Tuesday, 26 November 2013

First Time for Everything

So, what is it that I've done I hear you cry?

I've entered one of my recipes into a competition - yikes! 

I thought long and hard about this and I dithered for what seemed like an eternity before I decided to take the leap of faith. I decided in the end to enter my stuffed mushroom recipe into the competition. This was for two reasons; 

1) it is extremely tasty and I enjoyed creating it, and
2) its one of my better photos!

When I make a dish all I want to do is taste it, I'm normally too hungry to spend hours over food styling and setting up the photo-shoot to get a decent photo. Perhaps this should change and I should take a refresher course in photography, after all its been a fair few years since I took my 'O' Level!

Since starting this blog and recording my progress through recipe creations I have been successful in achieving one of my passions to lead a vegan lifestyle. I have shared with you many recipes, some good, some not so good and some absolute disasters which have never made it to the blog! I have enjoyed recording my progress and challenging myself at times, for example, the recent Vegan Mofo, where I blogged every day with a different bean recipe. It was during my vegan mofo challenge that the recipe I have entered into the competition was born and I was chuffed to bits with the result. The stuffed mushrooms were heavenly and I've made them a number of times since.

The "Feast your Eyes on Vegan" competition is run by the flexitarian who has a list of 9 entries which include both sweet and savoury entries.

It would mean the absolute world to me if you would take the time to vote for me and my recipe by leaving a comment in the comments box on the flexitarian's website:


Many thanks!

Jasmine x

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Vegan Food Swap Box - November - Part 2

Yesterday I shared with you what I sent Sammy @cleaninggirl for the November vegan food swap box. Today I will share with you what I received from Ben @onewellnessben and what a box of goodies it was!

I was over the moon to find that Ben had included a block of Vegusto Cheese! I've been meaning to try this for ages but not got round to buying any, I've heard a lot of good things about this make of vegan cheese. Just need to think of a meal which will do it justice! Watch this space . . . . . . . .

Ben also included 4 packets of linwoods seed of different flavours. I had a choice of:
  • Flaxseed, Cocoa & Berries
  • Flax, Sunflower, Pumpkin & Sesame Seeds & Goji Berries
  • Flaxseed, Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Walnuts & Q10
  • Hemp
I actually bought a big packet of shelled hemp seeds when I visited the Wolverhampton Vegan Festival and they are nearly gone so this packet has arrived just in time. The flax seeds will be used very shortly in some baking recipes I'm sure, if they haven't been sprinkled over my breakfast before hand!

Other savoury items included Chilli Miso Ramen Noodles, in a previous vegan swap box I received a packet of Green Tea Miso Ramen noodles which were delicious so I hold high hopes for the chilli version. There was also a packet of Clearspring Snack Organic Tamari Roasted Cashew Nuts, which again I've never tried. I still think it is amazing that I receive something new every month that I've never tried before. Most of it I now buy on a regular basis if I've been able to hunt it down!

And by no means least the sweet items, which included an Ombar Green Tea & Lemon Chocolate, gosh doesn't this sound delicious, I can't wait to tuck into this, infact it will be my treat for today! Ben tells me that the Riolife bar is imported all the way from Australia so this must be bloomin' good! Can't wait to try it.

All in all, I think you will agree, my vegan swap box is pretty amazing. Thank you Ben for a fabulous box of goodies, I hope you received a good one in return!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Vegan Food Swap Box - November

Phew the monthly vegan food swap box comes round quicker each month, I'm sure. This month I was sending to Sammy who's known in the twitter world as @cleaning girl. For those of you who are not with the programme here's what happens. Every month tohappy vegans, who organise the swap box (thank you!) assign you a partner to send a parcel of vegan goodies to and in return you will receive your own parcel of surprise delights from someone else. It really is good fun and its like getting a birthday every month!

Because of the time of year I couldn't resist sending a vegan advent calendar. I hope Sammy enjoys her vegan chocolate breakfast sample each morning in December!
My vegan swap box also included the following goodies:
  • The Food Doctor Sweet Chilli Soya & Corn Crisp Thins   
  • The Delicatessan Beetroot & Red Onion Chutney
  • The Delicatessan Sicilian Style Sticks
  • Packet of Olives ou Marche
  • Blackfriars Fruit Flapjack
  • Urban Fruit Superberry Mix
  • Pukka Relax Teabag
I'm hoping Sammy loves olives as much as me. I guess you either love them or hate them! I'm a lover of all things olives and I always have some in the fridge or a stand by packet in my cupboards. Sammy is lucky these didn't get gobbled up before I posted them. I also love the Food Doctor crisp thins especially the sweet chilli flavour. 

The Beetroot and Red Onion Chutney was once sent to me as part of the vegan swap box and I used mine in a stiry fry which worked out a treat but you could use it as a dip or on crackers with a bit of vegan cheese or houmous. The Sicilian Sticks would work a treat dipped into it!

