Crunchy Christmas biscotti

Day 3 of my Sensitive Foodie advent calendar, and it’s another sweet treat. Perfect for dunking in a hot coffee or dairy-free chocolate on a soggy or chilly winter’s day, these super crunchy biscotti are packed with seasonal spices and a satisfying crunch.

I have a friend who makes amazing biscotti, or rather cantuccini.  Being Italian, she follows a traditional recipe using eggs, lots of refined sugar, baked with passion and love. Cantuccini are made with almonds and are designed to dip in sweet wine rather than coffee, which sounds like a wonderful idea!

Biscotti means ‘twice baked’. This process of double baking is what makes these biscuits so crunchy and dipable. It does take a little more time than your normal cookie or biscuit, but it’s well worth the effort.

I’ve sat in my friend’s kitchen watching her make her gorgeous cantuccini, the wonderful aroma wafting in the air and wondered how to make them fully plant-based and less refined. After a few experiments, I’m very pleased with the outcome. They can be made gluten-free as well, which is good news for anyone avoiding gluten. They keep in an air-tight container for a few weeks, so you can make a big batch to tide you over the Christmas season.

There’s all sorts of flavour combinations you can use; to make these seasonal I’ve added some dried cranberries with the almonds as well as some all spice flavouring to bring in the Christmas taste. You could use cinnamon or cloves, or a combination – whatever you have to hand. If you’re feel like making some home-made gifts, you could bake a batch then pop them in pretty gift bags.
So why not give these a go and get ready for some seasonal dunking? Don’t forget to let me know how you get on.

Almond, cranberry and spice biscotti (makes approx 26)
165ml dairy-free milk
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
75g coconut sugar
4 tablespoons unsweetened apple sauce
4 tablespoons hempseed or olive oil
200g spelt flour/gluten free flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 – 1 teaspoon ground all spice
1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt
1/2 teaspoon almond essence85g almonds, sliced
65g dried cranberries

Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. Put a silicon baking sheet onto to tray, or line with baking paper.
Pour the dairy-free milk into a bowl and add the ground flaxseed, coconut sugar, apple sauce, hempseed oil, and almond essence. Whisk well to combine and then leave to thicken for a few minutes.

Place the flour, baking powder, all spice and salt into another bowl and stir to mix well. Pour the wet mixture into the dry and stir to combine – it’s a dry mix so hands will be needed to finally pull it all together. If it’s a little wet and soft, add some more flour so it doesn’t stick. Add the almonds and cranberries, working them into the dough with your fingers so none stick out the sides. This takes a couple of minutes to ensure everything is spread throughout the dough. Cut the dough in half.

Place one half onto the baking sheet and press out out into an oblong shape, pushing the edges and ends straight with your hands. It should be approximately 28×8 cms in size. Repeat with the other half of dough, then place the baking sheet in the oven for 25 minutes or until lightly golden and firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the tray for about 30 minutes.

Once cool, cut into slices approximately 2cm thick; place each slice back onto the baking tray lying on it’s side. Pop back in the oven for 6 minutes, then remove, turn each slice over and pop back again for another 5 minutes. Remove one the slices are very firm to the touch and golden brown. Remove, leave to cool (they harden a bit more) and then keep in an air-tight tin if you don’t eat them all at once. Enjoy!

Meet Sue

It’s not often these days thatI rush home to catch the beginning of a TV programme, but last night it was different. And it’s definitely not often that the programme I’m rushing to see is Come Dine with Me. But when you know someone appearing on it, it’s different!

After months of waiting, the opening episode of the new series was in Brighton,  and featured a gorgeous eclectic Brighton mix of individuals, including the lovely Sue Bradley.

I met Sue through a fabulous networking organisation called the Mumpreneurs Networking Club (MNC) and got to know her better after she came along to my Eat Well, Live Well course (although I did not know she played the saw!!!). Sue is a yoga teacher and an Eating Psychology Coach, and is passionate about fabulous, real food. If you missed last night’s episode, follow this link to see the fun, frolics and food http://www.channel4.com/programmes/come-dine-with-me

I caught up with Sue recently to find out more about what she does as an Eating Psychology Coach: here’s what she told me.

