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.

Cupcakes5 Cupcakes4 Cupcakes2 Cupcakes 1
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.

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Raw Chocolates with Edible Flowers

I was, up until recently, a virgin at making raw chocolates. Approaching Christmas time I thought this ought to change. So after some research, I gathered together ingredients from several different places to make my first two batches. I thought I’d share the results with you all!

So I picked up a lovely little heart silicone mold from Wilkinson for £2.99. Super wholefood suppliers Suma sent me some amazing Raw Cacao Powder from Creative Nature and the fabulous Steenberg’s offered up some beautiful dried rose petals and marigold flowers. The other key ingredients were Agave Nectar (a vegan honey alternative available from health shops) and Coconut Oil (also now widely available).

I’ve made two batches of what can only be described as the most luxurious, rich, velvety chocolates you could possibly imagine.. and they definitely put a spark in your step. For the first batch I used Choc Chick’s Cacao Butter and for the second, I used Coconut Oil. Both worked really well. The pictures were taken during the making of both lots of chocolates!

Raw Chocolates with Edible Flowers
Makes around 18

100g Cacao Butter or Raw Coconut Oil or a mixture
6 tbsp Creative Nature Raw Cacao Powder
2-3 tbsp Agave Nectar
Pinch sea salt
Edible flowers like Rose Petals and Marigold Flowers from Steenbergs
Silicone chocolate mold

Raw chocs ingredients
1. Melt the cacao butter and/or coconut oil in a bowl over a pan of water on a low heat (Bain Marie).

Raw chocs melting butter
2. Once melted, take off the heat and then add the cacao powder, salt and agave nectar. Mix well with a balloon whisk.

Raw Chocs whisk cacoe
3. Pour carefully into your silicone mold tray. You may need to do a couple of batches if you only have one, with 12 spaces for example. Carefully place some edible flowers in the top of each one.

Raw chocs mold
4. Leave to set in the freezer for 15-20 minutes, before carefully removing from the tray and enjoying! Be prepared to feel wonderful eating these!

Raw chocs finished
Raw Chocolate explained.. excerpt from The Ecologist:

So what is raw chocolate and why is it different from ‘normal’ chocolate? The process for making chocolate is fairly simple: heat cacao beans, grind into a liqueur, add fat and sweeten. However, subtle alterations at any of these stages can result in wildly different chocolate bars. The fundamental difference between your commercial chocolate bar (such as Cadbury’s or Green & Blacks) and raw chocolate (like this recipe) is this: the cacao in raw chocolate is never heated above 45°C, unlike commercial chocolate which is roasted at 130°C, meaning all the anti-oxidants, enzymes and nutrients remain intact. What’s more, whereas most commercial bars are chock full of sugar, milk, saturated, hydrogenated fats and flavourings, raw chocolate is made up just four simple ingredients; cacao beans (chocolate), cacao or coconut butter (fat) and agave syrup (sweetener) plus natural essential oils, berries and nuts for flavouring.

Why is Cacao good for you?
Nutritionally, cacao is a powerhouse of over 300 nutritients including antioxidants, flavonoids, fibre, iron, zinc, copper, calcium and magnesium. It also contains tryptophan, known to ameliorate depression, and the bliss inducing chemicals anandamine and phenylethylamine which simulate the feeling of falling in love. Oh, and it’s an aphrodisiac. Raw chocolate producers also sprinkle in a healthy dose of superfoods such as goji berries, which are rich in anti-oxidants and vitamin C, acai berries containing vitamins A,B, C and D, lacuma powder, which is a natural sweetener and high in iron, and Maca, which is an energy boosting and hormone balancing powder from the Andes.

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.

Viva! Cookbook is finally published

Working with my friend and vegan cookery guru, Jane Easton, we spent over four years producing a vegan cookery book for vegan charity, Viva!.

Filled with hundreds practical, delicious and easy-to-follow recipes, I’m delighted to have shot all the pictures within this book, with Jane selecting and testing all the dishes we included and writing literally thosands of words!

It is the definitive, wonderful, vegan crème de la crème of recipe books!

This is no ordinary collection of animal-free recipes, for a start there’s sections devoted to kid-friendly recipes; entertaining non-vegetarian friends; eating solo and how to freeze your food to save time and money. We have everything covered – chapters include: Feel the Pulse; Tofu Secrets; Souperb; Lunch-out; A bit on the Side; The Main Event; Sweet Thing and more!

Boasting 145 recipes with accompanying full colour photos, the Viva! Cookbook will take your taste buds on a culinary adventure; from satisfying starters – Sautéed Squash with Olive Tapenade & Cannellini Beans and Luscious Two Pear Salad with Balsamic Dressing; to decadent desserts like Juliet’s Luxury Chocolate Mousse and Viva!Blocker Glory. For the main event, we’ve scoured the globe for fresh and flavourful dishes that hold their own such as Viva!’s Very Moorish Moroccan Stew or that work well as part of our ‘Cool Combos’ – pair the Quesadillas with Guacamole & Lime Sour Cream Dip with our tangy Mango Salsa. For a stunning show-stopper, our Big Puff Pie – bursting with mixed mushrooms and topped with a crown of puff pastry – will not disappoint.

The book is avaialble to buy from the Viva! shop, priced £9.99 plus p+p.

Suma Blogger’s Network: How to feed 66 hungry yogis!

