Saturday, 7 December 2013

Stuffed Baked Apples- vegan, sugar free

Piping hot, with your favourite non-dairy cream....yummy!
Our last dessert recipe was shamelessly laden with sugar and calories, but this one is completely the opposite. In fact, it would make just as good a breakfast on a cold morning as it would a pudding. (If you fancy something just a little more decadent, then you could always add a drizzle of maple syrup -recommended for tarter apples- or even some plant milk-based custard.) Nothing can beat the delicious, juicy simplicity of a baked apple with a sweet stuffing! This post is a response to The Peace Patch's lovely collection of baked apple recipes from various blogs... it's always worth dropping by there because every day has a different theme and it's a great place to discover new blogs and get inspired.
We found three apples in the fruit basket today, so we made this recipe to serve three:
3 large apples (we used Bramleys, but dessert apples are sweeter)
10 dried dates
1 tab sultanas
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1 tab chopped walnuts
50ml water
  • Core the apples, leaving a good-sized hole down the centre and put them in a heatproof oven dish. (I find  ceramic is better than metal for this.)
  • Chop the dates and mix together with the sultanas, cinnamon and water in a small pan. Heat until the mixture is soft and all the water is absorbed; this should only take a couple of minutes.
  • Pack the stuffing into the apples as tightly as possible and bake at 200C for about 15 minutes, or until the apples are soft and piping hot. You will find that the skin changes colour, and may even split, as in our pictures.
  • Serve hot, drizzled with your favourite vegan cream- we used coconut "single cream"; cashew cream and soya pouring cream would also work well.

What's your favourite way to cook baked apples? Do you prefer them sweet or savoury?

Thursday, 5 December 2013

2013 Vegan Christmas Collection: Trifle and desserts

In large or individual bowls, or even in shot glasses, trifle with sponge, fruit, jelly, custard and cream is sure to please children of all ages!
Ah, the 1970s: the decade that brought us such culinary delights as Dream Topping, Quick-Jel and boil-in-the-bag rice... and all this convenience food was happening at the same time as Mediterranean package holidays revealed an exotic new world of dishes like moussaka, paella and spaghetti Bolognese. (Simultaneously, though, the vegetarian and wholefood movements were seriously taking off, with restaurants like Cranks.) British cookery would never be the same again. In those days before the kiwi fruit and the carambola graced our tables, such desserts as baked lemon cheesecake, rum babas and banana splits were just about as good as it got. Forget "real" trifle with fresh dairy cream and amaretti or sherry-soaked cake- this is trifle as I remember it from the 70s, with custard, jelly and fruit; only vegan and without the booze. (One year my aunt merrily poured way too much of the stuff in and rendered it probably the most dangerous dessert ever; definitely not for children!) If you fancy re-living childhood parties and Christmas teatimes but without animal products then this recipe is definitely for you!
We made enough trifle with this recipe to satisfy 6 of us as dessert and still had a bowlful left over, so I'd say it probably serves at least 10. The main thing with trifle is that you have to be patient, and not be tempted to hasten the procedure by adding the custard layer before the jelly is set and cooled. Then you end up with a mess. A delicious mess, but a mess all the same. Apart from that, though, trifle is a breeze.

We will now take you through the various stages of making a trifle:
The Sponge and Fruit Layer:
You will need 2 or 3 pieces of fresh fruit, chopped/ sliced thinly (we couldn't bring ourselves to use tinned, so here's where we diverge from tradition). To make the sponge, you will need a 1/4 quantity of this recipe. (There will be some left over, but we're assuming that won't be a problem for you...) Make the cake in the bottom of a small loaf tin or square mould, and bake for 15 mins at 180C. They say that it's even better to use day-old cake, but we think fresh is best. When the cake is baked, cool it and cut into small fingers or cubes, according to the size of our bowl(s). Put the fruit and sponge pieces in the bottom. We used a banana and a nice ripe pear, but something like strawberries, raspberries, mango or peach would be really delicious too. The only fruits you can't use are citrus and pineapple, as their acids will stop the jelly from setting.
The Jelly:
In the UK, Holland and Barrett sell a vegan jelly, and also look for halal jelly from Asian groceries, where we bought ours this time. (Ahmed brand.) It's cheaper, comes in a wider variety of flavours and colours, but does contain artificial flavours and colours. We used two packets of Ahmed strawberry jelly, made with 800ml boiling water. It does set quite quickly; always a bonus.
The Custard:
Bird's custard powder is vegan, and you can use your favourite plant milk. We used soya today, but coconut or almond would have been great too. We followed the instructions on the tub, but made it slightly thicker, using 4 tabs custard powder, 4 tabs beet icing sugar (white cane sugar gets filtered through bone charcoal- yuck!) and one litre of unsweetened soya milk.
The Cream:
Now here's some magic: Put a can of coconut milk in the fridge for several hours (or even the freezer if you make sure it doesn't actually freeze). Then open the can and spoon the thick, fattier part into a bowl, leaving behind the liquid at the bottom of the can. Using a hand blender, whip until firm. As long as you keep it chilled, it will hold its shape beautifully, and you can even pipe with it. Who needs Dream Topping now?
The Decoration:
Glace cherries, grated dark chocolate or any sprinkles you may find that don't contain animal products will look great! Remember, don't go for anything too tasteful or artistic- think anything your mum would have made circa 1976.

