerals like manganese, magnesium, zinc and iron.

Some of the health benefits associated with quinoa are a healthy heart, weight loss and it may even help to fight cancer.

 

Come and join Jane and I in Spain, along with the amazing cookbook author Aine Carlin (Keep it Vegan)

**It’s the last week of our Early Bird Offer**

Learn how to cook awesome vegan dishes and completely relax for a weekend on a beautiful Spanish beach?

Viva Vegan! Plant-based Cooking Holiday in Spain.   

 

 

Categories: Baking, Cakes, gluten-free, healthy, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Snacks and Inbetweens, Vegan | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Dark Chocolate & Chilli Brownies – Vegan & Gluten-free

Chocolate & Chilli Brownies – Gluten-free and Vegan

An interesting twist on a classic chocolate brownie, made with black beans and given a lift with a little chilli and coffee kick!

Please don’t be put off by the whole bean thing, give them a go.  You would never be able to tell and these brownies have a lovely rich texture and all the benefits of black beans, meaning that they’re healthy and gluten-free.

They’re also pretty fuss-free creations, pop all the bits in your trusty blender, blitz, bake, enjoy!  Dessert sorted!!  I don’t know who originally started to make cakes with beans, but I hope you’re very proud of your genius.

Rich and very chocolaty, they’re a real favourite of ours at the minute.  We normally served them with our Dulce de Leche, it compliments the dark chocolate perfectly with its sweet caramel.  If the Dulce de Leche is warmed, even better, then, a nice bit of vanilla ice cream.  That’s some kind of perfection right there disguised as a gorgeous dessert!

Mexican Style Chocolate Brownies – Quick, healthy and very chocolaty

I feel these brownies have a hint of Mexico about them, with the cinnamon and chilli.  I just like a little chilli tickle, but I know some of you are chilli heads, so add as much as you fancy.  A friend recently tried these with chipotle chilli flakes and enjoyed them, a little smokiness that could be interesting, but I’m not convinced.  I’m going to try it soon, but smokiness in desserts seems like a taste bud twister to me.

There is a lot of cocoa/ cacao in these brownies, which gives them a lovely deep and rich chocolate flavour, with a nice bitterness.  We prefer dark chocolate, this is definitely one for the dark chocolate lovers and when served with dulce de leche, you’ve got the whole sweet and bitter chocolate combo going on, which is a sensation! (So good, I mentioned it twice;)

The best black beans yet! Straight from Mexico City.

Black beans are one of the most incredible plant based foods based nutrition wise, and they taste mighty fine too.  Some people call them ‘turtle beans’ because of their hard shells.

I talk about their nutrition properties below in the ‘Foodie Fact’ bit, but they trample all over beef for example in almost every conceivable nutritional way.  All we need are beans!   We use a load of black beans in the Beach House, you can see by the recipes at the bottom of the page.

Chocolate & Chilli Blender Brownies

What’s your favourite bean?  That’s a tough one I know.  I’m definitely going through a black bean phase, with occasional butter bean relapses and a week rarely goes by when I don’t fall for a kidney bean.  The world of beans are diverse and, in my eyes, there is no downside to beans.

I was once on BBC Radio Wales with Eleri Sion, how lucky am I!  One of the first questions about us vegans was if we fart all the time!!  Due to the bean thing.  I don’t really get windy with beans, but I think the presenter was a little sensitive to pulses.  I wasn’t expecting this question on national radio, it was a laugh and led to a chuckle of an interview.

Some of you will recognise these brownies, we’ve been making them at some of our recent events in Manchester and London.  Check out all of our upcoming events and retreats in Spain, Cornwall and Wales here.

Recipe Notes

These brownies are delicious without the chilli, if you’re not a big fan.  The nuts and chocolate are luxury touches really, again, without them, the brownies still rock!

I think pecans are my favourite nuts for these brownies, but really, most nuts would love this brownie.

Because they’re just made of beans, you can dare to slightly under bake these brownies.  Much better that than over baking them.

