Wednesday 30 July 2014

"A Modern Way to Eat" by Anna Jones (and her amazing Banana, Toffee and Coconut Cream Pie!)

nna Jones' "A Modern Way to Eat" and Banana, Toffee and Coconut Cream Pie

Oh my word. You really wouldn't believe this was a healthy dessert! Sticky nut and date base, sweet, gooey banana toffee and fluffy whipped coconut cream topping. It is truly amazing and just one of many incredible recipes from Anna Jones' new cookbook "A Modern Way to Eat" (Harper Collins publishers).
©Harper Collins
From the publishers: 
"Anna Jones is a brilliant young cook and food writer, who worked with Jamie Oliver for many years. Her first cookbook is a totally modern take on vegetarian eating – recipes that are healthy, nourishing, truly tasty and satisfying, introducing new dishes that are simple to make. Based on how Anna likes to eat day to day, A Modern Way to Eat covers everything from a blueberry and amaranth porridge to start the day to a quick autumn root panzanella or avocado, butterbean and miso salad for lunch; a tomato and coconut cassoulet, pistachio and squash galette, or mint, ricotta and courgette polpette for dinner. Packed with recipes that explore the full breadth of vegetarian ingredients – different grains, nuts, seeds and seasonal vegetables – and alternative approaches to cooking that avoid too much dairy or heavy carbs and gluten, this is a cookbook for how we want to eat now.
©Harper Collins

Anna Jones is a cook, food writer and stylist. One grey, late-for-the-office day, she decided to quit her day job after reading an article about following your passion. Within weeks, she was signed up on Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen apprentice programme. She went on to be part of Jamie’s food team – styling, writing and working behind the scenes on books, TV shows and food campaigns. Now freelance, she has worked with some of the country’s biggest food brands, including innocent drinks for whom she wrote the recipes for Hungry?: the innocent recipe book for filling your family with good stuff. She has also worked with other well-known chefs, such as Henry and Tom Herbert (The Fabulous Baker Brothers), Stevie Parle and Antonio Carluccio, and cooked for royalty, politicians and LA school children alike. A Modern Way to Eat is her first solo book."
Anna Jones' "A Modern Way to Eat" and Banana, Toffee and Coconut Cream Pie
I was more than happy when asked to review her cookbook as it sounded right up my alley. It is vegetarian but don't fret vegan friends, there are over 75 naturally vegan recipes in the book (Anna often cooks for her vegan brother and sister) and many more recipes are given vegan alternatives. Furthermore there are many gluten-free recipes, all listed in the back so no one is excluded.

Another great aspect of this book are they "how to build a...." pages which breaks down how to make almost anything in an easy formula using a huge variety of different ingredients. There are 'how to' pages on:

• Smoothies
• Morning Fruit
• Hummus
• Quick Sandwich ideas
• 1000 variations of soup
• How to make a great salad
• Go-to pasta recipes
• Pestos
• How to make a killer roast dinner
• Roasted Roots and 5 dressings
• Nut milks and butters
• 10 ways with avocado toast

It is a truly beautiful hardcover book with stunning photography and is just a joy to sit down with a cup of coffee and read. This would make an excellent gift to give to friends and family as it is so beautiful and the recipes are top notch. There are so many recipes here I can't wait to try like:

• California miso, avocado and butter bean salad
• Banana, Blueberry and Pecan Pancakes
• Deep Crusted Leek and Greens Pie
• Dosa Spiced potato cakes with quick Cucumber Pickle
• Maple Peanut Tempeh California Wraps
• Smoky Walnut and Cumin Muhammara
• Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Brownies
• Sage, Pumpkin and Potato Bake
• Lemony Lentil and Crispy Kale Soup
• Lady Grey Fig Rolls
• Carrot and Black Pepper Soda Bread
• Crispy Sweet Potato Fries with Chipotle Dipping Sauce
• Sweet Tomato and Black Bean Tortilla Bowls
• Walnut Miso broth with Udon Noodles

....and the list goes on and on! There is also a vegan burger in this book which looks pretty much like the most amazing vegan burger I've ever seen, based on portabello mushrooms and brown rice it looks to die for! I can safely say this will become one of my "go-to" cookbooks.

