Stinging Nettle Soup

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Just over our back fence is a prolific jungle of stinging nettle. I have always viewed stinging nettle as a bit of a nuisance because touch it with your skin and it’s very unpleasant, leaving a stinging sensation for sometimes a day or two. However I recently discovered that the leaves of stinging nettle are super nutritious because they contain iron, and quite a lot of it too, as well as calcium, magnesium, zinc, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6 and more. Stinging nettle also has anti-inflammatory properties and makes an effective treatment for arthritis.

I love being able to go outside and gather food without having to visit a supermarket. There’s something even more exciting about using wild food that grows without any human input and it’s somehow reassuring knowing that if we ever faced food rationing again one day, we’d still be able to eat the wild stinging nettle. Just make sure you wear gloves when you pick the leaves otherwise it will hurt.

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What did we do with all those leaves? We made a stinging nettle soup based on this recipe, which looked appealing. Here’s my version:

4 cups of chopped stinging nettle leaves
2 cloves garlic
1 red onion
2 stalks celery
a bunch of chives, chopped
1/2 cup of brown rice
hemp oil (olive oil or any other oil would be fine)
1 tblsp soy sauce
2 vegetable stock cubes
5 cups water
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup of ground cashew nuts

Fry the onion and garlic until clear then add all the other ingredients (except lemon juice and cashews) and simmer for 45 minutes or until the rice is done. Add the cashews and lemon at the end. Then use a stick blender to puree it and serve.

We have lots of chives growing in our garden so we didn’t have to buy these either.

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My badass look.

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Ben insisted on posing for a photo. How vain is he?

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So what’s the verdict?

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Delicious! It was maybe a bit thick and so depending on which type of rice you use it could do with some extra water. The kids said it was, “kind of ok” which is fantastic praise for something green.

Is pearl barley the perfect food?

I love pearl barley. It’s one of the oldest cultivated cereals and was an important source of food for Europeans up until the end of the 19th century. It has a very low glycaemic index and is high in soluble fibre making it excellent at regulating blood sugar. It’s also higher in protein than rice and corn and can apparently help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and reduce the risk of colorectal cancers.

Pearl barley is very nutritious and one serving contains calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, zinc, selenium, folate, niacin, thiamin and riboflavin. It’s also very cheap with a 500g packet costing just 55p and producing 20 servings. The Whole Grains Council has a list of research studies on the health benefits of barley here:
http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/health-benefits-of-barley

Pearl barley could be the perfect food and yet most of what we grow gets fed to farm animals. According to this article in Nature, 75% of global barley production is used as animal feed, 20% is malted into things like beer and whiskey and only 5% is used by humans in cooking. Humans eat it in soup but not much else. But barley makes a tasty replacement for rice and pasta and this evening I adapted one of my pasta recipes to include pearl barley instead and it turned out really well so I thought I’d share it:

Pearl barley with cashews and vegetables

* 1 cup of pearl barley
* 1 vegetable stock cube
* 1 leek
* 3 tomatoes
* 2 stalks of celery
* 2 tblsp soy sauce
* 1 tblsp balsamic vinegar
* juice of 1 lemon
* 2 carrots
* 1 cup cashew nuts finely ground
* about 1 cup of water

Bring some water to the boil and cook the pearl barley until soft. This will take about 40 minutes. Once the barley is soft, drain it and put aside.

Fry the leek in olive oil until soft then add the other vegetables and fry for a couple of minutes. Then add all the other ingredients. If it’s too dry add some more water. Simmer for 5 minutes. Eat!

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Vegan macaroni cheese recipe

I haven’t shared a recipe for a while and last night I cooked a vegan version of macaroni and cheese which my kids love and so do we. It’s adapted from a recipe called Sunflower Mac in one of the best vegan cookbooks on the market, Isa Does It.

My sister told me recently that the photos I put on my blog to accompany recipes often look like vomit. This is the nice thing about sisters: they tell you the truth when others are too polite to say it 🙂 I’m still going to include a photo with this recipe but it’s not very good and possibly looks more like vomit than food. This is partly because I forgot to take a photo and we’d all licked our bowls clean before I realised. So I had to scrape the remains from the saucepan and put them in a little ramekin. This is all there was left. Is a bad photo better than no photo?

