Special Occasion

Parsnip, Cranberry & Chestnut Roast

Chestnut, Cranberry & Walnut Roast

We all need a good nut roast up our festive sleeves!!  This is a tasty centre piece with all the flavours of Christmas, that won’t take an age to cook.  It is also remarkably healthy, but we won’t dwell on that, after all, it’s nearly Christmas, time to feast and be merry!!

I’m sharing this one on the fly, its a busy time of year in the BHK!  As I’m sure it is in your home.  I took this picture whilst cooking for lovely group at the weekend, I haven’t had anytime for blogging of late, but this recipe is one we’re enjoying and lets face it, us vegans need a nut roast to lean on (then gobble) at this time of year!

I did a little poll recently in the BHK Vegan Cooking Group, asking what was the stand out vegan dish for Christmas lunch and Nut Roast ruled.  1st by quite a bit.  I was a little surprised, I love nut roasts, but many people have nightmare stories about bland, crumbly roasts, which is the last thing we want when we are mid Xmas feast.

This is a substantial nut roast (aren’t they all!?), with a nice layer of roasted parsnips in the centre. It cuts nicely into slices and I like the idea of glazing things at this time of year.  Makes it extra special and gives it an attractive finish.

I served it with full trimmings at the weekend, roasted Parmesan sprouts, mash, proper gravy, roast squash and swede, a few types of kale and a little red onion and parnsip tart tatin thrown in.  It was snowing outside and Snowdonia was looking like a winter wonderland.  The perfect Christmas scene.

Let us know if you make this roast, it would make our week!  I’m heading off to Spain for Christmas and New Year very soon and Jane is having a nice quiet time with family, then an even quieter time at a silent meditation retreat;)  We hope you have a wonderful festive time and get right into the Xmas groove.  Have fun. jingle bells and spread the love:)

Merry Christmas everyone!!X

The Nantlle Valley looking good and wintery (Snowdon hiddne in the mist)

Recipe Notes

If you have some leftover mix, this would make awesome burgers.  Festive burger twist?  Why not!

This roast will freeze well and can be made in advance.   In fact, its better when made the day before.

Don’t dig parnsips.  That’s cool, any root veg will be fine here, something like carrot or squash would be great. Nice colours too.

Walnuts are great in these dishes, they break down nicely, adding flavour and texture.  You might prefer hazelnuts, which are also very delicious here.

Just use gluten-free breadcrumbs to make this a GF treat.

 

———–

Parsnip, Cranberry & Chestnut Roast

The Bits – For 4-6

2 medium onions (skin on and quartered)

300g/ 2 largish parsnips 

1 head garlic

2 tbs rapeseed oil

 

200g chestnuts (cooked and peeled)

100g breadcrumbs

100g toasted walnuts

3 teas dijon mustard

2 teas dried sage

1 teas dried rosemary

1/2 teas cinnamon

2 tbs ground flax (mixed with 7 tbs water)

4 tbs Cranberry Sauce

 

Serve

8 tbs cranberry sauce

2 tbs whiskey/ brandy or water

 

Fresh thyme leaves

 

Do It

Slice the thick end of your parsnips into thin discs, with a few smaller discs from the thinner end.  This will be used for decorating the top of our roast.  Cut the rest into thin batons.

Preheat an oven to 190oC.  Trim the top of the garlic off to slightly expose the cloves.  On a baking tray, toss the onion, garlic and parsnip batons (set aside the thin slices) in oil and a little salt.  Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until all is soft and caramelised nicely.  The onion may need a little longer to go nice and soft.   Leave to cool and pop the roasted garlic cloves from their skins.  Remove any skin and roughly chop the onion into small chunks, keep enough parsnip batons for a decent layer in the middle of your roast, chop the rest up.     

Pulse the chestnuts and walnuts into a rough crumb in a food processor.  Place in a bowl and mix in the roasted onions, chopped parsnips and garlic, herbs, breadcrumbs, mustard, cinnamon, cranberry sauce, flax egg, salt and pepper.  Mash together well and taste to check seasoning.  Remember that flavours will develop when cooked.  If it’s a little lumpy, that’s fine!    

Line and oil a 900g/ large loaf tin with baking parchment, lay out your parsnip discs until they cover the base of your tin.  Arrange them nicely, this will be the top of your roast.  Spoon in half the chestnut mix, press down snuggly and level out with the back of a spoon.  Arrange a layer of parsnips batons, press down a little until snug and spoon over the rest of your chestnut mix.  Smooth and press down evenly to make a nice neat finish. 

Cover with foil or baking parchment and bake for 45 minutes, then take off the foil and bake for a further 15 minutes.  There should be a nice brown crust.  Leave to cool for 15 minutes in tin before turning gently out onto a serving plate and again, leave for 10 minutes before slicing.  Makes it easier and slices stay together.   

In a small pan, mix together the cranberry sauce and whiskey, bring to a boil and simmer for 1 minutes.  Keep warm.  Glaze the top of your roast with the cranberry sauce and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves.  

The loaf mix can be made the day before and left in the fridge until needed.

Looking for a quick and easy Christmas dessert? 

Why not try this Spiced Apple & Pecan Tart.  Follow the Apple Tart recipe in Peace & Parsnips, adding some spices to the marmalade, cloves, star anise, cinnamon and maybe a few shots of whiskey/ brandy.  Top it all off with chopped roasted pecans.

Spiced Apple & Pecan Tart

 

Categories: Dinner, gluten-free, healthy, Healthy Living, Peace and Parsnips, plant-based, Recipes, Special Occasion, Vegan, Winter | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Italian Vegan Summer Feast – A Celebration! (pt 1)

Italian Vegan Summer Feast – Get a load of that!!

We love sharing with you our favourite recipes!  Here’s a whole feasts worth!!  If I had time, I’d blog every night.  I think good recipes are best shared.   I never understand the whole secret recipe thing.  Let’s cook!

The post was originally so long, I’ve had to split it into two.  But don’t be overawed, the recipes are straightforward.  This celebration was a winner over on our Facebook cooking group, click here to join, where recipes are shared and there is much chat plus healthy vegan vibes and stunning food.  Pop over and take a look.

The simple and delicious flavours of Italy make the most out of our summer produce. When the sun comes out, we start getting tasty tomatoes, peppers, and the flavours of the Mediterranean can be found locally in the UK for a short window. I love it! This is a feast designed for a party or entertaining guests/ people you hopefully like, when you want a table filled with a wide range of dishes, not too complicated food that compliments each other.  For me, Italian food goes perfectly with a sunny afternoon and a bottle of something amazing.

THE ITALIAN CONNECTION

The reason for this meal was our relatives visiting from Italy, they live near Lake Como. Jane and I love Italy, one of our favourite places on this big rock, but we’ve never been North.  Can’t believe we’ve got family living in Italy and we haven’t been to see them.  Shame on us.   Since coming back to the UK we’ve been loving kitchen time and trying out ideas from our travels.  I guess the tart is like a pizza, but with a puff pastry base.  When I’m busy, I like working with puff pastry, it’s far too easy.  I’ve just discovered pre-rolled puff pastry.  Wow!  That is pure laziness and brilliance at the same time.   Whack it on a tray, bake, job done.

Here’s some of our Italian travel snaps.

When preparing a menu, we need to think about textures and flavours, how they mingle and benefit from each other. I find writing menu’s really enjoyable and a great challenge.

If you can, present the dishes on large plates or shallow bowls. Spread things out, make them look lovely.

 

Recipe Notes

This is going to take a few hours to get together.  Its a weekend special.

Gluten-free – Just use gluten-free pastry/ pasta for the tart and your favourite gluten free bread.

Additional deliciousness – this tart is awesome with some prated vegan parmesan sprinkle over at the end.  Violife do a parmesan which is scarily like the real thing Jane and I were amazed by it, you could smell the pong upstairs and in the garden.  Just like the other stuff.  Potent.  There must be some kind of genius going on there. Vegan parmesan!! Whatever next. Exciting times in the foody world powered by plants.

(You’ll notice a couple of dishes are missing from the picture above, you’ll find a Chocolate Cake recipe here the Peanut Butter Scones may appear soon.)

 

The Bits – For 6-8 Light Meal

Pepper, Basil and Cashew Cream Cheese Tart (Vegan)

Pepper, Basil & Cashew Cheese Tart

1 pack puff pastry

1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 garlic
salt and pepper

3 peppers – different colours looks nice (sliced)
2 onions (thickly sliced)
2 handfuls squash (chopped into cubes)

 

Cashew Cheese

1 cup cashews
1/2 lemon (juice)
3 tbs nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 garlic clove
Large pinch dried oregano

 

1 handful fresh basil leaves

Dried oregano

3 tbs plant milk (for brushing)

 

—————-

Preheat fan oven 200oc.

