Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Secret Santa, Christmas Presents and a Bookmarked Scottish Black Bun

The practice of Secret Santa in the workplace is meant to create a warm, convivial and harmonious  environment.  Secret Santa is supposed to bring joy and laughter to what can be a very long dreary day with everyone patiently waiting for their festive holidays to begin. Secret Santa only works if every one who wishes to participate participates, but there will always be some people who will try to sabotage it; or plain and simply be bah humbug, but we will not them them spoil it for the rest of us. 
I was ever so pleased to have pulled out a good friend at work for Secret Santa.  She is into Matryoshka dolls also known as Russian Nesting Dolls.  I found these festive themed Russian dolls a few months back, so it was quite timely and fitting that I pulled her name out of the jug,(don't worry I also bought her another gift).
I was given a beautiful Fair Trade hand crafted silk scarf by my Secret Santa - its just my colours.  I also received this Cinnamon & Orange Soap and Grapefruit Aloe Shampoo as a Thank you from Amy.  The shampoo has twigged D's interest. I said he likes citrus things.
Now onto things under our Christmas tree.  One of the gift bags comes from a friend at work (the very same one I had for Secret Santa) and the other gift bag was collaborate effort of a young nephew and nieces.  Everything else was mostly from my husband or from me to him. My husband thinks I am hard to buy for, I don't think I am.  Of course like most people I would love a bigger house with a bigger kitchen, a real log fire, a dog ...but the truth is I am content with what I already have in my life, everything else is a bonus!  
So what did I get?  An electric tooth brush and here are some cookbooks; a Owl shaped cookie cutter to go with my cookie cutter collection.
Another vegan cookbook, even though I am not vegan - but hey everyone can eat vegan.
This one is not a vegetarian cookbook, but I am a fan of Kelis and had her cookbook My Life on A Plate on my wish list.  She has an entire album dedicated to Food, here is a link to one called Breakfast.  There are plenty of recipes that can be adapted and some of course are already naturally vegetarian. 

December Eat Your Greens & Wonderful Greens - The Vegetable Palette Final Round Up

Welcome to Decembers round up of Eat Your Greens and  The Vegetable Palettenatures colours - natures goodness''. 
Please note that this will be the last  Vegetable Palette.  I would like to Thank those of you who have participated and support the blog challenge over the past two years.  Please don't be sad though, you can still participate as The Eat Your Greens challenge continues
The theme for December was Wonderful Greens.
I begin with The Law Students Cookbook who presents us with  a Falafel Burger with Guacamole.  Avocado - natures natural green butter. 
Next we have The Veg Hog who shares with us her Twice Cooked Broccoli Pasta.  The broccoli is first boiled and then pan fried for crispness enhanced further with chilli and garlic.  The VegHog uses Spelt tagliatelle here, but I guess you can use any pasta in your kitchen cupboards.  
For The Vegetable Palette, the VegHog shares with us a Flower Sprout Pie. So what is a Flower Sprout? Its a cross between Brussels Sprouts and Kale. I wouldn't mind a slice of this right now.
The VegHog was not the only one cooking with Flower Sprouts as they found there way into my kitchen too.  Here they are stirred into my bowl of Kale and Hazelnut Pesto Pasta
And if you thought, No - NO MORE SPROUTS, well I have some more as Chardonnay and Samphire presents us with some Sprouts with Chestnut Butter.  Yes I said Chestnut Butter - how awesome and so seasonal is that.  And guess what, its vegan too. You should also check out her Chestnut, Celeriac and Mushroom Tart - its earthy. 
And finally and never least, Dom from Belleau Kitchen brings to the table a pot of Broccoli, Green Bean, Sweetcorn and Cabbage Soup.  Dom describes it as a vegetarian version of the Jewish Penicillin Chicken Soup.  If it has helped his cold, who am I to argue - except please pass me over a bowl because the rain is getting to me and I have the sniffles coming on.  