Me: So Sue, what exactly is Eating Psychology all about?

Sue: Eating Psychology is all about HOW and WHY you eat, rather that WHAT you eat. My practice incorporates mind-body nutrition and neuro-slimming for overeating; simple and effective techniques to help people change how they think about food and banish overeating and negative behavioural patterns for good. Basically, I help people transform their relationship with food.

Me: Sounds good! What type of people do you work with?

Sue: Anyone who wants to change the way they eat. I meet a lot of people who have been on diets that don’t work for years, obsessive about counting calories or weighing and logging every ingredient and develop an unhealthy relationship with food. Or others who overeat and are stuck in a negative mindset.

Me: What about people who find themselves addicted to certain foods?

Sue: Yes, I also offer food education and re-education for those who already know what to eat, but are still finding themselves unwittingly consuming things that they really don’t want to. This is often due to the addictive qualities of the food-related products we are surrounded by. This involves various processes, including demystifying ingredients on food packaging and helping people to shop smarter and healthier.

Me: So how can people get to see you?
Sue: I work with clients on a one to one basis. I can meet people in person here in Brighton or across the South East and London, or can meet worldwide via Skype, so I can be accessible to anyone. There’s more information on my website http://eatingpsychology.co.uk

Me: You have a YouTube channel too
Sue: Yes, I have some short food education vlogs that people can watch – people can find out more by watching this short video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7phY-awavg

So there you have it, everything you needed to know about Sue’s Eating Psychology but didn’t find out by watching Come Dine with Me! Mind you, Sue’s dishes made my mouth water, especially her dessert. Luckily, the recipes are available as an ebook – click here to get yours http://eatingpsychology.co.uk/come-dine-with-me/. Right, key lime pie, I’m coming for you!

Chia up with jam

My son recently declared “I just love jam”. It made us all laugh as we hadn’t actually been talking about jam at the time, it was just a random statement that came from nowhere. Of course!

Mind you, he does have a point. I particularly like a rustic homemade conserve jam-packed (excuse the pun!) with ripe fruit. Of course, the problem with jam is it’s high sugar content, the key ingredient for preserving the fruit. Once a jar is open, how to resist eating it all at once?

According to food trend pundits, ‘low sugar’ is going to be a key feature in 2017. Eating a mainly whole food plant based diet, my sugar tends to come in it’s natural form; I try to avoid highly refined sugars partly because of the strain it puts on the body, but mainly because I seem to be particularly susceptible to sugar lows if I eat anything with high levels of the white stuff. I become more ‘panicgry’ than ‘hangry”, not a pleasant experience!

And being the beginning of the year with many people resolving to eat better and/or lose weight, I figured some healthy ‘jam’ would be just the thing to keep the spirits up.

If you haven’t come across chia seeds yet, then this is a good recipe to start with as it’s so simple. Chia seeds are tiny nutrient dense seeds that are a fabulous source of healthy omega 3 fatty acids, protein, fibre and and other nutrients like manganese, magnesium and various vitamins. You only need a small amount as they swell in fluid, softening and releasing all the goodness hidden within. This swelling thickens up the fruit purée, creating the jammy consistency you want in a fruit conserve. Chia seed jam works best with berries as they contain their own seeds – apricot jam might look a bit odd with lots of swollen seeds in it.

I like to use frozen mixed berries for my jam, but raspberries by themselves are also lovely. And that’s it, no sweetener or other flavours. This can make it a bit tart, but you can really taste the real fruit flavour.

Once made, you can use it wherever you would use jam; on porridge, toast, rice pudding, ice cream, yoghurt (all dairy free versions of course!), in cake fillings, on meringues, scones or rice cakes – on whatever you like really!

Of course, the thing to bear in mind is that without the added sugar, chia jam doesn’t have the same
shelf life as a normal jar. It keeps fresh in the fridge for 5 days or so, that’s if a resident jam lover doesn’t finish it all in one go.

So give this a go; one of my key rules of eating well is never to feel deprived. So it you’re on a New Year health kick, this will definitely hit the jam spot!

