Thursday, 24 July 2014

PB&J Ice Cream

What do you think of unusual ice-cream flavours? In my pre-vegan days, I used to always be tempted by the various flavours on offer, annoy the shop assistant by agonising over the decision, and in the end always choose the same flavour: mint choc-chip.

I never regretted it, either, even if I enjoyed the other flavours whilst sampling them - for me, mint choc-chip will always be the absolute best flavour of ice-cream. Since going vegan, however, the variety of shop-bought ice cream has become more limited, and stalls selling actual vegan ice-cream (as opposed to sorbet) tend to veer on the side of weird and wacky flavours. I've yet to go to the famous Boho Gelato in Brighton, but by the sounds of it they put everything in their ice-cream from chilli to dragonfruit. Odds are I wouldn't find any mint choc-chip there.

And if you're making ice-cream yourself, of course, there's absolutely no restriction as to the potential flavours on offer. I decided to take the ever-popular sandwich and whizz it into ice-cream. I think its delicious this way - my tester was at first unsure, but then eagerly finished her scoop and demanded more.

This flavour is definitely unusual, but if you like PB in everything, or are braver with ice-cream flavours than I used to be, give this one a shot!

PB&J Ice-Cream

by Shonalika Tilak
Ingredients (Serves 2)
  • 1 ½ frozen bananas
  • 1-2 tbsp peanut butter
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup frozen grapes
  • 1 tbsp avocado (This is to make it creamier and can be omitted if desired)
  • Non-dairy milk, just enough to blend (I used coconut)
  • Pinch salt
1. Combine 1 banana, peanut butter, and optional vanilla extract in a blender and blend until smooth, adding milk as required. Sweeten to taste. Set aside.
2. Combine the remaining banana, frozen grapes, avocado, and salt and blend until smooth, adding milk as required. Sweeten to taste.
3. Add one layer to another and gently fold them into each other, just enough so that they mix, but each flavour remains distinct. Serve immediately, or freeze for around an hour for a firmer texture.
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Friday, 11 July 2014

Coconut Asparagus

Have you been to Tiger? I love that place. Its so full of brightly coloured cheap pointless things. Last time I was there I found a doorstop shaped like a splatter. I would have brought it home if we didn't already have perfectly suitable wooden cat and plush pig doorstops already.

Its also very random in terms of content. I found a shelf full of herbs, spices and seasonings flanked by multicoloured candles and printed napkins on one side, and glowing pink plastic rabbits on the other. Well, they're well-priced and the Tzatziki seasoning looked interesting (as well as slightly more practical.)

I used it to make this delicious, simple side dish - the coconut is what really shines here though, don't skimp on it! As for the Tzatziki mix, I'd imagine any would work, but if you don't have it, the ingredient list looked pretty simple: Mostly powdered garlic and salt, with sugar, lemon, dill and black pepper mixed in. Just use a bit of each of these and you're good to go:)

Coconut Asparagus

by Shonalika Tilak
Cook Time: 15-20 mins
Ingredients (Serves 3-4 as a side)
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 chili
  • 3 cloves garlic (Optional, I threw these in more to compliment the dishes I was pairing the asparagus with than as a compliment to the asparagus itself)
  • 1 tbsp Tzatziki Seasoning (See last paragraph above.)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Dried dessicated coconut
1. Wash asparagus and chop off woody ends. Cut in half. (If you want to reduce stove-top cooking time, you can steam the asparagus for 5 mins in the microwave.)
2. Using a knife, cut a slit into each garlic clove, if using. Chop chilli.
3. Heat oil in pan. Add veg, Tzatziki mix, and saute until cooked to the level of softness you like.
4. Turn off the heat, add lemon juice and lots of coconut. Adjust spices/ seasonings to taste, and serve.
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Friday, 4 July 2014

Sweet Potato Mash

I've probably not mentioned this on the blog yet, but I have quite severe tendonitis. As a guitarist that's a bit of a nightmare - I have to carefully limit my practice time, especially when learning new complicated or fast picking patterns. Failure to do so results with me going around with an ice pack strapped to my arm feeling sorry for myself, almost unable to use the injured limb at all.

To allow my arm to rest and recover, I've been favouring lazy cooking, but not compromising on flavour. I've been making a lot of toasties, smoothies, and roasted vegetables. The oven is the best friend of the injured, as is the hand blender.

Today I bring you a recipe utilising both - this sweet potato mash is the easiest and the best I've ever had. I normally hesitate to call anything the "best," but honestly, this really is - creamy, filling, and with a perfect mix of savoury-sweet flavour, it'll go happily with basically anything else you're eating. I love it with veggie burgers or sausages and paired with other roasted veg.

My testers all loved it, with one describing it as "almost dessert-like," - and indeed, with a little tweaking, I think this would make a fantastic base for a pudding too!

Sweet Potato Mash

by Shonalika Tilak
Cook Time: 40 mins
Ingredients (Serves 3 as a side)
  • 3 small sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup milk (I used unsweetened soya)
  • 2 tbsp butter-type spread
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Pre-heat oven to 200C. Poke holes in the potatoes with a fork and roast in the oven for about half an hour, until soft.
2. Peel potatoes and combine with other ingredients in a blender. Adjust seasonings to taste, and enjoy!
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What's your favourite"lazy" meal?