Now whenever I review a cookbook I like to pick a recipe from it and make that my tester. Needless to say just choosing one from this book was very difficult! There are so many mouthwatering sounding savoury recipes but once I got to this Banana, Toffee and Coconut Cream Pie I knew I had to make it. I've been wanting to try a banoffee type pie for years now and this one sounded perfect.
Anna Jones' "A Modern Way to Eat" and Banana, Toffee and Coconut Cream Pie
....and it is! A dessert that actually makes you feel good with a sticky nutty date base, banana caramel and fluffy whipped coconut cream topping (I mean, who doesn't like coconut whipped cream???) It's altogether a gorgeous pie, each ingredient compliments the other, right down the little bit of lime juice the banana slices are tossed in - that little citrus kick is a beautiful addition, a nice counter to the rich toffee and cream. Another nice thing about this dessert is that although it is sweet it's not cloyingly so. Just perfect :-)

Disclaimer: Harper Collins sent me the book for review. All views expressed are my own.

~Recipe Notes~

♥ Where the recipe calls for honey or agave I used maple syrup, because, you know I'm Canadian and throw that stuff in everything ;-)
♥ She states that if you don't have medjool dates to use other pitted ones but to soak them first in hot water and use a couple extra. I didn't have medjool so did exactly that. I just soaked them until the edges turned white, maybe only 5 minutes or so.
♥ Instead of the seeds from a vanilla pod I used 1/2 tsp natural vanilla paste.
♥ As you can see I also opted for her recommendation of grating some dark chocolate over top - beautiful!
♥ I was a little impatient in cooking the caramel and it could have cooked longer and gotten firmer - that was my impatience and not a fault of the recipe! Just make sure you cook it as she states, until it is thickened and deep golden brown :-) Although, it doesn't matter if your caramel is a little runny like mine, the slices still hold together and the taste is still spot on perfect!
Anna Jones' "A Modern Way to Eat" and Banana, Toffee and Coconut Cream Pie

Anna Jones' Banana, Toffee and Coconut Cream Pie:

serves 6-8

75g almonds
75g pecan nuts
120g medjool dates
(6 fat ones, pitted)
1 tablespoon set honey or agave
a good pinch of ground ginger

12 tablespoons unrefined light demerara sugar
3 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed well

2 X 400g tins of full-fat coconut milk
1 tablespoon set honey or agave
seeds from 1 vanilla pod

2 bananas
juice of 1 lime

First of all, make sure that your coconut milk is in the fridge chilling.

Next, get on with your crust. Put the nuts into a food processor and blitz until you have a chunky crumble. Add the dates, honey and ginger and pulse a few more times, until the whole thing comes together.

Tip the mixture into a 20cm springform cake tin and use your fingers to press it all over the base, making a lip around the sides about 1cm deep. Put into the fridge to chill.
(My personal note: I found it easier to grease my hands with some coconut oil while pressing it into the tin and stop the mixture sticking to my hands.)

Now make your banana caramel. Put the sugar into a pan with the mashed banana, place on medium heat and allow to bubble away until the caramel has thickened and is a deep brown colour. This will take between 3 and 5 minutes.

Peel the bananas and slice them into thin rounds. Toss them in the juice of the lime, then lay them evenly on top of the crust.

Once the caramel is cool, pour it over the bananas, spread it evenly and put into the fridge to chill.

Scoop the thick white top layer from your tins of coconut milk and put it into a bowl. Add the honey and vanilla seeds and whisk until thick, like whipped double cream. Put it into the fridge to chill for 20 minutes.

When you are read to eat, give the coconut cream a final stir, then spoon it on top of the caramel and use the back of a spoon to create pretty swirls.

If you like, top with some grated dark chocolate or, if you are feeling fancy, some chocolate curls.
Anna Jones' "A Modern Way to Eat" and Banana, Toffee and Coconut Cream Pie

Recipe reprinted as is from the book with permission by Harper Collins Publishers. Food photos are my own :-)

Monday 21 July 2014

Zucchini Bhaji and Tarka Dal

Zucchini Bhaji and Tarka Dal - vegan and gluten-free!

Anyone else have a glut of zucchini in their garden right now? Yeah, thought so :-) I actually came up with this bhaji recipe last summer when we were in a similar situation and we just absolutely love these. They have great flavour and texture and best of all - they use up a LOT of zucchini! I made loads of these last summer and I suspect the same thing will happen this year. It's taken me so long to post them as I kept thinking I should blog them with something even though I usually just make these on their own to snack on, preferably with some mango chutney and a chilled beer! 

