Hearty Lentil & Vegetable Cottage Pie

Cottage Pie

This is my first year of living in Melbourne so I’m becoming acquainted with Melbourne weather – Four Seasons in One Day is a saying which is apt indeed! I’ve also been warned that winters here are long – long by Australian standards anyway… it’s almost the end of October and flannelette sheets are still on the bed, flannelette pj’s still rule and winter comfort food is still starring in my kitchen!

So with winter lingering a hearty, warming pie was in order and this Lentil & Vegetable Cottage Pie fits the bill!

What you will need:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1x 400g tin crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce
2 sticks celery – sliced
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
Handful or ½ button mushrooms
Spinach leaves (English spinach or regular variety)
1 x 400g tin of brown lentils, drained
1 x 400g tin vegan casserole mince
Salt to taste
Cracked black pepper
3-4 potatoes, washed and chopped (peel if you prefer)
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped
Vegan margarine
Paprika or cayenne pepper

What to do:

In a large cooking pot heat the olive oil and gently sauté the onion until lightly browned. Then add the garlic and celery and gently stir. Next add the tomato paste and the tinned tomatoes and the dried mixed herbs – cook until heated through.

Then add the vegetables to the pot – carrot, zucchini, mushrooms, lentils, vegan casserole mince and lastly the spinach. Cook gently for a few minutes. Season with a little salt (if desired) and cracked pepper.

Meanwhile…

In a separate saucepan bring water to the boil with the potato and sweet potato and boil until very tender.

Drain your potatoes. Now – bring out the potato masher! Throw in a good dollop of vegan margarine and mash away.

Spoon the lentil/vegetable mixture into a casserole dish. Spread the mashed potatoes on top. You can use a fork to add a little texture to the mashed potato. Sprinkle a little paprika or cayenne pepper over the top.

Pop the casserole dish in a moderate oven and bake at approx 180°C (350°F). for approx 30 minutes or until a little browned on top.

Serve with some lovely steamed broccoli, beans or peas…

Ooooh yes, comfort food at its most comforting!!

Cottage Pie

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Moist Chocolate, Banana, Date and Walnut Muffins

Chocolate, Date, Banana & Walnut Muffins

These muffins are somewhat reminiscent of a brownie so therefore, it goes without saying, are delicious!

They are the result of bringing together a recipe I use to whip up in my egg and butter days and wanting to make dates part of the recipe equation! The banana acts as a binder (in lieu of eggs) and also keeps the muffin super moist.

  • See banana tip below!

And so the Moist Chocolate, Banana, Date and Walnut Muffin was born!

They really are delicious – especially straight from the oven while still warm but will keep moist for a few days if kept in an airtight container. I baked these on a Saturday and the next day, as part of my snack pack that I always take with me when I’m out and about, they were just as moist. They also freeze really well so you can always have one when you need a muffin with a cuppa.

They are the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea or soy cappuccino – enjoyed as I did, while sitting in the lovely Melbourne sunshine.

To be enjoyed wherever you are! Xx

What you will need:

Dry Ingredients:

1 cup plain white flour

½ cup wholemeal flour

3 tablespoons (heaped) of good quality Dutch Cocoa

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon bicarb (baking soda)

Pinch of sea salt

½ cup brown sugar

¼ to a 1/3 cup vanilla pod infused castor sugar (how sweet would you like it?)

½ cup dates finely chopped

¼ cup walnuts (chopped)

Wet Ingredients:

2 bananas – mashed

¼ + ¼ cup soy milk (or almond milk)

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

½ teaspoon concentrated vanilla extract

1/3 cup sunflower oil

What to do:

Preheat your oven to 180°C (160° for fan forced ovens). Line a 12 cup muffin tin with muffin cases or oil the tin.

In a small bowl mix together the soy milk and apple cider vinegar and set aside

In a large mixing bowl sift together the flours, bicarb soda, cocoa, pinch of salt and the sugars. Lastly mix through the dates and walnuts. Make a well in the centre of the mixture.

In another bowl combine the mashed bananas, the soy/cider vinegar, vanilla extract, oil and remaining cup of milk and whisk away!

Pour the wet mixture into the centre of the well and then mix until just combined. I use a fork to do this as I’ve read that works best when mixing muffin batter. Whatever you do don’t over mix!

Scoop the batter evenly into the muffin cups.

Chocolate, Banana, Date & Walnut Muffins

Bake for about 15-20 mins – depending on your oven. Check at 15 minutes – you don’t want to over cook them!

Check by inserting a metal skewer or tooth pick into the centre of the muffin and they are ready when the skewer comes out clean.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Frozen Bananas

  • Banana tip – the eternal dilemma of the overripe banana has been solved!

