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    Recipes, Vegan

    Recipe: Medicinal vegan red lentil & lime soup

    Look, I’m not about to tell you that food will cure you, but after two weeks of having the flu and still feeling pants, I decided that my diet of hot cross buns and more tea than I thought humanly possible could probably do with some help. So I decided to make this medicinal soup, and bonus points it’s vegan too.

    Without descending into too much woo, this has a bunch of stuff that supposedly has some health benefits: onions have been used for centuries to reduce inflammation, coconut is apparently helpful to balance gut bacteria, and limes are full of vitamin C which is a powerful antioxidant and stops you getting scurvy. Although if you’re worried about that, I recommend drinking daiquiris.

    I have no idea if it’d cured me, but it tasted good so I figured I’d share. I stuck with it as it is in the recipe below because I didn’t want to challenge my stomach any more than I was already, but the punchy lime, sunny colours and slight heat meant that next time I’ll be adding shredded chicken or pork, some beans, maybe a pinch of cumin and upping the chilli slightly to make it a more filling soup. But as it is, it’s a pretty nice medicinal soup, although pretty citrusy (some people might want to tone that down, I quite like it).  It’s also vegan if you use right kind of vegetable stock; I used Marigold Swiss vegetable vegan bouillon powder in this recipe.  I also mentioned garlic and ginger pastes because I have them both in my fridge and was too poorly to be faffing about grating ginger.

    Recipe: Medicinal red lentil soup
     
    Prep time
    Cook time
    Total time
     
    Author:
    Recipe type: soup
    Serves: 4
    Ingredients
    • 1 large onion chopped
    • 100g red lentils
    • 2 heaped tsp turmeric
    • ½ tsp chilli powder
    • 1 tbsp coarsely grated ginger or paste
    • 2 garlic cloves, sliced or tbsp of garlic paste
    • 1l vegetable stock
    • 400ml can coconut milk
    • 2 generous handfuls baby spinach (approx 50g)
    • 1 lime, juice and zest - you may want to reduce this if you don't like things too citrusy
    Instructions
    1. In a large pan, fry the onions in a little oil until soft and golden
    2. Then add the lentils, turmeric, ginger, garlic and pour in the stock.
    3. Cover the pan and simmer until the lentils have softened, this should take around 15 minutes
    4. You might want to season with some salt now, depending on how salty your stock is
    5. Pour in the coconut milk, give everything a good stir and simmer for another 15 minutes or so
    6. Add the spinach, and cook it until it wilts.
    7. Stir in the lime juice and zest, and serve.

    Disclosure: Brought to you by the flu and the realisation that after two weeks I was starting to get bored of bread, which is more painful than the flu itself. Also, if you’re really sick, go see a doctor and get actual medicine. But only have antibiotics if you *really* need them.

    Drinks

    Keeping warm with Highland Park on Winter Solstice

    Last night I went on a magical tour of south Birmingham, past some pretty impressive suburban Christmas lights, getting off the bus to realise that winter has been incredibly late to the party but seems to be on its way.  And just in time for Winter Solstice too.

    With all the stressing about going to the other side of the world in a few days where it’s summer, I’d completely forgotten Winter Solstice was today but the nice people at Highland Park whisky reminded me. I’m not going to bore you with too much but the Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year for us in the Northern hemisphere which means we get the least amount of sunshine.  And of course it’s a big celebration for lots of different cultures throughout history, but the people of the Orkney Island in Scotland get a big kick out of it largely due to their Neolithic archaeology, which they’re well known for.  Particularly notable are the Runic inscriptions, a bit like Viking graffiti, on the inner walls of the Maeshowe – a Neolithic chambered cairn, which does some pretty cool things with the angle of the sunshine around the Winter Solstice. Also, Viking graffiti!

