A couple of years ago I was asked if I had a recipe for a plant-based, lower fat version of Simnel cake. At that point, I didn’t, but it peaked my interest. Continue reading “Simnel cake”
Some days, a slice of cake and cup of tea is the only thing that will hit the spot! And whilst I do love all sorts of cakes, a simple, a simple, light fruit cake is still one of my favourites. Continue reading “Simple fruit cake”
If you’re looking for a healthy icing recipe, please look away now! This is definitely not it! However, if you want to ice a celebration or Christmas cake and need an easy plant-based, oil free recipe, then you’re in the right place. Continue reading “Royal icing”
This traditional fruit pudding is not to everyone’s taste, but I still feel like Christmas Day is only complete after the pudding’s been set on fire and served with lashings of custard (yes custard – I’ve never been a brandy butter kind of person, even before I went dairy free!) Continue reading “Christmas Pudding”
With only a two weeks until Easter, the supermarkets are full of seasonal goodies, most of which are a no-go area for me! It’s not really an issue as I can make most things at home myself or do without. But there is one particular treat I really missed for years – hot cross buns. Continue reading “Vegan sourdough hot cross buns”
I do love a vegetable that’s adaptable, something that can be used in all sorts of dishes both sweet and savoury. And sometimes in surprising ways. Pumpkins and squash definitely hit that criteria. In beautiful shades of orange, these lovely gourds maybe be harvested in autumn, but can last all through the long winter. Continue reading “Sweet pumpkin pie”
One of the outcomes of lockdown for us is we have had time to create new raised beds to start growing our own veggies. This is actually the third time we’ve done this (we kept moving!) and these ones are by far the best. For a start, we have much more space (oh boy do we have space!) rather than squeezing them into a small corner of a small garden as before. That’s not to say that growing veggies in a small space is not worth it. It definitely is. We also spent more time researching and learning how to grow in tandem with nature. Less impact, more output.
Not that I can really take much credit for our lovely new beds! My hubby spent more time and energy researching and building them. After much debate he chose to use a technique called hugelkultur. A centuries old technique from Germany and Easter Europe, it uses garden debris as the source of nutrients needed for new plants to grow. It’s basically a big compost heap!
We wanted to build up a structure to our beds, so we used wood to create an outline and dug down a little into the soil, taking off the grass layer and a little more. This gave a large area that needed filling – fortunately we have a lot of garden debris to use! A few logs on the base were covered with more tree cuttings, then grass cuttings, stuff from the compost bins, more grass, some sand, then the top grass layer we cut out, the soil dug out and finally finished with some bought organic compost (as we wanted to use them now). We buried so much! Covered up, the debris will break down, releasing nutrients into the soil providing nourishment for our fresh produce. Well that was the plan – we were not too sure how well it would work year one…..
I am pleased to say, so far so good! The squash in particular are going crazy and the beans are prolific. And the courgettes that were planted rather late are just beginning to flourish. So much so, I see a glut coming in a few weeks time!
Courgettes are funny vegetables. I love them now, but used to hate them as a kid. Their high water content can make them tricky to cook. In soups and stews they have the potential to make them too watery, fritters and veggie cakes too wet and steamed they can go from firm to a horrid mush in the blink of an eye. But on a good day, with the right treatment, they are a delight.
Nutrition wise, courgettes are excellent sources of vitamin C, potassium and phytonutrients like betacarotene, zeaxanthin and lutein. You’ll also find a reasonable does of B vitamins, manganese and vitamin K (which is in the news at the moment relating to the Covid 19 virus). Vitamin C and phytonutrients play an antioxidant role in the body, quashing damaging free radicals. Betacarotene, zeaxanthin and lutein all support eye health which is good to know if you are at risk of macular degeneration or other age-related eye conditions. Potassium is important for good blood pressure control and is a key player in cell health. It’s easily lost once food is processed, so eating courgettes raw or lightly cooked can really support your health. If you’re interested in how to manage your blood pressure or health issues with food, we discuss this in much more detail in my online course.
If you are heading into a glut of courgettes – lucky you! There’s so much you can make with them. Here are a few ideas:
- Make summer soups. This courgette and cumin soup is particularly tasty
- Add them to pasta sauces, veggie chillis, stir fries, fajitas or risotto. This red rice risotto works well with courgettes.
- Stuff them! One of the recipes on my Eat Well Live Well course is a gorgeous aduki bean stuffed courgette boat (another good reason to take the course 😉 )
- It’s getting a bit retro now, but use them to make courgetti. Here’s a BBC Food article about what to do.
- If you squeeze out excess water, courgettes make tasty fritters and veggie cakes.