Last weekend saw the very first All Roots Mini Yoga Festival take place near Three Cliffs Bay, on Gower in South West Wales. A collection of yoga teachers from several different disciplines joined together with therapists and yoga practitioners, for three days of inspiring yoga classes, sunshine, good company and great food.

As well as teaching the Sunday morning yoga class, it was great that my good friend Jane Easton (Viva!) and I were able to step in at the last moment and cook dinner for everyone on the Saturday evening. During my time at Viva! Jane and I worked together on dozens of events, cooking vegan in bulk for crowds of people at festivals and roadshows – so it was a great reunion for us to cook together once again.

Using lots of key ingredients from Suma, including Chickpeas, Quinoa, Brown Rice and Gluten-free Flour, we used bulk recipes adapted from Viva!’s Vegan Recipe Club to cook up our Moroccan Chickpea Stew, Quinoa Pilaf and Rice, Mixed Salad, Carrot Salad and three varieties of vegan cake; Coffee and Walnut, Carrot and Gluten-free Lemon Cake.

Ingredient lists for most dishes can be multiplied for bulk cooking, but it is always worth bearing the following points in mind when cooking for lots of people;

  • Cook the dish first to familiarise yourself with its taste and how the ingredients work together
  • Working out the quantities of main ingredients such as vegetables or pulses normally works fine by simple multiplication based on how many people you are feeding
  • Seasoning isn’t so simple. You need to season gradually as you go along, tasting to see how spices and salt are behaving in larger quantities. Some won’t go as far and you may need to add more or less
  • Some dishes improve with time, like stews or curry, so cook these first, while leaving accompaniments like rice or other grains to nearer serving time
  • Don’t be tempted to try to cook everything in one or two large pans. It’s easier to stir and cook large quantities of food spread across several medium-sized pans, especially to be able to stir food with ease
  • When cooking in bulk for a specific event, it can save lots of time preparing and chopping vegetables in advance and taking them with you in covered containers
  • Weighing out herbs and spices in advance also saves time
  • Making use of appliances such as small chopping blenders or food processors can also make bulk cooking quicker (as does having several pairs of hands to help!)
  • If you do have a team of helpers, nominate someone to be in charge of chopping, someone overseeing cooking tasks and one or two people keeping on top of the washing and clearing up
  • Be mindful of good food hygiene practises. Get people to wash their hands and keep hair tied up
  • Discuss how you are going to serve the food before hand and who is responsible for what
  • Don’t underestimate the time required afterwards for clearing plates, washing up and leaving the kitchen clean and tidy
  • Save money by ordering bulk wholefood items from a specialist supplier such as Suma Wholefoods

Moroccan Chickpea Stew (Bulk)
Preparation/cooking time 60 mins
Serves 35-40 people

180ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
6 large onions, medium diced
3 large bulbs garlic, peeled and blended
45g/3 tbsp ground cinnamon
45g/3 tbsp ground cumin
12.5g/2½ tsp cayenne pepper
75g/12 heaping tsp (sweet) paprika
6 x 400g tins OR 2.4L can of chopped tomatoes
15 x 400g tins Suma chickpeas drained OR 3.6K cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
2.85L/ 6 pints vegetable stock
45g/3 tbsp brown sugar
Salt to taste (adjust if stock is salty)
Freshly ground black pepper
1K pre-washed spinach, chopped OR the equivalent frozen spinach. If using frozen, reduce stock a little
500g/2 jars sun-dried tomatoes, chopped in blender (if in oil, you can use this to replace some of the olive oil)

Optional
Olives – black, green or mixed – chopped

1. Heat olive oil/sun-dried tomato oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until they begin to turn translucent. Add the garlic to the onions and cook in, lowering the heat if browning starts to occur.

2. Add the cinnamon, cumin, cayenne and paprika and sauté a minute or so. Add tomatoes, chickpeas, stock and sugar. Season with salt and plenty of black pepper.

3. Stir well. The chickpeas should be slightly covered with liquid. If the level is too low, add some water to bring it just above the chickpeas. Bring the mixture to a simmer, and then lower the heat to low and gently simmer for 45 minutes.

4. Remove the soup from heat. Use a potato masher to mash-up some of the chickpeas right in the pot. Stir in the spinach and let it heat through until wilted, just a few minutes. Season again, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve the soup, and sprinkle the sun-dried tomato pieces on the top with a drizzle of their oil if desired.

We served this with Quinoa Pilaf, organic Quinoa supplied by Suma.

Click on an image to open the gallery.

 

Spirulina & Berry Smoothie made using the Nutribullet

After realising a while a ago that starting the day with bread wasn’t making me feel as good and energised as I needed in the morning… I was lucky enough to be given a Nutribullet – an extractor which unlike everyday juicers and blenders completely breaks down ingredients in to their most nutritious, most absorptive state!

I haven’t looked back! Here is my favourite Green Smoothie recipe, which uses Spirulina – a fabulous source of plant-based protein, amino acids and many other nutrients.  Frozen spinach and berries blended together with banana give this chilled drink a smooth and thick texture. You can feel how much your body will benefit from it as soon as you take a sip. Toddlers even like it too!

Spirulina & Berry Smoothie made using the Nutribullet
Serves 1
Preparation time 5 mins

1 banana, broken into pieces
Handful of frozen spinach
2 handfuls frozen mixed berries
1 tsp spirulina powder
1/2 pint almond milk or other plant milk

1. Place all the ingredients together into your Nurtibullet or other strong blender and liquidise. Remove the lid and add more milk into the smoothie if it is too thick. Enjoy and feel rejuvenated!

Spiralina3