Place the peppers, onions and squash on a large baking tray, season with salt and pepper, use two if squashed, and roast for 25-30 minutes.

In a sauce pan, add tomatoes, garlic, season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes, until a thick sauce forms.

Roll out your puff pastry thin on a piece of lightly floured greaseproof paper. Brush with milk. Bake in oven for 12 minutes. Leave to cool slightly.

Spread a layer of tomato sauce over tart, scatter onions, peppers, squash, sprinkle with oregano, black pepper.

Brush the edges of the tart with plant milk, bake for 15 minutes. Can be served hot or cold.

Place all the cheese ingredients in a blender and blits until smooth.

To serve, blob on cashew cheese and tear over some basil leaves.

 

Tomato & Balsamic Salad

Tomato & Balsamic Salad

4-5 ripe tomatoes (chopped)
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tbs olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 handful basil leaves

——————–

Mix together in a bowl and tear your basil leaves over.

 

Roast Rosemary Potatoes

Roasted New Potatoes & Rosemary

New potatoes (par boiled)
Few sprigs of Rosemary
Salt
2 roasted garlic bulbs

 

——————-

Take your par boiled potatoes, toss them in the rosemary, salt and oil, roast in the oven for 30 minutes. (200oC) until crispy and golden, turning them once.

Serve warm.

 

Italian Style Dressing

8 tbs olive oil
3 tbs white wine vinegar
2 small garlic cloves (crushed)
3 tbs chopped parsley
1/2 teas dried oregano
1/2 small lemon (juice)
Large pinch dried red pepper

——————-

Whisk all together in a bowl or shake together in a jar.  Check seasoning.

 

Buon appetito!

 

This is only half of the recipes, check out the Italian Vegan Summer Feast (pt 2) post for more.

 

Categories: Dressings, healthy, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Salads, Side Dish, Special Occasion, Summer, Vegan | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

Oven Baked Squash Gnocchi with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Fennel & Spinach Pesto

Oven Baked Squash Gnocchi with Sun-dried Tomato, Fennel and Spinach Pesto

Oven Baked Squash Gnocchi with Sun-dried Tomato, Fennel and Spinach Pesto

Veganz! Omnivores! Traffic Wardens! Rock Stars! Mamas! Papas! Botanists! Kayakers!……..You’re all going to like this one.

January is here and most of us feel quite droopy.  Over fed and watered, back to work but filled with good intentions for the new year.  Over 15,000 people world wide are trying out a vegan lifestyle in January thanks to the awesome Veganuary (see below).  This year we’re all going to be healthy superheroes!  Environmental angels!  Animal lovers extraordinaire!  Just by changing our eating and consuming habits.   Its such a shining, peaceful, positive way to get 2016 off to a flying start.

Here’s a healthy recipe straight out of Peace & Parsnips.  Loads of people have been in touch and said that this has been one of their favourites.  A colourful twist on your traditional gnocchi. This is a light dish packed with texture, a rich pesto, bucket loads of nutrition and plenty of big flavours.

Colourful food always gets us happy and hungry and this is a proper rainbow plate; orange, red, green, red……YUM!  It’s an ideal dish for a special dinner, a Saturday night feast or mid-week indulgence.  If you are cooking for people who think vegan/ healthy/ vegetables/(fill in the blank….) is boring and bland, here’s something to dispel such misguided waffle.

I’m sure this recipe will help all those going fully vegan for this Veganuary.  It’s not all veggie burger, tofu and falafels after all.  One friend said to me recently, a little apprehensively; “But is being vegan any fun?”, I replied “How much fun is Halloumi???!?”  (We  were talking about giving up Halloumi at the time).  How much fun is cheese?  There is no connection between happiness and dairy products.  Trust me.

Go vegan for January (what's left of it;)

Go vegan for January (what’s left of it;)

Veganuary is a global campaign that gets people into a vegan lifestyle in January.  Being a vegan is big news in 2016 and there has been plenty of interest in the press.  There are thousands of people giving veganism a try; my Mum and sister are giving it a go and Jane is giving up her Kefir and occasional Cappuccino for the month.  I also have a load of friends who are getting into the plant-based party.  Its amazing!  Jack Monroe is posting vegan recipes over on ‘Cooking on a Bootstrap’ and other celebrities like Vivienne Westwood, Sarah Pascoe and Romesh Ranganathan are taking part.  In 2015, 49% of the folk who tried out Veganuary stayed vegan full-time.  The Veganuary site is packed with information, advice, recipes and inspiration.  In fact, you’ll find a load of recipes from Peace & Parsnips over there.  Of course, you could also have a wee look at our back catalogue for a massive slice of vegan treats.

Being vegan is becoming ever more accessible, there are an infinite number of ways to eat simply delicious, plant-based food.  Many more restaurants, supermarkets and suppliers are realising that being vegan is far from a fad.  Interest in veganism has grown hugely worldwide in 2015 and will continue to do so in 2016.

Let’s cook plants!  Here’s what I said in the book:

Making gnocchi with coloured vegetables makes brilliant sense. Any quite starchy root works well: parsnip, sweet potato, purple potatoes, cassava, pumpkin . . . But the vivid orange of squash really electrifies the plate (and the palate). With its vibrant oranges, reds and greens, this dish is a feast for the eyes as well as the belly!

The Bits

1 large squash, about 1.5kg (the more starchy varieties of summer squash are best, such as butternut) peeled and cut into rough chunks olive oil, for roasting

a little sea salt

1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced lengthways

240g firm tofu, well drained

300g unbleached white flour, sifted

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon white pepper

1½ teaspoons dried sage

2 big handfuls of sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped

 

For the topping
2 tablespoons roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Spinach Pistou

100g hazelnuts

100g spinach or watercress leaves

2 big handfuls fresh basil leaves

3 cloves garlic (crushed)

juice of 1 lemon

zest of 1/2 lemon

Large pinch of sea salt

2 large pinches of black pepper

75ml extra virgin olive oil

 

Do It – For 4-6

First make the spinach pistou (even better if you can make it the day before). Pistou is a Provencal version of Pesto – much lighter, without the cheese and pine nuts.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.

Place the squash on an oiled baking tray. Rub a little oil and salt over it and bake for 30 minutes, turning the pieces gently over once. You’re not looking for loads of colour here, just lovely soft, golden squash.

Toss the fennel in olive oil, place on a separate baking tray and scatter with a pinch of sea salt. Bake for 30 minutes, turning once, until it’s nicely golden and sweet. When the squash is ready, put it into a processor with the tofu and blend until smooth. Now, place in a large bowl and stir in the flour, salt, pepper and sage until a soft dough forms. Leave to cool down and firm up – it will be a lot easier to handle.

Using two teaspoons, make gnocchi shapes (lovely little flat oval dumplings) with the mixture and place on an oiled baking sheet, leaving about 5cm of space for each gnocchi to grow. Brush the gnocchi with a little more oil and bake for 20–25 minutes, until crisp and slightly golden.

For the Spinach Pistou – Place the hazelnuts in a small skillet and warm on medium heat.  Keep them moving for 5-7 minutes – they will become roasted and smell so very sweet! Put them into a food processor and blitz for 30 seconds.  The nuts should begin to break down into lumps and chunks, which is what we want.  Add the rest of the pistou ingredients (except the oil) and blitz, drizzling the oil in gradually until you get a nice runny texture, like a think sauce.  You will need to scrape down the sides of the food processor a few times.  Add more oil if the pistou needs thinning.  Check your seasoning and set aside.

Serve

Warm, on nice big plates, drizzled liberally with the pistou. Scatter the crispy fennel and sun-dried tomatoes on top with a little more pistou, and finish with some chopped roasted hazelnuts.

Foodie Fact

Winter squashes like pumpkin and butternut squash are directly related to summer squashes like courgette and even watermelon (they’re known as the gourd family).  You can use most winter squashes in this recipe, as long as they are not too watery; acorn or hokkaido will be delicious.

Butternut squash is almost 30% protein and contains outrageous levels of vitamin A which makes our skin shine.  They’re also high in vitamin C and boast a good range of minerals like iron and calcium.

All of the parts of a squash plant are edible; fruit, flowers, leaves and seeds.

