Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Geeky Stats Cooking - Cameroon

I am very, very slowly working my way around the culinary globe, cooking recipes from each of the countries that I've not had a blog visitor from (according to my Google Analytics stats).

So far I've ticked off Samoa, Albania, Azerbaijan, Aruba, Monaco, The Isle of Man, Georgia and Gibraltar.

And now I can add Cameroon to that list.

Last week for dinner one evening I made Ndole which is a stew of bitter leaf and peanuts. Since Bittterleaf isn't something you come across shopping in ASDA in Leith, a bit of googling suggested that kale might be a suitable substitution, and kale you most certainly get hold of in Scotland!

In fact, I'm dedicating this recipe to all veg-box customers who are regularly faced with mini kale mountains to get through. It really is a tasty way to use up a fair amount of kale in a single meal.

Ndole style Kale and Nut Stew with Prawns (Serves 3 with crusty bread or crackers)

  • 200g kale chopped kale (prepared weight)
  • 125g mixed nuts
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp Worcester Sauce
  • 1 veg stock cube
  • 1 onion
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 inch fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 150-200g raw prawns
  • 3 tbsp sweet chili sauce

First steam / boil the kale for about 5 minutes until softened a little.
Next whizz the nuts in a food processor until roughly chopped.
Finely chop the onion and sautee it in a large pan with 1 tbsp of the olive oil.
After a few minutes, grate in the ginger and crush the garlic and add, then cook for a few minutes more.
Next add the nuts, kale, peanut butter, Worcester Sauce, stock cube and enough boiling water to cover.
Stir well to combine, then simmer for around 30-40 minutes, topping up with water as necessary, until the kale is tender and the sauce has started to thicken up.
Remove from the heat whilst the prawns cook quickly.
Heat the other tablespoon of oil and add the prawns and sizzle for a few minutes on each side until pink and no longer translucent. Pour over the sweet chili sauce and stir to coat, then serve on top of the kale and peanut stew.
Great with some crusty bread or crackers to mop up the juice - although probably not traditional!

Mini-M was almost convinced to eat kale by this recipe - so there's a recommendation! She obviously liked the taste and tried a forkful several times, but I think in the end it was still too kale-y. Cabbage is generally similarly rejected. She did love the prawns, and dipping breadsticks in the sauce.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Upgrade your Crispie Slice

I'm taking advantage of being stuffed up with a cold to catch up on some overdue blog posts - so onto the second for this evening - which should magically appear later this week, if the gods of scheduled posting are kind!

This Crispie Slice is delicious - and the additions and substitutions make it a step up for the usual marshmallow/toffee variety in both the health and flavour stakes. (It's also dairy and gluten free and vegan - but don't let that put you off - it's mainly delicious. I took it into work and everyone, both with and without food allergies, happily polished off several pieces).

Fruit and Nut Crispie Slice (makes one 8x13inch tin)
  • 1.5 cups brown rice puffed cereal
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
  • 1/4 cup dried banana chips
  • 50g raisins
  • 1/2 cup nut butter (I used 1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter and 1/4 cup raw brazil and cocoa nut butter)
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
Grease and line an 8x13 inch tin with parchment.
Put the cereal, coconut, banana and raisins in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. (You could use other cereal / fruit / nut combinations to suit your preferences, or what you have available to hand).
In a small saucepan, melt the syrup, coconut oil and nut butter, then stir in the cocoa powder. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly and allow to simmer for a minute, then pour over the dry ingredients and mix until everything is well coated.
Tip into the prepared tin and press it into the corners and flatten, and allow to cool for 20-30 mins then stick in the freezer for around an hour to allow it to harden enough to cut neatly.
Keep in the fridge.
Try to exercise willpower and not eat it all at once!

The great benefit of this recipe above the marshmallow/toffee one is that it doesn't start to set in the bowl as it cools, resulting in the inevitable strings of marshmallow all over the kitchen worktops, and the frantic stir/pour/flatten moment. You can be quite relaxed about it all :o)

Monday, 14 April 2014

And for my next trick I give you Mango, Coconut and White Chocolate Cheesecake… with no dairy!

