Friday, 30 January 2015

Sweet Potato & Lentil Soup (vegan & gluten free)

Rocket & Roses Kitchen Play List:


Mr Williams & Mr Everett ~ Can't Take That Away From Me
Foo Fighters ~ Long Road To Ruin
Sting ~ I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying
Janiva Magness ~ It's Love Baby
Black Stone Cherry ~ Crosstown Woman
Joan Jett ~ Love Is All Around
Jack Savoretti ~ Mother
Sheryl Crow ~ Soak Up The Sun
Shakira ~ Ojos Asi
Debussy: Clair De Lune
Alice Cooper ~ No More Mr.Nice Guy
Jamie Cullum ~ Blame It On My Youth

The day I made this soup we were actually having a rare snowy day. I know that some of you reading my humble little blog are experiencing long hot summer days and I wish you luck with that. As I am in little old England, snow for us isn't that exciting..not like Minnesota, New York and Canada for instance. For us its usually a 'dusting' of snow which looks fantastic as it comes down..settles a while and then is gone as quickly as it has fallen...or the worst, that it turns to a thin layer of slush and then hardens in the cold to form patches of ice that would do an ice arena proud. That is the situation in the area I live as its on the east coast of England. I do remember way back when I was a kid, stomping around in snow that was higher than my wellies, doing my morning paper round and loving every second of it. I love snow. Always have and my first experience of 'real' snow on a winter morning in Minnesota blew my snow loving mind. We actually had to tunnel our way outside. Seeing my first bus doing a full doughnut in the road ahead of me was an interesting moment for sure. Apparently it wasn't a cause of concern or anything out of the ordinary to my partner back then. I also remember sitting on a window seat or even out on the porch, eating a steaming bowl of homemade soup or stew as I watched each flake flutter down. These are cherished memories for me. 

So it wasn't out of place to find me making soup on this cold, cold morning. I had found a good recipe in Linda Majzlik's A Vegan Taste Of Mexico. A comforting soup that had all the good stuff in it that you need for a cold winter's day. Red lentils bring the comforting texture, sweet potatoes bring the wholesome goodness to the mix and onion, chilli, garlic and fresh tomatoes starting the recipe off. A good low sodium veggie stock is added along with a good dose of paprika and crushed black pepper so what is not to love about this soup? I chose to completely blitz my soup although Majzlik suggests blending half so you still have a chunky texture to the soup and I will try that option out soon. I scattered chopped fresh coriander over the filled bowls and when that green leafy was in a mouthful it transformed the soup to another level. Delicious..

My best pal and I sat down to two steaming bowls of this soup and it was everything I hoped it would be. Slightly spiced, comforting and very satisfying on the cold winter lunch time we were enjoying. (Well I think I was enjoying it more than Ann..she arrived shaking from the very cold bus ride here..poor thing. No I didn't laugh much...ok maybe a bit..ok alot. Hush!) It was a very welcome lunch...

I have the entire collection of Linda Majzlik's A Vegan Taste of Series...they are very cheap but packed full of fantastic vegan recipes. Some are put off by them having no photos but for me that is never a problem. I haven't made a recipe from any of her cook books that was a bust. Great value for money and such great recipes. Her books were the first vegan cookbooks I purchased after making the transformation to vegan and I have never regretted that purchase...thank you Linda Majzlik. 

Sweet Potato & Lentil Soup from A Vegan Taste Of Mexico/Majzlik

Sweet Potato & Lentil Soup     Serves 4
(Recipe from A Vegan Taste of Mexico/Majzlik)

12oz/350g sweet potato, peeled and diced
4oz/100g red lentils
4oz/100g tomato, skinned and chopped
1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 small red chilli, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 dsp corn oil (I used rapeseed/canola)
30 fl oz/900ml low sodium veggie stock
1/2 tsp paprika
freshly crushed black pepper
fresh coriander leaves 

Heat the oil in a large pan and saute the onions, garlic and chilli until soft. Add the tomato and cook until pulpy. Stir in the lentils, stock and paprika and season with black pepper. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, then add the potato and continue simmering for another 20 minutes or so until the potato is cooked. Ladle half of the soup into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour back into the rest of the soup and stir well. Reheat, whilst stirring, then spoon into the bowls and garnish each bowl with a few coriander leaves. 

Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you all have a good weekend...filled with love and laughter. 

