Thursday, 26 March 2015

Rich and tasty raw chocolate 'Cheescake'

If I had a pound for every time somebody asked me what on earth I ate, or asked 'how could vegan food, without refined sugar actually taste good?', I'd be a super rich lady!

Part of why I blog is to set the record straight, to show people just how amazing vegan and refined sugar free foods really are, and how it really doesn't mean missing out. From homemade cakes and scones to creamy caramel chocolates, fresh pancakes with maple syrup or steaming mugs of hot chocolate, we enjoy all sorts of sweet treats at home! I do believe these foods should be treats, not really everyday foods, but of course we indulge every once in a while. I encourage everybody to explore the tasty vegan and refined sugar free alternatives that are out there; you'll be surprised how tasty and decadent the results can be.

Take this rich and creamy 'cheesecake' for example. I know technically its not a cheesecake- it has no cheese- but it does mimic the taste and texture of one and for want of a better name, I'm sticking with cheesecake! This dessert is vegan, gluten free, refined sugar free and raw so is pretty impressive on the health front (for a pudding anyways) but lacks nothing on the flavour department I promise. 

With Easter just around the corner (and it is all about the chocolate!) this is the perfect dessert to serve at a family gathering; and I bet, if you didn't say anything, they'd never know it was vegan or refined sugar free!

Raw chocolate 'cheesecake'
Makes one 15cm cheesecake

For the base
80g ground almonds
8 medjool dates

For the filling
200g cashew nuts, soaked overnight and drained
1 small, ripe avocado or banana
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp sugar free vanilla extract
80ml maple syrup
100ml melted extra virgin coconut oil
80ml almond milk
pinch of sea salt
2 heaped tbsp raw cacao powder or cocoa powder

To make the base, blitz together the almonds and dates in a food processor until the mix starts to come together as a dough. You can test if it is ready by squeezing some of the mix between your fingers; if it sticks together it is ready.
Tip the mix out into a 15cm diameter loose bottom (or spring form) deep cake tin and press down evenly to create the crust.

Next make the filling. Add all the filling ingredients to a blender and blend until creamy and smooth. This will take a few minutes and requires stopping the blender several times to scrape down the sides to be sure to get all the lumps out. The finished result should be smooth and creamy like a very thick custard.

When it's smooth enough, pour the filling over the base. Gently tap the tin to level out the top and place the cheesecake in the fridge to set overnight. When it is set, carefully remove from the tin and garnish with grated chocolate for an impressive finish!

All photos copyright of Chris Mullineux 2015

Monday, 16 March 2015

Minty Pea Choc Chip Smoothie

Tomorrow is St Patrick's Day, and at this time of year bloggers rejoice as they post their green culinary delights! It's a wonderful time to get creative, but sometimes it can all get a bit out of hand... My hubby is American and St Patrick's day is widely celebrated over there. He once told me how he and his best buddy dyed his Mum's kitchen green with food dye while creating a St Patricks day feast. The food they were colouring was pasta with hot dogs, I really cannot imagine what they were thinking!

So, assuming like me, you think the idea of green coloured pasta is a bit gross, I am presenting you with an alternative that I think that you'll love! This green smoothie is not like any other green smoothie out there. Mainly because it contains frozen peas! Nearly everyone has frozen peas in their freezer, and they make a surprisingly tasty smoothie when combined with zingy fresh mint and crunchy cacao nibs. Peas and mint were literally made to go together, there is nothing new about this combo- think hot peas with fresh garden mint- but I hope I am presenting a vibrant new way to enjoy this match made in heaven.

Using frozen peas straight from the freezer brings a nice icy chill to the smoothie, which when combined with ripe avocado becomes creamy and dreamy, just like mint choc chip ice cream. The peas are naturally sweet and protein packed, which makes for a great post workout smoothie, without having to rely on processed  protein powders. The sweetness of the peas, dates and coconut water is balanced with the bitter cacao nibs and the mint, making for a perfectly balanced taste. This recipe works best with fresh mint, but I have also tried it with an unsweetend peppermint extract which was super delicious too.

But first, a word of caution. Before you all rush to throw frozen peas into your blender, it is worth pointing out that some brands of frozen peas state that they should not be eaten frozen, but must be cooked before use. I have tried to think of a possible explanation for this, but I really can't! Peas can definitely be eaten raw, and I see no reason why this warning should appear on certain brands, other than maybe it is something to do with the manufacturing process? As I do not know the reason, I cannot ask you guys to ignore it. I buy organic frozen garden peas, and they have no warning on the pack, and I have used these in smoothies for years, so look out for an organic brand and check the pack. If your brand does have a warning on it, then it's probably a good idea to look for a different one for this recipe.