Just pop your overripe bananas (whole and still in their skins) into a plastic bag and into the freezer. When you need them remove from the freezer bag and allow them to defrost. The time needed will depend on the room temperature – summer or winter – and you have bananas on hand for baking. When they emerge from their blackened skins they look rather strange and a bit squishy but perfect for mashing!

Chocolate, Banana, Date & Walnut Muffins

Easy Pumpkin and Red Lentil Soup

Pumpkin Soup

Its midweek, the end of my day toiling away at the office and I need to do a shop.

What to cook?!

I do have some butternut pumpkin in the fridge, my trusty store of onions, garlic and potatoes on hand and of course the old standby of red lentils and spices. So really I have all that I need for a feast!

I’ve whipped this soup up so many times I never really think about quantities but I’ll give you some approximate amounts – just play with what you’ve got!

So this really is Easy Peasy Pumpkin Soup!

What you will need:

Pumpkin – of course! Whatever pumpkin you have on hand – this time I used Butternut but any pumpkin is just fine.

At least 2-3 cups of pumpkin cut into chunks

2-3 potatoes – again use whatever potatoes you have. I just wash and scrub and don’t peel – keeps more of the nutrients.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon coriander

(Or you could use a good dollap of any Indian curry paste)

1 tablespoons tomato paste

1 litre (4 cups of vegetable stock)

1 cup of red lentils (rinsed)

Salt & cracked pepper to taste

Fresh coriander (if you happen to have it)

What to do:

Heat the oil over a low – medium heat and add the onion and then the garlic and lightly fry till soft – about 3-5 minutes.

Add your spices.  Then add the tomato paste. Moisten with a little of the stock if the mixture is dry. Then add the pumpkin and potatoes and fry for a few minutes to coat with the spice mix.

Next add the stock followed by the red lentils. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 25-30 minutes stirring occasionally.

At this point you can either go for a more rustic version of the soup and just get out your potato masher and have fun mashing up the soup or… if you feel so inclined puree the soup in a blender/food processor – a more refined version.

From here add salt and cracked pepper to taste and if you have it some chopped coriander scattered on top or even, as in these photos, some spring onions finely chopped.

The red lentils as a bonus provide both extra colour and nourishment…

With crusty bread you have a warming evening supper and enough to take to work for lunch the next day!

Enjoy! Xx

Pumpkin Soup

Vegan Spiced Lentil Biryani

Biryani

One of my favourite meals has been for many years Biryani and its one of those meals which lends itself easily to a Vegan makeover! With the addition of lentils you are getting your protein hit and I’m thinking chickpeas could also work really well – might have to try them next time.

This recipe, inspired by 500 Vegan Dishes by Deborah Gray is really easy to cook (don’t let the list put you off – once you’ve gathered your basic ingredients you are on your way!) It’s packed with lots of lovely aromatic spices which fill the air AND you can feed a host of peeps on this!

What you will need:

2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 large onion, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2.5 cm (1inch) piece root ginger, shredded
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
1 red chilli pepper, finely sliced
3 tablespoons madras curry paste
175g (6 oz) each of fresh cauliflower, carrot, green beans, potatoes, cut into chunks
175g (6oz) button mushrooms
200g (7 oz) rinsed brown lentils
1 litre (1 ¾ pints) vegetable stock
175 g frozen peas
Juice of 1- 2 lemons
Large pinch saffron threads
1 teaspoon of turmeric
350 g (12oz) basmati rice, washed
Salt to taste
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
150 g (5oz) unsalted roasted cashew nuts
Sultanas or Raisins  – good handful

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F/Gas mark 4). Heat the oil in a large casserole dish – one that can go from stovetop to oven, then add the onion and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes until the onion is soft. Add the garlic, root ginger, mustard seeds and chilli. Continue to cook, stirring, until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Stir in the curry paste and turmeric. Then add the brown lentils and all the vegetables – stir well to coat.
Pour in the stock and gently bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 mins, until the vegetables are nearly tender. Stir in the peas, lemon juice, saffron and rice, then season to taste with salt. Cover with baking or greaseproof paper, then with a tightly fitting lid  and bake for approx 30 minutes until the rice is tender and the stock is absorbed.

Biryani
Sprinkle with fresh coriander, cashews and sultanas

Serve with mango chutney, pappadums or Naan bread
Will feed four to six hungry people easily!

Another recipe which proves just how easy being Vegan really is!
Enjoy xx

First Foray Into Photography!

My_Kitchen-640X427

So my brand spanking new Canon DSLR camera arrived. I managed to unpack it from all the bubble wrap and plastic and assemble – it was a little daunting! Last Saturday I attended a 4 hr Intro To Using Your New DSLR  workshop. Well really it was barely dipping my toe into the wonderful world of photography! Sooo much to learn! I’ve been playing with the camera nearly everyday since – this is the first shot I’ve uploaded to the blog.