I decided they would be nice dipped into my tarka dal which is just a very basic version using common cupboard ingredients, probably not very traditional but certainly has far less fat than the versions you get in restaurants ;-) I keep my dal mild for my son but feel free to throw in some chillies, with seeds or not - up to you!
Zucchini Bhaji - vegan and gluten-free!
The bhaji's are good hot or cold so would be great to pack on a picnic and they are perfect with some mango chutney. They would also be good used like falafel in a wrap or a pitta with some salad and chilli sauce, lots of options! They also freeze and reheat beautifully, just defrost and lightly pan fry till warm :-)
Zucchini Bhaji and Tarka Dal - vegan and gluten-free!

Zucchini Bhaji

makes about 10 fritters.

500g grated zucchini (you'll need about 600g prior to grating)
1/2 Tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp mild curry powder
1 fresh red chili, finely chopped, I de-seed mine, if you want them hotter leave them in.
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped 
1 large onion, diced
1 “egg”:
     1 Tbsp cornstarch
     1/8 tsp xanthan gum
     1/8 tsp gluten free baking powder
     1/8 tsp turmeric
     1 tsp peanut oil (or melted coconut oil)
     50 ml water
80ml (1/3 cup) unsweetened soy, coconut or almond milk
140g (1 cup + 1 Tbsp) Gram flour*
1½ tsp gluten free baking powder 
½ tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper

*Gram flour is also known as chickpea flour, garbanzo bean flour or besan.

Top and tail the zucchini then grate, preferably in a food processor with the grating attachment. Tip the zucchini into a colander, sprinkle generously with salt and toss well, massaging the salt into the zucchini. Don't worry about the amount of salt as it will be rinsed off, this is to draw out the water from the zucchini so you don't end up with soggy bhaji! 

Leave for 20 mins then rinse under cold water. Now take handfuls of the grated zucchini and squeeze as much water out as you can then spread out on a clean dish towel. Cover with another clean dish towel and press down getting the zucchini as dry as you can. Tip into a bowl and separate it all with a fork.

Gently fry the chilli, garlic and onion in the coconut oil with some black pepper until soft. Add the curry powder and fry gently for 1 minute more. Set aside. 

Make the "egg": In a small bowl add the cornstarch, xanthan gum, baking powder and turmeric and whisk. Mix together the water and oil in a small glass. Slowly add the liquid to the dry whisking all the while until it is all added then whisk really well until the mixture is really thick and gloopy. This takes a little while - if your arms don't hurt, you haven't whisked enough! Now start whisking in the milk a little bit at a time again whisking really well after each addition so it stays on the thick side.

In a medium bowl add the gram flour, salt and baking powder. Add the zucchini, “egg”/milk mixture and fried mixture and stir with a fork until really well blended. There should be no more flour showing and you should have a thick mixture.
Preheat the oven to 120C and line a baking sheet with baking paper. Pour enough peanut oil in a medium size fry pan to cover the bottom and drop heaping tablespoons of the mixture onto the pan. Flatten slightly with a fork and fry until golden then flip and fry the other side. Repeat until all the batter is used up adding more oil if need be.

When the fritters are cooked transfer to the prepared sheet to keep them warm in the oven. I also do this to ensure the fritters get fully cooked in the middle. They will keep happily in a low temperature oven for even up to half an hour. I usually make the fritters first and keep them warming in the oven while I make the dal.

EDIT: I've since discovered that these can also be BAKED! Just line a baking sheet with baking paper and lightly grease. Preheat the oven to 200C and drop heaping tablespoons of the mixture onto the sheet. Shape and press down lightly with the spoon. Bake for 15 minutes or until fully cooked and lightly golden brown on top. They come baked really light and fluffy, like little bhaji clouds :-)
Zucchini Bhaji - vegan and gluten-free!

Tarka Dal:

serves 2 generously, 3 as a small side

240g (1¼ cup) dry red split lentils
250ml (1 cup) water
1 tsp turmeric
1 Tbsp mild curry powder
1 Tbsp coconut oil
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, cored and finely chopped 
¾ tsp salt
¾ tsp garam masala
1 Tbsp vegan butter

Rinse lentils well, place in saucepan and cover with cold water (not the 1 cup listed in the recipe, just cover them with water). Bring to boil and boil rapidly for 10 minutes. Drain, rinse with hot water and place back in the pot with the measured water, turmeric and curry powder. Simmer with the lid on for 15 minutes adding more water a bit at a time if need be until the lentils are fully cooked and there is very little water left.

