Kale and Walnut Pesto or Dip

Kale is such an amazing food. I’ve recently been eating lots more of it, after my friend Ruth told me about ‘massaging’ it with olive oil. If you haven’t tried this, do give it a go! Here is a link to an article about it from the Huffington Post. Kale is so fabulous – containing vitamins A, C and K as well as minerals like copper, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus. A cup of fresh kale has only about 40 calories but packs almost three grams of protein.
So I thought I’d try making a pesto or dip with raw kale, as another way to enjoy this super-green. Enjoy stirred through warm pasta, or spread onto some lovely wholemeal bread.

Kale and Walnut Pesto 2Kale and Walnut Pesto or Dip
Makes one medium pot

2 handfuls of chopped kale
4 tbsp walnut pieces
1 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
1/4 tsp sea salt
Pinch black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
12 cherry tomatoes or 6 medium tomatoes, chopped

Place all ingredients together in a high-speed blender, like a Nutribullet and blend until smooth or a consistency you like is reached. Taste and add more seasoning if you need. If the pesto/dip is too thick, add more oil, or a splash of plant milk if you prefer. Enjoy!

The best ever Vegan Chocolate Cake

Introducing what I believe is the very finest vegan chocolate cake. It will turn heads, make people close their eyes and smile as they eat it..

It’s called the Affinities Cake. It’s not my recipe, I wish it was! No, it is taken from a feature in The Telegraph and was given to my mother-in-law when she was hunting for the perfect recipe to use for our wedding cake. The original recipe is by Chantal Coady, the only difference here is that I make a vegan ganache by melting chocolate into hot almond milk. I decorate mine with raspberries, rose petals, marigold flowers and cocoa nibs.

The Affinities Cake

The Affinities Cake
Cooking time: 1 hour 20 mins

200g (7oz) plain flour
75g (2¾oz) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g (7oz) golden caster sugar
100g (3½oz) ground almonds
A small pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp good-quality balsamic vinegar
6 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
400ml (14fl oz) prune juice
Fresh pink rose petals, to decorate
For the ganache
170g (6oz) good-quality dark chocolate
150ml (5fl oz) almond milk

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2. Grease the insides of a deep 20cm (8in) round cake tin, or loose-bottomed 20cm (8in) cake tin, with olive oil and line the bottom of the tin with greaseproof paper. If you are using a loose-bottomed tin, double-line it with greaseproof paper (line the base, the sides, then line the base again to seal the lining), to prevent the mixture leaking out.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl, then add the sugar, ground almonds and salt. Make three holes in the dry mixture with a spoon. Put the vanilla in one hole, the vinegar in the second, and the oil into the third. Pour in the prune juice and mix well. Bubbles will start to rise to the surface. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 45 minutes to one hour, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove the cake from the tin and leave it to cool on a wire rack.

To make the ganache icing, blitz the chocolate into crumbs in a food processor. Place the crumbs in a heat-proof glass bowl. Heat the milk to boiling point in a heavy-based saucepan, then pour the milk over the chocolate. Gently mix the chocolate with the milk, working from the centre of the bowl outwards with a rubber spatula, until you have a smooth and glossy emulsion. Let it cool to room temperature, then spread it on top of the cooled cake.

NB this cake usually takes about 1 hour 15 mins to cook! Keep testing it, but don’t take it out of the oven to do so, otherwise it may sink.

Mediterranean Vegetable Filo Puffs

Filo pastry really is a handy ingredient to have in the fridge, to team with some vegetables and create something quick, delicious and impressive looking.

These Mediterranean Vegetable Filo Puffs tick all the boxes; the pastry is light and crispy and the filling nutritious and full of flavour. The star ingredients are Violife Mozzarella style vegan cheese and some juicy Semi-Dried Tomatoes, from Cooks and Co, both available from Suma Wholefoods.

Serve with seasonal salad and new potatoes.