Chia seed jam
150g frozen berries of choice ***
1 1/2 tablespoons chia seeds
30-45ml water
Place the frozen fruit into a saucepan, add the water and simmer until fully defrosted and soft. Mash any remaining whole fruit into a pulp. Add a little more water if needed, Stir in the chia seeds, simmer for a minute, then turn off the heat. Leave to cool in the pan for a couple of minutes, then transfer to a small bowl to cool completely. Once cool, it
should be thick and gloopy. Transfer to the fridge, or eat straight away. Enjoy!

** In the summer, if you have a glut of fresh berries, make up a big batch of jam then divide into portions and freeze to use when berries are not in season.

New Year, new Eating – the whole issue

So, what are your resolutions for 2017? Most people tend to say eat better and exercise – both positive actions, often short lived though! Making changes can be hard, especially if you are doing it on your own. With social media, however, you never need be alone now, and there are campaigns throughout the year you can join in with to help keep you going on your well-being mission.

There’s been a huge rise in eating a more natural plant based diet and the Veganuary campaign during January has played a big part in this (see www.veganuary.com for more information). It’s easy to access, with lots of information, ideas and recipes to keep you interested throughout the month, and hopefully feeling keen and enthusiastic to make lasting changes to the way you eat as well as your health.

Big campaigns that raise awareness are great, and as customer demands increase, so does supply of products – you only need to see the expansion of ‘free from’ ranges in the supermarkets to note how animal-free is becoming mainstream. But that’s where my word of warning comes in – just because something is ‘vegan’ doesn’t automatically give it ‘healthy’ status. Chips (as a rule) are vegan after all!

Essentially, the way I look at it from a nutrition, and therefore health, side of things is that processed and refined food is still generally junk, whether it’s animal or plant derived. Once the ‘whole’ has been taken out of ‘food’ and chemicals and extras added in the nutritional content goes down and the negative impact on us, and the environmental cost, goes up.

As a sensitive eater, vegan processed food is often still a no-go area, with yeasts added in all over the place, whether as yeast extract or ‘natural’ flavourings and preservatives. And you’ll often still find a high amount of refined sugars in varying forms as well as highly refined oils.

So what to do? The best way is to eat as close to a food’s natural form as possible most of the time and enjoy it in all it’s lovely gloriousness, and add in a few plant based extras in every now and then. Then you will get all the amazing benefits of going plant based, and will feel so good and energised that Veganuary will slip into February, then March……..see where it will take you!

So if you’re taking the plant based plunge for New Year – enjoy!  Don’t forget there’s loads of easy, tasty recipes for you to try on this blog. And if you want to know more, then why not check out my Eat Well, Live Well course that starts again at the end of the month? You will gain loads of essential information about eating whole food and plant based plus a whole bunch of amazing recipes, meet some great people and dine on dishes made by me. What more could you want to really get 2017 off to a great start? Check out http://www.thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com/courses.html

Wishing you all a happy and healthy New Year!

Christmas preparations

It’s that time of year again where we shop until we drop, and eat until we burst! Now we’re actually into December, my mind is turning towards Christmas cooking. I love all the seasonal flavours with warming spices, sharp pickles, rich nut dishes and crunchy greens.

Christmas can be challenging if you are a sensitive eater, or are cooking for someone who is. This is not the time of year to miss out! With this in mind, I’m going to be doing a series of blog posts to help you out at this time of year. All recipes are plant based and can be easily adapted to gluten free too.

To start you off, here are some links to existing posts from the last couple of years:

1) A useful nut roast. This is my go-to basic nut roast recipe, simple to make and delicious eaten cold on Boxing Day too. You can jazz it up with some more herbs, or put slices of tomato or mushroom in the middle. A firm favourite with us.
http://thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com/planning-christmas-dinner/

2) Tasty tarts! I made these last Christmas for one of my supper clubs and they went down a storm. Worth making if you want something a little more innovative than nut roast. Use your pastry of choice – I now make one with minimal fat and will be adding the recipe soon
http://thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com/christmas-chestnut-tartlets/

3) The ultimate red cabbage. Perfect for Christmas Day, everyone can eat it and it can be made a couple of days in advance if needed. What more could you want!
http://thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com/comforting-cabbage/

