Raw Chocolates with Edible Flowers

Raw chocs finished

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.

Indian Rice Pudding (kheer)

Indian Rice Pudding

A few weeks ago someone fed me some incredibly lovely Indian-style rice pudding. It was the first time I’d ever had any. Since being vegan, rice pudding has been off the menu and had become nothing but a distant, not very pleasant childhood memory of something from a tin.

Now it’s time to think again! This Indian Rice Pudding is totally delicious, fragrant, creamy and warming. It is made using a combination of almond and coconut milk, basmati rice, coconut, cardamom and the highest quality Organic Saffron strands and Rose Water, from specialist Fairtrade supplier, Steenbergs. Both the saffron and the rose water boast a delicate, precious quality with their origin and fragrance.

This kheer would make a special dessert for supper time over the festive season.. or a mid evening snack with a hint of luxury.

Indian Rice Pudding (kheer)
Serve 4
Preparation/cooking time 1.5 hours

5 cups plant milk (I used 3 coconut milk, 2 sweetened almond) plus extra to add at the end
1/2 cup basmati rice
1/4 cup caster sugar
6 almonds, roughly chopped
1/8 tsp rose water
12 strands of saffron
4 cardamom pods, lightly cracked
2 tbsp desiccated coconut

1. Pour the milks and rice into a medium-sized saucepan and bring to the boil.
2. Stir with a wooden spoon, then turn down to simmer for around 20 mins, or until the rice becomes soft and creamy.
3. Add in the almonds, rose water, saffron and cardamom.
4. Stir in another 3/4 cup of coconut or almond milk.
5. Now place a lid on the saucepan and leave the rice pudding to stand for around an hour. It will soften even more in this time and the flavours will infuse.
6. When you return to the pudding, stir in the desiccated coconut and some more milk if it is too thick and return to the heat to warm thoroughly, before serving (you can also eat it cold of course). I also broke the rice down a bit more by mashing the pudding a few times with a potato masher.
7. Sprinkle with a few flaked almonds or pistachio nuts to serve.

Indian Rice Pudding 2

Vegan Christmas Recipe Series 2: Cranberry, Toasted Pinenut and Smoked Tofu Nut Roast for Suma Bloggers Network

Cranberry, Toasted Pinenut and Smoked Tofu Nut Roasts

For several years now I’ve been experimenting with different options for the centre piece of Christmas dinner. A common favourite is Viva!’s Chestnut Pate en Croute. But this year I fancied trying a new take on the good old nut roast – by adding some juicy cranberries, smoked tofu and toasted pine nuts.

A little cheat, to help make this dish super quick and convenient to prepare while your busy sorting out all your other Christmas day food: the basis for this recipe is a Nut Roast Mix from Suma Wholefoods. It makes a wonderful nutty, juicy and flavoursome main course for any seasonal roast dinner. I also baked the nut roasts in individual metal pie pots, making four separate attractive portions.

You could also use any other nut roast mix available in health stores or supermarkets. Suma also do a gluten-free nut roast mix.

Cranberry, Toasted Pinenut and Smoked Tofu Nut Roasts
Serves 4
Preparation/cooking time 45 mins

370g Suma Nut Roast Mix
250ml water
30g sweetened cranberries
100g Viana Real Smoked Tofu, cut into small cubes
3 tbsp pinenuts, lightly toasted
Sea salt
Oil to grease tins
4 small metal pie pots, or bread tin

1. Preheat oven to 200C/Gas Mark 5.
2. Place nut roast mixture in a bowl and combine well with the water. Set aside to soak for 20 mins.
3. Meanwhile, cut up the tofu (also available from Suma Wholefoods) and toast the pinenuts in a small frying pan (just turn them over on a medium heat, use no oil, but watch them as they can burn easily).
4. Grease the individual pie pots or whichever tin you are using.
5. After letting the nut roast sit, mix in the cranberries, tofu and pinenuts. Season with salt.
6. Spoon the mixture into the pots with a tablespoon. Press it down firmly and smooth over the tops.
7. Bake for 15 mins. Remove from the oven and check the roasts are cooked. If they need a little more browning, return to the oven for another 5 mins.
8. To remove the roasts from the tins, slot a metal palette knife in and around the edge of each to ease them away.
9. Place a saucer on the top of each, then turn upside town to tip out carefully.
10. Serve with lots of lovely homemade vegan gravy, roast potatoes and veg.

