Saturday, 18 October 2014

The easiest raw carrot soup EVER!

Halloween is fast approaching, Autumn leaves are falling and this is the time of year that I get totally obsessed with all things orange. I have squashes, pumpkins and carrots coming out of my ears right now, and cannot wait to make my first pumpkin pie of the season! But today I want to focus on carrots.

Carrots are amazing as sides; roasted, steamed and sauteed. They bring a little earthiness when added to soups and stews,  add a sweet crunch to salads and are the perfect dipping tool to have with hummus. But this cheap and easily available vegetable deserves a little more attention. It can be an amazing centrepiece in it's own right, and this raw soup showcases it perfectly.

Raw soups might be on the bottom of your list of things to eat when Winter is fast approaching, but, this carrot soup is just the ticket! Root vegetables are naturally sweet and warming foods, and if you blend this soup for long enough in a high speed blender, it comes out warm and steaming!

One of my favourite raw soups is this very simple carrot soup. You can do all sorts of things with this carrot soup recipe and while I admit that I am fond of carrot and coriander, or throwing in a little ginger to spice things up, my favourite way to serve it is this. I like to taste the simple sweetness of the carrot in all its glory, with a delicious hint of nutmeg.

3 cups almond milk
6 large carrots
1/2 clove garlic
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp sea salt
A glug of extra virgin olive oil
A squeeze of lemon juice

Blend everything together in a high speed blender. I love my Enpee blender for this job as it heats the soup perfectly and it comes out deliciously creamy. I usually blend it for around 4 minutes, and I like to give it a break half way to check it. If you don't have a high speed blender, after blending you can warm gently on the hob.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Watermelon Ice lollies (popsicles!)

When I was a little girl, we were super lucky that my Grandparents owned a flat in Spain on the Costa del Sol. We used to go there most Summers and spent our days swimming, sunbathing and enjoying the local food. It's also where my love (obsession?) with cats started, as I took it upon myself to look after all the strays that lived there, and there were so so many of them!

Going back to the food, one of the highlights for me had to be ice lolly time. We used to get these watermelon ice lollies that were out of this world- seriously nothing compared to them back in England- my brother and I loved them. They were creamy, sweet and delicious, but the best part was that they were made to look like a slice of watermelon, complete with little chocolate pips and a green rind! I've never seen these anywhere other than Spain, but I always remembered them. So this weeks project was to replicate something similar, but healthier, so my girls could enjoy watermelon ice lollies in the glorious sunshine too.

And this is what I came up with. The 'pips' weren't as visible as I had wanted, but I'm going to give it a try again and see how I can improve on it. The main thing is that they tasted divine. I love the contrast between the icy pink part and the creamy-smooth green part. The combination of textures and the zingy lime actually reminded me of those twister lollies you can buy, which I also happened to love as a kid!

Ingredients (makes 6)
1/4 small watermelon
Big handful of fresh strawberries
1 tbsp cacao nibs 
1 large avocado
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp coconut nectar
Few drops of stevia

Cut the watermelon flesh away from the rind and blend it up with the strawberries until smooth. Pour into Ice lolly moulds to 3/4 of the way to the top. Sprinkle a couple of cacao nibs into each one and shake to distribute (you could gently push them to the sides to help them show up a little more). Next add little wooden lolly sticks into the middle of each one and freeze for an hour.

While they are in the freezer you can prepare the green part. Scoop out the creamy avocado and pop into a food processor with the juice of a lime, the stevia and coconut nectar. Process until smooth.

Remove the ice lollies from the freezer, top with the avocado mixture and put back into the freezer for a few hours until set.

Enjoy in the sun!

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Rose and Barley grass Bliss smoothie!

If bliss were in a glass, this smoothie would be it. I have no clue why it never occurred to me to try rose in a smoothie before, especially as we enjoy so many of them in our house!

I brought some beautiful rosewater to make some tasty chocolates with this week. Before my healthy eating ways, I was a sucker for some Fry's Turkish Delight! The love for that combination of rose and chocolate never really went away and I was determined to try and satisfy it. They're a work in progress that I really hope to share with you soon, but the whole process got me thinking what else I could do with rose water.

As a result, I discovered not one, but two amazing recipes this week. The first was a take on a traditional Tudor almond milk recipe, with a hint of rose water. Yup, you heard it right! Almond milk isn't a new thing, its been around for 500 years as a tasty and clever way for those Tudor's (who could afford it) to get around the dairy ban at lent. The addition of rosewater makes it really something special. I made up my standard almond milk recipe and added a teaspoon of the rosewater to it. This gave a delicate flavour that wasn't at all overpowering, you've really got to try it!

The second was this smoothie, and it totally blew me away! It's not often that you get such a new and interesting flavour combination in a smoothie, so I was really surprised by this, I've actually enjoyed it for breakfast the past 3 days! It will amaze you how much green stuff is packed into it too, as all you'll notice is the delicate and floral flavour of the rose and sweet berries.

