Sunday, 26 October 2014

Orange Marmalade Cake

I've spent most of the last week stuck to the sofa with a really bad back. It's been no fun at all. I may constantly tweet about my love of crappy reality cook shows but the amusement factor ends when you watch them for hours on end because you have nothing else to do. After a painful visit to the Osteopath (which involved bone cracking moves that I thought only happened in films), I was feeling particularly sorry for myself. I was bored, lonely and in pain. Apart from a miraculous recovery only one thing could make me feel better...cake. Unfortunately, I was in no fit state to make that happen.

Yesterday was the first day all week where I felt able to move about. I wanted to push myself to get a little more active and spent the morning getting small jobs done around the house. I was a little sore afterwards but figured I could probably get a cake together if I rested for a few hours. I had plans to go see my good pal Jenny over at Spice Box of Earth for a nice meal and a few movies that evening and didn't want to turn up empty handed. 

A couple of episodes of Cutthroat Kitchen later and I was ready to bake. Wanting to branch out from chocolate, I decided to use up the orange marmalade I've had kicking about my kitchen cupboards for a while. I'd like to say I did something really creative with it, but I wanted to get a batter together and in the oven quick, so it's just a simple marmalade cake, but for the cake deprived and the miserable, this was heaven.

Orange Marmalade Cake

For the cake:
  • 175g dairy free margarine
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 2 pots of vanilla soya dessert (I couldn't get my hands on soya yoghurt but 1 cup of that would work)
  • 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 175g self raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tbsp orange marmalade
  • 2 tbsp water or soya milk
For the glaze
  • more marmalade
  • icing sugar & water
  1. Grease your cake tin and preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. In a large bowl cream together the marg and sugar.
  3. Add the dessert and vanilla. Mix until smooth.
  4. Fold in the flour, baking powder and salt.
  5. Stir in the marmalade and water before pouring the batter into the cake tin.
  6. Bake for 50-55 minutes. Leave the cake in the tin to cool. Use a knife to poke a few holes into the top of the cake, brush some marmalade on top while it's still warm. Do another coat when it's cooled and then make a glaze with the icing sugar and some warm water. Pour all over the cake, don't worry about making it look neat, this is not that kind of cake.
This was so simple and delicious. The marmalade gave the sponge all the flavour with minimal effort, no bloody zesting and juicing of oranges for me! I had this batter together within 5 minutes and the rest was easy. I served mine with custard and it was perfect.

The cake was much appreciated by Jenny and her adorable pooch Vulpe too.

I'm hoping this cake has healing powers, I've just had the last slice I brought home but I left Jenny with the rest. Jenny was also in pain last night after a bike accident, so fingers crossed the cake has the same effect on her as it has on me!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Manchester: Lotus Vegetarian Kitchen

Something amazing has come to Manchester. I'm so in love with this restaurant that I keep telling anyone who will listen just how amazing it is, so now it's your turn.

Lotus Vegetarian Kitchen is the first veggie/vegan Chinese restaurant to appear in Manchester. Whilst it's not completely vegan, the majority of dishes are suitable. I've eaten here probably around 4/5 times since it opened and I've made the same blogger mistake almost every time. I forget to take photos. soon as that food is on the table, I take my hoover-like approach and just inhale it.

My mum came to visit this weekend and my first thought was to have dinner at Lotus. I was determined to remember photos this time. To make up for my past mistakes and because there were three of us eating, I decided to order loads of food.

We started with a Starter Combo to Share and Faux Lamb Pancakes. Guess what? I forgot to take photos of the starter combo! Surprise! You'll have to use your imagination here...the plate had spring rolls, samosas, crispy seaweed, chick'n satay, bbq ribs and prawn toast. We also had some prawn crackers brought over free of charge too. It was so good. My favourites were the prawn toasts and the satay. The ribs were really impressive too, so chewy and sweet. Chinese starters have always been my favourite and it was great to have the chance to try a little bit of everything.
Crispy Lamb Pancakes

After the combo we moved on to the pancakes. Luckily I remembered to take a photo. This was so good, it didn't taste too dissimilar to the mock duck I've had there before. They both remind me of having the 'real thing' years ago. I could probably order one of these just for me and gorge on them, that's how amazing this dish is.