If you would like some more dessert ideas, click on the links to see these recipes:

This is a  Vegan Thursdays post

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

2013 Vegan Christmas Collection: Sides- Red Cabbage with fennel and Cumin and more...

This makes a great side dish as part of a roast dinner, or add it to bread and a source of protein for lunch. The orange garnish is an optional extra.
Welcome to our first post for Christmas 2013, where we add to our collection from the last 3 years. With each category's new "headlining" recipe there are also links to more recipes in the same category. We hope you find them useful for planning your holiday meals, whether you are entertaining on a grand scale or having a cosy get-together with friends or family. Check out our Pinterest Christmas Recipes board too, which will feature these recipes, and our Vegan Recipes board, which has links to some great recipes from other websites and blogs.
Red cabbage is an old favourite at Christmas time, as it's in season in the Northern Hemisphere around now. Most of us saw it first pickled in jars, but there are so many more ways to serve it, both raw and cooked. This is a quick and easy cooked red cabbage dish with a subtle, aromatic sweetness from the fennel and cumin seeds. You could also try caraway seeds instead of fennel. It could be useful paired up with a rich main course, as both these seeds aid digestion! This recipe serves about 6 as a side dish:

500g red cabbage (about half an average-sized cabbage), sliced or coarsely shredded
1 1/2 tabs olive oil
1 1/2 tsps cumin seeds
1 1/2 tps fennel seeds (sounf)
1/2 tsp course black pepper
1/2 tsp seasalt
a dash of lemon juice
  • Stir fry the cabbage in the oil with the cumin and fennel seeds, until the seeds are just toasting and releasing their aromas, and the cabbage is starting to soften.
  • Add the salt and pepper and stir-fry for a minute longer.
  • Put the lid on the pan and sweat over a low heat until the cabbage is cooked. (Keep an eye on it to make sure there is sufficient juice from the cabbage to prevent scorching. If there isn't, you can help things along by turning the heat down further and adding a splash of water- but only a splash).
  • Add the lemon juice before serving. 
Take a look at our other vegetable sides- click on the names:

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Ingredient of the Month 26: Red Cabbage

Distinctively-coloured red cabbage looks so attractive when cut!
Now here's a seasonal ingredient that most people will be familiar with, but do you know how healthy it is? Red cabbage belongs, of course, to the brassica family, and can be grown on different soils although it varies in colour from red to purple to greenish yellow according to the acidity/ alkalinity of the soil. (Because of this, its juice may be used as a ph indicator.) It is sown in Spring and harvested in late Autumn- perfect for festive fare.

Nutritional benefits: As you might well expect from a member of the brassica family, red cabbage is very, very good for you. Its purple colour tells us at a glance that it's rich in proanothocyanins, those powerful antioxidants also found in red grapes, blueberries, etc. Antioxidants fight and prevent disease, strengthening the immune system. They are good against cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease too. Even cooked (although that does depend on how), red cabbage can supply you with a significant proportion of your daily vitamin C requirement. The peppery taste of raw red cabbage is also an indicator of its beneficial qualities; it is due to sulphurous compounds which other brassicas also contain- these can prevent cancer. Vitamins A and K are also to be found in red cabbage; these help vision and the immune system, and bones and blood clotting respectively. Vitamin K also helps the body absorb calcium. And let's not forget fibre, so essential for the efficient functioning of the digestive system, of which red cabbage contains plenty.

Culinary uses: Most people first encounter red cabbage pickled in jars, but there are many other ways to eat it. Red cabbage can be eaten raw, shredded into salads and 'slaws, or even made into sauerkraut. It has a fresh, almost peppery flavour. It goes well with apple, too. Apart from using it in stews and soups as you would many other types of vegetable, you can also steam/ sweat it with caraway, anise, cumin or fennel seeds and black pepper to make a delicately aromatic side dish. It's also delicious braised with apple.

The glossy purplish leaves contain many health benefits

Thanks once more to for the nutritional information.

How do you like to use red cabbage? Come back in the next couple of days and you should find a linky tool at the bottom of this post- let's share our ideas!