Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Roasted Tomato and Thyme Spaghetti

It's the heart of the British tomato season, when tomatoes are flavoursome, sweet and perfectly ripe. This simple dish celebrates the delicious flavour of tomatoes alongside an unexpected partner, thyme.  Although often overlooked for a basil paring, the humble taste of thyme is beautifully savoury and woody with the roasted tomatoes, offering the perfect flavour balance. 

If you're ever tempted to reach for a jar of store-bought pasta sauce, I urge you try this 'throw it on a baking tray' sauce. It really is that simple; and the fresh flavour is incomparable. 

Serves 2 

300g cherry tomatoes 
1 red onion, roughly chopped 
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole 
3 tbsp olive oil 
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar 
3 springs of thyme, leaves only, stem discarded/ 1 tsp dried thyme 
Generous pinch of sea salt and black pepper 
160g dried spaghetti, egg-free 
5 sundried tomatoes, drained of oil and chopped 

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/ Gas mark 4 
2. Arrange the cherry tomatoes, onion and garlic cloves on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar then sprinkle over the thyme leaves. Season with sea salt and black pepper and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the garlic has softened. 
3. Remove from the oven and carefully spoon into a high powered blender. Blend until semi-smooth.  Season with additional sea salt and pepper if desired. 
4. Cook the spaghetti in salted, boiling water for 8-10 minutes until al dente or according to packet instructions. Drain and stir in the pasta sauce and sundried tomatoes. Serve in warmed bowls. 


I used my Froothie Optimum 9400 to blend: 

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

10-Minute Tortilla Chips and Guacamole

Sometimes, an evening calls for warm, crispy tortilla chips and chunky, creamy guacamole. Once you try these incredibly easy homemade tortilla chips, you'll never buy the packet ones again! This is a true guilt-free snack (perfect for a TV night). 

Guacamole is one of the easiest dips to make, it doesn't even require a blender. Due to the creamy texture of avocados, this dip is naturally vegan, without the use of any non-dairy alternatives. Simply add more or less chilli to taste. Go crazy with lime juice and coriander to balance the creamy flavour with a fresh tang. 

Serves 2 

For the tortilla chips: 
3 large tortilla wraps (the type you use to wrap fajitas), cut roughly into small triangles  
1 tbsp sunflower oil 
Pinch sea salt 

For the chunky guacamole: 
2 ripe avocados, peeled and stone removed 
1 spring onion, chopped finely 
1/2 red chilli, seeds removed and chopped finely 
10g fresh coriander, chopped 
3 ripe tomatoes, seeds removed and chopped 
Juice of 1/2 unwaxed lime 
Generous pinch of sea salt 

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/ Gas mark 4 
2. Place the tortilla wrap triangles on a baking tray and use a pastry brush to coat both sides of the triangles with a little sunflower oil. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes until just crisp and brown (watch them carefully towards the end of baking, they go from ready to burnt quickly!). 
3. Whilst the tortilla chips are baking, make the guacamole. Mash the avocados roughly in a medium bowl, leaving some chunks remaining. Stir through the chilli, tomatoes and coriander. Squeeze in the lime juice, sprinkle with sea salt and stir to combine. 
4. Remove the tortilla chips from the oven and sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt. Serve immediately with a generous portion of guacamole. 


Monday, 18 August 2014

Ombre Vanilla Dream Cake with strawberry balsamic jam

I've spent years trying to bake the perfect vegan vanilla sponge cake. A classic cake that is light and airy, with a delicate sweet flavour. You'll find all of the ingredients in your store cupboard- not an egg-replacer in sight! This is my go-to recipe that never fails.... and looks fantastic with some special decoration.

The delicate flavour of the sponge allows for the showcase of a beautiful jam layer. This 'cheats' homemade jam is simple to make. The exciting combination of strawberry and balsamic vinegar is a flavour match made in heaven. Balsamic vinegar makes the flavour of strawberries pop; if you've never tried it you're in for a wonderful surprise. 

When you've baked the perfect vanilla sponge and sandwiched it with lashings of strawberry balsamic jam, the only thing left is to turn it into a showstopper. This delicate ombre rose buttercream icing looks difficult, but it is a really simple technique that will have people believing that you're a pro! 

Pour yourself a cup of tea and cut a slice of this cake. Then sit back and smile as you hear the phrase  'I can't believe it's vegan'. Everyone needs a sweet treat now and again. 

Makes 1 medium cake 

For the vanilla sponge cake: 
400g self-raising flour 
2 tsp baking powder 
200g granulated sugar 
400ml non-dairy milk (I used soya milk) 
110ml sunflower oil 
2 tsp vanilla extract 

For the strawberry balsamic jam: 
200g strawberry jam
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar 
4 large ripe strawberries, chopped 

For the ombre rose buttercream: 
4 tbsp non-dairy margarine (I used Vitalite) 
1 tsp vanilla extract 
1 tsp non-dairy milk 
250g icing sugar 
1/4 tsp pink gel food colouring (I used Sugarflair- all vegan food colours) or if you avoid artificial food colours, use blended sieved strawberries for a more subtle colour. 

