Thursday, 29 January 2015

Healthy, sweet and tasty!

It's K again here, and this time with again I have a recipe review. (Don't worry I do "freestyle" in the kitchen... sometimes.)

Now, I spoke before in my introduction about my love of sweet things. And boy, have I been indulging in the sweets... What I love more finding is healthier versions of sweet treats that I love, that give me the same sugar rush feeling but don't leave me feeling like I need to go for a run.

When I saw these Raw Carrot cake bites, I was eager to get 'baking'.

So I should say this shot is taken from this fab book, by Aine Carlin. G got me it from the Works- we were strolling around my little hometown around Christmas or just after, and it was one of the few shops open. The book though was so cheap! And full of fantastic recipes. You should buy it! If you're low on funds, I did find a recipe link online here.

Now, the recipe I linked you to uses cups (which I honestly prefer) but in the book it's in grams. No big shakes. 

But whilst I was making the recipe I realised I was 50g short of the total needed for pecans. I soldiered on anyway, and I don't think it effected the result that much. I also used normal dates and not medjool, sultanas and not raisins. Rebel, I know. 

The recipe along with being healthy is super easy to make- extra brownie points for that! (The book also features some fab looking brownies which I may have to try.)

In fact the "worst" part of the job was grating my carrot and zesting my orange. Such an effort to get that off there!

Squeezing the wetness out of the carrot was a pretty weird experience too. I mean I've done it to other food stuffs but it felt weirder with a carrot. Maybe I could have done with it's moisture.

Then you just chuck everything in a food processor and let it do it's thing! Little before and after for you. 

Once I thought I got it to the right consistency (which doesn't look as refined as the book's but still looked clumpy-ish), I took a ball out shaped it, and tried rolling it in the coconut. As you can see, not great coverage.

It just wasn't sticky enough. That bothered me more than the fact that they didn't have a radiantly orange centre like in the recipe book- mine are a bit more rustic. As a result of stick-less-ness, I lobbed it back in the food processor, added some water and let it stick up. I'm unsure why mine was so dry in comparison, maybe my fault for swapping in/out stuff, but it was nothing a bit of water couldn't solve. I did think of adding some of the orange juice, but I ate my orange after zesting so water was the way forward. 

The water helped! The coconut stuck a lot better. I then got stuck in to rolling out all of the other balls before coating them. Warning: it is very sticky work, and if you don't like getting messy hands you might struggle with it. Also, it is so very tempting to pop pieces in your mouth as you go along. 

Ready for the fridge. You know, for once, I actually made more of something than the recipe calls for! Partially I think because I was worried of using too much to start with, and then realised I could go bigger. Variety is the spice of life though, hey?

Boy though, they taste amazing, and it's nice to have all the different little sizes so you can pick and mix like 3 small or 2 large. G approves too.

As a last note, I really do recommend the book. Like I said, it's full of super recipes and so cheap. It saves hundreds of hand washes when your iPad/iphone falls asleep and you need to used the screen again to follow cooking steps. And I love recipe books, I love the signs of a well loved recipe through the stained parts and crumbs and just being able to not be connected to technology for a bit and escape in the realms of the kitchen. 

I'm thinking I might tackle Carlin's carrot and courgette loaf next, or the focaccia bread. Oh and the shepherdess pie with the cabbage and apple side, oh my... too many options!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015


It's Katherine again, and with an actual recipe! 

So, back in June, I spent a week in Islington for a graduate design fair. But this post isn’t about that: it’s about a tasty little restaurant that sparked my love of Vietnamese food. 

And that place is Pho- a family run business of Vietnamese foodie enthusiasts! Along with their Islington store they have locations throughout London and a few in Brighton and Leeds. Definitely worth a visit! Plus cute little illustrations of their stores, what's not to like?

Pho (pronounced fuh) is actually the name of the Vietnamese Rice noodle broth dish. It’s typically made with a meat broth that takes hours to develop in flavour, but obviously there are vegan and vegetarian alternatives. The first time I entered the Pho restaurant I had the Phở chay- a rice noodle broth with with tofu and button mushrooms. It comes with a selection of garnishes like beans sprouts, and a variety of herbs that you chuck on to your own taste! Pho is a little bowl of nutritious loveliness. It’s the type of food that leaves you feeling content, revitalised and not over full. 

Since my first visit, I have actually made special effort when in London with the other ‘alf to venture there and share the food. Surprisingly Asian cuisine is our middle ground where we both find grub we like despite the seemingly oppositional taste palettes I mentioned in my intro. I can’t remember my main there, because really the stand out dish was their Spring rolls. Fresh vegetables wrapped in rice paper with the tastiest peanut dipping sauce. SO GOOD. 

