Thursday, 5 November 2015

Bonfire Night Mulled Hot Chocolate

I love Bonfire Night! There really is something special about gathering round in the (often drizzly) cold evening, while being warmed by a roaring bonfire and drinking hot chocolate or mulled wine. The childhood memories attached to Bonfire Night are immense!

I grew up in Sussex, and boy do we take it seriously down there. From processions of burning martyr's crosses in Lewes to carnivals in Uckfield, Bonfire Night is a pretty big deal. One thing I've never gotten used to in Oxfordshire is the lack of processions at this time of year!

Here in Oxfordshire, we usually go to a couple of local village displays rather than the bigger displays, so we can get close to a bonfire and see people we know. One thing that always amazes me is how impressive the fireworks are, they usually go all out! Watching them while sharing a flask of warm hot chocolate together is pretty awesome.

Since we don't eat refined sugar or dairy, we are used to bringing our own drinks, and this year I've been unable to decide whether to bring mulled wine or hot chocolate. In a flash of inspiration I decided to blend the two, and created a delicious mulled hot chocolate- a winning combo that is rich and chocolatey with all the flavour of the mulled spices while being alcohol free! Perfect for the whole family.

My favourite chocolate to use in drinks is Hasslacher’s. It is amazing quality pure, dark, roasted and unsweetened chocolate, that comes as a block, flakes or little disks. It is easy to find now, our local Saisnburys has it as well as our local heath store. I really recommend you search it out, but if you can't find it, use a good quality cocoa powder instead.

Mulled Hot Chocolate
Serves 2

4 squares of Hasslacher’s chocolate
600ml almond milk
3 tbsp coconut palm sugar
1/2 orange sliced
4 cloves
1 cinnamon stick or quarter tsp ground cinnamon
1-2 bay leaves
2 star anise
1/2 vanilla pod, split down the middle
A few grates of nutmeg

Melt the chocolate in a pan on a gentle heat. When melted,  whisk in the milk. Bring the heat to a rapid simmer and add the rest of the ingredients. Reduce heat to a low simmer for 5-8 minutes, whisking to stop it catching at the bottom. Remove from heat, strain out the spices and serve warm.

 Photo bombed by Gink our kitten!

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Zingy Tomatillo Salsa

I cannot believe what an exciting month this has been for me! To be in the final of PETA UK's 'Great Vegan Bake Off' and a nominee for Vegfest UK's 'Best Vegan Cook Book' is just mind blowing. I am so excited and so nervous that I've not had much time to be creative in the kitchen. That is until the girls insisted we have a Mexican night!

We used to have Mexcian nights for dinner every Sunday, but over the Summer this slipped from our routine as we've been so busy, and hardly at home. But I was so glad they brought it up, and it gave me a chance to use up the delicious tomatillos that I got in our veg box last week.

You don't come across tomatillos very much in the UK, but the good news is that this salsa works just as well with tomatoes. If using regular tomatoes, I like to add a squeeze of fresh lime at the end, it gives it that zing that you'd get with tomatillos.

We'll be serving this up tonight alongside some slow cooked beans, rice, organic corn tortilla chips and fresh guacamole- I can't wait!

If you guys have had a chance to vote for me in the bake off, thank you so much! Votes close this Friday, so if you haven't I'd really appreciate you popping on over to The Great Vegan Bake Off to vote, lets get my sugar free Schichttorte on the map and show you can have your cake and eat it!

Tomatillo Salsa

8 tomatillos, or tomatoes
1 small onion
1 jalepeno chili
1 1/2 cups of water
1/2 tsp sea salt

Peel the husks off the tomatillos, and peel and quarter the onion. Add everything together in a saucepan, and simmer for around 25 mnutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated.
Pour into a food processor and process to a smooth salsa.
If using regular tomatoes, add a squeeze of lime at the end.

That's it! It's the most simple salsa ever, but tastes amazing.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Ultimate Vegan, sugar free Schichttorte

So you know I love a challenge right, and as I've been away for so long, I figured I'd better come up with a real cracker of a recipe for you guys to make up for it!

I've been watching the Great British Bake off, (as I do every year, in the hope somebody makes vegan bakes!) and loved that they had a dairy free, sugar free and gluten free week. This just shows how far things have come in the world of baking and it's very exciting- I hope next year they'll do a Vegan week, imagine how awesome that would be!