~Red~

NB: This recipe is not my creation and therefore take no credit for it. It is the hard work and creation of Linda Majzlik and hers alone. I thank her for such a great set of cookbooks. ~R~  

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Waga's Rice Noodle Salad - adapted. (vegan & gluten-free)

Rocket & Roses Kitchen Play List:

Les Paul & Friends American Made & World Played album

Last November during a weekend away in London I had my first...and second..ahem...Wagamamas experience. I was taken with the wide open lay out of the restaurants and the peaceful vibes that you soaked up whilst waiting for your food. The staff were very helpful and great individuals and made the time spent there even more enjoyable. There was even a crazy food intolerance friendly meal for ML! I had plenty of choice and devoured every mouthful of food and every sip of green tea...did you know the green tea is free at Wagamama's..nope, me neither but it was a lovely surprise. The only thing that I wasn't happy about was the fact that they aren't, by any stretch of the imagination, a veggie or vegan restaurant but they are incredibly veggie friendly. I can dream of a vegan Waga's in the future. 

After my trip ML found a used copy of Wagamama's Ways With Noodles cookbook. I know, I'm still a cookbook addict. And in my typical style I sat with it and page marked all the recipes I wanted to make and veganise. Today's recipe being the first attempt. And I was delighted with the results...

The adaptions I made were as follows...I replaced the soy sauce with Braggs and used a brown sugar/stevia blend to cut the sugar suggested and swapped out frozen garden peas for edamame beans, only because I didn't have peas in my freezer that day. I chose to use brown rice vermicelli noodles and I used vegan fish sauce and for that recipe simply click the link on the list of ingredients below. I didn't feel the need to season with more salt and therefore omitted that step and didn't sprinkle with the roasted peanuts..to keep the fats as low as possible. Although I am sure I missed a treat leaving them out..ah well.

The salad had such great textures with the soft noodles and crunchy veggies. The salad dressing was sharp, savoury and citrusy. Like I said before it was a delight to eat and I was smiling the entire time I munched my way through it. 

Waga's Rice Noodle Salad - adapted

Waga's Rice Noodle Salad - adapted       Serves 2
(Recipe adapted from Wagamama Ways With Noodles)

50g rice noodles (I used vermicelli)
25g frozen edamame beans
2 spring onions, finely sliced
6 radishes, finely sliced
5 cm cucumber, seeded and cut into quarter moons
small handful of beansprouts
1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely sliced
small handful mangetout, finely sliced
2 tsp vegan fish sauce 
1 tsp soft brown sugar (I used a brown sugar/stevia blend)
1 tsp Braggs liquid animos
zest and juice of 1 lime
1 cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced
2 tbsp chopped coriander
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
salt and pepper to season (I omitted)
roasted chopped peanuts (I omitted)

Cook the noodles as per the package instructions, drain and refresh under cold running water. Drain well.

Cook the edamame beans as per the package instructions, drain and refresh under cold running water. Drain well. When cold toss them into a large salad bowl along with the other prepared vegetables and noodles. 

Combine the vegan fish sauce, sugar and Braggs together in a small saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the lime zest and juice, ginger and garlic and the sesame oil. Stir well to combine. Pour over the noodle salad and toss well. Season with salt and pepper (Reds notes: I omitted this as I felt it was seasoned enough for my personal tastes folks) Spoon the salad into bowls and sprinkle over the coriander leaves and the roasted peanuts. Serve..

Enjoy! 

~Red~ 

NB: This is not my recipe. It is the adapted recipe from Wagamama's Ways With Noodles cookbook. I take no credit for its creation whatsoever. It is the hard work and creation of the folks at Wagamama's and theirs alone. I do thank them for a great cookbook. ~R~

 


  

Monday, 19 January 2015

Vegan Bento: Tofu & Three-colour Pepper Stir Fry with Instant Cabbage & Cucumber Pickles (vegan & gluten-free)

Rocket & Roses Kitchen Play List:

VAST ~ I Can't Say No
Carole King ~ Crying In The Rain
Don Williams ~ You've Got A Friend
Alannah Myles ~ Lies And Rumours
Puccini: Gianni Schicchi - Oh Mio Babbino Caro
Joan Jett ~ The Only Good Thing
Soundgarden ~ Zero Chance
Audioslave ~ Gasoline
Stevie Ray Vaughan ~ Life By The Drop
Beth Hart ~ State Of Mind
Thunder ~ Have Mercy
Shakira ~ Underneath Your Clothes
Gin Wigmore ~ Happy Ever After
Foxes ~ Let Go For Tonight

Vegan Bento: Tofu & Three-colour Pepper Stir Fry adapted from The Just Bento Cookbook/Itoh

Oh...Bento! I recently became aware of all things Bento and I am now a devotee. I have my lovely fresh green Bento box (picture above) and I went for a two layered version. I have cute little flower silicone holders to stash pickles and the like in. I feel its only fair to warn you...it can take over your life. There is a whole Bento accessories industry out there.

