Monday, 25 November 2013

Chia Pudding

As I journey through the maze that is going vegan, I'm constantly surprised and impressed at how many wonderful (and completely natural) treats there are to enjoy. The latest "superfood" to join my list are Chia Seeds. They are high in Protein, Iron and Omega-3, plus antioxidants. I've been enjoying them with cereals & puddings, sprinkling them over at the end for a little nutrition kick, until now... 

This super-simple recipe for Chia Pudding is highly rewarding - and get your favourite fruits, seeds and nuts at the ready! To serve 2, you will need:

60g Chia Seeds
300ml Soya Milk
1 tbsp Agave Syrup

Put all of the ingredients into a small bowl or jug and mix well. Leave to settle for 30 minutes then mix again. Cover the container with cling film and leave in the fridge overnight. 

The next day all of the seeds will have increased in size and you should have a dessert the texture of blancmange - a little wobbly! Now is for you to decide on a topping. I used dried figs and a little more agave syrup. That's my sweet tooth talking!

The texture of the pudding was not what I expected but the flavour is so creamy, almost akin to rice pudding. You can use any non-dairy milk that you enjoy. I imagine Almond milk would be quite something! 

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Beetroot & Horseradish Soup

Beetroot is one of my favourite vegetables but also probably one of the most underrated. Lets be honest, most people will only recognise it pickled. And up until recently fresh beetroot has been relatively tough to get your hands on. Now it's not uncommon to see it in most supermarket veg aisles. And what a pleasure it is! 

Beets are also seriously versatile; in slaws, soups, stews, smoothies, salads and even cakes. The rich, earthy quality of fresh beets is mouth-wateringly good and it's colour is divine, brightening up any plate.

So now I've bigged up the beets, let's get going! For my Beetroot & Horseradish Soup you will need:

5 medium-sized Beetroots
50ml water
1 sprig of Rosemary
3 tsp Salt Flakes
2 tsp coarsely ground Black Peppercorns
2 tbsp fresh grated Horseradish, or The English Provender Co. 'Grated Hot Horseradish'
500ml Vegetable Stock
2 small sprigs of Dill
2 tsp Dijon Mustard
2 tbsp Capers

Set your oven to 190°c. Scrub the beetroots clean and chop off the head and tail of each one. Place a large piece of foil into a deep baking dish and curl up the sides so that you are almost creating a foil bag for your beets. Sit the beets in the centre and pour in the water all around them. Sprinkle over 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper and sit the sprig of rosemary on top. Seal the foil bag up then cook the beets for 1 hour 30 minutes. 

When you remove the beets from the oven fully open up the bag then leave them to cool for 15 minutes or so. Once they are cool enough to handle move to a chopping board and peel off the skin. This should be easy to do by rubbing the edges down with your fingertips. If you are struggling then use a knife to carefully shave away the skin. Chop the beets into wedges and throw into a blender. Add the horseradish, vegetable stock and the remaining salt and pepper before blending well. 

Pour the soup into a large saucepan to heat gently at a medium heat until steaming but not boiling, about 5 minutes. Season to taste. To serve add a swirl of Dijon mustard using a teaspoon, drop in the capers and add a sprig of dill. 

Every ingredient here plays a major part. The winning combination of beets and horseradish, a lovely pair of roots, spiked with added mustard and capers. The capers acting like little flavour bombs throughout. Delicious - i hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Now, beet it!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Autumnal Cauliflower, Chestnut & Portobello Soup

Now that I've discovered the joys of cauliflower it's really turning into an Autumn staple. This soup has a lovely, earthy flavour and is so creamy you'd swear there was cream in it. I've used my blender which makes the texture of the soup as smooth as velvet, but a hand blender would do the trick too. This recipe would serves 4 as a starter, or 2/3 as a main.

My obliging husband picked up a good load of Chestnuts at the weekend - coming to a forest floor near you - and while chatting over their potential uses this (rather delicious) idea cropped up. I love using foraged food in my kitchen - i've utilised Nettles, Blackberries and Chesnuts in the past, but I'm not convinced enough of my (very limited) Mushroom knowledge to use those just yet. But the best bit about foraging is that it's basically free produce, and I'm not one to pass up a freebie. 

