Perfect vegan chocolate cake

Perfect vegan chocolate cake

Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or have to follow dairy and egg free diets I have you covered. I think at a push you could even make this nut free if you substituted the coconut oil for soya based spread.

If you are none of those things never fear D and I both loved this cake, the cake tends to crack on the surface but the rise is really good and it is really rich. D and I are not vegetarian or vegan but we are cake lovers and also probably what is now classed as flexitarian.

This is a very much simplified Nigella Lawson recipe based on what I already had in. However it turned out really well considering I forgot to buy sugar and had to use an old pack of demerara sugar I had in the back of my cupboard.

To make a rather large cake you will need:

225 g plain flour

1½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp salt

1½ teaspoons instant espresso powder

75 g cocoa powder

300 g demerara sugar

375 mL hot water

75 g coconut oil ( about 90ml)

1½ teaspoons cider vinegar

To decorate

Dairy free chocolate spread

2 squares dark chocolate

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a 20cm cake tin (one with a catch to release or a moveable base) with baking parchment. In a large bowl mix together the flour, espresso powder, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt.

In a second bowl (or large jug) melt your coconut oil into your water along with the sugar and cider vinegar. Pour this into the bowl with the dry ingredients and beat together using a hand whisk. Pour the cake mix into the cake tin and bake for 35-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out pretty clean and the cake mix has come away from side. Set aside to cool.

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While the cake is still warm melt the chocolate spread. Prick the cake with a few holes and use a knife to make a thin layer. Grate over the dark chocolate.

Serve warm or cold. This cake will stay fresh when kept in an air tight container if it lasts that long.

Butternut squash macaroni cheese

Butternut squash macaroni cheese

This culinary experiment was brought to you by the woman who saw a picture of a healthy butternut squash based macaroni recipe but did not want to trek to the supermarket for any specific ingredients.So basically a lazy but healthy recipe without much washing up. Winner.

Basically much as we all love creamy or cheesy pasta sauces, they are more something to be enjoyed once in a while. However, pasta is cheap and fills you up for a long time and unless you have dietary reasons for avoiding gluten isn’t a food you necessarily need to avoid. In addition, if you really are watching the calories you’ll be please to know, when cooked down the texture of butternut squash goes lovely and creamy. You’ll be pleased to also note that my very hungry 6ft3 caterpillar found this filling enough after a workout; so its great for those who are watching their weight but do have a larger appetite.

To make enough macaroni for 3 servings you will need:

250g dried macaroni pasta

1 vegetable stock cube

Boiling water

150g butternut squash (frozen chunks are our new mealtime saviour)

50g sweet potato

1 red onion

1 clove of garlic

Salt and pepper

1 teaspoon dried marjoram

2 large tomatoes or 7 cherry tomatoes (chopped)

25g smoked cheddar (if you follow a vegan diet you could substitute with vegalife, or even try topping with breadcrumbs or chopped nuts)

Slice the onion and crush the garlic. Heat until soft. Add your sweet potato and squash and heat until the edges have started to soften and come away. Add your stock cube, salt, pepper, marjoram and enough water to more than cover everything. Allow the stock cube to dissolve into the water then add the macaroni and tomatoes. Top up the water if it doesn’t cover the pasta by 1/2 an inch.

Boil the pasta in the stock, stirring to make sure that nothing sticks. Keep topping up the water as needed. Once the macaroni is cooked use your spoon/spatula to squash the squash (heh heh heh), tomatoes and sweet potato. Spoon the pasta into a heat proof dish. Grate over your cheese and put under the grill (or in the oven at 200°C) until the cheese begins to crisp. (If using nuts wait until the nuts brown nicely).

This can be served as a side dish or as a main meal. It is entirely up to you.

Quick chia pudding

Quick chia pudding

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I do apologise, this is going to be another one of my wonderfully vague recipes. Although I would not call this a particularly quick recipe (who can argue something is quick when you soak it all night?); it will make your morning routine more simple. Not having to think beyond “should I grate in that apple or throw in a handful of sultanas” is sometimes the most complex thing I can determine when I get up for work.

Anyway chia pudding is convenient, really healthy and can really easily be adapted into a vegan recipe or made with things you really like.