I have added Spirulina to the mix as it improves the green colour, adds extra vitamins and minerals (including B1, B2, B3, B6, calcium and iron) and a little more protein punch to the smoothie. I also find that when I include spirulina it gives me an amazing energy boost! If you love the taste of spirulina, feel free to up the amount to a teaspoon. If you don't like the taste of Spirulina, try replacing it with wheatgrass powder, or even leaving it out altogether. The smoothie will most definitely still be green.

The Spirulina that I am using today is organic and available from Indigo herbs. It is one of a collection of yummy ingredients that they sent me to review and get creative with! The products I received as part of their vitality pack were; organic Spirulina powder, organic raw banana powder, acai berry powder, organic wheatgrass powder beetroot powder and supercleanse tea. To see how I used the banana, acai berry and beetroot powder, check out my delicious raw rainbow cake recipe!

As with all the other products that I have tried from Indigo Herbs, the Spirulina is of a really great quality. It is darker than other brands I have tried and the taste is not too overpowering, although I find you still only need a small amount. To buy this organic spirulina powder, check out this link!

Minty Pea Choc Chip Smoothie
Serves 1-2
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 avocado
Handful of fresh mint leaves or 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1 tbsp hemp seeds
1 tbsp cacao nibs
250ml coconut water
60ml hemp or almond milk
4 medjool dates
1/4- 1/2 tsp spirulina powder

Simply blend all the ingredients together until you have a smooth, creamy finish! Finish with a sprinkle of cacao nibs if you desire.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Mothers Day chocolate chip drop scones

When I was little my Mum often made drop scones for me which I absolutely loved! Also known as Scotch pancakes, they're smaller than the American style pancakes. Instead of being eaten covered in maple syrup, they were usually spread with butter and jam or very sticky golden syrup, so that they can be eaten like a crumpet (with your hands) rather than with a knife and fork.

As it's Mothers Day tomorrow, and these remind me of my Mum, I think these little drop scones are the perfect thing to make on Mother's Day. I'm sure any Mum would love to have these made for her for breakfast, me included (hint hint)!

Being married to an American, we have a huge love for maple syrup in our house, and I do like to serve these up American style. These little drop scones are made a little thicker, with added chocolate chips and a drizzle of Maple syrup, though I'm keeping them true to their original mini size; the perfect mix of traditional English and American.

For the chocolate chips, use a good quality dark chocolate that is preferably refined sugar free, we love Plamil which is sweetened with xylitol and found in Holland and Barrett. Just to make these little drop scones as virtuous as possible, they are made with a blend of wholesome gluten free flours which lend a delicious nutty taste, and of course they are vegan too!

Chocolate Chip Drop Scones
Makes 10-12

1 cup rice flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup teff flour
1 tbsp arrowroot
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of sea salt
1 tsp lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
300ml oat milk
45g dark xylitol chocolate
Coconut oil for greasing the pan

Pre-heat your pan to a medium high temperature. The secret to good pancakes of any kind, is a nice hot pan! Let it heat up for a good 5 minutes, then prepare the batter.
Add all the dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl, add the lemon juice or apple cider vinegar and oat milk and whisk till smooth. You'll have a very thick and smooth batter.

Cut the chocolate into small chunks to make 'chips' and stir into the batter.

Take a little knob of coconut oil and add to he hot pan, swirling it round to coat. I use a ceramic pan and it makes amazing pancakes! Using a 1/4 measuring cup, scoop the batter, dropping it onto the pan. I can make 4 at a time, but it depends how big your pan is! Cook for around 3 minutes, until you see little bubbles appearing on the surface, flip them and cook for a further couple of minutes.

Serve with maple or coconut syrup for the perfect Mother's Day breakfast!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

The ultimate vegan sushi bowl

Love sushi but don't have a whole lot of time to make it? Then sushi bows are the answer! These little bowls of rice and veggies are packed with flavour, take hardly any time to make and are super nutritious. We absolutely love making these and they have become a staple in our home.