Japanese cuisine has been very much on my mind since our trip down to London in November. And as I research everything I cook, thoroughly, I have spent many hours reading about Japanese culture and traditions. I have become fascinated and was able to purchase two cookbooks that have inspired me and thrilled me...the first was Kansha ~ Celebrating Japan's Vegan and Vegetarian Cuisine by Elizabeth Andou. I spent a full day resting as I read this most interesting cookbook from cover to cover. It was a blissful day and hope to bring you posts based around it very soon. 

The second cookbook was The Just Bento Cookbook by Mikiko Itoh. It's not a vegan or veggie cookbook but it does have a few veggie recipes and many that can be easily veganised...today is an example of that. Itoh's recipe calls for chicken to be used so I simply used some seasoned tofu pieces I had in my fridge. I also adapted the recipe further by using a scant amount of rapeseed oil, less salt and swapping out soy sauce for Braggs liquid animos. 

Itoh's cookbook is very easy to read, easier to use and a beautifully laid out and photographed book. I sat with my page markers (cookbook addict...hey..it's a process..leave me be! lol) and read through every suggestion she makes. She explains Bento in easy terms and leaves you feeling that it is so easy and achieveable even if you are pushed for time. Quite simply...I loved this cookbook and given the amount of page markers I stuck on its pages...I'll be using it often. 

Today's Bento is made up of two layers...the first I call the crunchy level with beautiful fresh veggies and freshly made pickles. The second layer is the serious layer. 

The stir-fry is very easy to make and I served mine with cooled brown rice with a lettuce divider. The stir-fry has great flavours although next time I will use slightly less Braggs. I use little salt in my cooking so I found it just a little too salty. But the tofu pieces worked fantastically with the fresh peppers. The spring onions and ginger settle into the back ground giving the stir-fry a savoury support. Itoh suggests serving the stir-fry with white rice as is the traditional accompaniment but I used brown rice. I don't enjoy white rice that much so for me it will always be brown rice. I enjoyed this recipe so much that I am looking forward to having it again...soon. 

The crunchy layer was made up by some blanched broccoli pieces and they were very enjoyable but next time I shall steam briefly. Again..it's just my preference. I went with Itoh's suggestion of cherry tomatoes and I also added some tulip radishes. And also a small bowl of raw almonds for snacking upon later. The Instant Pickles were very easy to make and the hardest work is squeezing out the liquid before potting them up. Itoh's recipe calls for one large cabbage leaf but I chose to use a savoy cabbage and used 8 small leaves. I wanted to have pickles left for the next few days and as I am a beginner at making my own pickles, I wanted to spread out the salt a little further. It worked and I really enjoyed my little pot of pickles. The veggies were tender and were sharp but not shockingly so. I can embrace the pickle tradition if this is a good example of them.

When I sat down to eat my lunch today I wasn't prepared for how much I was going to enjoy cold stir-fry and rice. I knew I would enjoy the crunchy layer of my Bento lunch and I did very much. But the two combined made for a very enjoyable and satisfying lunch. I have indeed been bitten by the Bento bug....thank you Mikiko Itoh for the inspirational cookbook.

Tofu & Three-colour Pepper Stir-fry

Tofu & Three-colour Pepper Stir Fry          Serves 1
(Recipe adapted from The Just Bento Cookbook/Itoh)

1 tsp rapeseed/canola oil
3 tbsp roughly chopped spring onions
2 tsp peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
1/3 of each red, green and yellow bell pepper
 - de-seeded and chopped into 1/2" pieces
salt, for sprinkling 
2 oz seasoned tofu pieces cut into 1/2" pieces
black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp Braggs liquid animos
lettuce leaves as dividers

Heat the oil in a wok/skillet and add the spring onion and ginger, stir-fry for 1-2 minutes until the oil is fragrant. Turn the heat up to the highest setting and add the peppers to the pan. Stir-fry with a spatula or long chop sticks. Sprinkle with some salt - this drives out the moisture from the vegetables and makes them cook more quickly. (Reds notes - I omitted this step) Continue to stir-fry for 4-5 minutes or until the peppers are cooked. 

