Layered Rainbow Pie

As we come up to the Easter holidays, I wanted to share this impressive dish with you in case you were looking for something special to create. I have to confess this is the longest recipe with the most elements I’ve shared so far. Don’t be scared though! It may look complicated, but once broken down into segments, it’s not as difficult as it might look on first glance. Honest 😉 Continue reading “Layered Rainbow Pie”

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.

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

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!

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!

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.

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!
Let the Christmas countdown begin!

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. Continue reading “Aquafaba asparagus and pea savoury mousse”

Christmas chestnut tartlets

I don’t know about you, but this year seems to have gone by so quickly! Christmas is nearly upon us once again. By now, most people have the decorations up, the presents bought (or maybe not!) and know who’s cooking that amazing festive feast on Christmas Day.I usually cook up a flavour-packed nut roast as my plant based alternative to turkey (see for a good basic recipe). Some may say it’s not the same, but a special feast is what you make of it, not necessarily what tradition dictates! If you so desire, there are some tasty meat-alternatives out there such as the Vegusto rustic roast (made with wheat protein) or Tofurky (wheat and soy protein), but they’re not my kind if thing, even before I went gluten free. Eating plant based and wholefood is about packing in real food, not processed products infused with a variety of chemicals.

This year though, I wanted to create something slightly different, something sumptuous and packed with Christmas flavours. And what’s more Christmassy than chestnuts and cranberries? So I put together this gorgeous little tartlet for my December supper club, and have to say am rather pleased with the results.

Chestnuts are an underrated nut! Lower in fat and higher in starches than most nuts, they are popular with those who believe that low fat, high carb is the way to lose shedloads of weight (remember Rosemary Conley’s Hip and Thigh diet??). Although this approach is no longer de rigueur and despite their low fat content, they’re still good sources of mono-unsaturated fatty acids, but also fibre, manganese and vitamins B and C.

Cranberries are well known for being good for bladder health, and dried can be as good as fresh, although some of the vitamin C is lost. The problem is that sugar is often added to make them more palatable, but a small amount is fine. Just try not to nibble the rest of the packet whilst you’re cooking!

The filling is also gluten free, so as long as you use gluten free pastry as well, then you’ve got a fully free from dish (unless someone has a nut allergy!). I’m currently experimenting with gluten free flours – with this dish, I’ve found a pastry made with brown rice flour works the best, but that’s another blog post!

So why not give this a go? It does take a little time, but can be made in advance then reheated when you’re ready, giving you more time to open presents and drink bubbles! Merry Christmas!

Chestnuts, cranberry and mushroom Christmas tartlets (makes 6)
1 portion shortcrust pastry (homemade, Just-rol, gluten free)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 large red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
260g chestnuts (I used 1 ½ packs of Merchant Gourmet whole chestnuts)
3 medium carrots, grated
2 teaspoons thyme
1 pack parsley, stems separated from leaves and finely chopped
3 tablespoons dried cranberries
200g chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons dairy free cream cheese or non-dairy cream
To make the filling Heat the olive oil in a pan and sauté the onion and thyme until the onion is soft (if it starts to stick, add a little water. Add the garlic and cook for a minute. Add the carrot and chopped stems of the parsley, mix well and cook for another minute. Stir in the chestnuts and mushrooms and cook until the fluid from the mushrooms has evaporated. Add the cranberries, a few dashes of tamari and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the cranberries then add the cream cheese/non dairy cream and chopped parsley leaves and cook for another few minutes until it all comes together. Taste and add additional seasoning and tamari as needed.Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. Roll out your pastry of choice to about 1/2 cm. Place a tartlet tin on to the pastry and cut around it with a 1 ½ cm extra rim. Remove the tartlet tin and carefully pick up the cutout piece and flip it over into the tin. Press the pastry into fit, pinching any breaks together and trim the edges. Brush with some dairy free milk or a chickpea flour wash (mix a tablespoon of chickpea flour with some water to get a milk-like consistency). Repeat the process until all the pastry is used (should be enough for 6).  Place the tartlet tins on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 6 minutes.