Categories: Dinner, Healthy Eating, Peace and Parsnips, Recipes, Special Occasion, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Maple Roasted Parsnip, Walnut & Mushroom Roulade with Cashew Cream Sauce (Traditional Vegan Christmas Fare)

Parsnip, Walnut & Mushroom Roulade with some tasty trimmings

Parsnip, Walnut & Mushroom Roulade with some tasty trimmings

A simple, vegan feast to satisfy all this Christmas!

Here is a old school dish that I came up with last night, ideal for a Christmas day centre piece and only using two pans and a baking tray! I’ve also included quick recipes for the cooking veggie accompaniments – Chicory braised in sloe gin and pan fried Brussels Sprouts with Curly Kale and the creamy sauce is something everyone will enjoy.  You are sorted for Xmas 2015!

I’ve had quite a few requests for a Christmas recipe that is both straightforward and seasonal.  Being the BHK, we don’t plan things, we just let them leap out of the veg basket and we had to go parsnip this year.  It has been ‘the year of the parsnip’ for us in many ways!

All of these ingredients most of us have around the kitchen at this time of year.  I love the way that we can create feasts from simple plant-based ingredients, packed with bold flavours and interesting textures.  We are spending Christmas this year with Jane’s parents and I think they’ll love this dish, a taste of more traditional British fare.

A vegan Christmas is a delight!  I find that I cook lighter and more nourishing dishes than previous Christmas times.  Xmas can be so packed with heavy, rich food and I can’t help feeling lucky to be stuffing myself with food that is delicious and won’t leave me in a food coma, snoring by the fire place.  If I could tone down the red wine glugging, Christmas would be a highly healthy time of year!  Jane and I will be making a whole host of vegan dishes on the big day and all across the festive season, the perfect time of year to let plants shine and inspire.

I like this recipe because it is fun for all the family, no matter what the tastes.  The pastry is something everyone can get down with, crispy, flaky and then the filling is packed with flavour finished with a very creamy, slightly cheesy plant-based sauce that will be a surprise to some.  Cashews are superheroes for plant-based creaminess.

This recipe suits is you are catering for a vegan/s over Christmas.  It can be made in advance and warmed up in the oven on the day or you can prepare the filling ingredients and roll the roulade in the morning.  I have to say that freshly baked it is tastier and the pastry has a better texture.

A festive feast!

A festive feast!

Recipe Notes

This roulade will be lovely with any veggies, but we’ve paired it with a few of our extra special favourites; chicory, kale and Brussels Sprouts.  A few roast potatoes are never a bad idea!   We also love red cabbage however it arises.

If you don’t have any nutritional yeast flakes the sauce will not be cheesy.  Now may be a good time to invest in a pot of these wonderful, savoury flakes.  Especially if you are planning on cooking vegan food regularly.  Otherwise stir in some Dijon mustard or herbs.  It will be delicious.

Cashew butter can easily be substituted by blending up cashew nuts, seasoning with salt.  Soak two handfuls of cashews for 2 hours in plenty of water and then blend.  They will form a smooth paste, perfect for adding to sauces and stews.

If you don’t have access to fresh herbs, that’s cool, lets go for roughly 3/4 teas dried rosemary and 1 1/2 teas dried thyme.  You can always taste the leeks after cooking and add more herbs if you like.

This is the easiest method of rolling a roulade, you can go for a more traditional roulade roll if you are happy with that.  This method is failsafe.

Many brands of puff pastry are vegan, have a quick check of the ingredients.

Chicory is generally quite bitter but when cooked with a sweet liqueur or even a fruit vinegar, will have delicious sweet and sour flavour.

Christmas is not complete without delicious Brussels Sprouts.  Simply pan fried in a little oil, with sea salt is my favourite way to enjoy them.

Happy cooking and Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!

 

The Bits – Makes 12 slices (enough for 4-6) 

325g/ 2 medium-sized parsnips (chopped into 1 1/2 cm wide batons – the longer the better)

2 big handfuls walnuts (roughly chopped)

3 teas maple syrup

1 1/2 teas lemon (zest)

1 head garlic (whole)

 

300g/ 2 medium leeks (cleaned and finely sliced)

2 teas fresh rosemary (finely sliced)

3 teas thyme leaves (picked from stems)

 

250g mushrooms (finely diced)

Black pepper and sea salt

 

2/3 500g vegan puff pastry block (roughly 350g)

3 tbs soya milk

Flour (for dusting)

 

Cashew Cream Sauce

100g/ 1 small leek (cleaned and finely sliced)

400ml soya milk (or non-dairy milk of choice)

4 tbs cashew butter

2 tbs nutritional yeast flakes

Sea salt (to taste)

Lovely maple roasted parsnips and walnuts

Lovely maple roasted parsnips and walnuts

Do It

Preheat an oven to 200oc (180oc fan oven).

Place the parsnips and head of garlic on a baking tray, toss with a 2 tbs of oil and a large pinch of salt.  Roast for 15 mins then gently turn over the parsnips, scatter the walnuts around the tray and drizzle all with maple syrup.  Roast for 7 minutes, turn and check that they are not burning.  Roast for 3 minutes more until the parsnips are totally. beautifully golden.  The walnuts will also be nicely caramelised.  Little explosions of flavour for the roulade!  Scatter over the lemon zest and set aside.

While the parsnips are roasting, grab a large frying pan.  Add 1 tbs oil and fry your leeks for 5- 7 minutes.  When they are soft, stir in the herbs.  Set aside.  Rinse out the pan.

Now add another 1 tbs of oil to the pan and fry your mushrooms for 8 minutes on a medium heat until most of their moisture has been released.  Mix with your leeks, season with salt and pepper, set aside.

Cut a piece of baking parchment/ greaseproof paper out that will snugly fit in a baking tray.  Place on a cool work surface and lightly dust with flour, using a rolling pin, begin to roll out your pastry.  Dusting regularly as you roll, it will help to turn the pastry over a few times while you are rolling.  You’re looking for a rectangular shape around 14″ by 10″, nice and even.  When your happy with the size, trim the edges of with a sharp knife.

Your filling ingredients should now be cool, if not leave them for a while.  Begin to fill your roulade, leeks first.  See the photo below.   Now top with a layer of walnuts,  pressing down lightly.  Top with your parsnips.  Using the baking parchment, roll your roulade.   Lightly brush all of the edges, a 2cm border all around, with soya milk.  Pull the top edge of the paper towards you, packing any filling back in as you go.  Now spin the roulade around and pull the other side of the pastry up and over so the pastry overlaps slightly.  Press gently and using the paper again, flip the roulade over so that the fold is on the bottom.  Using your hands, shape the roulade into a neat, fat sausage shape.  Now press and tuck in your ends, making sure they are well sealed.  All of this is best explained by the photos below:

Spread out the leek layer and top with walnuts, pressing down gently.

Spread out the leek layer and top with walnuts, pressing down gently

Top with the roasted parsnips

Top with the roasted parsnips

Using the baking paper, roll one edge over.....

Using the baking paper, roll one edge over…..

Rolled up like a big, fat......sausage.

Rolled up like a big, fat……sausage

Cut slices, which help to act as a portioning guide and brush with soya milk

Cut slices, which help to act as a portioning guide and brush with soya milk

Cut slices into the top of the roulade and brush with soya milk.  Place in the oven for 40-45 minutes, turning once to get a nice even bake.

Sauce time.  Simple.  Add all of the ingredients to a small saucepan and warm until a low simmer, stirring regularly.  Pop a lid on, turn the heat down and leave to slowly cook through for 10 -12 minutes.  Once the leeks are soft, stir in the yeast flakes and blend with a stick blender, adding salt as needed.  This sauce does not like to be boiled for a long time, a low simmer is ideal, keep your eye on it.

Chicory braised in sloe gin

Chicory braised in sloe gin

The Veggies

3 large heads chicory (cut lengthways into quarters)

3 tbs sloe gin, port or berry vinegar (like blackberry, blackcurrant or even raspberry)

Black pepper and sea salt

 

6 large stems curly kale (stems removed, leaves finely sliced)

400g Brussels sprouts

Sea salt

 

In your trusty frying pan, add 1 tbs oil and warm on a high heat.  Lay in your chicory pieces, season with salt and pepper, fry for a couple of minutes until well caramelised and then turn over.  Fry for another 2 minutes, drizzle over the sloe gin.  Lower the heat, pop a lid on and leave to cook for 5-7 minutes, adding a splash of water if needed.  The chicory will bes soft, set aside and keep warm.  Rinse out the pan.

