Plum sauce

I was visiting my mum and step dad last week, and in their gorgeous garden they have a beautiful big plum tree, which is absolutely laden with fruit at this time of year. So I came away with a nice big bag full!

I wanted to use some of the fruit to make a sauce, and an obvious choice is Chinese style plum sauce. However most of the recipes I’ve seen involve onions and garlic, and I was keen to come up with one that didn’t use them.

So I’ve used celery as a base, and a little pinch of asafoetida along with the more traditional plum sauce spices, just to add that savoury edge that onions would’ve done. If I’d had any, fresh fennel would’ve made a great addition too!

The sauce is delicious, and such a lovely colour! I used some in a dressing for a rather unusual salad, I’ll be posting the recipe for that tomorrow.

Homemade plum sauce

Homemade plum sauce

serves 4 -6

10 plums, roughly chopped

2 sticks celery, finely diced

1 tsp oil

1 star anise

1 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped

a small pinch of asafoetida

1/2 inch piece of cassia bark

10 cm x 10 cm piece of nori, torn into little pieces

4 tbsp tamari

2 Indonesian long peppercorns (or 4 regular)

1/2 tsp molasses

Heat the oil in a small saucepan on a medium heat. Saute the celery for around 6 minutes, stirring often, until softened and starting to brown. Add all of the other ingredients to the pan, and bring to a simmer.

Cook for 15 minutes, stirring often to ensure it doesn’t catch. The sauce should be thickened and glossy. It will probably taste a little tart at this point, don’t worry, the flavour will mellow.

Leave to cool and then pass through a sieve, so that you end up with a lovely smooth sauce.

By E.


Millet and soy flour burgers

I’ve been hankering after something like the cheap soya burgers that are sold in supermarkets recently, as they all tend to be made with either wheat, eggs, or both they aren’t an option any more.

fresh from the oven

After a few attempts I’ve come up with a recipe I’m really happy with, and it can be pretty quick to put together, the only bit needing any preparation time is cooking the millet.

I make it much like a seitan dough, and it does have quite a few similarities but with none of those nasty glutens!

They are also packed with protein and freeze really well, woo!

Makes 8 burgers

Dry ingredients

50g soya flour

25g pea protein

2 tsp xanthan gum

4 tbsp tapioca flour

2 tbsp nutritional yeast

3 tsp dried sage

1 tsp dried marjoram

1 tsp dried basil

Half tsp white pepper

Wet ingredients

3 tbsp oil

2 tsp tamari

1 tsp liquid smoke

1 tbsp sun dried tomato paste

80ml hot water

150g cooked millet (dried millet should roughly quadruple in weight after cooking)
In a large bowl mix together all the dry ingredients thoroughly.

dry ingredients

In a jug add the wet ingredients and the 100ml of millet cooking water, then mix the cooked millet into the liquid.

wet ingredients

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well, it’ll make a slightly sticky dough.
Turn the oven on and let it pre heat to 180 centigrade fan. This gives the dough time to fully absorb the liquid and be a lot less sticky when you come back to it.

the dough after its sat for 10 minutes

I weighed out the dough into 50g pieces and used a burger press to make 8 burgers, just squashing them out by hand will work just as well though!

ready to go into the oven

Place an oven safe bowl with 300ml of boiling water into the lowest shelf of the oven, be careful not to scold yourself!
Put the burgers on a lined baking sheet and then cover the sheet very loosely with foil, this will stop the burgers drying out too much, combined with the steam we are creating in the oven it gives a lovely texture.
Bake for 20 minutes then either eat straight away or allow to cool before storing in the fridge or freezer for use later.

bwah ha haa!!

By A


Kale salad with pine nuts and yoghurt and mint dressing

This was a super quick recipe but really tasty so it seemed blog worthy. Rather than doing my usual and munching through piles of uncooked kale I’ve steamed it this time, but it would work as well raw.

ready to eat

The flavours work together very nicely with the tang of lemon and yogurt, the slight bitterness of kale, the freshness of the mint and the creaminess of the pine nuts.

I also pressed the salad into use, without the pine nuts, as a burger topping …

this was a very good burger!

