19 February 2015

Going Global! Moving Domain Names

Just a quick post to say that I'm in the process of making some changes to the blog including setting up a new domain name. Get ready to go global baby! That's right, I'm finally moving to a .com site so please bear with me as there might be a few kinks to iron out in the process. 

I'll also be doing a bit of a site update in the next month or so, and I'll keep you up to date on that. If you've got any comments about how I could improve the site from a readers perspective I'd love to hear your thoughts so drop me a comment.

Otherwise I will see you at

Yeah, the David Bowie pun is going to be here a while longer but as I said there will be some other 

Just Gonna Be A Different Layout

14 February 2015

Vegetarian Valentines Feast with Lemon, Ginger & Goats Cheese Cake

Happy Valentines Day! Have you received anything from your secret or not so secret Valentine yet? Don't worry if not I have a special Valentines gift for you in the form of a recipe for my Lemon, Ginger and Goats Cheese Cake served with Blueberry and Ginger Jam. It's scrumptious for one or two, although really it serves eight but who's counting? Not me!

I thought I'd also take this opportunity to do a round up of the entire vegetarian meal I put together for our Veggie Valentines Feast, including a Saucy Blue Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms with Walnuts and Lemon to start, a Hearty Beetroot Tarte Tatin for the main event, and a Lovely Lemon, Ginger and Goats Cheese Cake with Blueberry and Ginger Jam to finish. 

When faced with the concept of going vegetarian for February (for those wondering why on earth someone would go vegetarian for a month read on here), I was concerned I was really going to struggle to come up with entire meals. So setting myself a challenge of coming up with a fully vegetarian three course menu that my carnivorous Valentine could get on board with was an ambitious task. However, actually once I settled down and thought about it, it came really naturally and I loved it and so did the Meatosaurus I live with!

The recipe for the Lemon, Ginger and Goats Cheese Cake, isn't actually that different to your typical lemon sponge, but as I said in this post I picked up some goats cheese from Nut Knowle Farm's stand in Notting Hill's farmers market last weekend and really wanted to try the ginger soft goats cheese I got as part of a sweet recipe. It sounds strange but really it's no different to adding mascarpone to a cake except it's more delicious!

The goats cheese from Nut Knowle Farm uses vegetarian rennet making it fully suitable for our Vegetarian Valentines Feast. And although I used the ginger goats cheese in my recipe I've bulked up the ginger content of the recipe below if you can't get hold of any of this amazing cheese. Although I'd take a look at their list of markets because they frequent a lot of them and one might be local to you!

It's world renowned that berries go exceptionally well with goats cheese, and blueberries are no different. They're sharp tartness accompanies the goats cheese icing really well, with a healthy dose of ginger for good measure in the jam. If you have jam to use up from this recipe, consider making a bread and butter pudding and stirring this into the mix for a twist, stuffing it into mackerel before baking and serving with salad (I'm thinking about March here), or just spreading it on some buttered toast for a morning treat. 

This cake is light but full of flavour and should be shared with loved ones if possible*. 

*There may not be any cake left by the time your mum/friend/valentine arrives.

Lemon, Ginger & Goats Cheese Cake with Easy Blueberry Jam
(Serves 8)

For the Lemon, Ginger and Goats Cheese Cake
150g plain flour
150 caster sugar
150g butter
1 tsp baking powder
3 large eggs
50g soft goats cheese
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 tbsp lemon zest
2 tbsp lemon juice
4 stem ginger balls

For the Goats Cheese and Ginger Icing
50g soft goats cheese
2 heaped tbsp creme fraiche 
150 g icing sugar
2 stem ginger ball

For the Blueberry and Ginger Jam
200g blueberries
2 tbsp icing sugar
1 tbsp ginger syrup (from the stem ginger jar)

Step 1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease a loaf tin with vegetable oil before lining the bottom of the tin with baking paper. 

Step 2. Sieve all of the dry ingredients for the cake into a large mixing bowl. Finely chop the stem ginger and stir them through the mix with the lemon zest. Then add the butter and soft goats cheese and mix the ingredients together until it looks like bread crumbs. Then in a separate jug whisk together the eggs and add this slowly to the bread crumbs, whisking the mix as you go. 

Step 3. Pour the combined mix into the lined cake tin and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. While the cake is baking, you can make the jam. This might not be a true jam recipe but it tastes good! Dust the blueberries in the icing sugar and then cook them in a saucepan on a low to medium heat with the ginger syrup. Stir the berries together with a wooden spoon until they start to break down, then reduce the heat and leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Once it reaches a jam like consistency you can pour it into a sterilised jar. There's loads of different ways of sterilising, I personally have always just used boiling water from the kettle and haven't had any problems, but use whatever method you want.

