Monday, 15 December 2014

Stollen Choc Chip Bread and Butter Pudding

So hands up if you bulk bought Aldi stollen when it went on sale after Christmas. And hands up if you still have a few loaves taking up valuable cupboard space.

Yeah, I hear you.

My stollen have been building up dust since the end of last December. I don't really go by this 'use by date' business, but I figured my stollen probably aren't at their best. What to do with stale stollen? I was pretty short on ideas, I thought about chopping it up, covering it with sugar and melted marg and then using it as a crumble topping, then I thought about just deep frying it and finally the perfect idea came into place...bread and butter pudding!

Stollen Choc Chip Bread and Butter Pudding

  • 1 reaaaalllyyy old stollen
  • soya butter
  • 200g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 800ml custard
  • 400ml water
  • 5 tbsp cornflour
  • 6 tbsp sugar
  1. Slice the stollen thinly and give each slice a generous spread of the butter
  2. Place into a buttered dish. Sprinkle the chopped chocolate between layers.
  3. To make the custard, cut down the vanilla pod and remove all the seeds, put into a pan. Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk until smooth.
  4. Heat up the mixture to just below a boil and then simmer for 8-10 minutes, whisking the whole time. The custard will be ready when it thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
  5. Preheat the oven to 180C. Pour the custard over the stollen and leave to soak for 20 minutes.
  6. Put the pudding into the oven for 30 minutes.
Serves 6

This was sooo good. I don't know if it was because the stollen was out of date or the heat of the oven but the marzipan sort of crystalised a bit, which burnt like hell when I dived in but tasted delicious. The chocolate chunks made it even better and I wish I'd added some extra cherries.

I think I put a little bit too much custard into the dish but to be honest, I think it was a good mistake to make.

I'll definitely be making this one again, I might have to buy more stollen to compensate for this!

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Everything in the Cupboard Meatballs

I'm being super careful with money at the moment, so dinners have been a weird concoction  of all the random stuff left in my cupboards. Some days the randomness does not work. At all. It's been like returning to my Mofo days! Today I found myself looking at some leftover chestnut puree, some tinned beans and a few spoons of pesto. Somehow I managed to put something together that really worked. Hurrah! It was so good I came straight to my laptop to share it with you.

Everything in the Cupboard Meatballs

  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tin kidney beans
  • 2 tbsp aubergine pesto (creamed basil or ordinary pesto will do here, or sub for tomato puree and a few dried herbs)
  • 1/4 cup chestnut puree
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 1 slice wholemeal bread
  • pinch of salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C and line a tray with tin toil.
  2. Pop the onion and garlic into a food processor and blitz until chopped.
  3. Add the beans, chestnut puree, pesto, nutritional yeast, salt, flour and a torn up slice of wholemeal bread. Blitz again until fairly smooth.
  4. The mix will be fairly sticky, but mould into balls and pop onto the tray. Spray or drizzle with oil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, turn the balls over, spray again and bake for a further 10 minutes.
Makes 12 balls

I served mine with a Homemade Tomato Sauce

  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tin tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup vegetable stock
  • generous pinch of salt
  • squeeze of sweet freedom
  • pepper
  • a little olive oil
  1. Fry the onion, leek and garlic in a little oil until soft.
  2. Add the puree, tomatoes, stock, salt and pepper
  3. Simmer for 20 minutes, taste and add a squeeze of sweet freedom if you need a bit of sweetness.
I also had the Broccoli Polenta from Appetite for Reduction, which is really easy to make and went well with both the sauce and meatballs. I'm finally happy to have leftovers hanging around in the fridge!

Chapati Cafe

I'd never heard of 'Rice & 3' until I came to Manchester. I don't know if it's a Manchester thing or just a Northern thing, but I don't care, I love it! The idea is simple, it's just 3 types of simple curry served with rice (sometimes you can pick chapatti or chips instead) usually all for under a fiver. I love it because there's usually decent vegan options available at these places so you get a good choice, it's fast, tasty and cheap. It's  a great choice for lunch or for a pre gig dinner when you're out and about in Manchester.

