Vegan meringues – best yet!

Meringue3

My favourite old t-shirt says: If it ain’t stiff, it ain’t worth a fuck. Of course, the t-shirt is referring to Stiff Records, an independent record company formed in 1976. Devo, Dr Feelgood, Elvis Costello, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Lena Lovich, Madness, Motorhead, The Damned, The Pogues and Wreckless Eric were just some of the many artists who recorded on Stiff.

What’s that got to do with meringues? Well, when whisking up your aquafaba, if it ain’t stiff, it ain’t worth a fuck! I’ve been playing about and discovered that reducing the aquafaba is key to a stiff meringue. These ones were super-easy to make and came out really light, fluffy and crispy. 

  • Aquafaba: water from a can of chick peas Meringue1
  • A pinch of cream of tartar
  • ½ cup caster sugar
  1. Line two baking trays with baking paper and heat the oven to 100°C.
  2. Prepare a piping bag over a jug or pint glass.
  3. Drain the chick peas and transfer the aquafaba (juice from the can) into a saucepan.
  4. Heat the aquafaba gently, let it simmer and reduce to ⅓ a cup in volume.
  5. Let it cool in the fridge for 10-15 minutes then whisk it with an electric balloon whisk until it  begins to bubble up.
  6. Add cream of tartar and continue whisking until stiff peaks form (this should happen much quicker with reduced aquafaba than with it straight from the tin).
  7. Then add the sugar, a spoonful at a time, whisking all the time until all the sugar is mixed in – you should now have glossy stiff peaks.
  1. Transfer the mix into a piping bag and pipe out mini meringues (I got around 40).
  2. Bake at 100°C for two hours then turn of the oven, unclick the door and leave to cool for one hour.
  3. When the meringues are done, gently loosen each one from the baking paper but keep them on your lined trays (if they are still sticky, cook for another hour then allow to cool).
  4. Serve with vegan whipped cream, yoghurt or ice-cream and fruit.

Meringue2

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Vegan Reykjavik

It was my first time in Iceland and I had no idea what to expect in terms of vegan food. I know some traditional dishes include cured meat and dried fish…  I was happy to find out that, like most other European cities, Reykjavik has plenty to offer a greedy vegan! A word of warning  everything is expensive in Iceland except tampons! You just have to adjust your mind-set or you’ll spend the whole time saying “How fucking much?!”

Our first night, we headed down the road to Kaffi Vinyl – Reykjavik’s first 100% vegan café, bar, restaurant and record shop located in Hverfisgata 76, parallel to the main shopping street Laugavegur. I chose lasagne: it arrived piping hot in a bowl and was made  with a tomato-based sauce, vegetables, béchamel sauce and cashew cheese, it came with a fresh spinach salad, green pesto and a slice of crusty garlic bread (£17). My fella went for the Thai noodles: a generous plate of noodles, colourful vegetables, cashew nuts and crispy tofu (£17). We had a beer each too and it was during happy hour (4pm-7pm) so it was around £5 for a pint. They also serve wine and a few cocktails, they can even make a whisky sour made with aquafaba! The food was delicious and I was sad to have only had time to visit this place once. If I go to Iceland again, I will definitely return here. Kaffi Vinyl is open from 9:00am-11:00pm on weekdays and 10:00am-11:00pm on weekends.

The next day we did the ‘free’ city walking tour which was great fun and very interesting. It was freezing though and snowing on and off so afterwards, we decided to look for hot soup… I’m so glad we did as we found a real treasure of a place in Súpubarinn (Bergstaðastræti 4). It’s a small café offering a choice of four veggie/vegan soups! The day we were there they had Tomato and Basil, Mulligatawny, Tex Mex and Malaysian. Soup and a sandwich costs around £10 but its a generous bowl of steaming hot soup and a delicious homemade sandwich full of pickles and interesting veggies. Soup and bread costs a little less and you get hummus with your bread. Most cafes have jugs of tap water available (sometimes with lemon, cucumber or ice in it). I suggest going for that unless you want beer or wine as the tap water is pretty amazing. Apparently local people find it very amusing when they see tourists buying bottled water!

Opening hours and Monday to Friday 11am-8pm and Saturday 12pm-8pm and Sunday closed.

That evening it was snowing heavily and the hunt for the Northern Lights was cancelled so we headed up to a bar/restaurant called Pylsa on Laugavegur 105.  They serve a range of sausages including the vegan Bulsur which comes with maple syrup-sweet potato mash (for some reason we were given chips instead), fresh salad and coconut creamed kale (£13). The dining tables are in an area behind the bar surrounded by old mirrors and red velvet curtains – a bit Twin Peaks, but in a good way. They do great cocktails and happy hour is 4pm-8pm when beer is about £5 instead of £9-10!

There is a hostel upstairs and apparently they do dinner deals. Open Tuesday-Saturday 5pm-10pm.