Salt and Pepper King Prawns
Wanting to try a selection of dishes, we ordered quite a lot of dishes to share for our main. We ordered the Salt & Pepper King Prawns, BBQ Veggie Meat, Sweet n Sour Ribs, Tofu and Aubergine Hot Pot and my mum wanted to try the Dumpling Soup, so we got one of those too. We also shared a few sides of the fried rice without the egg.

Ahhh, where do I begin? The King Prawns were uhhhmazing. I usually hate veggie prawns, they're quite often slimy, chewy and tasteless. I just have never got on with them in the past. I don't know what was different about these but they were so good. The outside was slightly crispy and they had a real kick of chilli with them.

The BBQ Veggie Meat was so sweet but incredibly more-ish and the Ribs were just as delicious. They had an amazing chewy texture and I loved the way sauce stuck to the ribs. I wanted to order a dish that wasn't just fake meat and I was so happy with my choice of the Tofu Aubergine Hot Pot. It was incredible! The aubergine just melted in the mouth and the tofu was perfectly cooked, slightly crispy on the outside, nice and soft on the inside.

BBQ Veggie Meat
Sweet n Sour Ribs
Tofu and Aubergine Hot Pot
You wouldn't think rice is something to bang on about, but this stuff was ace. It was a nice change to not have to stick with boring boiled rice. I didn't have the dumpling soup on this occasion, but have had it in the past and it's also a great dish.

Dumpling Soup
We were way too full up to have dessert but I have to say, this place does Deep Fried Soy Milk and it's weirdly tasty! Definitely recommended!

I have been to Lotus Vegetarian Kitchen a lot and I have left impressed every single time. When I first went it was really quiet, with only a few tables in the restaurant. When I ate there on Saturday it was packed. They were using both the upstairs and downstairs dining spaces and we were lucky to get a table, people did get turned away. Definitely worth booking if you want to head over there on a weekend! I'm so happy people have discovered how great this place is.

My mum was really impressed with this meal, which is a huge compliment to Lotus as she isn't veggie or vegan and is pretty sceptical about the whole fake meat thing. She couldn't really tell the difference between the faux version and the real thing, which is awesome! The service at Lotus is always fantastic, the staff are very friendly, attentive and ready to answer any questions.

I'm so happy that there is finally a veggie/vegan restaurant in Manchester that is open in the evenings and offers amazing, quality food that is good enough to bring non vegan friends and family to. It was so refreshing to have a proper sit down meal where all the food was all vegan. The price of food there is pretty reasonable, around £7 for a main dish which is reasonable I think for faux meats. Some of the rice and noodle dishes come in at the same price as a main but there are some cheaper options listed as extras on the menu, so if you've got a budget you can work around that. Definitely worth the price for a special occasion...I just need to keep finding reasons to get myself over there. It's my favourite!

Lotus Vegetarian Kitchen
536 Wilmslow Road
M20 4BY
0161 445 7457


Thursday, 9 October 2014

Celebration Chocolate Polenta Cake

I'm still feeling the post Mofo buzz and thought I'd get myself back over here to keep up my blogging momentum. Now, I know I said to you all that I'd be posting some healthier dishes but unfortunately (ha!) I'm bringing you all something sweet today.

Why go back on my word? Well, I and lots of other Mofo bloggers have reason to celebrate. The last three days have given us the 2014 MoFie Awards, Parts 1, 2 & 3. Check them out, you may feel like you've seen all the highlights but I'm sure there will be some awesome stuff in there that you missed out on. I am amazed to tell you that I won an award! I won Most Ridiculous Theme and I couldn't be prouder! I cannot believe it! Suddenly all those horrendous meals now feel totally worth it. I have a prize from The Raw Chocolate Company heading my way and I'm super excited to be digging my teeth into something tasty for once.

While we're talking tasty treats, I guess it's time to share my new recipe with you. This was actually a dessert I made during my Mofo prep. It was definitely good enough to feature but I figured it was a little too normal and the recipe had so many substitutes that it ended up being completely different to that in the book. Enough said, here is my Chocolate Polenta Cake!

