Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Vegan, gluten & refined sugar free pumpkin pie!

The days are getting shorter, there is a (pretty fierce) chill in the air and it's Thanksgiving tomorrow; it's that time of year when you just need to eat pumpkin pie. I just adore pumpkin pie, it is so creamy and delicious- the perfect comfort food. I wish it were more popular in England!

Over the years my pumpkin pies have evolved from regular pumpkin pies, to wholemeal crust then on to refined sugar and dairy free and finally gluten free. I've never attempted to make one without the eggs before, as they seemed like such a vital part of the structure. How can you make a pumpkinny custard without the eggs? For the past couple of years I took the easy option and we've enjoyed a tasty raw version of this dish but this year I felt brave. Maybe it's all the Dr Who action I've been watching lately inspiring me with fearlessness, but I was finally ready to tackle the vegan, refined sugar free and gluten free pie!

As I was pondering how to go about it, I remembered I had some agar agar in the cupboard which I'd used to make fruit jelly last year. I am also a big fan of tapioca flour and use that to thicken up all sorts of sauces, so I reckoned with these two ingredients I was on to something.

So armed with my tapioca flour, agar agar and big old fresh pumpkin (it is super tricky to find canned pumpkin in the UK so no easy option for me!) I experimented. And you know what? It worked!

For the crust
1 cup of buckwheat flour
1/2 cup of brown rice flour
1 cup of maize flour
2 tbsp tapioca flour
3 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
1 tbsp ground flax
pinch of sea salt
Cold water to mix

For the filling
1 small-medium sweet pumpkin
1/4 cup of pumpkin juice*
1/2 cup of the thick part of the coconut milk
1 tbsp of agar agar powder/flakes
2 1/2 tbsp tapioca flour
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
2 tbsp maple or brown rice syrup
1 tsp sugar free vanilla extract
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground allspice (or clove)
Pinch of sea salt

*This juice is created during the roasting of the pumpkin. You could also use boiling water.

First preheat the oven to 180 degrees (fan).

Step 1: Roast the pumpkin
Cut your pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and place cut side up on a baking tray. Bake for around 1 hour until soft and cooked.
Remove the pumpkin from the oven. The pumpkin will have filled up with juice, drain this into a bowl and set aside for use in a minute.

Step 2: Make the pastry crust
Add all the ingredients (apart from the water) to a food processor and pulse to mix. Then gradually add the water a little at a time until it comes together as a dough. Tip the dough out and press into a greased 22cm pie dish. This part is much easier than regular pastry as no rolling involved, just press it in to an even thickness. You can make the edges fancy if you like by crimping them with your fingers, or pressing a fork around the edge.

Place the pie dish in the hot oven for 8 minutes just to firm up a little.

Step 3: Make the filling
Take 1/4 cup of the pumpkin juice and stir in the agar agar, whisk lightly.
In a food processor, add 2 1/2 cups of the flesh of the roasted pumpkin (about half to just over half of the pumpkin if it is medium) and the agar agar. Blitz well until smooth. Add all the remaining ingredients and process so there are no lumps remaining.

Step 4: Assemble
Open the oven door and carefully pour the pumpkin mixture into the pastry case. Put back in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, turn the oven down to 160 (fan) and cook for a further 10 minutes or until the middle is set but still has a slight wobble. Cool on a rack for an hour and the transfer to the fridge overnight or for around 4 hours.

The pie is darker than regular pumpkin pie because of the coconut palm sugar, but the flavour is all there!

I used the rest of my pumpkin, the rest of the can of coconut milk and the remaining pumpkin juice in a dhal for dinner so nothing was wasted!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Back with a Bonfire night bang! Vegan, refined sugar free toffee apples.

My talk 'Where the wildfoods are'

Oh dear. I've been absent for so much longer than I thought I had, I have no clue where the time goes. The start of October saw both myself and my hubby giving talks at Vegfest in London with the amazing LifeWell Wellbeing hub which was super fun! I have long been freaked out by the idea of speaking in front of people, but I guess finding the area I love to speak about made it much easier than I thought. I was still super nervous, and I was convinced I'd blunder through it messing it all up so I was pleasantly surprised when that didn't happen!

Since that date we have enjoyed the company of my lovely Sister-in-law visiting from the States which has been a blast (sorry, more Bonfire Night puns!). We got to take fun trips to the Wye Valley and Wales and Sherwood forest, all sorts of adventuring. We even went to a pub that's in a cave, how about that. Not all play though, we've been working hard finishing a project that we're doing together so I've been pretty tied up. But things are calmer now and I realised how badly I've been neglecting this blog, I'm so sorry guys.

I'm starting back into the world of blogging with a bang- because it's Bonfire Night! For my non British friends the 5th of November in the UK is a day we celebrate with firework displays and bonfires, burning effigies of a bloke called Guy Fawkes. Guy back in 1605 attempted with a group of others, to blow up the houses of parliament. I'm not so sure why we pick on Guy specifically, as he wasn't even the ring leader, but every year kids make 'Guys' out of straw, old clothes and paper and we burn them on the fire. Whenever I explain this tradition I realise how gruesome it actually is, but it is my favourite celebration for so many other reasons.

In our dark cold Autumn evenings, there is nothing better than warming your hands near a big old bonfire with a cup of fragrant mulled wine, enjoying some crunchy toffee apples, steaming hot chocolate and maybe some bangers (that's sausages) with friends and family, while watching the pretty lights in the sky. These days our hot chocolate, sausages and toffee apples are of course vegan and refined sugar free wholefood versions, but just as tasty and atmospheric!

Today the girls and I made these uber tasty toffee apples and I am excited to share the recipe with you (watch out though, they're real tooth breakers!).

A little note of caution. This toffee mixture gets HOT. It will burn your skin and stays hot for quite a while. My girls like to measure out the ingredients and skewer the apples, I do the toffee making and dipping of the apples.

Toffee Apples (makes 4)

4 apples
4 wooden skewers, cut in half
1/2 cup of coconut palm sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp coconut oil

First of all, wash and dry your apples and skewer them with the wooden sticks to make a handle, set aside.
Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a pan and heat over a medium heat, stirring constantly for about 4 minutes until thick and bubbly.
You can test if the mixture is ready by dropping a bit onto some greaseproof paper to see if it sets.
When ready, quickly dip the apples in the toffee and stand on some greaseproof paper to set. Don't worry if all your apple isn't coated, I think it actually looks more rustic and pretty this way.