 

Vegan Christmas Recipe Series 1: Miniature Creamed Pea and Herb Pithiviers

Pivithers

With a month until Christmas, Lots of Nice Things is delighted to bring you a series of unique, stylish and incredibly mouth-watering vegan Christmas food ideas, to impress all the family, vegetarian, vegan or otherwise.
We begin with a wonderful starter of peas, herbs and vegan cream cheese, encased in puff pastry. This recipe is one I wrote for vegan charity, Viva!.

Miniature Creamed Pea and Herb Pithiviers
Makes 16
Preparation/cooking time 35 mins

1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp vegan margarine
125g/4½ oz vegan cream cheese with herbs and garlic
2 tbsp dried tarragon
Handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
150g/5½ oz frozen peas
2 packets puff pastry sheets (Jus Roll is vegan, or many supermarkets own brand)
Sea salt and cracked black pepper

1. Preheat your oven to 200°C/400°FGas Mark 6.
2. Melt the margarine in a small frying pan and then cook the onion until soft.
3. In a medium-sized bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Mix in the other ingredients until they are evenly distributed, seasoning to taste.
4. Lay out the two sheets of puff pastry. Cut 16 circles using an 8cm cutter and 16 from a 7cm cutter.
5. Grease a large baking tray. Lay out the smaller circles evenly on it.
6. Place a tablespoon of creamed pea filling in the centre of each.
7. Brush around the edge of each circle with soya milk, then lay a bigger circle of pastry on the top of each. Press the edges down with a fork and score around the top using a knife.
8. Bake for around 25 minutes until risen and golden.
9. Serve with roasted vine tomatoes and mixed leaves.

Yoga and Vegan Cookery Retreat, West Wales

The group in the studio

Last week, I was delighted to host a wonderful Yoga and Vegan Cookery Retreat at my Yoga Ashram in West Wales.

Between Friday and Sunday, I was joined by 10+ hungry and enthusiastic students at Yoga Satsanga Ashram, near Whitland, for a full programme of hatha yoga, pranayama, meditation, bhajan singing and lots and lots of vegan cookery!

Our menu showcased some of my favourite dishes from the recently published Viva! Cookbook, including the Artichoke, Butterbean and Filo Pie, Mediterranean Roast Potatoes, Cheeze and Cranberry Parcels, Chestnut Pate en Croute, Porcini Mushroom Gravy, Savoury Scones, Chocolate Chip Muffins and our Big Vanilla Sponge! Many of these recipes can also be found at the accompanying website www.veganrecipeclub.org.uk

Many thanks to budding vegan cook Kass, Sarah and Debi for all their help and support too.

I am hoping to run more such retreats next year, and can also be found leading guided lunch cooking sessions during general Yoga Retreats at the Ashram. Visit their website for more details and dates.

Suma Blogger’s Network: Creamy Cashew and Chia Seed Pâté

Pate mix

Let’s face it, if you are in the know-how, there are much healthier things to spread on your toast or oatcakes in the morning than margarine, let alone butter…such as a homemade plant-based pâté.

Why not make something that tastes great but also gives you a fabulous nutritional boost to start your day.

This pâté is made using heart-healthy cashew nuts, packed with monounsaturated fats, copper and magnesium, which are great for bone health; teamed with brilliant Organic Black Chia Seeds, which are rich in Omega 3 and 6 (needed for good cell health, brain and nerve function). They also contain good levels of fibre and protein.

Enjoy it on wholemeal toast, or as I did, spread across some lovely Organic Amisa Gluten Free Quinoa-fibre Crispbreads. The Black Chia Seeds, Crispbreads and all the herbs and spices can be purchased from Suma Wholefoods.

Creamy Cashew and Chia Seed Pâté
Makes 3 medium pots
Preparation time 12 hours soaking plus 5 mins

200g/ 7oz cashew nuts
4 tbsp Raw Health Black Chia Seeds
3 tbsp sunflower 1 tsp salt
Black pepper (to taste)
1 tsp olive oil
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 sprig fresh parsley
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
3 tsp zatar spice (optional)
1 tsp salt
Black pepper (to taste)
Sprinkle cayenne pepper (to taste)
1 tsp lemon juice (or to taste)

1. Place the cashews, chia seeds and sunflower seeds in a bowl and cover with water. Leave to soak overnight.
2. The next day, mix in the rest of the ingredients apart from the salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and lemon juice. Blend with a stick blender until thick but textured. Now add in the final three ingredients to taste.
4. Spoon into pots and allow to chill, before spreading on quinoa crackers or bread!