Adding 1 tbs oil, warm of medium high heat and add the sprouts.  Toss gently and fry for roughly 6 minutes, until the sprouts are nicely coloured (the way you like ’em).  Now add your kale and a splash of water.  Lower the heat and leave to cook for 6 minutes.  Try one (yum!).  Season with salt.

You’re now looking good to serve your festive feast!

Brussels!  Yes, please.....

Brussels! Yes, please…..

Serve

Place the golden roulade onto a nice serving platter (big plate) or chopping board and surround with glorious veggies.  Using bowls to serve the leftover vegetables.  Pour the sauce into a warm bowl/ sauce boat and enjoy the feast!  This dish goes brilliantly with a spoonful of our Pear and Cranberry Chutney.

Yes, it does look a bit like a pastry-based rocket.

Yes, it does look a bit like a pastry-based rocket

MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone! (Drawn by Jane's niece Martha)

MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone! (Drawn by Jane’s niece Martha – 9 years old)

 

Categories: Dinner, Recipes, Sauces, Special Occasion, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Happy Birthday Blueberry & Spelt Slices (and brownies and cookies…)

Hi everyone it’s Jane here!

I have snuck into the beach house kitchen blog to post this in complete secret…

So without further ado, a Big Beach House-y Happy Birthday to you Lee!

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I made some chocolate brownies, blueberry slices and some of Lee’s brazil nut and spelt chocolate chip cookies from ‘Peace and Parsnips’ for the special day! Lee is working today so they had to be gorgeous but transportable and that’s why I opted for the kind you can cut into squares and share around…. Roll on the 10 o’clock tea break down at the Retreat Centre!

Spelt chocolate chip cookies from 'Peace and Parsnips'

brazil nut choc chip cookies from ‘Peace and Parsnips’

Cooking these cakes was so much fun, and I had such a great time covering the kitchen in flour(!) while sieving and grooving to a very cool album… not so much fun clearing up, but I felt compelled to share with you the experience anyway and post some pictures so that you can be with us from afar!

I love baking, and I tend to start with a recipe from a cookbook and see what happens…. Sometimes I go way off-piste and create something totally new, other times I stick to the recipe religiously. Both are interesting and produce unexpected results…!

The blueberry slices recipe originally came from ‘The Vegan Baker’ by Dunja Gulin and I changed it in a couple of places, but gosh I recommend you try it! I munched on a quick slice with a cup of tea this afternoon (pure research you know, checking to see if they were cooked properly..!) and they were delicious!

Lee’s birthday blueberry spelt slices

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The Bits

260g/ 2 cups unbleached spelt flour

65g/ ½ cup plain wholemeal / wholewheat flour

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

a few pinches of ground turmeric

250ml plain soya yoghurt

30ml soya milk

170g / 2/3 cup maple syrup

100g coconut oil (melted)

1 lemon (freshly squeezed juice and zest)

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

2 cups blueberries

 

Do It

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix together (that’s the flours, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, salt, vanilla powder, cinnamon and turmeric).

Combine the wet ingredients in a separate bowl (that’s everything apart from the fruit, because that goes on top). You may need to mash the coconut oil with a fork a little to get it to mix.

Mix them together really gently keeping the air inside the mixture, if it looks a little dry here you can add a tiny more soya milk.

Gently spoon into a baking pan (23cm x 30cm is best) and get it fairly level without squashing the mixture down (the aim is to keep the air in the mixture). Scatter the fresh blueberries over the top making sure there are gaps between to stop the cake going soggy.

Put the cake into pre-heated oven (180 degrees, gas 4 or 375 farenheit) for 30-35 minutes and when it comes out it should be golden on top.

Allow it to cool in the pan and once it is nearly cold gently lift onto a wire rack. When it has cooled completely you can cut it into squares. Mine were nice big squares and I got 16.

 

Serve

Lovely warm, drizzled with a little more maple syrup…Yummm!

Enjoy the pictures, and if you have a chance and would like to leave Lee a message that would be fabulous!

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Have a great Day,

Love Jane Xx

Ps Thanks Dunja for great recipe idea from your book 🙂 Love it!

Categories: Recipes, Special Occasion, Treats, Uncategorized, Vegan | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Raw Vegan Lasagne with Avocado and Lemon Ricotta (Gluten-free)

Raw Lasagne with Avocado and Lemon Ricotta (Vegan/ Gluten Free)

Raw Vegan Lasagne with Avocado Lemon Ricotta, Red Bean and Walnut with Tomato and Basil Sauce (Vegan/ Gluten Free)

This is one of those dishes that really stands out.  A dish that just makes perfect sense and falls into place perfectly on the plate and palate.  All those yummy layers, one on top of another.

Meat eaters beware!  This is a ‘converter’, one fork-full and you’ll join the lighter side.  A dish that dis spells the ludicrous myths that vegetarians are merely ‘rabbit food’ munchers.

We have found vegan raw food presents a simple equation:

Raw Vegan Food = Shiny and Zinging Life of the Highest Order + Awesome, Creative New Flavours and Combinations

Granted its not the simplest of equations, but its a fine one non-the-less!  This dish is full, full, full of delicious flavour, nutrition and vegetarian protein power (see top 5 veggie sources of protein here).

Jane was typing whilst I made this and here is what I said about it, hot off the press:

“So good for you and tasty, I can see this stuff really catching on!  I see this as the future of food.  Its a simple as that.  Pasta without the carbs, supercharged full of colour and nutrition, all the flavours of Italy.  Fascinating combination of flavours only ever seen in vegan cooking, using all whole foods, nothing jarred – this is what we are going for in the BHK.”

Reading this back again, I completely agree with what my former self uttered.  This is the future of cooking (and non-cooking).  We all want the best for ourselves and raw vegan food gives us just that.  This is a trend that is actually positive for mind and body.  Can you imagine how much the National Health Service would save if we all decided to eat vegan raw food, or incorporate more of it into our diets.  We’d all live to 150 and hardly ever darken the door of a hospital or doctor.  We believe that nutrition and the food we eat is that important.  Call it preventative medicine if you will, but taking care of yourself and eating amazing food doesn’t sound like too bad a deal.  No compromise on taste either, just look at this wonder plate!

Semi-rant over for now, back to the recipe.  Its not totally raw this one, but could be very easily.  Because Raw Earth Month has now officially ended (yes we are using the odd light at night and the occasional square of chocolate is disappearing from the cupboard) cooked beans have re-entered our diets.  How I missed them.  I love a bean.  Without even thinking, I added red kidney beans to the ‘meat’ layer of our lasagne.  They are perfect colour wise and they add a great texture.  I also love them with walnuts, no idea why?

We are lucky to have a raft of inspirational friends and the original idea for this lasagne comes from the sparkling Sava over at Travel Butterfly.  Sava is a constant source of inspiration on many levels for us at the Beach House and some of her vegan/ raw recipes really hit the wonder mark.

This lasagne, and lasagne in general, has a few components to sort, it takes a little time.  Its well worth it though and would definitely be classed as a special occasion dish.  This dish has the whiff of wow factor about it, one that looks almost as good as it tastes (after all, food that looks better than it tastes is such a let down).  I am always interested to find that most people who don’t cook much still know how to make a decent lasagne.  Its quite a tricky and time consuming thing to get together, especially the art of a non-lumpy bechamel.  I generally think people are alot better at cooking than they claim to be!

Raw Vegan Lasage

Raw Vegan Lasagne

Good tomatoes here are essential.  We had some in our veg box this week and they blew us away, when I tried the sauce, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t added a sweetener to it.  That’s it reaction you need!  Gorgeous tomatoes are hard to find.  Some tomatoes just need a little love, leave them in a bowl, ripen them just like a fruit and sometimes they come good, at the very least, they will get better.  A chilled tomato is just no good.  There is a soup we made a little like this, found here.

If you are completely raw, we’d probably substitute the beans with more seeds and nuts.  Maybe a little dried apricot to bind things together.   I am sure you have your own ideas, as being a raw vegan really pushes your creativity to the limits.  We know how it is.

We use amino acids of tamari here because most soya sauce is just no good.  Soya is a funny thing and unless processed properly, can be of detriment to the body.  Tamari and something like Braggs Liquid Amino Acids are perfect replacements and tamari especially, even tastes finer.

We top this all off with some Nutritional Yeast Flakes.  I know we all don’t have them in the cupboard, but they are brilliant little flakes to add an almost cheesiness to dishes.  They have a unique savoury taste that must be tried to appreciate and are a vegan lifesaver.  For me, they are little like a vegan parmesan.  That intense!

