Sunday, 30 December 2012

60th Birthday Bash

My father turned 60 about a week ago, so I thought I'd share just a handful of photographs from the day.  
Of course, there was plenty of food and drink - but this time I decided to focus on the decour. 

My mother decided to coincide my Dad's Birthday party with the family's Christmas Party, hence the Christmas party paper crowns.  It was a wonderfully noisy, yet a laid back family affair.
Some toy guests invited by the nephews and nieces.
Nephews and nieces posing for the camera. 
A very cool gingerbread man flower bouquet adorns my mothers living room.  There was also a snow-man bouquet, but I didn't manage to get a picture of that, maybe I'll get to snap a picture of it on New Years Eve.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Vegetable Bourguignonne with Sundried Tomato and Rosemary Polenta

After a couple of days of cold, buffet style finger food, its nice to return home to warm food.  One of the dishes we have been tucking into is this deep chocolate brown Chestnut Mushrooms and Vegetable Bourguignonne.  The slow cooking process has tainted the orange of the Chantenay carrots and creamy lace colour of the parsnips.

Also, please forgive me for the darkness of the photographs, but it is that time of year again when natural light is overshadowed by sulky dark skies.  Regardless of this very honest excuse, this is still a deep dark meaty looking dish.  What it lacks in vibrant colours, it makes up in bold flavour.  To make it appeal to the eyes moreso, I accompanied the dish with pan-fried golden polenta cut into the shape of Christmas trees and studded with winter herbs and minced sun dried tomato to mimic Christmas baubles and decorations that adorn festive trees this time of year.  I really enjoyed the pan-fried crunch.
I would strongly recommend that you make this dish a day or two in advance for the flavours to meld.  Its a dish that re-heats wonderfully.  And the polenta can also be made in advance, only needing to be pan-fried in a little olive oil.  If you don't fancy polenta, you could also accompany this stew with mashed potatoes or a good crusty home-made bread. 
I am submitting a generous bowl of this Chestnut Mushrooms and Vegetable Bourguignonne to December-January editiion of Simple and In Season, a monthly event created by Ren Behan at Fabulicious Food. This month it is being hosted by Lavender and Lovage

A2KChestnut Mushrooms and Vegetable Bourguignonne
Serves 4 - 6
A2K Ingredients
200g cooked whole chestnuts
4 tablespoon olive oil
1 bulb garlic, peeled and cloves left whole
200g shallots, peeled and halved

100g baby or Chantenay carrots, unpeeled
100g parsnips, peeled and sliced into bite size chunks
3 - 4 sticks celery, peeled and chopped
300g chestnut mushrooms, stalks removed
2 bay leaves
Sprig of fresh rosemary from the A2K herb plot
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
120ml red wine
1 tablespoon tamari

1 tablespoon tomato puree
800ml stock made with 1 teaspoon vegetable bouillon powder
A2K Method
Preheat oven to gas mark 6.
Heat the olive oil in a large baking tray. Add the garlic cloves and shallots and roast for until the shallots are tender. Then carefully transfer  the roasted vegetables and all the other vegetables into a large slow cooker; or ovenproof casserole dish with a lid. Stir in the cooked chestnuts, mushrooms. Add the wine, tamari, tomato puree and stock, herbs and season to taste. Stir well to combine. Now either reduce the heat in the oven to Gas mark 3 and cook for 2 hours or on high to medium heat for 2 - 3 hours in a slow cooker. Stir occasionally to prevent vegetables sticking. Check for seasoning before serving in large deep bowls.  Adapted from this recipe.