A few years ago now, about six in fact, my family quit refined sugar. And everybody thought we were crazy. Forward to 2015 and Jamie Oliver is presenting a programme called 'Sugar Rush' and even my dear Dad is trying to cut down the sugars he has in his tea! Times they are changing and I couldn't be happier.

While I am passionate about all vegan food, and am partial to the odd Taifun tofu hot dog, I maintain the belief that most of our diet should come from wholefoods rather than processed, and truly believe in ditching the refined sugar. My mission is to show that this doesn't mean you have to sacrifice taste and enjoyment of food as nothing is off limits, even cake! I make lots of gluten free recipes these days too, as I get many requests for them, and modern wheat just isn't what it used to be, it is, well, rubbish! I don't follow a gluten free diet myself as I include spelt, kamut, barley and rye into my diet, but I really like being able to offer alternatives to those who want them.

So, when they declared to Ugne on 'The Great British Bake off' that making both gluten free and sugar free in the one recipe was perhaps a step too far, the little rebel in me thought, 'Hmmmm, I'm going to do that and more!'

It was quite by chance that on the same day, I noticed PETA UK was accepting entries to their 'Great Vegan Bake Off', which I took as a sign for me to enter. It is a little daunting to put a creation up to be judged though and I haven't taken this decision lightly, I am a little nervous! So like a crazy lady on a mission, I decided to go all out and give it my best shot, and that just has to be a vegan, refined sugar free, gluten free, multi layered, chocolate covered masterpiece of a cake, better known as a German schichttorte!

I know this cake at first glance seems intimidating. Each layer is grilled individually to a nice golden brown creating something that looks like a cross between a stack of pancakes ad a cake, but it is not as hard as it looks I promise. Each layer needs just a couple of minutes under the grill, making it quicker than baking a standard cake (if you go for less than the traditional twenty layers that is), plus you never have the worry of it no being cooked through to the middle! I baked mine with six layers, because two were a little fat and I ran out of mix to make the eight I originally wanted. This batter mix makes the perfect amount for eight more even layers though, so if you are less heavy handed than me, this should be a breeze. The perfectionist in me wanted to make this cake again with perfectly even layers, but as I noticed this contest so late, I just didn't have the time. Plus it still tastes divine and I know you will all love it!

The first version I tried I made with coconut palm sugar, and while it tasted out of this world, and was described as 'the best cake i've ever eaten' by one of my daughters friends, you just couldnt see the layers as the coconut plam was too dark. So next I made it with agave nectar. You can see the layers beautifully in this version, and it tasted like delicious, zingy, lemony, chocolate heaven! Though the texture is a little denser than when made with the coconut palm sugar, it was still kept light by using the latest vegan baking craze, whisked chickpea liquid in place of the egg whites! Whisked chickpea liquid is a vegan baking revelation and it works really rather well. I promise it is worth the effort!

The chickpea liquid from one can (use the chickpeas for dinner!)
100g vegan spread (I use Biona Cocomega)
180ml agave nectar
2 tbsp tapioca flour whisked into 125ml organic soy milk
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp sea salt
200g doves farm self raising gluten free flour

For the topping
2 tbsp apricot jam (we use St Dalfour as it is cane sugar free)
100g  dark chocolate (we use plamil xylitol sweetened)
1 tbsp vegan spread
1/2 cup flaked hazlenuts or almonds
1/4 cup whole hazlenuts

Optional caramel coating
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
1 tbsp water

Grease and flour a 16cm lose bottom cake tin and preheat the grill to high.

Drain the liquid from the chickpeas into a bowl and whisk with an electric mixer until light and fluffy and forming peaks. This can take around 10-15 minutes and should look like this:

Set the whisked chickpea liquid aside while you make the batter.

In a large bowl, beat together the agave and coconut spread until light and creamy. I like to use an electric whisk for this, until the day I convince my hubby to invest in a Kitchen Aid that is!

Add the soy milk with the tapioca flour, the lemon zest and the vanilla extract and the sea salt. It looks like the mixture is seperating at this stage but it will come together when you add the the flour.