A few other raw recipes that may tickle your tastebuds:

Black Prince Tomato and Coriander Soup

Crunchy Thai Salad with Green Coco Dressing

Raw Coconut and Lime Cheesecake

Hazelnut and Lentil Hummus

 

Now, lets non-cook!

 

The Bits

Tomato and Basil Sauce
3 cups plum cherry toms, 1 cup soaked sundried toms (finely chopped) with ¼ cup of oil from the jar), 1 cup fresh basil leaves, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 clove crushed garlic (crushed)

Bean and Walnut Layer
250g red kidney beans (cooked) or 1 tin-ish, 1 cup of walnuts, ½ cup of pumpkin seeds (add bite), 2 x teaspoon Braggs Liquid Aminos (or tamari), Pinch of salt and pepper

Pasta Layers
1 gold courgette, 1 green courgette (or two green is fine)
Cut in half width-ways and finely sliced into layers

Avocado and Lemon Ricotta
1 ripe avocado (must be ripe), 250g firm tofu (drained well, save a few thin slices for the topping), 2 tbls olive oil, ¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes, 1 small clove garlic (crushed), ½ lemon juice and zest, pinch of salt

Topping
Thinly sliced tofu, olives (finely chopped), sprinkled with Nutritional Yeast Flakes

Do It

This raw game is an easy one.  Just whack it in the food processor and voila!  Gorgeous Lasagne.

Tomato and Basil Sauce – Pop all in a FP and whizz until smooth.  Set aside and clean blender.

Bean Walnut Layer – Pop all in a FP and blitz until smooth but with lots of chunks (similar to mince I guess).  Set aside and clean blender.

Avocado and Lemon Ricotta – Pop all in a FP, blend until smooth.  Set aside.

Pop all in the fridge for an hour to chill and thicken up a little before the layering.

Raw Lasgane ready for stacking

Raw Lasgane ready for stacking

Make sure that you slice you courgette/ zucchini carefully.  You want them to be almost as thin as pasta sheets.  A mandolin is perfect for this, but a big beware here!  They love to slice fingers also.

Now to layer the beast.

On your chosen serving plate (a square one would be perfect), lay out your first layer of courgette. Depending on your chopping skills, you may need to put two layers of courgette (if wafer thin style).  Carefully spread on your bean and walnut layer and a thin layer of the tomato and basil sauce.

Next, add another layer of courgette, slightly smaller in diameter than the first, pressing down gently to make the layer stick.  This is mainly a presentation thing, you can see the layers better when they are not overhanging each other.  Once the layer is neatly placed, spread on your vegan ricotta.

First layer underway

First layer underway

The final layer, once more press down gently and arrange a nicely overlapping mosaic of your wonderfully sliced courgette, top with a layer of tofu (which can’t help but look a little like mozzarella), a good layer of tomato and basil sauce, sprinkle on your chopped olives and a good sprinkle of yeast flakes.  Top with some basil that you will no doubt have hanging around your glorious kitchen.

That’s it!  As simple or as difficult as you make it!  We think its medium in the ‘fiddle scale’.

Raw Vegan Lasagne with Avocado and Lemon Ricotta - A taste explosion waiting to happen.

Raw Vegan Lasagne with Avocado and Lemon Ricotta – A taste explosion waiting to happen.

Serve

Immediately.  The salt will gradually release liquids in the lasagne, which are very tasty, but don’t look the best.  This lasagne can be sliced as usual and the layers will stay intact and look amazing.

We Love It!

A dish in the locker that will impress friends and family for many years and make us look very clever indeed when actually its leisurely walk in the park.

The flavours mingle and merge in some form of Italian perfection and you will be amazed at the reaction from meat-eaters.  Try it!  They love it too!

Foodie Fact

Courgette (zucchini to some) is a summer squash, they are said to have originated in Mexico and come in all shapes and sizes.   Courgettes are very low in calories and have no cholesterol or fat, the peel is full of dietary fibre and it is also a good source of vitamin A and has high levels of heart friendly potassium.

Jane's been making dollies out of wheat again.  This is Trevor.

Jane’s been making dollies out of wheat again. This is Wild Johnny.

Categories: Healthy Eating, Raw Food, Recipes, Special Occasion, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Roast Chestnut, Apricot and Spinach Terrine (Christmas Lunch)

Roast Chesnut and Spinach Terrine

Roast Chestnut and Spinach Terrine

It was -5oC here on our grey island the other day, it reminded me of our freezing Christmas and not at all of Spring (it is allegedly now Spring!)  I come from a family of food lovers and Christmas time can get a little ‘foodie’ and delicious.  But of all the amazing food we ate over the festive period, this Roast Chestnut and Spinach Terrine stood head and shoulders above it all.

This was Christmas day lunch for the Watson family (well my part of the lunch anyway) and the recipe has been hanging around ever since demanding to be posted and shared.  This is a delicious slab of baked nut and leaf and will meet all the demands of the vegetarian seeking something rather special to impress/ reward/ treat loved ones, friends and guests.  It’s quite a grand looking thing that can be wheeled out for any special occasion.  You get the point!

Up at Mum and Dad’s in the wilds of west Durham, we had flown back from our glorious little pad on the Med to a blanket of deep grey mist and drizzle for a crimbo.   A time to retire to the kitchen and feast; drink red wine and whiskey, forget about the sun and personal well-being and throw yourself headlong into christmas pudding, huddle around the fire (playing charades if desperation sets in).  Ah, great memories of festive times.

My family this Christmas at the highest pub in Britain

My family this Christmas at the highest pub in Britain

This dish works well at anytime of year, but is especially rewarding when things are colder and darker.  February is perfect for that, the January detox is over and your ready to over indulge again!  What a glorious cycle!

Chestnuts make great roasts, they are the starchiest of all nuts so they bind things together nicely.  Collapsed terrines taste fine, they just look like a horrible accident.

This superbly glorified nut roast has all the richness of a meat-style dish and will sate any carnivore (for a while, just don’t tell them that it is vegan!)  We absolutely loved it and most of the family preferred this to the fish that was also being served.  It is moist and hearty and is a real looker, a dish that naturally takes centre stage.

It has a few steps in preparation and does take a little effort, but your loved ones are definitely worth it.

Have a magic (festive) February!

This recipe fills a large terrine dish and is good for 8 portions.  If you don’t have a terrine dish, you can use any deep and, preferably narrow, oven dish.

The Bits

Nut layer – 8oz mixed nuts coarsely ground (hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecans), 2 oz dried apricots, 4oz breadcrumbs, 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 onions (finely chopped),  3 ripe red tomatoes (chopped), 2 tbs good tomato puree, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, pinch of cinnamon, pinch of ground clove, 3 cloves garlic (crushed), sea salt and black pepper,

Chestnut layer – 2 oz chestnut mushrooms, 8oz chestnut puree (best homemade if you can), 4oz cooked chestnuts, 1 tbsp breadcrumbs, 1 tbsp oil, 1 large onion, 2 sticks celery,

Spinach layer – 1 oz butter (we used olive vegan spread here), 3 garlic cloves (crushed), 1 kg spinach leaves,

Do It

Nut layer – Blitz in a food processor the mixed nuts and apricots then mix together with the breadcrumbs.  Some chunks are fine.

On medium heat, fry off onions until soft and add your mushrooms, cook for a minute and then add your tomatoes and puree.  Cook until a thick sauce-like texture is formed.  Season, cool (20 mins in the freezer) and then add to blitzed nut mix, stirring in the egg and spices.  Set aside.  One down…..

Chestnut layer – Fry off your onion and celery until soft, then add you chestnut puree and cook for 10 minutes on a medium heat, then add cooked chestnuts and breadcrumbs.  Season and set aside.  Two down…..

Spinach layer – Melt butter/ alternative in a saucepan and fry garlic for 3o seconds and then add spinach leaves, lower heat and allow to slowly cook for 10 mins with lid on.  Empty into a colander and gentle squeeze out excessive water.  Season and set aside.  Nearly there…

Preheat oven 180oC

Oil you baking dish, then line with greaseproof paper, begin to add your layers, gauging quantities it should go; nut, spinach, nut, chestnut, nut and pressing down evenly and firmly as you go.  Cover with oiled greaseproof paper and bake on the middle shelf for 35 – 40 minutes.

Remove from oven, then turn up heat to 200oC.  Empty the terrine out, ever so gently, onto a baking tray and play back into the oven for a final crisping.  Bake for around 10 minutes or until you are happy that the terrine is looking nicely browned.

Remove from oven and leave to rest on a wire rack for 5 minutes before serving.

P1190301

Jane carving the roast!