EAT ME

Dark Chocolate & Chilli Brownies – Vegan & Gluten-Free

 

The Bits – Makes 12 Brownies

235g or 1 tin black beans (rinsed and drained)

2 tbs ground flax (mixed with 5 tbs water)

3 tbs coconut oil or vegan spread

75g dark brown sugar

75g cocoa/ cacao powder

¼ teas sea salt

1 teas vanilla extract

2 teas instant coffee

1 teas cinnamon

1/6-1 teas chilli powder

1 teas baking powder

½ teas bicarb soda

35g dark chocolate (chopped into small chunks)

35g chopped pecans/ cashews/ peanuts 

 

Do It

Preheat fan oven to 180°C. Oil and line a small oven tray with baking parchment.

Mix your flax seeds with the water and leave for 5 minutes to thicken.  

Add all the ingredients to a food processor (except chocolate and peanuts), blitz for a minute. Scrape the sides of the blender down and repeat blending until a smoothish mix is formed.   

Now add the chocolate and nuts, pulsing a few times to combine. Pour/ scrape the batter into your lined tray and press down flat, around 2/3 inch thick.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the tops and edges are just crisping up. Test with a toothpick or skewer; the insides should be a little sticky still. That’s what brownies are all about!  Leave to cool in the tray and they will firm up. 

Serve topped with dulce de leche, vanilla ice cream and a sprinkle of nuts.  Or as they are with a nice cuppa or if you fancy, serve with some whipped coconut cream for a real treat.  

 

Foodie Fact

This is the low down and figures on the super charged hero that is the humble black bean.  They’re full of healthy surprises!

Black beans contain calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper and zinc and can help to maintain strong bones and lower blood pressure.  They are very high in fibre and protein, with much more protein and iron than beef, and they also contain selenium which is a quite rare in the plant world and very, very good for us.    Eat beans, be merry!!

 

 

Categories: Baking, Cakes, Desserts, gluten-free, healthy, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Superfoods, Vegan, Wales | Tags: | 4 Comments

Spiced Orange & Almond Upside Down Cake – Vegan and Gluten-free

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Spiced Orange & Almond Polenta Cake – Vegan, Gluten-free

This is just the kind of deliciousness I like at Christmas, something light and rich.  Makes a nice change at this time of year!  One of the highlights for me is the intense spiced marmalade glaze (with or without whiskey;)  This cake can be served as festive dessert with some vegan creme fraiche or cream.

I do enjoy Christmas cake and pud, but they can get a little heavy.  This one is so easy to make and looks lovely, it’s also gluten-free, so it ticks many dietary boxes.  I know that we can be cooking for friends and family at this time of year and catering for dietary requirements.  I love recipes like this, that everyone can enjoy, vegan, gluten-freers and the rest!  It’s just a straight up delicious cake.

You’ll probably get a better, caramelised look in your oven.  I was using a big old oven (looks like an ancient steam train) which is a temperamental creature, ideally, we’re looking for loads of gorgeous caramel all over your oranges.  But either way, it’s a lovely cake.

The only problem I can see with your average polenta cake is that it can be a little dry.  You won’t have that issue with this recipe as the oranges sit on top and keep the cake nice and moist.  You can also use blood oranges (which I couldn’t get hold of), pears, apples, pineapple, plums, in fact most fruit will be great on top of this almond and polenta base.   The polenta means that you get a nice crust on this cake, soft in the middle, crisp on the outside is always a good combo in my book.

I’ve had a really nice couple of weeks, whizzing all over the UK cooking and enjoying.  One of the highlights was walking along the tip of Cornwall, near Land’s End.  There were rainbows out at sea, the waves were huge and ferocious and the coastline jagged and epic.  The wind was incredible and it seemed like I had the whole coastline to myself.  Afterwards, I enjoyed the obligatory pastie, I was amazed to see how many vegan options there are in Cornwall.  I also managed to check out some cool locations for cooking retreats in ’18.  More info to come soon……

Cape Cornwall – Stunning!!

If you’re looking for some Christmas recipes, here’s a few we think you’ll like:

 

maple roasted parsnip, walnut & mushroom roulade with cashew cream sauce

boozy snowball truffles

roast winter vegetable salad

parsnip, cranberry & chestnut roast

oven baked squash gnocchi with sun-dried tomatoes, fennel & spinach pesto

festive pear & cranberry chutney

cauliflower hearts, hazelnut, creamy asparagus sauce

decadent double chocolate cake 

braised cauliflower & puy lentil tabouleh

ginger & chocolate treats (simple festive fun)

 

This will be my last post before Christmas ’18, I’m just leaving to Spain, so I must scoot.  Thanks to everyone for the support, inspiration and love in 2017!  You really make the BHK a very special place to be!!  Have a peaceful and chilled Christmas filled with tasty nibbles.  Let us know what’s cookin’ in the comments below?