Think I’ve definitely found myself a new hobby! xx

Carrot Cake with Lovely Lemon Icing

Carrot Cake with Lemon Icing

Confession:

I have somehow made it to this point in my life without ever making a carrot cake! True! Not sure how that could be as its one of those standard fall back cakes – but there you have it!

So when the email went round the office requesting that we all bring a plate for a colleagues baby shower I decided that now was the time to take on a carrot cake – then I could share it with my work mates.

Well it went down a treat – no one said anything about it being a vegan cake – which everyone knew and it was completely woofed down!

I decided not to go with a more traditional cream cheese icing and instead a much lighter lemon icing… but your choice!

Here is is – inspired from 500 Vegan Dishes by Deborah Gray – it is moist and yummy!

125 g plain flour
125 g wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarb
4 tablespoons cornflour
250 g brown sugar
125 g castor sugar
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
Flax egg mix for 2 eggs = 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal and 6 tablespoons water – set aside
4 tablespoons orange juice
200 ml sunflower oil
250 ml soy milk
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
350 g granted carrots
75 g sultanas
50 g chopped walnuts

Lovely Light Lemon Icing

1 cup icing sugar
1 tablespoon vegan margarine
Juice of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 180° C (350°F/Gas mark 4). Grease a 23×33 cm (9×12 in) cake tin and line the base with greaseproof paper. Sift the flours, cornflour, bicarb, baking powder, sugars and cinnamon in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl mix the flax seed egg mix with 2 tablespoons orange juice and lightly whisk until combined. Then pour into the dry ingredients with remaining orange juice, sunflower oil, soy milk and cider vinegar. Mix together until all dry ingredients are moistened.

Next stir in the grated carrot, sultanas and nuts until just combined and pour the cake mixture into your prepared tin.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the cake feels firm to touch and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake.

Cool for approximately 20 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Carrot Cake with Lemon Icing

To Make the Icing:

Really easy peasy! Just mix the vegan margarine and lemon juice into the icing sugar – I used the juice of a whole lemon – add more or less juice depending on the consistency you wish.

Enjoy with a cuppa! Xx

Carrot Cake with Lemon Icing

Woofed down!

Asparagus and Mushroom Risotto

Asparagus & Mushroom Risotto

Ah Risotto!

One of my all time favourite dishes and with so many ways to make it – you can really let your imagination go with taste and texture combinations.

Risotto is really easy to cook but it does require focus as you stir continuously – I find it relaxing BUT it’s important to have everything ready – it’s difficult trying to grab ingredients while stationing the risotto!

This particular recipe is the result of combining two – one from my old days as a meat eater (the wine component) and my new improved Vegan days!

The Vegan cookbook I’ve used as inspiration is the first Vegan cook book I bought – ‘Now Vegan’ by Lynda Stoner. Lynda is a passionate animal welfare advocate in Australia. She was at the forefront of the animal welfare movement here – I still remember seeing her on TV in the 80’s speaking about what was occurring with baby harp seals in Canada. She is an inspiration.

Risotto

What you will need:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon vegan margarine (more if you like depending on how creamy you want your risotto)

4 cups of vegetable stock

1 cup of dry white wine (you can exchange this for a cup of veggie stock if you wish)

4 spring onions (or 2 leeks)

2 cups of Arborio rice

1 bunch of asparagus, washed with ends discarded and chopped

2 cups of mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

Vegan parmesan cheese (see note)

Cracked black pepper

What to do:

Place the stock and wine in a saucepan and heat to a slow simmer. Place oil and vegan margarine in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add spring onions and cook for a couple of minutes until soft and golden. Add mushrooms to the pan and lightly cook for another minute or so. Remove spring onions and mushrooms from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add a little more olive oil if needed and add the rice. – Stir until coated with oil and rice is translucent.

Add the stock 1 cup at a time – I find using a soup ladle works to ferry it from pan to pan – until absorbed. Stir continuously. This is really important as it directly affects just how creamy your risotto is. As you add the last cup of stock add the asparagus. Then just before the last of the stock is absorbed add the spring onions and mushrooms to the risotto.

To serve, place the risotto on a plate and top with some cracked black pepper and sprinkle (liberally!) with vegan parmesan cheese.

Serves 4

Enjoy xx

Note:

Vegan Parmesan cheese

½ cup ground almonds
½ cup nutritional yeast (nooch or hippy dust)!
(Salt) The recipe I came across listed salt as in ingredient but I found I didn’t need it so add to taste.

Mix together and keep in a jar in the fridge to be used often!

Asparagus & Mushroom Risotto