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Ingredients

1 cup of cashews finely ground (I grind them in a coffee grinder)
2 carrots thinly sliced
1 red onion
3 cloves of garlic
2 cups of vegetable stock
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp tomato paste
Juice from one lemon
Pasta

I don’t cook with salt but feel free to add some salt to taste.

Fry the onions and carrots for about 10 minutes until soft then add the garlic and fry for about 30 seconds. Cook the pasta while the onions and carrots are frying.

Remove the onion mixture from the heat and add the vegetable stock, tomato paste, ground cashews, and lemon juice. Use a stick mixer to mix it all up into a smooth paste. Add the flour and return it to the heat for a few minutes to thicken the sauce.

When the pasta is done, pour the sauce over the top and mix well. Serve and eat!

The original version of this recipe users sunflower seeds instead of cashew nuts for people who are allergic to nuts.

Mince pies and free the nipple!

When I first moved to the UK as a twenty-year-old I was puzzled by the mince pie. Why were they eating meat for dessert? I thought a mince pie contained beef mince rather than fruit and nuts. Now I’m a little more cultured than I was then, although not by much, and I’ve got a good recipe for mince pies which I want to share. It’s vegan too!

Ingredients

1/2 cup flaked almonds
1/4 cup raw sugar
1 cup currants
1 grated green apple
Finely grated skin from one orange
100g vegetarian suet
1 tbsp cointreau
1 tsp cinnamon
vegan shortcrust pastry (obviously you can use the fatty, buttery stuff if you prefer, but this is healthier and less sickening)

Mix all the ingredients up together (except for the pastry). Roll the pastry out and cut into circles. I don’t have any special equipment for this as I’m currently without all my kitchen stuff: it’s on a ship somewhere between New Zealand and Auckland. So I rolled the pastry out with a glass and then used the glass to cut circles. Place teaspoons full of the mixture on one circle and use a second circle as the lid. Seal the edges by pressing them together with a fork. Bake in a moderate oven for about 15 minutes.

This has nothing to do with mince pies but a blogging friend, PhoTrablogger, told me about this campaign to “free the nipple” (there’s a good post about it here) and this is as good a place as any to share it. I think there’s something very unhealthy about a society that promotes images of violence while punishing nudity. Facebook used to have a very strange censorship policy where videos of beheadings were ok but images of breastfeeding in which a nipple or part-of were visible, was banned. I think they might have gone some way to rectify this or so it seems from this article, Facebook changes breastfeeding mothers photo policy. Don’t get me wrong, I have no desire to walk around naked or topless – it’s too cold for a start – but there must be other things worth policing than a bit of a nipple. From the Huffington Post article –

Of equal importance to gender-based hate was the issue of the context in which content passes moderation. As a reflection of the world’s culture, Facebook continues to be a place in which depictions of women as sexually objectified (overt pornography violates community standards) or debased is broadly allowable, but others, in which women represent their own bodies for non male-gaze sexual pleasure, is largely not.

Cashew nut pasta ~ vegan of course

I’ve shared recipes before that contain cashews all ground up but this one is a little different because I am currently without my coffee grinder for grinding nuts. It is on a ship somewhere between New Zealand and Scotland. So I decided to buy some cashew butter instead which is just like peanut butter except with cashews. Why didn’t I ever think to do this before??? It’s wonderful and so easy.

Ingredients

1 red onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 carrot
2 stalks of celery
2-3 spring onions
a bunch of curly kale
a handful of pine nuts
half a jar of cashew butter (I used half of a 170g jar)
1 tblsp of cider vinegar
1 vegetable stock cube
1 can of chopped tomatoes
about half a cup of water

Method

Chop the onions and fry in olive oil until soft. Add the garlic and fry for about half a minute then add everything else. Cook for about 5 – 10 minutes and serve with pasta. Easy!