Remove the pastry from the oven then fill with the mixture. Put the tartlets back into the oven and bake for another 10 minutes or so until the pastry feels firm and the top of the tartlets starts to brown slightly. Remove from the oven, leave to cool slightly so you can remove the tartlets from the tin without burning yourself and serve with all the Christmas veg. This works well with onion gravy with some redcurrant jelly stirred in, although I used homemade rosemary jelly – yum!

A wee bit of vegan haggis

It’s this time of year that anyone you know who is Scottish, or has some Scottish heritage, or just fancies a mighty fine feast on a cold winters night, celebrates Burn’s night. Held in memory of the poet, Robbie Burns, the evening has many traditions, including piping in the diners (if you happen to know anyone who plays the bagpipes of course!), drinking lots of whiskey and eating haggis.

When I was young, I used to think that haggis was a small furry animal, but actually its a mix of sheep offal mixed with onion, oats and spices, then stuffed in a sheep stomach and simmered in a pot for 3 hours. I have eaten it a couple of times in the past and its rich and seriously filling.

These days, however, being a plant based eater, haggis is generally off the menu, although vegetarian ones are sometimes available in the supermarket. On a recent trip to Edinburgh, however, we stopped at a fabulous vegetarian restaurant called Henderson’s and my husband chose a delicious haggis dish. In fact it was so good, he decided to recreate it at home for a birthday dinner party the other week. Served with mashed tatties and neeps, it was our own little plant based Burns night supper, super tasty and super healthy.

Once made up, the haggis mix does look a little grey and unappealing, despite it’s amazing flavour, and not having any plant versions of sausage skins to hand (are there any?) we decided to wrap it up in some filo pastry to create a haggis parcel. The contrast of the thin, crisp pastry and the soft, slightly claggy texture of the haggis worked fabulously.

Update 2018 – to make this gluten free, it’s delicious baked as it is without the filo pastry. Just pack the mix into a lightly greased pyrex bowl, cover it with foil and bake it in the oven for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 20 minutes, then leave to cool for a couple of minutes before tipping out and serving in chunky slices.

The combination of lentils, kidney beans, mushrooms and oatmeal means this dish is packed with protein and fibre, as well as magnesium, manganese and folate amongst other minerals and vitamins. Serve with mashed potatoes and swede for a nearly authentic plant based Burns night supper.

Vegan haggis (Henderson’s of Edinburgh recipe)
75g chopped mushrooms
75g brown lentils
50g porridge oats
50g cooked kidney beans, chopped
25g non-dairy spread (Vitalite/Pure)
150g grated carrots
150g onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon tamari
1 tablespoon garam masala
salt and pepper
1 packet of filo pastry sheets.
First, soak the brown lentils for 2-3 hours to soften them and soak the oats for 1 hour before you start. When you’re ready, heat the oil in a pan and sauté the onion until soft, followed by the garlic, garam masala and tamari. Season with salt and pepper.

Drain the lentils and add to the pan along with the grated carrot. Simmer on a low heat until the lentils are soft, stirring regularly to prevent sticking. You may need to add a little water to stop the mix drying out. Next add the mushrooms and cook until soft, followed with the kidney beans, the non-dairy spread and some more black pepper. Stir well to combine.

Finally, rinse and drain the oats and stir into the mix. This gives body to the haggis. If you are going to wrap your haggis in filo pastry, leave to cool. Otherwise, you can eat as it is.

Once the mixture is ready, lay out a sheet of filo pastry, leaving the rest covered with a damp tea towel so it doesn’t dry out. Pop a couple of spoonfuls of the haggis mix at one of the short ends of the pastry, fold up the sides and roll into a parcel, sealing the end with a bit of water. You could make square parcels if you prefer – it will still taste delicious! Repeat the process until all the pastry sheets are used up, lay out on lightly greased baking trays and brush the top with some non-dairy milk to help them brown. Pop into a pre-heated oven at 180oC and bake for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is golden and crisp.

Serve with mashed potatoes and turnips or swede and enjoy a great imitation of “the great chieftain o’ the puddin’ race”!