With my New Year resolution to be to learn more new recipes, I thought where else better to start than with a Pho! I mainly used this recipe: which is a pretty solid base and I didn’t deviate much. The Pho relies on your broth, which takes time to develop its flavour. So whilst it did that, we made Vietnamese style spring rolls with a peanut dipping sauce to go with- the recipes for those are further down!

First, you have to make your broth.  Made from the fine selection of ingredients you see above:

1 large onion, peeled and halved
2-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and halved lengthwise
3-inch cinnamon stick, preferably Vietnamese cassia-cinnamon1 star anise
2 cloves
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
4 cups unsalted vegetable stock
2 teaspoons soy sauce
4 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
(Noodles don’t get cooked in the broth…)

Now firstly, let’s address the first step from the recipe: 

Char onion and ginger over an open flame (holding with tongs) or directly under a broiler until slightly blackened, about 5 minutes on each side. Rinse with water.

I may be a little slow on the uptake, but a broiler is a grill. So if you didn’t know that, I saved you a google search- just sayin’. And as we have an induction hob and no flame device, it was in said grill there that I placed my onions (as we didn’t have a big one) alongside my ginger until it looked like this: 

I hate in recipes where it says things like nearly, or until it looks like this. But then they include no photo to help you realise what this is. So here’s my shot, and hopefully it is somewhat near right. And if you try the recipe and get something similar, I hope this proves some assurance. 

After grilling those bad boys, you toast all of the spices mentioned (and I added an 1/8 of a spoon of fennel seeds too) until you get an aromatic smell emanating from your pan. Then chuck in all of the other stuff -BUT NOT YOUR NOODLES- and get that stuff up to a boil! When the boiling is happening, cover, simmer for 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, you get to the toppings, the noodles and time to make yourself a tasty tasty side dish. 

The noodles (200g suggested) need to be covered in warm water and soaked for 25-30 minutes. I did mine about 5 mins after the broth had been simmering away and they were ready in time at the end. But the broth can always wait for you. Here are suggestions for the toppings/garnishes from the recipe:

Toppings (optional): Protein such as fried or baked tofu, bean curd skin, or seitan. Mushrooms. Vegetables such as bok choy, napa cabbage, or broccoli

Garnishes: 1/2 onion- very thinly sliced, 2 scallions- thinly sliced, 1 chile pepper (Thai bird, serrano, or jalapeño) 1 lime- cut into wedges, 1/2 cup bean sprouts, Large handful of herbs: cilantro, Thai basil, culantro/saw-leaf herbHoisin sauce, sriracha (optional)

We decided on the addition of tofu and shiitake mushrooms for our toppings. The garnishes pretty much just need removing from any packaging/plant. So you don’t have to worry about them too much in advance. We simply fried off the tofu cubes and the sliced shiitake mushrooms - starting all that jazz about 10 minutes before it needed to be ready. 

(Browning the tofu very gently before adding the mushrooms in until cooked.)

Now, the TASTY side- Spring rolls with dipping sauce. These are super easy to make, are fresh and delicious.  Again, we used a recipe: here as a guide and improvised a bit. 

Ours included: cucumber, green pepper, carrot, spring onion, beansprouts and some run of the mill cabbage. Along with the veggies are the herbs: coriander and mint. 

I did see that a lot of recipes called for Thai Basil, which I didn’t have and couldn't find locally enough, quick enough. So after a google search I learned that mint is a better replacement for the Thai Basil than typical basil! 

For the Spring roll, You simply get your rice paper sheet translucent and pliable through soaking it in warm water, and then fill it up with a bit of each veggie some herbs, wrap and repeat! 


For the Spring roll dipping sauce I used about a quarter of these amounts:

-1/3 cup water
  - 3/4 cup of peanut butter (crunchy I used)
-3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 1 1/2 medium limes)
-4 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce

Which I did simply by looking at the measurements actually written on spoons/cups and doing rough division. I didn’t realise that the original dipping sauce recipe I looked at had way more ingredients, but I just whisked these together and it tasted great!

Now this is all done, your broth will probably be ready! After the 30 minutes is up, drain your noodles and place them in a bowl with your cooked topping: I also sneaked in some of the onions and carrot from the broth. Because once it’s simmered away for 30 minutes it tells you to sieve it so the broth is obviously without bits. But I hated the idea of wasting tasty food… (just be careful for seeds and bits!)

Then you ladle over the tasty stock. Add as many garnishes as you want and hey presto! Pho and Spring rolls are ready to be eaten.