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Red lentil and tomato soup

We had a really yummy red lentil and tomato soup at the cafe at Newton Dee on Saturday and even Daniel expressed his approval so I thought I’d trying making one for lunch today. Lentils are a great source of protein and iron, and they’re also very cheap. My soup was yummy and it passed the Daniel test.

You don’t need to soak red lentils before cooking them and they usually only require about 20 – 30 minutes of simmering before they’re soft and ready to eat. I cook with ginger quite a lot and so I keep a large piece of fresh ginger in the freezer and grate off parts of it from frozen whenever I need some.

Ingredients

1 cup red lentils
3 cloves garlic
2 red onions
1tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp turmeric
1tbsp cider vinegar
Juice 1 lemon
2-3 tbsp tomato paste
1 can chopped tomatoes
Two cubes of vegetable stock
Thumb-sized knob of ginger grated
Salt and pepper to taste

Chop the onion and fry in olive oil for about 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and spices and fry for another minute or so.  Add the lentils and lots and lots of water along with everything else. Simmer for about half an hour until the lentils are soft and mushy. Serve with croutons or crusty bread for dipping.

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Vegan blueberry & cashew cheesecake (gluten-free too)

Since we’re about to leave New Zealand, I thought I should spend all my fly buys points. So I bought a cookbook I’ve been wanting for some time: The Revive Café Cookbook. It’s written by the owner/founder of the Revive Cafés in central Auckland. The book has exceeded all my expectations. It’s wonderful. I thought I’d share this recipe for a cheeseless cheesecake.

Base ingredients:

1 cup almonds
1 cup cashew nuts
1 cup dates
1/2 cup boiling water

Filling ingredients:

2 cups cashew nuts
10 pitted dates
1/4 teaspoon vanilla essence
pinch of salt
1 cup boiling water

Topping ingredients:

2 cups frozen blueberries
2 teaspoons arrowroot (or cornflour)
1/2 cup cold water
juice of half a lemon

 

Put the dates for the base ingredients in boiling water for 2 minutes to soften. If you have a food processor, then combine the dates with the other base ingredients until you have a clumpy texture. I don’t have a food processor so I use the coffee bean grinder (we have two, one for coffee beans and one for nuts) to grind up the almonds and cashews separately. Then I use my stick blender to mash up the dates and water until it’s a smooth paste. You don’t want to grind them up finely though. Make sure the nuts are a sort of mealy texture with crunchy bits. Once the nuts and the date mixture have been combined, press it firmly into a tart tin with a rubber spatula. I use a cake tin with a removable base.

Now for the filling. Soak the filling dates in boiling water for two minutes and combine with all the other ingredients in a food processor if you have one. Or in my case, use a coffee grinder to grind up the nuts finely, the stick blender to mash up the date mixture, then combine the lot to form a delicious cashew cream. Pour this over the base.

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For the topping, mix the arrowroot or cornflour, lemon juice, and water in a small pot. Add the blueberries and turn on the heat, stirring regularly. Once a gel has formed, pour it over the cashew cream.

Pop it in the fridge for several hours to firm up a bit. If you don’t have much time, stick it in the freezer. Just don’t forget about it!

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Easy vegan blueberry ice-cream

Since I’ve banned sweets from our house, we have been missing something yummy for dessert. I thought I’d try making a healthy ice-cream to compensate. Credit to my mother-in-law for the idea to use bananas in this recipe. They give it the creamy texture you would normally get by using dairy products but without having to use dairy products. It’s a great idea! You can also substitute frozen blueberries for something else if you prefer. Blueberries just happen to be my favourite.

Ingredients

2 cups frozen blueberries (other berries fine)
2 bananas
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla essence
juice of one lemon

Method

Put everything into a bowl and then mash it all together with an electric hand blender. Pop it back in the freezer for an hour or two, then eat!

 

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French Lentil Soup with Tarragon and Thyme

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Now that winter has arrived, I’ve been enjoy making and consuming soup again. There’s something comforting about a hot bowl of soup on a cold winter’s night. This recipe is the best lentil soup recipe ever. I’ve adapted it from one in Veganomicon, a brilliant vegan cookbook written by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero both of whom have a number of award-winning vegan recipe books under their belt. This recipe is pretty much the same as the one in their cookbook, the only difference being that I’ve replaced a cup of lentils with a cup of pearl barley. I’m very fond of pearl barley and I think it’s under-rated today. About 85% of the barley grown today gets fed to animals as feed rather than to humans.

