Wednesday, 30 September 2015

English Ambrosia

It's the last day of Vegan Mofo! I have to admit, I struggled with the 'Fusion Challenge'. But come snacktime, I had some fruit, and 10 minutes, so I made this simple, healthy version of Ambrosia. If you're not familiar with Ambrosia, it's a traditional Southern American dessert, and it can be either a delicious fresh mix of citrus and coconut, or a gloopy marshmallow-y monstrosity. I favour the former variety, and I base my recipe off of the one in The Glory of Southern Cooking, but I use coconut milk or cream instead of icing sugar. It's so simple, you won't need precise measurements - just eyeball it!

An orange or two, chopped into pieces. The less pith the better, though I'm not terribly fastidious about this. 
An English Apple or two, something tart-ish like Cox, peeled and chopped.
An English Pear, like Conference, peeled and chopped.
A handful of crushed pecans
A small handful of dessicated coconut flakes (don't go overboard with these - one or two tablespoons max)
A little fresh orange juice, a couple tablespoons will do it.
About 1/4 cup of coconut cream

That's it! It's sugar free, and I swear, my kid thinks I'm the coolest right now. 

Goodbye Mofo, it's been real. I've learned that I perhaps can't keep up with all these amazing food bloggers, but it was fun! 

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Posh Cocoa Coconut Granola

Well, hello there! I know, I'm lame - I HAVE been keeping up on Instagram. At any rate, today's theme is... ROAD TRIP! To be honest, when I go on a trip, I tend to just pack some store-bought snacks and drinks - but that makes for a pretty boring post if you ask me. In the fall, my husband and I like to go to Norfolk if we get the chance, for chilly dog walks and cozy fires, and there's this company we sometimes find our rental through that leaves a welcome basket - nice tea, coffee, wine, and sometimes a posh granola. Call me an old-time hippie, but I think homemade granola makes a nice hostess gift, or indeed a nice 'thank you' for a house-sitter, cat-feeder, or plant-waterer. Anyway, want the recipe? Its crunchy, flavourful and indulgent yet relatively wholesome: 

1 1/2 cups quick oats
1 tbsp dessicated coconut
1 tbsp cocoa nibs
1 tbsp ground flax seeds
1/4 cup mixed seeds (like pumpkin and sunflower - whatever you like)
1/4 cup pecan pieces
1/4 coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup of non-dairy milk
1 1/2 tbsp agave nectar (if you sub something else, like brown rice syrup, use 2 tbsp)
1 tbsp brown sugar

Mix it all together, and bake for about 20 minutes at 180C (350F), until browned. Rather than the standard method of sprinkling over a larger baking sheet, I actually like to press it together in a thin layer, break it apart after it browns, then bake again for another 5 minutes or so. I just like the big, uneven chunks I get that way, but it does take a little longer. 

Let it cool, and either gift it or keep it all to yourself!

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Scenes From Our Table (Mofo edition)

Little bit of a photo digest post, and again, we're still only on iPhone around here until I get my computer running. So, some piccies?

Breakfast this morning, waffles! For the 'snowed in' prompt. They always feel like a treat to me. 

Snacks. Plants. Table linens. 

I can't remember what this was, but I think she liked it?!

Made my spelt-citrus doughnuts a little less healthy with a lemon glaze, for my WWMD post on Instagram: What Would Martha Do? I love Martha Stewart, and she should totally go vegan. Imagine the food. 

Bad photo, but I had to brag: my toddler was STUFFING HER FACE with this lacto-fermented daikon, alongside her udon and tofu. Dying of pride.

This kid, right here. 

Her breakfast, on a pretty average day. Homemade bread, peanut butter, peach. 

Breakfast, on a less average day. Buckwheat pancakes, figs. 

I like setting the table. I like this early autumn light. 

And I like hearing from you! I haven't been able to keep up as much as I'd hoped, but I will be reading more mofo posts this week. Almost finished, guys!

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Soup Weather: Clearspring Miso Ramen

Hey, it's the autumnal equinox! Let's do something pagan about it! Or, you know, we could just have soup. As I mentioned, the babe is starting nursery two days a week, both for her and for me in anticipation of baby brother's arrival. It's going amazingly well; she LOVES it, and I get a couple days a week to nest and look after myself for this final trimester. AND I get to eat what I want for lunch, with no consideration of toddler pickiness (although, I actually think she'd like this - next time I'll share). I picked up this Clearspring Miso Ramen knowing that I like the brand, and hoping for something quick, yummy and wholesome. 

It's ramen, right? So, it reminds me of the the unhealthy stuff I lived on in college, only soooo much better. The noodles aren't fried, and the broth paste is ginger miso, not too salty - just right. Doctor it up with leftovers and greens, and you have a perfect, fast, healthy, midweek lunch.

