Tuesday, 29 December 2015

My 10th Vegan Christmas Dinner!

I was surprised the other day when I realised that this was actually my tenth Christmas dinner as a vegan! We started the day with a brunch around 10.30am opting to eat our main meal mid afternoon after a quick trip to our local pub for a drink. I helped with the planning but can take no credit for any of the cooking. The food you see is all Matt's work. For brunch we had these bagels. I recently discovered thin bagels which are the same width a normal bagel just half as thin and they are great for a breakfast sandwich. There was a layer of V Bites ham topped with chive studded scrambled tofu from The Starch Solution which was then drizzled with some Vegg. It was great and a good start to the day.

There was much debate about what to have as the main in our Christmas dinner. In past years I've enjoyed things this Mushroom and Chestnut Wellington, Forest Foods Nut Roasts and V Bites Turkey. I've tried Tofurky before too but not at Christmas, it was when I was in Canada at Thanksgiving. In the end we went with this idea of Matt's and it worked out brilliantly and was super rich and tasty. The filling is a layer of caramalised onion marmalade topped with Isa's Olive and Lentil Burger mix wrapped in shortcrust pastry.
It was served with roast shallot, brussel sprouts roasted in maple syrup, purple sprouting brocolli, green peas, roast potatoes, stuffing, red cabbage cooked with spices and apple, steamed carrots, bread sauce and a pig in blanket sausage. There was of course port gravy to top it.

We didn't have room for dessert but I can't finish without showing you the vegan Vienetta ice cream cake that my sister brought to my mum's for a Christmas Eve buffet. These can be found in the UK in Tesco's in areas with a big Jewish population and seeing as my sister lives in Prestwich she struck lucky and spotted this in the kosher dessert freezer section. It was fab and huge and cost just £5.

Any finally just in case any of you are looking for some new music to listen to for New Year here's a cheeky plug for Matt's alter ego 'Quiet Loner'. There is a Christmas/ New Year sale on all three Quiet Loner albums. All three are available as downloads (£4 each or £6 for all three) and the first two as CD's for £5 each (the third one has sold out). Check them out here.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Mid Week Munchies - Home Bargains and Co-Op

Mid Week Munchies takes place every week and is organised by Jennifer at My Blissful Journey. Check out the link to find what bloggers round the world have been buying and eating.

First up are these goodies that I found for fantastic prices last week at Home Bargains. The organic coconut oil was only £3.99 a jar! I've been using it to make my Pirate Bread with spiced rum soaked raisins to take along to various gatherings we've been to. The coconut water was 39p a tin and that's been going in smoothies. At 99p a box I picked up a few boxes of these chestnuts and we've enjoyed them on a pizza so far and I'm sure they'll be featuring in a pie soon. The chia seeds were £1.69 a bag, the cheapest I've ever seen them and a great find as I use them a lot in overnight oats.

These snacks were on offer for £1 a bag in our local Co-Op. We ate the cracker crisps in one go as they were very moreish. The popcorn I'm saving for a film over the festive period.

These next items weren't a purchase but I competition prize! I won a range of thai curry pastes in a Vegan Society competition - red, yellow and green and sweet chilli sauces made by Geo Oraganics. I'm looking forward to lots of nice curries in 2016 made with these.

Geo Oragnics are owned by Venture Foods who also own the brand Orgnaica know for their fabulous vegan chocolate. Their white chocolate is excellent and their milk is one of the best vegan milk chocolates around, it always reminds me a bit of Galaxy. They were kind enough to include with the prize this new bar they've added to their range. It's like a soft nougat and the dark chocolate and apricot flavours complimented each other really well. I'll definitely buy this when I spot it in a shop.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Christmas Preparations!

Blimey! I can't believe that I haven't blogged since the start of December. Where has the time gone! Part of the reason is that my old laptop has finally died a death and Matt is working from home now so I have very little access to a computer. I'm hoping to replace the laptop in the January sales though. I've also been busy making stuff. I'm on a much more limited budget these days as I am working part time but I also have more time at home to make presents which I've always loved to do, so that's been taking up my time too. I bookmarked this blog post for a pom pom wreath ages ago and really enjoyed making it. The colours are actually red, white and green although the photo makes the green look a bit blue and colourblind Matt looked puzzled when I showed it him and asked me why I'd made a patriotic wreath!

A few months ago Matt's mum gave me his Nana's old jam making pan and I spent a relaxing Saturday making Orange and Chilli Marmalade. I've been making this recipe for over 20 years and I love it. Although you cook with whole red chillis (you leave one in each jar when you bottle it) there's no heat to the finished product but the chilli just give it a certain ' Je ne sais quoi'.