You can pretty much top them with anything you like, both cooked and raw toppings work well. Baked sweet potato cubes are heavenly as a topping with avocado and spring onion, and the more colours you can add in there, the better. This recipe packs in lots of crispy and fresh raw veggies and some smoked tofu for a different texture, but you could substitute the tofu for cooked beans or chickpeas, or skip it all together and just load up the veg. Go and have fun with it!

Vegan sushi bowl
Serves 2

150g sushi rice (or use brown if you prefer)
1 tbsp brown rice vinegar
1/4 cucumber
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 small beetroot, peeled
1 spring onion
1/2 avocado
1/2 pack of smoked tofu, cubed*
2 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp tamari soy sauce
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 sheet of toasted nori

Cook the rice according to the instructions on the packet. When the rice is cooked, tip it out into a bowl, and add the brown rice vinegar, mixing well with a fork. Leave the rice to cool slightly while you prepare the veggies.

First, cut the cucumber, bell pepper, beetroot and spring onion into small dices or fine matchsticks. I like to use a mixture of both to create a fun variation in texture and look, but it's completely up to you, go with whatever your heart desires!

Next, scoop out the avocado flesh with a spoon and cut it into slices. Set this aside with the rest of the chopped veggies.

Cube your smoked tofu, and lightly sauté in a pan with a little olive oil if you like, to make it crispy. I often skip this step if I'm in a rush, it tastes great cold too and makes for a speedy lunch this way!

To make the sushi bowls, split the rice between two small bowls and divide the veggies and tofu equally over the rice. Finish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds (I like to use both black and white sesame seeds as they look pretty, but use whichever kind you have to hand) and the tamari and sesame oil. Lastly, take the sheet of toasted nori, and cut it into thin strips with a pair of scissors. Sprinkle this over the top, it looks pretty and it gives it that authentic sushi taste.

*We like Taifun smoked tofu with almond as its delicious straight from the pack, no need to cook!

Photographs copyright of Chris Mullineux 2015.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Raw Rainbow Birthday Cake

It was my Birthday a couple of weeks ago and the only downside of being the cook in the house, is that I usually make my own Birthday cake! It's not all bad though, it gives me a chance to experiment, and create new recipes which I might not have made otherwise. This year I made the prettiest little rainbow cake, a total retro looking masterpiece (gotta love that retro vibe) which also happened to be packed with super-foods. A pretty cake, that is pretty good for you!

When I was sent some fruit powders from Indigo Herbs to test and review, I just knew that they'd be perfect in my rainbow cake. The powders are really vibrant and packed full of nutrients. For this cake I used the beetroot, acai berry and banana powders. I use beetroot powder at home a lot. It's really amazing the energy boost it can give when added to smoothies and hot chocolate elixirs; it can be pretty powerful stuff! Acai berry is a deep purple fruit that is native to central and south America and is said to have the highest antioxidant levels of all the berries. Again, it can easily be added to smoothies and is great added to desserts for an antioxidant boost. The banana powder was totally new to me and this cake was my first recipe creation with it. I love discovering new ingredients! It worked so well, that I plan to make a raw banoffee pie using it. This banana powder is packed with fibre and is a great way to boost your daily intake. I can imagine that it tastes absolutely amazing stirred into porridge for breakfast, I will be trying that out soon. As always with Indigo Herbs, the products are amazing, this company constantly impresses me with their commitment to quality.

I had wanted to make a healthy version of a rainbow cake for the past year (I am the author of  'How to Eat a Rainbow') so it seemed an obvious challenge!), so my birthday was the perfect opportunity. My original vision was to have five coloured layers, but with friends coming over and a photographer coming to shoot the cake, time was of the essence, so I settled on four, which still looks impressive. When I make this again, I'll go for the full five layers, and perhaps darken the green layer a little more with a 1/4 tsp barley-grass powder.

At this point I must say that I cannot take all the credit for this cake. See, I saw a post from the lovely Emily from This Rawsome Vegan Life, for a marshmallow cream cake. Her lovely layer cake looked so beautiful, and the texture she described as being like marshmallows which really got me curious! Her secret was adding in some chia seeds to the mixture, which I thought was a fabulous idea. Emily stirred hers in at the end, but I chose to go ahead and see what happened if I blended them up with the rest of my usual cheesecake ingredients. The result was more silky than marshmallowy, but that is totally ok with me, it was amazing, much lighter than the regular cashew cheesecake texture. It was positively melt in your mouth in fact. So thank you Emily for the inspiration!