This is with leftover tofu and carrot, and some fresh curly kale. 

Other toppings and add-ins that would be good (leftovers being a massive bonus):

Sweet potato
Spring onion
Bean Sprouts 
Fermented radishes or daikon
Any other greens
Adzuki Beans
Green Beans

I could go on forever! So well done, Clearspring. I like-i'-a-lo'. 

*This isn't a sponsored post, by the way. Just random enthusiasm. 

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Kabocha Kale Pasta + The Concept of Squish

Today's prompt: a dish made with seasonal produce. We shop mainly seasonally these days, getting a weekly organic veg box delivery and topping up at the farmers market, with online shops for tins and dry goods. It works for me, as I don't like to plan meals in advance. I'd rather throw together a grain, a protein (usually, not always), and some seasonal veg - whatever needs to be used up first. So this dish is very typical weeknight fare for us, which brings me to the concept of 'squish'. A friend of mine was talking about her mother, who from all accounts sounds an amazing lady, and how she used to make 'squish' for dinner. What the hell is squish, you ask? It's anything, thrown together in a loose sort-of way; in their house I think it was quite saucy like a savoury pie filling. So they would have, say, chicken squish with mashed potatoes. If I broaden the concept slightly, to include what amounts to hash, I realised that all I eat is vegetable squish! It's like paint by numbers. Take, say, 3 seasonal ingredients, cook them together simply and serve with a starch. Or, let's say you made a root veggie squish in white sauce, then maybe you'd serve with greens or seitan instead. You can prepare the same thing over and over, but never eat the same meal twice. For a busy mom (so, you know, all of us), it's a healthy, no-brainer option that allows my kid to try new seasonal food all the time, in the context of a familiar meal (say, pasta). Like so:

Roasted Kabocha Squash (my FAVOURITE. On the off-chance you don't know how to roast kabocha squash, I just cook mine in chunks in the oven with a little olive oil for about half an hour, at 200C. Leftovers are obviously great for this sort of thing.)
Chestnut Mushrooms
Chopped Curly Kale
Half a red onion
1 clove garlic
Your favourite pasta

Pretty squash. The skins are edible, by the way. 

I roasted the squash ahead of time (while my daughter was enjoying her VERY FIRST DAY at nursery. Sob.), then sautéed the onion, garlic, mushrooms and kale together in a little olive oil and lemon juice, adding the squash in at the last minute just to warm up again. So that's my 'squish', combine with pasta = awesome meal. This is how I want to cook on weeknights; I want it to be easy, tasty, healthy, fast, and not make too many dirty dishes in the process. Is that too much to ask? Squish! 

I think the squash is a hit! Between the two of us, we were lucky to have some left for the pasta. 

Monday, 21 September 2015

Desert Island Foodstuffs

I thought today's Mofo prompt was a particularly fun one: if you were stranded on a desert island, what three endless food supplies would you take (nutrition not being a consideration)? Without further ado:

Hot Sauce: 

Obviously. This is my number one pregnancy craving this time around, and, for me, flavour is more important than serious heat. I particularly can't be without Pepper Plant. It's made in Gilroy, California, and it's garlicky and awesome, not especially hot but flavourful. Unfortunately, it's hard to find outside a certain radius of Gilroy - I always bring it home from California, and ask people to bring more when they visit. I also like Tapatio, Cholula, Tabasco, West Indian Hot Pepper sauce - and whatever else we find on our travels. While I like sriracha (and I know this is a controversial opinion), it's not my favourite and I think rather overrated. There! I said it! 


I almost didn't include this, because I'm not really drinking many hot drinks at the moment (can't explain it - they make me feel sick when I'm pregnant, even though they still taste nice), but then I remembered my beloved Kombucha. So I'll take an endless supply of the good stuff, please. Some lovely darjeeling pictured above, from Borough Market. 


"I bought you flours"

While I am not yet the bread baker that I aspire to be, imagine all the things you could manage with flour in addition to your island-foraged foods! Pancakes, dumplings, BREAD. And before you burst my bubble with the 'how will you cook it?' problem, consider; I'm pretty sure that if Jamie Oliver can make a pizza oven out of mud in his backyard, I can figure something out. And I want all different kinds, too. 'Cause I'm greedy. 

Things that didn't quite make the cut include wine (I'm sure I can ferment something from the island, guys - if Poussey can manage it in Litchfield...), vinegar (a serious contender), and some kind of sweetener. But you know, we all have to make hypothetical sacrifices sometimes.  

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Kale Taco Salad (Vegan)

Taco Salad is one of those American dishes that are utterly foreign here, and sometimes I get a real jones for it. Not the traditional version with ground beef and cheese - yuck - but rather this fresh version. 