Sieve the flour into the mixture and combine well.

Next, with a large metal spoon, gradually add in the whisked chickpea liquid. You want to fold this in carefully so as to not knock out the air.

When the whisked chickpea liquid is well mixed in, add a large serving spoonful to the cake tin, tilting the tin to spread the mixture into an even layer. Put this under the hot grill and cook for around two minutes, until quite dark golden on top. You need the top to be very brown so that the layers show up in the cake. The top of the cake tin should not be too near to the top of the grill, I had a good 10cm of space between the top of the tin and the grill.

Continue adding a large spoonful of batter at a time, and grilling until all the batter is used up, it should make around 8 layers.

When cooked, leave to cool for a few minutes before removing from the cake tin and transferring to a wire rack to cool further. While cooling, heat the apricot jam in a saucepan until just warm, and brush all over the cake. This helps the chocolate to stick to the cake.

Next make the chocolate topping! In a glass bowl, set over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate together with the spread. Pour over the cake, smoothing it down over the sides until the whole cake is covered in delicious chocolate!

Let set slightly, and garnish with the flaked hazlenuts or almonds around the edge.

If you would like to make caramel hazlenuts for the centre garnish. Heat the coconut palm sugar in a pan with the water until bubbling, be careful as this stuff can burn. Let it cook for around 5 minutes before removing from the heat and cooling by setting the pan in a bowl of cold water. The caramel will start to thicken as it cools. Add the hazlenuts and stir to coat, transfer to greaseproof paper to cool, then pile them up in the centre of the cake.

Voila! You will have an amazing centre piece for any party of get together, that will surely impress, as well as being pretty virtuous in the cake department. Who said you can't have your cake and eat it! We noticed that this cake tastes best on the day it is made, as it has a tendency to dry out if left overnight, but luckily left over cake isn't such a problem in our house!

I would also like to thank a lovely guy named Matt, who lives near me, who came over to give me a crash course on inside photography and help take some of these pics for me! I have a lovely new camera now, and have started to learn the ropes. Boy oh boy is there alot to learn.

If you want more tasty vegan and refined sugar free recipes, check out my book How to Eat a Rainbow! Available in the US from Vegan Publishers and in the UK from the Vegan Society and signed copies from Coles Bookstore.

How to Eat a Rainbow has been nominated for 'Best Vegan Cook Book' Woo-Hoo! So excited! I would love it if you could vote for it at VegfestUK, it would man the world to me and help spread the message that healthy vegan food is delicious! Thank you.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Rice pasta with beetroot greens, raisins and lemon

One of the things I love most about getting an organic veg box delivered to our door, is that lots of the veggies come with their greens still attached. This morning as I unpacked the box (while fending off the children who were grabbing cucumbers and tomatoes before I could even drag the box to the kitchen), I was super excited to see that my beetroot had an impressive bouquet of greenery on it.

I adore beetroot greens and always wonder why you can't find them in supermarkets over here. Travel to the continent and you find these greens in abundance at local farmer's markets- clearly they know something that we don't! They are super mild in taste, a cross between chard and spinach and are packed with nutrients too, including vitamins A & C as well as calcium and iron.

As I was pushed for time today (as always!), I decided to make these greens the star of a quick and simple pasta dish, along with some raisins that I had left in the cupboard. As I love to add garlic and fresh lemon zest to as many things as possible, I decided to add these as well. The combination of the earthy greens, sweet raisins, punchy garlic and zesty lemon was a match made in heaven. Simple, filling, nutritious and inexpensive, I am sure this will be a summer family favourite!

Rice pasta with beetroot greens, raisins, garlic and lemon
Serves 4

400g brown rice pasta (or pasta of choice)
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves of garlic finely sliced
6 cups beetrot greens, washed and finely shredded
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 tsp salt to taste
Zest of 1/2 lemon

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, and when boiling add the pasta and cook according to the packet directions.
In a deep frying pan (I like to use a deep cast iron pan), sautee the garlic in the olive oil over a medium heat until it starts to turn golden. Add the beetroot greens, stiring until they just begin to wilt and release their juices. Add the rasins and cook for a further 8 minutes until softened, Season with sea salt.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the greens, mixing well. Grate the lemon zest over the top and serve immediately.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Review- Indigo Herbs Super Cleanse Tea

As you guys may have noticed by now, I am a huge fan of the Indigo Herbs of Glastonbury company. I genuinely find that their products are of amazing quality and value and love discovering new products of theirs, and this one has indeed been a brilliant discovery.