4) A lighter dish. When you’ve eaten so much and are looking for something a bit lighter, this fennel stuffed pepper hits the spot. Sumptuous flavours without the need for a post-dinner snooze, unless you want one of course!
http://thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com/thanks-delia/

5) Rich paté without the meat. This lentil and walnut paté will hit the taste spot for a Boxing Day spread and no-one will guess how easy it is to make.
http://thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com/amazingly-tasty-lentil-and-walnut-pate/

Finally, if you have a sensitivity to egg, dairy or fish, don’t forget to check that your booze. Many beers, wines and ciders use animal proteins in filtering the yeasty gunk from their products which will then linger in the final product. Check out this old blog post to find out more and I’ll be doing a little update with some recommendations – it’s a hard life testing these things out for you!
http://thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com/milk-in-wine-surely-not/
Let the Christmas countdown begin!

Smoky Bonfire night baked beans

It’s Bonfire Night tomorrow, an evening of fireworks, sparkles, chilly feet and warming comfort food. Thinking about it, it seems a strange event to mark each year in our increasingly secular multicultural society – a day to commemorate the failure to blow up Parliament, a plot devised by Catholics against Protestants. Remarkably, it was actually illegal NOT to celebrate Bonfire Night up until 1959!

No matter what the historical background is, many of us still celebrate the events of 5th November in our own way. Now that my kids are pretty much independent, there’s no real excuse to set off our own fireworks, but I do love watching everyone’s displays. Although, after having been in India during Diwali, our fireworks are more damp squibs than the thunderous assault of noise and colour you experience there!

Bonfire night makes me think of food – thick comforting soup and piping hot baked potatoes always spring to mind, as do Boston beans. Traditionally made with fatty pork rind and thick molasses, my husband’s best friend made these beans for a couple of Bonfire nights we celebrated together in our early 20’s (along with lots of alcohol I seem to remember!). Deep smoky, rich flavours mixed with hearty beans, they were perfect for a cold winters night spent in the garden with colourful explosives.

Beans are of course a fantastic source of protein, fibre and micronutrients, and a staple in any diet, plant based or otherwise. Research has found they can help reduce the onset of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer, and that if more were included in everyone’s diet it would have a big impact on long term health.

So as it’s that time of year, I’ve made my own smoky baked beans, similar to Boston beans but of course plant based and animal free. Packed full of deep smoky flavours, you can make this on the cooker top, in the oven or in a slow cooker if you have one to hand. And if you have time, make it the day before so the flavours have a chance to develop. Serve on top of a crunchy skin baked potato with a good dollop of dairy free sour cream, this will keep you so warm and snuggly whilst you partake in our slightly odd historical celebration and enjoy the fireworks

Smoky beans stuffed potato
Smoky baked beans
400g tin of beans (flageolet are good)
1 small onion
1 large clove of garlic
500g carton of passata
1 heaped teaspoon smoked paprika
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon red chilli powder
2 tablespoons coconut sugar
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
salt and pepper
coconut amines or tamari
If you are baking in the oven, pre-heat to 150ºC and use an oven proof pan like Le Crueset if you have it. If you are using a slow cooker, prepare in a saucepan and transfer to the pot at the oven stage of the recipe.
Finely dice the onion and garlic clove. Heat the pan and add a little olive oil or water, then sauté the onion until it starts to soften. Stir in the garlic and cook for a minute, making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Pour in the passata and stir in the spices, coconut sugar and vinegar and stir well to combine. Fill the passata carton with water and add to the pan. Stir in the beans then add salt and pepper plus tamari or coconut amines to taste (this provides a deep, umami flavour). Put the lid on the pan.
If you are using a slow cooker, pour the mix into the bowl, put on the lid and leave to cook for 6 -8 hours.
If you are cooking in the oven, now is the time to pop it in. If you are cooking on the hob, turn down the heat and simmer. For both the oven and hob, stir after an hour and add more water if it’s drying out. Do the same after 2 hours and check the flavour – your beans will be ready after about 2 1/2 hours. If you are making in advance, leave to cool then reheat gently.
Serve on pipping hot baked potatoes. Enjoy!

Celebrating life on the veg

Today is World Vegan Day, a celebration of eating everything that plants have to offer. In fact, eating plant based is so awesome, the whole of November has been designated as World Vegan Month!