Viva! Cookbook is finally published

Viva! Cookbook

Working with my friend and vegan cookery guru, Jane Easton, we spent over four years producing a vegan cookery book for vegan charity, Viva!.

Filled with hundreds practical, delicious and easy-to-follow recipes, I’m delighted to have shot all the pictures within this book, with Jane selecting and testing all the dishes we included and writing literally thosands of words!

It is the definitive, wonderful, vegan crème de la crème of recipe books!

This is no ordinary collection of animal-free recipes, for a start there’s sections devoted to kid-friendly recipes; entertaining non-vegetarian friends; eating solo and how to freeze your food to save time and money. We have everything covered – chapters include: Feel the Pulse; Tofu Secrets; Souperb; Lunch-out; A bit on the Side; The Main Event; Sweet Thing and more!

Boasting 145 recipes with accompanying full colour photos, the Viva! Cookbook will take your taste buds on a culinary adventure; from satisfying starters – Sautéed Squash with Olive Tapenade & Cannellini Beans and Luscious Two Pear Salad with Balsamic Dressing; to decadent desserts like Juliet’s Luxury Chocolate Mousse and Viva!Blocker Glory. For the main event, we’ve scoured the globe for fresh and flavourful dishes that hold their own such as Viva!’s Very Moorish Moroccan Stew or that work well as part of our ‘Cool Combos’ – pair the Quesadillas with Guacamole & Lime Sour Cream Dip with our tangy Mango Salsa. For a stunning show-stopper, our Big Puff Pie – bursting with mixed mushrooms and topped with a crown of puff pastry – will not disappoint.

The book is avaialble to buy from the Viva! shop, priced £9.99 plus p+p.

Suma Blogger’s Network: How to feed 66 hungry yogis!

All Roots Mini Yoga Festival 019

Last weekend saw the very first All Roots Mini Yoga Festival take place near Three Cliffs Bay, on Gower in South West Wales. A collection of yoga teachers from several different disciplines joined together with therapists and yoga practitioners, for three days of inspiring yoga classes, sunshine, good company and great food.

As well as teaching the Sunday morning yoga class, it was great that my good friend Jane Easton (Viva!) and I were able to step in at the last moment and cook dinner for everyone on the Saturday evening. During my time at Viva! Jane and I worked together on dozens of events, cooking vegan in bulk for crowds of people at festivals and roadshows – so it was a great reunion for us to cook together once again.

Using lots of key ingredients from Suma, including Chickpeas, Quinoa, Brown Rice and Gluten-free Flour, we used bulk recipes adapted from Viva!’s Vegan Recipe Club to cook up our Moroccan Chickpea Stew, Quinoa Pilaf and Rice, Mixed Salad, Carrot Salad and three varieties of vegan cake; Coffee and Walnut, Carrot and Gluten-free Lemon Cake.

Ingredient lists for most dishes can be multiplied for bulk cooking, but it is always worth bearing the following points in mind when cooking for lots of people;

  • Cook the dish first to familiarise yourself with its taste and how the ingredients work together
  • Working out the quantities of main ingredients such as vegetables or pulses normally works fine by simple multiplication based on how many people you are feeding
  • Seasoning isn’t so simple. You need to season gradually as you go along, tasting to see how spices and salt are behaving in larger quantities. Some won’t go as far and you may need to add more or less
  • Some dishes improve with time, like stews or curry, so cook these first, while leaving accompaniments like rice or other grains to nearer serving time
  • Don’t be tempted to try to cook everything in one or two large pans. It’s easier to stir and cook large quantities of food spread across several medium-sized pans, especially to be able to stir food with ease
  • When cooking in bulk for a specific event, it can save lots of time preparing and chopping vegetables in advance and taking them with you in covered containers
  • Weighing out herbs and spices in advance also saves time
  • Making use of appliances such as small chopping blenders or food processors can also make bulk cooking quicker (as does having several pairs of hands to help!)
  • If you do have a team of helpers, nominate someone to be in charge of chopping, someone overseeing cooking tasks and one or two people keeping on top of the washing and clearing up
  • Be mindful of good food hygiene practises. Get people to wash their hands and keep hair tied up
  • Discuss how you are going to serve the food before hand and who is responsible for what
  • Don’t underestimate the time required afterwards for clearing plates, washing up and leaving the kitchen clean and tidy
  • Save money by ordering bulk wholefood items from a specialist supplier such as Suma Wholefoods