Chocolate Polenta Cake

  • 225g plain chocolate
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup soya yoghurt
  • 1 flax egg (1 tbsp flax meal combined with 3 tbsp water)
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup self raising flour
  • 1/2 cup polenta
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • icing sugar for dusting
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease a 10 inch cake tin.
  2. Break the chocolate and pop into a bowl along with the coconut oil. Place over a pan of boiling water and leave until the mixture is melted and smooth.
  3. Add the soya yoghurt, flax egg, caster sugar and vanilla to the chocolate mixture, stir until combined and set to one side.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the flour, polenta, baking powder, bicarb and salt. 
  5. Add the wet to the dry and mix until combined. Pop into the cake tin and bake in the oven for 40 minutes.
  6. Leave to cool before removing the cake from the tin. Dust with icing sugar, slice and serve!

This cake is awesome. The polenta gives it a bit of a brownie texture, the outside is beautifully crisp and the cake just crumbled in your mouth. I was worried it was going to be a bit dry but it was perfect for me. I used a fairly coarse polenta so I'm sure the cake would be less crumbly if you were to use a finer brand.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Vegfest and Mofo '14 Goodbyes

I feel a bit crazy posting the day after Mofo finishes, I am in desperate need of a blogging break but I felt like my final post yesterday didn't quite round up Mofo as well as it could have and I also knew that if I didn't write my bit on London's Vegfest over the next few days, I just wouldn't get round to it at all.

I'll start with  my Vegfest roundup. I'm going to keep it brief because I didn't take any photos of it at all. It was partly because I was volunteering on a campaigns stall and I was more interested in stocking up on what I wanted on my breaks rather than trying to take nice photos amongst the crowds. I did however, take a photo of my haul, it includes; Vego bars, chia seeds, veggie prawn crackers (cucumber, sweet potato and mushroom flavours), Hoots baked flavoured bread snack things, lots of Consider It chocolate (so bloody good), some fudge and a few bags of No No's from Vegan Tuck Box.

A few things are missing, a few of the doughnuts from Fat Vegan Bakery ( formerly known as JP Turner, I'll
get back to that later), the Maki roll I had from Happy Maki and the Banh Mi Buddha from Happy Ghekko. The savoury stuff I ate was awesome, though by the looks of other reviews I feel like I struck lucky on that and picked some of the best bits of the show.

I feel like I'm either over those big cream filled doughnuts or the quality has gone downhill, they're not something I get hold of often so it's hard to tell. They're huge and beautiful and full of sugar which is always good but I struggled with the chocolate flavoured stuff I got from there. The icing tasted really metallic and had no chocolate flavour in it at all. I bought one of those long almond twists, which is covered in loads of icing...and then the woman serving it to me placed it face down in a plastic bag. Great. I lost all the icing and it was so sticky and annoying to eat that I just didn't enjoy it. Which kind of brings to me to their packaging, it's really not good enough if you're wanting to take the treats from there home. I took a cream filled doughnut home and by the time it got there the paper bag had caused all the icing to sweat off into it. So I was left with wet pastry and cream. I've felt this before and I felt it again this year, that just the general attitude and manner of the staff on that stall is poor. Last year I put it down to me turning up when they were heaving with customers, but this year I went just as the fair opened and they just weren't friendly or approachable at all. My friend asked what was in the vegetable pie they were selling and got the response 'I dunno, just vegetables' and they gave off the impression that they didn't really give a crap about much, which doesn't give me a lot of confidence when they aren't a vegan company.

I had a cake from V Delicious that was supposed to be hazelnut but had shitloads of almond extract in it. Not good. I'm not a fan of loads of almond, though the sponge was light and fluffy. Had the right flavour been there I know I'd have liked it. They did some cookie sandwiches which were really tasty.