Barley is very good for humans. There’s lots of evidence that it lowers blood glucose levels which is particularly good for diabetics. I can attest to this as when I was pregnant with Daniel, I had gestational diabetes. Consequently I had to take my blood sugar 6 times a day – before and after every meal. A meal of lentil soup with pearl barley lowered my blood sugar an hour after consumption. I never had to give myself insulin injections and managed the diabetes with diet alone. It has also been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and possibly even help with weight control.

Ingredients

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large red onion
1 large carrot, chopped
5 tomatoes, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp dried tarragon
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp paprika
2 bay leaves
6 cups water or vegetable broth
1 cup French lentils
1 cup pearl barley
1 1/2 tsp salt
salt and pepper

Fry the onions and carrot for about 10 minutes until the onions have browned a bit. Add the garlic, tarragon, thyme, and paprika and fry for another 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and a splash of water if necessary. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the water, lentils, pearl barley, bay leaves, salt, and pepper, then cover and bring to a boil. (NB: there’s no need to soak the lentils and pearl barley first). Once the soup is boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and cook, covered for about 45 minutes or until the lentils and pearl barley are soft. Add more water if necessary.

Tastes yummy with crusty bread for dipping.

Spring rolls

I grew up with a Thai chef and did not take as much advantage of this as I probably should have. One thing she did teach me though was how to roll spring rolls and I am very grateful for that. Spring rolls are fairly quick and easy to make and also very, very cheap. I can make 20 for less than $5. The main ingredient is cabbage and so it’s a good way to get kids to eat vegetables. My 7 year old loves them but he will not touch cabbage in any other disguise.

I was not able to find spring roll wrappers when I was in England. I’m sure they must be available but not at my local supermarkets. It may be something that one needs to get from an Asian supermarket. Most supermarkets sell them in Australasia.

Ingredients
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Half a cabbage
one carrot grated
two spring onions
3 cloves of garlic
sesame oil
1-2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
fresh basil and coriander if you have it
juice from one lemon
20 spring roll wrappers
a thumb-sized knob of ginger (I buy a large root of fresh ginger and store it in the freezer. It lasts forever and can be grated from frozen directly into the dish)

Chop up the cabbage and fry it in the sesame oil in a wok or large frying pan with the garlic and ginger. Add all the other ingredients and fry until soft.

Now for the rolling. Here’s my four year old separating the spring roll wrappers:

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Put some mixture onto one wrapper like so:

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Start rolling by folding over the corner nearest the mixture and tucking it under as firmly and tightly as possible.

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Roll just past half-way and fold in the side corners. Just before the you reach the last corner, dip your finger in a bowl of water and dab the pastry so that the spring roll sticks shut and doesn’t unroll.

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Here’s my plate of rolled spring rolls. These can be frozen if you want to make them in advance.

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To cook, fry them in a half-centimetre or so of vegetable oil until golden brown, or if you prefer, microwave them as is and avoid the oil altogether.

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They taste great dipped in sweet chilli sauce.

Vegetable and cashew nut pasta

Here’s a quick and easy recipe that’s also quite adaptable. You can use whatever vegetables you’ve got in the fridge. The ground up nuts give it a lovely creamy texture. I use cashews because I love them but other nuts are fine too. I’ve made it with almonds before and that worked well. I can’t find ground cashews in the shops so I buy them whole and use my coffee bean grinder to mince them up.

Ingredients
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50g ground cashews
50g pine nuts
one head of broccoli
3 tomatoes
2 spring onions
1 red onion
2 cloves garlic
juice of one lemon
pasta
juice of one lemon
one vegetable stock cube
1 cup of water
pasta
pepper to taste

Fry the onion for a couple of minutes then add the garlic and fry for a minute or less. Then add the water, spring onions, stock, tomatoes and lemon juice. While it’s simmering, cook the pasta. I add the broccoli towards the end because I like it crunchy. Just before serving, stir in the ground cashews and pine nuts. Spoon over the cooked pasta and enjoy!

