Cornish Fairings

Cornish Fairing

Just having a cup of tea and a biscuit.  Do you want one?  These only take 5 minutes to prep and 10 minutes to bake so you could be eating one in half an hour.

I made these to celebrate St. Piran’s Day but, as it falls during Lent, I have also “veganised” them in keeping with my Lenten promise to give up animal products.  They haven’t “crinkled” on the top quite as much as they do when made with butter but they still taste scrumptious; gingery, spicy and crispy – delicious.

I don’t have much more to say on the subject except that my tea is going cold so I might make a fresh one – and have a second biscuit…

Ingredients

100g (4oz) Non-Dairy Spread

100g (4oz) Un-Refined Caster Sugar

2 tbsp Golden Syrup

175g (6oz) Self Raising Flour

2 tsp Ground Ginger

1/2 tsp Ground Mixed Spice

1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C / Gas Mark 4

Heat the spread, sugar and golden syrup in a pan over a low heat until the butter has melted, but do not boil.

Sift the flour, ginger, mixed spice, cinnamon and bicarbonate of soda together into a bowl, then tip into the melted butter mixture and mix with a wooden spoon to form a smooth dough.

Place heaped teaspoons full of the mixture on to baking sheets, about an inch apart to allow room for them to spread.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool and harden on the baking tray for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

 

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Sweet Potato and Coconut Dal

 

I made this sweet potato and coconut dal / dhal for dinner for Martin and I last night.

Earlier in the evening we had met up with friends for an “early doors” drink and when we got home we wanted something quick to prepare but tasty and this looked like it would fit the bill.

The original recipe is from a Rose Elliot book called Vegetarian Supercook which I have owned for about 10 years but it is still in print and easily available.  The book contains a number of vegan recipes as well as tips on how to “veganise” some of the vegetarian recipes so I suspect I might be referring to it quite a lot over the next few weeks as I have decided to be vegan for Lent this year.

The dhal (I spell it dhal, Rose Elliot spells it dal) took about 30 minutes from start to finish and a maximum of 5 minutes prep time.  I anticipated serving it with some chapattis just as it is but, when it was ready and we tasted it, we realised that wouldn’t quite be right.  This dish is incredibly sweet – absolutely delicious but very, very sweet.  Martin said it tasted almost like dessert which is, perhaps, going a little too far but I take his point.

Luckily, and I do mean luckily, we had some left over vegetable curry in the fridge.  I had planned to have it for my lunch today but we ate it last night instead and the dhal became a side dish.  In fact the dhal became an absolutely perfect side dish.

I will be making this again but only as an accompaniment to something with a spicy kick – the two balance each other perfectly.

Now – what am I going to have for lunch?..

Ingredients

1lb / 500g Sweet Potato

6 oz / 175g Split Red Lentils

1 or 2 Green Chillies, sliced

14 fl oz /400ml can Coconut Milk

3/4 pint / 450 ml Water

1 tsp Grated Fresh Ginger

1 tsp Ground Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Turmeric

Salt & Pepper

A generous handful of Chopped Coriander

Method

Peel and dice the sweet potato.  Place it in a saucepan with the lentils, chilli, coconut milk and water.  Bring to the boil and then leave to cook gently, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes until the sweet potato and the lentils are soft and the mixture looks thick.

Stir in the ginger, cinnamon, turmeric and some salt and pepper, then cook gently for a few more minutes to blend in the flavours.  Sprinkle with coriander and serve.

NB The spices are added after the lentils are tender – adding them earlier can stop the lentils from softening properly.

 

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Why I am Going Vegan for Lent

This is an unusual blog article for me – it’s a little deeper and a little more personal than usual but I’m putting it out there anyway – make of it what you will.

Beetroot and Orange Salad

This year I have decided to follow a vegan diet for Lent.  So that’s 40 days (and 40 nights) of no animal products whatsoever.  As it is more normal for people to simply give up chocolate or alcohol I can see that my choice might

  1. Seem a little OTT and
  2. Need some explaining.

So here goes:

First of all what is it with the whole Lent thing?

