Vichyssoise (leek and potato soup)

Brrr, it’s suddenly really really cold. A good excuse to make some soup, the perfect comforting winter warmer lunch option …

In my eyes, Vichyssoise is a French classic, although I understand there is some debate over whether it is French or American in origin. It is normally served cold but January isn’t really the season for cold soups and it’s also divine served hot. The classic recipe calls for plenty of butter and a ‘vat’ of cream, but I guarantee you won’t even notice that these ingredients are missing. You really don’t need them. The softly cooked leeks and potato give a natural luxurious velvety smoothness so why add butter or cream? Plus, who wouldn’t love a fantastic flavoured soup with just 4 ingredients as its base? It really is one to file under ‘simple’.

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You’ll notice the different colours in the photos, the greener soup has some of the green part of the leeks added, the cream one has just the white part of the leeks. The greener soup has more of a ‘leek-y’ taste, the white is milder – just go for whichever you prefer the look and taste of.

 

Vichyssoise

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

serves 2 hungry people or 4 as a starter

4 leeks, whites only, finely sliced

1 tbsp sunflower oil

1 large or 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks

600ml vegetable stock

salt and ground white pepper, to taste

  1. Gently sweat the leeks in the sunflower oil until they’re unctuous and soft but not browned. Add the potatoes. Stir.
  2. Pour over the hot stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  3. Simmer (covered) for 20-30 minutes, until the potatoes are well cooked.
  4. Liquidise. Taste and add seasoning as required.
  5. Serve with fresh bread or savoury scones.

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Strawberry Creams

One thing Little S dreams of but has never been able to indulge in is a box of chocolates. A pretty box filled with an array of beautiful chocolates with delicious fillings… well, who wouldn’t want such a thing? So I’m on a mission to make one for her birthday as a little surprise (Shhhh!)

We have a great fondness for Choices caramels, but they’re all one flavour which isn’t quite the same as the surprise and choice you get from a selection. I want to recreate the thrill of looking at the mini chocolate menu and choosing your favourite!

So these strawberry creams are the first in a series of filled chocolates and one of my very favourites. In my opinion the flavours of dark chocolate and berrry flavoured fondant are a match made in heaven. They’re also as simple as can be – as long as you have a chocolate mould and some patience you too can make shop worthy chocolates.

The fondant filling is simple: icing sugar (I used Sugar and Crumbs flavoured icing sugar as it’s totally safe and adds an extra oomph of flavour) mixed with a fresh strawberry purée, what could be easier!

Strawberry Creams

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, can be soya-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

1 tbsp fresh strawberry puree (or maybe a little more)

1 cup icing sugar

100g dairy-free dark chocolate

  1. Melt the chocolate following the instructions here. It needs to be tempered to get a lovely shiny finish.
  2. Coat the moulds with the about 3/4s of the chocolate. Leave to set.
  3. Meanwhile make the strawberry fondant filling. It needs to be like very thick icing, so start with 1 tbsp of puree and add more if necessary.
  4. Pour the fondant into the set chocolate moulds.
  5. Cover with the remaining chocolate and leave to set.
  6. Try not to eat too many at once 😉

 

Jamaican Jerk Roasted Cauliflower

This dish is inspired by legend and fastest man on Earth, Usain Bolt. His skill, speed and joyful showmanship have caught our imagination and everyone else’s for years. How could it not? He will certainly be a sporting figure that my children will remember fondly in the future. We so wanted to see him run at the 2012 Olympics and these 2017 World Championships but alas the ballot wasn’t in our favour. So like nearly everyone else we’ve had to live the experience through the TV instead. We were all pretty disappointed he didn’t win the 100m last weekend. With his retirement approaching I’m posting one of my favourite Jamaican influenced recipes of jerk roasted cauliflower, rice and picked pink onions. I have no idea if Usain would approve my plant-based meal, he famously claimed to eat about 1,000 chicken nuggets in Beijing so I’m guessing he doesn’t usually swap chicken for cauliflower! But, it’s Jamaican Jerk spiced so I hope it would be acceptable!

Spiced and roasted cauliflower is nothing new, especially in the blogosphere, but this jerk spiced recipe is rather unusual. Cauliflower retains spice and flavour really well, and roasting it does magical things, giving a softer centre and wonderfully charred edges . This recipe is a big hit with the girls, and the spice level can by easily upped or downed to taste – they actually like it quite spicy. I’ve served it here with some [non dairy] sour cream with chilli which makes it less dry, and some gorgeous pink pickled onions, with rice whichever way you like, here a mushroom pilaf.

