Easy Vegan Blueberry Muffins

Recently I made these easy vegan blueberry muffins for a neighbourhood gathering and they got some compliments so I thought they were worth sharing.

I never have much luck with baking – something always goes wrong – so I enjoy my successes when they occur. This time something did also go wrong – I was following a recipe online on my iPad and the app crashed before I could find out how much oil to use! So I had to guess as I couldn’t trail through all the Google results (it wasn’t in my history – the crash removed it, I don’t know why.) It worked out just fine regardless.

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Ingredients
200 plain flour

75g sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

180ml soy milk

About 50ml oil

200g frozen blueberries

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Vegan cheese & chive scones

I made these vegan cheese and chive scones this weekend for a street party and they went down surprisingly well.

I had to use a variety of vegan cheeses as I ran out but I think the mixture of cheddar and parmesan worked well as it gave it a stronger flavour. In future I would like to try a dairy free alternative to red leicester as it gives a redder colour.

I used chives I cut from my garden – I’ve been growing a lot of herbs this year and the chive plants needed a hair cut.

Ingredients

  • 510g plain flour
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp mustard powder (I used Colmans)
  • 65g dairy free butter
  • 300ml soy milk
  • 380g vegan cheese

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Glamping in Wales (Part 2): Eat

Welcome to my second post in my series of three Sleep-Eat-Do blogs on my recent trip glamping in Wales. You can catch part 1 Sleep here but today I’m talking about the food I ate and the places I dined.

Eat

One of the most convenient aspects of this trip was that many major supermarkets deliver to the site and my shopping was already unpacked when I arrived. So there was little else I needed in a fully stocked and fully equipped semi-outdoor kitchen. There’s a bit more detail on this in my previous Sleep post so here I’ll talk about eating out in Tintern and the home cooked vegan curry that was cooked for us on site by a talented chef.

The Anchor Inn at Tintern

After a long walk through the stunning Wye Valley on our first full day in Wales we stopped off at a cute pub called the Anchor Inn, right next to Tintern Abbey. When we arrived we were wet – and I mean wet – so the staff let us leave our sodden coats at a different table while we ate. We took the large table in the centre by the fire that was placed over these really cute tiles that I fell in love with.

Tea and cake was served: red velvet cake, victoria sponge… And for us vegans we got some tasty vegan bites and a really delicious poached pear with sorbet. I rarely go for fruit as desert but this was so perfectly sweet and beautiful cooked and flavoursome that I would definitely choose this again – even over cake, and that’s saying something from me. I also got a really good decaff soya cappuccino to warm me up after the long walk and the Anchor was a lovely environment to relax and recuperate in.

We briefly explored the outdoor area, which has a lovely garden terrace with views of the abbey, so it would be a great place to sit with a pint in the summer. The pub itself dates back to the 12th century so it’s steeped in history – it was even the cider mill and grain store for the abbey.

Home cooked food by Infamous Catering

On Wednesday evening we were treated to an absolutely stunning vegan curry cooked for us on the yurt site by Ian from Infamous Catering. This is a really unique feature of Hidden Valley Yurts – that you can get a chef to come visit and cook you dinner without you needing to travel to a restaurant. I don’t know of anywhere else that can arrange this!

Ian cooked us a fresh vegan curry using the kitchen facilities on site. When we arrived nibbles were already being served and Ian turned out to be a friendly guy and passionate chef.

Nibbles

Ian provided several dips, most of which I have now forgotten the names of but I can assure you they were all delicious. The stand out was really the wild garlic crostinis, which we completely devoured. Ian foraged the wild garlic himself and makes a specialty of using foraged, local seasonal ingredients.

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Vegan curry

Normally vegans are an afterthought to chefs cooking for a group of omnis, so I was so pleased and impressed that Ian decided to take on the challenge of cooking a delicious vegan curry for everyone. This makes a lot of sense for a chef as they only have to cook one meal that everyone can eat, and Ian said he enjoys cooking vegan food as it’s a new challenge and he always finds people are impressed that vegan food doesn’t have to be bland.