Push the vegetables to the side of the pan and add the tofu to the exposed bottom. Leave for a couple of minutes and then stir into the vegetables. Cook for a further two minutes. Then stir in the Braggs and season generously with freshly cracked black pepper. 

Turn the stir-fry out onto a cold plate to cool quickly. When cooled, using a lettuce leaf as a divider, pack into your Bento box. 

Instant Cabbage & Cucumber Pickles
 
Instant Cabbage & Cucumber Pickles    Serves 3-4
(Recipe adapted from The Just Bento Cookbook/Itoh)

8 small savoy cabbage leaves
2" piece of cucumber, sliced into thin rounds
1/2 tsp sea salt (I used Himalayan)
large squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Cut the tough vein out of the centre of the cabbage leaves, and slice into strips. Sprinkle the cabbage and cucumber with the sea salt and massage the veggies until they begin to go limp. Let rest for at least 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice 

Squeeze out any excess moisture before packing into your Bento box. (Reds notes: I took Itoh's advice and used a silicone divider to set my pickles into. So much easier) The pickles can be eaten straight away or stored in your fridge for 3-4 days. 

The crunchy Bento layer ~ Instant pickles, blanched broccoli spears, fresh vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, radish tulips and raw almonds.
  
Enjoy! 

Thanks for stopping by folks and I hope your week gets off to a good start...

~Red~

NB: These recipes are not my creation. They adapted from The Just Bento Cookbook by Mikiko Itoh. The original recipes are her hard work and creation and I take no credit for them whatsoever. I do send out thanks for such an inspirational cookbook. ~R~
  

Sunday, 11 January 2015

SUMA: Rocket & Roses Amaranth & Quinoa Cajun Vegetable Salad (vegan & gluten-free)

Rocket & Roses Kitchen Play List:

Rita Ora ~ I Will Never Let You Down
Van Morrison ~ Brown Eyed Girl
Bree Sharp ~ Not Your Girl
Bonnie Raitt ~ Love Sneakin' Up On You
Kaiser Chiefs ~ Ruby
Ray Charles ~ A Fool For You
Little Angels ~ Too Much Too Young
T-Rex ~ 20th Century Boy
The Union ~ Amazon
Bing Crosby ~ Beautiful Girl
Kings of Leon ~ Closer
Portishead ~ Undenied
Depeche Mode ~ Higher Love
Rascal Flatts ~ Close

I had a very happy cooking experience yesterday. I had help which was very much appreciated at this moment in time. I had three helpers..ML did the 'hot' work and my nephew Myles did the 'turbo' work and my littlest niece Layla did..well just about everything I would allow her too. For a three year (OK almost 4) old she can peel carrots at an amazing speed. (No children were harmed in this effort..she uses a very safe and sturdy peeler..no knives!) I was positioned at my dining table with my ingredients, my notes and chopping board and they were my legs and my constant source of joy. And every effort that went into my Suma posting this time is a shared one..well except for the recipe creation. That was all me after being sat with a list of my ingredients waitng for inspiration to hit...and it took some time but eventually it arrived. Phew! 

Amaranth seeds are something I've wanted to test out for some time. They are a great source of protein, are gluten-free and a good source of the amino acid lysine but I was clueless when it came to using them. When inspiration hit, it came in the form of a tabbouleh type salad but I wanted to mix it up a little. I decided to make a Cajun tabbouleh. At this time of year I crave cold foods...I know, strange. I think its usually a reaction to all of the festive treats I've enjoyed. Our first attempt at cooking the amaranth..(after a debate between ML and I...I wanted to use the 20 min cooking method I had found online and ML wanted to use the package instructions)...turned out to be amaranth porridge (smug chuckles). After starting again and adding in red quinoa we had a beautiful bowl of perfectly cooked grain...in 20 minutes..ahem. Anyway...

Infusing the amaranth and quinoa with a light veggie stock and one minced garlic clove worked really well and gave the seeds a savoury edge. Cooked black eyed beans were chosen and added to the large salad bowl. I wanted this salad to be packed with flavours..each veggie was hand picked and I made sure to include the cajun 'holy trinity' of celery, pepper and onion.

I had already decided to use some Suma Cajun spices which I wanted to lift the citrus based dressing for the salad. When making the dressing it was a conscious decision to add natural citrus juices and use a 'healthy' oil. I chose rapeseed(canola) and used only a small amount but if you wish to use more than please do so. Myles and Layla were busy hand juicing oranges and limes for me as I measured out the oil and spices. I couldn't stop little Layla from dipping her fingers in the dressing and for a little one who doesn't like spicy/fizzy food...she loved it. And went on to ask for it to be drizzled over her pasta at lunch. Too cute. Soon our large bowl of salad was dressed and stored in the fridge until I wanted lunch.