Serve

One your finest platter, we scattered a few basil leaves that were lingering around.  Cut in and served in nice thick slices, no sauce required, it should be nice and moist.

We Love It! 

This dish will now always remind us of Christmas and happy times, we may even be making it every Christmas from now on.  Can we wait that long!?

Foodie Fact

Chestnuts should not just be for Christmas, they are an awesome nut all year round and superbly healthy.  Chestnuts originate in China are are best in the cooler months, they are lower in fat than all other nuts and are a great source of minerals, protein and vitamins; especially rich in vitamin C.  Their starchy make up is not dissimilar to a potato!  Of course they are gluten free and make a great alternative, when dried and ground, to flour.

Categories: Recipes, Special Occasion, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Beach Birthday Photographs

Biker Jane

It was my birthday recently so we thought we’d share some pics:

Before a day out on the Blaenau Ffestiniog Railway (last years present from Jane)

My Dad outside the Beach House

Jane and a bottle of bubbly – Whistling Sands Beach, Llyn Peninsula

My birthday bash, with Jane and my Mum – Whistling Sands, Llyn Peninsula

Lift off! Being launched from the sea (we saw seals here later!)

Jane and I looking concerned about the lack of champagne

Jane has a sunset splodge

 

 

 

Categories: 'The Good Life', photography, Special Occasion, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Red Onion & Beetroot Tatin, Green Lentil Stew, Orange & Mint Dressing

My Dad is visiting, he likes his food meaty, hearty and tasty. This dish seemed to fit the bill (even though it had no pork chops in it!)

We had a thorough beer tasting before dinner, sampling the full range on offer. This got my inspiration well oiled for cooking dinner. Like almost all of the BHK food, this required little thought, preparation and execution.

The tatin works a treat with the sweetness of carrot, onion and beetroot being lifted by the touch of balsamic and orange. You can do the tatins individually, but one large one is easier and much more impressive when you flip it out (queue a few ‘ooohhhhhhsss!)
The green lentil stew would be better with puy lentils, but they were expensive. Your humble green lentils still have a nice bite with some earthy flavour. The stew is rich with addition of coriander.

The orange and mint dressing is an added dimension of flavour that balances the sweetness of the tatin.

I’m not a huge pastry fan at the minute, but this was a real treat. Dad happy munched away, without mentioning sausages of chops for at least half an hour. A major breakthrough!

We are so lucky that all of these veggies come from Hootons, the organic farm down the road.

The Bits

Tatin
Puff Pastry (we bought ours, make your own if you prefer, enough to adequately cover your dish, needs to be snug)

1 chopped carrot

1 red onion

2 beetroots (veg should fit snuggly in your dish after cooking, so add around a 1/4 more initially and allow for shrinkage)

Small glug of balsamic vinegar

Glug of cooking oil (we use sunflower)

1 knob vegan butter/ margarine

2 teas of fresh thyme

Zest of 1/2 orange

Juice of half an orange

2 teas light brown sugar.

 

Lentil Stew
3 cups of green/ puy lentils

1 finely chopped onion

2 garlic cloves

Big handful of chopped cherry tomatoes

1 carrot

Zest and juice of half a lemon

Handful chopped coriander

1 bay leaf

1 glug olive oil

1 teas thyme

1 teas chilli flakes,

Good veg stock.

 

Dressing
Zest and juice of half a orange

1/2 cup of good olive oil

Handful of finely chopped mint

1/2 teas dijon mustard

Touch of sweetener (to just slightly sweeten)

Alittle lemon juice (if your orange is super sweet, needs a little sourness in the dressing)

Salt + Pepper

 

Do It

Preheat an oven, 200oC.

Lentils

Cover the lentils with water and bring to a simmer in veg stock, add bay leaf, herbs (not coriander), veggies (except toms), chilli (monitor chilli level depending on who’s eating!).

Cook for half and hour, or until tender.  5 minutes before serving, add toms and olive oil, stir well and just before serving stir in the lemon and coriander.

Tart

Roughly roll out and measure you pastry, should be slightly larger than the dish you are using, prick well with a fork, keep in fridge until needed. We used a heavy bottomed oval casserole dish.

Tatin Pre-bake

Heat dish in the oven for a few minutes, then take out and add your oil, veggies, sugar, vinegar, thyme and season.  Mix well and bake in the oven for half an hour or until caramelised.  Then take out dish, squeeze on orange juice and a splash more oil.  Stir the veggies around to loosen and coat with the oil, make sure the veggies are packed in nice and tight (and flat), then carefully lay on your pastry case (brush top side with some olive oil), tuck in at edges, should fit nice and snug.  Put back in oven for 20-25 mins, or until pastry is nicely golden brown…..

Prepare dressing.  Add all ingredients to a bowl (small blender would be good for this) and mix vigorously together.  Check for seasoning and make sure its nicely citrus, to balance the sweetness of the tart.  Perfect when drizzled on all over the tart.

This is a good time to throw a green salad together.

P1150134

The Voila! Moment

Take tatin out of oven and grab a serving plate that fits over the dish, place on top and skillfully using your oven gloves/ cloth, hold plate and dish together and flip over.  There should be a nice gentle thud, your tart is turned! Take off dish and viola!  A steaming, beautifully caramelised tatin in all its sticky glory.

Green Lentil Stew

Serve 

We chopped the tart up and served everything family style on the table with a nice glass of beer (flavoured with elderflowers!) and a green salad (rocket, romaine lettuce, cucumber and more mint).

We Love It!

This was a proper feast for St Georges Day.  The patron saint of England (I am English) and countless other countries, including Syria, Serbia and the Isle of Gozo.  Strange day really, celebrating the slaying of a dragon?!

Foodie Fact

You know we love our beet!  The greens of beetroots contain more nutrition than the roots and a higher iron content than spinach.  Beetroot is a great blood cleanser and builder for the blood.

 

Categories: Baking, Dinner, Dressings, Local food, Organic, Recipes, Special Occasion, Welsh produce, Wine and Booze | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

Coconut & Sweet Potato Polenta with Asian Vegetables

P1140694

Mwynhewch eich bwyd! (Bon appetit in Welsh)

The East meets Wales with a stopover in Rome.

This is a rich polenta dish that adds a full-on Eastern flavour to this very European dish.
We served this dish with pan-fried Asian vegetables, flavoured with sweet chilli. We kept the veg organic and as local as possible, so we made some substitutions here. Instead of water chestnut, we used chunks of jerusalem artichoke, instead of pak choi, we used swiss chard, instead of spring onion, we used leek.  You can use any mixture of veg here, preferably a good mix of colours and textures.

This is luxurious modern dish that takes little time to prepare and was inspired by chef Paul Gayler, who’s recipes I find extaordinary.

This makes enough for two hungry people with leftovers.

The Bits

Polenta

1 large sweet potato (peeled and chopped)

1 1/2 pint of veg. stock

1 1/2 cups of coconut milk

4 cups of polenta

salt and pepper

 

Veg

3 cloves of sliced garlic

1 leek sliced

2cm cube of ginger sliced

1 teas chilli flakes or fresh sliced chilli

1 small head of broccoli chopped

4 jerusalem artichoke chopped into chunks

1 large carrot

1 large handful of chopped swiss chard

splash of veg stock

4 tbls sweet chilli sauce (we use Linghams brand)

splash of veg oil

 

Do It

Polenta – Simmer veg stock in pan, cook sweet potato in stock until tender, around 15 minutes.  Blend with stock to a smooth paste in a blender.  Put mix back into a pan, add coconut milk, bring to a gentle simmer and add polenta gradually whilst stirring.  Texture should be that of a wet mash.  Season.  Cover and leave on a low heat until serving.

Veg. – Move onto veg, all pre-chopped and ready to go (important when cooking in an asian style, which is quickly cooked and immediately served, fresh and crunchy).  Heat the oil in a frying pan or wok, add garlic, ginger and chilli, fry for 30 seconds, add all veg and toss together for a couple of minutes, then add the splash of stock and chilli sauce.

P1140744

The new Beach House herb garden

Serve

In big warmed bowls, polenta poured into the base topped by the veg., spoon on the sauce  Serve and eat asap.

We Love It!

This is a really new take on Polenta for me.  The coconut adds a real luxurious finish to the polenta, which the sweet sauce compliments perfectly.  YUM.

Foodie Fact

Ginger, a pungent root with incredible properties.  Famed throughout the ages for its soothing effect on the intestines.  It can ease intestinal gas and relax the digestive tract.  Ginger is very effective at eliminating the effects of motion sickness and can generally help against nausea.  It contains gingerols that are a powerful anti-inflammatory compounds, aiding ailments like arthritis.  Gingerols also help us to fight off the big ‘C’.  Ginger boosts the immune system, which is why it seems so good on a cold morning with a little hot lemon and honey.  What a root!