Base of massaged kale, to make it extra vegan. Gives it a nice heft. *See note below. Lettuce works too, obvs.  
Fibely chopped red onion
Red Pepper
Canned black olives (not optional! These are what make it taste like my mom's!)
Kidney beans
If I were in the US, I would also add these 'tamed jalapeños' that are available there - so good if you can find them. 

Start with equal parts vegan mayo and hot salsa, adjust to taste. It's hard to find good ready-made salsa in the UK, but luckily the underwhelming jarred variety works really well here. 

Serve huge portions, with tortilla chips!

*How and why massage kale? You basically work the kale for a while with your fingers to make it tender enough to eat raw. Don't be gentle!



Yum! Taco Salad!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

How To Get Into British Heaven

Step one: Put the kettle on.

Step two: Use good, loose, English Breakfast tea. Loose tea tastes better. Always. 

Step three: Use a teapot. I've got lots, including a nice big Brown Betty (bam-ba-lam), but most often I use this little cheapo I got from a Chinese wholesaler. Using a pot keeps the volatile oils from escaping, which means flavour. Another thrift store pot, just for fun: 

Step four: Milk. Unlike with coffee, you can't use any old non-dairy milk. I find the most universally agreeable to be oat milk (my current fav) and Alpro Simply Mild. I sometimes keep the latter in the house for guests.

Step five: Brew now or brew later, 4pm or 4am, to anyone and everyone who crosses your threshold. 

P.S. A biscuit doesn't hurt. These are Doves Farm, but plain Hobnobs happen to be vegan too. Peter Kay approved for dunking. 

P.P.S. Ok, so, I *may* not have had time for my originally planned 'regional dish' for Vegan Mofo, but this is important stuff too, guys.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Late Summer Love - Fresh Figs

Is it late summer? Or early autumn? It certainly feels like autumn around here. Today's Vegan Mofo prompt is 'favourite late summer food', and although it's hard to choose, I immediately thought of fresh figs. I like them every which way, but the best is just plain, fresh, sliced into quarters. As I mentioned yesterday, I think they make a respectable dessert for guests: if you want to be really fancy, you could drizzle with a little brown rice syrup and serve with your favourite vegan cheese - I'd choose Vegusto No-Moo, Piquant flavour. 

As you can see, the little hands are straight in there too. 

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

A Layette, Take Two

Interrupting your regularly scheduled mofo for a wee update: 

You know how when they tell you the sex of your baby at an ultrasound, they say quite breezily, dismissively even, that they are 99.99% sure? Well, we are the 0.01. At 19 weeks we had a scan, hoping to find out before our trip, and were told in no uncertain terms, 'GIRL'. Having a girl already, luckily we didn't go nuts on baby stuff, but we did get a few things, including some really cute matching pajamas for 'the girls'. Then we got back, and had our anomaly scan at 23 weeks, and were told in no uncertain terms, 'BOY'! And this time it was pretty, erm, obvious. The place that got it wrong was suitably apologetic and threw in a 4D scan for us, and confirmed what we had already seen. So, it's a boy! And we're super-duper sure now. Like, 99.99%.

I'm still trying not to go too crazy, but was excited about how cute some of these boys clothes are. Eep! When F saw those bear leggings, she went 'Oh my goodness!! Little bears!!! Kiss the bears!', and proceeded to kiss all the little bears. She agrees, they are 'very, very, really cute.' Let's just hope she likes the baby that much!

So all systems go, baby brother. Game on. 

Cooking for Guests

Just this morning someone asked me about cooking with/for a carnivorous partner, and the Mofo prompt is 'Barack Obama is coming to dinner - what do you make??' So I guess I'm thinking about the broader theme of cooking for guests, most of whom will be omnivores. I personally don't think it's all that difficult - they really will survive an evening without animal flesh, so our job is to represent with something super tasty. Some ideas!

Cook what you know:
I have a tendency to go really American when I cook for guests. Living in England, what's familiar to me might be cool and exotic to someone else. I remember making homemade salsa for a party once, nothing terribly unique, and it was such a hit. What are your family recipes? What are you really confident making? Whether it's just a killer potato salad or something special like tamales, don't discount your own experience in favour of something random off Pinterest. 

Cook ahead:
If at all possible, make something you can do ahead of time. It's a bummer if your host is stuck in the kitchen, all stressed out. If you do need to make something while your guests are there, do your prep work ahead of time, so onions chopped, potatoes peeled, etc. There's an exception to this rule though: maybe it's the holidays, and the time spent in the kitchen cooking with family is something you all enjoy. My family enjoys cooking together. Alternatively, if you're hiding from family, I guess that's ok too. 