Veganism has become the fastest growing lifestyle movement in the UK – there are over 500,000 vegans, 3 1/2 times more than in 2006. Campaigns such as Veganuary and Meatless Monday have raised awareness and as more research reveals the damage caused by our Western diet, many are deciding to go and live life on the veg.

So what are the main reasons for this change in lifestyle?

1) Health – as the world gets fatter and sicker, many have looked to take control of their dietary choices and gone plant based. Of course, being vegan does not automatically mean healthy, as there are many highly processed, nutrient poor vegan options! That’s why I always harp on about eating whole food and plant based – that’s the healthy bit; and there’s loads of research out there that backs it up. After all, what we put in our bodies breaks down into chemical reactions at cellular level – whole foods maximise the nutrients for these reactions. So putting more of the good stuff in lessens the bad effects like heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Which leads me to number two……

2) Weight loss – when I went dairy free, I lost weight. When I went mainly plant based, I lost more, even though I was eating, and enjoying, loads. I went from always being on a diet, to never having to think about weight gain. Nice! And I’m not alone. Research revealed that people who went on a vegan diet lost 5kg more than any other form of diet. But that’s as long as junk is taken out. No wonder it’s becoming popular with Beyonce and the like!

3) Animal welfare – traditionally one of the most important tenets of veganism, factory farms and poor treatment turns many off being meat eaters and on to the veg. Documentaries like Cowspiracy and Earthlings have had a major impact on it’s viewers. Short films showing the conditions and treatment of animals in industrial slaughter houses is enough to make that steak look less appealing. Even though my journey to eating mainly plant based was motivated by my food sensitivities, the things I have learnt about the meat industry has definitely changed my view point.

4) Environment – going plant based is the single most direct effect a person can have on the environment. Producing food from animals is so costly to the planet, using up massive amounts of land and water, and contributing more green house gases than transport. That’s why campaigns like Meatless Monday are important for our world – less contributes so much more!

Everyone has their own reason for going more plant based; the internet has really opened up the debate and this increase in numbers is making it more mainstream. We delve into this topic in more detail in my Eat Well Live Well course, starting again in the New Year if you’re interested in finding out more.

So why not have your own little celebration, raise a glass of (vegan) wine and enjoy living life on the veg!

Oh so gorgeous lemon and blueberry cake

Over the weekend, I was wondering who decides if it’s a special day or week. For instance, last week was National Curry Week, celebrating what has become one of the nation’s favourite genre of dishes (and rightly so!). Apparently it was also Humphrey’s Pyjama Week. Plus there were special days including World Arthritis Day, World Sight Day and World Food Day, as well as a few others. It was a very busy week!

Of course, these special days and weeks are awareness or fundraising campaigns, often for causes that slip out of the limelight when there is so much going on in the world. On occasion, they’re more of a marketing campaign for the companies who sponsor them (cynical head fully on). They also give bloggers something to talk about!

So with all that in mind. let’s raise a floury hand and a cup of tea to this week’s special week – National Baking Week! Something we can all enjoy with gusto! The popularity of The Great British Bake Off really does show how much we as a nation value cake. There are some truly mouthwatering offerings constructed before our eyes, with sweat, tears and tension folded in for our viewing delight. All we need is smell-o-vision to make it perfect. There’s even a GBBO drinking game been devised, with extra shots quaffed for a sunken disaster or soggy bottom (or so my student daughter tells me!).

Cake has always been important to The Sensitive Foodie, and I’m not alone, as my most frequently read posts are baked goodies. Eating whole food and plant based doesn’t mean that cake is banished, just adapted – and it still tastes as yummy, if not better.

This lemon and blueberry cake is definitely a winner. It’s easy to make and is reliably successful. Plus, with the addition of blueberries, you could claim it’s a super food! It works just as well with gluten free flour as normal wholemeal flour, and the coconut sugar adds a certain deep richness you can’t achieve with super refined caster sugar.

One thing to watch out for – don’t panic if you think the batter is too runny. I think this every time I make it, but it always firms up beautifully with a light, fluffy texture. Just keep the faith and don’t panic!