I heard of Certosino Cake when Kayleigh first featured it on the Deerly Beloved Bakery blog a few years ago. It's one of her annual range of amazing vegan bakes that she makes and sells. Certosino is a traditional Italian spiced cake and I used this recipe from the Waitrose blog. It was easy to veganise and I halved the recipe to make 4 mini cakes which have about 4 servings each. The cake contains goodies such as candied peel, grated apple, pine nuts and chocolate. It's spiced with cinnamon and fennel and has booze soaked raisins (I used spiced rum).

Traditionally the cake is sweetened with honey. I used Sweet Freedom instead which makes a great honey substitute. Wrapped in greaseproof paper and then foil it will keep for up to a month.

This Fairtrade dark chocolate infused with orange oil is a new addition to the Co-Operative's own label vegan friendly range. At £1.50 for a 100g bar it's great value and very tasty.

I used it to make hand rolled truffles for gifts. This is a recipe I've featured many times before which I love as it's so easy and you can make loads of variations of it by changing the flavourings. Recipe here.

It's not all been about the food though. We've tried to make some time to sit down and watch some festive tv accompanied by a seasonal drink. I came up with a list of cocktails for our living room bar. So far we've tried the Chocolate Orange and the James Bond and they were both great.

At the weekend I also made Vegan Eggnog. Eggnog isn't really a thing in the UK and I always feel jealous when I see people in the US posting about all the different flavours of Silk Nog. I decided to have a go at my own using this recipe and boy was I impressed! It was gorgeous. We had some on Saturday afternoon spiked with bourbon accompanied by some Swedish Pepparkakor biscuits to dip in it. We had this whilst we spent last Saturday afternoon watching my favourite Christmas thing to watch which is Box of Delights. If you've never seen it all six half hours episodes are available on You Tube and I highly recommend it.

I was so impressed with the Nog that I made some more on Sunday this time spiked with spiced rum. We had no soya cream in so we poured some over our warm mince pies too! The tea cosy in the picture is one my mum made me that comes out every year and the lovely little vintage hand made candle I found for 25p in a charity shop the other day.

If you remember my blog post from October about our holiday in Harlech you'll remember what a lovely time we had staying at the Castle apartments. I'm so excited that we are able to go back for new year! In anticipation of New Years eve we ordered these artisan nut cheeses from Nutcrafter Creamery in Glasgow. We got the roasted garlic and the aged Scottish Dulse ones. They had some amazing sounding flavours and I'm impressed with the packaging and speed of delivery. I'm looking forward to seeing the New Year in with these, some nice chutneys and crackers and a glass of fizz.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Mid Week Munchies - Winter Spiced Tea Loaf Recipe

Mid Week Munchies takes place every week and is organised by Jennifer at My Blissful Journey. Check out the link to find what bloggers round the world have been buying and eating.

Now we are into December who's had their first mince pie? Not only are mince pies all over the shops but jars of mincemeat are on offer now so I thought it would be a good time to share this seasonal recipe. I've even used it to illustrate my Christmas cards for this year. I'm hoping that some of the people I send them too might save the recipe and make it, that way if they have any vegan friends, family or work colleagues then they've got something seasonal they can make and share with them.

Today I have a recipe for you for a Winterspice tea loaf. This is bursting with seasonal flavours and is super easy to make. It's a big favourite in our house with a pot of tea. It would go well with my Winter Spiced tea in fact!


2 cups of plain flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 cup of caster sugar
1/4 cup of sunflower oil
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 cup of veggie friendly mincemeat
2 tablespoons of brandy or orange liqueur
1 cup of soyamilk
1/4 cup of flaked almonds

Pre-heat the oven to 350F/ 180C/ Gas 4

Grease a loaf tin
Sieve the ingredients from the flour through to the sugar into a bowl and mix.
Add the oil, vanilla extract, brandy/ orange liqueur and soya milk and stir to combine.
Fold in the mincemeat.
Pour the batter into the loaf tin and scatter the flaked almonds over the top.
Bake for 50 mins covering the top with foil after 35 minutes so that the almonds don't get too well toasted.
Enjoy as it is or buttered with a non dairy spread.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Mid Week Munchies - Churros and Chocolate

Mid Week Munchies takes place every week and is organised by Jennifer at My Blissful Journey. Check out the link to find what bloggers round the world have been buying and eating.

Churros and hot chocolate are a delicacy of Spain. Increasingly they seem to be available at pop up food markets over here though and I've recently heard talk of frozen vegan friendly churros in Lidl but alas we have no store near where we live.We do have a huge 24 hour Tesco though and when we heard that they had introduced a packet of vegan friendly churros to their Christmas party range we just had to give them a try. We had Matt's nephew staying with us and it was great to introduce him to the delights of chocolate and churros!