Monday, 28 December 2015

Dill Horseradish Mashed Potatoes

l have a confession to make.  I don't like mashed potatoes.  It is baby food designed for grown ups. I avoid making it, but if I have to the only way I can eat it is if it is disguised in panko crusted  croquettes or dolloped over a good Vegetarian Shepherdess Pie, but my dearest loves mashed potatoes, so it is for him I make them now and again.  

Here the mashed potatoes are enhanced with herby dill and a good smack of horseradish powder or sauce.
Once you've made it though, there is the question of presentation.   
The mash was ridiculously smooth, so smooth that it almost melted in the mouth like snow - except of course it was warm.  

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Golden Turmeric Barley with Cauliflower

Did you have a good Christmas?

We had a quiet one - just the two of us.

I have lots to share, but I wanted to share something that I have eaten recently that is not particularly festive, but interesting none the less.

Golden Glowing Turmeric is all the rage at the moment.  These days it can be found in soups, smoothies, teas, lattes, hummus, vegan cheese, Tofu scrambles and even sweet and savoury porridge's. However turmeric is not a new and trendy ingredient to me, as a person of South Asian heritage,  I have been eating and drinking turmeric all my life and have even used it as a natural face (beauty) product.  Loving its colour and its medicinal qualities and loathing how it  can taint every thing in its way - not the Midas touch I was expecting. 
A bit like the Turmeric New Potatoes yes I admit this bowl of Barley looks radioactive. I've had and made Turmeric Rice many times in my life, but wanted to ring the changes so when I stumbled upon a recipe made with Barley, I wanted to try it.  I was a bit apprehensive of serving it to D, but I need not have been as he actually welcomed the change from Basmati rice.  Its not a stand alone dish, it  makes for a good accompaniment.  A talking point on the Buffet Table for Boxing Day or even New Years Eve. 
The preserved lemons in the middle are from a jar and are optional.  I actually love the piquancy of preserved lemons, so scattered some chopped wedges over mine, D was less inclined. He likes lemon and citrus things, but is not keen on preserved lemons.  He likes chocolate but not chocolate cake so much.  He likes coffee but not coffee flavoured things.  All this makes sense to him.  I am not going to unravel this mystery. 

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Fresh Cranberry Flapjacks and other Festive Treats

Lots of sweet stuff knocking about at home and at work from mince pies to tubs of chocolates.  I share with you neither, except some seasonal  flapjacks made with cranberries.
Of course, you can use any dried fruit, but as I had some fresh cranberries left over from the Vegetarian Centre pie Pie that I decided to throw them into the flapjack oaty mixture.  I loved how the fresh cranberries burst.  It was not only zingy and sweet, it also had a bit of jamminess about them.  

 should've sprinkled the flapjacks with a  little dessicated coconuts for the snowflake effect, but I think a Santa in the picture is enough of a statement that this is a recipe for the festivities.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Festive Five

Ah its the last Five on Friday for 2015 and I am glad that I have found time to participate as the last few times  I had failed to join in due to work - life distractions. 
We decorated our Christmas tree the first weekend of December.  The tree is adorned mostly with  foodie related ornaments (gingerbread man, beaded chilli, strawberry, grapes, measuring spoons etc.) those gifted to me many years ago and some wacky ones that make D smile.  If you wish you can see the tree from a different angle here,  Every year we try and find something new for the tree, but nothing has caught our eyes this year, but I am thankful as I have been given two new ornaments to hang from me tree this year.  The Angel swinging from the top from Mexico from my nephew and a wooden angel from Bangladesh (not shown) from a work colleague. 