Our topping choices were: beansprouts, a slices spring onion, some fresh chilli, coriander and mint, with a squeeze of lime!

Everything ready and ready to be eaten!  This is, I warn, a really filling dish. We ended up leaving some of the spring rolls to eat the next day. If you want to eat both dishes at once, I would recommend only using 100g of rice noodles as opposed to the 200g that is recommended in the recipe. If just Pho, go for the whole amount.

It is really tasty! And if you make it, hopefully you find it tasty too and let us know. 

**SARAH SAYS: I cannot wait to try this. These. ALL OF IT**

Monday, 12 January 2015

Tovve Soup

We've wanted to make our own version of this because we greedily suck it down every time we go to Shivalli in Leicester. It's hot and simple and incredibly gratifying on a cold winter evening. Or the middle of a hot summer, y'know.

It will also drive out that bastard of a cold that you've had since two days before you finished work for Christmas and is still hassling you.

Tovve Soup as such doesn't exist - I couldn't just *oogle up a recipe because, typically of Indian recipes, there are myriad versions of any one of them, with subtle differences, and most will be passed on verbally, handed down through families. This particular one seems to be unique to Shivalli.

So, this was a case of trial and error. The 'error' was OK, but I burnt the spices so had a smoked vibe we didn't really enjoy that much. This soup is simple, with relatively few ingredients, but you need to get the order that you do things in right, I discovered.

Here are your ingredients.
(In the tradition of an Indian family recipe, I have used Indian-style measurements - pinch of this, some of that, few of those.)

Quarter cup of urad dal (black mung beans)
Masson dal - split red lentils (if you want to know about the incredible nutritional power of the lentil, go here. We're not exaggerating).
Each gives a slightly different taste but I wanted the yellowy look of the original, so prefer the latter.
You could try both!

1 white onion
A small piece of ginger
3 cloves of garlic
A bunch of fresh coriander leaves 
Two or three oyster mushrooms (optional, but I fancied the addition of a little something to get my teeth round)
Three tomatoes (I used sun-dried for their richness but fresh would be good too, chopped fine)
Couple of little green chillis - hot ones! Take out the seeds and slice lengthways.
Salt as needed
Vegetable or sunflower oil (not ghee, yucky yuck)


Half teaspoon cumin
Half teaspoon chilli powder
Half teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon coriander powder
PINCH (no more) asafoetida

Here is a close up of the spices, lined up for work! The asafoetida is in the glass teaspoon.

What to do:

If using urad dal, soak overnight.
If using red lentils, no need to soak.
Bring dal/lentils to the boil in plain filtered water (filtering REALLY does make a difference! to your kettle and the taste) and boil till soft. This should only take about 15-20 minutes.
Here's what cooked red lentils look like through steam:

Meanwhile, cut the ginger and onion and garlic nice and fine.
Not too fine though, nice to have a few little chunks.

Start heating your oil gently in a wide-ish pan.

Add the cumin, ginger, chilli powder and asafoetida. Heat gently - you don't want these to brown or catch, just to turn transparent and give off an orgasmic 'Christ almighty what's cooking?' kind of scent.

When this happens (and watch those spices closely) add the chopped onion. Fry for a few minutes.

Add the tomato, chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric and salt, and stir till soft.

You can see the mix of all these things in the oily pan here, Oh, yum.

Pour the mixture INTO the cooked lentils/dal:

Add the sliced oyster mushooms, three-quarters of the fresh coriander leaves and the green chillis. (Remember: slice the chilli lengthways - lengthways seems a very South Indian thing to do whereas chopping into slices always feels Chinese!)

Add enough water to the mixture to make it like a thin soup (as opposed to a rich dal which is more porridgey), add more salt to taste if necessary and simmer for about ten minutes, or till ready to serve.

When put into bowls add the rest of the fresh coriander leaves!

We highly recommend Yours Supermarket in Leicester (which will get its own blog soon but does not have a website of its own) for their bewildering array of Everything. A massive international supermarket where you can buy multiple food nationalities, you will never bother with a crap packet of Painsbury's over-priced coriander powder ever again.

Go on then - get in the kitchen!

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Working Lunch

Thanks Katherine for the previous blog and WELCOME!
We're looking forward to the contributions.

Katherine is the partner of Graham who works with us at Inkymole / Factoryroad. As I was reading Katherine's introduction, I'd just prepared a super-quick working lunch for us both. This took twenty minutes from pulling the pasta bag open and is cheap as well as being nutritious.

We ate it warm, since we are fortunate to have a kitchen as part of the studio, but equally it would travel in a lunchbox cold OR kept warm in one of these (more on those later. Probably).