These aren't any ordinary churros either as they are filled with a chocolate and hazelnut paste and come with little packets of cinnamon sugar to sprinkle over them. As there was quite a lot of sugar already going on I made a small amount of dipping sauce rather than full on cups of thick Spanish style hot chocolate.

Dipping Sauce

1 bag of chocolate chips (1/2 a cup)
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
1/2 cup of almond milk

Put all of the ingredients in a pan and stir until melted and a chocolate dipping sauce is formed.
Dip away!

This brand of hot chocolate is vegan friendly if made with plant milk and is the perfect thick hot chocolate to dip churros in. I've bought it from health food shops and delis in Manchester and it quite often crops up in Aldi when they have a Spanish specials week.Well worth trying if you spot some and the tins are great for reusing for gifts of cookies afterwards.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Autumn Root Veggie and Cider Hotpot

I've got a really cheap but tasty winter warmer for you today. I used to make a casserole like this quite a lot years ago but I'd forgotten all about it until I saw these bags of casserole mix in Heron Foods. The bags were 2 for £1 and contain frozen onion, celery, carrot, turnip and swede.

To serve alongside it I also picked up some frozen garlic baguettes from Heron which are 59p a pack or 2 for £1.

Autumn Root Veggie and Cider Hotpot

2 x 600g packs of frozen casserole mix
3 large potatoes
1 teaspoon of dried sage
Stock to cook frozen veggies in
Olive oil to brush potatoes
2 oz / half a cup of plain flour
1 pint of cider
2 dessert spoon of tomato puree
1 teaspoon of yeast extract
1/2 cup of nutritional yeast

Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

Place the frozen casserole mix veggies in a pan and just cover with boiling water and cook for about 4 minutes until no longer frozen. Once cooked drain water off.
Make the sauce by whisking the flour in a pan with enough cider to dissolve it and make a paste. Over a low heat continue to add the cider whisking all the time. Stir in the tomato puree, yeast extract, nutritional yeast and salt + pepper to taste. When it starts to thicken remove from the heat.

Stir the sauce into the vegetable mixture and transfer to an ovenproof dish.
Peel the potatoes and cut into thin slices. Top the veg mixture with the potatoes and brush the slices with oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Cook for 30 minutes.

Serve with garlic bread and some greens on the side. We went for cavolo nero.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Mid Week Munchies

Mid Week Munchies takes place every week and is organised by Jennifer at My Blissful Journey. Check out the link to find what bloggers round the world have been buying and eating.

This week's mid-week munchies focuses on cheese and meat substitutes. I'm really into smokey cheese flavours at the moment. I made a pizza the other week topped with the cashew based smokey cheese sauce from Vegan Pizza and we've been enjoying the Violife Smoked Slices in the front of the picture in toasted sandwiches. To the back right is some Smokey MozzaRisella which is made from germinated rice and so is actually a soy free cheese. I'm thinking pizza topping again with this or maybe burgers? I was very excited when Matt came back from our local health food store yesterday with the cheese on the left which is the new Violife Prosociano which boasts parmesan flavours. The cheese I probably miss most is fresh parmesan so this will need to be good to meet my standards! I'm intending to use it how I used to use parmesan as a flavouring to finish off dishes and I'll be starting with risotto. I've heard such mixed reviews of it on the internet. It seems to be a real 'marmite' love it or hate it product.

The sausage shaped product at the front of the next picture is vegan Haggis. We've tried this many times and love it. It's great in the traditional Scottish way with neeps and tatties but I also love it as part of a roast Sunday dinner which is what we'll be using this for this week. The bag at the back is the Ikea vegetable balls which we finally got round to picking up a bag of when we went to buy a new desk and bookcase this week. I didn't think I'd like these as I've never been a fan of either the meat or veggie version but I was very pleasantly surprised. We served them with a simple tomato sauce and some penne and salad and it was a really tasty meal. I though the price was a bit steep but we worked out that there are 10 servings in the bag so it's not expensive at all.

I couldn't let a mid week munchies go by without a bargain buy from Heron Foods. This big bag of crisps was only 59p and we made quick work of them and went back for more! Although spicy there's no hot chilli spices in there so I am able to eat them without a coughing attack which pleased me greatly.

Today is my birthday. Matt has a couple of gigs so I've taken some time off work and we are spending a day in Sheffield followed by a day in Nottingham then back home on Saturday for food with friends and a mini pub crawl round Glossop. Sheffield and Nottingham are pretty good places for vegans so I'm looking forward to some great meals out over the next few days and will try to remember to take some photos!

Monday, 16 November 2015

Lazy Sunday Morning Breakfast

A picture heavy post of a recent Sunday morning - World Vegan Day in Fact. Two sets of filter coffee - decaf for Matt and full caf for me!

