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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The quickest vegan chocolate cake ever, in a pot or mug

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Iolo and I have been out all day, cycling around in the cold. On arriving home, all we could think of was hot chocolate and cake to warm us up.

So I remembered someone had told me this week about microwavable vegan mug cakes when we were talking about quick desserts. I must confess I’ve never made one and never cook in a microwave, but I thought we’d give it a go. Iolo is now three and loves helping in the kitchen! So we gave it a go and it was a great, tasty success.

We loosely followed a recipe by Not Quite Nigella and here is my adaptation.

It produces a moist and rich chocolate cake/hot pudding that really was rather nice! You can make it in a cup or ramekin like I did.

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Vegan Chocolate Cake in a Pot
Preparation/cooking time 5 mins

3 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp cocoa
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp dark chocolate chips
1/4 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp plant milk (I used soya)
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 tsp natural peanut butter (like Meridian)

1. Combine all dry ingredients into a small bowl and mix. Stir in and combine oil and milk.
2. Spoon into a cup or pot. Make a hole in the top and add the peanut butter.
3. Microwave on half power for one minute. Check to see if the cake is cooked, it should fell set on the top. Return to the microwave for another 30 seconds on half power if needed.
4. Wait to cool a bit before enjoying!

Additions: You could add some berries on top or mixed nuts to add more flavour and texture.

Just a little raw boost for the New Year

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The problem, sometimes, with being someone who just loves cooking, is that you can have too much great food! Being a vegan chef means I certainly never, ever, miss out on anything. You name it, I will cook and eat it (if it comes from plants, obviously!).

So this December I’ve been doing just that, at work and at home. Squash and Spinach Filo pies, soups, salads, sweet potato chips, mayonnaise, vegan cream cheese, roasted veg, stuffing, sourdough spread with avocado and Marmite, dahls, chapatis and rice, raw chocolate, raw cake, crumbles, puddings, mince pies, chocolate, more chocolate, udon noodles, edamame, tempura vegetables, ice cream, deluxe chestnut, shallot and mushroom tart, roast potatoes… the list just goes on.

But somewhere, we have to create a balance. Even when you are eating home cooked, delicious vegan food, sometimes our bodies just need a break. Digesting rich foods takes power, it takes energy. After completing a four day yogic fast in the summer, I saw how you can actually increase your energy by fasting and then temporarily eating less and more importantly, eating a bit differently.

I am a realist however and not a food saint. I’m going to share a nutrient packed, colorful, fresh and mostly raw dish and juice to give your body a little rest and a boost.

I’m not saying I’m going to be jumping on the New Year detox bandwagon tomorrow and I’m not suggesting you do either. I’m hoping to embrace a more rounded and sustainable approach. By incorporating more raw fruit and vegetable based dishes and drinks into your diet in general you can give yourself a gentle daily boost that won’t leave you beaten and reaching for that coffee and cake because you’ve simply gone all-out too intensively after a season of indulgence.

Today I started the day with a cup of hot water and a slice of lemon, to get the digestive system moving. I followed this with a cup of matcha green tea, to give me an easy mood and energy lift. This was followed by two pieces of wholemeal toast with almond butter and banana.

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Supergreens Juicce 2

Mid morning I had my Supergreens Juice. Nutrient packed, this tangy and wholesome juice will really get you off to a great start!

Supergreens Juice
Serves 1
Pass the following ingredients through your juicer, and enjoy! 

5 romane lettuce leaves or other lettuce leaves
2 handfuls kale
2 handfuls spinach
1 apple
1 stick of celery
6 mint leaves
1/4 pineapple

If you don’t have a juicer, but only a smoothie maker like a Nutribullet, you can make a Supergreens Smoothie instead: 

2 romane lettuce leaves or other lettuce leaves
2 handfuls kale
2 handfuls spinach
6 mint leaves
1/4 pineapple
Dash of lemon juice (optional)
Topped up with 1/4 cup of water or more to reach desired consistency if the smoothie is too thick. You can add the apple and celery, but they give a lumpy consistency when blended.

For lunch I put together a salad bowl of Raw Squash Spaghetti, Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, Hummus, Edamame, Peppers, Lamb’s Lettuce and Raw Vegetable Cous Cous.

Super Raw Salad Bowl
Serves 1

2 handfuls lambs lettuce
1/4 small butternut squash or carrot, spiralized or grated
2 tbsp hummus (homemade or shop-brought)
1 tbsp fresh edamame
3 tbsp mixed diced pepper
3 tbsp raw vegetable cous cous

How to make Raw Vegetable Cous Cous
Serves 2
Raw Vegetable Cous Cous is the latest thing! You can ever buy it in Tesco. It’s great for a raw meal and especially handy for wheat-free diners.

This variety was made by placing the following ingredients into my food processor and blending in turn:

1/4 head broccoli florets
1 raw beetroot, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, washed and roughly chopped
1/2 red onion, roughly chopped
4 baby corn

Dressed with 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar mixed with 2 tbsp olive oil, cracked sea salt and black pepper. Add in different veg to see how it turns out! for example cauliflower or peppers.