I went to go see fellow Mofo blogger Jojo give a talk about vegan travel on the Saturday afternoon. While I was waiting for it to begin, I bumped into my friend and Manchester based blogger Tea and Sympatico!The talk was great. Speaking to Jojo afterwards she said she was really nervous, but I couldn't tell at all. She c-ame across really confident and was just a great speaker to listen to, loads of experience, advice and tips but told in a fun way that kept people interested. There was even pass the parcel. I can't convey to you how great that was! Once the talk had finished, I got round to speaking to Jojo and then met some other Mofo bloggers! It was ace, I met Laughfrodisiac and Alien on Toast. We all got a photo taken together, you can see it on Jojo's post here

Overall the fair was pretty good, I spent a lot of my time on a stall, but I got to see some good stuff. It is a hard place for campaigns as the emphasis is on food, so a lot of people would rather spend their money on treats. Campaigns kind of get looked over a bit, which is a shame. I was a little disappointed to see a few stall holders that I don't consider to be particularly vegan or ethical. I do feel like veganism is big enough these days that you can be picky over who attends the event, but then I'm not an organiser so there may be something I don't know. I had a bit of an argument with a tea and coffee vendor who had non vegan hot chocolate powder on display and simply shrugged his shoulders when politely informed that it was not vegan and he was at a vegan fair. It was eventually removed after we persisted but it shouldn't have been there in the first place. Also, considering the price of tickets, I think it's a bit stingy to charge people for programmes. Luckily I got in free but even stallholders didn't get a free programme and I refused to pay for one.

Back to Mofo '14, I just want to say how much I have enjoyed myself this month. The last few years my blog has been on a bit of a slump. I haven't been motivated to post, I've let life get in the way and haven't given it that much needed push to get it back up and running. I feel that Mofo has brought it back to life a bit and I really want to start blogging again, I've loved every moment of it. I've enjoyed posting, reading others posts and getting involved in the community part of it all.

Obviously there have been some tough times, my theme hasn't been the easiest to keep up with. I think I got to around day 20 when I really started to regret my theme, but I stuck with it and mostly it wasn't too bad. Even on the bad days it was always kind of funny. I am determined to have a theme I'll really enjoy next year though and I'm already working on ideas. I want to be a little more prepared next time. I'm super proud of myself for reaching over 30 posts this month, I only managed 13 last year and failed miserably. Despite telling you all I was going to do it this year, I didn't actually believe that I would! So yay! Go me!

I want to thank everyone who has supported me throughout the month, I can't tell you how much your comments have spurred me on. I've done my best to keep up with favourite blogs and come across new ones but I'm sure I'll still be trawling through the feed list looking for all the amazing things I've missed.

Thanks again, it's been awesome. Bring on next year!

I think the next few months will be low fat, low sugar recipes full of veg and pulses. I've gotten through around 4 pots of Pure soya butter over the last month and I'm missing vegetables. So keep your eyes peeled, I promise I'll come back and post this time!

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Vegan Mofo: Dinosaur Cake

I cannot believe it! The final day of Vegan Mofo 2014 is already here! I still cannot believe I managed to stick with this for the entire month. It's been an awesome experience and I finally have some enthusiasm for blogging again but enough going on! I want to present you with my Mofo finale, which comes from this awesome novelty cake book.

I got this book off my Partner, his grandmother used to let him flick through this book as a child and pick out what birthday cake he wanted. Really sweet, right? I figured this was a special enough occasion for me to pick my own cakes. There was a dinosaur, so I went with that obviously.

Dinosaur Cake

  • 2 x vanilla sponge cakes
  • 1 batch of green buttercream
  • 1 pack of vegan mint thins
  • a few toothpicks 
  • chocolate beans/skittles
  • chocolate buttons
  1. Cut one of the cakes in half and cut both halves in a wave like shape to form the legs and stomach.
  2. Cut a third from the other cake. Cut a curved 1 inch wide strip, 3 inches long from the outside edge of the cake for the neck and head. From the large piece of cake, cut out a curved shape to form the chest, reserving the small piece for the tail.
  3. Sandwich the 3 cakes together with butter icing with the chest piece in the middle, place the tail in position.
  4. Attach the head to the body with toothpicks.
  5. Coat the cake in the buttercream, arrange the mint thins along the spine to look like spikes, use the chocolate beans/skittles for eyes and place chocolate buttons for spots.

Are you as confused by these instructions as I was? Maybe then you can understand why my dinosaur didn't exactly look like the one in the book.