A2K Ingredients for the Sun dried Tomato and Rosemary Polenta Christmas Trees
200g instant polenta
800ml vegetable stock or water
sprig of rosemary, minced
40 g sun dried tomatoes, drained of its oil and minced
A little olive oil to pan-fry the polenta
A2K Method
Bring stock or water to the boil, when boiling steadily pour in the polenta whisking all the time for the polenta to thicken, as it begins to thicken stir in both the minced rosemary and sundried tomatoes.  When the polenta starts to bubble and spit, pour into a large oiled baking tin.  Allow to cool completely, before turning out and cutting into wedges or using a cookie cutter for your desired shape (as you can see above I used my Christmas Tree Shaped Cookie cutter). 
Heat oil in a wide pan and pan-fry on both sides for a couple of minutes before serving.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Festive Vegetarian Christmas Burger

Firstly may I wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas.
I have taken a few days off from work.  We will be going over to my parents later this evening, and tomorrow morning travelling to D's mothers. Having rested the last couple of days, I thought I'd play catch up with a little blogging. 

As you can imagine, over the past few months I've created a number of seasonal dishes and some of these have been for the festive season.  The one I would like to begin with today is my Festive Vegetarian Christmas Burger. 
When I began my little business venture, I had no intention of serving burgers, well not on a daily basis, but people have been asking for them and they have been featuring on the menu for the past three months.  Variations include those made with beans and vegetables, such as beetroot, parsnip, pumpkins, butternut squash, sweet potatoes and the flavours are equally diverse, from Indian, Jamaican to Mexican, oh I even featured my Haggis Burger for St Andrews day last month.
These Vegetarian Christmas Burgers are served in a large granary roll, with winter greens, a slice of mock 'turkey' and a generous spread of cranberry sauce.  I am submitting these Festive Burgers to December-January editiion of Simple and In Season,  a monthly event created by Ren Behan at Fabulicious Food. This month it is being hosted by Lavender and Lovage

For those of you with left overs tomorrow, yes you will be able to make these left over cooked vegetables from you Christmas Party menu. 
Vegetarian Christmas Burgers
Makes 8 burgers
A2K Ingredients
100g Fairtrade whole Quinoa
175ml vegetable stock or water
1 medium parsnips, grated (or cooked and mashed)

1 medium carrot, grated (or cooked and mashed)
4 raw Brussels sprouts, grated (or cooked and minced)
1 medium onion, grated
200g chickpea flour

40g dried cranberries
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Vegetable oil to shallow fry
A2K Method
Rinse the Quinoa in cold water. Boil in 175ml water for 10 minutes covered with a lid. Remove the saucepan from the heat, mix in a little salt and level on side for 10 minutes covered. In large bowl, add the grated vegetables, stir in the flour, cranberries, herbs and season to taste. When the Quinoa has cooled down add to the bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. 

Divide the mixture into 6 – 8 burger shapes and place on a tray. Leave to rest for a while to firm up. When ready to eat, heat oil in a wide frying pan and cook them gently, flip over and press them gently whilst cooking. Cook for about 3 - 4  minutes on each side until brown and crisp. Serve immediately.
Vegetarian Christmas Burgers with all the trimmings
To assemble into a proper Christmas Burger, you will also need
Large granary roll
a couple of slices of mock 'vegetarian or vegan turkery'
Cranberry relish
Winter Salad Leaves including some red leaves and optional pretzels in the shape of snowflakes.
Updated: January 2013 - Fellow blogger Nic at Lemon and Cheese made a variation of these Burgers, follow this link to view.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Best Quick Easy Food Recipes has stolen images and content from my blog

Best Quick Easy Food Recipes has stolen both content and images from my blog without permission and without any acknowledgement or track back to my blog.
I've written to them to remove content, but there has been no response - so I thought I'd let my readers know.

All the carrot recipe links belong to my blog see here
All the chickpea recipes link belong to my blog see here
All the mushroom recipes links belong to my blog see here.

And some others are below
Original Brussels Sprouts Hash see here
See stolen content here.

Ginger Plum Crumble see original here
See stolen content here

Savoury Mushroom and Leek Pudding original here.
See stolen content here.

Smoky Black Beans see here
Stolen content here

Original Steamed Lemon and Rosemary Pudding
See stolen content here.
And there are many more...