I was raised a Catholic and, although it would be a major stretch to describe myself in those terms today, some of this stuff sticks and I have always followed the Lenten traditions of pancakes, fasting and reflection (followed by too much chocolate!).

For Christians Lent is a time for removing themselves from their normal behaviour and taking time to reflect (hence Christ’s 40 days and nights in the desert).  It is usual to “give something up” as a way of demonstrating to ourselves that we too can resist temptation.  It is not really about deprivation but more about focussing on what we need rather than what we want.

For me, in a world where everything is instant and delayed gratification is no longer the norm, that is no bad thing; even for those of us with no religious beliefs at all.

So why vegan?

I do not believe that a vegan diet is inherently “better” either physiologically or morally and if you are looking for gory stories of animal welfare issues then I am afraid you will need to look elsewhere.  I am not looking to convert anyone and, whilst education is a good thing, I don’t believe in making other people feel guilty about their choices.

For me, the vegan approach is about re-setting my dietary clock.

I have been a bit low of late.  A bit, end of winter down in the dumps which has been compounded by some on-going health issues.  Like most women (and many men) my eating habits are very much affected by my mood.

I love good food and I love to cook but low mood tends to make me lethargic, it robs me of my motivation even to do the things I love and so I have been making some pretty poor food choices and I have been failing to get outside to walk.  In short, I have indulged in behaviour which reinforces rather than challenges my low mood.  It’s time to turn that around.

Vegan food is not easy.  I have to think about it and when I think about food properly I make better choices.  I plan meals and I shop well, I take joy in cooking new foods and in eating them.  In short I am tricking myself into doing better.

Delia's Roast Pepper and Fennel Recipe

4 years ago I spent a month being vegan as an “experiment”, the articles and recipes are here on the blog (just type vegan into the search box at the top of the page).  At the end of that month I felt more energised and had lost 10lb (bonus!!).  It seems like time to do that again.

You might be wondering why I didn’t make the decision to be a vegan permanently.  I have asked myself that question many times and haven’t yet come up with a satisfactory answer.  I think I am looking for something deeply philosophical when the actual answer might just be “cheeeese”!  The conversation is on-going.

Since that last experiment we have significantly reduced the amount of meat we eat; I don’t cook meat at home unless we have guests but we may choose to eat meat when we are out.  If friends choose to cook for us we eat whatever they cook and we eat it with gratitude.

So, this personal journey is one of re-balancing.  A time to reflect on food and to only put things in my mouth if they are actually going to improve my energy levels (wine is ok right? Wine gives me energy!).

The bun scuffle blog is coming with me – what I eat, I write.  I hope you will come with me too and maybe try a few of the meals I blog about.

So what am I eating?  Well, I am only on day 3 of 40 so, not much yet!

Breakfast has been avocado or banana on Ryvita – nom.

Tuscan Bean Soup

I have batch made lots of soup for lunches including this yummy Tuscan Bean Soup.  It’s cold out and soup is bright and colourful and warming and it makes me feel good about being home.

Dinner last night was falafel, hummus and salad in pitta bread – our four year old grand-daughter was with us for dinner and I wanted something that she would enjoy too – and she did!  Tonight we will be having sweet potato and coconut dahl – the recipe will follow soon.

Falafel Recipe

 

I have been snacking on fruit and nuts and may be developing a walnut habit!

Nuts

This week the newspapers were full of articles about how we should really be eating 10 portions of fruit and veg a day, not 5, as previously recommended – so I am holding that in the back of my mind as I plan each days meals – I’ll let you know how I get on with that.

So that’s me.  I am not preaching just trying to kick start a return to better habits.

Here goes…

 

 

 

 

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Tuscan Bean Soup

Tuscan Bean Soup

I have never been to Tuscany.  I don’t even know if they make a version of this soup there but this recipe (and variations of it) have always been called Tuscan Bean Soup.  So here it is.