Thursday, 17 December 2015

A Vegan - Vegetarian Christmas Centrepiece Hand Raised Pie

I've been a long time fan of Cranks - The cookbooks an I am a member of the Vegetarian Society, so you can imagine my delight when I learned that Cranks have officially been Approved by the Vegetarian Society, a UK brand as longstanding and veggie obsessed as Cranks are and to celebrate this new partnership, as well as raise awareness of vegetarianism and veganism this season, I thought I would create an old fashioned Vegetarian Hand Raised (moulded by hand) Pie made with hot water crust pastry.
There have been some negativity around vegetarian classics like nut roasts, and traditional vegetarian fare in favour of fancy named grains, pretentious jazzed up salads dressed up with exotic sauces and festive green shake smoothies topped with cranberries.  I note this snobbish attitude often comes from those that are neither vegetarian or vegan, but lifestyle foodies who jump on the bandwagon of the next foodie gimmick or fashionable grain.  Please don't get me wrong I do love the versatility of vegetables and admire the creativity of cooks and chefs alike, but I don't like pretense or pretentious food.  I want proper hearty food full of flavour and textures on my festive plate not just a scattering of this, that and the other.  
You don't have to be a vegetarian or vegan, maybe you just want to reduce your meat intake. Take a gander at the Cranks Kitchen for some inspiration. But here is my festive offering for the season...not a mushroom nut roast though...  sorry to disappoint.  A homemade Vegetarian Christmas Raised Pie is also a Vegan Christmas Pie filled with vegetable goodness.  
Bring on the Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, roast potatoes and good veggie gravy.  If you still want to serve it with a slice of mock turkey, that's fine - but no need for the side of vegetables as this pie is filled to the brim with carrots, parsnips, sprouts and chestnuts. Jewelled coloured fruit - a mixture of fresh and dried cranberries and apricots.   If you don't like dried fruit, then feel free to omit them.  This centrepiece pie is best made a day in advance which makes it easy to remove from the tin.  It can be eaten at room temperature, or feel free to reheat it in the oven to maintain its crisp pastry. 

Monday, 14 December 2015

Kale Kissed Pasta with Purple Flower Sprouts

This Big bowl of green pasta was very nice.  The hazelnut and kale pesto clung onto the pasta like a bean pod protecting and clinging onto the peas and beans inside.  

We had a big bowl of this Kale and Hazelnut Pesto Pasta twice, once in the evening and second - the following day for lunch.   
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Purple Flower Sprouts as I was a couple of weeks back, they are a hybrid of Brussels Sprouts and Kale.    
Forgive me for a short post, but I feel a little sniffly today, so I am signing off a little early so I can get an early night - I didn't sleep so well last night. 

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Black Sesame Seed Aubergine Nibbles

I am certainly making the most of my jar of black sesame seeds.  First it was Black Sesame Seed Butter, then Black Sesame Seed Flapjacks and now its sprinkled over these Aubergine Nibbles.  
These Aubergine Nibbles are not far removed from the Japanese Nasu Denkagu loosely translated as Miso Glazed Aubergines, Here though the aubergines are chopped and roasted in the oven with sesame seeds, once golden. Served with a dip, this of course can be made from miso, but i have to be honest I used one from a squeezy bottle. 
These Japanese sushi plates have made an appearance on the blog before.  They are rather special to me.  I got them in the US of A from a independent Oriental shop in Berkeley when visiting my beautiful friend in 2000.   It was my first time in America too.  I carefully packed them and they arrived back with me in the UK in tact.  I treasure them and whenever I use them, all those precious moments we shared as friends at University and on holiday come flooding back and get me emotional.  She is one person in my life that has had a profound impact impact on me and in such a positive way.  When I get low and pessimistic about the world.  I think of her. I miss her being close. 

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Hazelnut and Kale Pesto

I made myself smile today.  I went into a bookshop in town during my lunch break.  Now and again, I will frequent this High Street bookshop, just to see what new vegetarian and vegan cookbooks they have in stock.  Whilst I was looking, this man that would nowadays be described as a Hipster, though the word hipster emerged in the 1930 for underground Black musicians, mostly jazz musicians 'in the know' about emerging sub-culturea and trends.  

