The Best Pesto I Have Ever Eaten!

The title of this post refers to the compliment I received from friends who are not vegan, when I served up our homemade vegan basil pesto for dinner recently. I was chuffed, and my Man of Many Talents thought it was time I shared my secret recipe. So here it is!

Vegan Basil Pesto

For 4-6 servings:

  • 3 cups/45 g fresh basil leaves (homegrown is best! 😉 )
  • 90 g pine nuts (they are expensive, but splash out on the best quality you can find)
  • 15 g cashews
  • 4 level tbsps nutritious yeast (essential for texture and the slight ‘cheesy’ flavour)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (fresh if possible)
  • 3 sun-dried tomatoes (the sort that come in a jar, marinated in oil), roughly chopped
  • 1 – 2 tbsps of the sun-dried tomato oil
  • 100 ml of mild olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a mixer until chunky. If the mixture is too thick you can either add a drop more oil or – if it is being eaten the same day – a splash of water to thin it slightly.

Serve over hot pasta and let all that sunshiny flavour tickle your tastebuds! Very good with a tomato salad and a cold drink. 🙂

Do you love basil too? What sorts do you grow and what do you use it for?

In a Vase on Monday: The Second Breakfast

‘Das zweite Frühstück’ – the second breakfast – is something I think of as being very typically German… school begins at 8am here, and most people are in their offices by then too, so the tum starts to rumble at about 10 am! (I suppose the British equivalent would be ‘elevenses’.)

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I went to the baker’s this morning to fetch fresh pretzels (how German can you get?!). This one here is a speciality pretzel recently made popular by one particular bakery chain, but now available at local bakers too. ‘Bierbrezen’ are sprinkled not just with salt, but a spicy peppery seasoning that is quite delicious, especially if the pretzels are still warm from the oven! Perfect with that second cup of coffee.

But before sitting down to my second breakfast I took a walk around the garden, which is still partially white, but rather muddy as the snow slowly thaws. No new shoots yet, but I managed to find a few bits and pieces for a Monday vase, so I could join Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for her weekly meme.

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A few remaining grasses, some somewhat shabby Epimedium leaves, a sprig of reddish brown Mahonia (not flowering yet),  some Erica, a couple of sprigs of pine and some Silver Ragwort (Jacobaea maritima) that amazingly survived being in a (still) frozen pot all winter.

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I am so pleased I found something this week and am hopeful now that spring might not be too far off. If, like me, you are still looking for snowdrops in vain, go and visit Cathy and you will not be disapppointed!

😀

Christmas Cashew Shortbread (Vegan)

I have been experimenting a bit with my Christmas cookie recipes again, and after discovering a bag of cashews were coming up to their  ‘use by’ date I decided to incorporate them into a cookie recipe instead of the more traditional almonds or hazelnuts.

They are just how shortbread should be – slightly salty, buttery, sugary and crunchy!

So if you are looking for a shortbread recipe with extra crispness and flavour this Christmas, here is my recipe.

Cashew Shortbread

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  • 115 g (1 stick) vegan butter
  • 75 g (2 1/2 oz) raw cashews, ground to a fine powdery ‘flour’
  • 125 g (1 cup) self-raising flour, sifted
  • zest of an orange
  • 2 tsps cardamom (optional as the flavour was sadly lost during baking)
  • 60 g (1/3 cup) soft brown sugar
  • a pinch of salt

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl and work the butter into the mixture with your finger tips until it is nice and crumbly. Bring the dough together into a ball, adding a drop of non-dairy milk or water only if necessary to make it stick. Then wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180° C/350°F and line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper. Roll out your dough to about 4 or 5 mm (about 1/6th of an inch) and, using a very small cookie cutter (mine was 4 cm, or 1 1/2 inches), cut out your shapes. Place on the baking sheets and bake for about 10-12 minutes. Carefully move to a cooling rack and let them cool completely before storing.

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This is definitely my second favourite after my vanilla cookies. (By the way, I have updated my original recipe for the Vanillekipferl here, so they are also vegan now and just as good as ever too!)

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Are you doing any special baking this Christmas? What is your favourite sweet Christmas treat?

A Hearty Bake for World Vegan Month

I have been cooking my way through the World Vegan Month of November and to finish off the series I decided to share a staple recipe I have been making regularly for some time now. Since I always have a few tins of various beans in the cupboard this hearty bake can be ready on the table in 30 minutes and is not only filling, but also tasty and nutritious.

Cannellini and Tomato Bake with Garlic Bread Topping

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For the bake:

  • 1 x 400g (14oz) tin cannellini beans
  • 1 x 400g (14oz) tin tomatoes
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp mixed dried herbs
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Optional ‘glug’ of red wine or sherry!

For the topping:

  • Half a baguette, thickly sliced (you could use leftover bread of any kind here)
  • 3 tbsps olive oil mixed with 1 clove garlic, crushed

Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and gently saute the onion until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Add all the other ingredients. Gently cook for a few more minutes until it starts to thicken. In the meanwhile preheat your grill to medium – high and put a baking dish under it to warm.