For the sweet items I included the advent calendar, I don't care how old you are everyone loves an advent calendar. I actually bought two, one for myself!

Another handy store cupboard snack is the Blackfriars flapjacks, I prefer the fruit one but they are rather large and I always cut into two portions so you definitely get your moneys worth. I've just realised I included one of these in last months swap box too!

I've not tried a packet of Urban Fruit Superberry yet, I'm starting to wish I'd bought two of these too, they look rather tasty. Finally but no means least a Pukka Teabag - Relax, which is a blend of organic chamomile, fennel and marshmallow root.

I hope you like your vegan swap box Sammy, and I hope you enjoy your bit of chocolate for every December morning. Is it too early to say Merry Christmas!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Spicy Pumpkin Soup

Do you remember the amazing eight ball courgette that turned into a pumpkin in a sunny windowsill? Well tonight I decided to make soup out of the little beauty.

When I cut it open it looked as if it needed to 'ripen' a little more as the flesh was green just underneath the skin turning to orange nearer the centre. The centre cavity was full with stringy flesh and seeds.When this vegetable was a courgette there was no cavity-go figure?

As the 'pumpkin' looked under ripe and because in real terms it was an old courgette, I thought that the taste would be fairly bland. So the best thing to do in the case of a bland vegetable is spice it up!

I was torn between roasting the flesh or boiling it, but in the end time got the better of me and boil it was, along with all the other ingredients too!

The result, the 'pumpkin' produced a tasty soup thanks to the spices, it wasn't like a true pumpkin which gives you thick velvety soup, instead it gave a thinner soup due to the water content within the vegetable itself. Next year I will definitely be growing these again, as I need to do some more experimenting, perhaps roasting it would provide more flavour. Thank you gardening angel for introducing me to the wonders of the eight ball courgette/pumpkin.

1 Tbsp Rapeseed Oil
2 Small onions
2 Cloves of garlic
1 Jalapeno chilli
1 Knob of ginger
2 Tsp Coriander
1 Tsp Garam Masala
1 Tsp Cumin
½ Tsp Black pepper, ground
1 Eight ball courgette/pumpkin (mine weighed around 900g before peeling and chopping and around 500g after).
700ml Vegetable stock*250ml Coconut milk*

* If I were to make this again, I would use 500ml vegetable stock and 400ml coconut milk.

Chop the onions, finely dice the jalapeno chilli and grate the garlic and ginger. Add to a pan with the rapeseed oil. Fry until the onions are starting to go brown, do not let them burn though as this will give a bitter taste to the soup.

Add the spices to the onions and stir to combine, cook over a low heat for a minute being careful not to let the spices burn.

Add the 'pumpkin' and stir to coat with the spice and onion mixture. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Let the mixture simmer until the 'pumpkin' is soft and can easily be pierced with a knife tip. 

Add the coconut milk and stir to combine thoroughly, this will also help the mixture cool down before you blend.

Once the mixture has cooled, transfer to a liquidiser and blend to a smooth consistency, you may need to do this in a couple of batches. Transfer to a clean saucepan and gently heat through before serving.

This would also work with a standard pumpkin but you may need to add more vegetable stock or coconut milk.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Vegan Haggis!

As my regular reader will know, I'm not a fan of mock meats, but I will try anything once, if it's vegan of course! If it tastes too meaty then I'm afraid I cannot finish it, even though its over 25 years since I ate meat, and I doubt my taste buds can remember what meat tastes like! I think its a mind/brain thing, if it looks like meat and in my opinion tastes like meat then my brain thinks it IS meat! 

My sister has just returned from a short break in Scotland and she was surprised to find a vegan haggis for sale in a local shop. She didn't hesitate in buying one and brought it home for me to try.

My sister, is always on the look out for vegan foods for me, even though she is not a vegan or even a vegetarian herself. She also cooks a mean tofu and pea curry, but more about that later. The haggis contains a blend of pulses, seeds and vegetables.

The ingredients: Oats, Lentils (12%), vegetable margarine (non hydrogenated vegetable oil, sustainable palm oil, rapeseed oil in varying proportions, water, salt, emulsifier E471, flavouring), vegetables (9%) (in varying proportions, carrots, swede), kidney beans (8%), mushrooms, onions, sunflower seeds (3%), pumpkin seeds (3%), salt, pepper, spices. SUITABLE FOR VEGETARIANS AND VEGANS.

To cook you had to remove the printed packaging, obviously, and wrap in silver foil. Place the silver foil parcel in an oven proof dish with 2 cm of water in the bottom of the dish.

Bake for 25 minutes in 180°C and remove from oven. Carefully remove the silver foil and the inner packaging, (the skin) and clips to reveal the haggis.