Mediterranean Vegetable Filo Puffs
Serves 4

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1/4 red pepper, finely chopped
1/4 courgette, finely chopped
1 tsp capers, chopped,
4 cherry tomatoes, chopped
6 Cooks and Co Semi-Dried Tomatoes, finely chopped (available from Suma)
1/2 tsp dried Italian herbs

2 cm block of Violife Mozzarella finely chopped
6 large sheets of filo pastry
Salt and pepper

1. Pre heat your oven to 200C or Gas Mark 6. Grease 4 small metal pie pots or ramekins (I used a pastry brush with oil).
2. Heat the oil in a frying pan, and cook the garlic and onion for a minute, before adding the pepper, courgette, capers and tomatoes.
3. Fry on a medium heat until all the veg are soft. Season with the herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
4. Stuff one sheet of filo pastry roughly inside each metal pie tin or ramekin, making a well in the middle for the vegetables, but with some pastry coming up the sides to form a case.
5. Spoon the filling equally between the 4 pie tins, then sprinkle the vegan cheese on the top. Press it all down a little.
6. Crumple up half a piece of filo pastry on the top on each pie to create a broken pastry top. Drizzle with a little more oil.
7. Place on an oven tray and bake for 20 mins, until golden and crispy.
8. Allow to cool slightly, before turning out onto plates with the help of a pallet knife.

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache and Rose Petals

Chocolate Cupcakes with Ganache and Rose Petals

Chocolate Cupcakes with Ganache and Rose Petals

These little shiny cupcakes are based on brilliant fail-safe recipe I have used many times, from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (with a few personal amendments). After a trip out to a local cafe, who had sold out of vegan cakes… Iolo asked if we could make our own! Instead of getting messy with a piping bag and buttercream, I opted to glaze them with a lovely ganache instead and a few pretty rose petals. They were soft and delicious and didn’t last long in our house.

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache and Rose Petals
Makes 10 large or 12 medium cupcakes

1 cup almond milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup caster or granulated sugar
1/3 cup vegetable or rapeseed oil
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup self-raising flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Topping
1/4 cup almond milk
100g dark chocolate, finely chopped
2 tbsp agave syrup
2 tbsp Rose petals

1. Preheat your oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4 and line a cupcake tin with 10 or 12 liners. If you use a muffin tray, the mix will only make 10.
2. Whisk together all the wet ingredients with the sugar in a jug and set aside.
3. Sieve all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl.
4. Gently stir the liquid into the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon, adding gradually and stirring until no large lumps remain.
5. Spoon the cake mixture into the liners, distributing it evenly amongst them all.
6. Bake for 18-20 mins. They are cooked when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
7. Place the cupcakes on a rack to cool completely while you prepare the ganache.
8. Bring the milk to a boil in a small pan. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate and agave with a wooden spoon, so it melts.
9. Pour the ganache over the cupcakes and then top with petals.

Two vegan pancake recipes for Pancake Day

You better believe that is it more than possible to make delicious pancakes on Pancake Day, without using eggs. Vegan pancakes are quick, simple and effective to make and something I do sometimes once a week!

My little boy and I love to eat them stuffed with savoury fillings such as spinach and mushroom for lunch, as well as for a special weekend breakfast treat, with lemon and sugar. So I thought I’d share my two favourite recipes.

Vegan Pancakes with Lemon and Sugar

Vegan Pancakes with Lemon and Sugar

Vegan Savoury Pancakes with Spinach and Mushroom

Vegan Savoury Pancakes with Spinach and Mushroom

Vegan Pancakes
Serves 2-4

175ml/6fl oz plant milk
175ml/6fl oz water
175g/6oz plain flour, sieved
2 tbsp chickpea flour (also known as gram), sieved
1 tsp baking powder, sieved
1 tbsp plain vegetable oil
Pinch of salt
Additional oil for frying

Method:

1. Place all of the ingredients, except the oil for frying, in a blender and blend until smooth. Alternatively whisk by hand until there are no lumps.
2. Heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan until piping hot. Drain off any excess.
3. Pour enough of the batter mixture in to the frying pan to thinly cover the bottom. Fry on one side for about a minute. Loosen the edges with a spatula and flip. Fry the flip side for another minute or until done.
4. Remove from pan and keep warm in the oven on its lowest setting.
5. Add more oil to the pan if and when necessary. Repeat steps 3 to 6 until all of the mixture is used up. Serve with your chosen accompaniments, sweet or savoury.
This recipe is taken from the Viva! Cookbook.