To make chia pudding for 1 you will need:

Chia seeds

Milk of your choice (mine is coconut milk)

Yogurt (I used Alpro strawberry and rhubarb yogurt)

The topping of your choice (sliced banana, grated apple, etc etc)

Pour a small quantity of chia seeds into a cereal bowl so a thin layer covers the bottom. Cover this with about 2cm milk. Add 1 large spoonful of yogurt. Stir this so that all the seeds are as evenly dispersed as you can manage. Cover this and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning stir again. Add your toppings and serve. Enjoy your beautifully simple and delicious breakfast.

Tomato stuffed peppers

I adore roast peppers. I think the flavour goes wonderfully with most things – chicken, fish, shellfish and lamb all go wonderfully with this particular recipe. You could even use it as part of a Tapas or summer barbeque type meal. This recipe is based on something I cooked at school from a Delia Smith book. However, as said book is actually one of my mother’s I made it from memory so it’s not an exact replica. However my boyfriend, who is every so slightly wary of large amounts of vegetables on his plate, really enjoyed it.

To stuff your own peppers you will need:

Red or yellow peppers

Cherry or baby plum tomatoes – approx 2 per pepper half

Garlic

Balsamic vinegar

Extra virgin olive oil

Basil (I used greek basil but normal tastes exactly the same)

Salt and pepper

 

Preheat your oven to 200°C. Slice your peppers in half, scoop out the white bits with the seeds but leave in the stalk if possible (use a sharp knife to cut out the seeded core bit). Slice your tomatoes in half and thinly slice your garlic. On a roasting tray arrange your peppers with the tomatoes and garlic inside. Drizzle over the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and top with salt, pepper and the fresh basil. Roast for 10 – 15 minutes, until the pepper skin has slightly charred.

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A simple, yet effective way of increasing your vegetable intake (even though peppers and tomatoes are technically both fruit!)

Easy ratatouille

Now, first of all I would like to offer an apology to my father in this post. He makes pretty epic ratatouille and I didn’t actually get chance to ask him how he makes his. Anyway, ratatouille is a pretty amazing way of eating a lot of vegetables in one meal. As with nearly all tomato based sauces the flavour develops over time so the leftovers will almost certainly taste better than it does fresh from the pot (it’s still pretty nice freshly made). In addition, its nice with a lot of things – cheesy things, roast meat, grilled chicken, steak. It’s also a vegan and vegetarian friendly recipe.

To make this you will need:

2 cans tomatoes

A large red onion or 2 smaller onions

2 peppers (any colour you like but its a good way of using up green peppers if you dislike them)

A clove of garlic

1 tsp olive oil

2 medium courgettes (unfortunately my ratatouille was lacking these due to their absence from my local Co-op)

1 aubergine

2/3 pack of mushrooms (I used chestnuts, but white ones are fine)

2 peppers

1 teaspoon dried basil

A good slosh of red wine or balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sugar

A pinch salt

(This makes a rather large amount of ratatouille, at least 4 servings)

Wash and quarter your mushrooms, dice the aubergine, slice and quarter the courgettes, remove the seeds and chop up the peppers. Put the vegetables to one side. Peel the onion/onions. Dice one half of the onion(s) and slice the other half. Crush the garlic. Heat the oil in a deep pan and fry the onion and garlic until soft.

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Purpley onions

Once the onions and garlic are soft, add the other vegetables and fry for about 5 minutes.

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That old Weebl and Bob song about badgers and mushrooms is in my head after looking at this

Add the canned tomatoes, the sugar, salt, vinegar and basil.

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Mix thoroughly and cover for about 20 minutes on a low heat. You can cook it for slightly longer if you wish.

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Nice vegetable stew

Serve with whatever you fancy.

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Yum yum yum

Now this recipe is really easy for a weeknight, or if you find it difficult to find time to cook when you’re busy you could make a big batch of this up to reheat as you need it.