You cannot imagine how thrilled I was when Chorlton received it's very own version of Rice & 3 when Chapati Cafe arrived! I live close to and work in Chorlton, so I was super excited to try it out. I've actually been 4-5 times since it opened but usually on my 45 minute lunch break, so never had time to get some photos...until now.

I popped in last week and had another fantastic lunch there, so thought I'd finally write about it on here!

Chapati has a lot of choice for vegetarians and vegans. There's a choice of the Veg Thali (which is rice & 3) for just £4. Or, if you fancy something lighter you can get a Veg Wrap for £2.50, which is a choice of one or two of the curries in a chapati wrap with salad. Things like Samosas, Kachoris, Poppadoms and Chapati's are extra, but very cheap, so it's affordable to add on some extras.

I've only ever gone for the Thali, which has always been fantastic. There's always 4 veggie dishes to choose from and they're usually all vegan, just check on the day. This time round I had the dal, potato curry and mung bean curry, which was served with rice, salad and a choice of dips. The tamarind dip is AMAZING, I definitely recommend that. I also had poppadom and kachori to go with it.

My partner was with me and went for the potato curry veg wrap, which he really enjoyed.

I love these curries, they're simple but they're full of flavour. Some of the Rice & 3's in the town centre have curries that are so greasy and tasteless, but these are opposite. Service is quick and the staff are always really friendly and helpful.

The dining area is simple and basic again, but clean and tidy. I never feel like I'm rushed to leave either and despite the cafe being fairly small, there's plenty of space to sit and space between tables too, so you're not all crammed in together.

I really love Chapati Cafe. A good quality, affordable Rice & 3 has been a long time coming in Chorlton and it's definitely somewhere I'll be going again and again.

Friday, 5 December 2014


Nothing pleases me more than opening my email and finding an offer for chocolate samples! Luckily for me, I received one of those emails this week from Ethicoco - a new vegan and organic chocolate company.

I had two bars from their range arrive in the post today and I'm reporting back already, so you can imagine how quickly they disappeared. The two flavours I got were Oat Milk and Oat Milk with Raisins. They have another two flavours in the range, a Dark Chocolate and Dark Chocolate with Cranberries. I do like dark chocolate, but as I've never found a vegan 'milk' chocolate that has truly satisfied my taste buds, I was excited about the two flavours in my hands.

I started with the Oat Milk first and I loved it! This chocolate was so deliciously creamy. I find that a lot of 'milky' vegan chocolates aren't creamy enough for me and are just full of sugar. This bar was sweet, but not overly so. It's been a while since I've had chocolate that I've let melt completely in my mouth, and my God, it felt good to do that again.

The Raisin Oat Milk bar had the same creamy milk chocolate but was packed full of sweet, juicy raisins. I really liked this bar too, despite not being a huge fan of raisins. I'd especially love this bar if it had nuts in it too, hopefully this will be a plan for the future!

All Ethicoco bars are organic, soy free and produced in a nut and dairy free environment. The packaging is also recyclable and all ingredients are ethically soured. This means that they're direct trade, fair trade or local produce - things that you don't see often when it comes to chocolate. The way the chocolate is produced is also interesting as they use a process called 'Bean to Bar'. This means that Ethicoco are involved in entire process of making the chocolate once they have imported the beans. Apparently there are less than 10 chocolate companies in the UK that use this method. More information can be found here.

Overall I'm really impressed with Ethicoco, I really like that they're organic and a great price too, at £2.99 for the Oat Milk varieties and £3.99 for the Dark Chocolates, all of the bars are 100g. It looks like you can only get them from the website at the moment, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they'll be in the shops soon.

In the meantime, I think I might have to get my hands on some for Christmas treats!