Make cake! Oh yes, courgettes provide moisture and nutrients to cake – it’s a great way to get courgette haters on board! Try this easy courgette loaf cake.
I’ll be experimenting with more recipes over the next few months by the looks of it, so no doubt you’ll see more ideas on the blog soon as we work our way through them. What are your favourite courgette recipes? I’d love to know.
As for our veg garden, it has a lot of room for development. I can see many more beds being built over the next couple of years as we learn more about growing our own food in a way that supports and sustains our local ecosystem. We’re not aiming for self-sufficiency, but being plant-based we certainly hope to grow more than we buy. Let’s see what happens!
One of the positive things about the Covid 19 lockdown is that more people are getting in the kitchen and cooking. It may be due to an increase in free time or a lack of access to shopping options. But I would like to think – and hope that – it’s down to a sudden awareness that food is really important to health and to wealth and that giving it the attention it deserves is a key way forward in staying well. Mind you, I’ve always been an optimist….! Continue reading “Chocolate and banana muffins”
I do love a flapjack! I used to be a bit addicted to them when I was at school – that delicious butter and sugar combo just hit the spot! My friends mum used to make the best ones. I’m not sure what the magic ingredient was but they were just too good! Continue reading “Apple and date flapjacks”
Easter is associated with many things – the life of Jesus and the religious festival, Spring, chicks and, of course, chocolate! Chocolate eggs became a thing in the early 19th century, first made in France and Germany and then by Cadbury’s in the UK.
Eggs have been part of a spring festival way before Christianity used them to symbolise the resurrection. Used to represent rebirth or awakening, eggs appeared in pagan, Egyptian and Hindu mythology and have long been given as spring gifts, often beautifully decorated.
So chocolate and eggs are synonymous with this time of year. But what if you can’t or don’t eat either of these? Dairy-free and vegan chocolate is widely available so that’s not an issue for many people. However, if you follow a particular dietary programme for health like Overcoming MS then chocolate in its hard form is out due to the high level of saturated fat. So what to do (apart from sulk?) – make cake!
These chocolate cupcakes contain lots of cocoa or cacao powder which doesn’t have the added cocoa butter (which is where the fat is). It does contain all the lovely phytonutrients though, especially if you used raw cacao rather than cocoa. The frosting is a tasty and healthy alternative to heavy butter icing, and as it includes sweet potato you also get all those extra phytonutrients too. Which makes these cupcakes even better and so you can eat loads……well maybe not, but you get the super tasty chocolate hit as well as goodness, so that can’t be a bad thing!
I made these cakes and frosting on my live Facebook cooking session this week; here is the recording in case you missed it and fancied a watch. Plus the full recipe is below with all the ingredients and method. I hope you enjoy them – please let me know how you get on.
Wishing you a very Happy Easter.
Chocolate cupcakes with sweet potato chocolate frosting
- 1 medium sweet potato baked in its skin or steamed
- 225 grams self-raising four wholemeal or gluten free
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 75 grams cocoa or cacao powder
- pinch salt
- 370 ml soya milk or other dairy-free milk
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice or cider vinegar
- 80 ml olive oil
- 120 grams coconut sugar or very dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
for the frosting
- sweet potato prepped as above
- 4 tablespoons maple syrup or other liquid sweetener
- 3-4 tablespoons cacao or cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- fresh or freeze-dried raspberries to decorate optional
- Before you make the cake, bake the sweet potato in its skin or steam. This can be done the day before and kept in the fridge.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas4. Line a muffin tin with wrappers.
- Add the lemon juice to the soya milk and leave to curdle for a few minutes.
- Place the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt together in a large bowl and mix well to combine.
- In a separate bowl add the coconut sugar, oil and vanilla essence. Pour in the curdled soya milk and mix well to combine.
- Pour the wet mix into the dry and quickly stir to combine - do not overmix and try to be ilght-handed but thorough. This should only take 10-12 seconds. Time is of the essence to get the raising agents to work iin the oven.
- Quickly distribute the mix out into the prepared tin. Once the mix has all gone, tap the tin on the worktop and place in the oven. Bake for 18-20 minutes - the cakes are ready when risen and firm but bouncy on top. Test with a tooth pick - if it comes out clean they're ready.
- Transfer the cakes to a cooling rack. Once cooled, they can be frozen for another time or decorated with the frosting.
To make the frosting
- Place the cooked sweet potato, maply syrup, cocoa powder and vanilla essence into a small blender and whizz for a few seconds to combine. Test the flavour and add more syrup or cocoa as needed and blend again
- Spread the mix over the top of the cakes and decorate with raspberries if desired. Keep in the fridge and eat within 3-4 days