Step 4. Once the cake is done, run a knife round the edge of the tin and turn it out, then leave it to cool for 20 minutes. While the cake is cooling, make the goats cheese and ginger icing. Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl and cream in the goats cheese and creme fraiche, adding more icing sugar if necessary. Then chop the stem ginger and stir it through the icing. 

Step 5. When the cakes cool, smear the icing over the top and serve with a blob of blueberry jam on the side for a tasty treat this Valentines. Did I mention ginger is an aphrodisiac? You're welcome.

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Who needs a partner
When there's a cake like this just for you?

Be Mine.

11 February 2015

Beetroot Tarte Tatin

Second course on the Valentines Day vegetarian menu is a Beetroot Tarte Tatin. Confession time, this was my first time ever making a tarte tatin, beetroot or otherwise. I'd always put it off because when you think of a tarte tatin, I immediately think of Classic French cooking which terrifies me because there's normally lots of steps involved. So when I saw Yotam Ottolenghi's simple Surprise Tarte Tatin recipe from his book Plenty I knew I had to try it! And with going vegetarian for Valentines Day, and the rest of February, it seemed like the perfect occasion to lose my tarte tatin virginity.

This recipe is an adaptation of Ottolenghi's tatin, substituting potatoes, tomatoes and onions for beetroots and blue goats cheese. Roast beetroot is nothing like the pickled version that lives in the salad section of your supermarket. It's sweet with an incredible earthy flavour that you can only get from beetroot. As it's such a strong flavour, beetroot can stand up to a lot of other flavours, be it mustard, horseradish or a strong blue cheese. I decided to pair the beetroot with a soft and creamy 'blue' goats cheese. It's such a wonderful dish and served up in a heart shaped tin it makes for a pretty loved up centrepiece to serve this Valentines.

The cheese I used isn't a real blue cheese but it's as close as you can get to blue without making it in a separate room to other non-blue cheeses - not a blue cheese law expert but this is what I've heard makes a blue cheese officially blue! Nut Knowle Farm are the producers behind this cheese, they make a wide range of cheeses including a couple of new 'blue' cheeses which are absolutely delicious, and the best news is they are all made with vegetarian rennet so everyone can enjoy them. 
Except vegans. Sorry. 

I've raved about Nut Knowle Farm before (in this post about Brook Green Wild Food Market) and this won't be the last time I do it. Apart from our green grocers they are the only producer which I have complete loyalty to. They're goats cheeses are the best I've ever had and they go well in so many different meals, like this Lemon Pepper Goats Cheese Salad with Maple Pecans. And if you think all goats cheese taste the same, or you don't really like goats cheese, get down to one of their markets are try some. Honestly I have had two goats cheese haters convert to lovers when faced with a plate of Nut Knowle Farm's finest. I like to think it's my cooking but I think we all know who the true star is. 

Of course if you can't get hold of Nut Knowle Farm's cheese or any blue goats cheese you could use any goats cheese but it might be better to forget the goat and go for a strong creamy blue instead.

Beetroot Tarte Tatin
(Serves 4-6)

250g puff pastry
3 large beetroots
80g sugar
20g butter
1 1/2 tsp chopped rosemary or dried
100g blue or ash coated goats cheese
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to season

Step 1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Peel the beets and slice them into 1cm thick rounds. Roast the beetroot in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil, the rosemary, and salt and pepper for 20 minutes. Line a baking tin with baking paper.

Step 2. While the beetroot is roasting, roll out the puff pastry to 0.5cm thick and cut it to the shape of your baking tin. Cut the goats cheese into rounds and set aside. I used 'blue' goats cheese as it has a stronger flavour but you can use whatever soft goats cheese you can get a hold of. 

Step 3. To make the caramel, which will stick the beetroot to the puff pastry, heat the butter and sugar on a high heat stirring with a wooden spoon until the caramel is golden brown. 

Step 4. Pour the caramel into the lined tin and tilt so it covers the entire base of the tin. Lay the roasted beetroot in the caramel so the rounds overlap, then dot the beetroot with the goats cheese before laying the puff pastry on top. Press the puff pastry into the beetroot and then bake the tart in the oven for 35 minutes.

Step 5. Once done, remove the tarte tatin from the oven and flip it onto a plate. Serve the tart with lots of salad and a horseradish dressing (3 parts yoghurt, 1 part lemon juice, 1 part horseradish, and salt and pepper) for a balanced Valentines Day main. 

Be Mine.