This typographic bowl of nutrition is composed of the following!


- 1) Basic pasta - you choose the quantity and shape - we quite like the bunny ones in a terrible visual-food vegan-pun type deal - cooked in filtered water (yep, always tastes better) with one heaped dessertspoon of Marigold Vegan Bouillon. All the flavour you need.
(You CAN get it from supermarkets, but you know how we feel about that...)

Served with

- crumbled vegan cheese we wanted to use up from Christmas.
This one is Cheezily by Heather Mills/MacCartney's company Redwoods, now called VBites and stocked in Holland & Barrett), but we have graduated to Vegusto and Violife brands now.

-  black olives NOT from a tin and not in brine...they tend to be a bit horrid. These are in oil and herbs and bought from the international supermarket in Leicester which sells THE WORLD.

- 2) Sprouted mung beans and green lentils.
YES we know how catastrophically vegan that sounds, but listen up foolz: buy a big bag of dried lentils (yellow, puy, green, whatever you like) and mung beans, soak them in a sprouter (or colander or sieve when you're just starting out and experimenting - more on that here and the subject of a separate blog later on) and you have fresh salad any time of year which keeps in dry storage until you need it and is so grotesquely full of nutrition the iceberg lettuce next to it will be rolling itself off the table edge.

These are served with

a slosh of good olive oil (use Udo's Oil for weapons-grade nutrition)
- Sprinkle of Herbamare
- Good fistful of Engevita nutritional dried yeast - you'll have seen me use this before, but if you are in any doubt, this is one of the Dons of Making Shit Taste Good.

Serve in a bowl with a fork ( the bowl does not necessarily have to be your ABC bowl that you were given when you were one year old.)

Please let it be noted that most of the things in this light lunch are vegan kitchen dry-store staples, and should be invested in without delay if full-on, full-time vegan cooking is to commence. If you find a supplier of one, there is a very good chance they'll supply the others.

I'll list them here again in case you want to copy and paste a list!

Engevita Nutritional Yeast by Marigold
Vegan Organic Bouillon by Marigold
Herbamare seasoning (like salt, but with gentle herb flavours and less sodium)
Duo's Oil
Olive Oil (not hard to find, but to pick a good one, it's worth it!)
Mung Beans

New Year; New face.

As the year new dawns in, my new face will be appearing on this blog: bringing a variety of baked vegan treats, vegan dinner ideas and just general excitement about finding tasty vegans eateries in the UK.

So hello! I am Katherine. The field wanderer pictured above. A fellow vegan foodie since April 2014, (and friend of Sarah, obviously, or my presence on this blog would be rather odd.) When I first ditched the dairy, as I’d been veggie before, I heard the whispers of “What will you eat now?” and “so what do you eat?” It seems that everyone else had forgotten the mass variety of beans pulses, vegetables, flours, rices, pasta, dairy alternatives, nuts, fruits and everything else that has not been part of, or inside an animal.

If anything, going vegan really opened my eyes to the food I was putting in my chops. I became aware of a much wider variety of foods available and more interested in cooking, which I guess you need to be as there is a surprising amount of food that contains dairy that you don’t expect. Finding little places that actually cater to my dietary needs makes me so much more enthralled then before!
Food wise I am a big fan of most things tomato based, with basil or an Italian slant- pesto, pasta, yum. But with a Northern other half, I have an eye out for anything coated in pastry, comforting stews, a good old pie, and maybe one day between us we shall be able to fulfil his wishes for the ultimate vegan pork pie!

Obviously, I also love cake. Who doesn’t? It may not love us, but damn cake is good! Flapjacks, puddings, muffins, cupcakes, tray bakes, ice-cream too. Anything sweet I love. Since going vegan my biggest frustration has been the lack of cake available in shops- you know when you just fancy something sweet and amazingly awful for you and the local Supermarket has nothing but biscuits? It’s disappointing. I am determined this year too shall be the time to find a great clotted cream alternative so I can enjoy a summer of quintessentially English cream teas.

Mum must have picked up on it, because after asking for a Vegan cupcake book she supplied me a selection of sweet baking books, which I endeavour to scour through and sample a variety of sweet delicacies. A hoard of dairy free chocolate presents is a sign to me that I should try some more chocolatey based treats- I miss bounty bars so much, and I have a crunchy vegan style idea in mind…

There it is, my introduction. Hopefully it gives a flavour (‘cuse the pun) of what might be appearing on this blog space: tasty treats, restaurant recommendations, awesome vegan shopping choices, recipes reviews and much more. Happy 2015, and happy eating!

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