They sent me the Super Cleanse tea to review over the Spring, but with the colder weather we've been having, I've been stuck in hibernation mode and reluctant to give up on comfort foods and chocolate elixirs. Now that the warmer weather is here, it really felt like a good time to cleanse and try out this tea for you guys!

This particular blend contains a mixture of fennel, liquorice, ginger, dandelion, nettle and red clover, which makes it the perfect tea for cleansing and for putting a spring back into your step! Here's what they have to say about the tea:

"A cleansing, purifying tea that supports the body, and revives the hard working systems of elimination. This tea helps the body recover from over use of caffeine and other toxins. The delicious tastes of fennel, liquorice and ginger uplift the healing herby tastes of Dandelion, Nettle and Red Clover. Our Super Cleanse Tea Blend can be infused in boiling water and made into a delicious herbal tea drink."

I tried this over four mornings in place of my regular green tea and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the result. As well as being refreshing to drink first thing in the morning, I definitely noticed that I had less of an energy slump mid afternoon which was a huge bonus.

You might expect the tea to be very herby with so many strong flavours packed in, especially with the bitter tones of dandelion and nettle, but it was far from herby or bitter. The liquorice comes through as a sweet aftertaste that was pleasant to drink and needed no extra sweetener added.

I love that this tea contains whole clover and chunky herbs rather than being in powdered form, and as it comes in a handy re-sealable bag, I didn't notice any deterioration in the flavour over the days which was great.

If a cleanse tea isn't what you fancy right now,  Indigo herbs do a good range of herbs and tea blends so there is sure to be one that suits you, give them a try!

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Epic Adzuki Bean Burgers

So you guys, what a week! We've been sorting out the house and attending to all the neglected jobs over the years, trying to fit in all these home-school books and files we have acquired, moving my youngest into her 'grown up bed' (eeek my baby isn't a baby anymore!) and generally de-cluttering the place, and it's reached that point that even though we've sorted and sorted till we can't sort no more, the place still looks like a bomb has hit it. Anybody else been through this? My house is literally driving me crazy, but, I know the end is near and this is keeping me going... just.

Amongst this craziness I also got a new camera. Finally I can stop having to rely on my wonderful friends to take pictures, or resorting to snapping them on my phone. I am so excited about this, though it really has been an eye opener for me. Until I got this camera, I had no clue how bamboozling the world of photography can be. I have a new lens and tripod on order and am very s-l-o-w-l-y getting to grips with the basics, so please bear with me while I learn. I can't promise you mind blowing pictures just yet, but surely they will improve with time.

The recipe that is lucky enough to be my first photographed recipe (on a proper camera that is), is this tasty little vegan adzuki bean burger, because everybody loves a burger!

But as much as we love them, they seem to cause some major challenges for the vegan kitchen. Getting the taste and texture just right, and producing a patty that doesn't fall to pieces when you cook it can definitely be a challenge and I have had my fair share of disasters.

While I love this recipe for tasty tofu burgers, I know many people are uncomfortable with eating too much soy and I wanted to provide a tasty alternative. I was firmly in that camp for years too and avoided unfermented soy, but after more study into the subject, I am happy to include whole soy products now, including milk and yoghurt. I do always make sure it is organic and GM free of course, and I do stay away from soy protein isolate as that still makes me me uncomfortable, but whole soy products have been a welcome addition to my family's diet.

But I am rambling. If you do prefer to avoid soy, this is the perfect recipe for you!

Made with the tiny titan of the bean world that is adzuki beans, these are bursting with flavour as well as being super healthy. The burgers can be made completely oil free too, depending on your preferred cooking method. With a crunchy exterior thanks to the polenta and a soft interior, these burgers really work well in a toasted rye or gluten free roll, with all the trimmings of course.