Raw chocolate torte

Kudos to the brave chef who attempts a vegan desert. I won’t pretend it’s easy if you don’t know what you’re doing but we were in safe hands. We enjoyed an absolutely delicious raw chocolate torte that, despite being quite rich, we easily devoured it.

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Ian ‘Barney’ Barnes from Infamous Catering is all about seasonal, foraged, local ingredients, and this really came across is the freshness and flavour of the food he cooked for us. What’s more, Ian is brilliant company and we all learned a lot about local ingredients and how to experiment with cooking. It’s quite an unusual concept – Infamous Catering doesn’t have its own restaurant but does workshops, events and private dining experiences, so Ian is really versatile.

The 5 star Tripadvisor reviews say it all!

Homemade Granola

I’ll admit it, I initially attempted to make granola bars but I got the liquid ingredient measurements clearly wrong – basically, the bars instantly disintegrated.

But I’m an improviser so I made granola instead. Yeah, I just let it crumble a bit and used it as normal granola. I’m still a legit food blogger, right?! I’m sure I could make an inspiration quote out of this story.

You’ll notice from the recipe below that I don’t believe in measurements. Put in as much as feels right to you and seems to level out to create balance. I’ve used Biscoff spread because I absolutely love the caramelised flavour (it’s great on toast as well) but you can use peanut butter or any other nut butter, depending on the kind of flavour you’re after.

The dry stuff

  • puffed quinoa by Indigo Herbs
  • oats
  • pumpkin seeds (as much as you want)
  • chia seeds
  • some sliced glace cherries (or raisins, goji berries, cranberries)

The wet stuff

The method

Mix up the dry stiff, gently heat in a saucepan the wet stuff, then combine it all together. Spread out and flatten on a baking tray (with parchment or greased) and bake for about 20 minutes. Serve with (vegan) yoghurt and fresh blueberries.

For the Love of Quinoa – Indigo Herbs Review

After a week of unhealthy dinners it has been an inspiration to receive three huge packs of quinoa from the kind souls at Indigo Herbs, who asked me to review a few of their products on my blog.

Indigo Herbs are a family-owned business based in the alternative town of Glastonbury in Somerset, selling an vast range of superfoods, herbs, wholefoods, and even gift sets and tea. They have a formidable knowledge of how to create healthy, nutritious, plant-based meals, and are all about empowering consumers to pursue a healthy lifestyle.

Quinoa has enjoyed a vogue in recent years amongst trendy metropolitan hippie types, and you can see why – the health benefits are well-documented and really quite extensive, as any foodie can tell you. Hailed as a superior alternative grain to couscous and bulgar wheat, it actually fulfills a different function in our diet similar to chard or spinach, and is technically a seed.

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This week I jazzed up my diet using the huge bags of quinoa varieties that Indigo Herbs kindly sent me to blog about.

Organica Red Quinoa Grains

Organic Puffed Quinoa

Organic Quinoa Flakes

Firstly, I used the red quinoa to create a lentil and quinoa feta salad. The product came in an air-tight resealable foil pouch that fits comfortably in my kitchen cupboards. I rinsed the quinoa and added to a saucepan of boiling water and left it to cook for 10-15 minutes until the seeds split. I combined it with cooked green lentils, added some chopped veg (red pepper, spring onion, cucumber) and some garlic and oregano to flavour, plus a generous crumbling of feta on top. I never now how to judge how much quinoa to use; it deceptively expands in water in the same way that pasta and rice does so I always end up making enough to feed a passing hungry squadron, but at least that’s lunch sorted for the next day. Helpfully, the packaging offers a serving suggestion of “use as much as you see it” – now that’s my kind of brand!

The puffed quinoa also came in the same attractive and practical packaging. If you’re not sure what puffed quinoa is or how it differs from the more recognizable varieties, basically it is created by a process of gently heating quinoa seeds until they pop, then allowing them to cool. The puffs can then be used in cereals, puddings, muesli or granola, so quite a versatile ingredient. I used the puffed quinoa to create these chocolate-covered, maple-syrupy protein snacks.