The lemon drizzle on the top is optional, as are additional fruit decoration. It just depends on how fancy you want to be! So have a go, and start National Baking Week off with a corker – make sure you get a slice though before hungry hands get on it!

Lemon and blueberry cake

Lemon and blueberry cake

250g self-raising flour – wholemeal or gluten free blend
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
100g coconut sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
220ml dairy-free milk (I use rice milk)
85ml olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 unwaxed lemon, zest and juice
100g fresh blueberries
To top (optional)
Juice of a lemon and 2 tablespoons coconut sugar (for drizzle)
extra blueberries and/or raspberries
Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. Pop the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and mix together well. In another bowl, add the sugar, maple syrup, olive oil, dairy free milk, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla essence and stir well to combine.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix together well, but lightly so you don’t lose all the air bubbles created from the lemon juice hitting the raising agents. Quickly stir in the blueberries, pour into the prepared tin (remember it will be pretty wet), tap on the worktop then place in the oven for 35 -40 minutes until the top is nicely browned and a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly in the tin.
If you’re adding lemon drizzle (really worth it) mix the lemon juice and coconut sugar together in a small bowl. Prick lots of holes in the top of the cake, with a toothpick or fine skewer, then pour spoonfuls of the lemon mixture over the top, letting it soak into the holes. Leave to cool in the tin for 20 minutes then tip out onto a cooling wrack, peel off the baking paper and leave to cool completely. Scatter fresh berries over the top, and cut into slices to serve.

Aquafaba asparagus and pea savoury mousse

Sometimes I feel really sorry for my friends who come to dinner, as they end up being guinea pigs for new recipe ideas or dishes, although I try to be careful not to scare anyone too much! Having invited a couple over recently, I found my mind wandering off on a creative menu tangent as I know they are quite up for trying different things. So much so that when I apologised for experimenting on them, they replied they would be disappointed if I didn’t. Now that’s good friends!

One of the things that I had been thinking about was how to make a dairy free plant based savoury mousse for a starter that was light and fluffy but still satisfying and, of course, packed full of flavour. My process for devising dishes is to first check how it’s made traditionally. This means getting out my trusted copy of the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book. An 18th birthday present from my parents, it’s well used and loved, as this is how I learnt to cook. I pretty much failed cookery at school as I tended not to follow rules or recipes and made a mess – not much changed on that side of things! This trusted tome contains a few savoury mousse recipes. All contain gelatine, milk, cream and egg whites. Not much whole food and plant based there.

Next research tool is of course the internet. There are so many amazing ideas and recipes out there, but despite some time spent on google, I couldn’t find one that hit the spot. I have used aquafaba before (the brine from a tin of chickpeas in case you haven’t heard of this amazing fluid) and knew this should work as an egg white substitute, but all the mousse recipes were chocolate or fruit. So it was back to the traditional recipe, with plant based dairy free substitutes.

I figured the three main items that needed substituting were cream, egg whites and gelatine. We had the aquafaba for the egg white. For the cream I made cashew cream, although I guess any dairy free cream would work (there’s a few different ones you can buy like Alpro soya cream or Oatly oat cream). And for the gelatine there’s agar agar which works really well but always makes me stressed as I never think it will.

As you can see from the ingredients list, there’s not much more apart from that – it’s all in the method. I was relieved when the mousse set perfectly and plopped onto the plate holding it’s shape. And even if I say so myself, it tastes delicious as the asparagus and peas are the key flavours, not anything else.

So did my friends mind being experimented on? Well, the echoes of ‘mmm’s’ and empty plates said it all. So if you’re up for it, give this a go. It takes a little time as there’s a few different elements to pull together, especially if you’re making your own cashew cream, but it’s really worth it.