    And with Winter Solstice being a significant time of year in the Nordic calendar and all that Viking history, you know the people of Orkney have a good reason to celebrate.  And they also make Highland Park whisky, which means when it’s bloody cold outside and they’re celebrating, they’ve got something to toast with.  The kind folk at Highland Park sent me a hip-flask of their Highland Park 12 Year Old whisky and a lovely snuggly scarf to keep me warm, so I can join in the fun too.  The Highland Park 12 Year Old is a lovely dram; to me it’s smooth, with honey sweetness, a touch of fruit and a hint of sweet peaty smoke, but not overkill.  I’ve been sipping it as I write this and I don’t think it’s going to last long, although I’m going to try and save some for later.

    Because I’ve been coughing for weeks, Hot Toddys are pretty much my favourite thing at the moment and I need to find a way to mix them up. I get sent a lot of recipes and a lot of them, particularly cocktail ones, make me wonder if anyone has any clue about balance.  But this one I think sounds alright, mainly because the Angostura bitters are going to balance out the sweetness from the honey, which itself compliments the Highland Park.  Rooibos tea you can get in most supermarkets, you can probably switch it out for another type of tea but given it’s said to boost the immune system it makes this drink pretty much medicinal, right?

    Highland Park Hot Toddy

    Firstly, heat your tea cup or mug, then add:

    • 50ml Highland Park 12 Year Old whisky
    • 1tsp honey
    • 130ml Rooibos Tea (tbh I just top up the glass)
    • Add a dash of Angostura bitters or aromatic bitters

    Give it a good stir and garnish with some lemon peel

    …And whilst you’re at the kettle, can you make me one too?

    Disclosure: Complimentary samples, not paid to say anything let alone positive…now can I go back to drinking whisky on a school night, please? It’s research.

    Cake, Recipes

    Recipe: chocolate caramel cornflake bars (no bake)

    tray bake and daffodilsSee those daffodils, that’ll give you an idea of how long this post has been sat in my drafts folder.  Why, you might ask, namely that I made these lovely caramel crispy squares, wrote down the recipe on a sticky-note and then promptly lost the note.  I stumbled across the sticky-note again recently, so I’m posting this before I lose it again, and also because I might re-make them and it’s easier than trying to find my recipe book (which was the problem in the first place),

    The story behind these goes that we put fruit and sweets out as snacks during our work-events and a bunch of the mini chocolate bars kept being left.  I maintain this was because the labels all looked a bit similar and when you’re listening to someone talk, it might be a bit hard to root around and avoid the chocolate you don’t like.  As they were starting to get a little battered about being moved from event to event, I took them home and decided to do something with them.  Effectively this recipe uses Sainsburys’ own-brand versions of Mars Bars, but they’d work too, as I expect would other own-brand versions.

    And to stick with the own-brand theme, I also used Sainsburys own-brand cornflakes, mainly because I don’t really eat cereal and I didn’t see the point of spending loads of money on flakes of corn that were going to be covered in buttery, caramel chocolate.  I was planning on making them with Rice Crispies or something similar, but got swayed by the cornflakes.

    Recipe: chocolate caramel cornflake bars (no bake)
     
    Prep time
    Total time
     
    A really simple no-bake dish to use up leftover chocolates.
    Author:
    Recipe type: Dessert
    Serves: 20
    Ingredients
    • 13 mini caramel and nougat chocolate bars (about 260g)
    • 200g cornflakes
    • 150g condensed milk
    • 55g butter
    Instructions
    1. Melt down the chocolate bars slowly - you could do this in a microwave, but I prefer to rest a glass bowl over some gently boiling water and melt them more slowly
    2. Once the bars have melted, add the condensed milk and butter and make sure everything is combined
    3. Take the glass bowl off the saucepan - be careful, it'll be hot.
    4. Add the cornflakes to the melted chocolate. You might want to do this in batches as it might be that you prefer your cornflakes squares to be stickier - alternatively you might want to add more if you think the melted chocolate can handle it.
    5. Once the cornflakes are properly coated, transfer into a greaseproof-lined tray - I used a brownie tray, but a roasting tray would work too.
    6. Spread the mixture out and pat everything down to make sure everything is nicely packed in.
    7. Transfer to the fridge and leave to cool and set - I left mine overnight, but a few hours would probably do it.