Love cheesecake, can't / don't eat dairy? Then look no further - your cheesecake conundrum is solved. In a very much more realistic way than non-dairy "cheese", which - let's face it - isn't exactly overwhelmingly convincing or delicious. This "cheesecake" is both convincing and delicious.

What's orange and swirly? A dairy free Mango Coconut and White Chocolate Cheesecake - of course!
So how to you make a dairy free cheesecake? The answer, is with a few carefully chosen substitutions.

For my biscuit base, I substituted butter for coconut oil which also gives it a fantastic flavour. (I used some Fushi organic coconut oil which I was sent to try).

For the creamy "cheesecake" layer,  I substituted the traditional with dairy free "cream cheese". There are a number of different brands on the market, even including some supermarket own-brand ones now, however for this one I used Tofutti as it is smooth and mild - which is important. Choose one that is as mild as you can find so that it doesn't impart too strong a flavour of its own and overpower the flavour of the filling.

Since I was making this for a special occasion - as part of a wedding pudding buffet, I pushed the boat out and added finely chopped dairy free white chocolate, and decorated it with a white chocolate coconut ganache, however you could completely miss out the chocolate for a more every-day treat (if such a thing exists!). For the chocolate coconut ganache on the top, I used the thick top layer of a chilled tin of coconut milk along with some of the white "chocolate:. I used "Organica White Bar" which melts quite well, but any non-dairy white chocolate would be fine.

All three key ingredients should be easily available in most health-food shops.

So here's the recipe

Mango, Coconut and White Chocolate "Cheesecake" (serves 10-12)

For the base:
Chilled and ready to go
  • 100g flaked coconut
  • 100g stoned dates (around 20 medium dates)
  • 100g digestive biscuits (ensure they are dairy free - not all brands are - Doves Farm definitely is)
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil
  • 4 tbsp liquid syrup (I used golden syrup, however maple syrup or honey would be healthier and just as tasty, I just didn't have any to hand!)
For the cream cheese layer:
  • 250g dairy free cream cheese (2x tubs in this case)
  • 10 tbsp mango puree
  • 4 tbsp unrefined caster sugar
  • 50g dairy free "white chocolate" finely chopped or coarsely grated
… and baked
For the mango layer:
Mmmm mango jelly :o)
  • 500ml mango puree (I used an 850g tin which was enough for the cheese layer, the mango layer and a little bit left over for chef's perks ;o)
  • 1 sachet Vege gel (vegetarian gelatine)
For the white chocolate coconut ganache:
  • 50g dairy free white "chocolate"
  • 30ml thick coconut milk
First, toast the coconut flakes in a hot dry pan for a few minutes, stirring constantly, until they begin to turn brow, then cool.
Grease (with a little smear of coconut oil) a 12 inch loose bottomed tart tin.
Blitz all of the base ingredients together in a food processor until they are well broken up and start to stick together, then press into the bottom of the prepared tin and chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan).
Next mix together the "cheese", 10tbsp mango puree, caster sugar and chopped chocolate and pour over the base and smooth over.
Bake for around 30 minutes until golden on top and just set.
Allow to cool for around 30 minutes.
Using the instructions on the vege gel packet, prepare the mango puree. The instructions on my pack said it would set  up to 568ml (1 pint) - so I erred on the side of caution with 500ml - and to whisk it in to the liquid, then gently bring to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes before pouring. 
Pour over the cheesecake layer and allow to cool in the fridge for at least an hour to set.
To make the ganache, zap the coconut milk in the microwave until boiling, then break in the chocolate and stir until melted. Don't panic if it goes slightly transparent - it will become opaque again as it cools! Pop the the fridge until it thickens to a pipe-able consistency, and use to decorate the top.
Chill the whole thing until you're ready to serve

So excited - I have finally made something the cuts neatly!

Reading through this recipe as I type, it's also nut-free and vegan. And with some alternative biscuit selection for the base could very easily be gluten free too.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Has Spring sprung? A cold weather insurance policy just in case...

I'm hopeful, after an entire day spent without significant rain or wind, some spells of sunshine and quite  a lot of time spent without wearing my coat, that spring might have finally sprung. (And I'm equally hopeful that one nice day doesn't end up being our "summer" too, north of the border!).