This isn't a quick cake to put together. Each layer needs different ingredients blended up, and has to be set for 20 minutes in the freezer before adding the next layer, so it takes some effort to create. I promise though, that it really is worth it, just look at how beautiful this cake turned out. I decorated the top, rainbow style, with a sprinkle of dried edible flower petals. I used marigold, cornflower and tiny rose petals, and they really made it look that bit extra special. I have to give a massive shout out to my lovely friend Emma for taking the pictures for me. Since my camera broke quite a ways back, Emma has been helping me out by photographing my creations. She is a true artist and a lovely person that I'm lucky to call a friend. So thank you Emma, and thank you to Emma's dog, Kiki, for photobombing our shoot (how precious is this dog!)

Raw Rainbow Cheesecake

Ingredients for the base:
1 cup of dates (use medjool or delcect noir as they are stickier)
1/2 cup crispy sprouted buckwheat groats*
Pinch of sea salt

Ingredients for the main filling:
250g (2 cups) cashews, soaked overnight and drained
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup almond milk
2 heaped tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp lecithin (optional, adds to the silkiness)
1/2 cup coconut nectar, maple syrup or agave
Layer 1 (green) ingredients:
Juice and zest of 1 lime
Flesh of 1/2 avocado
1/2 tsp matcha tea powder
1/4 tsp barleygrass powder (optional- to make the green stronger)

Layer 2 (yellow) ingredients:
1/2 banana
1 tbsp banana powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp almond milk
1/4 cup diced butternut squash

Layer 3 (red) ingredients:
2 tbsp beetroot powder
1 tbsp almond milk

Layer 4 (purple) ingredients:
1/2 cup of bluberries
2 tsp acai berry powder

To make the base:
Simply blitz the ingredients together in a food processor until they make a dough. Press this into a 16cm/6" deep lose bottom or springform tin. Set aside.

To assemble the cake:
Blend up all the ingredients for the main filling until creamy and smooth. You'll need a high powdered blender for this, like the Enpee. Divide the mixture between 4 bowls, as evenly as possible, but don't stress it too much, it doesn't need to be exact!

Next, blend up one of the bowls of the main filling, with the layer 1 ingredients until well mixed and smooth. Pour over the base and give the tin a little tap to ensure the layer is spread nice and evenly. Pop it into the freezer for 20 minutes.

When nicely chilled, blend another bowl of main filling ingredients with the layer 2 ingredients. And repeat as above. Follow the same steps for each of the bowls of main filling and the layer ingredients until you have filled the cake tin with all four layers. Pop it into the freezer for around 4-5 hours to set.

Remove from the freezer 20 minutes before you wish to serve it, so it is easy to remove from the tin. It should still cut easily and not be too frozen, but you can leave it out a little longer if you prefer to get that silky texture. I left mine out for 40 minutes and it was deliciously silky and not at all frozen.

*Crispy sprouted buckwheat available from the health shop chain 'Graptree' or you can find online.

Photos taken by Emma Lou Cowell.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

White Pizza rocks!

I love pizza, who doesn't? With home made vegan cheese, or even without the cheese, its always yummy, but I always put tomato sauce on it. I'd heard about white pizza before, but pizza without the red sauce just sounded incredibly wrong somehow, and I just wasn't ready to go down that route!

So when I really fancied pizza for dinner the other night, I stared at the (almost) empty cupboards and faced a dilemma. There was definitely no passata in there, and no passata meant no pizza sauce. We live in the countyside, and so it's not as simple as 'popping to the shops' when I need something. It sometimes drives me crazy that we have to drive miles to get to anywhere- it is one of the downsides of living in the middle of nowhere- but it is beautiful so I shouldn't complain too much!

Anyway, if we were going to have pizza for dinner (and I was pretty determined we would, because the girls would get mad at me if we didn't), it was going to have to be pizza without red sauce. I went to get one of my recipe books, that I'd once seen a recipe for the fabled white pizza in. The book in question was 'Vegetarian Planet' by Diddi Emmons, which was given to me by a lovely friend of mine. It's a wonderful book and It's been a useful addition to our home.

I turned to her recipe for 'Fennel pizza with white-bean puree' and, pleased that I had all the ingredients I needed to make it at home, I decided now was the time to face my fear of the white pizza. And you know what? It was SO good! I don't know why I didn't try it sooner.