Aquafaba pea and asparagus mousse
Asparagus and pea savoury mousse (serves 6)
60ml aquafaba
250g asparagus
100g frozen peas
handful fresh mint, chopped
salt and white pepper
300ml cashew or other non-dairy cream
1 heaped teaspoon agar agar powder
First wash the asparagus and trim any woody ends off. Separate the tips from the stems and roughly chop both. Heat a little olive oil or water in the bottom of a pan and sauté the asparagus stems for a few minutes. Add in the frozen peas and a little water and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the asparagus tips and cook until soft. Leave to cool then pop in a blender with the dairy free cream, chopped mint and some salt and pepper, then blend until smooth. Check the flavour and add more seasoning or mint if you want.
Pour this luscious green mix into a clean saucepan, sprinkle the agar agar over the top and heat gently. Do not stir until the mix starts to slowly bubble, even though you really want to! Once simmering, whisk the mix gently for 5 minutes or so on a low heat until it starts to thicken and stick to the side of the pan. The heat needs to be low otherwise the cashew cream may catch on the bottom of the saucepan and burn. When the mixture coats the back of a spoon, turn off the heat and pour into a large bowl to cool, stirring from time to time.
If you haven’t already, drain the brine from a tin of chickpeas into a bowl Measure out 60ml and place into a medium sized mixing bowl. Whisk with an electric hand blender until strong white peaks are formed (the first time you do this, it blows your mind!) – this can take between 5 and 10 minutes. Grab your bowl of asparagus mix. Hopefully it should be cooler – it doesn’t need to be cold, just not steaming. Spoon in a couple of heaped tablespoons of fluffy aquafaba and stir in very carefully and lightly as you want to keep the air in it. Your mix will get a little more fluid. Add more aquafaba as you think is needed – I left a tablespoon out as my mix felt quite loose.
Place six moulds onto a baking tray. Spoon the mousse mix into the moulds, give them a tap then place in the fridge for at least 5 hours to set.
To serve, gently run a knife around the edge of the mousse in the mould and tip onto your serving plate of choice.

Courgette and cumin soup

Are you still struggling with a glut of courgettes? Then you will be so grateful for having an abundant harvest when you try this soup.

You may feel that courgette soup is a bit weird, maybe a little thin and watery or flavourless. Fear not – this super easy soup tastes absolutely amazing and is so simple to make that your glut will disappear in a flash as you bulk make and freeze in portions for later on in the year, a tasty reminder of warmer days on a chilly winters evening! It’s thick and creamy but still dairy free.

Cumin is a very popular spice in our house, being a key ingredient in many Mexican, Indian and Middle Eastern dishes. Slightly peppery and distinctly aromatic, cumin adds a wonderfully deep and seductive flavour to dishes and works amazingly in this soup. Whilst there are some nutritional goodies tucked inside, cumin’s great coup is it’s positive effect on the digestion.

Cumin has been used traditionally in Ayruvedic medicine in India for centuries as a digestive aid and expeller of gas, quite handy if you eat a mainly plant based diet! Special phytonutrients not only help stimulate gut motility, so moving things along inside the intestines, but can also stimulate the secretion of digestive enzymes in the pancreas to aid digestion and the assimilation of nutrients. I visited an Ayurvedic day spa whilst living in Bangalore (my synchronised Ayurvedic massage was quite an experience – definitely not relaxing!) and was presented with lukewarm water seasoned with cumin seeds before lunch as a digestive aid. It was rather enjoyable once I’d got used to. In fact, the aroma of toasted cumin seeds always brings back fond, if funny, memories of that day.

So why not give this a go and spice up your courgette glut with this tasty aromatic soup – your gut will love you for it!

Courgette and cumin soup

Courgette and cumin soup 
1 large onion chopped,
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 large potato, diced
1 large stick celery, chopped
3-4 large courgettes, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
sprinkle of celery salt
750mls vegetable stock
salt and pepper
To finish – soya yoghurt, toasted cumin, parsley
Heat a dash of oil in a large pan and sauté the onion and cumin seeds for 5 minutes or so until the onion has softened and the seeds are lightly toasted. Add the potato and celery and cook for another few minutes, then stir in the courgettes and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring regularly so the vegetables don’t stick.
Pour in enough stock to cover the vegetable, don’t just use it all in one go as the courgettes release a lot of water and may make the soup too thin. Add the celery salt and simmer for 15-20 minutes until all the vegetable are soft and the aroma smells rich and gorgeous. Season with salt and pepper to taste and leave to cool slightly.
Blend the soup until smooth, add more of the stock if it’s too thick, then reheat gently. Toast some more cumin seeds to garnish if you wish and serve with the toppings or a good glug of extra virgin olive oil. Enjoy.