Maybe one of your recipes appears here too.  Other than shaming and naming them on blogosphere, please let me know what to do.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Graceland Cake 'Strawberry, Banana and Peanut Butter Cake'

One of the cakes I created for the cafe is dubbed by my husband as The Graceland Cake aka Strawberry, Banana and Peanut Butter Cake.  Its obviously a homage to Elvis Presley.  Its proven to be very popular and hardly lasts a day as you can see as I was unable to take a picture of the cake while it was whole, as the slices just kept disappearing. 
Every one who has had a slice of this, has said its both healthy because of the fresh fruits and unhealthy because of the amount of fat in the form of peanut butter.  Of course, its meant to be a treat, a little bit more luxurious - not to be consumed every day.  I've been told by a few customers that I should use the Graceland (Elvis) cake to promote the cafe, for example I should get someone to dress up as Elvis and offer some samples of the cakes on the High Street, this way I would also promote the cafeteria and encourage some people to walk up the hill and try out my food.  I think its a very good idea.  Anyone want to volunteer?!

We also serve another Elvis creation at the cafe - The Elvis Bagel which I promise to share with you in the very near future.  For now, just feast your eyes on this as the strawberry season says farewell until next year.  
For those of you interested in this recipe, its quite simple really.  Its based on my  Banana cake recipe. Instead here, I have split the batter between two 8 inch round baking pans; and then slathered one with smooth peanut butter; the other with homemade strawberry jam and then sandwiched them together with slices of fresh banana.  For its final garnishing it is topped with more strawberry jam and fresh strawberries.  Feel free to serve it with freshly whipped double cream if you want to dine more royally with the King. 

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Butternut Squash and Feta Tartlets

Thank you so much to every one who took the time to leave a comment on my previous post and for your warm thoughts and congratulations on my New Covent Garden Soup recipe being sold U.k wide.  Every comment was truly appreciated. 

I recently read on my lovely blogger friends blog - Poppycock and other creative nonsense that October is orange - so true, the pumpkins and toffee apples are beginning to appear and peoples outfits are changing from the light stuff to the cosy hats, gloves and scarves.  Yes everyone wants to be warm on the outside and inside.

I like autumn.  Its my favourite season, when I lived in Glasgow I would often enjoy strolling through the Botanical Garden kicking the dry golden leaves up high with my boots and feeding the gutsy squirrels with peanuts. 
It is for this reason I decided to garnish some of my Butternut Squash and Feta tartlets with little squirrel pastry shapes.  

These individual tartlets are both sweet and savoury. Sweetness from the butternut squash and savoury from the feta cheese.  To some of the tartlets I also added some cooked black turtle beans for texture.  I liked it, but it is optional.  These tartlets are a variation of my Butternut Squash and Feta Pastry. See here.
Well after a bit of a sleep in, I am off to enjoy the rest of my Sunday which means doing some laundry and housework.  Hope to do some catch up on blog reading later tonight and respond to questions on my previous post.  Enjoy your Sunday.  I am also sending this tart to Ren's Simple and in Season event, that is being hosted by Kate of Feeding Boys and a Firefighter

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Shaheen's September Soup

I thought I'd better share with you something I guess I should really be boasting about, but I just don't have the energy or time.  So instead I thought I'd better write a short post to bring it to my loyal readers attention. 

A soup I created this time last year when I was living in Scotland was picked up by New Covent Garden Soup Company for their Suitable for Vegetarians theme.  For those of you who don't know New Covent Garden are one of the largest companies in the U.K that creates and markets fresh soups for the supermarkets.  Fro the past few years, they have been encouraging the public to submit some of their favourite recipe creations.   

So may I present to you one of my soup recipes that is being featured by the New Covent Garden Soup Co. for the September month edition.  It is Butternut Squash and Black Turtle Beans with Jalapeno Peppers.  The soup hit the supermarket shelves early this month.   
I have to say with work commitments and distractions its all gone over my head and passed me by.  The only people who seem to know about it are family and friends.  Everyone who knows me, looks at me and says the picture featured  on the carton looks nothing like me. Hey what can I say, I can be a little bit of a poser as I did take my specs off for the photograph used on the carton packaging and show rather a lot of teeth. 
I have displayed some cartons of the soup in the chiller at work both for sale and as means of promotion for the veggie cafe, but to be truthful, having my name on the carton has not brought me : any extra hits on either of my blogs; extra customers to my vegetarian cafe Hunky Dorys; or local media attention.   It truly has come and gone and had I not mentioned it here, perhaps you my lovely readers would not know about it too. Anyway, it's still something to smile about on the inside, I mean how often do you see your name in print and in a positive light?!
You can find my original recipe here if you wish to make it at home from scratch.  And for those of you who live in South Wales, I will soon be featuring it at the cafeteria.  To read more abotu the soup see here.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Vegan Coffee Chocolate Cake