10 February 2015

Stuffed Mushrooms for your Veggie Valentine

I thought I was being really smart picking February as the month to go vegetarian, more on that here, but then the realisation hit me last weekend. Valentines Day is less than a week away. Not that I've ever been a huge celebrator of Valentines Day in a romantic sense. For me, my family have always celebrated Valentines Day together with heart-shaped toast for breakfast, lots of pink and red treats, and homemade  cards for my mum. Since moving away from home, my clan can't always get together for Valentines Day, which we combat by posting a card and bunch of flowers to my mum. However, I still try to keep the tradition of  having a big celebratory meal at home, with upgraded heart-shaped foods (sorry toast!).

So this year when faced with the prospect of a vegetarian Valentine feast, I whole heartedly threw myself into trying to put together a menu that my Carnivorous Valentine would enjoy. 

I know a lot of vegetarians that don't like mushrooms. I know a lot of meat eaters don't like mushrooms. But I don't know anyone that doesn't like cheese (please don't be the first!). And cheese smothered mushrooms, correction, blue cheese smothered mushrooms are the starter to everyone's hearts this Valentines Day. 

Obviously when faced with blue cheese there are two immediate pairings which spring to mind, bacon, which is out, and walnuts. I love walnuts, an affair that was instilled by my grand-mère every time we visited her as children, and they add texture and a great nutty flavour to this dish. Mixed with lemon, parsley and crème fraîche, the cheese and walnuts lift this mushroom to great heights. And for those doubters, I can honestly say this is absolutely delicious and would make a stand out starter for your Valentines Day menu, but why stop there why not have it tomorrow for dinner with salad. This dish should not be constrained to romantic occasions alone, add it to your supper list for a week night treat!

I should say for those vegetarians out there, do not be alarmed by my inclusion of Saint Agur after last week's rennet rant (read that for a laugh, knowledge or a recipe for Spicy Stuffed Onion Squash here). It is made with vegetarian rennet. If you're not vegetarian you could use any soft blue to hand like Roquefort or Gorgonzola, but it just so happens Sant Agur is my favourite so I'd use it anyway.

Give this a whirl for a fresh take on the stuffed mushroom, we served it with a rocket, walnut and cranberry salad with a honey and mustard dressing.

Blue Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms with Walnuts and Lemon
(serves you and your Valentine..or just you)

4 flat mushrooms
75g walnuts
50g Saint Agur
2 tbsp crème fraîche
1 1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

Step 1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a tray with foil and place the mushrooms top down on the tray, drizzle with a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. If your mushrooms are quite large you might want to cut out the stalk and chop it up and mix it in with your stuffing. Put the mushrooms in the oven for 10-15 mins.

Step 2. Mix all of the remaining ingredients in a bowl and season to taste. Once the mushrooms are done, take them out and add a heaped tbsp of the stuffing mix to each mushroom. Then return the mushrooms to the oven for another 10 mins.

Step 3. Remove the mushrooms from the oven. You could serve with salad like me or with a hunk of good bread. It's up to you, if you want eat them straight from the tray in your pyjamas after a heavy Girls Day night out. I won't tell, I'm your not so secret Veggie Valentine. 

Be Mine.

6 February 2015

Onion Squash Stuffed with Spicy Black Rice

When I was thinking about going Vegetarian for February (read about that decision here), I was imagining cold Moroccan salads, fruit in every meal, pina coladas and getting caught in the rain. And almost as soon as we decided to follow through with going veggie, it snowed, and I've been rehashing the food we bought at the weekend into warmer non-salad substitutes.  

And I for one are happy this onion squash was around to save the day! Stuffed with black rice flavoured with tomatoes, harissa and paprika, and dressed with parsley merges my dreams of a Moroccan salad with a warm roasted platform of onion squash to shine on. 

Onion squash has a unique and rich flavour, making it a very delicious platform. Nutty with soft plump flesh you could roast it and just serve it with a knob of butter, black pepper and a generous shaving or two of Parmesan. However, that would signify a very quick end to Veggie February, as Parmesan can only be made with rennet (the enzyme used in cheese production) that is derived from calves stomachs. The good news though for any vegetarians is that 90% of the cheese made in the UK is made with vegetarian rennet, and there are calve-friendly Parmesan alternatives available. Hoorah!

In just a week, something that has really caught me is how many products you might assume would be suitable for vegetarians, such as some traditional cheeses, which have animal-derived products hidden within the ingredients label. Like most other lifestyle/food bloggers, I've always been a sucker for pretty packaging. And what I've found is that some companies might brand their products in a way to make them appeal to your inspirations of being healthy, green and eco-concious but actually these products aren't what they appear to the eye. 