Here’s another recipe for an amazing looking Raw Veggie Medley Cous Cous to give you some more ideas.

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So why not treat yourself and your body to some fresh, raw and lively foods this January, if not everyday, whenever you feel like you need a lift and your body needs some TLC.

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.”

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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!).

The best ever Vegan Chocolate Cake

Introducing what I believe is the very finest vegan chocolate cake. It will turn heads, make people close their eyes and smile as they eat it..

It’s called the Affinities Cake. It’s not my recipe, I wish it was! No, it is taken from a feature in The Telegraph and was given to my mother-in-law when she was hunting for the perfect recipe to use for our wedding cake. The original recipe is by Chantal Coady, the only difference here is that I make a vegan ganache by melting chocolate into hot almond milk. I decorate mine with raspberries, rose petals, marigold flowers and cocoa nibs.

The Affinities Cake

The Affinities Cake
Cooking time: 1 hour 20 mins

200g (7oz) plain flour
75g (2¾oz) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g (7oz) golden caster sugar
100g (3½oz) ground almonds
A small pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp good-quality balsamic vinegar
6 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
400ml (14fl oz) prune juice
Fresh pink rose petals, to decorate
For the ganache
170g (6oz) good-quality dark chocolate
150ml (5fl oz) almond milk

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2. Grease the insides of a deep 20cm (8in) round cake tin, or loose-bottomed 20cm (8in) cake tin, with olive oil and line the bottom of the tin with greaseproof paper. If you are using a loose-bottomed tin, double-line it with greaseproof paper (line the base, the sides, then line the base again to seal the lining), to prevent the mixture leaking out.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl, then add the sugar, ground almonds and salt. Make three holes in the dry mixture with a spoon. Put the vanilla in one hole, the vinegar in the second, and the oil into the third. Pour in the prune juice and mix well. Bubbles will start to rise to the surface. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 45 minutes to one hour, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove the cake from the tin and leave it to cool on a wire rack.

To make the ganache icing, blitz the chocolate into crumbs in a food processor. Place the crumbs in a heat-proof glass bowl. Heat the milk to boiling point in a heavy-based saucepan, then pour the milk over the chocolate. Gently mix the chocolate with the milk, working from the centre of the bowl outwards with a rubber spatula, until you have a smooth and glossy emulsion. Let it cool to room temperature, then spread it on top of the cooled cake.

NB this cake usually takes about 1 hour 15 mins to cook! Keep testing it, but don’t take it out of the oven to do so, otherwise it may sink.

Redbush Chai Vegan Cupcakes

From many a weekend spent enjoying homemade soya chai at my yoga teacher training school, Yoga Satsanga Ashram in West Wales, I have developed a love for tea infused with Indian spices. I’m also trying to reduce the amount of caffeine I have and so was delighted to try two varieties of loose Redbush Tea from organic suppliers, Steenbergs. After enjoying several pots of warm and fragrant Redbush Chai and Vanilla Redbush, I thought it would be a grand idea to try to transfer the flavours into some soft and delicate cupcakes; and so here they are. The little bundles were dusted off with some milled cocoa nibs, cinnamon and icing sugar. The recipe follows the pictures.

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Redbush Vanilla Chai Cupcakes

Makes 12
Preparation/cooking time 30 mins

1.5 cups almond milk
2 tbsp of Redbush Vanilla Chai Tea*
1/4 cup vegetable or sunflower oil
1/4 cup coconut or soya yoghurt (I used Coyo Coconut Yoghurt)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups plain flour
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Topping
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tbsp cocoa nibs, milled (I used Steenbergs) or cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 180C or 160C with a fan assisted oven.
2. Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
3. Heat your almond milk in a small saucepan until nearly boiling. Stir in the loose tea, over and remove from the heat. Let it rest for 10 mins.
4. The pour the tea mixture into a jug through a tea strainer, to collect the loose tea. If you are left with any less than 1 and a half cups of tea mixture, add a bit more milk (this is about 12.5 fl oz).
5. Whisk the oil, yoghurt, sugar and vanilla into the tea mixture until smooth.
6. Now sift in the flour, raising agents and salt, mixing with a wooden spoon until all the large lumps are gone.
7. Use a tablespoon to fill the cupcake liners to the top and then bake for around 22-25 mins. They are cooked when a skewer inserted in one comes out clean.
8. Allow to cool completely while you prepare the topping.
9. Mill the cocoa nibs (I used my Nutribullet) or similar grinder (or use cocoa powder).
10.  Combine the icing sugar, cocoa, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl, then shift over the top of the cupcakes.
11. Enjoy with a matching cup of Redbush Chai Tea!

*You could use ordinary Redbush tea, then add 2 tbsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ground cardamom, 1/2 tsp ground ginger and 1/4 tsp ground cloves.