I cut mine in half as it was quite a big portion and served it with mashed potatoes (made with coconut milk and vitalite), cauliflower, broccoli and mashed carrots and parsnips with an onion gravy.

The result, it was truly delicious and didn't at all taste or remind me of meat. It was a cross between sage and onion stuffing and lentil roast. If I can get my hands on another I would eat it again.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Spicy Sweet Dumpling Squash Pots

A couple of days ago, I shared my stuffed squash recipe with you, using a carnival squash. I still have, courtesy of my gardening angel, 2 sweet dumpling squash and believe it or not an Eight-Ball courgette which has turned into a pumpkin!

I never knew that this could happen but after a few Google searches other people were saying the same thing! 

I find it fascinating to know that a summer squash, a courgette, when left, will turn into a winter squash, a pumpkin. Isn't nature truly amazing? 

The skin turns from green to gold and becomes hard. It's magic! As you can tell I am so excited about this, but I have not yet tried the amazing turning courgette, so I will treat as an ordinary pumpkin and for my first recipe I will make spicy pumpkin soup. I'll let you know what this turns out like later in the week. If the recipe is a success I shall grow more of these beauties next year and not worry about using them all up when I have a glut, but leave them to turn into pumpkins.

But for now what shall I do with my two very lovely sweet dumpling squashes? Turn them into spicy pots, of course!

My recipe is a take on a Jamie Oliver recipe called Whole roasted cricket ball squash, which uses gem squash, sun-dried tomatoes and spices. You can view Jamie making this dish here or you'll find it in his cookbook "Jamie at home". My version omits the oregano and cinnamon and uses Porcini powder instead, to give it an earthy mushroom flavour, if I'd had some chestnut mushrooms I would have added those too.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Stuffed Squash

You know when Autumn is finally here as the veg plots are full of ripe winter squashes and the shops are stacking pumpkins high in preparation for Halloween and beyond. Personally I think carving a home grown pumpkin is such a waste, why miss out on all that delicious flavour.

I have three types of winter squashes sitting in a sunny windowsill, almost smiling at me saying pick me pick me, I'll be delicious. Tonight I could resist no more and I chose a carnival squash to have for my tea.

In my opinion, roasting winter squash truly brings out their sweet flavour, and as an added bonus they are extremely good for you too. High in vitamin A and vitamin C, rich in carotenoid antioxidants and they also provide complex-B vitamins, which are B1, B3, B6, pantothenic acid and folate. So all in all a pretty good vegetable to have on your dinner plate!

1 Carnival Squash
1 Carrot
1 Onion
1 Clove of garlic
1 Yellow pepper
½ Tsp Chilli flakes
1 Tsp Ras el hanout
200g Chestnut mushrooms
½ Small Aubergine
3Tbsp Couscous
1 Bunch Coriander

Pre- heat the oven to 180°C. While the oven is heating up prepare the squash. Cut in half lengthways and remove the seeds. Separate the seeds from the pulp, you can roast them and use as a delicious snack. When the oven is ready place the squash cut side up on a roasting tray and bake for 40 minutes or until the flesh is soft.

While the squash is roasting, peel the carrot, onion and garlic and chop into chunks along with the yellow pepper. Add to a food processor and process until chopped finely. Fry in a little olive oil with the chilli flakes and Ras el hanout until the onion is translucent and the carrot is soft. Transfer to a large bowl.

Add the mushrooms and aubergine to the food processor and process until finely chopped. Transfer to the heated frying pan and cook until the mushrooms have browned and the aubergine is cooked through then transfer to the bowl. 

In a separate bowl add the three tablespoons of couscous and just enough hot water to cover. Leave for 5 minutes before you break up the grains with a fork. Meanwhile finely shred the coriander.

Add the couscous and coriander to the bowl and stir to thoroughly combine.

Remove the carnival squash from the oven and spoon the mixture into the hollow squash and return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes to heat through.

Serve at once.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Wolverhampton Vegan Festival - Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about the goodies we had bought at the Wolverhampton Vegan Festival and today I'm going to tell you about the cookery class we attended and meeting Vanessa of Essential Vegan.

After buying our lunch from Rainforest Kitchen we went and sat down to watch a cookery class entitled Tofu Masterclass with Vanessa Almeida of Essential Vegan.

Vanessa shared her tips by cooking two different dishes which included '"mouth-watering mince meat made from defrosted tofu" and "marinated tofu steak". My friend and I had front row seats and we watched Vanessa transform a block of tofu into two healthy vegan meals.

Unfortunately the set up wasn't high tech and it needed Vanessa's husband, Neni, to follow her around with a microphone so we could hear what she said. 

Vanessa didn't let this bother her though and even threw in a few jokes about it. It must be hard to show an audience how to cook when you are not in your own kitchen. Especially when the cooking rings don't get as hot as you would like them too.

