Friday, 16 February 2018


Called 'super' because there are no 'chemical' additives or health-guru bugbears. I've been making this for ages, but decided to blog it now because of the sudden urging to be wary of breakfast cereals as some are quite highly processed. Also, the recipe requires no special skills other than weighing, chopping and stirring, and it's vegetarian and vegan.

The quantity here makes around 1kg of granola. It's quite rich, so a portion might be around 80g, which would provide very roughly 400 calories and should be sustaining as it has plenty of porridge oats beloved of dietitians. Unusually for me, this recipe has fourteen ingredients - eat your heart out, Yotam - but there are a number of options for omission or changes, mentioned at the end.

As the cooking time is quite short, the whole process takes about an hour plus cooling time. The oven will need to be at 130C. I have suggested the point at which to switch it on - pointless to have it up to temperature before you need it!

Just add milk!
Super Granola
80g dried soft apricots (about 13), roughly chopped or snipped with scissors
70g dried cranberries, snipped if large
80g sultanas
30g desiccated coconut

80g walnut halves or pieces
50g brazil nuts
40g whole almonds

30g pumpkin seeds
30g sesame seeds
370g porridge oats

5tbsp good oil, e.g. olive
4 tbsp maple syrup
5 tbsp golden syrup

65g pitted dates (about 12)

1  Soak the first four ingredients in a little water to soften, and set aside.
2  Get out a large baking tin (mine is 24x32cm), and cut baking parchment that will cover 
          the base and sides. Transfer the parchment to a chopping board.
3  Place the 3 kinds of nuts on the parchment and chop to pieces no larger than peas. 
          A mini-chopper is the best way unless you have a grinder that can pulse (to avoid 
          over-chopping). Lift the parchment and pour the nuts into a large mixing bowl.
          This is a good time to switch the oven on, set to130C.
4  Add the pumpkin and sesame seeds and the oats to the bowl. Mix and make a well
          in the centre.
5  Add the oil and both syrups and mix very thoroughly. Place the parchment in the
          baking tin and pile in the mixture, smoothing over. (No need to wash the bowl yet.)
6  Cook in the oven for 9 mins. Meanwhile, drain the dried fruits and coconut.
7  Remove the granola, stir to break up any lumps, and cook for a further 9 mins.
          Transfer it back into the large bowl and add the drained fruit.
8  Chop the dates coarsely and add, mixing everything thoroughly. Leave to cool, then
          store in an airtight container.

The coconut, pumpkin seeds or dates can be omitted. If you've no maple syrup, then the quantity can be made up with more golden syrup, although maple has a really nice flavour. Proportions of the nuts can be adjusted, but best to end up with the same overall weight of them. As a change from olive oil, any nut or truffle oil could be substituted, although they are more expensive. It's a recipe that can be played with acccording to taste. I love it!


Monday, 13 November 2017

Vegan Cranberry & Orange Chelsea Bun Christmas Tree

The idea for this festive bake came from BBC Good Food Magazine towards the end of last year. I made it according to the recipe, and took it to our family gathering to serve at Boxing Day breakfast. Omitted the icing drizzle as to add it just before serving the following day would maybe get in the way of other kitchen activity.

We agreed we could make this a tradition. However, recently two of the younger members of our vegetarian family have changed to a vegan diet, so there was only one way forward - the recipe would need to be adapted. First problem was to find (or make) suitable marzipan, as traditional recipes seem to require egg white. Luckily Dr Oetken's and Sainsbury's ready-made marzipan are both suitable for vegans. Milk and butter were less challenging to replace. I have made my adapted version twice now, and it seems to be about right. Alternative layouts are mentioned at the end, and can be used at Christmas or at other times.

This quantity makes 12 modest sized buns. Allow 5 hours or so from the start until they are to be served. This includes two sessions of proving (leaving to rise); I use our airing cupboard, but at room temperature it may need a little longer. A food mixer is very helpful to make the dough, but of course not essential.

The original recipe, complete with a great photograph, can be found on BBC Good Food Magazine's website. They agreed to my adapting and using it on this blog, and this is the link to their recipe:

Vegan Cranberry & Orange Chelsea Bun Christmas Tree
(Oven will need to be at 160C fan, or 175C otherwise. 
A very large baking sheet is required, lined with baking parchment.)