Love and Happiness, Lee & JaneX

Recipe Notes

This cake is not a big riser, but it should still be light.

The texture of this cake is moist, when checking it during baking, bare this in mind.  There is a difference between moist and sticky/ raw.  You can tell when you check it with a skewer, there should be nothing that looks like raw cake batter on the skewer.   I hope that makes sense;)

If you are using other fruit, feel free to freestyle with the glaze.  Using other jams for example is a really nice idea to compliment the fruit.

Because of the fresh fruit, this cake does not keep well.   I guess you’ll just need to polish it off quickly (don’t worry, this is easily done:)

 

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Spiced Orange & Almond Upside Down Cake

The Bits – For 8-10 slices

4 mandarins

125ml light rapeseed/ olive oil

100g light brown sugar

150g ground almonds

80g polenta

1 lime or ½ lemon (juice)

1 teas baking powder

½ teas turmeric

1 teas vanilla extract

2 tbs ground flax/ chia seeds (mixed with 5 tbs water)

 

A little light brown sugar (for dusting)

 

Glaze

5 tbs marmalade

2 star anise

4 cloves

2 green cardamom pods (cracked)

2 tbs whiskey (optional but nice)

 

Do It

Line and oil the base and sides of a 8 inch cake tin with baking parchment.  Lightly dust the base and side of your cake tin with sugar.  Preheat oven to 180oC.

 

Zest one of the mandarins, neatly peel the rest and slice across into ⅔ cm slices.  Pick out any seeds.   Lay the slices over the bottom of the tin and fill in the gaps with segments if needed.  Beat together the oil and sugar and add the orange zest, lime juice, almonds, polenta, baking powder, turmeric, vanilla extract and flax seeds.  Mix until combined well.  Pour the batter into your cake tin.  Smooth the top.    

 

Bake on a middle shelf for 25-30 minutes, until the cakes top is golden brown and springy.  Test with a skewer and remember this is a moist cake, so there will be more stickiness than a normal cake when testing.

 

While it’s baking, warm the marmalade and spices in a small pan, boil for a minute and then set aside.   

 

Leave the cake to cool and turn out of the pan onto a serving plate/ platter.  Brush with the marmalade (easiest to do when warm).  Decorate with the spices if you like and serve with vegan creme fraiche or ice cream.  

Categories: Baking, Cakes, Desserts, gluten-free, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Rye & Stout Loaf

Rye & Guinness Loaf

Rye and stout just works!  There’s a harmony there.  I’ve been wanting to use stout in a recipe for a while now.  The deep, full  flavours mingle perfectly with the big flavours of rye and dark treacle.  Nutritious and really flavourful, wholesome in the best possible way.

Of course, there are many other amazing stouts and dark ales which will be equally as nice in this bread, adding ale to a bread really boosts the flavour, deep and malty is this loaf (did I sound a bit like yoda there?) and the recipe calls for a layer of beer batter before baking, which made for a nice crust and finish.

This is a dense and delicious loaf which makes incredible toast!  I’m using a lot of Rye at the minute in baking, its a healthy flour option, low in gluten.   Its a great choice for a hearty wintery loaf.  Although I’d eat this bread at any time of year, anywhere, anyhow….

I’ve been making apple and walnut scones with a rye and white flour mix, they’re great.  The addition of white flour gives just enough lightness to the texture.  I find that this goes for most rye baking, add a little white flour, maybe 1/4 of the total flour quantity, for best results.  Although I regularly go 100% for bread with lots of seeds.   This combo makes a loaf that slices nice and thin, with a great texture.

Rye has always seemed a treat for me, we don’t use it so much in Britian, but in Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and Germany, it is common place.  Rye used to be popular in the UK, but bizarrely, was always seen as being inferior to wheat.

I wasn’t sure about the bread in Portugal, I’m not keen on light and flighty white, so I took a loaf of heavily seeded rye bread on the plane with me.  It probably weighed a few kilos, but it was so worth it.  Rye toast with Portugese tomatoes, oregano and olive oil.   Yes please!  I seemed to get stopped consistently at airport security and they love having a good look through my old green rucksack.  The chap emptying the contents out this time seemed a bit surprised to find a loaf of seedy bread; “Did you bake this loaf yourself sir?”  My small umbrella was also a bit of an issue and they were not sure about my stash of chia seeds, but I got through in the end and Lisbon was an amazing city (more to come about that…..)