Rose and Barley grass Bliss!

2 cups of almond milk
1/2 an avocado
1 tbsp barley grass powder
A big handful of lambs lettuce (or green of your choice)
10 drops of vanilla or original stevia
1/4 tsp vanilla bean powder
1 tbsp flax oil
1 cup of frozen mixed berries (organic is possible)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Blitz everything together until smooth and creamy in a high speed blender. We love our Enpee blender as an affordable alternative to Vitamix or Blendtec, but with just as much power and great results!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

St George's Day Scones! (Paleo, vegan, refined sugar free)

Happy St George's Day everybody! Isn't it weird that this day is so widely ignored these days? What happened to St Georges Day? Where are all the Morris dance displays and folk music celebrations that used to go on when I was little?

One theory is that in England we don't like to appear nationalistic, that it might go against our wonderful mixed cultural heritage of today, and the fact that the Flag of England is seen to have many negative connotations attached to it now. Even so, the fact that St Patrick's Day is so widely celebrated in England makes this even more strange, we don't seem to mind celebrating other countries national days!

What really fascinates me is that St George was not actually English at all. He was believed to have been born in Turkey, he grew up in Palestine, and later became a Roman soldier. He seems to be the perfect example of all an English Saint should be in today's modern times; multicultural, multinational and very brave. So with that in mind, I think st George's day is far from being nationalistic.  It celebrates the very opposite; this multicultural wonderfulness that we have today and that I myself am proud of. In fact what it all comes down to really, is an excuse to get together and eat.

Historically St George's day was celebrated as a national feast day. So I say lets make this day all about the food (no surprise there), and bring back the tradition of celebrating this feast day. With lots of food, friends, family, dancing and laughter it could have all the makings of a wonderful celebration- like Christmas, but without the endless marketing and gift buying.

As I'm right at the start of a bit of a Spring cleanse, I wanted to make a traditionally English dish that I could still actually eat. Famous for our heavy pies and cream laden desserts this presented a bit of a hurdle for me, but then I came up with this new version of scones and jam which really is a win win. Scones are not only a super traditional food, when topped with the coconut yoghurt and red jam, they represent the colours of the St George's cross.

Although these scones look just like the original, they contain no sugar, no gluten, are vegan and paleo friendly and the jam is all raw!

For the scones (makes 8)
2 cups ground almonds
2 heaped tbsp coconut flour
2 flax 'eggs'
1 tbsp xylitol (or coconut palm sugar)
1 tsp gluten free baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup coconut yoghurt (we used Coyo)
2 tbsp almond milk (plus extra for brushing)

For the jam
10 large strawberries
8 drops of plain or vanilla stevia
1 tbsp chia seeds

First preheat your oven to 170 degrees (fan).
Add all the scone ingredients to a bowl and mix with your hands to create a knead-able dough. Just like with traditional scones, don't overwork the mixture!

Press the dough into a rectangle shape about 2.5cm (1 inch) thick, cut out 5cm diameter rounds and place on a lightly oiled baking tray. Brush the tops with almond milk and cook for 15 minutes until golden on top.

While the scones are cooking, blitz the strawberries, vanilla stevia and chia seeds in a food processor until you have a jam like consistency. Put aside to thicken up.

When the scones are ready (you can test by tapping the bottom of the scone, it should sound hollow), cool them on a rack.

When cool, cut in half and top with coconut yoghurt and the strawberry jam. Yummy!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Raw Vegan (refined sugar free) Cream Eggs

I am SO excited to share this recipe with you. I absolutely used to adore Cadbury's cream eggs growing up. I was always so excited to see them on the shelves at Easter- it's hard to believe that I haven't eaten one in 5 years! Over the past couple of Easters I've made a few attempts at recreating them to be refined sugar free and I've come pretty close, but never good enough to share. But that is about to change!

When I made my first attempt at these I used agave. I wanted a sweetener without a strong taste and with a neutral colour to replicate that cream egg filling. We hardly ever use agave, but as it was a one off indulgent recipe I decided to just go for it. I have since made them with pale coconut nectar which is a preferred sweetener of mine, but it is hard to find in stores. Brown rice syrup also works for a very subtle sweet flavour and is much gentler on your system than agave. You can use whichever you feel comfortable with, they all work well.

The nuts have also been a huge part of the experiment. This final recipe uses macadamia nuts as they give a really creamy, pale finish and a neutral taste. Texture wise, soaked cashew nuts also worked but I could still taste that cashew flavour which I wasn't so keen on in this recipe, so I prefer the macadamia version.
I was determined to make them happen this year. So after all the fun and experimenting, this week I finally cracked it- and this version is absolutely perfect. They're creamy, sweet and very gooey. In fact the texture is so much like the original I could almost believe I'm eating a Cadbury's egg! Even though these are super sweet, they're not as sickly as the originals, which is a great thing! Having eaten free from refined sugars for so long I am quite sure I could't eat the original now anyway. I hope you love these. Happy Easter!