Just a quick word about the seasoning. I use 'Green Cuisine Chicken Seasoning' which is all natural and contains no sugar. This herb blend is a mixture of paprika, sage, parsley, thyme, cumin, pepper, garlic and onion. You could also use jerk seasoning for a spicy twist, or a tablespoon of harissa paste for a Moroccan influence. Basically spice these up any way you like them, there is no wrong choice here.

Adzuki Bean Burgers
Makes 4-6 burgers

Ingredients for the burger
3 cups of cooked adzuki beans,* drained well
4 spring onion
1 very finely grated carrot
1/2 sweet potato,finely grated
3 tbsp rolled oats
1 tbsp chicken seasoning
1 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 tsp fine sea salt

For the coating
1/4 cup polenta
1/4 cup sorghum flour or rice flour

Add your cooked beans along with the rest of the burger ingredients to a large bowl and mix with your hands. Really squish that mixure up, it's very theraputic!

Next shape them into patties. This mix makes between 4-6, depending on how large you like them to be, I have actually found that 5 seems to be the ideal amount, which leaves one extra left over for lunch the next day.

Tip the two flours for the coating on to a  plate and mix together. With slightly wet hands, shape the burger mixture into nice rounds and coat each one well in the flour.

You can now either shallow fry these in extra virgin coconut oil for around 5-6 minutes each side, or bake in a hot oven until crisp and golden.

Serve these in a toasted bun of your choice, with lettuce, pickles and some home made tomato ketchup.

*I cook my beans from dried with a piece of kombu in the water for added minerals and easier digestibility!

Super excited to link this recipe up to 'Honest Mum's' Tasty Tuesday! I was lucky enough to see this inspirational blogger speak recently and she is awesome. Loving reading about her vegan cleanse too, go Honest Mum!

Tasty Tuesdays on

Monday, 8 June 2015

Summer Strawberry, Beetroot and Fig Salad

So June is finally here and along with it the start of the warmer weather. That definitely means strawberry season is upon us and I couldn't be more excited!

I must admit though that I had delayed this post a little. When I began to write this at the start of last week, it felt as if we were in the depths of Winter again. Sharing a Summery recipe like this in a middle of a cold spell made me feel like a bit of a tease so I put it on hold. And while us Brits have never been held back by a little wind and rain (we'd never get anything done if we did!), I decided to put my faith in the fact that Summer was just around the corner, and wait out the wind and the rain.

Anyway, I am delighted that Summer finally decided to join the party, and even more excited to share this delicious recipe with you all as it really is delicious. The strawberries are an exciting addition to a green salad base and served alongside the sweet figs, fresh basil, earthy beetroot and crunchy macadamia nuts it makes for a hearty and satisfying combination. Strawberries and basil really are a match made in heaven!

This strawberry salad is the perfect dish to serve up at barbeques and festivities as an impressive side, but enjoyed alongside some rustic rye sourdough, this also forms a substantial main in its own right.

Strawberry, Beetroot and Fig Salad
Serves 2-4

Salad ingredients

100g macadamia nuts
8 baby figs
4 heaped cups of baby spinach
200g strawberries
2-3 small, cooked beetroot
50g radish and alfalfa sprouts
Handful of fresh basil

Dressing ingredients

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
Pinch of sea salt and black pepper


Heat a cast iron pan or heavy bottomed frying pan over a medium heat. Add the macadamia nuts and stir constantly until they are lightly toasted and golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat up a griddle pan to a high heat and lightly brush with olive oil. While it is heating, cut the figs into halves. Griddle each of the baby fig halves (cut side down) for a couple of minutes, until they just start to caramelise. Remove them from the pan and set aside. Now we're ready to assemble the salad.

Wash the baby spinach, giving it a shake to remove any excess water. Add the spinach to a large salad bowl along with the fresh basil leaves.

To prepare the rest of the salad, firstly cut the strawberries into halves. Peel the cooked beetroot (you can also use the cooked vacuum packed beetroot that is already peeled) and slice them into thin rounds. Add these to the salad bowl, along with the strawberries, macadamia nuts, griddle figs, and alfalfa and radish sprouts.

Lastly make the dressing. Add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to a small bowl and lightly whisk to mix, or shake everything together in a jar. Just before serving, pour the dressing over the salad and mix well with a pair of salad tongs.

All Photographs Copyright of Emma Lou Cowell 2015