140ml soya milk (or almond)
20ml olive oil
225g strong white bread flour
4g dried yeast (about half a sachet)
25g caster sugar (+2tbsp for later)
level tsp ground cinnamon
half tsp fine sea salt
100g vegan marzipan, chilled and coarsely grated
finely grated zest of 1 large orange
50g fresh cranberries (* see below if not available)
50g dried cranberries
20g roughly chopped pistachios
2 tbsp marmalade or apricot jam

1  Warm the soya milk gently in a small pan until steaming but not boiling. 
        Stir in the oil and set aside to cool a little.
2  Put the flour, yeast, 25g of caster sugar, cinnamon and salt in the mixer bowl
        (or any good-sized bowl). Add the milk and work into a smooth but stretchy
        dough. Takes about 5m in the mixer, a little longer if kneading by hand on a
        floured board. Be prepared to add, very carefully, a little more flour or water
        if necessary - depends on the flour used.
3  Lift the dough from the mixer bowl and oil the bowl lightly (I use One-Cal spray).
        Cover with clingfilm and leave to prove until doubled in size (about 2h).
4  Tip the dough onto a floured board and roll out to 36cm x 20cm, forming a
        neat rectangle. Sprinkle the marzipan evenly over it, together with the orange 
        zest and fresh cranberries.
5  Scatter over about two-thirds of the dried cranberries and same with pistachios,
        topping with the extra 2 tbsp of caster sugar. Starting with the long side of
        the dough, roll up fairly tightly. Neaten the ends of necessary. Using a sharp
        knife, cut the roll in half, then quarters, then cut each quarter into three.
6  Lift the buns very carefully onto the lined baking sheet, placing them flat and a 
       little apart, one for the top, then a row of two, then three, then four. Of the other
       two, place one under the four to make the trunk of the tree, and put the last on
       a corner (for the cook - not shown above as I ate it.)
Cover with the clingfilm and leave to prove for an hour or so until about doubled
       in size and just touching one another.
8  Bake in the centre of the oven for 16-18m until golden brown, then leave to cool 
       for 10m or so. If your oven, like mine, cooks a little unevenly, quickly turn the
       baking sheet around 180 degrees half-way through. (I forgot this with the above
       batch, hence the bark-coloured bark.)  
During the cooling time, put the marmalade or jam in a pot and stir in a teaspoon
       of warm water. When the buns are cool, brush the mix all over the buns to glaze 
       them. Scatter over the remaining pistachios and dried cranberries.

The icing, if you fancy adding it, is made with a mixture of sieved icing sugar and juice from the orange, drizzled artistically over the whole shebang.

*  If fresh cranberries aren't around, use another 40g of dried berries soaked in water
   for a while then drained well. I have made the recipe with half and half, also with
   all dried. The fresh cranberries make the buns a little more luscious, but using only
   dried works well too.

Alternative Forms
Fewer but larger buns can be arranged in a flower shape:
Or cut the rolled-up dough into eight and make them into a ring shape. When they're baked, cooled and dressed, a sprig of holly or twigs from a cupressus can be placed in the centre for a Christmas wreath, or even at Easter with a pile of tiny chocolate eggs in the centre. 

A rather longer recipe than my usual, but good fun to do, and the buns have had very appreciative audiences. For us it's a keeper. Happy baking. 

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Cauli & Sage Risotto with Walnuts using a slow cooker - or not!

This is a dish that can be cooked on the hob, in the oven, or in the slow cooker; here is my slow cooker version, with notes on the other methods at the end. The recipe was inspired by an oven-bake version from Sainsbury's Magazine March 2017.

The resulting quantity would serve 4, and this method needs about 1h 40m from start to serving. The cooker comes on right at the start (I keep it on high setting throughout for this), and the cauliflower and following ingredients can be prepared while the onion etc is cooking.

Cauliflower and Sage Risotto with Walnuts

This is about half the complete recipe

30g butter
1 large onion, peeled and chopped fairly finely
3 good garlic cloves, peeled and crushed or pressed
150g risotto rice
450ml hot vegetarian stock
1 medium cauliflower, florets only, cut to ping-pong-ball size
leaves from 1 large stem of sage, finely snipped (8-10g)
50g walnut pieces, coarsely chopped
60g crumbled vegetarian cheese (I use 40g hard/Cheddar, 20g blue)

1  Start the slow cooker on high, adding half of the butter and leave to melt while
          preparing the onion and garlic.

2  Add the onion, garlic and rice to the cooker, stir well, then leave for 5 mins.

3  Pour in about 400ml of the stock, keeping the rest in case needed later.
          Stir then leave for 45 mins. If the mixture starts to look claggy, stir in
          more stock bit by bit.

4  Meanwhile, prepare the cauliflower, sage, walnuts and cheese. Bring water to
          boil in a large pan then simmer the cauli florets for 5 mins. Drain the
          water from the pan, add the remaining butter and sautee the cauli very
          gently for another 5 mins. (I prefer this to adding it early on to the cooker
          as it gives better control of consistency.)

