A Guide to Buying Olive Oil

I was approached by Jamie’s Italian to feature this rather gorgeously designed infographic on buying olive oil. As I’m a big fan of Jamie Oliver, especially since his recent affection for more plant-based foods in his cooking, I was happy to say yes.

It’s also pretty useful and I’m certainly going to refer to it when buying olive oil in the future, especially next week when we head to Italy, so the timing couldn’t be more handy for me! Besides, who knew Spain produced more olive oil than Italy and Greece combined?

Apparently Jamie’s Italian also caters well for allergies, we’ve never tried eating there but I hope we can seek one out soon – here’s one in Norwich as an example: https://www.restaurantchoice.co.uk/restaurants/jamies-italian-norwich.html

Disclaimer: I was paid a fee by Jamie’s Italian to feature this infographic, but only decided to do so as it is rather useful and fits the content of my blog. 

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.

Rocky Road Cupcakes

Everyone loves a cute cupcake and I haven’t posted a recipe for one for absolutely ages – so here’s an extra special cupcake recipe to cheer up this rather damp and dreary July day!

I guess there is something a little more celebratory and special about having your own little complete cake with perfect icing and adornments.

When I was tiny, cupcakes were always called fairy cakes (I don’t know when they became known as cupcakes instead) and they were one of the first things I ever baked for my Brownie baking badge. Proud moment. In fact they were particularly delicious little cakes which for some reason I decided to top with bright yellow icing! These cupcakes are, I hope, a little more elegant and subtle looking.

The inspiration behind these is the ‘Rocky Road’ with its combination of chocolate, crunch and chew. So we have intensely chocolatey cakes, with a marshmallow baked inside for an extra mallow factor. These are vegetarian marshmallows which do go quite chewy so maybe leave them out if you’re serving these to any elderly relative with false teeth!

The icing is vanilla ‘buttercream’ which is then topped off with more marshmallows, honeycomb pieces, giant chocolate buttons and pomegranate hearts for some extra cuteness. I hope you like them, they’re certainly a knock-out flavour combination.

Rocky Road Cupcakes

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

 

makes 18-20

350g self-raising flour

200g caster sugar

50g cocoa powder

200ml sunflower oil

300ml oat milk

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

20 vegetarian marshmallows (I used Freedom Mallows) – optional

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade/Gas Mark 5
  2. Mix together the oat milk, lemon juice, vanilla and oil. Set aside. 
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Stir in the sugar.
  4. Add the bicarb to the wet ingredients and stir.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently mix to thoroughly combine.
  6. 2/3 rds fill the cupcake cases, pop a mallow into the middle and bake for 15-20 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.
  7. Cool on a wire rack.

 

for the vanilla buttercream:

enough to ice 24 cupcakes

1/4 cup solid vegetable fat (such as Trex)

3/4 cup dairy-free margarine (such as Pure)

3 cups icing sugar, sifted

1or 2 tbsp oat milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Whisk together the spread and vegetable fat.
  2. Add the icing sugar, 1/2 cup at a time with a splash of the oat milk and the vanilla, until fully combined and nice and fluffy.
  3. Pipe or spread onto the cupcakes.
  4. Then decorate so they look pretty enough to eat!

Decorations:

Pomegranate Jelly Hearts from Biona

Honeycomb pieces from Waitrose

Freedom mallows from Holland and Barrett

Dairy-free chocolate buttons from Tesco

 

New Forest Ice Cream – Sensational Sorbets

A big shout out about New Forest Ice Cream, or more specifically their delicious sorbets. Totally free from dairy, eggs, nuts and sesame these sorbets are a god-send on days out in the South, particularly Hampshire and the New Forest.

We’ve been aware of New forest Ice Cream for a while as they are the most common brand in local ice cream vans, but sadly not many of their ice lollies are suitable. Only the Super 5 multi-coloured lolly is totally safe for us (the push up lollies may contain nuts which is never a good risk to take on a day out at a beauty spot). Then a few years ago we came across mini tubs of raspberry sorbet at a National Trust property. We were in heaven! It was the first time my girls have had the delight of their own mini tub of iced treat; at last they could be just like their friends.

Since then we’ve sought out the New Forest Ice Cream Parlour in Lymington, Hampshire which gives the whole ‘choose your flavour and eat in experience’ as everyone else can enjoy in a parlour, but with sorbet. Sadly their range has got smaller with the passionfruit, mango, blood orange and lemon being discontinued since last year. Sad times 😦

Happily the remaining raspberry and blackcurrant flavours are AMAZING! The parlour goes to great lengths to ensure the scoops are clean and there is no cross contamination. I thoroughly recommend it. In fact we love the sorbet so much we bought a tub to take home 🙂

The manufacturing site has an impressive nut ban with no nuts allowed on the premises (the pistachio flavour is made off site) making both the sorbets totally safe, but also the ice cream if dairy is fine for you.

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.