Our famous Vegan Spanakopita

So as a vegetarian, I loved Spinach and Feta Pie, or Spanakopita. But as I love cows more than I do cheese, I thought it was only fair I make my own Vegan Spanakopita. It has now become a firm favourite at Urban Zen Yoga Cafe in Swansea, where one pie generally sells out within a couple of hours. So I thought I’d share spread the love and share the recipe. It’s the perfect thing to enjoy on a warm summers day with some nice potatoes and salad.

Vegan Spanakopita
Serves 4-6
Takes 35 minutes to make and cook

1.2kg approx  firm tofu, patted dry and crumbled
6 spring onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
4 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp tahini
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tbsp fresh dill or parsley or dried mixed herbs
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp toasted pinenuts or cashew pieces (plus a few extra to top)
1 tbsp mixed seeds (optional)
Juice of ½ a lemon
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1 large bag spinach, washed. You can add other greens like pea shoots too
1 pack Filo Pastry, Jus Roll is vegan

1. Wilt the spinach in a pan in a little water and then set aside. Drain off excess water.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the other ingredients together, apart from the filo pastry. Mix it all in well and add in the spinach.
3. Brush a large, deep oven dish with olive oil. Layer 3-4 sheets of filo pastry all around the dish, across the bottom and up over the sides, with enough pastry to fold over a few inches into the middle. You need to brush olive oil in between each sheet as you layer it.
4. Spoon the tofu mix onto the pasty and smooth down with a spatula until evenly and firmly distributed. Now place some filo layers over the top, brushing with oil and you go, so the pie becomes enclosed. Smooth off the top with more olive oil.
6. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C/Gas Mark 6, for 20 minutes, until the top is golden.
7. Serve with additional toasted pinenuts sprinkled across the top with a lovely salad and potatoes.

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Urban Zen leading Swansea food revolution

Rainbow SaladIt’s been a month since Swansea’s first vegan cafe and yoga studio opened its doors. Urban Zen, on Little Gam Street, has been causing some serious ripples in the Swansea food scene!

What no cow’s milk? What no bacon sandwiches? That’s right. And I’m very proud to be the head cook at this revolutionary new business in the city centre. Since August I have been worked closely with the owner, Emily Cole, to develop a unique and innovative wholefood menu that aims to fill people with nothing but delicious and extremely healthy food. We’re had a fantastic first month, welcoming hundreds of people through the doors to what is only Wales’ second 100% vegan eatery.

We offer an extensive breakfast and lunch menu, alongside cakes and a large selection of juices, smoothies, teas and coffees. You can read more by visiting www.urbanzenyogacafe.com or finding us on Facebook, where we are very proud of receiving no less than forty five 5* reviews already!

The cafe at Urban Zen was created out of a passion for nourishing people with delicious whole foods.

“Our aim was to create an exciting menu and environment that supports health and sustainability for both our community and the planet.

Our plant based menu is prepared with love and changes regularly to reflect the seasons, we source locally and organic where possible. We promise to never serve you anything from the “dirty dozen” (the Environmental Working Group’s list of foods with the highest levels of chemicals and pesticides present) unless it’s organic, regardless of the cost or difficulty in sourcing.

We invite you to visit our unique space and enjoy being someone that chooses to love your food, respect your body and have fun whilst being nourished.”

urbanzen-menu.jpg

Here are some highlights in pictures! The first image is of owner, Emily Cole, enjoying the first Full Vegan Breakfast on opening day.

Catering for a Yoga Retreat

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of going to work as a private chef on a Yoga Retreat in Worcestershire. The brief was to produce three meals a day for ten women, using as many organic ingredients as possible. All the food was of course vegan. I had a wonderful time in the kitchen and the event gave me the opportunity to showcase some of the dishes I’ve been working on over the last few months.

It was also amazing to practice some yoga with the inspirational Leela Miller, of Tri Yoga, London.

Many thanks to The Organic Fresh Food Company of Lampeter in Wales for their assistance in my very large order of organic produce (all of which was fantastic!).

Two vegan pancake recipes for Pancake Day

You better believe that is it more than possible to make delicious pancakes on Pancake Day, without using eggs. Vegan pancakes are quick, simple and effective to make and something I do sometimes once a week!