Serves 2


150g of kale shredded into chewable chunks

100ml soya yoghurt

2 tbsp lemon juice

3g fresh mint leaves (about 1 heaped tablespoon) chopped fine

25g pine nuts

Salt to taste

Start by steaming the kale, I used a colander over a pan of boiling water, and steamed it for 10 minutes till the kale has darkened in colour and the leaves have softened a bit.

Whilst it’s steaming, in a dry frying pan toast the pine nuts until the are a light golden brown. They only take a couple of minutes so do keep an eye on them!

Add the lemon juice to the yoghurt, with a pinch of salt if using, and mix well. Then add the finely chopped mint and mix again. Set to one side for a few minutes.

the dressing

When the kale is cooked shake to get off the excess water and put in a large bowl, stir through the the yoghurt mixture while the kale is still slightly warm and mix in most of the pine nuts retaking a few to scatter over the top prettily at the end

the salad again

By A


Avocado, tarragon and black bean quesadillas

It’s the tarragon that really makes these quesadillas! To be honest, I only put some because I had it left over from the spaghetti squash recipe the other day… But it turns out it goes beautifully with avocado and really lifts the other flavours too!

The avocado mixture would also make a great dip, and I can see it working well as a baked potato topping.

The vegan cheese in the quesadillas is optional, but it does help them to stick together.

Avocado, tarragon and black bean quesadilla

Avocado, tarragon and black bean quesadilla

makes 5 quesadillas

for the avocado, tarragon and black beans

1 400 g tin of black beans, drained

1 165 g tin of sweetcorn, drained

1 avocado

3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon

juice of half a lemon

salt and pepper

for the quesadillas

1 large red chilli, thinly sliced

10 cherry tomatoes, sliced

10 corn tortillas, I used the blue corn variety

1 – 2 tbsp oil

75 g grated vegan cheese, optional (I used violife which melts nicely and helped the quesadillas stick together)

Put the black beans and sweetcorn in a large bowl along with the coriander and tarragon. Halve the avocado, remove the pit, and squeeze the flesh from the skins into the bowl. Mix together with a fork, mashing slightly as you go. Stir through the lemon juice and seasoning.

For each quesadilla, spread 1/5 of the avocado mixture onto a tortilla and then arrange 2 tomatoes, a few slices of chilli and a sprinkle of vegan cheese on top, and then a second tortilla.

Heat a little oil in a frying pan on a medium heat. Carefully transfer the quesadilla to the pan and cook for 4-5 minutes until crisp on the bottom. Spread a little oil on the top of the quesadilla and then flip it over. Cook for a further 4-5 minutes.

By E.


Spaghetti squash with tomatoes, peas and corn

Years and years ago I was given a spaghetti squash, I think because the original recipient had no idea what to do with it… The internet was not so readily available back then (gosh that makes me feel old!), and as I had no idea what to do with it either, I of course, made soup.

It’s a soup I still remember now, as one of my all time favourites! I had so few ingredients but the flavours have stayed with me, It was simply the squash, onion, peas, vegetable stock and dried herbs.

I’ve always assumed I’d try to recreate it some day, but do you know, I don’t think I will, I would hate to be disappointed!

So when I saw spaghetti squash in the greengrocers this week I had to buy one, with the intention this time of making a salad. I had to add peas of course, and with roasted corn, lemon tarragon dressing and some immensely pretty local tomatoes it made a bright, fresh salad for the first day of autumn.

Spaghetti squash, tomato, corn and pea salad - served in the squash shell!

Spaghetti squash, tomato, corn and pea salad – served in the squash shell!

serves 2

1 spaghetti squash, around 1 kg

200 – 300 ml hot water

12 cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

2 small ears of corn, cleaned

70 g frozen peas, defrosted

juice of 1 lemon

zest of 1/4 of a lemon

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp fresh chopped tarragon

salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees c.

To cook the spaghetti squash, first cut it in half and scoop out the seeds. Lay the squash pieces skin side down in a roasting tin and add 200 ml of hot water. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 30 until the squash is tender, adding a splash more water to the pan every half hour or so. Use a fork to pull the strands of squash from the skin and set it aside in a large bowl. When the squash is in the oven mix the lemon juice, zest, olive oil, and salt and pepper together well.