I was delighted with this salad. It was crammed with differing textures and the amaranth and quinoa worked perfectly as the grain base. The beans brought added wholesomeness and the veggies provided great crunch and freshness. The cajun spiced citrus dressing brought every mouthful together with a heady citrus and warming spiciness. The cajun spices worked as a little heat is felt but not overpoweringly so. I had a 1 1/2 cup serving and that was more than plenty. Next time I would have 1 cup and add a crunchy green side salad. 

As always I would like to thank Suma Wholefoods for my place amongst the Suma Bloggers Network and the chance to create new recipes. And special thanks to Amy who keeps us all organised. You rock chick!  

Special thanks to my team of helpers...ML, Myles and Layla..I really couldn't have done it without you. And may we always dance to Rita, little Layla! I'm a very proud Auntie this weekend. Ahem...right...photos and recipes etc, eh? 

Rocket & Roses Amaranth & Quinoa Cajun Vegetable Salad

Rocket & Roses Amaranth & Quinoa Cajun Vegetable Salad                      
(Original recipe from the Rocket & Roses Vegan Kitchen)                         

1/2 cup amaranth seeds
1/2 cup red quinoa seeds 
1 1/2 cups light veggie stock 
1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 small onion, trimmed 
1 med carrot, peeled and finely diced
1/2 large red bell pepper, de-seeded, finely diced
2 med vine-ripened tomatoes, de-seeded, finely diced
1 heaped 1/2 cup fine green beans, trimmed and cut into 
                    1/2 cm pieces
2 celery stalks, trimmed and finely diced
1 large handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped down
whole leaves of flat leaf parsley for scattering

1 14oz tin of black eyed beans, rinsed well and drained

For the dressing:
juice of 1 1/2 juicy oranges
juice of 1 1/2 limes
1 tsp Suma Cajun spices
2 tbsp rapeseed/canola oil 

Place the amaranth, quinoa, stock and garlic into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and then cook for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain of any excess water. Then rinse with filtered cold water and leave to drain off. (ML's handy hint: Use a very fine sieve for this as the amaranth seeds are small and would fall through a regular sieve)

Place the onion in a small bowl and pour over some boiling water and leave to soak for 5 minutes. Then remove and dry off and finely chop. Add them to a large salad bowl. (Reds note: I do this with onion to take off the rawness as I really dislike raw onion...I find this helps it be more palatable for me.)

Place all the prepped veggies and the drained beans into the large salad bowl and stir well to evenly distribute. Check the grains to make sure they have released all rinsing water and press gently to help if not. 

In a small bowl add the orange and lime juices with the Cajun spices and mix well. Leave to soak in for 5 minutes. Then whilst whisking drizzle in the oil. Whisk to emulsify. 

Add the well drained grains to the vegetables and beans. Stir well to evenly distribute the grains with the vegetables. Then pour over the dressing and stir quickly to coat all the grains, vegetables and beans well. Cover and leave to sit in the fridge for at least an hour. Then serve...

Enjoy! 

Thanks for stopping by and I hope your week starts well...

~Red~ 

NB: This is my creation and I have no problem with you using it or sharing it. I simply ask you give credit and links back to where its due...as I always try to. Many thanks ~R~

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Dana's Vegan Fish Sauce - adapted (vegan & gluten-free)

Rocket & Roses Kitchen Play List:

Melissa Etheridge ~ The Prison
Chely Wright ~ Just The Way We Do It
Gossip ~ Coal To Diamonds
Truth Hurts ~ Addictive (Instrumental)
Train ~ This'll Be My Year
NIN ~ Eraser
Rob Thomas ~ Lonely No More
Paloma Faith ~ It's The Not Knowing
Clawfinger ~ Wonderful World
QOTSA ~ The Blood Is Love
Gary Moore ~ Parisienne Walkways
Dead Sara ~ Some Have It Bad
Gossip ~ Yr Mangled Heart
Thunder ~ What A Beautiful Day

Blimey...it's been a week! What with one thing and another. This has meant I haven't made it into my kitchen as much as I'd hoped. The one thing I have managed to make is today's recipe...