My little boy and I love to eat them stuffed with savoury fillings such as spinach and mushroom for lunch, as well as for a special weekend breakfast treat, with lemon and sugar. So I thought I’d share my two favourite recipes.

Vegan Pancakes with Lemon and Sugar

Vegan Pancakes with Lemon and Sugar

Vegan Savoury Pancakes with Spinach and Mushroom

Vegan Savoury Pancakes with Spinach and Mushroom

Vegan Pancakes
Serves 2-4

175ml/6fl oz plant milk
175ml/6fl oz water
175g/6oz plain flour, sieved
2 tbsp chickpea flour (also known as gram), sieved
1 tsp baking powder, sieved
1 tbsp plain vegetable oil
Pinch of salt
Additional oil for frying

Method:

1. Place all of the ingredients, except the oil for frying, in a blender and blend until smooth. Alternatively whisk by hand until there are no lumps.
2. Heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan until piping hot. Drain off any excess.
3. Pour enough of the batter mixture in to the frying pan to thinly cover the bottom. Fry on one side for about a minute. Loosen the edges with a spatula and flip. Fry the flip side for another minute or until done.
4. Remove from pan and keep warm in the oven on its lowest setting.
5. Add more oil to the pan if and when necessary. Repeat steps 3 to 6 until all of the mixture is used up. Serve with your chosen accompaniments, sweet or savoury.
This recipe is taken from the Viva! Cookbook.

Canadian Pancakes

Canadian Pancakes

Canadian Pancakes
Makes 12

200g/7oz plain white flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
75g/2¾oz vegan yoghurt
2 tbsp maple syrup
200ml plant milk
1 medium banana, mashed (optional)
2 tbsp sunflower oil

  1. Mix together the plain flour with the salt, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.
  2. Mix together the plain yoghurt, maple syrup, plant milk and mashed banana (if using) and pour this into the flour, whisking well until you have a smooth, thick batter.
  3. To cook the pancakes, heat a drop of sunflower oil in a frying pan, swirl the oil around to cover the whole pan.
  4. Drop 2 tablespoons of batter into four places in the pan and cook over a medium heat until the underside of the pancakes are golden and bubbles have appeared throughout (about 30 seconds).
  5. Loosen the pancakes by shaking the pan and then flick each one over and cook for a further 20 seconds. Continue until you have finished the mix.
  6. Serve with fresh fruit and more maple syrup.

HenSo what’s the problem with eggs anyway?
Some people say, why on earth don’t you eat eggs? Chickens just lay eggs don’t they? It doesn’t hurt them? Well I’m sorry, but they are wrong. At the very worse and most cruel are battery or caged eggs (usually the cheapest ‘value’ kind), where hens are crammed into inhumane, dirty, prison like conditions. And at the other end of the scale, undercover investigations by groups such as Viva! have shown, that even ‘happy eggs’ are no such thing, with lots of sick birds never seeing the light of day. You can read more about Viva!’s Happy Egg Company investigation here.

The difficulty that all these ‘types’ of eggs share, (and yes this includes Organic), is that all the males chicks born into the industry are surplus to requirements. Thousands of tiny baby birds are either gassed or macerated everyday, so you can enjoy that boiled egg.. whichever way you look at it, the main elements of this ‘food’ are cruelty and a complete disrespect for the value of life.

Vegan Christmas Recipe Series 2: Cranberry, Toasted Pinenut and Smoked Tofu Nut Roast for Suma Bloggers Network

For several years now I’ve been experimenting with different options for the centre piece of Christmas dinner. A common favourite is Viva!’s Chestnut Pate en Croute. But this year I fancied trying a new take on the good old nut roast – by adding some juicy cranberries, smoked tofu and toasted pine nuts.

A little cheat, to help make this dish super quick and convenient to prepare while your busy sorting out all your other Christmas day food: the basis for this recipe is a Nut Roast Mix from Suma Wholefoods. It makes a wonderful nutty, juicy and flavoursome main course for any seasonal roast dinner. I also baked the nut roasts in individual metal pie pots, making four separate attractive portions.

You could also use any other nut roast mix available in health stores or supermarkets. Suma also do a gluten-free nut roast mix.