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Review: ReadingLasses Wigtown

First off, sorry for the big fat lack of recipes last week! I've been so busy!

Last weekend, in order to see and stay with a friend of my mothers, and to meet a long-lost friend who looked after me as a 2-year old, we went on a road trip to the remote countryside surrounding Dumfries. We arrived, starving, and rushed into Wigtown for lunch. 

To no-one's surprise, the only vegan item on the menu was watery tomato soup and bread. I bolted it down, far too hungry to care about the lack of taste. My sister could only bring herself to eat the bread. 

Out host then left to walk her dog, leaving us to explore "Scotland's Book Town," a title which would have delighted and intrigued me had I not been busy lamenting the pitiful lunch. Wandering aimlessly into one old dog-eared bookshop after another, I figured I should have brought more snacks than I did. After all, being vegan in Edinburgh can be an issue, so I was hardly likely to get by easily in a tiny rural town in the middle of nowhere.

We were gobsmacked to find this place.

ReadingLasses is a bookshop/cafe in a tiny rural town in the middle of nowhere that specializes in catering to individual diets such as vegan or gluten-free. A godsend? I think so. 

We felt at home at once - the cafe was modern yet quaint, cosy, quiet (until we came in, that is) with friendly, highly attentive staff. The layout was wonderfully old-fashioned and higgledy-piggledy, with the serving area and till smack in the centre of the shop, and several hidden rooms filled with books, tables, or both to be found if you ventured past the cafe's kitchen. It was like a rabbit hole in the mind of Beatrix Potter.  Nikita wandered off to find the toilet and came rushing back in a fit of the giggles, having apparently walked into what appeared to be someone's bedroom. (I found out later that the building boasts a small self-catering type accommodation upstairs, which explains this particular oddity.) 

We supplemented our lunch with the best tofu salad I've ever eaten, and on Nikita's part, at least 2 or 3 Empire biscuits, the local speciality, made vegan with Pure spread. 

Sated after a happy hour of delicious food, browsing books and drinking coffee, we arranged to meet my old nanny there the next day, when it finally occurred to me that this unexpected find was absolutely worth blogging about.

Nikita went for the full-course version of the salad I'd had the previous day, whilst I dithered between a hummus toastie with salad, and a bean chilli. Eventually I went for the chilli.

I should have gone for the toastie (though since Nikita and I ate what we wanted then swapped dishes, it worked out perfectly.) This wasn't bad as a meal, just not a great choice for me personally. The veganized version simply omitted the cheese and cream in the original, and whilst this chilli was perfectly good, well-balanced with just the right amount of spice, it would have benefitted from some vegan replacement for the cheese, such crushed roasted almonds and/or seeds. I wasn't keen on the grilled bread, probably just because I'm not much of a bread person (my mum loved it, and it was nice that it was served hot) or the nachos, which were a bit bland (but my mum and sister seemed to like those also.)

The dish I had the previous day, however, was flawless, and Nikita's full-course version was even better:

The only difference between my salad and hers was the omission of the coleslaw (which had been delicious) and the addition of bread, peppers and onions, and the two condiments, the chilli jam and olives respectively. 

The tofu is hands-down the best I've ever tasted - and tofu can be very hit-and-miss. If done badly, its awful, and its easy to do it badly. Not so here. This grilled tofu is salty, full of texture and bursting with flavour. The salad is fresh (the actual content locally sourced and varying dependent on what's available) and dead simple - no dressings or seasonings whatsoever (we were given vinegar and olive oil on the side) which I love. There's nothing worse than being presented with a salad coated in more oil than a drowning seabird. 

I also loved that all the condiments (which, like the salad itself, vary depending on what's available) were served separately, so you could help yourself to as little or as much as you wished (or none at all, in my fusspot sister's case.) They were all delicious, unique little pots of yum. 

We had a fantastic time meeting my nanny and her clan. As there were seven of us in total, we were seated separately in a room that was still very much part of the bookshop, which meant that every now and then a customer would come in, give us a funny look and attempt to browse discreetly while we nattered away. This just added to the quirkiness of the whole experience. We came away with the chilli jam pictured above, a spicy tomato pickle, and several books - for me, the a small collection of Roald Dahl shorts. I thought I'd read them all, but I didn't even know this particular book existed:D 

I almost forgot the desserts! Sadly I didn't photograph any of them, but there were a fair number of vegan options, the two I tried being an absolutely delicious almond sponge that almost had the texture of marzipan, and a chocolate-banana cake, which could have been more chocoate-y, but was decent. Nikita on the other hand ate nothing but Empire biscuits and clearly adored them.

Overall I cannot praise ReadingLasses enough. It has everything you could possibly want in a cafe - wonderful staff, locally sourced, great-tasting food, excellent catering to dietary requirements, and all the books you could ask for. Honestly, this cafe wouldn't be out of place in Brighton. Its a diamond-encrusted needle in (almost literally) a haystack. 

If you do happen to be passing through that area (its lovely, if you're into fields and mountains and that kind of thing) do make sure to pay this place a visit.