 For this recipe you will need:

1 head of Cauliflower
2 x Portobello Mushrooms
Approx. 160g Chestnuts 
500ml vegetable stock
3 tbsp Olive Oil
2 tsp Coconut Oil
Salt Flakes
Black Peppercorns
Dill (to garnish)

Firstly set your oven to 200c and score the skin of your chestnuts one-by-one down the middle. Put them in a baking tray and roast for 30 minutes. The skin will start to curl up as they are cooking. Once roasted, you will need to peel away and discard the brown outer, keeping the cream-coloured innard for the soup.

Line a large tray with foil and break up the whole Cauliflower, discarding the leaves and breaking the florets into manageable pieces. Lay these out on the foil and drizzle with approximately 3 tbsp Olive Oil. Season generously with Salt flakes & coarsely ground Black Peppercorns and roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes until tender. If at any point during roasting the edges are starting to blacken I would suggest covering with foil and lowering the heat to 190c. You want them to end up golden rather than charred.

Slice up your Portobello Mushrooms, and keep 2 (or one for each serving) slices to the side for garnishing later. Heat 1 tsp Coconut Oil in a frying pan on a medium heat. Keep moving the mushrooms around the pan while they fry, around 10 minutes, until the edges are browning nicely.

Once you have cooked all of the ingredients, put them all in the blender with another teaspoon of coarsely ground pepper and a sprinkle of salt. Add a little of the vegetable stock at a time, 500ml should do the trick if you like a thicker, velvety soup but by all means add more if you like - it will certainly make it go further.

Heat the soup gently in a pan until piping hot but not bubbling and season to taste - I like mine super-peppery. Fry the 2 remaining pieces of mushroom using Coconut Oil until they are crisp & golden. Use as a garnish to top the soup with a sprig of Dill.

Enjoy & Happy Halloween all!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Cauliflower Curry with Mint & Green Chilli

I'm rather new to this Cauliflower thing. I didn't really think it was good for anything other than being smothered in cheese... until now. My husband on the other hand is an avid fan so this recipe was created to satisfy his craving for this bulbous old veg. And it turned out to be quite something. 

A common addition in most of my curries is a fairly ridiculous amount of garlic. It never occurred to me that you might leave the garlic out. I'm what you might refer to as a garlic fiend. But as it turns out removing the garlic really lets the other ingredients shine and this curry in particular, with the addition of mint, has a wonderfully refreshing, almost zingy flavour. 

Firstly I made up a curry paste in a small food processer, you will need:

2 small white onions finely chopped,
1 sliced green chilli,
1 tsp ground turmeric,
1 tsp ground cumin,
1 tsp garam masala,
½ tsp ground coriander,
¼ tsp hot chilli powder,
2 sprigs of mint leaves, ripped.

​Mix together until you have a coarse paste then heat 1 tbsp coconut oil in a heavy based pan. With the heat at medium add the paste to the pan, let it sizzle lightly and release its aromas for a minute or two. Prepare 250ml vegetable stock in the meantime. Add the florets from a full head of a medium-sized cauliflower, to the pan and coat with the paste. Pour in your vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Mix together well, turn down the heat to medium then simmer for 30 mins until the sauce has reduced / thickened. While this is cooking, bring a small pan of salted water to the boil and cook your basmati rice, as per the instructions on the packet. I like to make sure my rice is only-just cooked, keeping to the minimum cooking time to prevent it turning to stodge. Taste along the way to be sure.

​Once you feel that the sauce of your curry is thick enough and your cauliflower tender enough, remove from the heat. Rip up another handful of mint leaves and mix into the curry with 1 tbsp black onion (or Nigella) seeds. 

I love the simplicity of a recipe like this. Relatively short cooking time and a great return in terms of flavour. You can adjust the amount of chilli powder and/or chillies to your taste but the overall flavour is gorgeously aromatic.

Monday, 30 September 2013

My personal food journey...