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/ Gas Mark 4.
2. To make the sponge cake, sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and  stir through the sugar. Pour in the soya milk, sunflower oil and vanilla extract and mix until just combined. Be careful not to over mix as this will affect the finished texture. Pour into greased 6 inch baking tins and bake in the oven for 22-24 minutes until lightly golden. Allow to cool fully before removing from the tins.
3. For the strawberry balsamic jam, heat the jam, balsamic vinegar and chopped strawberries in a pan, bring to the boil over a medium heat, reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes until slightly thickened. Set aside and allow to cool. 
4. To prepare the buttercream, mix the Vitalite, vanilla extract and soya milk in a bowl. Gradually add the icing sugar until a thick mixture is formed. Using a mixer, whisk the buttercream for 4-5 minutes until light and fluffy. Save the pink colouring for when you are about to decorate. 

To decorate the cake: 
1. Smother one half of the sponge cake with the strawberry balsamic jam and place the other half of the sponge cake on top. 
2. Using a spatula, spread a thin layer of the buttercream all over the cake. 
3. -Add a 'closed star' shape icing tip (I used Wilton 2D) to a piping bag. 
-Add a third of the buttercream to the bag. 
-Practice the rose shape on a chopping board: starting in the middle make a tight swirl in a clockwise direction. Then make the swirl slightly larger and work outwards until you have the desired shape. Apply the same pressure on the piping bag to ensure perfect rose shapes.
-When you are confident, decorate the outer, upper layer of the cake with white roses. Return to the bowl of buttercream and add a drop of food colouring and stir to combine fully. Fill the piping bag with the light pink buttercream and repeat the roses on the upper inner layer and outer side of the cake. Return to the buttercream and add another drop of pink colouring to darken the colour, fill the piping bag and repeat the roses in the centre of the upper cake and lower outer side of the cake. 

This cake is a special entry for the PETA's Great Vegan Bake Off. Why not enter your favourite vegan bake and share yummy recipes! 


Thursday, 14 August 2014

Pea and Courgette Fritters with Smokey Tomato Chutney

It's that time of the week again; I look inside my fridge and there's very little left! So I rustled up some store cupboard ingredients and grated a lonely looking courgette to create these scrummy pea and courgette fritters. 

Within ten minutes, you can also create a smokey, fiery pan-chutney with juicy ripe tomatoes, flavoursome harissa, Worcester sauce and fresh parsley. 

The perfect little mid-week recipe that all the family will love. 

Serves 4 

For the fritters:
6 tbsp sunflower oil, for frying 
120g plain flour 
2 tsp baking powder 
1 tsp dried mixed herbs 
1/2 tsp salt 
1 small courgette, grated 
4 tbsp frozen peas, defrosted (leave to stand or soak in boiling water) 
100ml cold water 

For the smokey tomato chutney: 
8 medium sized ripe tomatoes, chopped into quarters 
1 tsp harissa 
4-5 drops Worcester sauce (ensure vegan, some contain anchovies, I used Biona) 
Handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped finely 

1. Heat the sunflower oil in a frying pan over a medium heat 
2. In a bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, herbs and salt. Stir in the grated courgette and peas until coated in the flour mixture. Pour in the water and stir to create a smooth paste. 
3. Add tablespoon sized amounts of the mixture into the pan for each fritter. Cook on each size for 2-3 minutes until golden and drain on kitchen paper.  
4. To make the chutney, add the tomatoes, harissa and Worcester sauce to a pan and simmer over a low-medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring often. Stir through the parsley and serve with the fritters. 


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Summer Fruit Galette with Maple and Vanilla

This is the perfect bake if you are new to vegan pastry making, or pastry making at all, as the intended style is rustic and non-uniform, so there is no worry about shrinking or uneven pastry! 

Galette is the French term for a flat freeform cake or pastry. It looks impressive with it's rustic, homemade charm. I was inspired to make something sweet and naughty to nibble on whilst watching The Great British Bake Off tonight and can't wait for (another) slice.

The sweet shortcrust pastry encases a selection of fresh blackcurrants, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and apple, added for a tangy bite. Flavours of maple and vanilla add sweetness whilst finely grated lemon zest balances the fruity filling. Best served with a cup of tea. 

Serves 4 generously 

For the shortcrust pastry: 
120g plain flour 
50g icing sugar 
1 tbsp ground almonds 
50g Vitalite (or any other non-dairy margarine) 
30ml cold water 

For the summer fruit filling: 
100g blueberries 
100g blackcurrants 
50g raspberries 
6 strawberries, tops removed and sliced 
1 apple, chopped into small chunks 
1 tbsp maple syrup 
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste or extract 
Zest of 1/2 unwaxed lemon 
Sprinkle of icing sugar for dusting 

1. Combine the flour, icing sugar and ground almonds in a bowl. Add the Vitalite in chunks and use your fingers to rub into the flour to form a breadcrumb consistency. Pour in the water gradually, bringing the mixture together with your hands. When a ball of dough has been formed, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 
2. Pre-heat the oven to 190C/Gas mark 5. 
3. Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out using a rolling pin onto a floured surface. The pastry should be 2-3mm thick. Place onto a baking tray and roll the edges inwards, leaving a large gap for the fruits. Prick the centre of the pastry with a fork and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes. (Baking the pastry blind first prevents that dreaded 'soggy bottom')
3. In the meantime, heat the blueberries, blackcurrants, raspberries, apple, maple syrup, caster sugar and vanilla paste in a medium pan and cook down for 10 minutes until the fruits have broken down and combined somewhat. Sprinkle in the lemon zest and stir. 
4. Remove the pastry from the oven and spoon in the fruit mixture, leaving some of the juice in the pan to discard. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the exposed pastry becomes golden and crisp. 



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