Boozy Bit

Light white, medium bodied wine.  I would recommend a nice German White like a Riesling or Gewürztraminer.  Good German whites are not cheap, but well worth it, especially with spiced Eastern dishes.

P1140850

Jane outside the Beach House, the day after the spring blizzard.

Categories: Local food, Recipes, Special Occasion, Vegan, Wales, Welsh produce, Wine and Booze | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

El Limonar Stew – A Taste of the Spanish Sun

The 'El Limonar'

The ‘El Limonar’ is not an everyday stew.  It reflects the culture and produce of a special little corner of Spain, the Costa Calida.

This dish that would suit any occasion this summertime, especially a special time when you are eating outside in the sunshine with the people who you love, a time when you are planning to open a few bottles of good wine (it is a Spanish stew after all!) and let the world just pass you by.

‘El Limonar’ is the name of the place my parents have in Spain, its near Cartagena, Murcia, for me it is one of the worlds most beautiful and relaxing places.  The lifestyle in Spain is slow, steeped in history, with much fiesta and siesta.  Relaxing is a way of life and food and drink play a major role in everyday life and traditional celebrations.

When I am in Spain, more than anywhere else in the world, I can happily revert to the wise words below:

‘Sólo un idiota puede ser totalmente feliz.’

‘Only an idiot can be totally happy.’

Mario Vargas Llosa

The Mediterranean sun brings life to the dry red earth.   Murcia is the hottest and driest region in Spain, but the local farmers use a lot of new technology and plenty of old world know-how to make the most of the parched land.  The area is covered with lemon, almond and olive trees, many old and gnarled.  A whole host of incredible local produce blooms with stunning flavours.  This stew combines many of these treats, most notably the sweet and smoky local pimenton (paprika).  We use Coato Paprika, an excellent local co-operative (http://www.coato.com/en/about-coato/).  The figs and almonds reflect the Moorish (North African) influence who were here for hundreds of years.  You can hear the sound of North Africa in every flamenco song.

Being a veggie in Spain is tough, we eat at home most of the time, using the produce from the local markets.  Old men and women gather every Sunday in a car park down at  the port and sell their crops.  We have our favourite olive lady, pepper man, spice mama, knife gypsy, Moroccan mint seller etcetc.  There are an array of characters and smiles.  I love to browse a good market.  It is also very cheap, which makes it that touch more satisfying.

The occasion for the ‘El Limonar’ was a visit from Rob and Linda.  They are super foodies who we met in a local cafe.  These shiny people deserved a treat so I put together this deluxe version of one of my tried and tested simmered chickpea recipes.

The technique is to simmer the chickpeas down until only a little stock remains (chickpea stock is delicious, almost beefy!) then begin to add the ingredients.  I find this retains a lot of flavour and gently cooks everything.  This stew did have some added roast vegetables, but it was most definitely a special occasion.

The best way to recreate this is in a colder country is to buy as much organic produce as possible.  Beautifully ripe tomatoes and a good quality Spanish paprika will give this dish a real taste of the Med!

Local Murcian Pimenton from Coato Cooperative, Totana

This is enough for 4 with plenty for lunch the next day (we are bulk cookers at  the B.H.K).

The Bits

5 cups of fat chickpeas (pre-soaked overnight), 1 bay leaf, good veg stock (enough to cover the chickpeas in the pan by 1 inch, maybe 1 litre), one big red onion (all veg chopped into interesting looking chunks), 1 large sweet red pepper, 1 aubergine, 1 courgette, 5 sweet tomatoes, 1 handful of cherry tomatoes, 6 sundried tomatos, 5 cloves of garlic (finely chopped), 2 tbs Coato paprika, 1 big glass of Spanish red wine (for authenticity), 1 sprig of rosemary, 2 teas of thyme, zest and juice of one large unwaxed lemon, 2 smoked dried peppers (if you can get your hands on them), 1 handful of roasted unsalted almonds (soaked overnight), 1 good handful of chopped dried figs, 1 good handful of pitted green olives (preferably manzanilla), chopped mint, coriander and parsley, s + p, olive oil to start and finish.

Do It

Most of these steps can be done beforehand and kept in the fridge overnight, the flavours will intensify.  Even better, cook everything for a little less time, get the stew together and re-heat it on the day. 

Add your pre-soaked chickpeas and one bay leaf to a pan of good veg stock, it should cover them by 1 inch.  Bring to a gentle boil then simmer until tender, normally 1 hour.   Skim of white froth regularly.  If the stock evaporates too quickly, put a lid on it.  After cooking the chickpeas should be just poking through the stock.

While they are simmering, chargrill in olive oil your large chunks of aubergine (should be well coloured and gooey inside), pepper, onion and courgette in a frying pan or griddle.  Best to do in batches and keep warm in a covered plate.  I chargrill my cherry tomatoes quickly to give them a little colour.

Add the paprika to the chickpeas and stir in well, then the tomatoes, rosemary, garlic, lemon zest and thyme, put the heat up and before it reaches a boil, add the rest of the ingredients except the wine, which you add just before the stew is about to boil.  Season.  Little finesse here, but maximum flavour!

Once the stew has reached a very gentle boil put the heat down to low and leave simmering, covered for one hour letting the flavours infuse nicely.  Check that the sauce has thickened and is not too thin, if so, turn the heat up and cook down.  Do not boil, this kills flavour.

Just before serving, check seasoning, add a glug of olive oil for shine and richness (or a glug of oil from your jar of sun-dried tomatoes as I did), the lemon juice and most of the chopped mint, coriander and parsley, mix gently in.

Serve

I topped it with a splash of olive oil, some of the left over herbs, finely sliced dried fig and a fistful of crushed almonds.

We ate our stew under the stars, over halved roasted butternut squash with brown rice, a spinach salad with a lemon and honey dressing and a cucumber and local spring onion (like wild garlic) yoghurt.  I think Rob and Linda were amazed at how much we eat!  It’s difficult for me to not get carried away with a kitchen full of amazing produce.

Jane having our 'millionare lunch' (which cost 8 euros)

Foodie Fact

Good old Christopher Columbus got his greedy hands on the pepper plant in South America and like everything else he found of value, brought it back to Spain (I’m not a huge fan of the behavior of these old explorer/conquistador types).

Paprika is made by grinding dried peppers, different paprika uses different peppers and can be sweet, smoked or spicy.  Paprika is used extensively in the cooking of Spain and also quite randomly, Hungary.  Good Goulash would be lost without it.  The name ‘Paprika’ actually comes from the Hungarian word for ‘Pepper’.

Paprika has a high sugar content which must be considered when cooking with it.  It burns easily.

By weight, Paprika contains more Vitamin C than lemon juice.

Boozy Bit

I haven’t had the chance to write about wine in a while.  Thank you Spain for giving me the excuse!

This is best with a wine from the south of Spain.  The stew incorporates many of the flavours of this evocative land, therefore the local wines compliment it perfectly.  We went for a young ‘Casa De La Ermita’ Organic Monastrell from Jumilla (a local wine region), with ripe fruits, lovely vanilla scented oak and dark violet colour.  Monastrell is generally a concentrated wine with good structure and this one held its own with this blockbuster stew.

Casa De La Ermita is a wondeful winery and you can buy the wine in the U.K., I think I even saw it in Tescos.  The Crianza is a very stylish example of the quality of wine now produced in Jumilla, formerly a very ‘rustic’ wine growing region.  They also make a great white and an interesting Petit Verdot.

Here’s their site:

http://www.casadelaermita.com/vinos/casadelaermita_tintoecologico.php

'Casa De La Ermita' Crianza, fine wine from Jumilla, Spain.

Categories: 'The Good Life', Dinner, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Low G.I. (glycemic index), Lunch, Organic, photography, Recipes, Relax, Special Occasion, Travel, Vegan, Wine and Booze | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bitter Chocolate Ricotta

We had this on Valentines, in tea cups.  It’s rich and velvety.

The pinch of salt really brought out the bitterness of the chocolate.  Jane and I aren’t really into very sweet desserts, so this was near perfection.  It’s not a choc pud for those with a super sweet tooth.  Try something new!

With few ingredients, you can’t skimp on quality here.  Use good chocolate and a nice ricotta.