Anyway, I digress, I heard him yell out to one of the workers 'Do you have any vegetarian or vegan cookbooks?'.  The girl came over and looked at the shelf a bit bewildered.  I couldn't help myself and said I come here often and I can see one there , there and two there.  In fact that one is good.  He looked at the girl, and said 'Thanks anyway' and  thanked me, surprisingly picking the one that I recommended.  Just made me smile.  I should be working in the cookbook section of this shop or in the library.  I think I would love it.  
Okay back to this Hazelnut and Kale Pesto.  I do know this is not really a pesto as pesto is traditionally made with basil and pine-nuts, but celebrity chefs, food writers, recipe developers and food bloggers with hundred, thousands and millions of followers like to dub things and those are accepted like call a dip Hummus or Falafels when it is made without chickpeas, but when a blogger like me does it people take umbrage.  Why?!  Because I am a small time blogger without a big following...and therefore without endorsement.
The Saveur Magazine Walnut Pesto
Martha Steward Parsley and Hazelnut Pesto
River Cottage - Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall Almond Pesto
Jack Monroe Kale Pesto

Still I love how vibrant and green this Hazelnut and Kale Pesto looks, very festive. I liked the nutty undertones.  This Pesto, like any other pesto is extremely versatile.  So far I 've used t as a sandwich spread, a dip and the traditional way, with pasta, but I got a couple of more ideas of how to showcase it in all its lush green glory.  

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Very Easy Chestnut Bangers - Sausages

Sausages - vegan, vegetarian or meat-based are not the easiest to photograph, unless of course you drown them in thick muddy gravy, but I couldn't be bothered to do that - so here are my Chestnut Bangers - exposed and naked!

What's good about them though, my timing in making them - perfect for the Festive Season and for your vegetarian and/or vegan guests and even those who have a gluten intolerance.  
I was inspired to make these Chestnut Bangers whilst flicking through Denis Cotters For the Love of Food and I was reminded of Lucy's vegetarian breakfast sausages made with vacuum packed pre-cooked chestnuts,  tofu and cheddar cheese.  I also have a vegan recipe by Rose Elliot from her Vegetarian Christmas Cookbook.  Both recipes are straight-forward to make, I know this as I have made them both in the past, but I had an idea how to make a much more easier recipe relying on a couple of ingredients knocking around in my kitchen cupboard. 
I was determined to cook with my tin of Merchant Gourmet Chestnut Puree that's been sitting in my kitchen cupboard for a couple of years (and yes, its still in date) and Savoury Nut Roast.  I am already a fan, however this time round I wanted to do something different with it - make Chestnut Bangers. Half were frozen and half were shallow fried in a little oil over three days for brunch and evening meals.  

Carrot-Coriander Soup and The Optimum ThermoCook

For those of you who read my blog on a regular basis will have already been introduced to the new toy in my kitchen, but for those of you who have not. 
Meet The Optimum ThermoCook that has made itself at home in my kitchen, shoving out of the way the fruit bowl.   Many of you know that I don't really do reviews, so many bloggers accept things and always feel they have to write positive stuff.  I have always been and continue to be very selective and review with honestly and of products that genuinely interest me; and not just for the sake of taking. This post is a Review of the Optimum ThermoCook
The Optimum ThermoCook is made by the same people behind my Optimum 9400 Froothie Blenders. The ThermoCook is quite a neat looking appliance and not too intrusive.  Its boasting that it  boils, blends, chops, heats, kneads, liquidises, mashes, purees, reheats, sautes, steams, stirs, and much much more.   I am looking forward to experimenting, creating and playing in the kitchen with the 20 different functions.  However, it is too early yet to give my full opinion as I am still trying to familiarise myself with it, so I will write more about it as and when I cook and create recipes with it - but so far I have been impressed with it and I think if you had a family to cook for, then the ThermoCook would definitely be helpful in the kitchen. 

I used the ThermoCook over the weekend.  I made a Carrot-Coriander Soup and a Rice Pudding.  Its not a quiet machine, like an attentive child it does let you know its there, as it whirs whilst its working away.  I can see myself using it a lot more, I am looking forward to cooking rice in it and even yogurt. Yes yogurt.  A yogurt maker was on my Christmas wish list, but not anymore! 