The poshest meal we had was at the Lava Restaurant at the Blue Lagoon. Tip – if you book a premium pass for the Lagoon you get a free drink in the lagoon and a free glass of fizz in the restaurant too. They offer a set menu and an à la carte menu. The vegetarian menu (which is vegan), includes:

  • Baked yellow and red beets – mixed lettuce, radishes, plums with vegan mayo
  • Baked celeriac –  onions, fennel, almonds and chickpeas
  • Strawberries – coconut sorbet with mint and almonds

Two courses cost around £46 and three courses around £53. The food was really lovely and I would recommend going here! I’ve never thought of cooking baked celeriac but will be trying it at home as it was delicious!

The last evening, we went for a pizza at Eldsmidjan on Laugavegur 81. The waiter was Danish and had just got the job after arriving in Iceland nine days earlier. He told us the owner was a vegan and that’s why the menu featured the Vegano: a thin-crust pizza topped with a tomato sauce, mushrooms, onions, broccoli (bit weird), black olives and vegan cheese! There are three sizes to choose from small (£15), medium (£20) or large (£27).  The medium sized one covered a regular plate and was more than enough for one, I gave a slice away…

Lastly I would say how easy it is to find vegan food in Reykjavic. Most cafés we went in had soya milk and I had a great vegan mocha coffee in Mokka-Kaffi on Skólavörðustíg 3A (where singer John Grant was photographed for one of his album covers).

To save a bit of cash, if you are heading out on a tour or a day trip, I recommend going to the Bonus supermarket and buying some bread rolls and some vegan meat or cheese slices to make your own packed lunch. Tofurky products were widely available in Bonus!

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It’s just amazing to see how fast things are changing across the planet! The vegans are taking over!

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Warming Curried Parsnip and Apple Soup

We have a huge pile of parsnips that my fella grew for the Christmas meal our friends hosted this year. The day before Christmas Eve, he harvested 16 pounds of the buggers – we only needed a few of them! Here they are…

nips

For years I’ve shied away from any recipe with both ‘curry’ and ‘parsnip’ in the title because of the university canteen meal I once had the misfortune of having – it was the only veggie option – vegetable curry. It was nasty – a mushy mixture of leftover veg from Christmas cooked with curry powder – yuk! However, I have some faith in Delia Smith, so I adapted her recipe (I’d run out of coriander seeds!). The soup is wonderfully warming and perfect for a miserable, grey-slate January day. Food to beat the blues with.

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2-3 large whole black cardamom pods, slice open and take out seeds
  • 1 tablespoon vegan margarine
  • 1 small splash of olive oil
  • 1 large onions, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 3 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • 2 pints vegan stock (use Marigold bouillon)
  • 1 medium Bramley apple
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat a small frying pan and dry roast the cumin and cardamom seeds to draw out their flavour. After 2-3 minutes they will change colour and start to jump in the pan.
  2. Remove them from the pan and crush them finely with a pestle and mortar.
  3. Next, heat the marg and oil in a saucepan until the butter begins to bubble, then add the onions and gently soften for about 5 minutes before adding the garlic.
  4. Then add the crushed spices, along with the turmeric and ginger, stir and let it all continue to cook gently for a few more minutes.
  5. Add the parsnips and stir well to coat each one in spices.
  6. Add the stock, add some seasoning and then throw the apple in too.
  7. Let the soup simmer as gently as possible for at least 30 mins or up to one hour.
  8. Blend with a food processor or better still, a hand-held blender, until smooth.
  9. Serve piping hot with a slice of wholemeal toast.

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Vegan Cranberry Mince Pies

mince pies2

The Elusive Mince Pie

I think it’s unreasonable.
Mince pies are seasonal!

Not the sizemince pies1
Of pies
Or anything.

Just that in summer
There’s nothing.

Why’s mince pies
Christmas ones?
The rest of the year
It’s only buns!

I’d like to thumb
Them buns.
Be able to do a runner
In the summer
For more of them mince pies.

Hold everything…
WE COULD
Grow our own mince pies
Then before our eyes
On the tree
They’ll be.

But I’ve now seen the reason

Mince pie exodus
Is only Xmas
Cos the season
Is only December,
You see.

George BernardBloodyShaw

Make loads of these little party-size pies and freeze them if you want them all the year round – but I bet you eat them before the end on January!

For the pastry:

  • 225g plain flour
  • 110g Pure margarine
  • Juice from one clementine
  • Pinch of salt

For the mincemeat:

  • 30ml port
  • 35g soft dark brown sugar (they come out quite tart so add a little extra if you have a very sweet tooth)
  • 150g fresh cranberries
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp mixed spice
  • 75g mixed fruit (currants, raisins and sultanas)
  • 15g dried cranberries
  • Zest and juice of 1 clementine
  • 10-15ml brandy
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup

Method

  1. Put the flour in a bowl and add the margarine to the middle of it and mix using your fingers to rub every bit of marg into the flour until you have a fine breadcrumb texture.
  2. Squeeze the clementine and add the juice to the pastry mix and gently rub (don’t overdo it or it will turn your pastry into cardboard!) once it starts to form a ball, place it in the fridge for 15 mins.
  3. Dissolve the sugar in the port in a pan over a gentle heat.
  4. Add the cranberries, spices, dried fruit, zest and juice of the clementine.
  5. Simmer for 20 minutes until the fruit has broken down and has absorbed most of the liquid. Squash some of the cranberries with a wooden spoon but leave a few whole if you want.
  6. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool a little before adding the brandy, vanilla extract and syrup.
  7. Heat the oven to 180C and grease a miniature tart tray.
  8. Then roll out your pastry and cut enough circles (using a fluted biscuit cutter) for the tray of mini pies, gently push each pastry disc into each hole in the tray.
  9. Spoon a small teaspoon of mince into each pie.
  10. Top with a pastry shape – I like stars!
  11. Brush with soya milk if you want and sprinkle on some demerara sugar for some extra sparkle.
  12. Bake for 15-20 mins.