I used ‘Halen Mon’ salt (http://www.halenmon.com/) with Taitian Vanilla.  They are a local salt company, based on Anglesey, who produce some stunning salts.  We don’t use much, so the little we use is important.

As usual with the B.H.K is easy to get together, with very little washing up!

Use 1/2 tub of ricotta and 2/3 bar of chocolate for two people.

The Bits

1 bar of quality dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa), 1 tub of ricotta cheese or vegan cream cheese, 2 pinches of Halen Mon Vanilla Salt (or good sea salt), dried fruits

Do It

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan with boiled water.  Stir.  Scrap out into a bowl with ricotta cheese, add a couple of pinches of salt, fold in until blended.  The chocolate should be enough to balance the flavour with sweetness, if you add too much salt add a little sugar or honey until its right.

Serve

We topped ours with some dried strawberries and Physalis (see GRAZE article), most dried fruits would be fine or some Amoretti biscuits would go nicely.

We Love It

A quick dessert, minimum fuss and maximum enjoyment!  The Vanilla Salt is a real star here, it adds so much.

Foodie Fact

Chocolate is packed with flavonoids, helping our cells and good monounsaturated fats that can lower cholesterol (if you only eat a few chunks!)

Categories: Desserts, gluten-free, Recipes, Special Occasion, Treats | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

The Pancake Bake

Looks like a mess though tastes rather amazing

Pancake day is coming soon?  This makes a proper meal out of it.

‘The Pancake Bake’ is more a method, than a specific recipe.

You will end up with succulent layered oven baked pancake wonder.  Hopefully drenched in creamy cheese and a rich tomato stew.  Due to the presentation and perceived difficulty of this dish, its bound to impress friends, guests and family.

The ingredients can chop and change depending on whats in your fridge, that’s the beauty of this.  Its learning the basics and filling in the blanks with your lovely creativity.

The main components are cheese, tomatoes and stuff to make pancakes with.  That should be easy enough.  It takes a while to get together, but when you’ve done it once, you’ll be knocking out bakes like a veteran.

Fresh, fresh tomatoes and spinach with fistfuls of quality strong cheese will make this dish sing for you.  Its worth spending the extra pence on your taste buds (but not necessary).  Balance your pocket with the occasion and how much you love the people eating pancakes (including yourself!!!!).

This is a dish perfectly designed to warm, satisfy and comfort after a particularly wintry day.

Makes enough for two hungry mouths (we eat two pancakes eat).  As usual, it can be made vegan or gluten-free with a few twists and is equally delicious (just not that creamy).  If you haven’t tried a gram flour pancake, give them a whirl.  They’re brilliant with an earthy flavour.

The Bits

Tomato Stew – A small glug of oil (I don’t normally use olive oil for cooking, something cheaper but good ie veg or sunflower), 3 fat cloves of garlic (chopped), 5 tomatoes (or one tin of good chopped tomatoes), one large onion, 1 cup of veg stock (or water), herbs (we used fresh basil and thyme), add one veg or more (we used carrot and potato, we needed some ballast!), salt and pepper to taste.

The Spinach Layer – Good glug of oil, 3 fat cloves of garlic (chopped), a large pan of spinach leaves (the more the better, they cook down to not much).

Cheese – The one you like best.  Quantity depends on how much you want to use.  Get a normal sized block and see how you go.  Vegans add a nice tofu here.

Pancakes – Glugs of oil, one cup of wholewheat flour (gluten free, use gram flour), 1 egg (not essential), 1/2 cup of milk (soya if you like), 3/4 cup of filtered water, 2 teas dried thyme (or similar herb), s+p to taste.  A few roasted sunflower seeds can make a real treat of these.

Do It

Get the tomato stew on the go.  In a thick bottom pan on medium heat, add olive oil and thinly sliced onions.  Stir and cook for at least 10 minutes, until softened and sweet, then add garlic, fry for a couple of minutes then add the tomatoes, herbs and s+p.  Simmer for a few minutes then add stock, continue the simmer with the top off until the sauce thickens, then pop a lid on and leave on a low heat to infuse a little.   You could call this a ragout if you like, it’s a basic sauce for many pasta dishes.  Good to get the ragout in the repertoire.

In a large sauce pan (spinach takes up a lot of space initially), medium heat, a glug of oil and flash fry some chopped garlic.  Then pack the pan full of washed spinach leaves, season with s+p (if needed).  Leave for a minute, then stir the leaves down.  It should only take 5 minutes to get them wilted.  The oil should make them nice and shiny.  Set aside.

Chop your cheese into chunks.  We used a strong local cheddar, parmesan, blue cheese, goats cheese, really anything except cheese slices will be good here.  Your favourite is probably best.  Slice it into pieces that would grace a hearty sandwich.

Now for the tricky bit.  The pancakes.  They can take a little practice to get right, so the quantities here give you some breathing space.  Try a couple before going for the ‘presentation’ pancake.

In a large bowl, add all of the dry pancake ingredients with egg and milk.   Mix a little, I use a hand blender for this, you could hand whisk.  Gradually add water as you mix, you are looking for a batter with the texture of double cream.  Set aside for a couple of minutes to rest.

Pre-heat the oven to 200oC (most recipes tell you to pre-heat the oven far to early, it only takes 5 minutes and you’ll save a load of energy this way).

In a medium size casserole dish or similar (preferably ceramic, they look great).  Add a glug of oil and swoosh it around to cover it nicely.

In a small non-stick frying pan, get the pancakes fired up.  In a hot pan (medium heat, but adjust accordingly as you go) a small glug of oil followed by approx 1/4 cup of batter.  It should cover the base of the pan, but not much more.  Tilting the pan and rolling the batter around, until it meets each panside.

Leave for a minute, then with a thin spatula, life the edges away from the sides, make sure it loose.  Cook for a few minutes, the batter on top should be solid, then flip.  You can either go for the flick wrist acrobatic toss, or the gentile flip, using the spatula to support the pancakes progress.  This will take a bit of practice, don’t worry if the first attempt lands somewhere outside of the pan.  A taster!  When you get the knack, prepare 4 decent pancakes (they don’t have to be perfect!) and lay them on a plate covered with paper towels (to drain any surplus oil).  That’s a hell of a method!  But once mastered, is a real sinch.

Now for the layering.  Remember to portion your bits, you are aiming  for four and enough to pour over the finished pancakes.  On a board/ plate, beside your casserole dish, lay a pancake out flat.  Spoon in approx 2 heaped tbs of ragout, in a line across the centre of the pancake, spread across (not too much you have to roll these suckers).  Top with a layer of spinach, then a decent layer of chopped cheese.  Now gather one side of the pancake and flip it over, tuck and press with your fingers, then quickly whip over the other edge of the pancake to a make a fat sausage.  Hold together in with downward pressure from your hand.  Be firm but gentle.  Some sauce may shoot out of the end, enjoy that.  Now place the pancake fold down on the casserole dish.  Repeat and no doubt, get better with your rolling skills.

When four pancakes are laid out in a neat(ish) row, pour over remaining stew. It should get a good covering, sprinkle the left over cheese and spinach, the more the merrier and whack it in the oven for 20 minutes or until all the cheese is golden and melted and the sauce is bubbling nicely.

You can prepare all of this before hand, all the bits will sit nicely in the fridge overnight.  I’d heat the stew a little first though and keep the pancakes in a tight container or well cling’d.  I would always assemble the dish close to mealtime, the pancakes can go soggy.

Serve

With a good crisp salad tossed in a nice citrus dressing.  I’d finish off the bake with a few more leaves of torn fresh herb.

We Love It

You’ll be proud to view this Pancake Bake sitting in the middle of the dinner table,  it’s so unctuous all over and does have a hint of the wow factor.   Because it’s so rich, it’s a good one for carnivores.

Foodie fact

Allegedly the Mayans first cultivated tomatoes.  It’s a member of the nightshade family which includes aubergine, potato and chillies.   Unique to tomatoes, Lycopene helps to protect your cells from harmful free radicals, it also helps to protect the skin from U.V. rays.

Pickled Part

You don’t want something too tannic and overpowering here, I’d go white, something dry and with good acidity, like a Sauvignon Blanc.  Splash out on a decent bottle of French Touraine Sauvignon.  Normally packed full of fresh fruits, a good one should be around 6-8 pounds and have a decent structure to hold its own against the strong flavours in this dish.

You could go for a lighter red style and Chianti historically goes well with the rich tomato and cheese sauces of Italian cuisine.  I just think that the white will cut through the melted cheese and leave your mouth feeling vibrant and ready for more bake.

Categories: Dinner, Lunch, Recipes, Special Occasion, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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