Moroccan Chickpea Stew (Bulk)
Preparation/cooking time 60 mins
Serves 35-40 people

180ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
6 large onions, medium diced
3 large bulbs garlic, peeled and blended
45g/3 tbsp ground cinnamon
45g/3 tbsp ground cumin
12.5g/2½ tsp cayenne pepper
75g/12 heaping tsp (sweet) paprika
6 x 400g tins OR 2.4L can of chopped tomatoes
15 x 400g tins Suma chickpeas drained OR 3.6K cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
2.85L/ 6 pints vegetable stock
45g/3 tbsp brown sugar
Salt to taste (adjust if stock is salty)
Freshly ground black pepper
1K pre-washed spinach, chopped OR the equivalent frozen spinach. If using frozen, reduce stock a little
500g/2 jars sun-dried tomatoes, chopped in blender (if in oil, you can use this to replace some of the olive oil)

Optional
Olives – black, green or mixed – chopped

1. Heat olive oil/sun-dried tomato oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until they begin to turn translucent. Add the garlic to the onions and cook in, lowering the heat if browning starts to occur.

2. Add the cinnamon, cumin, cayenne and paprika and sauté a minute or so. Add tomatoes, chickpeas, stock and sugar. Season with salt and plenty of black pepper.

3. Stir well. The chickpeas should be slightly covered with liquid. If the level is too low, add some water to bring it just above the chickpeas. Bring the mixture to a simmer, and then lower the heat to low and gently simmer for 45 minutes.

4. Remove the soup from heat. Use a potato masher to mash-up some of the chickpeas right in the pot. Stir in the spinach and let it heat through until wilted, just a few minutes. Season again, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve the soup, and sprinkle the sun-dried tomato pieces on the top with a drizzle of their oil if desired.

We served this with Quinoa Pilaf, organic Quinoa supplied by Suma.

Click on an image to open the gallery.

 

Spirulina & Berry Smoothie made using the Nutribullet

Spiralina2

After realising a while a ago that starting the day with bread wasn’t making me feel as good and energised as I needed in the morning… I was lucky enough to be given a Nutribullet – an extractor which unlike everyday juicers and blenders completely breaks down ingredients in to their most nutritious, most absorptive state!

I haven’t looked back! Here is my favourite Green Smoothie recipe, which uses Spirulina – a fabulous source of plant-based protein, amino acids and many other nutrients.  Frozen spinach and berries blended together with banana give this chilled drink a smooth and thick texture. You can feel how much your body will benefit from it as soon as you take a sip. Toddlers even like it too!

Spirulina & Berry Smoothie made using the Nutribullet
Serves 1
Preparation time 5 mins

1 banana, broken into pieces
Handful of frozen spinach
2 handfuls frozen mixed berries
1 tsp spirulina powder
1/2 pint almond milk or other plant milk

1. Place all the ingredients together into your Nurtibullet or other strong blender and liquidise. Remove the lid and add more milk into the smoothie if it is too thick. Enjoy and feel rejuvenated!

Spiralina3

Welsh Pea, Mint and New Potato Fritters

Buddha
Having a veg box delivered featuring both Welsh and English produce helps keep eating seasonally in check. As the summer continues, I also have an abundance of mint plants expanding across my balcony garden. So with bags of peas in pods and new potatoes from Gower and a few sprigs of homegrown mint, I thought some little potato fritters would do nicely for a small person’s dinner last night, or a lunchtime snack.

Pea and Mint Fritters blog1
Welsh Pea, Mint and New Potato Fritters
Makes 4 fritters
Preparation/cooking time 30 mins

4 medium New Potatoes, cubed
24 peas in pods
1 tbsp vegan margarine
4 small heads of mint, finely chopped
Salt and pepper (no salt if cooking for children)
1 tbsp Nutritional Yeast Flakes
Olive oil for frying

1) Pop the peas and place them all into a medium saucepan with the potato.
2) Cover with water, bring to the boil, then turn down to simmer for 15 mins until pots are soft.
3) Drain peas and pots and add in all the other ingredients into the saucepan.
4) Roughly mash everything together with a potato masher. Taste, then add more seasoning or yeast flakes if required.
5) Shape into four fritters and fry in olive oil in a wide frying pan, on a medium heat. Turn over once the fritters are golden on one side.
6) Serve with tomato salad.

Mint  Pea and Mint Fritters blog2