 

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Vegan Mince Pies with a difference

This recipe uses a combination of puff and filo pastry, both of which you can buy ready-made – result!

  • 2-3 tbsp vegan mincemeat (get the best you can!)
  • Small handful of dried cranberries, chopped
  • Zest from 1 clementine
  • 1 splash of brandy
  • 1 handful of flour for dusting
  • 1 sheet of ready-rolled Jus-Rol puff pastry
  • 1 sheet of Jus-Rol filo pastry
  • 40g vegan marg, melted
  • 1 small handful of flaked almonds
  • icing sugar, to dust
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and remove both types of pastry from the fridge and set to one side.
  2. Spoon the mincemeat into a mixing bowl and mix in the cranberries, clementine zest and brandy.
  3. Dust your work surface with flour and roll out the puff pastry sheet, just a little thinner than it already comes.
  4. Thinly spread the mincemeat over the pastry, leaving a 1cm gap around the edges.
    Roll up the pastry lengthways (like a Swiss roll) then place on a floured tray in the fridge to firm.
  5. Grease a muffin tray lightly with the melted marg.
  6. Place a single layer of filo pastry on your work surface and cut squares slightly larger than the holes in the muffin tray. Use more pastry if necessary to cut 12 squares in total.
  7. Brush each square with melted marg and gently ease each one into each of the holes in the tray so that the corners point upwards around the edges.
  8. Repeat with another layer of filo, cutting another 12 squares, then gently pushing each into the edges (slightly offset from the first layer to give more pointy tops!), to leave plenty of room for the puff pastry swirls.
  9. Take the puff pastry mincemeat roll out of the fridge and, with a sharp knife, cut it into 12 slices.
  10. Place each slice, flat-side down, into the filo-lined holes.
  11. Brush with melted marg and sprinkle a few flaked almonds on top of each.
  12. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, until cooked and golden brown.
  13. Leave to cool then remove from tray and dust with a little icing sugar before serving.IMG_1476.JPG

 

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Seitan Katsu Curry

The nice people at Wagamama (well their PR company actually) invited me and two guests to come and try their new vegan chicken katsu curry at their ‘noodle lab’ restaurant in Soho, London. This new test kitchen allows customers to preview and give feedback on new dishes before they appear on the national menu.

The Vegatsu (£8), as it is called, is made up of strips of seitan coated in panko breadcrumbs covered in an aromatic curry sauce. It comes with sticky rice and a side salad. This hotly anticipated dish has been doing the rounds from the Metro to FatGayVegan.

I really liked it but think it needs a couple of tweaks… Firstly, the huge pile of rice with it was a bit large for me, the other two managed OK though, so it might be the right size. I  liked the seitan a lot – it’s rare to find homemade seitan in a national chain like this so I’d be happy to order it again. I liked the sauce too but one of our group thought it was a bit too much like chip shop curry sauce – I would be chuffed if my local chippy made curry sauce like this! One thing we all agreed on though, it was a bit too salty and the journey back to Bristol from London was a thirsty one! Lastly, I felt the salad was a bit out of place on the plate and would have preferred the wok-fired greens (which we shared as a side and were really delicious!).

Overall, I liked the dish and look forward to trying it again when it becomes available nationally.

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Vegan Christmas Pudding

Sunday, 26 November 2017 is ‘Stir-up Sunday’, so get your ingredients together, put the radio on, get stirring and make the whole house smell like Christmas.

This pudding needs steaming for 8 hours so don’t start making it in the evening!

  • 3 cups of mixed dried fruit (flame raisins, cherries, cranberries, sultanas and currants)
  • 5 dried apricots, chopped
  • ½ large cooking apple, diced
  • 1 carrot, finely grated
  • ½ cup plain flour
  • 2 slices wholemeal bread, breadcrumbed
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • ½ tsp ginger
  • Pinch salt
  • ½ cup ground almonds
  • 1 cup veg suet
  • ¾ cup muscovado sugar
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • ½ large orange, juice and zest
  • ½ lemon, juice and zest
  • ¼ pint brandy
  1. Mix everything well in a bowl then transfer to a greased 2 pint Pyrex bowl.
  2. Cover with greaseproof paper (put a pleat in it so it can expand) then tie with string to secure the paper.
  3. Cover with foil and tie again with a string handle so you can lift it in and out of the pan.
  4. Strand in two inches of boing water in a pan for 8 hours.
  5. On the day, heat for 1 ½ hours in the same way.

 

 

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