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Tea for One, Gingerbread and Flower Sprouts

The Christmas tree is up with its eclectic ornaments, handmade and gifted, but I am not here to talk about them dangling off the branches, but what is in my kitchen.  
I have some jars of Welsh Lady jars of Roasted Chestnut Chutney and Mincemeat with Brandy and Sherry.  I actually got them last year, but had forgot about them, I am definitely going to use them this year.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Turmeric Cream New Potatoes

Yes, I know the colours appearing on my blog are a bit in your face , but honestly its not been intentional on my part it just happens that the dishes I have been making want to show off.  Such as the Black Sesame Seed Butter and my various Beetroot Curries, and now Atomic Yellow new potatoes described this way by my husband.  
I would describe these shockingly yellow potatoes as Dauphinoise style potatoes coated in a rich cream turmeric sauce.   Although not necessary, I think it needed a bit more substance, so I stirred in some veggie meatballs and I was pleasantly pleased with the way the whole dish turned out.  All that was required was some greens on the side to tone down that yellow glow warming your face.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Black Tahini - Sesame Seed Butter Flapjacks

Flapjacks are back on the menu for our on the go work breakfast bar or energy injecting power snack.

I made these particular ones with Black Sesame Seed Butter, they were so good that I made them twice!  
As you can see the artistic streak came out. I splodged the black sesame seed paste here and there, but could have easily spread it out over the top neatly had I had the patience and inclination.

I mentioned previous, when I made the Black Sesame Seed Butter, D wasn't that keen on them, but when I stirred it into some flapjacks he absolutely loved it.  

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

November: White Vegetables Round Up

Welcome to October's round up of The Vegetable Palette and Fruit Palettenatures colours - natures goodness''. 
The theme for November was White Vegetables  and we had three fantastic contributions.  (Please scroll to the bottom of the page for the new theme if you would like to take part this month).

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

November Eat Your Greens Round Up

Welcome to November's Round Up for 'Eat Your Greens'.    
This is a monthly vegetarian and vegan cooking challenge for food bloggers to make something with a green vegetable (or fruit) each month.  
Janet from The Taste Space shares a Beet Carpaccio Salad with Arugula and Miso Dressing.  I am loving the abundance of the peppery arugula aka rocket on this plate, its so refreshing.
Sadhna from Herbs, Spices and Tradition shares an unusual combination of Green Pepper with Chestnuts.  So try this instead of your traditional roasted Chestnuts recipe this festive season. 
Johanna from Green Gourmet Giraffe brings to the table something that would be most welcome at a Vegetarian Sunday Roast Dinner or Season Festive Suppers - Stuffing with Kale and Tofu Bacon. and 
And finally, but not least The Veg Hog presents us with a plate of lots of tasty eats: Falafel with Chargrilled Vegetables and Halloumi.   The greens come from the herbs hidden in the crisp baked falafel.  

Please, please go by and check each contribution and leave a comment, I know my fellow bloggers would appreciate it.  Also I am welcoming #EatYourGreen recipes for December.  Follow this link on how to participate.  

Monday, 30 November 2015

Turnip Swede and Kale Curry For St Andrews Day

I picked up a Swede -Turnip (Neep) last week thinking ahead of St Andrews Day.  I wanted to honour my friends and my time in Scotland. I also wanted to get my hands on some vegetarian haggis, as I didn't have the inclination this time round to make some vegan haggis from scratch, but as our visit to the city this weekend was cut short by the weather - we had neither home-made or shop bought haggis. 

So with St Andrews Day here, I have to admit I wasn't overly energetic or  experimental as I had done so in the past, so resorted to making a vegan Neep Curry. 
And although nothing like his recipe, I was actually inspired by Denis Cotter to make a Turnip Swede Curry from his book Wild Garlic, Gooseberries and Me. Denis Cotters recipe is made with leeks, double cream and yogurt. 

Happy St Andrews Day to Scottish friends in Scotland and those who have migrated to other parts of the world!

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Butternut Squash, Aduki Bean and Kale Savoury Crumble

What's the weather like where you are?  Or should I not ask?!