Oh my goodness, the weather has suddenly changed.  Yes of course it is still raining, but there is ice in the air too.  I can soon see my scarves, gloves and fashionable cosy hats coming out of the closet.  To invoke a bit of sunshine into my working day tomorrow on the menu I will have a Caribbean Stew, but back to this rather nippy evening that has got me wanting a mug of hot chocolate.

I finished work at the cafe a little early today as it was very quiet, so thought I would of course take the opportunity to blog a little whilst I have the mental energy.  I also have lots of recipes to share, beginning with this one that is quite popular with my vegan and non vegan customers at the cafeteria - vegan Coffee Cocoa Cake. 

There are many days when I have some fair trade coffee left over at the cafe.  I don't like to waste, especially if the cafetiere is more than half full, so I will now and again I will make Coffee Granita or these individual vegan Coffee Cocoa Cakes with its many variations.
This particular one is topped with fresh apricot slices, bursting against the darkness of the cocoa like golden sunshine.
I have also made it topped with pineapple pieces, slices of banana with dark chocolate chips and even rhubarb which D was not so keen on, though the vibrant pink looked pretty petals, but faded a day later.  Surprisingly it is a very light and moist cake. I will post the recipe in the next few days. Right now I think I may just go and have a long bath.

Vegan Coffee Chocolate Cake
Makes 8 - 10
Best eaten within a couple of days.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Paprika Mushroom and Potato Pies

Well, it was rather quite at the cafeteria today, hence the reason I have found a little time to play catch up and blog. 

On the daily specials menu today, we had a Thai Green Curry and these individual Paprika Mushroom and Potato Pies that were served with sauteed cabbage and garden peas.  Individual home-made pies sell very well at my little cafeteria, the two runaway successes are my Caerphilly Cheese, Leek and Potato Pies and Garlic, Mushroom and Parsley Pies.  I've also started making Macaroni Cheese Pies too, a vegan variation too. 
Back to these pies though.  I know I should have sliced into this pie to show you what it looked like on the inside, but this one was not destined for my belly, but for D's working day lunch.  I suppose you can describe this pie a little like a mushroom goulash.  These are very rich, creamy and quite filling would you believe.  And good to eat, warm or cold.
Paprika Mushroom and Potato Pie filling
Makes 6 - 8pies
400g potatoes, peeled and cubed
400g chestnut mushrooms, halved or quartered if large
2 – 4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely sliced
4 celery stalks, finely sliced
40g plain flour
2 teaspoons sweet paprika or standard
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon cayenne
400ml vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the potatoes in salted water until tender, drain and set aside
Heat the oil in a wide pan, add the onion and celery and fry gently until the onion is soft and lightly coloured. Add the mushrooms and cook for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms mixture, stir until well incorporated, then add the paprika, thyme and cayenne. Remove from the heat and gradually stir in the stock. Return to the heat and simmer, stirring constantly, until the sauce has thickened and smooth. Remove from the heat.  Stir in the potatoes.   Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Cherry Tomato Tart

Thank you so much for those of you who commented on my previous post, it really means a lot to me and moreso that I do still have loyal readers of this much neglected blog.