I did make some minor changes to the recipe (I can't help but play with recipes). The original recipe calls for a regular pizza dough, and I prefer using gluten free grains when possible, so I whipped up a batch of gluten free dough. It's a rather rustic dough as you can see from the picture, and it's hard to get it looking perfect and round. But, it is light and delicious, and pretty easy to make too. Of course you can use any pizza or bread dough you like!

The topping was also altered just a little. I added a little more of a flavour boost by finishing it with a jar of marinated artichokes, and some of the herbed oil from them made a good addition to the bean puree, along with some roatsed garlic.Artichokes are amazing on pizza, they really are made to go on it.

So here it is, I hope you enjoy!

Vegan White Pizza
Makes 2 pizzas

For the dough:

2 cups of gluten free flour blend (we used doves farm)
1/4 cup of polenta
7g sachet of yeast
1 tsp doves farm baking powder
1 tbsp coconut palm sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 cups of oat milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp egg re-placer mixed with 2 tbsp water
Drizzle of olive oil

For the topping:

2 bulbs of fennel
Drizzle of olive oil
3 unpeeled garlic cloves
Sea salt and pepper to taste
2 cans of drained cannelini beans
3 tbsp water
1 jar of marinated artichokes in oilive oil and herbs, drained (reserve 2 tbsp of oil for topping)
Fennel herb for garnish

Make the dough
Add all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl and mix well to form a very sticky dough. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise for an hour.

When the dough is half way through rising, prepare the fennel.

Prep the fennel
Finely slice the fennel and put into a tray with a drizzle of olive oil. Add the unpeeled garlic cloves, and roast for around 20 minutes in a hot oven (180-200), until the fennel is soft and colouring at the edges.

Make the pizza
Take your risen dough and split it into two. With lightly oiled or wet hands, spread the dough out onto two lightly oiled baking sheets, that have been sprinkled with a little polenta or cornmeal, to prevent sticking.

Put into the hot oven for 5-8 mins until just starting to cook through, remove and set aside for topping.

Puree the beans with the water, the roasted garlic cloves (remove skin first), salt, pepper and 2 tbsp of reserved herbed oil from the artichoke.

Divide the bean mixture evenly between the two pizzas and spread so it covers the pizza evenly.
Top with the fennel and artichokes.

Cook for 10 mins until pizza is golden around the edges and dough cooked through.

Top them with the fennel herb (fresh oregano or basil would also be lovely)  and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. 

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Nori Wraps for busy days!

Right now things have been totally crazy for me. So when in an ideal world, I'd plan every meal very thoughtfully and carefully, these days it just isn't happening as much. Nori wraps are pretty much my saviour when it comes to emergency meals. Great for lunch, snacks, even at breakfast time, I know I can usually whip up something pretty tasty when wrapped in these little nori sheets.

They're great for families too, as each family member can create their own filling, it's like a health upgrade on a regular sandwich and is great for kids to get creative with - let them go wild!

Leftovers almost always work in these wraps, both cooked and raw. I made a roast dinner wrap last week, with leftover roast potatoes, lentil loaf and sage and onion stuffing. I threw in some crunchy red peppers and a bit of rocket to liven it up and voila, the roast dinner wrap was born. I was so rushed that day that I didn't even photograph it - sorry, next time I will I promise!

This one is one of my favourite wrap fillings. An Italian style wrap that is bursting with flavour and its pretty simple to make too. All the ingredients are things that I usually have in my cupboards and fridge, and it tastes great with some leftover rice thrown in there too, if you have any. The Italian inspired dipping sauce really compliments the flavours of the wraps, and can be spiced up if you like with some fresh chopped birdseye chilies.

Add caption

Ingredients for 2

2 sheets of nori (raw or toasted)
1/2 bell pepper, cut into strips
1/4 cucumber, cut into strips
1 carrot, cut into strips
1/4 of chopped fennel, sliced
6-8 whole kalamata olives, pitted
5 cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 sundried tomatoes, finely diced (optional)

Dipping sauce for2

1 tbsp water
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 shredded spring onion
Pinch of dried oregano
Pinch of sea salt

First make the dipping sauce, it tastes better when made an hour in advance as the flavours can mingle together better, but if you don't have time that's fine too! Add the ingredeints to a small bowl and whisk together with a fork until well combined.

Assembling the wraps is easy. Divide the vegetables between the two sheets of nori, and wrap them up, making a cone shape so that you can easily hold the bottom without the filling falling out!

Photo Credit Emma Lou Cowell 2015