However, it is entirely possible that today was just a ploy by the weather gods to lull us into a false sense of security, and next week we'll find ourselves scraping frost off our cars in the mornings, or obscured by fog, or most likely, enjoying the usual Edinburgh wind and 45 degree rain.

So this is my insurance policy - a big bowl of hearty black bean chilli. It's tasty, cheap, packed full of veggies, beans and pulses, and dairy free, gluten free and vegan in to the bargain. If it's cold out, enjoy it with rice as a winter warmer. If the sun keeps shining, go for the finger food picnic vibe and use it to top corn chips. It would also make a fantastic baked potato topper for a hearty lunch, or stir through cooked pasta to an alternative to Bolognese.

I came up with the recipe for Natural Balance Foods, and it uses a Nakd Cocoa Delight bar. This is a dried fruit, nut and cocoa snack bar which has no artificial or refined anything and adds a really great chocolatey richness to the dish. If you can't get your hands on one, add another square of very dark chocolate and a couple of dates, which you can mash in once they are soft.

Vegan Black Bean Chilli (Serves 4)
  • 1/2 cup dried black turtle beans
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 large red pepper
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 large tomato
  • 6 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 Nakd Cocoa Delight bar
  • 1 tsp vegan stock powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp tamari sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 square very dark chocolate
  • 4 tbsp buckwheat groats
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
Put the black turtle beans in a bowl, cover with water and leave to soak for 24hrs.
Once the beans have soaked, drain them well and put in a large saucepan. Cover with water and simmer for 45 minutes until the beans are starting to soften (they will cook for longer with the other ingredients). Drain again and set aside.
Add the oil to the pan, then finely chop the onion and garlic, and sautee for a few minutes to soften.
Whilst the onions cook, peel and chop the carrot, chop the pepper and the tomato, Nakd bar, and finely chop the chilli. 
Add all of the remaining ingredients to the pan, apart from the buckwheat groats and avocado, and add around 150ml water. 
Stir well to combine, bring to the boil and simmer for around 20 minutes, then add the buckwheat groats and allow to cook over a low heat until the buckwheat and beans are tender - around another 30 minutes, topping up with water as need be.
Just before you're ready to eat, slice the avocado and top the chilli.

You can find this recipes, as well as lots of other dairy free, gluten free and vegan delights by myself and others on the Natural Balance Community pages here.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Daring Bakers' March 2014 Challenge - Nougat

It's Daring Bakers' posting time again. I had my daring moment a couple of nights ago, and I'm going to award my self 60% - a B pass, for what I created. A solid effort, most of the basics there, but quite a long way from perfect. At one point, it looked like it was going to be a a 30% - not even a graded fail, but thankfully, things picked themselves up at the last minute!

Let's start with a good photo :-)
Blog Checking Lines:
The March 2014 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Rebecca of BakeNQuilt. She challenged us to learn to make classic nougat and to make it our own with our choice of flavours and add-ins.

Squirrel wafers - distracting you from the disaster...
Now, given my dubious success, I'm not going to post that recipe here, but direct you instead to the challenge recipe, on our host's blog and wish you at least 40% more luck with it than I had! You can find it here.

Splat! It was in a tin. It seemed set. It lifted out. I left the room and an hour later… super splat :-(
Now, I'm not trying to make excuses, however I can think of a variety of reasons why mine was a bit short of the mark…
  • I halved the recipe - always a possibility I divided / measured wrongly
  • Because I halved it, I used a smaller pan, and I couldn't use my usual sugar thermometer
  • I didn't have corn syrup, and substituted golden syrup instead
  • It was a cold, wet and miserable night, and the air was damp
  • I don't have a stand mixer, so was using a hand whisk, which made adding the syrup a two person job (no husbands were burned in the process)
I think 5 excuses is probably enough!

What was left after hacking out the wafer coated pieces from the middle
If I made it again, I'd double the nut quotient, and use a milder tasting honey. And get it right!

Nougat - with added cling film and parchment (for fibre….?!)
 If you cook your nougat like I did, to a point of not quite set, semi solid, incredibly slow flowing liquid, it is absolutely the stickiest thing in the world. It sticks to parchment. It sticks to worktops. It sticks to cling film. It sticks to hands, arms, pans, spoons, knives. In order to cut the good slices out of the middle I had to wash the knife 6 times - or rather interrupt Mr E 6 times, who was washing the dishes. You've been warned!
And another good one to finish with - forget the !