...now I come to this fish sauce nonsense as a completely clueless person. Having never eaten fish much less fish sauce I have nothing to liken it to. But nearly all the areas of cooking I am hoping to explore this year use the smelly stuff. In the past I have just omitted fish sauce from recipes but I made the decision to try and find a vegan alternative. I recently was able to pick up some vegan oyster sauce and thought maybe I could do the same with fish sauce but to no avail. ML made some searches and found some online recipes and that is how I came to make the vegan fish sauce from TheKitchn.com. Dana's recipe was easy to make, if not a little stinky, and very soon I had a large colander of wakame mix draining off a salty stock. Now for Dana's original recipe post simply click here. My adapted version is vegan but also gluten-free. I should mention that Thekitchn.com is not a vegan blog.

Given my lack of knowledge of how a fish sauce tastes I am going by the fact that it has a intensely salty and piquant flavour. I can live with never knowing the difference between this vegan alternative and actual fish sauce. I look forward to trying it out in the lists of recipes that I want to make over the coming year. 

Dana's Vegan Fish Sauce

Dana's Vegan Fish Sauce - adapted
(Original recipe from thekitchn.com)

1 1/4 cup dried wakame
5 cups filtered water
8 dried shitake mushrooms
3 garlic cloves, whole, skins on, crushed
1 cup tamari
1 tbsp peppercorns 
1 tbsp brown rice miso 

In a medium sized sauce pan add the wakame, garlic, peppercorns and water and stir well. Bring it to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes. Strain well and add the stock back into the pan. Add the tamari and bring the stock back to a boil and reduce the stock down. Remove from the heat and stir in the miso. 

Decant to a glass bottle and store in the fridge. Use one-for-one to replace fish sauce in vegan recipes. 

Enjoy the salty goodness! 

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you are looking forward to a great weekend? 

~Red~ 

NB: This is not my creation but an adaption of a great recipe by Dana @ TheKitchn.com. I thank her for sharing such a great recipe. ~R~ 

   


Saturday, 3 January 2015

Little changes....and often

I absolutely desire this...it's silver and has a lotus..why wouldn't I? lol

Hello! Happy New Year wishes are sent your way lovely folks. Well, what do you think to the new look? I know..I am rocking the blonde pixie cut, eh? New year, new 'do and all that. Ok, ok I jest...although I have had my long hair cut this morning by a lovely man called Josh...but I really meant the blog. I have been unhappy with the darkness of the green on the blog for a while and I found it difficult to read and I know that a few of you have struggled with the text too. Thank you for your honesty folks. 

This red loving blonde (yep sorry to burst that bubble once again for all those that think my nickname Red is related to my hair colour) decided to freshen up the blog face with a serious injection of my favourite colour and using the contrast of white so that the text appears more clear. Has it worked? Please let me know what you all think? Although the formatting won't allow us to get rid of the pink stripe across the top..dammit! Anyway....new looks for the new year and I am very happy with that. 

I had a quiet festive period due my illness and poor ML has been below par too. And I don't think I have ever spent such a quiet New Years celebration...but it was where I wanted to be and we almost missed it as we fell asleep. Thankfully we woke in time to watch Queen with Adam Lambert performing in London to see in the chimes of 2o15 and then the spectacular London firework display. And I have to admit watching Queen again was a highly emotional experience for me. Lifelong fan! And I was royally (Ha!) taken by Mr Lambert's performance and the great respect they showed towards the ever missing Freddie. It was an unexpected way to see in the new year but one I wouldn't change. Now of course I need to see them Live. I hope your celebrations were happy ones too. 

So the big question...resolutions? Did you succumb to making a long unachievable list? This year I managed to stop myself from doing so. Giving myself the breathing space to relax into the new year. I currently have only four on my list and they are very natural ones. And they will be of no surprise to those closest to me...one covering my health, one covering my need for Live performances, one covering my need to travel and one related to my research skills. Gone are all the hard line resolutions. This year I am choosing to be kind to myself...and by doing so I have already made some big changes. Like the decision to make drastic changes to my look. My hair was down to the middle of my back again and although I will always identify that as my 'look'..I had to get real because the meds have drastically thinned what once was a curly blonde mane of hair. Last week I allowed myself to accept that I needed to make this change. This morning, accompanied by my ever loving and loyal sister, I sat and let a stranger cut away the mane and I allowed him to cut what was left into a fabulous pixie cut style and it felt....AMAZING! I can't tell you the last time I sat in a hairdressers chair and smiled so much. With every cut I felt more free...so that is the essence of my resolutions this year. Little changes...and often. 