Cranberry, Toasted Pinenut and Smoked Tofu Nut Roasts
Serves 4
Preparation/cooking time 45 mins

370g Suma Nut Roast Mix
250ml water
30g sweetened cranberries
100g Viana Real Smoked Tofu, cut into small cubes
3 tbsp pinenuts, lightly toasted
Sea salt
Oil to grease tins
4 small metal pie pots, or bread tin

1. Preheat oven to 200C/Gas Mark 5.
2. Place nut roast mixture in a bowl and combine well with the water. Set aside to soak for 20 mins.
3. Meanwhile, cut up the tofu (also available from Suma Wholefoods) and toast the pinenuts in a small frying pan (just turn them over on a medium heat, use no oil, but watch them as they can burn easily).
4. Grease the individual pie pots or whichever tin you are using.
5. After letting the nut roast sit, mix in the cranberries, tofu and pinenuts. Season with salt.
6. Spoon the mixture into the pots with a tablespoon. Press it down firmly and smooth over the tops.
7. Bake for 15 mins. Remove from the oven and check the roasts are cooked. If they need a little more browning, return to the oven for another 5 mins.
8. To remove the roasts from the tins, slot a metal palette knife in and around the edge of each to ease them away.
9. Place a saucer on the top of each, then turn upside town to tip out carefully.
10. Serve with lots of lovely homemade vegan gravy, roast potatoes and veg.

 

Vegan Christmas Recipe Series 1: Miniature Creamed Pea and Herb Pithiviers

With a month until Christmas, Lots of Nice Things is delighted to bring you a series of unique, stylish and incredibly mouth-watering vegan Christmas food ideas, to impress all the family, vegetarian, vegan or otherwise.
We begin with a wonderful starter of peas, herbs and vegan cream cheese, encased in puff pastry. This recipe is one I wrote for vegan charity, Viva!.

Miniature Creamed Pea and Herb Pithiviers
Makes 16
Preparation/cooking time 35 mins

1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp vegan margarine
125g/4½ oz vegan cream cheese with herbs and garlic
2 tbsp dried tarragon
Handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
150g/5½ oz frozen peas
2 packets puff pastry sheets (Jus Roll is vegan, or many supermarkets own brand)
Sea salt and cracked black pepper

1. Preheat your oven to 200°C/400°FGas Mark 6.
2. Melt the margarine in a small frying pan and then cook the onion until soft.
3. In a medium-sized bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Mix in the other ingredients until they are evenly distributed, seasoning to taste.
4. Lay out the two sheets of puff pastry. Cut 16 circles using an 8cm cutter and 16 from a 7cm cutter.
5. Grease a large baking tray. Lay out the smaller circles evenly on it.
6. Place a tablespoon of creamed pea filling in the centre of each.
7. Brush around the edge of each circle with soya milk, then lay a bigger circle of pastry on the top of each. Press the edges down with a fork and score around the top using a knife.
8. Bake for around 25 minutes until risen and golden.
9. Serve with roasted vine tomatoes and mixed leaves.

Yoga and Vegan Cookery Retreat, West Wales

Last week, I was delighted to host a wonderful Yoga and Vegan Cookery Retreat at my Yoga Ashram in West Wales.

Between Friday and Sunday, I was joined by 10+ hungry and enthusiastic students at Yoga Satsanga Ashram, near Whitland, for a full programme of hatha yoga, pranayama, meditation, bhajan singing and lots and lots of vegan cookery!

Our menu showcased some of my favourite dishes from the recently published Viva! Cookbook, including the Artichoke, Butterbean and Filo Pie, Mediterranean Roast Potatoes, Cheeze and Cranberry Parcels, Chestnut Pate en Croute, Porcini Mushroom Gravy, Savoury Scones, Chocolate Chip Muffins and our Big Vanilla Sponge! Many of these recipes can also be found at the accompanying website www.veganrecipeclub.org.uk

Many thanks to budding vegan cook Kass, Sarah and Debi for all their help and support too.

I am hoping to run more such retreats next year, and can also be found leading guided lunch cooking sessions during general Yoga Retreats at the Ashram. Visit their website for more details and dates.