Meanwhile heat 1 Tbsp of coconut oil and fry the cumin seeds a few seconds. Add the onion and fry until slightly golden brown, about 10 minutes. With a few minutes left add the garlic (you can add a finely chopped chilli now if you want more heat, keep in mind this is a mild dal). Add the tomatoes and cook until they start to break down.

Stir this into the lentils along with the garam masala, salt and 1 Tbsp vegan butter. Stir until the butter melts and everything is well blended. 
Zucchini Bhaji and Tarka Dal - vegan and gluten-free!

Nutritional Information:

For 1 Bhaji out of 10:
Calories: 103
Protein: 4.1g
Fat: 4.7g
Sat Fat: 1.2g
Fibre: 2.3g
Carbs: 11.7g
Sugar: 3.1g
Sodium: 138mg

For 1/2 of the tarka dal:
Calories: 300
Protein: 11.4g
Fat: 13.3g
Sat Fat: 7.3g
Fibre: 7.4g
Carbs: 36.6g
Sugar: 6.8g
Sodium: 904mg

Still have too much zucchini?? A couple of my favourites...
Zucchini, Lemon and Dill
Soup with Orzo
Beer Battered Zucchini Sticks
with Ranch Dip

Friday 11 July 2014

Creamy Spiced Butternut Squash & Coconut Soup

Creamy Spiced Butternut Squash & Coconut Soup. Vegan/Gluten-free/Soy-free
 Butternut Squash•Ginger•Chilli•Garlic•Coconut

Now, I hope you'll forgive me for posting a hot, spicy soup recipe in the middle of July but this was just too good not too. Besides, maybe it's winter where you are....or maybe you live in Ireland like me! I'm kidding, actually the summer here so far has been incredible BUT we can have summers where all you want is a hot bowl of soup - that's no lie :-) One bonus is that this recipe doesn't roast the squash first so at least the oven won't have to be on!

I made this as I had a couple butternut squashes to experiment with and while I have often made soup with them I've always just 'winged it' and thus had no recipe to pass on. So, I thought I would jot down what I did this time so I could actually share it ;-)

This is such an easy, simple soup to make; it comes together in no time and has great flavour from the ginger, chilli, garlic and coconut. It's super creamy and even thicker the next day. I also got to use my new Froothie Optimum 9400 high performance blender here and I really didn't think it would make a big difference as obviously my old blender could process soups...but wow, not like this - idid such an incredible job, it only took seconds and the texture is absolutely silky smooth! Before, my pureed soups - especially with squash, would have a slightly fibrous texture but this one is like velvet, gorgeous!

Creamy Spiced Butternut Squash & Coconut Soup. Vegan/Gluten-free/Soy-free

Creamy Spiced Butternut Squash & Coconut Soup:
serves 4

1 small-medium butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and cubed
(You'll need 470g prepared weight or 4 cups.)
2 Tbsp virgin coconut oil
2 onions, diced - 150g / 1 heaping cup
1½ Tbsp finely chopped garlic (2 large cloves)
1½ Tbsp finely chopped red chilli (1 large), I de-seed , if you want it spicier, throw them in! 
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
850ml / 3½ cups vegetable stock, I made mine with 3 tsp Marigold organic vegan bouillon powder which has turmeric added, if you are using a different stock powder I recommend adding a little turmeric here - maybe 1/2 tsp?
4 Tbsp full fat coconut milk
sea salt to taste - I added 1/8 tsp

Melt the coconut oil in a large saucepan then add the onion, fry until soft and transparent. Add the chilli, garlic and ginger and fry gently another minute. Add the cubed squash and stir until they are well coated in the oil and fry a couple of minutes. Add the hot stock, give it a good stir then cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the squash is really tender. Stir in the coconut milk then blitz in a blender until really, really smooth. Return to the saucepan to warm up, taste and season with salt if need be. Serve with a swirl of coconut milk if you want to be fancy ;-)
Creamy Spiced Butternut Squash & Coconut Soup. Vegan/Gluten-free/Soy-free

Disclaimer: Froothie sent me an Optimum 9400 for review and this post contains affiliated links. If you purchase a blender through my link a little commission is thrown my way :-) All views regarding the blender are entirely my own.