I have been on an incredible food journey over the past 5 years, challenging myself to constantly try new things and test my cooking skills to the max. I love the simple things in life; simple pleasures such as watching friends and family enjoy my food and catering to their differing tastes. Our shopping habits have changed over time too; from Supermarkets, to focusing on independent retailers and local markets, to discovering the ease of online shopping (as I currently have an injury that has kept me at home a lot).

As a child I was a vegetarian for a few years, mainly as a result of my concern for the welfare of animals. I like to think that over the years my husband and I have continued to be conscientious eaters spurred on by our environmental, social and ethical awareness.

Now is the time to start a new chapter. We recently watched an inspiring documentary “Forks over Knives”* which started the cogs turning;

“Let food be thy medicine” – Hippocrates.

The amount of meat we now consume in the Western world is unnatural. Our bodies do not need the high doses of meat protein, fats and sugars contained in the highly processed foods being eaten daily. Walk around any supermarket and you will see wall-to-wall processed foods and a very low percentage of whole, plant-based food.

As a result we have decided to embark on a Meat-free and Dairy-free Diet. The health benefits of which are plentiful. We will still eat occasional fish and seafood but the majority of the diet will be essentially vegan.

As some of you will be aware my previous food blog was called “Cheesus Loves Me”, so I have decided to wipe the slate clean and start a new blog here based on the principles of our new diet. I would like to help inspire others, but am by no means preaching. I just want to have a bit of fun showing how wonderful meat-and-dairy-free meals can be, hope that you will try them out and maybe think about the possibility of taking a few meat-free days each week. You can follow me @VChloeK on Twitter / Instagram / Pinterest and please feel free to comment and/or ask any questions.

* I highly recommend watching the “Forks over Knives” documentary and others like it, such as “Food Inc.”,“Food Matters”, "Vegucated" and "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead". 

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Carrot & Chickpea Tagine

I love a good tagine but in the past have counted on meat juices to carry the other flavours into umami. My first attempt at making a wholly veggie tagine was a learning curve and the result was something delicious and wonderful. Moroccan flavours are spicy, zesty and fresh making this dish an absolute treat. Each mouthful brings together different flavour combinations and really surprised me. Using a tagine makes for moist and tasty grub which is slow cooked for maximum flavour. If you don't have a tagine you can use a casserole dish but I would shorten the cooking time by around 20 minutes. 

To serve 2, you will need:

1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained & rinsed
4 medium-sized carrots
​3 whole garlic cloves, bruised 
6-8 firm green olives
1 cinnamon stick
1 preserved lemon
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large red chilli, sliced
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp sea salt flakes
Approx. 10 black peppercorns
300ml water
Large handful of coriander, roughly chopped

Firstly set your oven to 170c to preheat. Slice the carrots and throw them into a large bowl. Add to this the chickpeas, garlic cloves, preserved lemon, cinnamon stick, olives, extra virgin olive oil and red chilli - I like to keep the seeds in for a little extra heat but by all means remove them if you have a low tolerance to chilli. Crush the black mustard seeds, coriander seeds, smoked paprika, sea salt flakes and black peppercorns in a pestle and mortar then add to the bowl.

Mix this all together well ensuring that the carrots and chickpeas are coated fully in the seasoning. Add this to the tagine then pour in the water to almost cover the other ingredients. Cook at 170c for 2 hours. Remove from the oven a couple of times during cooking to mix and check liquid levels - if at any point you feel that the mixture is becoming dry then add a splash more water. This is most likely if you are using a casserole dish so keep a closer eye on it if you wish. After 2 hours increase the oven heat to 210c for a final 30 minutes. If your tagine hasn't reached the right consistency just pop the lid off and back in the oven to thicken it up slightly. Once fully cooked remove the cinnamon stick and mix in most of the chopped coriander. Serve immediately with a dollop of soured cream (or dairy-free equivalent), more coriander and a toasted pitta.

There are so many flavour highlights; the warm soft garlic spilling out of the clove, the fruitiness of the olives which have given so much of themselves to the dish, the zest of the preserved lemon, the aromatic coriander, the light chilli-tingle on your tongue. And best of all, the carrots and chickpeas have absorbed it all. Lush!