Monday, 1 December 2014

Creamy Butternut Pasta Bake

A while back, my good friend Jenny over at Spice Box of Earth invited me over for dinner and films. Dinner is always amazing at Jenny's but that night I had a Mac n Cheese that blew my mind. It was based on the Butternut Alfredo recipe from PPK and it was awesome. I've made it a few time since as a lower fat alternative to the usual oil laden New Farm favourite of mine.

I decided to make it tonight but realised I was missing a few key ingredients, one of them being cashew nuts. I decided to go ahead and make something similar anyway and I was super happy with the results. So here's a simpler butternut sauce recipe for you, it's not as cheesy as the Alfredo one so I daren't call it Mac n Cheese, but it does have a nice tang to it and will be something I make again and again.

Creamy Butternut Pasta Bake

  • 200g dried pasta
  • 1 large head broccoli, cut into florets
  • 3 vine tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 cups butternut squash
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • a little olive oil
  • 1.5 cups soya milk
  • a few tsps boullion powder
  • 4 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 tbsp miso
  • pinch of salt
  1. First get the garlic cloves, squash and a wee bit of olive oil roasting in the oven for 40 minutes or so.
  2. Put the pasta on to boil. Halfway through, add the broccoli
  3. While the pasta is cooking put the squash and garlic into a blender. Add the soy milk, boullion, nutritional yeast, miso and salt. Blitz until smooth.
  4. Drain the pasta and broccoli and stir in the sauce.
  5. Pour into an oven dish, top with sliced tomatoes and bake for 20 minutes or so.
Serves 4

I prefer a cheesy sauce with cashews but this is a pretty tasty substitute. I usually have most of these ingredients on hand , so this is definitely becoming a regular go to dish for me.

I love putting broccoli in creamy pasta type dishes but frozen brussel sprouts are also pretty good instead. A splash of veggie worcester sauce is also a great addition.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Stew and Sadness

So that back pain I mentioned last month? It turns out I managed to fracture my rib. I've been out of action for weeks. It's only been over the last 5-6 days that I've started to feel anywhere close to normal, which I'm feeling super relieved about. I'm incredibly anti-social and love watching Buffy on repeat, so I always thought I'd thrive in situations like this, but that has not been the case. I haven't been so bored and depressed in a long time. I wasn't eating properly because I couldn't cook, I wasn't leaving the house and I wasn't even watching anything I could engage with. For the first time ever I started watching awful romantic comedies on Netflix, which then led to Netflix suggesting nothing but shit for me to watch. It was a horrible, horrible cycle.

There was one particularly horrible week I realised that I wasn't going to be okay for my trip to Berlin and that I was now on Statutory Sick Pay until I got better. Normally when crappy things happen I can distract myself, I can get out of the house and go for a bike ride, or go see friends. This time I couldn't do any of those things, I was stuck in the same tiny flat I'd been in for weeks and had nothing better to do than dwell on things and worry. I ended up surrounding myself in what felt like a bubble of shitty emotions. When I was at university and my depression was at it's worst, I found myself in this place a lot so it wasn't a new experience for me. Somehow though, it felt more unfair because this time round I didn't make the choice to shut myself away from the world.

Luckily, I was convinced not to cancel my holiday and put together a Plan B for what I could realistically do in the city. I also decided that I'd do what I want to do and then worry about my financial situation when I return. The trip to Berlin was enough to pull me out of my bubble (I'll be blogging about it soon!) and my recovery has sped along nicely over the last week. 

So that explains the absence on my blog recently, I was desperate to keep up the momentum after Mofo but as I've not been cooking, eating or doing anything of any interest, I had nothing to write about. I arrived back home yesterday and woke this morning determined to cook a proper hearty meal. Stew immediately came to mind, it's cheap, simple, hearty food. I don't really follow any kind of recipe, but I thought I'd go through all of the components that I think are crucial for a good stew. So here we go:

Hearty Hasta La Vegan Stew


Firstly you want to start off with a good base to your stew. You want some onion, leek, garlic, celery (I actually forgot to get celery today unfortunately, so going without this time). This is where you're going to get a lot of flavour, fry off in a little olive oil.

