Saturday, 10 November 2012

How-to 6: Make Basic Fresh Tomato Sauce

There's nothing quite like homegrown, organic tomatoes fresh from the vine!

Tomato sauce is such as well-known and loved ingredient in so many dishes such as lasagne and other pasta sauces, soups, pizza toppings etc. If like us, you had a late glut of homegrown toms,  I suggest that sauces (which can then be frozen if not using immediately) are the way to go to make sure they all get used up. This sauce is so easy and delicious, especially if you have a blender, that you'll never want to go back to canned tomatoes or passata again. For one quantity of tomato sauce (serves approximately 4-5  people in a main dish such as pasta ), you will need:

   1.25kg fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
   3 dried bay leaves
   1/2 tsp compound hing
   1 tsp seasalt
   1 tsp gour/ jaggery (for information about this ingredient, click here)
   1/2 tab extra-virgin olive oil
   (Anything else you like such as basil, oregano, chilli, etc, can be added later as your recipe requires.)

1: Wash and roughly chop your tomatoes

2: Blitz in the blender or processor so that the skin and most of the seeds  "disappear".  By hand, you can skin and de-seed the tomatoes then mash them in the pan with a potato masher. 

3: Now get together the oil, salt, hing, black pepper, bay leaves and gour...

...and pop them with the pulverised tomatoes into a shallow pan  (they will reduce quicker that way).

4: Simmer until reduced by about half, stirring from time to time to prevent burning. For pizza sauce, thicken further. The sauce will darken as it thickens.
And that's all there is to it!

So how will you use your tomato sauce? As soup, with pasta, on a pizza? I'd love to know...

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Highbury's Handmade Christmas Fayre and some Great Gluten Free/ Vegan cakes...

Some of Cherry Bakewell's handiwork

I'd like to introduce you to a friend of mine; Mel, of the blog "Boris and Me" and fb page "Mel Makes". She is a vegetarian, follows a wheat free diet and is also one of the most creative people I know. As well as working with children full time she also makes really cute and pretty cards, photo frames, and the like (aided and abetted by her beautiful cat Boris). If you want to look at her blog and fb page, here are the links: 
Well, Mel has organised what looks like it's going to be a great event in Sutton Coldfield next month; click the following link to get to the fb page for Highbury's Handmade Christmas Fayre. Details as in the flyer pictured above. There will be cards, cakes, Christmas crafts, recycled furniture and much more.
So what's the link between this and vegetarian food? -Well, a friend of Mel and her husband, by the name of Cherry Bake Well will be at the fayre. She makes amazing gingerbread houses (which put both mine to shame, I have to say...), plus all manner of vegan, vegetarian and gluten free cakes. I have checked out her fb page and blog and her work looks pretty impressive. Here's what she wrote about herself:
Love making cupcakes but also make celebration cakes, biscuits and gingerbread houses
Have been baking seriously for about 2 - 3 years
Love experimenting with unusual/interesting flavours
Dabbled a little with specialist diet cakes for friends with gluten/dairy intolerances
Diagnosed with coeliac disease in June 2012
Decided to try and specialise in dairy/gluten free cakes
Experimenting ever since!
  So if you are reading this in the UK, particularly the West Midlands, remember to stop by the Handmade Christmas Fayre: support local craftspeople, get some unique Christmas presents- and eat some cake! ;)

Just to whet your appetite, her are some more of Cherry's gorgeous cakes:

Chocolate orange spice cake with ginger icing and dark chocolate maple drizzle (vegan, gluten free)

Choolate, peanut butter and hazelnut cake with maple syrup icing (gluten free)

Ginger drizzle (as in first picture)

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

I nailed vegan marshmallows! (gluten free, too)

I used scissors to cut some of the marshmallows into mini heart shapes

Next time I'll colour some pink, and maybe dust them with edible glitter...