It's not so nice here at all, we went into Cardiff this morning and driving there and back - well it felt like we were in a submarine with the rain coming down in buckets.  I am not feeling 100%, plus its been a good, but busy week at work, so I was actually glad to get back home when we did, as I was not in the mood for Christmas shopping and the hustle and bustle. 
I was glad that I didn't need to do any cooking either when we got in either.

I made this Savoury Crumble a couple of days back, yes I know two Savoury Crumbles in one month.  This one is very autumnal in appearance, though its quite wintry outside.  Gold and yellow from the butternut squash and sweetcorn, moss green from the kale and studded with clay brown aduki beans.  It was quite pretty to gaze at, but then I went and covered it with a blanket of wholemeal flour and cheddar cheese crumble topping. 
Once baked, a little burnt and crisp around the edges, it was a welcome lunch and just what I wanted to tuck into and give me that warm glow. I am sharing this with Tinned Tomatoes for Meat Free Mondays; and The Slow Cooked challenge hosted by Janice from Farmergirl Kitchen and The Baking Queen, which has a vegetarian theme this month.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Kind Cakes, Mean Bakes in Bristol

Did I tell you we had 1 inch of snow in the Welsh valleys at the weekend.  It was a bit of a surprise, to look out of the bedroom window to find the greenhouse and dirt ground covered with the cold white stuff.  It took us a little while to scrape the ice of the car too.

Anyway, to escape the cold and being stuck indoors, we took a drive and made a day trip of going into Bristol.  I love Bristol for many reasons, when I graduated from University all those years ago  - I applied for jobs in Bristol, Brighton and Birmingham, but ended up finding a job in the city when I went to Uni - Glasgow.  I do love exploring Bristol as well as trying out the many vegetarian and vegan eateries.  I also enjoy taking a lazy wander around Stokes Croft for the graffiti art - but there was not much new there this time round, just a handful around the #RefugeesWelcome.  
This is the only one that I managed to capture on camera.  Its Paddington Bear - Migration is Not a Crime.  Instead of Cafe Kino, we decided to try a different place -  Wise Beans Cafe -  the coffee was real good.  

We were not ready to eat, but I was restraining myself as we had walked passed the Market at The Moon and I spyed some beautiful handmade crafted gifts, as well as Kind Cakes, Mean Bakes and I was suddenly tempted by all of their sweet and savoury bites.  
Sometimes, I miss my own vegetarian culinary adventures and admire and live precariously through others.  If I do return to grassroots cooking, I often imagine it will be something like Mazi Mas or The International Peace Cafe, both recently featured in The Guardian; or even just a 'Pop Up Supper Club'. 

I am very cautious when I tell vegetarian and vegan stall holders that I used to do some catering (and sometimes that I even have a food blog). The response closer to home has not always been welcoming.  I am often snubbed and perceived as a competitor.  Sadly even the non-vegetarian stalls that knock out one sad 'cheese and onion' vegetarian option, give me that sly look, but I have to be honest, its the first time that I got a bit of warmth and it came from two funky vegan women behind Kind Cakes Mean Bakes.  I applaud that kind and genuine warmth that they exuded, they were even generous in sharing a recipe with me.   Thank you so much Caroline and Jane. 
I really really wanted to try everything made by  Kind Cakes Mean Bakes, but at the same time I didn't want to be carrying fragile fresh bakes in my bag and wandering the eclectic streets of Bristol for another few hours, so I went for one - the most eye-catching bake on the table, saying that most were incredible - but it was the beetroot topping that made me opt for the vegan Savoury Cake with 'cream cheese'. 
Above - Caroline lifting up a generous slice for me to take home.  And boy, oh boy it was Awesome - even D gave it the thumbs up. 
My one regret on the day was not getting some Jaffa Fakes - some with orange and some with raspberries!  I consolidate myself in the knowledge that I will visit  Kind Cakes Mean Bakes again, but it may now be next Year, unless we go back in December for some Christmas shopping...   You never know....