Saturday, 24 November 2012

Hemp seed Soda Bread Rolls -vegan, yeast free

Just waiting to be dunked into homemade soup...
We were both tired after a crowded Saturday afternoon's shopping in Birmingham, we had yet to go on our run and were also facing a drive later to pick up our daughter from her friend's house, so dinner had to be a simple affair. While I donned my leggings and grabbed my running shoes, my husband got busy with a pumpkin and chickpea soup and also somehow found time to rustle up these rolls to go with it. They are a variation on his soda ciabatta bread and take just minutes to prepare. The hemp seeds add their own special subtle flavour, plus some useful omega oils. What a warming, delicious feast awaited us when we got back from running!

(Makes 8-10 rolls)
500ml (about 2 cups) wholemeal flour
500ml white flour
100ml shelled hemp seeds
4 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
15ml extra-virgin olive oil
soya milk to mix
  • Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Rub in the olive oil.
  • Add just enough soya milk to make a workable dough that's not too wet and sticky.
  • Dampen your hands and roll into 8-10 balls, then place on a warmed and lightly oiled baking sheet, Bake in an oven preheated to 180C for 15 minutes until they are starting to turn light golden-brown on top.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Countdown to Christmas Cookery 1: Introducing a new mini-series

Try making a gingerbread house this year!

Here's a new mini-series I am running up to Christmas Day, with (mainly) vegan Christmas fare for the festive season. I am hoping to cover sweet, savoury, main meals, cakes and desserts, snacks and all things Christmas-y. This will mostly mean Yuletide flavours with a new twist, veganised festive favourites and yummy things to do with the season's fresh produce. In case you missed any of the last two Christmases' offerings, I will link to those too. 
To start us off, how about some inspiration for those of you who prefer gingerbread to cake? Have a look at this gingerbread house here and this gingerbread house over here. They are surprisingly easy to make and children adore them as the centrepiece to a party table: just make sure you make the icing "glue" thick enough...

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Green Tomato Chilli Jam: hot and sweet!

This green tomato chilli jam is not green, due to the gour (a natural unrefined cane sugar)

As you can see, I left the seeds and skins in
There are quite a lot of recipes for tomato jam out there, and I got so confused trying to read them all that in the end I just did my own thing, and it turned out just fine: set, sweet and spicy. I wanted to keep the ingredients list as simple as possible as I needed to make sure this didn't turn out too much like green tomato chutney. I made enough for just one jar as this was a bit of an experiment and I wasn't sure of any of us would like it. As it happens, green tomato jam has a great flavour somewhere between gooseberry and plum but also hot because of the chilli, and I now wish I had made more! My original intention was that this should go with savoury things like cashew nut cream cheese, or pakoras, but because the chilli is not too overwhelming it's a nice sweet spread too with just that little bit of heat for a Winter's breakfast. My husband discovered that it also goes very well with our home-made hemp seed butter on crackers. If you have some green tomatoes hanging round your kitchen that are reluctant to ripen, this is a funky way to use them up.

500g green tomatoes
500g gour or soft light brown sugar
1/2 a nag bhut chilli (or more of a less fiery type; you decide)
1 tab lemon juice
a splash or two of water
  • Roughly chop the tomatoes and mince the chilli. If using gour, break it into small pieces.
  • Heat them gently in a thick-bottomed pan- add a splash of water if you need to stop them scorching.
  • When they are looking softer and juicier it's time to add the gour. Stir well as it dissolves and melts. Add the lemon juice at this point, too.
  • Bring to the boil, stirring constantly, until it reaches setting point. You can tell by dropping a little into a cup of very cold water. If it clumps together the jam will set when cool. It doesn't take as long as you might think to get to this stage, so be sure to test it regularly.
  • We thought there wasn't quite enough chilli heat, so after bottling in a sterilised jar we stirred in 1/2 tsp red chilli powder; better to do it this way round than add too much chilli at the beginning and risk making your jam inedible.
There's only one word for it...

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

My Fitness Diary 5: Choosing the Right Running Shoes and Joining a Running Websitee

My new Asics Gel-1160s

...Yes, I'm still running! (Actually quite addicted)
Yesterday my new running shoes came, and not a moment too soon as the old ones were well and truly past the point of usefulness and actually becoming detrimental. Let me explain: when your running shoes loose their "springiness" they will no longer cushion you as your feet pound along the hard pavements and roads and that's when you can get injured. My right knee had started to twinge and I took that as a warning sign to go easy until I got new shoes. Fortunately they were there to greet me when I got home from work so I didn't even have to miss a run.
As well as sometimes running with my husband (who is a lot better at it than me but slows down so we can run together) I have joined a great website, Running Bug for some extra motivation and tips. They have forums, blogs, a shop, reviews, free training plans, events and loads of other useful and interesting content. You can even log your miles! (Tonight I am in 189th place out of 256 runners.) I decided I want to work towards running 5k, and the support, advice and encouragement from fellow runners in the 5k group is awesome!
-Getting back on topic, my old shoes, which I had used on and off -mostly off- for about 7 years, are Nike Air. I got them from a discount sports shop, told the assistant they were for running, bought them and they just so happened to be great for me. Perfectly comfortable, nicely supported and cushioned and quite waterproof. Once they started going, though, they went fast; two weeks ago they were still quite cushioned, and by the middle of last week I was feeling every little bump through them. My new shoes are Asics, and this time I chose them more carefully. The Asics website advises you to make a print of both your feet (I used turmeric on paper as I wanted to be able to hold the prints up to compare them to the examples on the website, but you can just use wet feet on a bathroom floor if you like.) Your feet are basically underpronate (high arches), overpronate (flat) or neutral, like mine. This will affect the amount of support you will need in your running shoes. The website then asks you your gender, weight, where and how far you run. This is a good basic way of helping choose the right shoe, but to be really thorough you need to have gait analysis done, where your feet are filmed as you run on a treadmill. You can also have foot mapping done for the ultimate gait information.
When I put my new shoes on they were a perfect fit; I had ordered the same size as my old Nikes. They aren't as bouncy as the Nike ones were when they were new, but they're plenty cushioned enough for me. I was a bit surprised by the chilly draught I could feel through the mesh uppers, but later on in the run when I got hot I was quite grateful for their good ventilation. (I have since bought slightly thicker socks.) I must say they don't keep my feet dry at all on the parts of my routes where I'm on wet grass and I have feeling that after a Winter of wet roads they are going to look really filthy and horrible: they are probably ideal in Summer though. The styling is nothing special, but then they are not top-of-the-range on price and I think they are really functional and good value shoes. I'm happily anticipating the miles I will clock up in them

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Toasted Hemp Seed Butter

The finished product,: a rich, nutty butter with a unique flavour and nutritional profile

Toasted shelled hemp seeds

Blitz in a food processor until creamy...
I got home from work the other day to find that my husband was busy in the kitchen making this delicious and healthy spread. We have made this raw before and added it to peanut butter but it really deserves a jar of its own. Hemp seeds are a wonderful "superfood" (look here for more info on other superfoods) being rich in protein, fibre and omega fats 3, 6 and 9 as well as containing Vitamins B, E,  calcium and iron.
All you do is toast some shelled hemp seeds gently in the oven (don't over-brown) then blitz in a food processor until buttery; no need to add any other oil. Stir in a little salt if you like (we do).