Yes, it's true! Actually, it was totally by accident, but so what ;-) ? I ended up with sweet, soft and squishy marshmallows and the kids were delighted: let me tell you the story...
I was in Holland and Barrett at the weekend and a packet of Orgran "No Egg" caught my eye, because there on the front was a photo of what looked like meringue. If only I could make vegan meringue..! My desire came from two sources; firstly, I remembered the yummy meringue desserts my mum used to make in my childhood pre-veg days and wished I could somehow make an eggless version for my own family, and secondly, we had been watching "The Great British Bakeoff" and it gave the kids ideas about meringues, macaroons, marshmallows and suchlike. I didn't want them to feel left out or perhaps even to be tempted to eat eggy/ gelatine-y, chemical-laden rubbish from the shops. So anyway, when I looked on the packet, sure enough there was a recipe for vegan meringue. Sold! -But then on the way home I noticed that the recipe required pectin, which I couldn't find in the two supermarkets I passed by, so I thought I'd have a go at the meringue anyway, substituting the pectin with agar flakes. And then I go home, and -horror!- found I was out of agar flakes...what to do? I noticed some arrowroot in my baking cupboard so decided to have a go with that. Of course, the meringues did not hold their shape, and what I ended up with were flat, crunchy, gluten-free cookies. (Which actually went down very well with jam on!) BUT- I had realised the meringue wouldn't stay in shape, so I had put a thicker layer of some mixture into dampened silicone cupcake moulds. As I was checking out my creations every 15 minutes or so while they cooked , I broke some of the cupcake-case mixture off and realised I had made...MARSHMALLOWS!!! I was so excited I rang up my daughter, who was at a friend's house, and rushed upstairs with a sample for my grownup stepson, too! After that, I stashed some of them in a bag and hid them away so that I'd have something to photograph in decent light the next morning (and to eat for myself, hehe :)... )
Now my next use for my No-Egg plus arrowroot discovery will be macaroons (or, more correctly, macarons); those colourful, Parisian, oh-so-fashionable confections that seem to be the new cupcakes these days. If I could only nail those too...
So here's my adapted meringue recipe, which makes quite a decent batch of marshmallows, depending on the size you make them, of course.

1/2 cup (250ml) Orgran No Egg
1 cup water
3/4 cup icing sugar (I used unrefined, and got off-white marshmallows)

  • Mix the No-Egg with the water in a large mixing bowl.
  • Mix on high speed for 5 minutes. (I used an electric whisk). I noticed the mixture becoming aerated and stiff, but not so stiff as to form peaks, like meringues would.
  • Gradually add the icing sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and carry on mixing on high speed for another 5 minutes.
  • Pour the mixture into a dampened silicone mould- maybe a layer in the bottom of a square or oblong cake mould.
  • Cook in an oven preheated to 130C (125C if you have a fan oven.) Next time I might use the dehydrator rather than the oven. I didn't actually time how long it took, but it was probably around half an hour. Keep checking, and when you can peel it away from the bottom of the mould, it's done.
  • Remove from oven, cool and take out of mould. You can now use scissors to cut the marshmallows into any shape you like.
  • If you want, you can add vanilla essence and/ or food colouring just before you add the icing sugar.
  • Store in an airtight container.
This recipe is also going to Radhika's event "I love Baking 9" at her lovely space, "Tickling Palates". If you would like to contribute a recipe (s), her linky's open until the 30th of this month. 

Monday, 5 November 2012

Chapatti horror- is this the face of Guy Fawkes??

Just for fun:
A leftover from Hallowe'en or gruesome Guy??- you decide...

A moment's inattention caused this chapatti to overcook on one side... or is someone trying to tell me something? It happened on the night of November 5th, so is this chilling, tortured face the image of Guy Fawkes? Whatever the truth, I don't think we'll be eating this one, somehow....

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Awesome Vegan Pizza

The reddish- coloured pieces are spicy seitan

I slathered the base with thick, home-made tomato sauce 

Fresh pineapple, sweetcorn, olives and home-made sundried tomatoes all add to the awesomeness...

I call it "Awesome" because of the amount of toppings I managed to cram on, and the fact that it was all made from scratch, even the tomato sauce... if you prefer a more conventional pizza base, then use your favourite yeasted recipe. For speed and digestibility, today I made a yeast-free base. It's quite a lot like the yeast- free pizza I posted in September (see previous link) but I added another topping made from seitan.
To replicate this tasty vegan feast, pile on the luscious tomato sauce, a sprinkling of nutritional yeast, sweetcorn, fresh pineapple cubes, black olives, strips of marinated tofu, black pepper, oregano and my new favourite thing to do with seitan:
... some yummy, spicy, crumbly bits that resemble vegan pepperoni! Here's how to make them: take a piece of seitan (as much as you like) and crumble it with your fingers. Add a little olive oil and mix in paprika, sweet smoked paprika and a little red chilli powder. Spread on a baking sheet and cook gently for about 10 mins at 200C. (Don't let them get hard and overcooked though.) I'm thinking of making this into something like frankfurters- will post when I do.