I'm not gonna lie, I was a little bit upset that my dinosaur didn't come out looking fantastic. It was really hard to make that stupid head stick on. I think part of the problem is that vegan cakes are deliciously moist, which doesn't make it very easy do craft them into dinosaur shapes with tiny heads. It was also super sad that I used writing icing to make the skittles look like eyes and it just dripped down so it looked like my dinosaur was crying!

So sad. Ah well, I'm still pretty impressed I made a novelty cake.

And with this I bid my fucked up Bizarre and Outdated Cookbooks theme goodbye. There have been some great laughs, surprises, sadness and urges to throw up, but I'm glad I kept going. I found some great recipes along the way and learnt a few valuable lessons on how not to cook certain things. I've also enjoyed making some new friends, discovering new blogs, bookmarking LOADS of recipes and generally just loving the Mofo vibe. It's been great! I can't wait for next year!

Monday, 29 September 2014

Vegan Mofo: Chicken and Grape Curry

As well as Mofo being a big event throughout September, The Great British Bake off is also pretty big this month in the UK. I've already done one of Mary Berry's recipes at the beginning of the month, but I decided to return to this cookbook and try out another.

Testing my boundaries in the fruit/savoury department, I set myself the challenge of veganising the Chicken and Grape Curry. Bleurgh.

Mild Chicken Curry with Cream and Grapes
This has been a favourite of mine for years, and is perfect for a summer dinner party being light and mildly curry flavoured

Well, I'd hope it's going to be mildly curry flavoured Mary, being a curry and all that.

  • 1 pack vegan chick'n pieces
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 1 bayleaf
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 300ml water
  • 300ml apple juice or cider*
  • 100g grapes
  • 25g soya butter
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 25g flour
  • 150ml vegan cream
  • salt and pepper
  1. Put the onions and chicken pieces in a pan with the bay leaf, salt and peppercorns. Pour over the water and apple juice, cover the pan and simmer for 20 minutes
  2. While this is cooking, slice the grapes in half.
  3. Melt the soya butter in a pan and stir in the curry powder, cook for a few minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute. Add to the chicken mixture and stir until it begins to thicken. Add the grapes and cook through for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the cream and heat through before serving
Serves 4

Despite burning the chicken when I was simmering it, this tasted pretty good. It dźidn't taste that burnt and I didn't find the grapes offensive so as far as I'm concerned, it's a winner

* The original recipe calls for cider but I don't drink alcohol. Instead I replaced it with some fancy Carey's Apple Juice and I think it did the job.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Vegan Mofo: Tofu Pan Pizza

I couldn't go through Mofo without returning to Tofu Goes West. My last effort from the book, Tofu Waffles was a success, but I wanted to pointlessly put tofu in something else before Mofo was up. Obviously I had a lot of recipes to choose from, as they all seem to include tofu for absolutely no reason at all. I decided to go with the Tofu Pan Pizza because I couldn't bear to think of a Mofo theme that didn't find a way to get one of my favourite foods in there.

Tofu Pan Pizza

  • 450g tofu
  • 2 flax eggs (2 tbsp flaxmeal with 6 tbsp water)
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • Tomato sauce (homemade or from a jar, whatever is easiest. I just fried some garlic, added tinned tomatoes a little maple syrup and stock and cooked it down)
  • Peppers, mushrooms, onion, whatever toppings you want
  • Cheese
  1. Mix the tofu, flax egg, oil and salt in a food processor
  2. Transfer to a large bowl and add the flour and baking powder, stir until a dough is formed.
  3. Spread the dough on an oiled pizza pan, pie dish etc.
  4. Spoon on your pizza sauce. Place your toppings onto the base. Finish off with some vegan cheese and then bake in a 180 degree oven for 30 minutes
Serves 4

 This pizza was great, maybe not because tofu was included but because anything tastes great when you slap pizza sauce on top of it, with faux meats and cheeses. It was more like a pizza pie though, which I liked. I guess it's a good option if you can't be bothered making a proper pizza base, it was really easy to put it together, but I can't see this being a regular for me. It was great to have a meal I really enjoyed, yay for pizza!