Chestnut, Wild Mushroom and Cranberry Tart

2015-12-19 17.32.40

Now the pots and pans have found their proper homes in the new kitchen at Urban Zen Yoga Wholefood Cafe in Swansea, I’ve had time to make some specials. We have served up a couple of delicious Squash, Spinach and Toasted Pinenut Filo Pies in the last couple of weeks. This week, manager Amina, came across this delightful seasonal tart recipe from Jamie Oliver. While I can’t take credit for this recipe, I just had to share it, since it has been crowned such a triumph in the lead up to Christmas. It is great to see popular chefs such as Jamie embracing more and more vegan food.

Here is the link to the recipe. All I did to make it simple was use ready made Jus Roll Shortcrust Pastry instead of making my own. I also topped it with fresh rhyme, not parsley.IMG_20151217_135121








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.

Christmas Recipe: Savoury Scones with Sun-dried Tomato and Rosemary

Savoury Scones with Sundried Tomato and Rosemary

Savoury Scones with Sun-dried Tomato and Rosemary

There is nothing worse than running out of bread! yes, I’m sure there is, but if you do, there is a really quick solution this Christmas. These little savoury scones are a wonderful thing to make if you need something bread-like and savoury to spread with hummus or dip in some warm soup.

You could easily flavour them with many different things, including olives, onions, vegan cheese, roasted vegetables… the possibilities are endless. I’ve made them pretty using a heart-shaped pastry cutter. They taste really good and can be on the table within half an hour.


Savoury Scones with Sun-dried Tomato and Rosemary
Makes 10-12
Preparation/cooking time less than 30 mins

225g/8oz self-raising flour
3 tsp toasted soya flour
45g/1½oz vegan margarine
1 tbsp rosemary, chopped finely
3 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
6 sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
¼ tsp salt
Pinch black pepper
150ml/4¼fl oz soya milk, plus extra for glazing

1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7.
2. Sift the flour, soya flour and baking powder into a large bowl, and rub in the margarine.
3. Add the rosemary, yeast flakes, tomatoes, salt & pepper and mix together.
4. Make a well in the middle of the mixture, and slowly pour in the soya milk, stirring with a wooden spoon. Bring the mixture together until it forms a dough.
5. On a clean work surface , knead the dough for five minutes. I added all my ingredients to my Magimix and let the food processor do the work, pulsing 5 times. Roll out your dough to a thickness of about 2.5cm/1in and cut out the scones using your selected cutter. A star shape would work well too!
6. Place the rounds on a greased and floured non-stick baking tray, and brush tops with soya milk
7. Bake for 12-15 minutes in oven and serve immediately. They are great to eat with soup or dips.

Christmas Recipes: Quick Vegan Mince Pies

Vegan Mince Pies

Vegan Mince Pies

You’d never guess that making vegan mince pies would be so easy! let this quick mince pie recipe show you how. Believe it or not, a lot of mincemeat is actually animal-free, using vegetable suet. Sainsburys own brand for example, is suitable and very cheap.

Now you can easily make your own shortcrust pastry, by using vegetable margarine and flour, or you can cheat by buying ready-made shortcrust pastry, such as Jus Rol. Many supermarket own brand varieites are also incidentally vegan, using only vegetable oils.

Some shop-brought mince pies themselves are vegan, including ASDA and Sainsburys basics. Always check the labels.

Viva!’s Vegetarian Recipe Club have a fabulous recipe for mince pies, making your own pastry, but here is a really quick one using the ready-made option.

Quick Vegan Mince Pies
Makes 12
Preparation/cooking time 35 mins

1 packet shortcrust pastry (such as Jus Rol)
1 small jar mincemeat (check it uses veg suet)
Soya milk to glaze

1. Preheat your oven to 200C/Gas Mark 6. Lightly grease a 12 hole cake tin.
2. Take two cutters, around 5 and 4cm wide. My smaller cutter was a flower shape. Cut out 12 circles in the pastry using each one.
3. Lay the large circles down into the tin, pressing in around the sides and the bottom.
4. Spoon 1 tsp of mincemeat into each case. Brush a little soya milk around the top edges, then lay the smaller circles of pastry over the top. Pinch lightly to seal the two pieces together around each pie. You don’t need to try to do this if your pie top is a shape (pictured).
5. Bake for 18-20 mins until lightly golden. Remove from the oven.
6. Sift a little icing sugar onto the top of the pies, remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.
7. Serve with a little soya cream.