This version is suitable for vegans; I used a vegan bouillon powder to make the stock.  I also used tinned beans for convenience but you could use dried beans if you have time to soak them.  The actual mix of beans isn’t too important – some recipes use all cannellini beans – what really matters is that you choose varieties you like to eat.

My mum used to make a version of this soup (actually, she probably still does) and it has always been a favourite of mine, tasty, hearty and filling.  This soup is no starter to a meal – it is a meal all in itself.  Add some crusty bread and you are away.

Once, when no. 2 daughter was about five years old, we visited my mum when she was cooking.  The conversation went like this:

L: “What are you cooking nana?”

M: “Bean soup”.

L: (With a cheeky glint in her eye) “I don’t care what it’s been, what is it now”?

That pivotal moment should have prepared us for the slightly warped but hilarious sense of humour my daughter has displayed ever since – like the time I opened the kitchen cupboard to find all my groceries looking back at me with googly eyes, or the time she recommended a “really funny” film which was actually the most terrifying thing I have ever seen!

Anyway, for that reason this soup makes me smile and, on a rainy day in March, that is priceless.

Tuscan Bean Soup Recipe

 

Ingredients

2 tbsp Olive Oil

2 large Onions, sliced

3 Celery Sticks, sliced

3 Carrots, diced

3 Cloves of Garlic, finely chopped

5 fresh Thyme Sprigs, leaves picked

2 fresh Rosemary Sprigs

1 tsp Smoked Paprika

2 x 400g tins Chopped Tomatoes

2 litres Vegetable Stock

400g tin of Cannellini Beans, drained

400g tin of Flageolet beans, drained

400g tin of Borlotti Beans

1 small Savoy Cabbage, thick stem removed, finely sliced

Method

Heat the oil in a large saucepan then add the onions, celery and carrots; sweat the vegetables (stirring occasionally) until softened but not coloured.  Add the garlic and herbs and cook for another five minutes.

Add the tomatoes, vegetable stock and beans.  Bring to the boil and then simmer for half an hour or so to give the flavours time to develop.

 

Remove the rosemary and add the cabbage and simmer for another ten minutes or so or until the cabbage is just cooked.

 

This soup will keep in the fridge for two or three days or in the freezer for up to six months.

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Pea and Mint Spread

Pea and mint spread recipe

I had to go into Truro to have my eyes tested this morning.  I went out early and skipped breakfast (tut tut) then arrived in town just in time for my appointment.  I went through the usual rigmarole; puffs of air in the eye, a lecture for leaving it too long between appointments and complete indecision when choosing new frames to go with the new prescription.  By time I left I was just in time for my bus home.

On the up side that meant no time wasted.  On the down side it meant no time for a self indulgent cup of coffee – and I do like my coffee.

All in all, I arrived home at lunch time tired, hungry and a little bit grumpy.  I opened the fridge and couldn’t immediately find anything quick and tasty – so I made this.  And it was delicious.  And quick.  And easy.  And healthy.  In other words a perfect Monday lunch.

I have called it a spread, because I spread it on some crackers, but it could just as easily be a dip with some crudité.    And it is so simple it doesn’t really need a recipe – change the flavours to suit whatever you have in the fridge:  No crème fraiche?  Use natural yoghurt or cream cheese.  No mint?  Try coriander or parsley.  Just make it your own and enjoy it.

I’ve stopped being grumpy now but I might just have a little bit more pea spread – just to make sure…

Pea Dip Recipe

Ingredients

100g frozen peas

A sprig or two of fresh mint

1 Spring Onion

1 tbsp crème fraiche

Method

Put the peas in a pan, just cover with water and bring to the boil.  Simmer for a minute until heated through.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Drain again.

Blitz the peas with a stick blender until you have a course purée.

Finely slice the spring onion and mint leaves.  Add to the peas along with the crème fraiche.  Season well.

You can eat this as a dip with vegetable crudité or spread it onto crackers or a chunk of crusty bread.

 

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