100g of your favourite raw chocolate

For the egg white
200g macadamia nuts, soaked overnight
6 tbsp pale coconut nectar, brown rice syrup or agave
2 tbsp coconut butter, melted
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
2 tsp sugar free vanilla extract
1 tbsp filtered water
1 tbsp lemon juice
Pinch of fine sea salt

For the egg yolk
2 tbsp of the finished egg white recipe
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp pale coconut nectar, brown rice syrup or agave

Add the egg white ingredients to a high speed blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Pour into a bowl. Remove 2 tablespoons of this mixture and mix with the turmeric and extra sweetner to make the yolk.

Break up the raw chocolate and add to a bowl. Stand the bowl in a larger bowl of hot water and stir until melted.

Take a mini easter egg mould and with a teaspoon, spoon a little of the melted chocolate into each mould. Use the back of the teaspoon to coat a nice layer all around the mould. Pop into the freezer for 5 mins to firm up. Repeat, 'painting' another layer of chocolate to make a thicker shell for your filling. Freeze again for 5 minutes.

Carefully turn out the moulds onto a plate and fill almost to the top with the egg white mixture.

Next dollop a small amount of the yolk mixture into the centre of each egg and gently push it into the cream to create the yolk.

That's it! They're ready. You could also put the two halves together to create whole eggs but the filling is very gooey and a bit messy so I left them as half eggs.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Roasted sweet potato and ginger soup

This soup is so tasty, the roasting really brings out the natural sweetness and makes for a deeper flavour.

Serves 4
1 tbsp virgin coconut oil
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 onions, diced
3 sweet potatoes
8 tomatoes
1 can of chickpeas, drained
1.5 litres of vegetable stock
Lime wedges to serve
Coriander (cilantro) for garnish (optional)
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Scrub and chop the sweet potatoes into 2 inch sized pieces.
Add them to a lightly oiled baking tray, throw the tomatoes over the top and roast at 180 degrees for around 30 mins or until cooked through.

While the potatoes are roasting, saute the onion, garlic and ginger in the coconut oil. Add the roasted veg, stock and seasoning, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 10-15 mins and blend to your desired consistency. Lastly, add in the chickpeas and heat through for around 10 more minutes. It really is such a simple soup! Great served with the lime wedges and coriander.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Store cupboard Gluten free vegan gravy

I'm SO busy right now with my book campaign that blogging, recipe tasting, everything really has been put on the back burner. We're doing so well but are a ways off completing our goal to get mine and my talented Sister in laws magical healthy children's cookbook to print! It will happen I'm sure of it because of the wonderful people out there like you supporting our campaign, but it has meant our family meals have got simpler and simpler over the past couple of weeks! Making time to create a good gravy is just one of the areas that has suffered.

Ok, so I know it is easy to make a really good plant based gravy, but it takes a little time. Sauteing onions and mushrooms gives depth to the gravy and adding a splash of wine can really richen it up but it's not super quick. When I'm making a midweek dinner, I often don't have that extra time, what I'm looking for is a magic little mix that you can whip up quickly and easily!

That leads us on to buying ready made gravy mixes. But...Have you ever checked the ingredients on those packets? They've got refined sugars, they've got colourings, flavour enhancers, gluten, all sorts of stuff you don't necessarily want in your dinner. So what is the answer? 

Home made gravy mix! My frustration at the poor quality of gravy mixes led me to mix up my own gravy powder that I now keep stored in the cupboard ready for emergencies. I admit that this isn't as rich as a beautiful homemade veggie onion gravy, of course not, but it sure makes my life easier when I'm rushed for time and definitely passed the family taste test!

To check out how we're getting along on our campaign, check here!

Makes enough for 4 batches, each batch serves 4 comfortably!

4 tsp boullion powder (I use marigold low salt)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
3 tsp instant chicory
1 tsp coconut palm sugar
1/4 tsp ground white pepper*
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp nutritional yeast (optional)
2 tbsp arrowroot flour
6 tbsp brown rice flour

* I use white pepper as when I tried it with black it was far too overpowering

 Blitz everything togther in a spice or coffee grinder or mini atatchment on a food processor to ensure everything is uniform size and evenly distributed through the mix.

When making it up I use about 1 1/2 cups of water per 1 tbsp of mix, you can adjust depending on the your preferred consistency! Using the cooking water from cooked veggies enhances the flavour and nutrient value. Simply whisk powder with water and cook in a saucepan over a medium heat for around 10 mins until thickened. Easy as pie! Easier actually...

You can also add dried herbs to this gravy if you prefer a herby flavour.