I shall be researching, experimenting and enjoying the Japanese vegan fayre this year. I am also starting a healing green smoothie period on Monday to help my body kickstart a new healing effort. I will also be continuing my contributions to the Suma Wholefoods Bloggers Network and during the next week I shall be posting my latest recipe. I cannot wait to get started....

....so I wish you a beautiful weekend and I will be back with a recipe posting for you on Thursday folks. 

~Red~   

Monday, 22 December 2014

Individual Festive Pies (vegan)

Rocket & Roses Kitchen Play List:

Martina McBride ~ When You Are Old
Nickelback ~ Deep
The Chiffons ~ One Fine Day
Sinatra ~ Tea For Two
Stevie Ray Vaughan ~ Life Without You
Jamie Callum ~ Catch The Sun
Skin ~ Should I Stay Or Should I Go
Mr Buble ~ At This Moment
The Union ~ What Doesn't Kill You
Shakira ~ Gypsy
Fun Lovin' Criminals ~ Loco
Janiva Magness ~ Once In A While
Jack Johnson ~ Flake
Natalie Cole ~ Paper Moon

Every year before Christmas ML and I host a dinner party for our closest friends. It's not a riotous hangover inducing party...just a simple dinner shared with friends that we consider family. We eat, exchange pressies and catch up with each other....there maybe a game or two in between courses. There is always festive decorations and festive music in the background. This year I decorated the table with the Scandinavian red and white theme. Once all our friends arrive we lock the door and spend a lovely evening together...we look forward to it immensely. Then we all go off to celebrate our festive holidays as we all wish...but for one night we are all together. And the swell of emotion from the collective friendships is hard to ignore....you take care of friendships like this and never take them for granted. I've lost count of how many years we have hosted these nights now but I am very happy for the day I decided to offer this tradition to our friends...very happy indeed.  OK, ok, ok...enough of the sappy stuff...Ahem! 

Keeping to a budget is often tricky for occasions like these but I do like to rise to the challenge.  Usually I like to offer a starter, main course (including three different options to cater for all attending), desserts also catering for all as with the main course and then finishing off with coffee and vegan mint chocolates. This year I needed to streamline and I also needed a menu that would accommodate my need to be seated for the making of all the courses. (Long story, doctors orders etc etc..anyway) After many runs through my cook books and online recipe facilities I sat exhausted and at a loss. I then decided that this year needed to be completely different from the past dinner parties and so then sat down with a clean sheet of paper and put my thoughts down on it. 

I decided to forgo the starter course and start with a main course that would only need the one dish that would suit everyone. And once I had made that decision I quickly found the perfect recipe...individual festive pies. Now I can take very small amounts of gluten and I know my friend Stripe can too and we decided to take the chance on them. I was drawn in by the appearance of them and when I started to read through the ingredients I was sold. There was only one ingredient that troubled me and that was the mushrooms but they are so finely chopped they melt into the other filling ingredients so I decided to risk it. I veganised them by swapping out egg wash for almond milk, butter for Pure Vegan butter, dairy cream for soya cream and finally dairy milk for some more almond milk. I also doubled the recipe to make enough pies for all invited guests plus one for the freezer for a treat on another day. 

Ordinarily I would never make gluten pastry, much less a pastry made with veggie suet but as it was a High Days and Holidays treat I decided to make it as suggested. Making the ninth pie was an informed choice so that I would make the pie shells thinner than suggested and it worked beautifully. The pies were simple to make but I confess the moulding of the pastry into the ramekins and folding over of the overlap was the patient work of ML's hands. I was busy sat rolling out pastry and cutting out pretty stars! Ahem! Although the photo below really is quite deceptive as the pastry looks quite thick...it wasn't! The reaction of our good pal Bev was quite lovely as she walked into the kitchen as we were assembling the part baked pies. She was very taken with them and as I brought them into the awaiting friends to make their selections...well..my tray of pies disappeared in seconds. The pastry shell was indulgent but quite light for such a rich pasty, the filling was creamy but still held varying textures from the contents and the taste...well...wow...it was fabulous. Wholesome, creamy, brimming with christmas flavours and scents...we all devoured them. I served them with roasted parsnips, festive red cabbage, steamed Brussels sprouts, carrots and green beans. And would I make them again? Yes! I have jotted down plans of trying them with a gluten-free pastry very soon to have a stash of them in my freezer for other High Days and Holidays occasions. 