Put the corn cobs in a small roasting tin and tip half of the dressing over the top. Roll the corn in the dressing and then roast for 30 minutes until tender and browned in places.

Cool the corn a little and then strip the kernels from the cob. Add the corn, peas and tomatoes to the spaghetti squash, and toss with the rest of the dressing and the tarragon.

By E.


Lentil and couscous salad with carrot spirals and mint

Carrot spirals are so pretty! I was rummaging through the fridge this morning, looking for something to make into a salad for work lunches, and although I have a lot of carrots, I wasn’t finding them particularly inspiring… They do however, go very nicely with beetroot, celery and mint so the basis of a delicious salad was there.

And then I remembered that Alex has a spiraliser! So I hot-footed it over to his house clutching my carrots and borrowed it. And combined with a base of gluten free couscous and green lentils, the resulting carrot spirals and other vegetables have made a very appealing dish!

Lentil and couscous salad with carrot spirals and mint

Lentil and couscous salad with carrot spirals and mint

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Leek and potato cakes

This week for sandwich Friday I thought it would be fun to try something a little different than gluten free bread to hold the fillings.

Potato cakes are a favourite round here, you can buy them from bakeries, and we used to eat them as a lovely treat, usually as part of a cooked breakfast.

But they tend to be made with wheat flour of course!

So here I’ve made a gluten free version, dry fried to get that lovely crust, and with leeks for added flavour.

I filled them with tomatoes, and slices of a hazelnut cheese that Alex has been working on recently. Delicious!

Leek and potato cake sandwich!

Leek and potato cake sandwich!

makes around 10

2 largish potatoes, in large chunks (skin left on)

1 large leek, chopped

50 ml soy milk

salt and white pepper, plenty

4 tbsp rice flour, plus extra for dusting the board

1 tbsp tapioca flour

1/2 tsp xanthan gum

Cook the potatoes until soft in boiling salted water, around 10 minutes. While the potatoes are cooking, microwave steam the leeks with a little water until soft. Mine took 6 minutes, stirring after each burst of 2 minutes.

Drain the potatoes and leeks and mash together with the soy milk and salt and pepper. Leave to cool, and refrigerate for at least half an hour to let the mash firm up.

Mix together the rice flour, tapioca flour and xanthan gum, and then mix it vigorously into the mash. The mixture will be fairly soft.

Dust a chopping board with rice flour, take a golf ball sized piece of mash and roll it around to coat. Pat the mash out into a round. Heat a frying pan on a medium flame and cook the potato cake for around 4-5 minutes per side until set and browned. The potato cakes will start to puff up when they are cooked through.

Part way through the potato cake process

Part way through the potato cake process

Repeat the process for all the potato cakes. If you have a good large frying pan, cook a couple at a time!

Cool on a wire rack.

Leek and potato cakes!

Leek and potato cakes!

By E.


Cream of vegetable soup

I made this last weekend when still suffering from a nasty cold, it’s nutritious and simple and was just what I needed!

The flavours are traditional, and no vegetable should dominate the soup. When everything is neatly diced, and added at the right times, the flavours meld together beautifully. I kept the seasonings light, just a little dried herb and salt and pepper, it really didn’t need anything else.

I ate a good big bowlful as soon as it was ready, and felt better right away.

Vegan cream of vegetable soup

Vegan cream of vegetable soup

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Vegan ‘oyster’ sauce and a roasted cauliflower recipe

Commercially made vegetarian oyster sauce is one of the condiments that I always like to have in the fridge. It’s another way of adding the oh so important umami to recipes!

I tend to use it in noodle soups, or to add to dressings, it isn’t so easy to buy around these parts though! And as I used the last of my current bottle last week, it was definitely time to try making it.