I would like to say it is because I am busy at the cafe with customers and trade is doing well.  The truth is, yes I am busy but not necessarily because of customers.  I am literally, literally doing everything at the cafeteria myself: the cooking from scratch, the making of fresh salads for the chiller cabinet; and the baking.  Afterall I have to have something to sell if I want people through the door.  Then after that there is the cleaning, the management, stock-taking, ordering, shopping,..  I have a couple of part-time staff who are employed only for front of house during business hours, but when they are gone I am still working away clearing up and cleaning up and then preparing for the following day.  Its like being on a permanent conveyor belt.  The bums on seats part is still way off, I find Fridays for a few hours the busiest of days, even Saturdays are a bit of a slump.  Saying all this, I am enjoying it and I have learned so much in such a short space of time, but there have been and are some downs that I will share with you maybe later when they have been sorted out.  I found August a month of anxiety and September has begun with some stress and its only the start of it, so feel a little disheartened. 

Okay before I go and enjoy the rest of my Sunday, I thought I would share a recipe I made a little while ago for a Summers evening.  Its just a simple Cherry Tomato Tart.
I would love to say that these are made with my home made tomatoes, but sadly not.  Regardless this still tasted pretty good.

Cherry Tomato Tart
Serves 4 –6 with accompaniments
For cheddar crust pastry
175g plain flour
85g butter
85g cheddar, grated
1 teaspoon thyme
1 egg, beaten
For the filling
400g –500g cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
200ml milk
2 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
Sprig of thyme
Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 3. Blitz the flour, butter and cheddar in a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, then add the egg and blitz until it forms a ball.
Lightly dust a cool surface with flour and roll out the pastry. Line a 20cm- 24cm loose-bottom tart tin with the pastry, then chill for 10 minutes. Line the pastry case with greaseproof paper, fill with baking beans and bake for 15 minutess. Remove the paper and baking beans and continue to cook for a further 10 minutess, then remove from the oven.
Arrange the tomato halves in the pastry case.   Sprinkle the thyme over and season with ground black pepper. Mix together the grainy  mustard, milk and eggs and pour over the pastry base. Return the tart to the middle of the oven and cook for 30 minutes.  
Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

My neglected blog

I am sorry to say that my growing antics have been stalled because of work commitments that has totally taken over my life in every aspect.  I am up most days at 6am and back home at 10.30pm.  I really don't find a moment to myself, except surprisingly today as plans to go out somewhere today did not go ahead.  So I thought I would commit a little time to my much loved and recently neglected blog.

I do have a lot to share - some highs and lows, but today I will just give a little up-date.  Firstly regarding the garden vegetable plot and what I had planned to grow this year.  Early this afternoon, I hovered in the garden for about 40 minutes, pulling out weeds and my goodness there are so many of them.  I barely harvested my own homegrown broad beans which have turned black like tamarind pods and everything else such as the brassicas, the pods and so on, never got transplanted into its growing space, except for the tomatoes many of which are still green and baby carrots in hanging pots. and some blueberries that I have frozen  Everything else has spurted or gone to the slugs of which there are many here, due to the wet summer rain.  I am really disappointed and totally gutted as I was so excited to have begun growing again and so looking forward to some homegrown produce, especially the likes of Rainbow Chard.  Also the seeds sent to me with much love and heart by some garden friends have been lost to the slugs due to work distractions. I hope my garden friends will forgive me.

Onto cooking and baking: well as you can imagine I have been cooking and baking a lot, especially as it is now part of my new accidental career. I have made lots of salads, sorbets, pies, pastries, savoury and sweet tarts and plating them up beautifully, but sadly I have not been getting round to taking photographs and sharing the recipes with my much loyal readers.  However, here is one recipe I have been making the past month, pretty much on a weekly basis and that D managed to snap a picture for me a couple of weeks ago.  It is Rhubarb and Rosewater Bread.    
I have been making individual loafs.  You can find the recipe here if you wish to make it home.  It really is a lovely cake.  Almost like a digestive biscuit cake.
Well I hope not to leave it to long for the next time I blog.  I do have lots to share, but maybe next time.  I off now to spend a little time today to play catch up on some of my blog reads.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Balsamic Roasted Beetroot Dyed Pasta

For the past month or so, I have been making this Balsamic Roasted Beetroot Pasta.  I created the recipe quite by accident really.  I had some left over roasted Balsamic Roasted Beetroot based on a recipe by Denis Cotter, which I then just simply grated and added to cooked pasta.  Not only does the roasted balsamic beetroot enhance the flavour of the pasta, it brilliantly naturally dyes the pasta in such a vibrant colour that every one who sees it stops to stare and sometimes braves to try.  And when they do, they are so pleased with the earthy sharp and sweet flavours. 