Sicilian sweet potato and chickpea stew

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This is a recipe from Jamie Oliver’s book, Save, which I had in the UK but had to leave there. It was absolutely delicious and a recipe that everyone must have. Unfortunately I couldn’t remember it exactly so I started searching for it online and finally found it on the DizzyLizzyFood blog. Jamie Oliver’s version uses butternut squash which to Antipodeans is pumpkin. I however like it with sweet potato, but feel free to substitute whatever you like. I’ve never felt that recipes should be followed precisely but instead adapted to fit taste preferences and whatever ingredients you have on hand.

 

Ingredients

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1 sweet potato or pumpkin or butternut squash or whatever (about 1.2kg)
olive oil
1/2 bunch of fresh coriander (15g)
40g raisins
50g olives
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can chickpeas
1 vegetable stock cube
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
2 onions
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 cup of couscous

Cut the sweet potato into little cubes and roast until golden. Then fry the chopped onions, raisins, cinnamon and chilli in olive oil for about 20 minutes on a low heat. You will need to add a bit of water to the pot every now and again to stop it boiling dry and sticking.

Now add the sweet potato, olives (chopped), chickpeas and chopped tomatoes, stock cube and one cup of boiling water (add more if it starts to dry). Simmer for about 40 minutes until thick.

Cook the couscous just before the stew is ready and serve together with the remaining coriander sprinkled on top.

Tofu sausages

Sausages are great comfort food and their importance at the neighbourhood BBQ makes them a social food too. So it’s only fair that veg*ns should get to enjoy them as well. And who doesn’t love and appreciate a good sausage or maybe two?

Tofu sausages
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1.5 cups wholemeal breadcrumbs
250g tofu
1 small onion
3 tbsp fresh parsley, thyme, sage, or rosemary, finely chopped
2 tsp dried herbs
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp coconut oil

Mix all ingredients together in a food processor or with a hand mixer until it forms a smooth paste. Season with salt and pepper. Then divide the mixture into balls with your hands and gently but firmly roll them into sausages. You can make the sausages big, small or medium-sized: whatever you like best. Then grill or fry for 6-8 minutes until they are golden brown, turning frequently as you cook. Serve with vegetables or salad. Then eat slowly. Appreciate. Indulge. Saviour the flavour. These sausages are filling and very healthy.

This recipe has been adapted from Tofu sausage popover in The ultimate book of vegan cooking by Tony and Bishop-Weston. 

Curry puffs

Curry puffs

Here’s another vegan recipe. This one is particularly versatile and loved by all. Even my children love it so it’s a good way to get them to eat lentils. It’s also good party food when you cut the puff pastry into bite-sized triangles. The only negative is that it can be time-consuming, especially if you’re making the party bites because it takes time to make them. But they freeze well so you can make them in advance up to the part when you cook them in the oven and instead, pop them in the freezer. Then when you’re ready to eat them, put them directly into the oven from frozen and you’ve got delicious curry puffs in about 20 minutes.

Lentil Curry Puffs
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1 cup brown lentils (no need to soak)
2 onions
3 cloves garlic
1 dessert spoon curry powder
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
puff pastry (I buy this and I buy a vegetarian brand that is free from dairy but feel free to use whatever you like or if you’re feeling adventurous, you can make it yourself)
Optional: I usually add some vegetables like grated carrot, spinach, silverbeet or kale.

Cook the lentils first until soft then drain. This will take about 40 minutes but there’s no need to soak them overnight. Fry the onions in vegetable oil until browned. Don’t rush this. Fry them for about 10 minutes then add garlic and fry for another minute or so. Add lentils and then curry powder, soy sauce and sugar. (You may wish to vary the amounts of curry powder and soy sauce, depending on taste. I don’t put salt in this either because the soy sauce I use already has sufficient in it, but if you like it salty, you might want to add some). Then add the other vegetables and simmer for 10 minutes.

Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool a little. Cut the pastry into squares. I cut it into quarters or ninths, depending on whether I want big ones or little ones. Then spoon the mixture into each square and fold them over to make triangles.

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Then bake them in the oven for about 20 minutes at 180°C.

If you want to freeze them, you will need to spread them out on a plate or tray otherwise they’ll stick together in the freezer. I usually stack them in layers on a plate with the layers separated by greaseproof paper. Then put the whole plate in a bag of some sort to stop them drying out. Once they’re frozen, you can remove the plate and the paper and pop them all in one container or bag.

This recipe makes 12 large curry puffs or 27 party bites or a combination of each if you prefer. This is enough for two meals for a family of four.

Dahl – healthy, cheap and vegan

A friend of mine seems to think that veg*n food is more expensive than meat (you know who you are). I thought I’d challenge this with a series of posts on cheap and healthy vegan recipes. Here’s the first. I’m not exactly sure how much this costs but red lentils are not expensive. A 500gm packet of dried lentils costs me $2.45 and I can feed a family of four two times out of it.

Dahl
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1 ½ cups red lentils
2 cups water
1 can chopped tomatoes in juice (can use fresh tomatoes if you prefer)
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
thumb-sized knob of ginger, grated
2 tsp sugar
1 – 1 ½ tbsp cider vinegar (could use any vinegar here though)
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 ½ tsp Chinese 5 spice powder
1 tsp salt

Chop the onion and garlic (and ginger, if using) and cook gently in a splash of olive oil till beginning to go golden. Add the spices and fry for another 2-3 minutes. Add the water, salt, sugar, vinegar and washed lentils. Simmer till lentils are nearly cooked and liquid is reduced. Add the can of tomatoes and continue to simmer for a bit longer, until the dhal reaches the consistency you want. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. You can also add vegetables such as green beans or spinach towards the end. If you have fresh coriander, then add it now too.

Serve with rice and poppadoms.

Best ever hazelnut ice-cream with cointreau (and it's VEGAN)

I gave up dairy products earlier this year for a variety of reasons – environmental, health, animal welfare – and I haven’t missed them in any way except for ice-cream. I love ice-cream. There are some reasonably good dairy-free ice-creams out there but they’re expensive and so I’ve been experimenting with making my own. Most of my attempts have been abysmal and get tossed out rather than eaten, that’s how bad they are. Last week, I hit the jackpot. I want to give credit to my sister for this who suggested adding hazelnuts as it’s the hazelnuts that have made the most significant difference.

This recipe is more than just a good substitute for ice-cream with cow’s milk in it. I believe it is even better than the dairy alternative because the maltiness of the soy milk works so well with the flavour of the hazelnuts. I don’t think you’d get such a happy marriage with cow’s milk and hazelnuts.

The recipe uses plain soy yoghurt which doesn’t taste particularly good on its own but when mixed with the other ingredients it gets transformed into a taste sensation. Even my husband – who complains that everything soy tastes like cardboard – thinks this ice-cream is pretty darn good. So here is my contribution to humanity: the best ever hazelnut ice-cream with cointreau.

Ingredients
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  • 1 cup coconut cream
  • 1 cup plain unsweetened soy yoghurt
  • 2 cups soy milk
  • 3/4 – 1 cup of raw sugar (depending on how much of a sweet tooth you have)
  • 140g hazelnuts
  • 2 Tbl vanilla extract
  • 2-3 Tbl cointreau

Grind the hazelnuts in a coffee grinder or whatever you use to grind nuts. I like to leave some of the nuts in chunky bits to give a bit of texture to the ice-cream. Mix all the ingredients together and give it a quick blitz with a hand blender. I always buy the best vanilla extract. Don’t use the imitation stuff as it just won’t taste as good. Pour it into an ice-cream container and freeze. Eat.

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Vegan toothpaste and poo cake (a.k.a choc-mint slice)

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This recipe is too good not to share, is very easy to make and uses ingredients that most of us already have in the pantry.