Canadian Pancakes

Canadian Pancakes

Canadian Pancakes
Makes 12

200g/7oz plain white flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
75g/2¾oz vegan yoghurt
2 tbsp maple syrup
200ml plant milk
1 medium banana, mashed (optional)
2 tbsp sunflower oil

  1. Mix together the plain flour with the salt, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.
  2. Mix together the plain yoghurt, maple syrup, plant milk and mashed banana (if using) and pour this into the flour, whisking well until you have a smooth, thick batter.
  3. To cook the pancakes, heat a drop of sunflower oil in a frying pan, swirl the oil around to cover the whole pan.
  4. Drop 2 tablespoons of batter into four places in the pan and cook over a medium heat until the underside of the pancakes are golden and bubbles have appeared throughout (about 30 seconds).
  5. Loosen the pancakes by shaking the pan and then flick each one over and cook for a further 20 seconds. Continue until you have finished the mix.
  6. Serve with fresh fruit and more maple syrup.

HenSo what’s the problem with eggs anyway?
Some people say, why on earth don’t you eat eggs? Chickens just lay eggs don’t they? It doesn’t hurt them? Well I’m sorry, but they are wrong. At the very worse and most cruel are battery or caged eggs (usually the cheapest ‘value’ kind), where hens are crammed into inhumane, dirty, prison like conditions. And at the other end of the scale, undercover investigations by groups such as Viva! have shown, that even ‘happy eggs’ are no such thing, with lots of sick birds never seeing the light of day. You can read more about Viva!’s Happy Egg Company investigation here.

The difficulty that all these ‘types’ of eggs share, (and yes this includes Organic), is that all the males chicks born into the industry are surplus to requirements. Thousands of tiny baby birds are either gassed or macerated everyday, so you can enjoy that boiled egg.. whichever way you look at it, the main elements of this ‘food’ are cruelty and a complete disrespect for the value of life.

Redbush Chai Vegan Cupcakes

From many a weekend spent enjoying homemade soya chai at my yoga teacher training school, Yoga Satsanga Ashram in West Wales, I have developed a love for tea infused with Indian spices. I’m also trying to reduce the amount of caffeine I have and so was delighted to try two varieties of loose Redbush Tea from organic suppliers, Steenbergs. After enjoying several pots of warm and fragrant Redbush Chai and Vanilla Redbush, I thought it would be a grand idea to try to transfer the flavours into some soft and delicate cupcakes; and so here they are. The little bundles were dusted off with some milled cocoa nibs, cinnamon and icing sugar. The recipe follows the pictures.

Cupcakes5 Cupcakes4 Cupcakes2 Cupcakes 1
Redbush Vanilla Chai Cupcakes

Makes 12
Preparation/cooking time 30 mins

1.5 cups almond milk
2 tbsp of Redbush Vanilla Chai Tea*
1/4 cup vegetable or sunflower oil
1/4 cup coconut or soya yoghurt (I used Coyo Coconut Yoghurt)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups plain flour
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Topping
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tbsp cocoa nibs, milled (I used Steenbergs) or cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 180C or 160C with a fan assisted oven.
2. Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
3. Heat your almond milk in a small saucepan until nearly boiling. Stir in the loose tea, over and remove from the heat. Let it rest for 10 mins.
4. The pour the tea mixture into a jug through a tea strainer, to collect the loose tea. If you are left with any less than 1 and a half cups of tea mixture, add a bit more milk (this is about 12.5 fl oz).
5. Whisk the oil, yoghurt, sugar and vanilla into the tea mixture until smooth.
6. Now sift in the flour, raising agents and salt, mixing with a wooden spoon until all the large lumps are gone.
7. Use a tablespoon to fill the cupcake liners to the top and then bake for around 22-25 mins. They are cooked when a skewer inserted in one comes out clean.
8. Allow to cool completely while you prepare the topping.
9. Mill the cocoa nibs (I used my Nutribullet) or similar grinder (or use cocoa powder).
10.  Combine the icing sugar, cocoa, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl, then shift over the top of the cupcakes.
11. Enjoy with a matching cup of Redbush Chai Tea!

