World Vegan Day 2017 and a Fabulous Sponge Cake

After a rather busy start to the week I spent Tuesday lamenting the demise of the garden after our first frost of the year. But today I am celebrating…

Why? Well, the first day of November is not normally a reason for celebration in our part of the world. In Germany, for example, it is a national holiday where people commemorate those who have died and visit their family graves. And for gardeners here November is a dreary month too, with the dreaded onset of frosty weather and the approach of winter.

And yet for me today stands out in the calendar as it is World Vegan Day! According to figures from the German Nutrition Society (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung)  there are now over 800,000 vegans in Germany, and research in Britain claims almost 550,000 people in the UK are vegan too. Now that is a very good excuse to celebrate so I have baked a fabulous vegan cake to share with you!

After trying so many recipes for a basic sponge cake, I was over the moon when I finally found the perfect one on the Vegan Recipe Club website, which is the recipe reservoir put together by Viva!, the British group promoting animal rights and a vegan diet.

Here is the link to the original lemony recipe: Our Favourite Sponge Cake

And here is my vanilla version…

The Best Vegan Sponge Cake Ever

For the sponge you will need:

  • 175g (1 and 1/2 sticks) vegan butter (I use ‘Alsan bio’. Find a UK or US brand here)
  • 175g (3/4 cup) sugar
  • 330g (generous 2 and 1/2 cups) SR flour
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • A pinch of salt
  • 330ml (1and 1/3 cups) plain soya yoghurt (I use the zero sugar sort)
  • 1 flax egg (1 tbsp flax meal mixed with 3 tbsp warm water)
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 vanilla beanpod

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F, grease and flour two 20cm/8 inch cake tins.

2. Melt the butter then add the sugar. Mix in well till the sugar has partially dissolved. Set aside.

3. Sieve the flour, baking powder, soda and salt into a bowl. Rub in the vanilla bean with your finger tips. Add the butter/sugar mixture, yoghurt, flax egg and vanilla essence. Gently fold in until you get a soft dropping consistency and the flour is incorporated. If it isn’t soft enough, add a splash of non-dairy milk.

4. Spoon the cake mix into the tins and bake for 25-30 minutes or until risen and golden. Test by inserting a sharp knife or toothpick into the centre of each cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is cooked. If not, return to the oven for another 5-7 minutes. Let the cakes cool completely before removing them from their tins. Carefully place them upside down on a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely.

5. For the filling, spread jam of your choice on one of the cakes. (You can also spread buttercream on the other cake – see recipe below*) Put the cakes together like a sandwich. Sprinkle a little icing sugar on the top and decorate as you like.

* For the buttercream filling: Mix 125g sieved icing sugar, 75g vegan butter, 1/2 tsp vanilla essence and a tiny splash of non-dairy milk until creamy.

I do hope you will try this vegan recipe. If you would like more inspiration, there are others on my recipe page (see above), all vegetarian and many vegan!

Happy Baking! 😉

 

 

 

 

 

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?

Blueberry Pull-Apart Bread (Vegan)

After a few months with no food appearing on this blog I think it is time I share this amazing recipe with you. And just in time for Easter!

Sweet breads are popular here at any time of year, but especially around Eastertime, and this one beats cake as far as I am concerned. (Yes, it’s that good! 😉 )

You will need a 30 cm/12 inch loaf pan and, for the dough:

  • 500 g (4 cups) strong (bread) flour
  • 1 packet (1 tbsp) of instant yeast
  • 45 g (4 tbsps) sugar
  • 125 g (1 stick) margarine, cut into small pieces
  • 250 ml (1 cup) soya milk, warmed
  • pinch of salt

… and for the filling:

  • 75 g margarine (2/3 stick), melted (and a little extra for greasing your pan)
  • 125 g (2/3 cup) sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 200 g (2 cups) blueberries (I used frozen)

 Sift flour into a large bowl and make a well in the middle. Add the yeast, 1 teaspoon of the sugar and all the warmed soya milk and mix a little of the flour into the well. Leave to stand in a warm place for 10 minutes.

Now go back to your dough and add the rest of the sugar, the pinch of salt and the margarine. Now comes the fun part – mix with your hands until it all comes together into a nice soft dough. On a floured surface knead it for about 5 minutes. Then place in a clean bowl, cover, and leave it to rise in a warm spot for an hour or so.

In the meantime, scrape the seeds out of your vanilla bean and mix them with the 125 g sugar, grease your pan well, melt your margarine, and pre-heat your oven to 180°C/350°F.

When your dough has risen, punch it to release some of the air and then roll it out to about 40 x 35 cm (16 x 14 inches). Brush with almost all of the melted margarine. Sprinkle all but 2 tablespoons of the vanilla sugar evenly on top. Now cut into 8 x 10 cm (3 x 4 inch) squares and stack 4 or 5 of them at a time to make it easier to put them into your pan. Press a few blueberries in between each layer as you go, and then squash the layers up nicely in the pan. Finally, brush with the remaining margarine and sprinkle over the last of the vanilla sugar.

Bake for about 45 minutes. If it starts turning too brown during the end of the cooking time, cover with a bit of foil.

Leave to cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes before easing out and placing on a wire rack to cool completely.

My tip: this tastes wonderful served still slightly warm. 😉 Oh yummy!

I hope this has inspired you! Go on, try it!

Will you be baking anything for Easter?

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

shortbread1

  • 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!

😀