Jamaican Jerk Spiced Roasted Cauliflower

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

2 tsp jerk spice

3 tbsp tomato ketchup

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 tsp honey

1 tbs lemon thyme, finely chopped

1 dried chilli

2 tsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp olive oil

1 Cauliflower, cut into florets

  1. Mix together all the ingredients except the cauliflower to make the marinade.
  2. Coat the cauliflower florets with the marinade and set aside for at least half an hour.
  3. Make the pink pickled onions whist the cauliflower is marinading (recipe below)
  4. Roast the cauliflower for about 25-40 minutes at 180 degrees Centigrade, until its soft and browned at the edges
  5. Serve with rice, on a bed of chilli ‘sour cream’ (recipe below) and topped with the pickled onions.

Quick Pink Pickled Onions

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

2 red onions

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup water

2 tbsps soft brown sugar

1 tbsp peppercorns

  1. Finely slice the onions. Place in a colander in the sink and slowly pour over a kettle of boiling water.
  2. In a separate bowl mix together the vinegar, water, sugar and peppercorns. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.
  3. Add the onions to the vinegar mix. Cover and let stand in the fridge for at least half an hour before using.
  4. There will be plenty left over, so keep the leftovers in the fridge

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)
1/2 a red chilli, finely chopped
small handful parsley, finely chopped
2-3 tbsp dairyfree sour cream
seasoning
squeeze to lemon juice
  1. Mix together all the ingredients, taste and adjust seasoning to own preference.

To make a wonderful meal serve with pilaf rice, our favourite and probably the easiest way to cook flavourful rice with little fuss. I also think the additions of chilli sour cream (use Tofutti sour cream alternative) and quick pink pickled onions really work to make a well rounded plate of complimentary flavour sensations.

Dairy-free MilkyWay Chocolate Bars

Chocolate – it’s ubiquitous isn’t it? Everywhere you go there are tempting, brightly packaged chocolate treats enticing you to buy them… at the check out in most shops. Chocolate really must be the sweet treat of choice for most of the population…. and, I’m certainly a big fan.

The desirability of chocolate seems to start very young, even tiny tots are regularly seen clutching some child targeted chocolate bar, perhaps with the rest smeared over their face. Those chocolate wrappers are so bright and tempting.

Not only that, but any ‘family trail’ will have a chocolate treat at the end, most school prizes seem to be bars of chocolate, any seasonal date in the calendar has its own dedicated chocolate (easter, Christmas etc). So it’s everywhere. So it’s bit of a disappointment that you can’t enjoy the same sweetly seductive chocolate bars as your friends. It’s certainly a good way to feel different from your peers. I know it’s something Little s is feeling keenly at the moment, she often wonders what it would be like to pop into any old shop and scoop up an exciting and delicious chocolate bar. She sees people eating whatever bar it is and comments on how nice it looks.

Dairy-free chocolate bars are certainly improving and becoming more ‘fun’ looking, but often those vegan equivalents of well known brands ‘may contain milk’ – not helpful if you avoid ‘may contains’. I know the ‘may contain’ label is  a contentious issue (thanks again to that no-longer twitter follower who decided to rant at me about how may contains means nothing and I what did I know!) but we have always been advised to avoid may contains due to the risk they may pose. So once you’ve removed many of the exciting options you’re left with a meagre selection of fairly serious-looking bars which are only available in specialist shops – not quite like the chocolate display in the corner shop!

Armed with my trusty chocolate bar moulds I’ve experimented with a few bars and had some successes I’m rather proud of. I’m looking at you, gorgeous shiny KitKats but certainly there have been many experiments which I haven’t got quite right. Lately I’ve been experimenting with soft nougat and was intending to make a homemade Double Decker bar but my moulds are far too shallow for the double layer. So I ditched the crispy bottom layer (shame really because it tasted pretty nice) and ended up with a homemade MilkyWay. In the UK a MilkyWay is a soft nougat enrobed in chocolate, without the addition of caramel that the US version has. When I was growing up MilkyWays were particularly targeted towards children, so just the right kind of chocolate for me to recreate for the girls 🙂

The nougat isn’t hard to make but you will require a sugar thermometer for accurate temperature reading, and a silicone chocolate mould will certainly help to give the proper bar effect. My nougat is maybe a little softer than commercial nougat but keeping them in the fridge or even the freezer irons out that problem. It’s another recipe where I’ve used ‘aquafaba’ to good effect – something the world seems to have heard of now.