Go casual, go cozy:
Others may disagree with me here, but I want my guests to feel at ease, and for me that means comforting food, served family style. A warming, flavourful main with a side or two, all on the table rather than in courses. I love to make chilli, curries, jambalaya - a big aromatic pot of welcome. I think the strong flavours are especially good for omnivores, who may not be keen on, like, a macro bowl with tofu and seaweed. Homemade pizza is another good option, especially as it can be easily customised for children. 

Have dessert:
I know I said that I usually don't bother with courses, but dessert makes an occasion, right? Pie, cake, cobbler - all can be done well ahead of time. One of my favourite things to serve is simple seasonal fruit: figs and sharon fruit always seem special to me, but just about anything will do. A nice ambrosia is a little different as well (depending on where you are I suppose!) - I like one with just citrus and coconut that I adapted from The Glory of Southern Cooking. And here's a trick for getting over-polite guests to accept a bite of dessert: rather that say, 'so, who wants some pie/figs/ambrosia?' (at which point it seems like all English people are conditioned to respond 'oh, I couldn't possibly, don't put yourself out!), just bring it to the table so that you can serve all casual-like, if they really do want some. Super breezy, like, la la la, no effort here. I think it's also a good idea to keep some good commercial vegan ice cream in the freezer during the holidays - for a scoop alongside something else, or on its own. Who doesn't like ice cream?

Set the table:
Casual doesn't mean sloppy, does it? A pretty table shows you care. A pretty table makes your guests feel looked after.
I swear, a pretty table makes the food taste better. Have water on the table, have wine. 

Don't apologise:
An oldie, but a goodie, care of Julia Child. Don't apologise. Don't apologise for slight errors or omissions in your recipe, don't insult your own efforts, DON'T apologise for making something they may not eat every day. Unless the error requires an EpiPen, I don't think it requires an apology. 

For the record, I'd probably make chilli, cornbread and cobbler like I always do for that surreal, hypothetical visit. President Obama seems like a pretty chill guy. 

Monday, 14 September 2015

Apple Blackberry Rustic Pie with Buckwheat Crust

This is something of a cross between a galette and a pie, and it's so autumnal I can barely stand it. It's sweater weather on a plate.

It's also inspired by two favourite recipes, the Rustic Tarts from Kim Boyce's excellent Good to the Grain, and the Appleberry Pie from Vegan Pie in the Sky - with a few modifications. Here's how we do:

For the Buckwheat Crust: 
1 cup of buckwheat flour
1 cup of plain flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup of Trex vegetable shortening 
6-8 tablespoons of cold water
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

For all the hand-wringing about homemade pastry, I really don't think it's all that difficult, though it's possible I have lower standards than most. Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl, 'cut in' the shortening with your fingers, working quickly, until it looks like breadcrumbs, as below:

Then add the vinegar and water, (start with 4 tablespoons of water maybe, then one tablespoon at a time), until it forms a ball of pastry. Then wrap it up and rest in the fridge for at least an hour. Kim Boyce recommends folding it a few times after this time, then resting again. It's not the end of the world if you skip this step - I often do. It's also worth noting that she uses rye, and I find this is a good template for any whole grain flour. 
When you're ready, roll it out imprecisely. You could go a bit thinner than I have here, as you want it to fill the pie plate and fold over the filling.  

The Filling:
About 4 cups of peeled cooking Apple chunks. I like Bramleys, and this is about 2 good sized apples.
About 1 cup of blackberries, I used my foraged stash. Frozen is fine and dandy.
About 1 cup of blueberries. I happened to need to use these up - you can use more blackberries to be more seasonally appropriate.
1/2 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of water
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
A grating of nutmeg
2 tablespoons of cornstarch

It's basic, and I've made very few modifications, but that's how I like it. It's not overly sweet, and has a satisfying messiness. So you fold the crust over loosely for a rustic galette kind-of feel, and then brush this little mixture over the exposed crust:

1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of non-dairy milk. I use oat. 

Bake at 180C (350F) for 50-60 minutes. My oven is on the fast side. 

Let it cool, then you've got some rustic, autumnal goodness to share with the world. Not too shabby. 

*Sorry about the photo quality! The nights are drawing in faster than I anticipated! 

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Kitchen Tour

It's kitchen tour day! I love our kitchen, and although people often describe it as 'lived in', which may be code for 'messy', we certainly get it done in here. I seem to post pics of our kitchen all the time, so here are just a few favourite corners for new Mofo friends! 

Transferware. Mostly vintage. 

The original hearth. The house was built in 1860, and we are in favour of keeping original features where we can.

Dry goods.

Aprons and the original dumb waiter, which is now a cupboard where I keep baking things and serving stuff. 

Doesn't it feel like autumn is in the air guys? I feel like roasting things and making soup. But first, more fruit.