Having fun with Jus-Rol croissants in a tin trying out some different filling ideas.

These tofutti slices worked really well but the bacon crumbles kind of dissolved and got lost. Next time I would try the same cheese slices with a smear of tomato puree and some mixed herbs to go for a pizza style croissant.

I had a tube of Creme de Marrons which is a French sweet chestnut puree. This was amazingly good as a croissant filling.

I broke up one of these small almond and orange dark chocolate bars from Aldi and this worked really well too.

Croissants about to go in....

Croissants coming out of the oven.

The finished breakfast. I've another tube of these in the fridge. Have you any ideas for fillings?

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Belated Bonfire Night Post and Toffee Apple Cider Cake Recipe

I'm linking this post up to Mid Week Munchies over a Blissful Yoga Journey blog. Check it out to see what other bloggers have been buying and eating.

Last week was Bonfire night. We don't usually go to a bonfire or bother with fireworks these days but we do like to have some friends round. We had a little gathering at our house with some traditional Bonfire night food. On the savoury side I made some smokey paprika hummus and some little baked sausages in a sticky sweet hoisin sauce using this idea from the BBC website and Fry's sausages. It wouldn't be Bonfire night without some peas in a cup. Matt made Nottingham style peas which are mushy marrowfat peas in mint sauce and our friend Steve made Lancashire black peas which you serve with vinegar. Both are great traditional Bonfire night dishes and both naturally vegan too!

For the sweet nibbles I made some traditional Parkin cake using this great recipe for vegan Parkin from the Chocolate and Beyond blog. The only downside to Parkin is that you have to make it a week in advance and then wrap it in foil to let it get good and sticky. It's hard to resist and I had to hide it in the pantry! I also made some gluten free ginger biscuits from Babycakes Covers The Classics. I only made half the recipe and it made loads more than I expected. They weren't very gingery tasting though despite having 2 tablespoons of ginger so maybe I need to buy a new jar of ginger powder. They were delicious though. I gave them a simple icing glaze once they'd cooled down.

Something that's been in the specials section at Aldi for Halloween / Bonfire night is this Brothers Toffee Apple Cider that I was pleased to discover is vegan. We used it to make a cocktail for our guests taken from the Brother's website.

Toffee Apple Cocktail
Pour a bottle of Brothers Toffee Apple cider over plenty of ice.
Add a double measure of spiced rum and a measure of lime juice. Top up with apple juice and stir.

The flavour of the Toffee Apple cider is a bit like cream soda! I was quite intrigued by it and wanted to see if it would work in baking. I came up with an experimental recipe that was a great success and which I'm pleased I wrote down. I didn't add any other flavourings or spices to the cake batter as I wanted the cream soda flavour to come through and it did.

Toffee Apple Cider Cake with a Walnut Streusel Topping


1/4 cup of goji berries
1/4 cup of raisins
3/4 cup of Brother's Toffee Apple Cider
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
3/4 cup of soft brown sugar
2 cups of plain flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 tablespoon of ground flax seed
3 tablespoons of water

Walnut Streusel Topping

1/3 cup of chopped walnuts
1/3 cup of plain flour
1/3 cup of soft brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
2 tablespoons of coconut oil

Pre-hear the oven to 180C/ 350F/ Gas 4
Grease and flour an 8x8 inch baking tin.
Soak the gojis and raisins in the cider.
Mix the ground flax seed with the water and set aside for about 15 minutes.
Sift together the flour, and baking powder.
Whisk together the melted coconut oil, brown sugar and flax seed mixture.
Add the flour mix to the wet ingredients stir well.
Fold in the goji, raisin and cider mix.
Pour the batter into the baking tin and sprinkle with the streusel topping.

To make the streusel topping mix the dry ingredients together then cut in the coconut oil and rub with your fingers to get a breadcrumb like mixture.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Monday, 2 November 2015

New Kitchen Art

I've blogged a few times, here and here about our growing food and drink related kitchen art collection. We've kind of run out of wall space now as a lot of the kitchen is tiled so this little fella has snuck into the hallway just before you enter the kitchen to welcome you in and put the thought of hot beverages into your mind! It a signed editioned print by Yorkshire artist Lisa Stubbs that I bought at the Holmfirth Art Week a few months back.You can see lots more of Lisa's lovely work here in her Etsy shop.

This hand illustrated vintage plate was a gift from Matt's sister and was actually made by their cousin Leanne who has an illustration business called Letterbox Lane. Leanne sells her work through Not On The High Street and also here through her own shop.

I love Leanne's work which is lovely quality and very reasonably priced. She does some great Christmas cards and I've just bought a set of the notebooks. We also recently bought a copy of this print.

Do you have any kitchen related art work or artists you'd recommend?