Looking at the nutritional information is not just something vegetarians need to do. We all should look at what the sugar/salt/fat content is for the entire product and not just the 100ml/g it shows on the label. An example of hidden ingredients is the sugar content in yoghurt, some tubs of yoghurt, particularly 0% or low fat ones, can have the equivalent of more than six teaspoons of sugar in. Granted we won't all binge on a whole tub a day, but it's worth noting that a product being marketed as a healthy low fat option may actually contain more than what a woman's entire daily sugar intake should be. And a serving of low fat, high sugar yoghurt which some brands suggest plus other processed products will push you over the daily limit.

Maybe I should stick to the wise words of everyone who ever spoke about nutrition:

Everything in moderation...
Unless it's Onion Squash Stuffed with Spicy Black Rice. Then you should consider eating a whole one to yourself, depending on how cold it is.

Squash Stuffed with Spicy Black Rice
(serves 2)

1 small onion squash
150g black rice
150g cherry tomatoes
1 small red onion
2 large cloves of garlic
1 small glass of white wine
1/2 tsp paprika
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tbsps harissa
Small bunch of parsley roughly chopped
Salt to season
Olive oil

Step 1. Start prepping by preheating the oven to 180°C and putting a pan of salted water on to boil. Cut the onion squash in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds (you can put the seeds aside and roast them later with a drizzle of oil and season with salt and pepper to make a tasty salad topper). Place the squash on a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper. Roast the squash in the oven for 30 minutes.

Step 2. Once the water has come to the boil, add the rice to the pan. After 5 minutes, turn the heat down and let the pan simmer for 20 minutes. While the rice is cooking, finely dice the garlic, chop the red onion (I like to keep the onion slightly chunky in this dish to give the stuffing more texture) and cut the tomatoes in half. 

Step 3. In a hot pan, sweat the onions in a tbsp olive oil till translucent then add the garlic and fry for a minute till fragrant before adding the tomatoes and white wine. Leave to simmer till the wine has cooked off. Once the rice is done, drain it and add it to the pan then stir in the harissa, paprika, chopped parsley and remaining cayenne pepper, and season to taste. 

Step 4. Remove the Squash from the oven and stuff with the spicy rice, then return the squash to the oven for another 15-20 minutes. 

Step 5. Squash done, serve it with a green salad maybe topped with some toasted pumpkin seeds and a spoonful of greek yoghurt (not low fat of course). 

1 February 2015

Going Veggie for February

Sticking to New Year's Resolutions is something I have, and always will, struggle with. Whether it's a lack of dedication or because life just gets in the way is neither here nor there (although I'm hoping this year will be the year I finally kick myself into learning how to drive!). However, every year my boyfriend Dan and I give up alcohol for January. Saying that, the year 'Dry January' becomes a real qualified 'thing' was this January when we went to watch Liverpool play Leicester City on New Year's Day. As we'd never seen them play at home before and it was my first time watching LFC we decided to put Dry January on hold and make it into a pretty special event spending a few days exploring Liverpool (more on that coming soon!).

Unfortunately Dry January will be staying on hold till 2016 because we missed the whole month. To make up for a lack of detoxing and really because I wanted to, I suggested to Dan we go vegetarian for February. Like me, Dan is an avid omnivore, so I was surprised when he keenly said yes. Even more surprised when he didn't say but can we eat fish, which is pretty much what everyone I've told has said to me. So that was the challenge I set us to eat a vegetarian diet for February. 

Over the last week leading up to the 1st of Feb I've had some pretty big doubts about this agreement (we shook hands on it and everything, there's a contract in 'blood' (almond milk) lying around somewhere!). Amongst worries about will I get enough protein/iron/vitamin B etc. and will I get alopecia like my uncle/housemate/friends, there's also been the main one: why am I doing this, I love meat! So I think about all the answers to these questions: you will get enough of everything (did you know you only need 10-15% of your daily intake to be made up of protein?); they were all vegan and it's not going to happen in a month; and you do love meat but you're doing it to:

- Be more healthy;
- Save money to put towards trips on our supercalifragiReyjavik trip to Iceland;
- Find new vegetarian recipes to add to our collection of go to's (we already eat veggie 3 days a week but we do tend to get stuck on our faves like Roast Butternut Squash and Beetroot Salad and Minted Asparagus Courgette Tart);
- Work through all the fabulous vegetarian cook books I have particularly the brand spanking new Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi.

And truth be told, thinking about those points (and having been grocery shopping and come back with three reusable bags worth of green goodies) has made me push those doubting thoughts away. I've already got a list of more vegetarian recipes than I can make in a month and I'm really excited by the idea of cooking my way through them and also buying new produce I've never tried before.

If anyone has any vegetarian recipes they think are amazing please share them with me, no vegetable will be excluded! And if anyone has any tips to healthy vegetarian dieting that doesn't purely consist of cheese boards let me know.