The pasta that I had originally used was farfalle - the bow-shaped pasta which looked so pretty like a colourful pink butterflies.  I thought it was so apt because farfalla in Italian means butterfly.  I didn't get round to taking a photograph of the farfalle balsamic beetroot pasta, instead I used another pasta type to hand which in this case was mafalda corta, a ruffle shape found typical in the Campania region of Naples, Italy. 
This Balsamic Roasted Beetroot Pasta is actually quite a tasty pasta dish and its great cold for lunch. 
I am sharing this at Presto Pasta Nights (PPN). PPN was founded by Ruth Daniels of Once Upon a Feast and each Friday night a different host posts a roundup of pasta dishes submitted by bloggers from around the world. This week PPN #276 is actually being hosted by Ruth herself. 

Monday, 30 July 2012

Casnewydds Best Dish

A few good months ago, I entered a local cooking competition in South Wales - Newport's Best Dish based on the cookery show Britain's Best Dish.   Newport (known in welsh as Casnewydd)  Best Dish is in its second year.  I am not one for competitions and especially not those where I am placed in the limelight.  So my reasoning for entering was two-fold. One to experience what it was like to cook under pressure, and to a strict deadline; and two, to use the competition as means to promote the cafeteria when it officially opened early this month.   But the fact is there has hardly been any promotion of the competition and its outcome by the organisers or the local council on its web pages of the winner or the runners up.  To add to this very little if any  interest has been shown by the local media of the competition. Never mind.

Anyway, the dish I decided to enter was deliberately chosen to highlight my Welsh heritage and my return to home - Wales - my Caerphilly Cheese, Leek and Potato Pie.    My dish came runner up, third in fact - not bad for a vegetarian dish I think. 
I also entered this pie into lovethegarden in March where the theme was to cook with leeks.  The competition was judged by Kerstin Rodgers also known as Ms Marmite from The Secret Garden Club. I was fortunate to come runner up and win my very own copy of her cookbook: Supper Club - see here.  

Since opening the cafe these individual pies have been made every week.  They have been popular with customers - to eat in warm or take out.  The recipe can be found here.  I do sometimes glaze these Caerphilly Cheese, Leek and Potato Pie with egg wash.  

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Banana Toffee Curd Cream Cake

Wow, there just doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day for me to sit down and blog anymore.  I am missing not only blogging about what I have made in the kitchen, I am also really missing reading fellow bloggers blogs and what you have all been up too.  When I get a whole day to myself, I intend to just sit in front of the computer and catch up - promise. 

Anyway, this evening I have managed to get away from the cafe a couple of hours earlier.  So after, a little catch up on housework, I have sat down to share a recipe I made last week for the cafe.  Its a rather decadent Banana Toffee Curd Cream Cake.  
This Banana Toffee Curd Cream Cake has appeared on my blog in a previous guise.  Its actually a simple Banana cake recipe that I make.  Instead here, I have split the batter between two 8 inch round baking pans; and then slathered it generously with home-made Banana Curd, as well as some freshly whipped double cream.  

I've had a couple of people approach me and ask if I would make them a whole cake to take home.  Now that is approval. 
I am sharing this crowd pleaser with Karen at Lavender and Lovage and Kate of What Kate Baked for their Tea Time Treats. The theme for this month is Summer Fairs and Fetes; Cake Stall Cakes and Bakes - now that's a mouthful! 

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Vegan Carrot Cake

Well let me first start by saying Thank you so much for all your warm  and encouraging comments on my previous blog entry.  Each one, honestly made me feel warm and fuzzy inside, so thank you truly.