The other courses I hear you ask! Well I made a decision to make a light dessert course...using shot glasses and a decadent dark chocolate truffle recipe I had recently found. So I made a vegan white chocolate dip with berry skewers, a raspberry jelly with fresh raspberries floating in it and a Raw Creamy (Cashew) Lemon and Raspberry Vegan Cheesecake using a medjool date and almond base. To finish this course three very small squares of vegan dark truffles were waiting at the end. And it was a hit with everyone...it was packed with flavours and extremely light on the tummy. Gratuitous dessert photo can be found below...

The final course was a table spread with a multitude of savoury crackers and biscuits, a fruit tray of fresh red and green grapes and clementines, a selection of dairy cheeses for my non-vegan friends (nervous twitch!) and for myself and my lovely pal Dev...a small vegan cheese board. I bought in a Blue, Garlic & Herb and Cranberry vegan cheeses but also made a Walnut & Cranberry Vegan Cheese Ball to add to the plate. And that is how we finished our meal...playing a game whilst nibbling on the crackers, cheeses and fruits. We were very full but very happy...

Individual Festive Pies

Individual Festive Pies  Made 9 x 250ml ramekin sized pies
(Adapted from Good Food Magazine)

400g leeks, thinly sliced
50g vegan butter (I used Pure ~ Sunflower)
200g mushrooms, finely chopped
8 pinches of ground Mace
8 pinches of fresh thyme leaves, plus 9 tiny sprigs to decorate
200g potatoes, grated
200g cooked Puy lentils 
200g cooked chestnuts, finely chopped
16 tbsp vegan cream (I used Alpro Fresh Soya Cream)
8 tbsp fresh cranberries, plus 4o to decorate
almond milk to glaze
4 tsp redcurrant jelly/jam 

For the pastry:
400g plain flour or gluten-free alternative
200g vegetable suet
16 tbsp almond milk

In a large skillet gently melt the vegan butter and then saute the leeks until completely softened. Meanwhile blend the mushrooms in a food processor until very finely chopped and add them to your cooked leeks. Turn up the heat a little and cook until the mushrooms are shedding water and remove the liquid. Add your grated potato and cook for a further 3 minutes and then add the chestnuts, puy lentils and cream. Cook for 4 minutes more and then remove from the heat. Chop down the 16 tbsps of fresh cranberries and add them to the skillet, stirring well to evenly distribute. 

To make the pastry, put the flour and the suet into a food processor with 2 tsps low-sodium salt. Blitz together until you can't see any big veggie suet lumps. Then keep the processor pulsing as you add the milk 1 tbsp at a time until the pastry comes together. 

Roll out a quarter of the pastry on a floured surface and then using one of the ramekins cut out 9 lids. From the centre of each lid cut out a star shape. Set the lids and stars to one side and cover with cling film. 

Cut 9 strips of baking parchment and using a little vegan butter stick them into the ramekins, so the ends of the strips stick outside each of side to help you remove the pies when baked. Gather the lid scraps with the remaining pastry and bring together. And divide into 9 equal pieces. Roll out each piece to a £1 coin thickness and use to line each dish leaving an overhang.  Divide the filling between the ramekins. Top each pie with the lids, roll down each overhang to meet the lid. Use fork prongs to seal the edges. The pies can now be covered and chilled for up to 24 hours before baking.

To bake: Pre-heat the oven to 200'C/400'F/GM 6. Brush each pie with a little almond milk and bake for 30-40 minutes. 

Remove the pies from the oven and gently edge around the top of the pies with a sharp knife. Then line a fresh baking sheet with parchment and lift the pies out of the dishes (BE PATIENT!) and place them on the new baking sheet. Take the pastry stars our from under the cover of cling and brush each one with almond milk and then place a small sprig of thyme onto each one. Place the pastry stars onto the baking parchment. Mix the 40 whole cranberries with the redcurrant jelly/jam and then divide it out between the star cutouts on the pies. Make sure to keep them within the cut out. Place the baking sheet back into the hot oven and bake for 10 minutes or until the pie tops and stars are crisp and golden. Top each pie with a star and serve...

Enjoy! 

And now for the desserts....Raspberry Shot Desserts. 

Raspberry Shot Desserts with Dark Chocolate Truffles hiding out at the back...light and delicious

Thanks for stopping by and I hope your weekend was a great one and your week starts well? 

I would also like to thank our friend Ann, my lovely sister and her little ones for all their help in making the food, making sure I stayed sat down as much as they could (I am not the most co-operative of patients..Ahem!)...you guys rock!

~Red~ 

NB: This is not my creation as I simply adapted it from a vegetarian recipe from Good Food Mag. I thank them for sharing such a great festive treat. ~R~