Nutritional Information: for 1 serving out of 4

Calories: 171
Protein: 2.9g
Fat: 9.8g
Sat Fat: 8.5g
Fibre: 3.2g
Carbs: 21g
Sugar: 5.1g
Sodium: 830g (will vary depending on stock used)

You Might Also Like:

Creamy Smoked Paprika
Sweet Potato & Dill Soup +
Garlic Rye Toast
Chilli Roasted Butternut Squash,
Soba Noodles + Creamy
Miso-Tahini Sauce

Sunday 6 July 2014

Peach Melba Smoothie & Froothie Optimum 9400 Blender Review

Vegan Peach Melba Smoothie

Ok, now the eagle eyed among you may have noticed that those are indeed nectarines and not peaches but "Nectarine Melba" doesn't sound quite the same does it? Ah, they taste the same and this is a wonderful smoothie bursting with peachy and raspberry goodness :-)

Now, if you have been following my blog for awhile you have probably also noticed a distinct lack of smoothie and beverage recipes. This is not down to not liking smoothies, I love them, I just haven't had a good enough blender to get the perfect consistency I like. 

Until now that is. The lovely folks at Froothie sent me their Optimum 9400 blender to review and folks, I am in love! 
This isn't just a regular blender - it's a high performance blender - the type used in juice bars and cafes, it can blend rocks (if you want it too!) kind of blender. The type that can make nut milks, flours and cheeses with ease, crush ice and even make soups hot right in the jug. Here is a comparison with the Vitamix Pro 500:
So, very impressive! But unlike the other high performance blenders which are £600+ this one is currently retailing at a special introductory price of £329 which even includes a 30 day money back guarantee and a 10 year guarantee which gives you peace of mind with such a big purchase. Plus they ship worldwide at UK delivery prices, a nice break for those of us in Ireland! 
I didn't want to just make a couple smoothies then do my review here. No. Believe me when I say I have been pretty hard on this machine the past week! Besides smoothies I have made LOTS of juices, slushies, nut cheese, nut flours, houmous, soups and it has never let me down. No more shaking the blender back and forth trying to get the contents to whirl around, yay! It's so easy to use, the ultra safe jug simply sits on top of the base - no struggling to lock it in place and it's a breeze to clean. Although not dishwasher safe you simply add some water and a drop of dish washing soap and turn it on - the machine will clean itself, which actually makes it easier to clean than putting it in the dishwasher!
So, I LOVE it - I cannot tell you how much healthier we have all eaten since receiving this machine. As much as I like fruit I simply wasn't much of a fruit eater. Now we are flying through fruit and I feel a lot better for it as well. What I really love is that I can just peel an orange and throw it in, before I would have to use just orange juice in my smoothies now I get all the benefits of the WHOLE fruit. Oh, and you don't even have to core a pineapple... I certainly will never be buying fruit juices ever again :-)

I really don't know how I've gotten on so long as a vegan without a high performance blender now, there is really no comparison to a 'regular' blender. I can't wait to make my own nut butters and milk and experiment more with nut cheeses. I would honestly say now one of these machines is essential for us vegans and at this price it's actually cheaper than the amount I have spent on cheap low quality blenders that broke down on me in the past few years. I have no doubt this one will last a long time.
Vegan Peach Melba Smoothie
Which brings me to my first super easy recipe using the Optimum 9400 - a Peach Melba Smoothie, or as I touched on above, a Nectarine Melba Smoothie, either fruit would work well but I prefer the smooth skin on a nectarine here :-)

Peach Melba Smoothie:

• 4 small nectarines, stone removed and quartered (300g prepared weight)
• 100g / ¾ cup frozen raspberries
• 1 navel orange, peeled and any seeds removed then roughly chopped
• 125ml / ½ cup unsweetened soy or coconut yogurt
• 1 Tbsp pure maple syrup or other syrup sweetener of your choice (more or less, will depend on sweetness of fruit used)
• ½ tsp natural vanilla extract

Simply place everything in the blender and turn on first to low power then slowly increase to the highest setting for no more than 30 seconds. Done!

Serves 2.
Vegan Peach Melba Smoothie
Nutritional Information: per serving
Calories: 191
Protein: 5.9g
Fat: 2.7g
Sat Fat: 0.4g
Fibre: 7.8g
Carbs: 39.3g
Sugar: 27.8g
Calcium: 135mg

Disclaimer: Froothie sent me an Optimum 9400 Blender to review but all views expressed are entirely my own. This post also contains affiliated links. -Deb xx