After you have your base flavours, you want to get a variety of root veggies in there. This time round I've got carrots, swede, parsnips and potatoes. Turnips, celeriac, squash and sweet potatoes are also winners here, but I didn't want to end up making enough stew for 20 people so I just went for basics.

Something green! I chose Cavolo Nero today, but any kind of kale, spinach, spring greens, cabbage is good here. Don't boil the hell out of it though, just pop it in during the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Bulk it up!

You'll put barley grain in there if you know what's good for you.

Lentils? Veggie sausages? Both? Sure! Tinned beans are good too, I have memories close to my heart of an awesome stew I once made with flageolet beans in it. I've been too scared to do it again in case it's not as successful. I don't want to tarnish good memories.

Dumplings? HELL. YES. I consider dumplings an essential part of a stew, season with mix salt, pepper and dried herbs. Unfortunately I'm putting health over heart today and missing them out, but I already feel regret.

Beef it up!

Yeah. You heard me. BEEF. IT. UP. 

How? Yeast extract, lots of it + nutritional yeast + onion gravy granules - sorted. Soy sauce is also a good addition here.

I usually add these things towards the end of cooking. Don't go crazy with salt until you've added this stuff and tasted it, otherwise you risk making it too salty.

Extra flavour!

I always chuck a few bay leaves and a bouquet garnet in there while I'm boiling the hell out of it. Veg stock is essential too.

Crusty bread!

Need I say more? What else is better than dipping soya buttery crusty bread in a stew like this? NOTHING!

And here is the result:

 Tasty, tasty stew! If Berlin hadn't cured me from my bubble of sadness, this bowl of stew would have done the job.

Vegan Life Issue 2

Time seems to be flying by, as it’s already time for me to review the next issue of Vegan Life Magazine! The back pain I mentioned in my previous post has been ongoing, so I was delighted to have this copy of Vegan Life waiting on my tablet to entertain me while I was confined to the sofa.

I know it’s a bit too early to get excited about Christmas, but this issue made it impossible not to. I’ve officially started Christmas planning early thanks to Vegan Life! Obviously it was the recipes that first caught my eye. I was drooling at the idea of the Lentil Mushroom Crumble and Christmas Pudding Cake recipes. It was nice to see dishes with traditional Christmas flavours/ingredients but with a spin on them. I’m sure I’m not the only vegan who gets tired of the same old frozen nut roast year after year.

 There are also a few recipes taken from the new book Vegan Finger Foods, presented as Festive Finger Food ideas.  I already have the book, but these recipes got me pulling it off the bookshelf again and taking a closer look with Christmas in mind. Spinach Swirls and Chocolate Nut Butter Cups were just a few of the recipes shared and they look so tempting that they’re guaranteed to impress. I really like that Vegan Life thought of adding this selection,  it’s a great idea for people who aren’t in control of the kitchen on the day and want to bring food that can be prepared in advance and then shared amongst family and friends.

To aid the Christmas preparations is the article Your Cruelty Free Christmas, which offers advice on how to deal with your first vegan Christmas in a positive way for both you and the non vegans you may spend the day with. I remember how difficult my first vegan Christmas was and wish I’d had this advice on hand 7 years ago! Cooking your first vegan Christmas dinner can also be very daunting, so I really enjoyed the suggestions for starters, main courses and puddings. I think this article is good for both new and old vegans, the food suggestions in particular can be passed on to whoever is cooking to give inspiration.

Of course, only a small part of the magazine is focussed on Christmas and there was plenty more for me to enjoy, including an article on the workers co-operative Suma, the Veganuary campaign and a little piece on my favourite vegan social event, Cake Liberation Front!

But honestly? I loved the Christmas ideas the most. I don’t usually get this excited about the holidays but I’m having a vegan Christmas with friends this year and cannot wait to eat all the tasty foods. I’ll definitely keep my copy of Vegan Life handy for inspiration. Can’t wait for the next issue!