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Cranachan Cake

I used to have a food blog. I cooked stuff. I took (bad) photos. I wrote blog posts.
That process doesn't seem to be working so well at the moment!
I still cook stuff. Quite often it doesn't work out. Fairly frequently I take photos - disappointingly often they have no natural daylight and are on my phone. And occasionally I find the time to write a post.
I seem to have gone from about 3 posts per week, to one every three weeks.
Must do better!!!!

Does this photo make you hungry?
If someone could add a few extra hours in the day that would be lovely. And about 4hrs at least of extra daylight in each day. And if the kitchen gods could smile of a few more of the things I cook over the next little while, that would also be appreciated…

That said, this particularly cake worked out well enough to be posted. Phew.

It's Cranachan Cake - a raspberry, whisky and oatmeal sponge with honey icing.

Oh look - I took this one on my phone, at night - bad lighting!
Cranachan is a mixture of cream, whisky, honey, raspberries and oatmeal. Aside from the fact that it's very obviously not dairy free, I've never liked cranachan. It's often served at mass-catered function in Scotland - weddings, Burns Suppers and the like, in which cases it is sadly often a weird gloopy mixture of whipped cream that has lost its shape, mixed with oats that have gone soft and gelatinous, some long defrosted frozen raspberries, and an overpowering after taste of cheap whisky. Served inexplicably in a wine glass.

Hungry yet? 
But they are conceptually nice flavours! So I baked them into a cake. Which is dairy free :-)

Cranachan Cake (Makes 1x 2 lb loaf tin)

  • 100g dark brown sugar
  • 100g dairy free margarine
  • 2 eggs
  • 50ml whisky
  • 100g raspberries
  • 25g pinhead oatmeal
  • 125g self raising flour
  • 25g rolled oats

Honey Icing

  • 50g non-dairy cream cheese (I used Tofutti as it is nice and mild)
  • 25g dairy free margarine
  • 25g set honey
  • 200g icing sugar

Preaheat the oven to 170C (160C fan). Grease and line a 2 lb (large) loaf tin.
Cream together the brown sugar and margarine then beat in the eggs and whisky.
Add the oatmeal, flour, rolled oats and raspberries and mix until well combined.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for around 45 minutes until golden on top and pulling away from the edges.
Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for a few minutes, then on a wire rack.
Whilst the cake is cooling, make the icing by mashing together the toffuti, margarine and honey, then sieving in the icing sugar 50g at a time then beating until completely smooth.
Once the cake is completely cold, spread with the icing.

Cracked - but cover it in icing and no-one will ever notice...
I had planned to sprinkle some aesthetically pleasing toasted oats on the top. But time was not on my side! Although at least this one was photographed in the daylight. Better that than toasted oats in the dark I say ;o)

Cake! You know you want some :o)

Friday, 7 March 2014

Mini-M's Meerkat

A few days ago I got to work and discovered Mini-M's Meerkat in my handbag. I have to confess it wasn't actually a massive surprise, since in that super unsubtle small person way, I could hear her "hiding it secretly" very loudly and obviously whilst I was making my lunch to take with me.

However I played along, and since I'm generally half asleep in the morning, had genuinely forgotten about it by the time I got to work, and when I went looking for my phone in my bag mid-morning, it really was a surprise.

Following the success of her mouse teddy going to Mr E's work, and the awesome photos of some recent Edinburgh Library teddy sleepovers (Corstorphine here and Leith here) which we missed (gutted!) I took a few snaps of Meerkat enjoying his (her?) day.

Some extra help with my spreadsheets
Apple for morning snack
A quick lunchtime walk in the sunshine 
Signing out in the register at the end of the day 
Sitting next to me in the passenger seat on the way home
This took about 2 minutes out of my day and admittedly earned me a few funny looks from colleagues, however it definitely caused more than 2 mins of interest, smiles and happiness. So as a bit of fun, and as a way to help explain to your child what your particular day at work involves, then I highly recommend it - although possibly not if, say, you work in an A&E trauma team, or are a jet pilot etc, in which case staged teddy photos at work might get you into trouble!

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