5  Optional - dry fry the walnut pieces for 3-4 mins. (Put in small dry pan over 
          medium heat and stir often, avoiding burning.)

6  After the 45 mins, add in the cauliflower, sage and walnut pieces, mix well
          and cook for 15 mins.

7  Then stir in the cheese and leave to cook for a further 10 mins.

     *                    *                    *                    *                    *                    *

To bake this in the oven, I'd suggest 160C. 
(a)  Sautee the onion and garlic in a pan.
(b)  Mix in the rice and stir for a minute or two.
(c)  Add the stock.
(d)  Pile into a large oven dish (leaving enough space for the cauliflower.) 
(e)  After about 30 mins add the cauli, sage, walnuts and cheese, mixing well.
(f)  Bake for a further 20 mins.
For more excitement, top with some grated cheddar for the last 10 mins!

For cooking on the hob, use a large pan. Follow (a) to (c) then (e), adding a little extra stock if needed as it cooks. Stir from time to time. Cook for a further 15-20 mins until you like the consistency.

No side dishes are necessary here, although some warm, crusty garlic bread would be great if that's not too much carb. Otherwise a side salad.

Broccoli, broad beans, peas all go well in this risotto. Instead of walnuts: hazelnuts, brazils or pecans would be good; almonds might stay rather too hard. Thyme leaves instead of sage? This recipe should be called 'Anything with Anything Risotto'.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Walnut, Three-Cheese and Apricot Strudel

Pretty pleased with this one: a savoury version of strudel that is easy to make and lovely with it. Though I say so myself!

The quantities given will serve four with large appetites or otherwise six as a hot main, or would make eight to twelve nice slices served cold - it's easier to slice more thinly then. The whole process from start to serving takes me about 70mins, including 35m cooking time. The ingredients can be prepared in advance, making the method itself very quick. The oven needs to be at 190C fan oven (200C otherwise) before the dish goes in. 

A large baking sheet is needed, lined with baking parchment, and a medium bowl.

Walnut, Three-Cheese and Apricot Strudel
1 sheet ready-rolled puff pastry, thawed in the fridge for a few hours
90g walnut pieces (or halves), chopped fairly small
70g soft goats' cheese
50g blue cheese, crumbled
40g cheddar, coarsely grated
70g dried apricots (about 10), soaked for an hour, then drained well & coarsely chopped
3 tbsp snipped fresh herbs (basil, thyme leaves, sage, coriander all OK) 
2 tbsp milk

1  Unroll the pastry on its covering paper, then roll out a little to thin it slightly. It will be 
       the right shape (rectangular).

2  Put all the other ingredients except milk into a bowl and mix them very well.

3  Spread the mixture evenly over the pastry, leaving a 2cm space at each short end 
       and the farther long side. Dampen all these edge spaces with water.

4  Starting with a short end, roll the pastry up quite firmly, pressing down at the end, then
       place the strudel on the lined baking tray and brush with milk. Use a sharp knife to
       make slashes straight across the top: for 4 people, slash the middle, then three
       evenly-spaced slashes each side of the middle (for 8 slices) or for 6 people, up to 
       5 slashes each side of the middle (for 12 slices). Brush lightly with the milk.

Half-size version, oven-ready, with Sunday cocktail

 5  Bake towards the top of the oven for around 35 minutes, until well browned. Use a
       very sharp knife to slice the strudel.

And ... carve!
As usual, substitutions are fine. A different nut, or selection of them, will work just as well; pecans or brazils especially, and could include a few pine nuts. Instead of apricots, dried cranberries would work, no chopping required, and a festive feel. I've not tried this with capers, but that might be nice. As long as there's a mix of nuts, cheese and a little fruit, it would be hard to go wrong.

For info, I like to serve with buttered baby potatoes and a vegetable such as broccoli, cauli or tenderstem in a parsley sauce (lazily made from granules in a drum, just add boiling water or, better still, the boiling water from the veg when they're done). Red or dry white wine both go well; as it's nuts and cheese, quite strong flavours, I'd choose red. A dry cider would match, too, or apple juice.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Pumpkin, Bean & Potato Gratin

There must be loads of scooped-up pumpkin flesh languishing in fridges after the jack-o-lanterns are done, so here's one thing to do with it. The recipe would work equally well with flesh of a butternut squash.

This recipe should serve four as a vegetarian main, and takes just a little over an hour from start to serving, given that the pumpkin flesh is ready to be chopped. The potatoes can be par-boiled in advanced rather than 'during'.

The oven should be at 190C (fan), gas mark 5, shelf at the middle or just above. A large and a medium pan are needed, and a greased ovenproof gratin dish - I chose my dish once the main filling was ready, since it shrinks as it simmers. We didn't feel any side dishes were needed! If cooks want the dish just a little bit spicy, 2 teaspoons of ground cumin can be added at stage 4 - that's my choice.