Chutney and Crochet for Christmas

Hot Tomato Chutney with Baby Gherkins

Hot Tomato Chutney with Baby Gherkins

This blog post sees me combine the two themes of Lots of Nice Things, a recipe for a Hot Tomato and Baby Gherkin Chutney, stored in jam jars decorated with crochet doilies.

Christmas is certainly a time to get creative – and I thought these little jars of sweet and spicy chutney would make lovely presents. The doilies can be used afterwards as coasters or table decorations.

The chutney is very easy to make, provided you pay attention to a couple of steps in particular; sterilizing your jam jars and letting the chutney mixture boil rapidly, while stirring it, then allowing it to simmer for a good few hours for it to thicken.

Sterilizing jam jars
This recipe makes around 1kg/2lb of chutney, which will fill around 6 jam jars. Wash them thoroughly in hot soapy water and scrub to remove all traces of labels. Rinse. One method of sterilization is to lay the clean jars and lids on a baking tray and place them on a low heat in the oven for 30 mins.

Removing the skin from tomatoes
Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water in a large saucepan for a minute, before plunging them into cold water. The skins will come away easily once pierced.

Hot Tomato and Baby Gherkin Chutney
Makes 6 jars
Preparation/cooking time 4 hours +

2kg/1lb tomatoes, skins removed, then roughly chopped
450g/1lb onions, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
100g/3.5oz baby gherkins, sliced
2″ piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4 medium red chillies
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
340g/12oz dark brown soft sugar
1/2 pint malt vinegar
110g/4oz sultanas
2 tsp salt
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp ground coriander


1. Place all the ingredients in a large stainless steel saucepan. Mix everything in well.
2. Bring to the boil and allow to bubble rapidly for several minutes, stirring constantly with a large wooden spoon.
3. Now turn the pan down to simmer. Allow it to cook for at least 3 hours, or longer if needed, until the chutney is thick and resembles syrup. Do not rush this stage. If necessary, re-boil and simmer until the chutney is greatly reduced and sticky.
4. Spoon into jars while hot, leaving a 1cm gap at the top. Store in a cool dark place for at least 1 month before using.

Crochet Jam Jar Doilies
Use double knitting yarn, or cotton of a similar thickness, with a 4mm hook. Make the doilies in one colour, or change colour at any point as you go around. Start with 2ch, then make 6dc into the second chain from the hook. Join the circle with a slip stitch.

Continue by working two stitches into each stitch in the first row, then into every other stitch in the following row, every third stitch in the third row. Continue to increase using this format until the disk becomes as large as you want it. For a medium-sized jar, my doily had 5 rounds, with a total of 66 sts all the way around.

Here is a great tutorial from the blog Angel Eden, if you need a helping hand. I followed a pattern by Nikki Trench, in her Cute & Easy Crochet book.

Have fun getting creative this Christmas!

All You Need for a Perfect Veggie Christmas


Miniature Creamed Pea and Tarragon Pithiviers

It’s that time of year when the cooks among us start thinking about what food we are going to serve up at Christmas.

During my last few years working for Viva!, before leaving to have my son in June, I had the honour of helping to produce hundreds of unique vegetarian recipes, including many wonderful ones for the festive season.

A couple of years ago, my friend Jane Easton and I put together a new Mini Guide to a Veggie Christmas – which includes our most popular Christmas dishes, such as Chestnut Strudel, Luxury Nut Roast, Mini Yorkshire Puddings and my favourite Not Cheese and Cranberry Parcels.

Viva!’s Vegetarian Recipe Club, features all these recipes, plus many more to spoil your guests on Christmas Day. These include; Christmas Brandy Truffles, Golden Stuffed Squash and Veggie Pigs in sun-dried Tomato Blankets.

So this week I had the pleasure of writing and photographing three new recipes for the 2012 season. Visit the website for the recipes.

All our recipes are vegan.

There are many reasons to think about not eating meat this Christmas – read all about Viva!’s campaign to save Turkeys.