*You could use ordinary Redbush tea, then add 2 tbsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ground cardamom, 1/2 tsp ground ginger and 1/4 tsp ground cloves.

Raw Chocolates with Edible Flowers

I was, up until recently, a virgin at making raw chocolates. Approaching Christmas time I thought this ought to change. So after some research, I gathered together ingredients from several different places to make my first two batches. I thought I’d share the results with you all!

So I picked up a lovely little heart silicone mold from Wilkinson for £2.99. Super wholefood suppliers Suma sent me some amazing Raw Cacao Powder from Creative Nature and the fabulous Steenberg’s offered up some beautiful dried rose petals and marigold flowers. The other key ingredients were Agave Nectar (a vegan honey alternative available from health shops) and Coconut Oil (also now widely available).

I’ve made two batches of what can only be described as the most luxurious, rich, velvety chocolates you could possibly imagine.. and they definitely put a spark in your step. For the first batch I used Choc Chick’s Cacao Butter and for the second, I used Coconut Oil. Both worked really well. The pictures were taken during the making of both lots of chocolates!

Raw Chocolates with Edible Flowers
Makes around 18

100g Cacao Butter or Raw Coconut Oil or a mixture
6 tbsp Creative Nature Raw Cacao Powder
2-3 tbsp Agave Nectar
Pinch sea salt
Edible flowers like Rose Petals and Marigold Flowers from Steenbergs
Silicone chocolate mold

Raw chocs ingredients
1. Melt the cacao butter and/or coconut oil in a bowl over a pan of water on a low heat (Bain Marie).

Raw chocs melting butter
2. Once melted, take off the heat and then add the cacao powder, salt and agave nectar. Mix well with a balloon whisk.

Raw Chocs whisk cacoe
3. Pour carefully into your silicone mold tray. You may need to do a couple of batches if you only have one, with 12 spaces for example. Carefully place some edible flowers in the top of each one.

Raw chocs mold
4. Leave to set in the freezer for 15-20 minutes, before carefully removing from the tray and enjoying! Be prepared to feel wonderful eating these!

Raw chocs finished
Raw Chocolate explained.. excerpt from The Ecologist:

So what is raw chocolate and why is it different from ‘normal’ chocolate? The process for making chocolate is fairly simple: heat cacao beans, grind into a liqueur, add fat and sweeten. However, subtle alterations at any of these stages can result in wildly different chocolate bars. The fundamental difference between your commercial chocolate bar (such as Cadbury’s or Green & Blacks) and raw chocolate (like this recipe) is this: the cacao in raw chocolate is never heated above 45°C, unlike commercial chocolate which is roasted at 130°C, meaning all the anti-oxidants, enzymes and nutrients remain intact. What’s more, whereas most commercial bars are chock full of sugar, milk, saturated, hydrogenated fats and flavourings, raw chocolate is made up just four simple ingredients; cacao beans (chocolate), cacao or coconut butter (fat) and agave syrup (sweetener) plus natural essential oils, berries and nuts for flavouring.

Why is Cacao good for you?
Nutritionally, cacao is a powerhouse of over 300 nutritients including antioxidants, flavonoids, fibre, iron, zinc, copper, calcium and magnesium. It also contains tryptophan, known to ameliorate depression, and the bliss inducing chemicals anandamine and phenylethylamine which simulate the feeling of falling in love. Oh, and it’s an aphrodisiac. Raw chocolate producers also sprinkle in a healthy dose of superfoods such as goji berries, which are rich in anti-oxidants and vitamin C, acai berries containing vitamins A,B, C and D, lacuma powder, which is a natural sweetener and high in iron, and Maca, which is an energy boosting and hormone balancing powder from the Andes.