    Drinks, Product reviews, Reviews

    Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice

    Pomegranates immediate conjure up two ideas to me: grenade, that bright red, sugary syrup which is both tart and sweet and found in many disco-style cocktails; and the Greek myth of poor Persephone and her kidnapping to the underworld. I both like grenadine in my drinks and I enjoy a good tale, so when Pom Wonderful were offering up a free bottle of their pomegranate juice I thought what the heck and said yes.

    Pomegranates look like lovely little red jewels but they’re a pain to pluck out of the fruit so ready-prepared seeds or juice seems like the easiest way to taste them.  Pom Wonderful is 100% pomegranate juice made from concentrate and contains no preservatives or colourants, which is pretty impressive when you see the deep, rich red colour of the drink. It’s a good source of potassium and is a gluten-free fruit (although to be honest I didn’t know fruit wasn’t gluten-free), and is generally pretty tasty.  It’s a bit pricier than your usual morning fruit juice (but then pomegranates are a pain to pluck so I can kinda see why) but I did enjoy its rich slightly tart taste.

    Pom-berry Fizz

    IMG_1713.PNGI decided to try and come up with a non-alcoholic cocktail. I’m pretty rubbish with names, but I’ve been calling this the Pom-berry Fizz.  Taking the sweet and tartness from the pomegranates I decided to add some other dark fruit, namely blueberries, tart it up with some lime juice and lengthen with the pomegranate juice and lemonade for a rich but refreshing drink.

    Take six blueberries and muddle/squish them in a glass with a teaspoon of lime juice (fresh is best, but bottled is fine). Top up the glass two thirds full with pomegranate juice. At this point if you don’t want bits in your drink you should fine-strain the skins of the blueberries, but I just left mine in (in hind-sight I should’ve fine strained). Then top up with lemonade and drink!

    http://www.pomwonderful.co.uk/

    Disclosure: I was given a bottle of Pom Wonderful as part of a BzzAgent campaign.  I wasn’t required to write anything nice, nor was I required to come up with some non-alcoholic cocktails with it – I was just procrastinating and seemed like a good idea.  Also, the story of Persephone is pretty awesome, you should check it out.

    Recipes

    Recipe: Roasted Chickpea and Vegetable Wraps

    I’m a big fan of this recipe for several reasons: it’s simple and easy to make; can be made with store-cupboard ingredients and whatever veg you have knocking around, and its origin.  Whilst looking for something my then-housemate and I would both eat and enjoy, I stumbled across Thug Kitchen – an expletive-ridden food blog which is mainly vegan, but doesn’t feel preachy.

    The original recipe is for Roasted Chickpea & Broccoli Burrito, and the first time I had it that’s what we did.  But this time round I decided to ‘pimp’ the recipe, and added more vegetables and doubled the spice mix.  It was already enough to make 6-8 healthy portions of burritos, but in an effort to get more veg into my diet I added mushrooms, aubergine and yellow courgette too – the latter of which was because a kind neighbour was giving them away for free.  The result is enough to eat as a decent lunch without the wraps…although I will warn you this is kinda spicy.  If that’s not your thing, maybe tone down the chilli powder or add a pinch of sugar.

    Roasted Chickpea and Vegetable Wraps

    2 cans of cooked chickpeas, drained
    1 large onion
    1 red pepper
    1 large broccoli
    1 small yellow courgette
    1 aubergine
    8 medium sized button mushrooms
    4 cloves of garlic
    1 lime
    Wraps and condiments to serve
    Spice mix:

    • 6 tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
    • 3 teaspoons chili powder
    • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 2 teaspoon smoked paprika
    • 1 teaspoon ground coriander

    You’ll also need a roasting tin – the sort of one you use for roast chicken is ideal