I have made a decision to close the doors to the cafe on Mondays.  So today which would ordinarily be a big cook and preparation day for the beginning of the week has been a much appreciated day off.  This morning I had a long lie in bed, a walk along the canal, house work! and right now catching up on a little blogging.  I also have a new recipe to share with my fellow readers: a vegan carrot cake.  I have a number of carrot cake recipes on my blog: including those made with Rainbow Carrots; and a  Carrot Orange Cake; but I have not got round to sharing the vegan version until now. 
As you can imagine, I have been cooking and baking non-stop since opening Hunky Dorys and one of the home bakes that has been proving very, very popular is the Vegan Carrot Cake - in fact I sold out of it last Saturday. 

This carrot cake is light, sweet and moist.  You can keep it just pure carrot orange in both flavour and in colour, but I wanted to add some raisins to mine for additional burst of flavour and speckled effect .  I used to make this vegan carrot cake in a 8 inch by 8 inch square baking tin , but now for the cafeteria make them in individual mini loaf pans. 
Recipe to follow.
Vegan Carrot Cake
Serves 8 - 10

2 cups self raising flour
1 cup of golden caster sugar
1/2 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of baking soda
2 tsp of cinnamon
3 cups shredded carrots
3/4 cup ofvegetable or sunflower oil
1/2 cup of orange juice
1/2 cup of golden raisins or sultanas
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x9 inch square pan with oil.
Mix together the flour, sugars, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon until thoroughly combined. Add the shredded carrots and the oil to the dry ingredients and mix well with a spoon.
Add the orange juice and mix again, then fold in the nuts, raisins and coconut.
Put the batter into pan.
Bake for 45 minutes or until knife/toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the centre.
Let cool before slicing. I found this cake is best made a day in advance. Adapted from
Group Recipes

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Carrot Soup with Tamarind Swirl

I can't believe that its June and I am craving for a bowl of tangy soup.  Part of the reason is this crazy indecisive weather.  I don't know what its like where you are, but here in Wales it has changed from rain to shine, shine to rain within moments.  I mean yesterday, I left the house with a coat on as it was raining quite heavy, by the time I got into the town centre the sun was blazing and many people were donning T-shirts and naked legs, I most definitely felt overdressed, but not today - its very, very breezy outside.  In fact, its similar weather to that day when I lost my plastic greenhouse and compost bin.

I am so glad I don't have any physical running around to do today for my upcoming venture and can stay happily indoors.  However, this doesn't mean I haven't got loads of things running through my brain, so instead of making the most of my free day lazing in front of the computer; or TV with a DVD as I have done most of the week, I got on with a bit of cooking and stirring of pots.   
One of the dishes that I completed earlier was this sweet Carrot Soup. I know Carrot Soup, doesn't sound that exciting and I guess its not, but if I mention it with Tamarind, it may just peak your interest. I personally love the flavour of tangy tamarind, there is something just soothing about it, the way lemon soothes when you have a bit of a sore throat. 
I like this soup bowl, I got it a couple of years ago when I went to Paris for the first time ever.  It only comes out now and again; and has appeared on this blog a couple of times already.
I will happily share with you my recipe for this particular carrot soup, just ask - but you will find that there are a number already on this blog. 
Carrot and Thyme Soup
Carrot and Coriander Soup
Carrot and Potato Soup
Plus, I think most people have a good recipe of their own.  As for the Tamarind sauce - see below.  I am linking this simple recipe with Frugal Follies who is hosting Frugal Thursday.
Tamarind Sauce
Makes about 100ml - 120ml
1teaspoon tamarind concentrate
1 tablespoon ginger, freshly grated
100ml vegetable stock
1 teaspoon tomato paste
Method Combine all the ingredients except for the tomato paste in a small saucepan.  Simmer on medium heat for a few minutes, then stir in the tomato paste.  Simmer for a few minutes more until the sauce begins to thicken.  Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
When cool, pour into a squeezy bottle and use over each bowl of soup.  Simply squeeze and drop a few droplets into the bowl, and then with a spoon just swirl.  Nice.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Savoury Beetroot Loaf Wrapped in Beetroot Leaves