There are a lots of recipes around on the internet, but none of those that I looked at seemed like they would have the balance of flavours I was looking for. For me, the sauce needs to have a sweetness to balance the umami of the mushrooms and nori that make up the main flavour profile. So the base of my recipe is a caramel, taken to a dark red-brown, which adds the sweetness I was looking for along with a beautiful flavour just verging on bitter. Also, I want the sauce to be a condiment rather than a finished sauce, so the flavours I’ve put into it are simple, and just waiting for ginger, spices, and more to be added! To be honest though, I’d use it just as it is as a dip it’s so yummy…

The first recipe I’ve made with it is a gorgeous roast cauliflower, with Chinese five spice and the aforementioned ginger, I’ll be serving it with vegetable fried rice.

Cauliflower roasted with vegan oyster sauce and Chinese flavours

Cauliflower roasted with vegan oyster sauce and Chinese flavours

for the vegan ‘oyster’ sauce

makes around 350 ml

2 tbsp caster sugar

9 dried shiitake mushrooms

approx. 400 ml hot water

20 x 10 cm piece of nori, torn up

2 -3 tbsp tamari

1/2 tbsp vinegar

2 tsp cornflour, slaked with a little water

Put the shiitakes in a small bowl and soak in 200 ml of the water for 20 minutes. Squeeze the mushrooms out a little and then chop them in half. Pour the mushroom soaking water into a measuring jug, leaving the grit at the bottom behind. Make the liquid up to 300 ml with hot water.

Caramelise the sugar in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Don’t stir the sugar, but swirl it around as it starts to brown. It needs to get to a rich dark red-brown.

As soon as the caramel colour is right, tip the liquid in to the pan, it will bubble furiously for a few seconds. Stir well to make sure all the caramel is mixed into the liquid. Add the mushrooms, nori, tamari and vinegar to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and blend, I used a hand blender, which doesn’t get it completely smooth, but pretty much there.

Shiitakes and nori simmering

Shiitakes and nori simmering

Add the cornflour with the pan back on the heat, mixing as you do so, and cook for 2 minutes stirring all the time until lovely and thick.

It should keep for 3 days or so in the fridge, I’m planning to freeze tablespoons of the sauce, to use straight from the freezer.

for the roasted cauliflower

serves 2

1/3 of a large cauliflower, cut into florets

50 ml water

2 tbsp vegan oyster sauce

1/4 tsp five spice powder

2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated

1 tsp oil

1 tsp tamari

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees c.

Steam the cauliflower in the microwave for 2 minutes.

Add the vegan oyster sauce, five spice powder, ginger and oil to the cauliflower (and the water it steamed in) and mix well. Tip into a roasting tin and cook in the oven for 20 minutes, mixing halfway through.

Dress the cauliflower with the tamari and coriander.

By E.


Double kale soup!

What’s better than Kale? Well I know some people would say no kale, but I’m quite a fan and am going for double kale!

double kale soup!

It’s not quite as silly as it sounds as this really quick and easy soup makes use of kale in two very different ways, firstly as the main ingredient in the soup itself which is full of mouthwatering lemon and basil, and as a crispy topping to the soup where it’s flavoured to be smoky, dark and slightly sweet. It’s a great flavour combination and the whole shebang only takes 15 minutes from start to eat.

Serves 1

So what do we need:

For the soup

50g kale roughly chopped

30g potato chopped up

10g fresh basil, torn up

1 tbsp lemon juice

400ml water

Splash of tamari or pinch of salt

For the crispy kale topping

50g kale roughly chopped

1tsp smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1tbsp oil (I’m using olive)

1tbsp balsamic vinegar

Splash of tamari or pinch salt

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade fan

Put all the ingredients for the soup in a pan, except the basil, and bring to a low simmer, until the potato is cooked, about 10 minutes.

Whilst the soup is cooking, in a large bowl toss together all the ingredients for the crispy kale making sure everything is well coated, place on a baking tray and pop in the oven, it only takes about 5 minutes to crisp up and start developing a lovely char taste, so please keep an eye on it, the smell of burnt kale is not pleasant!

all crisped up and starting to char on the edges

When the soup is cooked turn off the heat, add the basil, stir through until wilted then using a stick blender blitz until smooth.

Pop the soup in a bowl and top with a generous amount of the crispy kale.

By A