Finally, we come to the quinoa flakes, which are often used in baking as a gluten-free alternative, but also in cereals or granola or sprinkled on salads. I used them to make these pancakes and they provided a healthy addition of protein to this otherwise indulgent weekend breakfast treat. The batter held together really well and the quinoa provided a really tasty nutty flavour.

If you want to read a bit more about the history and health benefits of quinoa, have a read of Indigo Herbs’ page on the benefits of this amazing seed. 

I was really impressed with the quality and quantity of Indigo Herb’s quinoa range; the branding and packaging is thoughtful, with plenty of helpful nutritional information. Their products are organic and often vegan and/or gluten-free so this brand is an invaluable resource to those following a gluten-free or plant-based diet.

To summarise the extensive health credentials of quinoa:

  • Double the protein content of rice
  • Contains vitamins B and E
  • Source of calcium, magnesium, manganese, fibre
  • Contains all 9 essential amino acids
  • High level of anti-inflammatories
  • Source of omega 3 fatty acids (promotes heart health)
  • Slowly digested carbohydrate

 

 

 

Early Grey Tea Cake Recipe

I’ll be honest, I’m a terrible baker. Most of my efforts have resulted in failure. I know even the most proficient bakers are sometimes let down by a bad recipe or ill luck, but in my case, it’s not you it’s definitely me.

It really is my fault. I’m sloppy, I’m messy, I don’t measure things properly, I give up when the mixture doesn’t combine properly and hope that it will just magically heal itself in the oven. My sponges disintegrate. My buttercream still has lumps of flour in it because I forgot to sieve it first.  My batter curdles. I have baked a cake for nearly 2 hours and it was still raw in the middle.

I acknowledge that I do not have the skill, talent nor patience.

Yet still, on a rare free Saturday I might try my hand at baking and today was one of those days. I attempted an Earl Grey Tea Cake and actually it’s kind of, possibly, not all that bad. I mean, it tastes nice and it’s not burnt or raw so I figure I can count that as a success, right?

Well, if you think you can do any better (which I am certain you can) then here’s a decent recipe you could try.

Ingredients

160g butter

250g self-raising flour

150g caster sugar

4 early grey tea bags

105ml milk

Handful of fresh foraged blackberries

2 eggs

A dash of almond essence

And for the buttercream

100g softened butter

175g icing sugar

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Method

Soften the butter and combine gradually with the sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Fold in the flour.

Heat the milk in a saucepan on the hob but be careful not to let it boil. Add the earl grey tea bags and turn off the heat. Give the tea bags a good squeeze and cover with lid to let it steep for 10 minutes. Let it cool before adding to the mixture. You can use loose leaves tea bags if you prefer.

Separate the mixture into 2 sandwich tins and cook for 40 minutes in a pre-heated oven on 160 degrees.

In the meantime, we create the buttercream. Soften the butter and gradually add the icing sugar, mixing thoroughly. Add the cocoa powder and stir together into a thick cream. Add a bit of milk if necessary if too dry.

Et voila.

Recipe post: herby cheese scones

This is one of my simplest and most satisfying recipes: homemade herby cheese scones.

I’m a sucker for a cheese scone anyway, but adding rosemary makes such a difference.

 I first cut the dough using a teeny tiny cutter but for my second attempt I just shaped the dough myself into large scone-shaped balls and doubled the quantities. And sprinkled lots of cheese on the top. And herbs. Did I mention herbs? You really must include herbs.

  • 175g self raising flour
  • 1 medium egg
  • 3 tablespoon milk (1 for dusting)
  • 70g grated cheese (or as much as your heart desires)
  • 2 teaspoons rosemary
  • black pepper (as much as you want to season).

Mix the dry stuff, add the egg and milk, mix it into a crumbly dough, roll it out, cut it into shapes, sprinkle a mini mountain of cheese and rosemary on top and bake for 20-25 mins.

Voila. Your house will smell delicious.  

 

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