When your dish is nice and hot, pour the bean and tomato mixture in. Arrange the slices of bread on top and distribute the garlic oil evenly over the slices. Place under the grill for a couple of minutes – be careful not to look away as the bread will burn very quickly if you don’t watch it! Add a little chopped fresh parsley as a garnish if you have any at hand.

 

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That’s it. Dinner in 30 minutes! 😀

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I hope you have enjoyed this series of recipes. I will be posting a vegan Christmas cookie recipe for you soon!

🙂

Pumpkin Pie for World Vegan Month

As Christmas approaches, and with Thanksgiving in the US this week, I thought my vegan pumpkin pie recipe might go down well. I adapted my original recipe (which you can also find on my recipes page) using alternatives for the eggs and milk, and the result was amazing… it tasted fantastic, full of flavour and nobody would ever guess it’s vegan!

I invited a friend over to test it, and the verdict was a definite thumbs up!

So here it is:

Vegan Pumpkin Pie

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Pie crust:

  • 225g (1 4/5 cups) plain flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 100g (3 1/2 oz) vegan butter

Filling:

  • 425 g (15 oz) pumpkin puree
  • 125 g (2/3 cup) brown sugar
  • 4 tbsps maple syrup
  • 100 ml (2/5 cup) canned full-fat coconut milk
  • 4 tbsps unsweetened almond or soya milk
  • 3 tbsps cornflour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger

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Method:

Grease a 23 cm pie or flan dish. Rub the butter into the flour and salt until fine and crumbly, then add just enough cold water to bring the dough together. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Roll out the pastry to fit your pie dish. Place some greaseproof paper on top and fill with baking beans. Bake blind for about ten minutes. Remove the beans and paper.

Blend all the filling ingredients together. Pour into the pastry case and bake in the oven for a further 40 – 50 minutes.

Leave to cool and then chill for a few hours or preferably overnight.

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Serve with vegan whipped cream and enjoy! 

Wishing all American readers a Happy Thanksgiving!

😀

Chocolate Amarena Brownies for World Vegan Month

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Yes, it IS possible to make delicious vegan brownies without eggs and butter!

As promised, here is the recipe in my November ‘World Vegan Month’ series, and it is in fact relatively healthy compared to most other brownie recipes I have tried… relatively. 😉

The twist to these particular brownies is the amarena cherries I used – the sort that come in syrup in a small jar. They are incredibly sweet and have a lovely slightly almondy flavour. If you can’t find them, try using an alternative syrup and ordinary tinned cherries.

Vegan Chocolate Amarena Brownies

(in a heart-shaped tin, just because! 😉

Dry ingredients:

  • 150g (1 1/4 cups) plain flour (I use one third wholemeal)
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 50g (1/4 cup) raw cane sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp vanilla sugar or 1tsp vanilla essence

Wet ingredients:

  • 2 tbsps syrup from the amarena cherry jar
  • 2 tbsps vegetable oil
  • 150ml (2/3 cup) sparkling mineral water
  • 50g (1 3/4 oz) vegan dark chocolate, melted in a bain marie
  • About 10-12 amarena cherries

Grease and flour a 15 x 15 cm (6 x 6 inch) baking tin (or a heart-shaped one 😉 )

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350° F.

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Stir the syrup, oil and water together and mix in, whisking lightly with a fork. Fold in the melted chocolate. Pour into the baking tin and spread evenly. Scatter the cherries on the top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Leave in the tin until completely cool, then turn out, sprinkle with a little icing sugar if you like, and slice. Serves 8.

Delicious with vegan whipped cream! 😉

 

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Enjoy!

(I dare you to resist!) 😉

Butternut ‘Steaks’ for World Vegan Month

Here is another recipe for World Vegan month 2016, and one I mentioned that I would post not long ago… Butternut ‘Steaks’. 😀

At this time of year it is easy to find pumpkins of any kind, and I like to make the most of them while they are in season. Since my Man of Many Talents is not so keen on the sweet flavour in savoury dishes, except for soup anyway, I make these butternut steaks just for myself. And the beauty is, you can slice as much as you need off the ‘neck’ of a butternut and save the rest of the squash for another day.

Butternut Steaks

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So, take a butternut squash and cut some 1-2 cm thick slices from the long end (not the end where the seeds are), then peel with a potato peeler. Place on a baking sheet, lined with greaseproof paper.

Preheat your oven to 225°C/ 425°F.

Mix 1tbsp olive oil with 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar and spread over the slices of squash. Season with freshly ground black pepper and, if you like, a sprinkle of ground ginger for some added heat. I also sometimes use ground dried garlic or coriander, or add a sprig of rosemary or two.

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Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. Depending how thick your slices are, they may need another few minutes, but try not to let them get too brown. You can test one with a sharp knife to see if it is tender.

They can be served with just about anything, or even eaten on their own as a snack!

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So simple and so tasty!

What’s your favourite pumpkin/squash dish? I bet a lot of you are going to say ‘pie’ , and I hope to post a vegan recipe for that too soon. Stay tuned! 😉