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

Monday, 9 February 2015

Scrambled Ackee

First of all, I just wanted to say thank you so much for bearing with me while this blog undergoes a re-vamp. The transition from 'The Boo The Bear and the Goji Berries' to 'Ellie's Recipes' has been a bit more complicated than I thought (being no computer whizz) but I'm doing my best to get it ready and it's very nearly there!

Things have been pretty crazy busy here. And when it gets like that I turn to comfort foods. I've always preferred savoury foods to sweet ones, and one of my favourite things to eat is scrambled ackee. I am totally obsessed with breakfast foods. I'd much rather go out to eat breakfast than dinner, though finding a decent vegan breakfast in Oxfordshire is no small thing!

If you've never come across ackee before, its a kind of fruit native to West Africa, and very popular in the Caribbean. In fact ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica. Traditionally served alongside salt fish, ackee also lends itself to vegan cooking very well. It's great in vegan quiches, and is a tasty filling in tacos and burritos along with rice and guacamole.  But ackee really shines as a breakfast food, and serving it scrambled is my favourite way to eat it. It doesn't have a very strong taste, so I like to add herbs and other veggies for maximum flavour.

In the UK you'll mostly find ackee canned in water or brine. Some branches of Asda and Sainsburys stock it in the world foods isle, or you can usually get it in your local Asian store. In the US canned is the only way you'll find it, as in its fresh form it is banned. Eating under ripe ackee, or consuming the pods or seeds can result in a very serious form of food poisoning, which can cause death if not treated- pretty serious stuff. But don't let that put you off! It's a wonderful food, and the canned version tastes divine in this dish, it really is my favourite breakfast and I'm sure you'll love it as much as I do.

Scrambled Ackee
Serves 2

1 tbsp coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil
1 can of akee, drained
1 red bell peper, diced
1 small red onion, diced finely
1 clove of garlic, diced
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Handful of fresh corriander
Toasted rye or sourdough bread

In a frying pan, saute he onion and garlic until softened in the oil. don't let the pan get too hot. When the onion is translucent, add the akee and red pepper. It only needs to cook for a couple of minutes as the akee just needs warming through, and I like the pepper to still have some crunch. Season with salt and pepper and pour the scrambled akee over the toast. Garnish with some fresh chopped coriander, this really lifts the dish!