Doh. Food eaten before I thought about a picture of it.

Pumpkin, Bean and Potato Gratin 

2 tbsp oil
450g pumpkin flesh, chopped coarsely into cubes
3 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced quite thinly
15g butter
2 medium onions, peeled & quite finely chopped
4 good cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
200g chopped cooked tomatoes
400g tin of haricot beans, drained
220ml double cream
75g grated vegetarian hard cheese or Cheddar 

1  Heat the oil in the large pan, then add the pumpkin and saute gently for about
       15 mins until tender.
2  Put the potatoes in the medium pan, cover with water, bring to boil for 5 mins.
       Then drain and set aside.
3  Add the butter, onions and garlic to the pumpkin, mix well and cook another
       5 mins.
4  Add the chopped tomatoes and haricot beans, mix and season well.  
5  Add the cream, stir and bring to the boil, then pour the mixture into the gratin
       dish and smooth over.
Cover with the sliced potato as a layer, then sprinkle the cheese evenly over.
7  Bake for about 35 mins until bubbling nicely. (If the dish is rather full, place a
       baking tray beneath it to catch any liquid spilling over.)

As mentioned, butternut squash flesh would be fine, though it might need a few more minutes to soften in the pan. The potato layer could be omitted, or the cheese omitted and the potatoes brushed with olive oil to crisp them up a little. Tinned butter beans make a good substitute for haricot.

Fresh tomatoes could be used, with a slit in each then plunged into boiling water for 3-4 minutes so that the skins can be removed. (Let them cool a bit first.) Alternatively tinned tomatoes are fine; I like half of a small carton of tomatoes from Sainsbury's.  

Any fresh herbs could be added at stage 4, such as snipped basil or sage. 

Monday, 8 August 2016

Stuffed Fiorelli Pasta + Spinach with sauce of parsley, nutmeg and vermouth

This dish can be prepped and served in 15 minutes. It does cheat with ready-made stuffed pasta and sauce granules, but the finished dish is, I think, a real pleaser and great value too. The quantities given serve two, and various substitutions are easily made.

Ready, steady ...

I've used Waitrose goats' cheese & caramelised onion fiorelli (at time of writing £3, or 2 packs for £4), but also good would be Sainsbury's or Asda's cheese or mushroom tortelloni (about £1.50). I like Bisto vegetarian parsley sauce granules (just add boiling water), and the vermouth is a basic brand. Spinach is from the garden, and is optional here. Some black pepper was ground over the pasta to serve, just before the sauce was added, but then I've a thing about black pepper and it isn't a must-do, so it's not in the ingredients list.

I served also small side salads made from just halved baby plum tomatoes, rocket and sliced red onion. These can be knocked up while water is boiling for pasta and sauce, or just before starting pasta preps.

handful of fresh spinach leaves (optional), any thick spines removed 
4 tbsp parsley sauce granules
1 tsp finely grated nutmeg
2 tbsp dry vermouth
1 pack stuffed fiorelli pasta (to serve 2)
two small sprigs of parsley or basil (again, optional)

Warm two pasta bowls or coupe dishes.
1  Put plenty of water in a medium pan and set to boil.
2  Meanwhile, shred the spinach (if using) and put in a small pan with a few drops of 
         water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 3-4 mins.
3  Bring a kettle to boil with about 300ml water.
4  Put the parsley sauce granules and nutmeg in a small measuring jug and fill to 
         200ml with boiling water from the kettle. Stir well until it starts to thicken, then
         stir in the vermouth.
5  Put the pasta in the medium pan of boiling water, turn down the heat and simmer 
         for 3 mins.  
6  Meanwhile, lift the spinach with a slotted spoon and drain, then spread over the
         bases of the bowls. Lift and drain the pasta in the same way and spread in
         the bowls. 
7  Pour the sauce over the pasta, and top each dish with a herb sprig.

Yes, it's a fairly frenetic 15 minutes, but this is because the spinach, pasta and sauce should all be ready at the same time and each is very quick to cook!

As above, any filled pasta would work, and instead of spinach a few cooked peas could be scattered among the pasta. 

Packet sauces would be fine too, and Bisto does drums of plain white sauce granules which, like the parsley version (but not the cheese version) is suitable for vegetarians. The white sauce could be flavoured with grated vegetarian cheese or snipped soft herbs.

Dry sherry could take the place of the vermouth, and instead of a herb sprig to garnish, snipped coriander or parsley leaves could be sprinkled over the whole dish. 

This blog is not usually price-conscious, but the above recipe really is economical! Unless you serve it with a posh Italian red wine, that is.