Is it 'PA-prick-a' or 'pa-preeka'? 

Vanessa, encouraged the audience to ask questions throughout her show . . . . . .

. . . . . and gave tips

Even when the microphone stopped working, Vanessa carried on with the show................

Vanessa was disappointed not to hear a bigger sizzle when she tipped the tofu mince into a pan.

The show was a success, even with the technical hitches, both Vanessa and Neni did well.

The audience got to try the two recipes Vanessa created, both from her new cookbook "essential vegan". I enjoyed the tofu steak and I make something very similar myself at home as I guess most vegans do. There was however many non-vegans in the audience who loved this dish as there was a lot of 'oo-ing' and 'ah-ing' going on.  I wasn't that overwhelmed by the tofu mince though, but maybe that's because the dish had pineapple in. I'm not a fan of fruit in savoury meals at all, although my friend is, and she thought the dish would stand up to a few different fruits.

After the show we got chatting to Vanessa, who is lovely, and she signed her recipe book, which we had bought at the show, of which £2 goes to animal equality. I asked Vanessa if I could publish the photo's I had taken on my blog and she kindly agreed. She also asked if I would review some of her recipes and give her some feedback, so watch this space over the next few weeks. I wish Vanessa every success with her beautifully designed recipe book and please take a look over at her website, where you can buy a copy of her book.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Wolverhampton Vegan Festival

Happy World Vegan Day! 

Last Saturday my friend (my gardening angel) visited Wolverhampton Vegan Festival and we had a fabulous time. The Civic Hall was packed with stalls all selling vegan items from food and drinks (obviously) to clothes, make-up and beauty products. Between us we spent an absolute fortune but it was worth every penny!

The festival was over two floors of the Wolves Civic and included catering stalls, cakes & confectionery, other food & drink stalls, cosmetics and toiletries, vegan support & information, animal protection groups & sanctuaries, environmental & awareness campaigns and various other stalls. My favourite stalls included: Rainforest Kitchen, Goody Good Stuff, Ms Cupcake, Hempish, Toucan Fruit and Honesty Cosmetics.

After having a quick look around the festival and buying some goodies we were hungry and decided on Rainforest Kitchen for our lunch. We both had a Rainforest Box which contained around 7 different salads including, spinach, tomato & cucumber, tropical coleslaw, carribbean sunrise, red quinoa, wild rice, mungbeans & lentils and chickpeas, the box also included a falafel type ball, a dollop of sprouted houmous and a choice of dressing; tomato or hot pepper and all for £6.00. It was absolutely delicious and we sat eating ours in a cookery class, but more about that tomorrow.

There just wasn't enough time to fit everything in, as well as stalls and cookery classes there were also comedians, talks and workshops. I would have loved to go to the hemp-superfood talk, the vegan nutrition talk and the yoga workshop but we were just too busy visiting all the stalls and talking to the stall holders. Roll on next year!

We left the festival laden down with our goodies and as well as the soy milk you were given free on entering the festival I also bought; Organic Hulled Hemp Seeds, Hemp Tea, Home Made Seiten, Vegourmet Jeezini cheese slices, Honest Moisturising Cream and the Essential Vegan Cookbook. The cheese slices were the nicest I've ever tried I couldn't believe the taste and texture of them they were fantastic. I had to plead with the stallholder to let me buy one as they were only being used as samples. I'm dying to eat them up but then again I think they would be great on a vegan cheese board for Christmas. I need to order some more in! Unfortunately I didn't realise that the seiten had to be stored in the freezer below -8°C and as I don't have a freezer it has sat in my fridge and I'm not sure if it will be safe to eat. Can anyone help?

The hemp tea is fantastic and I'm really enjoying a cuppa especially after I've finished work, it seems to help me unwind. I'll definitely be ordering more of this. The stallholders of Hempish were full of useful information and told us many benefits of growing hemp. They told us that hemp needs no pesticides because it is unpalatable to insects, it needs no herbicides because it grows too quickly for any weed to compete, it takes about 100 days to mature, and it is one of the nutritious food sources in the world. It is one of the best plant sources of plant protein and fat you can find. The seed contains all nine of the essential amino acids and essential fatty acids that are necessary to maintain a healthy life. How could we resist in buying some? We were told that you can eat it with cereals, salads, add to hot meals or use in a smoothie. But its delicious just on its own, I could easily it the recommended 3 tablespoons a day just like that!

My other purchase was some moisturising cream from Honesty Cosmetics, since completing my aromatherapy blending course I've been looking for an affordable base cream to add my essential oils to and this fit the bill. I purchased a small tub of 50g for £5 and I'm deliberating which essential oils to add. I shall make a few different samples over the next few weeks which I'm looking forward to doing.

Come back tomorrow to read about the cookery class we attended and meeting Vanessa from essential vegan.