Biscuit base

  • 1/2 cup rice bran oil
  • 3 weetbix
  • 1 tbsp cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 170g flour
  • 85g sugar

Peppermint icing

  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tsp peppermint essence
  • water

Chocolate icing

  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 3 tbsp cocoa
  • 2 tbsp rice bran oil
  • water

Method

Preheat oven to 180C and grease a 20cm x 30cm oven dish.

Crush the weetbix into a bowl. Add the flour, oil, cocoa, sugar and baking powder and mix well. Squash the mixture into the oven dish and press down flat. Bake it in the oven for about 20 minutes, until you have a firm biscuit base.

While the base is cooking, mix the peppermint with icing sugar. Add a little bit of water at a time until you have a smooth paste. Spread the paste over the biscuit base as soon as it comes out of the oven.

Wait for the biscuit base to cool before spreading the chocolate icing over the top. Mix the icing sugar, cocoa and oil then, as you did with the peppermint icing, add water bit by bit until you have a smooth paste. Once the biscuit base is cool, spread the chocolate icing over the top then cut into slices.

Recipe: vegan nut brittle

I love sugar and desserts and all things sweet and I reckon that if you’re going to indulge in something deliciously sweet, then it’s a good idea to make sure it’s full of nuts. Nuts are a good source of protein and will help slow the absorption of sugar into your blood stream which is especially good for diabetics.

Ben bought me a vegan cookbook for Christmas, The Ultimate Book of Vegan Cooking by Tony and Yvonne Bishop.  It’s amazing. I highly recommend it. Full of delicious, healthy and easy-to-follow recipes that actually turn out like the photo and taste great.

I want to share a recipe from the book, for nut brittle:

Ingredients

  • 115g/4oz/1 cup almonds, half blanched, half unblanched
  • 115g/4oz/1 cup hazelnuts, half blanched, half unblanched
  • 5ml/1 tsp almond oil or a flavourless oil
  • 225g/8oz/1 cup soft light brown sugar
  • 15ml/1 tbsp lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas 2. Sprinkle the nuts on a baking sheet and toast for about 30 minutes, shaking the sheet occasionally. The nuts should smell pleasant and have turned brown and be very dry.

Coursely chop the toasted nuts or crush them roughly a rolling pin. Cover another baking tray with foil and grease it generously with the oil.

Put the sugar into a small pan and pour the lemon juice over. Cook over a high heat, shaking the pan, until the sugar melts and becomes a coffee colour and turns into caramel.

Immediately add the nuts and stir once, then pour the mixture on to the foil and spread out into a thin, even layer. Leave the mixture to harden.

Once set, break up the caramel into pieces and store in an airtight container.

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Recipe for Lebkuchen

Lebkuchen is a delicious German Christmas treat. The English translation is gingerbread but it doesn’t actually contain any ginger. I got this excellent recipe for lebkuchen a few years ago from a German friend and have been making it every Christmas ever since.

Ingredients:

  • 500g honey
  • 375g sugar
  • 2-3 eggs
  • 15g cinnamon
  • 4g ground cloves
  • 25g baking soda
  • 100g butter or margarine
  • 250g ground hazelnuts
  • 700g flour
  • for the icing: mix 1 cup icing sugar with 2 tbsp water (you can make as much of this as you like, depending on how thick you want the sweet topping)

Heat the honey with the butter, then let it cool down a little. Beat the eggs with the sugar well. Then mix everything (except icing sugar and water) with the flour.

Spread the dough onto an oven tray and bake for approximately 25 minutes at 200°C.

Spread the icing sugar/water mixture on top immediately after taking it out of the oven. Cut dough in pieces and let it cool down.

Eat and enjoy!

lebkuchen

Recipe for Playdough

Here’s a great playdough recipe I’ve been meaning to share:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1.5 cups salt
  • 1 tbs cream of tartar
  • 3 tbs oil
  • 3 cups boiling water

Combine dry ingredients. Add water, oil and food colouring.  Knead. Add more water if the mixture is too dry.

A cool sensory addition is essence to match the colour. For green playdough, add peppermint essence; yellow – squeeze a couple of lemons into it; brown – add some cocoa; red – raspberry or strawberry essence; black – liquorice tea.