Easy midweek meal idea – Vegan style (Courgette stuffed mushroom with pine nuts)

Well, that was a long title for a blog post, now wasn’t it? Once again I have dipped a toe into the (frankly massive) world of vegetarian and vegan cookery. This week I have kept it simple and tasty. Any die hard carnivores can rest assured that this recipe can also work as a side for steak, lamb chops or grilled chicken. It started out as a bit of a fluke when I decided to grate some courgette as I fancied both courgette and mushrooms for my tea.

Well anyway, I made this recipe twice and in between I discussed with my Dad how to incorporate a vegan friendly form of protein and he suggested pine nuts. Toasted pine nuts work very well in this, but if you’re not a fan you could always toast some cashews instead.

To make this recipe you will need:

2 mushrooms (portobello or large flat white mushrooms)

A courgette

A pinch of chilli flakes

1/3 a bag of pine nuts

Black pepper

(2 mushrooms serves one as a main course or 2 as a starter)

 

Preheat the oven to around 200°C. Was the mushrooms, remove the stalks and place on a baking tray or roasting tray.

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There’s not mushroom on this tray…

Grate the courgette and put half in each mushroom, packing down the gratings.

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Greeny gratings

Put the chilli flakes and a good amount of cracked black pepper over the courgette and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the mushroom is tender.

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During the last 5 minutes of the mushrooms heat up a frying pan and dry fry the pine nuts until they are lightly toasted.

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Take the mushrooms from the oven.

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Using a spatula lift the mushrooms from the tray onto a plate and top with the pine nuts.

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Nicely sprinkled?

This tastes best when served with salad and cous cous, quinoa or bulgur wheat.

Attempting a vegan recipe – “Thai style” tofu noodle soup

Now as any regular reader know from my regular fish and steak posts (and related consumption) I am not exactly about to go vegan, but I do eat a lot of vegetarian and vegan meals by choice – I’d far rather eat more vegetable based meals a week and eat meal of a higher quality and welfare standard. Anyway, I digress. Inspired by a couple of vegan blogs I follow and also a man at my gym who regularly wears a t-shirt with the slogan “all this was built on tofu” I decided to knowingly attempt a vegan meal. Now this wasn’t easy, and I take my hat off to anybody who follows the vegan lifestyle by choice.

Now this recipe I use vegetable stock. I had no idea that some vegetable stock cubes contain fish products or egg. Fortunately mine contained neither but if I were to make this for an actual vegan I’d definitely make my stock from scratch just to be sure. I bought a Thai spice and seasoning mix from Asda containing birdseye chillies, ginger, garlic, galangal and lemongrass (far better for peace of mind than using my usual curry paste). I did use tofu, which is probably partially cheating as I’m told it shouldn’t be too much of a staple (forgive me, I’m new to this!) but next time I’ll cook something lentil based.

Anyway, enough of a foreword from me, here is what you need to make this recipe:

Rice noodles (I used vermicelli ones)

2 pints of vegetable stock

3 baby pak choi or 2 normal sized ones

5 or 6 shitake mushrooms (or any other kind you fancy)

Tofu

4 spring onions

2 cloves garlic

Soy sauce

Lemongrass

The juice of half a lemon

2 bird eye chillis (be careful chopping them if you wear contact lenses, chillies burn!)

(This makes 3 decent sized portions or 4 smaller portions).

Chop the tofu and mushrooms up into bitesized pieces. Slice the garlic and spring onions and chilli and cut the pak choi into 1.5 inch pieces. Put the pak choi to one side, it needs less cooking than everything else.

Obligatory shot of chopped food
Obligatory shot of chopped food

Fry the spring onions and garlic until they are soft and fragrant.

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Add the tofu and the mushrooms and fry for 2-3 minutes.

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Why did the tofu cross the road?
To prove he wasn’t chicken

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Pour the stock in the pan. Crush the lemongrass, slice the chillies and add them to the pan along with a good splash of soy sauce and grated ginger. Taste the soup and if you think it needs it add more seasoning (be aware the flavour develops a little over time).

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So apparently I make brown food a lot

Simmer the soup for at least 15 minutes. Taste and re-season accordingly. Add the lemon juice as this freshens up the flavour. Add the noodles and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the pak choi and cook for a further minute.

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Relax and eat enjoy your soup.

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So apparently I was too hungry to take an in focus picture? Note the tactical positioning of the pak choi.