One of our neighbours.

This recipe is based on one by Paul Holywood that I played with it a bit.  Thanks Paul!  I liked the batter idea.  I don’t actually watch Bake Off, I find that when I’m cooking most of the day, watching more people cooking is a bit much, but the program has had a massive effect on Britain, when I cook for people and do demos, the level of baking knowledge is incredible!  Most people seem to know there way around a sourdough now lets put it that way!!

Wales has been shining this autumn/ winter, thought I’d share a few snaps of beautiful Snowdonia.  We’ve loved being back up here at this time of year and long may it continue.  Bit of frost livening up the mornings but generally, all has been bright and reasonably dry (weather report over!;)

So here it is, try it with some vegan smoked salmon (made with tomatoes or carrots, we may post a recipe soon) and cream cheese is my whole hearted serving suggestion!!

Recipe Notes

Vegan butter recipe I’ve been working on, if you’d like, I’ll post it soon.

Due to the low gluten in rye, it can take much longer to rise than wheat loaves.  Be patient and leave it for as long as it takes, we’re generally looking for around double the size it started.  You can leave it overnight in a fridge, which has worked for me in the past.

Because of the low gluten, there’s no need to go overboard with the kneading either.  Which I’m sure some of you are quite pleased about!

Sticky is good for me when making bread, better that  the dough is a little sticky, than a little dry.  When kneading the bread, only add a small amount, a thin layer, of flour for dusting.

Rye & Guinness Loaf

Rye & Stout Loaf

The Bits – For one medium-sized loaf

Dry

375g rye flour

125g strong white bread flour (plus extra for flouring)

2-3 teas salt

7g yeast (small packet)

 

Wet

3 tbs black treacle/ molasses

100ml water

250ml stout or dark ale

 

Beer Batter Topping

150ml stout or dark ale

100g rye flour

Large pinch brown sugar

 

Handful jumbo oats

Early winter in Wales has been beautiful! Bardsey Island off the Llyn Peninsula

Do It

Mix your dry bits together in a large bowl and add the wet bits, adding 150ml of the ale and more if needed.  Mix together until a wet dough forms.  The dough should be sticky but comes away from the edges of the bowl.

Tip onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes.  The dough will be wet, use slightly wet hands to make the kneading easier and less sticky.  It will gradually become smoother, but not as smooth as a normal bread dough.  This is fine.  Form into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl.  Loosely cover and leave in a warm spot for 2 hours.

Beer Batter Topping – Mix the ale, flour and sugar together into a thick batter.

On a baking tray, lined with parchment, and lightly oiled, form your dough into a ball and spread over the ale paste, sprinkling the oats all over.  Leave to prove for 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat your oven to 220oC and bake for 25 minutes, then reduce heat to 200oC and bake for 10 more minutes.

The loaf will have a nice crust and be golden brown, tap the bottom, it should sound nice and hollow.  Leave it to cool on a wire rack.

Home baked, can’t beat it!

Foodie Fact 

Rye is quite similar to wheat, but has different nutritional properties.  It’s lower in gluten, high in protein and is full of fibre with good levels of vitamins and minerals.  In fact, Rye is way up there in the fibre stakes. Here’s a quick top three……….

1- Barley   2- Raspberries  3- Rye 

Raspberries!!!  I know.  That seems a bit of a brilliant nutritional curve ball.

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I’d like to thank the good people of the BHK Vegan Cooking group, over on Facebook, who have inspired me to share a Rye Loaf recipe.  (Judy, I finally got around to it;)

Do you like rye bread?  How do you feel about it’s heavy texture and flavour?  Let us know if you try it in the comments below:)

Originally I listed Guinness in the ingredients for this recipe by mistake.  Guinness is only vegan draught, but cans and bottles will hopefully follow soon.

Categories: Baking, healthy, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, Recipes, Vegan, Wales, Winter | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Banana & Peanut Butter Muffins with Date Caramel

Banana & Peanut Butter Muffins with Date Caramel

Most of the time, the simple things are the best.  Like these muffins.  They take a few minutes to make and I love the combination of banana, peanut and dates.  It’s like these flavours were created for a muffin!  This is a recipe that I keep going back to again and again, I’m really chuffed that I’ve finally got around to sharing it.