    Method

    1. Heat the oven to about 200c
    2. Chop the onion, pepper, courgette, aubergine and broccoli so it’s fairly small – you don’t want it to be too much bigger than the chickpeas
    3. In a bowl add all the ingredients for the spice mix and combine.
    4. Add the spice mix to the vegetables and give it a good stir, it should give them all a reddish coating.
    5. Put everything in the roasting tin, if they’re not already, and roast in the oven for 20minutes.
    6. Whilst the vegetables are roasting, chop the garlic into small pieces and quarter the mushrooms…I’ve said about 8 but use however many you feel is best.
    7. Take the vegetables out of the oven, add the garlic and mushrooms, give it a good stir and put it back in the oven for another 15 minutes.
    8. Once everything is cooked, juice half a lime over the mixture for some extra zing.  The vegetables should still have some bite to them, but the broccoli might look a little burnt.

    roastedchickpeasandveg

    Cake, Recipes

    Recipe: Blondies / White Chocolate Brownies

    I love this recipe, although I’m never really sure what to call them; white chocolate brownies sounds a bit silly, but blondies seem to require explanation.  Either way if you’re a fan of white chocolate these are delicious.  Below is the basic recipe for the blondies, but feel free to experiment; I’ve made this recipe adding 100g of cranberries or with a delicious Spanish liqueur, Licor 43.

    blondiesBlondies

    300g quality white chocolate, chopped

    200g butter

    3 medium eggs

    150g caster sugar

    ½ tsp pure vanilla extract

    200g plain flour, sifted

     

    Method
    1. Heat the oven to 180°C or equivalent.  Line a baking tin (18x28cm size is recommended) with greaseproof paper – trust me, this is a lot less messy than greasing a tin and trying to get the baked goods out later.
    2. Boil some water and then allow it to simmer.  In a bowl over the pan of simmering water, melt butter with 150g of the chocolate.  Once it’s all melted leave it to cool (trust me) and then give it a good, quick stir to combine it.
    3. In a bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla until combined and the mixture looks pale.
    4. Beat in the melted white chocolate mixture, making sure everything comes together.
    5. Chop the remaining 150g into chunks (I tend to attack mine with a rolling pin) and sprinkle the chunks into the mixture.  If you’re adding fruit (cranberries work well), add this now.
    6. Bake for about 20 minutes, or  until the top is firm but the insiders are still a bit soft.
    7. Leave to cool and cut into squares.

     

    Round ups

    July round up

    Wow, what a month July was.  Oddly, considering I managed to blog much more this month, it was also the month I seemed to end up in a lot of other cities with a weekend away in York and trips to Leamington Spa and London (no blogposts about them though).  I’ve varied some of the posts in July too, adding product reviews in among the usual reviews, recipes and round ups.

    Recipes20140721-142354-51834649.jpg

    A bit of naughty and nice with just two recipes this month; one for a blueberry balsamic glaze which really added the finishing touch to my rainbow salad, and a recipe for Gluten-free Chocolate and Cointreau Cake .

    Reviews

    It was a great month for pop up food events, as I went to one of Brum Yum Yum’s Lunch Market where 63 Islands and the Cake Doctor were selling their wares for the afternoon.  I also made it along to the Colmore Business District’s annual Food Festival – their best yet.  And not forgetting my first visit to Two Cats Roaming Kitchen, a north-eastern European fine dining pop up and well worth seeking out.

    Plus I visited one of the most hidden away cafes in the city – so hidden I didn’t even know it existed until I went for lunch!

    Product reviewschocolatebombe

    I decided to add in some reviews of more unusual food items I came across, the first being Beanies gingerbread flavour instant coffee, after developing a bit of a habit for gingerbread soya lattes.  I also stumbled across Tyrrell’s Vegetable Crisps when looking for something a bit more interesting in my lunchtime sandwich meal deal, and finally a Selfridges salted almond and crunchy toffee Bombe I found in the sale…I know, chocolate in the sale!

    Coming up in August I have reviews from Two Cats’ July event, the recipe for my favourite blondies, mojito chocolates from Hotel Chocolat, The Electric’s Food Film Club and much much more!