Thursday, 26 September 2013

Plum Turnovers for Vegan Thursdays- sugar free

I came home to find our neighbour had brought us these beautiful plums from her tree...

...and that my husband had already been baking with some of them :)
Earlier this year I recall mentioning here that my husband is a dab hand at vegan pastries made without recourse to processed margarine (see his Apple and Cashew Cream Tart) so I was really happy to come home to these little treats, and even happier to hear that they contain no added sweetening of any sort- the plums were so deliciously ripe they didn't need it! Sure, you could sprinkle the pastries with demerara sugar before baking but really, why gild the lily? (Unless, of course, you have a sweet tooth...) I don't know exactly how many plums he used, or how many turnovers he made as I forgot to count them before we all tucked in, but it was possibly about 15- they are quite small. Here is the recipe, as he told it to me:

Some nice fresh, sweet plums, washed, stoned and halved. (If your plums are not very sweet, then use a little sweetener of your choice.)
300g wholemeal flour
250g white self-raising flour
175ml olive oil
50g white self-raising flour
100ml-ish cold water

  • First make the pastry: Using a food processor or blender, blend the olive oil together with the 50g of white self-raising flour and the water. This emulsifies the oil. Rub this mixture into the wholemeal and white flours and mix to a dough using a little more cold water as necessary. Cover and rest in the fridge -that's the dough, not you :) - for about an hour if possible. This results in an easy-to-handle pastry.
  • Now prepare the plums and gently heat them until just starting to soften- you don't want to fully cook them. Now is the time you could add any sweetener if you fancy. (Raw sugar, gour, agave, xylitol or stevia could all be used.)
  • To assemble the turnovers, cut small circles about the size of a saucer, place some filling in the centre and fold into semicircles/ crescents, sealing the edges with water and pressing them together. You could use a fork to "crimp" the edges too.
  • Place the turnovers on an oiled baking sheet and bake in an oven preheated to 170C for about 15 minutes, or until the pastry is slightly browned. The turnovers are delicious served warm or cold, with whatever you like (vegan icecream was one suggestion) or on their own.
This post is for Vegan Thursdays

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Damson Jelly- no sugar

If you don't use this as a spread, this  slightly tangy, smooth and sweet burgundy-coloured jelly, would be a great base for a festive sauce...
Who doesn't love fruit jellies?- No, not the wobbly sort you get at childrens' parties, but the kind made of pureed and strained fruit cooked with sugar until it sets firmly then bottled in a gleaming jar. The stuff of idyllic daydreams in which I have nothing better to do all day than pick and preserve fruit and write beautiful labels, and maybe later bake a cake sandwiched together with some of that home made jam...
- But it's getting late, I still have a million chores to get through after work, and hungry mouths to feed. Nevertheless, I am determined to make my daydream at least partly a reality, so I get to work with my sturdiest saucepan after dinner. I'm going to make damson jelly; a sugar free version sweetened with agave nectar. 
Our dainty damson tree at the bottom of the garden bears delicate white blossoms in Spring and small plum-like fruits in early Autumn. In case you didn't know, damsons are small, somewhat astringent little plums, known as jambul in Asia and bitter damson in Jamaica. Their English name is said to derive from "Damascus", as the Romans are credited with having brought them to the British Isles from Syria. Whatever their history, damsons are traditionally used as preserves, and in a good year like this one they are not at all sour. The sugar free jelly I made set well and was sweet but tangy- and makes a great spread or sauce; a more British alternative to cranberry sauce at Christmas, even. Or maybe an alternative Thanksgiving condiment? Find the recipe below the pictures:

This year our little tree is bearing literally hundreds of small, sweet damsons

Resplendent in the Autumn sunshine!
1.3kg damsons (includes stones)
375ml agave nectar
3 tabs pectin
  • Wash the damsons and put them whole into a sturdy pan on a gentle heat with the lid on, and simmer until they have broken down.
  • Pass them through a fine sieve to get rid of the stones and skins, measure the resulting puree in ml and return them to the pan.
  • Now add exactly half the amount of agave nectar and bring to a rolling boil with the lid off. Be patient; the jelly will gradually reduce and sweeten up. Use the cold water test (see photo below) to determine if it has reached setting point. Stir from time to time to prevent the bottom of the pan burning.
  • When it reaches setting point, turn the heat off and stir in the pectin. I have never set jam with pectin before and it was quite magical to see it thicken before my eyes!
  • Bottle/ jar in sterilised containers and keep in the fridge. I don't know yet how long it lasts; maybe up to a couple of weeks.

When the jelly coagulates in cold water and does not mix with the water even when poured out, it has reached setting point.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Kabocha Puree- vegan

Kabocha has a velvety texture when pureed.
We are in the process of picking our crop of pumpkins- we have so many this year my husband worked out that we need to eat 3 small or one large one every week until March to use them all! (So if you have any pumpkin recipe ideas, please let us know...) We served this puree with steamed runner beans, rice and peas and baked beancurd sticks with peppers and sweetcorn for a rather eclectic Sunday dinner!

(Serves 4-6 as a side)
1 kg kabocha, blue hubbard squash or similar, peeled and roughly diced
1 tab olive oil
1 cup water (1 cup=250ml)
1 tsp each of cinnamon, ginger, paprika, sweet smoked paprika
1 1/2 tsps seasalt
1/4 tsp coarse black pepper
  • Saute the pumpkin in the oil for about a minute, then add the spices and stir well.
  • Add the water and seasalt. Cover and gently simmer.
  • When all the liquid has been absorbed and the pumpkin is soft, mash or blend it to a puree- we left ours quite coarse.
  • Serve immediately (or transfer to a heatproof dish to keep warm).

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Happy Harvest!

Some bumble bees doing their own harvesting, back in August...
Last full moon, a few days ago, was the Harvest Moon, and today is Autumn Equinox in the UK. Summer has settled dreamily into Autumn and our kitchen is full of apples and pumpkins once more. Since we have both been a bit off-colour this weekend and not up to creating recipes (though we do have plenty of ideas for next week) we thought we would celebrate the season by posting some pictures from this year and previous years of our harvest.
 Wishing you all a Happy Harvest and much abundance!