Early this afternoon, I had decided to make some more Leafy Beetroot Bites as they were very moreish, however when I found myself in the kitchen staring at the beetroot and its leafy greens, I changed my mind and decided to make something else - a Savoury Beetroot Loaf wrapped in beetroot leaves - a bit of an experiment, shall I say. 
And I am pleased once again to report it worked out rather well.
After a taster bite - cooks treat, my first impression of this was very good.  I can only describe it as a healthy baked spicy fritter, but unlike those hand held morsels, these have to be eaten off a plate with a knife and fork. 
Then my thoughts turned to how was I to serve these, when the phone rant.  It was my brother telling me he was coming over to drop some homemade Pilau rice and minty yogurty sauce. How fortunate for me, as both these additions turned this mini beetroot loaf into a filling meal.
Its up to you if you wish to wrap them in the beetroot leaves, although it gives them a two-tone effect, I have to admit they can be a tad fiddly, so its up to you if you want to make them with or without.  As I mentioned earlier, I had the leaves still in tact, so wanted to find a way of using them, also noone can accuse me of wasting.  I can be a thrift soul when I put my mind to it.
You can easily make this recipe in a loaf tin, but as I do have mini loaf tins, I opted for individual portions. These can be served either warm or at room temperature.  I am linking this recipe to  June's edition of Simple and in Season, a monthly event created by Ren Behan at Fabulicious Food. This month it is being hosted by Laura at How to Cook. 
Savoury Beetroot Loaf Wrapped in Beetroot Leaves

Serves 6
2 - 3 tablespoons vegetable oil plus extra for greasing loaf tin(s)
1 large onion, peeled and minced
200g - 250g raw beetroot, peeled and grated
1large potato, grated
1 - 1½ tablepoons garam masala
½ teaspoon cayenne or chilli powder
6 - 10 beetroot leaves, to line the loaf tin(s), any extra beetroot leaves should be shredded
100g wholemeal breadcrumbs
Salt and black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven at gas mark 4/180oc.  First line the loaf tin or individual tins with greased baking parchment paper.  Then coat with additional oil. Now carefully arrange the beetroot leaves into the loaf tin, its okay if it overlaps.  Then evenly spoon out the beetroot mixture into the loaf tin or between the mini loaf tins.  Turn the overlapping beetroot leaves over, so they cover the filling.
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes for mini loaves; or 45-50 minutes for the larger version.  Allow to cool, before turning out and serving. 

Monday, 4 June 2012

Fairtrade Banana Flapjacks

I'm ordinarily a muffin and mug of coffee breakfast kinda girl, but lately flapjacks have been finding their way on my breakfast menu, or at snack attack times.  I also have a 10 year old nephew who adores flapjacks so I partly made some to share with him and his cousins. 

I've made banana fair trade banana flapjacks before: a variation with sesame seeds and sultanas; and another with flaked coconut.   However the recipe below make a large dense variation.  One bite and you know you've been smacked in the face with a banana shake!  I mean, these are seriously bananaree - if such a word exists!?
To make these Bananaree flapjacks look a little pretty and appealing to the eyes, I decided to slice one half of the bananas and pressed them gently into the top.  This gives the onlooker an indication of what's in the oaty slab cakes too.
I am sharing some of these banana flapjacks with the Breakfast Club #22, founded and hosted by Helen of Fuss Free Flavours. The theme this month is Fairtrade and for this recipe I have used fairtrade bananas.  I did nearly add some fairtrade chocolate to these, but then decided to keep them purely banana.
Banana Flapjacks
Makes about 16
250g butter
100g golden caster sugar
150g golden syrup
2 ripe fairtrade bananas, mashed (keep back half a banana if you wish to press some into the oaty mixture)
425g rolled oats
Preheat oven to gas mark 4 or 180oc.
Grease a medium sized baking tray.  My tin measured 8inch by 8 inch with greaseproof paper.  In a large saucepan, melt the butter, sugar, golden syrup and mashed bananas.Take of the heat, then evenly stir in the oats.
Using a spatula, carefully turn out into the baking tray and spread out evenly.  Gently press down down the sliced bananas if using. Place the tray in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes or until the sides are golden. Remove from the oven. Allow to cool, before slicing.