Dairy-free MilkyWay Bars

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, can be soya-free, sesame-free, can be gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

 

Makes 8-10

80ml/1/3 cup water

2/3 cup/80g liquid glucose

175g/1 cup caster sugar

50ml/just under 3 tbsp aquafaba

pinch of cream of tartar

40g dairy-free chocolate melted (optional)

for the coating:

100g dairy-free chocolate melted and tempered

  1. Line a baking tray (approx 30×20 cm) with foil and oil
  2. Place the sugar, water and glucose in a pan and bring to a boil. Simmer until it reaches 116 degrees Centigrade or 240 degrees Fahrenheit
  3. Meanwhile, whisk together the aquafaba and the cream of tartar until you have peaks and lots of volume like a meringue mix.
  4. Also, melt the chocolate
  5. Once the sugar mixture has reached the correct temperature, slowly incorporate into the meringue mix. I poured it into my running KitchenAid using the paddle attachment. Stir in the melted chocolate if using.
  6. Pour into the greased baking tray and place in the fridge to set.
  7. Then melt and temper the chocolate (instructions here)
  8. Using three quarters of the chocolate, coat the moulds with the chocolate and leave to set
  9. Cut the nougat into batons – this is tricky and I’d recommend a quick freeze beforehand to make it easier – and place inside the chocolate coated moulds.
  10. Cover with the remaining chocolate and leave to set.
  11. Ideally keep in the fridge (or freezer of you are after a frozen treat) until ready to eat.

 

Mediterranean Bean Salad

 

Yay for sunshine, yay for summer and yay for the great outdoors! June and July are peak picnic time of year for us, the diary is littered with sports days, festivals, outdoor theatre showings and general outdoorsy stuff. Let’s try and forget that the recent ‘heatwave’ has sadly ended and we seem to have entered a premature damp and drizzly Autumn. But to be honest, if you are British bad weather is far from unusual and we do all the same summery outdoorsy stuff, we just wear wellies and raincoats instead of shorts and flip-flops!

I do struggle with finding interesting, portable and friendly picnic foods that please the whole family. It’s not just the varied dietary requirements, but also a good dose of general fussiness. I seem to be on a constant mission to find family friendly packable lunches.

I’m a massive salad fan, I just love the freshness, colours and textures you find in salads. In fact I could eat salad almost every day. Now, I might love salads but my children are less keen. They have some favourites, but faced with a bowl of dressed lettuce or some unusual vegetables they do spectacularly badly! Not a helpful situation when planning multiple picnics. This Mediterranean bean salad though is hard to dislike. The beans, once marinaded are such a great carrier of flavour, and the Mediterranean embellishments are like jewels of flavour, although you may want to serve the olives on the side if you have some fussy palates around 😉

Mediterranean Bean Salad

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

2 tins of beans, I used Cannellini beans

2 tbsp sherry or wine vinegar

1tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

a good grind of black pepper

4 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, finely chopped

12 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 onion, sliced

handful of pitted black olives [optional]

small bunch of basil

  1. Drain the beans (reserving the water or ‘aquafaba’ to make meringues) and rinse
  2. Whisk together the vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Pour over the beans and leave to marinate for half an hour.
  3. Meanwhile, place the onions in a colander and pour over a kettle of water. Place in a bowl and pour over a mixture of 1 tbsp vinegar, 1 tbsp water and a pink of sugar. Set aside to quickly pickle. If you use red onion you’ll get pretty pink onions after pickling.
  4. Add all the other ingredients to the marinated beans. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
  5. Enjoy.

Homemade Crunchie Bars – dairy-free

 

Thank Crunchie it’s (almost) Friday!

Whilst the range of dairy-free chocolate is getting better all the time, it pales in comparison to the ‘regular’ chocolate selection in any shop. So regular blog followers will know that every now and then I try to experiment with an everyday and iconic bar to enable the girls to get a taste of what their friends eat.

The most popular so far have been my dairy-free KitKats and Creme Eggs – I was pretty pleased with both of those (excuse the boast). This time I thought I’d experiment with Crunchie bars, yet another ‘classic’ and a childhood favourite.

Homeycomb in itself is pretty easy to make, and it’s lots of fun watching the caramel turn into a bubbling volcano of sugary foam ( but do be extremely careful as honeycomb is burning hot).

It’s also very easy to make uneven shards of honeycomb but I wondered how to make it into even bars like real crunchies. The answer is to pour the honeycomb into oiled silicone chocolate bar moulds and once set you have the most perfect honeycomb bars. Not that it makes any difference to the taste but as my goal is to recreate the original as best I can, it seems important.

I know original Crunchies are coated in milk chocolate but the dark chocolate contrasts really well with the ever-so-sweet honeycomb and actually makes a far better bar. Have fun dipping the honeycomb into the chocolate… messy but satisfying.

Dairy-free Homemade Crunchie Bars

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, can be soya-free, can be gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes 12 bars

200g caster sugar

 4 tbsp golden syrup

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

150g chocolate, melted

  1. Oil the chocolate moulds, or a baking tray with sides.
  2. Gently melt together the sugar and syrup (in a high sided saucepan which has plenty of spare space) until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to a bubble and simmer until it turns lightly golden (this won’t take long).
  3. Remove from the heat and pour in the bicarbonate of soda, stir briefly to ensure the whole thing is foaming.
  4. Pour into the moulds or onto the baking tray. Leave to set.
  5. Un-mould or break into shards.
  6. Melt the chocolate and dip the bars/shards to totally cover.