These muffins are loved by kids especially, I’ve seen some amazing reactions from kids when faced with these.  They disappear quickly and I think the caramel is a real favourite.   They are also pretty healthy, but kids are in no way put off by that, they just love them because they’re yum.  Kids are a good jury for food, they are perfectly honest and normally have an interesting point or two to make.

I have used a little white flour here, but you could go fully wholemeal if you’re feeling that.  Also, buckwheat flour is a lovely addition to these muffins, adds a real depth.  The key here it to not over bake them, they will go dry quickly.  Get them out when they are still soft in the middle, but a skewer comes out clean (a little stickiness is fine) and they will firm up when cooled.

The date caramel is so, so easy and can be used on all kinds of desserts and as a go to icing and filling, it’s just a superstar recipe with three ingredients only!!  These muffins also make for a great, super quick breakfast option.

We cooked these at the Home Cooked Happiness Vegan Cooking Retreat recently and I’ve noticed out of the big handbook of recipes we worked through, a couple of people have already made these muffins.  The sign of a winning recipe for me is if people feel like making it when they get home.  These muffins use such simple ingredients that almost anyone can jump in their kitchen right now and give them a go!

Recipe Notes

Get some nice big muffins cases here.  Little cup cake cases won’t do.  Preferably without frilly patterns on.  I’m against frilly patterns in this case.  I like plain brown or white, however Jane has talked me into a pink muffin case in the past.  These muffins are fun enough without additional frilliness.

If you’re feeling chocolaty, add a few tbs of cocoa/ cacao to the mix, the results are amazing!!

I like coconut oil, but normal vegetable oil is also fine.

———-

 

Banana & Peanut Butter Muffins with Date Caramel

The Bits – 10 muffins
3 ripe bananas
70ml coconut oil (melted)
65g light brown sugar
100g self raising flour
120g wholemeal flour
1 teas bicarb
1 teas cinnamon
3 tbs peanut butter

Date Caramel

175g dates
3 tbs peanut butter
3-4 tbs water

Topping

1 handful toasted peanuts (roughly chopped)
10 pieces dried banana/ banana chips

Do It
Preheat oven to 180oC, place 10 muffin cases in your muffin tin.

Mash the bananas in a mixing bowl, mix in peanut butter, oil and sugar, then the flour, bicarb, cinnamon. Mix well until a lumpy batter form.

Spoon the mix into your muffin cases, so they’re ¾ full. Pop in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.  Leave the muffins to cool in the tin.

Caramel – Place all in a blender and blitz until smooth. This will take a few goes. Drizzle in more water to thin out to a spreadable consistency.

Spread your caramel over cooled muffins, sprinkle with peanuts and stick a banana chip on top for a final flourish!

Foodie Fact 

Peanuts are nutritional powerhouses, like most nuts.  A handle full a day is a great idea.  Packed with minerals, antioxidants and protein, they are the ideal snack, rich in good fats and fibre.  Peanut butter is a great way of adding peanut power to smoothies, dressings, curries/soups/stews.  The hype is that nuts are fattening, but it has been shown that adding nuts to our diets can actually help us loss weight.

Jane and I have been enjoying them boiled, something we’d not tried until we went to China.  Great added to a stir fry or tossed with a Chinese Style dressing in a salad.

 

We’re off to Spain in May ’18 to host ‘A Taste of Bliss’ with the wonderful Complete Unity Yoga.

Come and join us!  Click here for more information and bookings.

Categories: Baking, Cakes, Desserts, healthy, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

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: , , , , | 20 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: , , , , , | 12 Comments

Banana, Buckwheat & Walnut Slices – Yummy, easy and don’t cost the earth!

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Banana, Buckwheat & Walnut Slices – Vegan

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.

rsz_p1220120

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 & Hemp Muffins (Gluten-free, Sugar-free)

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 so I made 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 and how they can hamper our wellbeing.  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 our 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

Breakfast Cookies with Banana and Brazil Nuts 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!

Gluten-free flour mix and oats will be great in this recipe too.

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Breakfast Cookies with Banana & Brazil Nuts

The Bits – 6-8 big cookies

200g Scottish oats (50g more reserved)

30g wholewheat flour

2 bananas (mashed with your hands or a fork)

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

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