A Vegan Dinner Party with La Belle Assiette

La Belle Assiettte - Involtini di Melanzane

Hello hello! Long time no speak. So it turns out that the “real world” of a full-time job doesn’t leave me nearly so much time to blog as my former student life did….But I’ve really missed this little space and the lovely blogging community so I’ve decided I will just have to find the time for Coconut and Berries. I hope you’ll have me back after so long away….We’ve got a lot of catching up to do!

menu

A few weeks ago (I said I was behind!) I was invited to a vegan dinner party with La Belle Assiette!

Hosting a dinner party is a lot of fun but it can often mean you spend most of the evening in the kitchen and not all that much time enjoying your guests’ company. Eating out is obviously one solution but it’s not really the same as being in your own home, and, especially if you follow a “special diet”,  it can mean that you end up paying a lot for a fairly unexciting meal.

The concept of La Belle Assiette is “eating-out-at-home”. Chefs purchase ingredients, cook in your kitchen, serve each dish to you and even clean up before leaving!

amusebouche

I was invited to attend one of the chefs, Rowena’s “validation” dinners where she was being tested to check her services met the standards expected. Needless to say, she definitely passed!

We had a lovely evening and the food was fantastic. Above you’ll see the surprise “Amuse Bouche” which was Grapes rolled in homemade Cashew-Coconut Cream Cheese & Toasted Hazelnuts. Definitely not a combination I would have thought of but so delicious. We were fighting over the last couple!

cevichestarter

The starter was a Chanterelle Ceviche with Fresh Cherry Tomato Salsa and an Avocado-Pineapple Puree. Super fresh and nice and light to leave some room for what was to follow. 

melanzane1

The main event was Involtini di Melanzane with Salsa Verde – a traditional Italian dish with a vegan spin. The flavours were all so well thought-out. I can’t remember exactly what was tucked inside the aubergine parcels but I know there was a herby cauliflower rice, cashew cheese, roasted red pepper and asparagus.  I wish I had the recipe for this so I could recreate it at home. 

melanzane2

There was a photographer there on the evening who captured the dishes beautifully. 

melanzane3

Then came the pièce de résistance – dessert! I’d never had vegan tiramisù before so was very excited to see it on the menu. This version with coconut whipped cream and homemade lady’s fingers was honestly one of the best vegan desserts I’ve had! I was glad the previous courses hadn’t been too heavy so I could fully appreciate it. I savoured every mouthful! 

tiramisu

Thanks again to Rowena for the delicious meal, La Belle Assiette for organising and for the  guys who generously allowed us to invade their flat in Shoreditch for the evening! 

You can currently book a meal with La Belle Assiette in all main cities in the UK, France  Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg and their website allows you to search for your perfect menu using filters for type of cuisine, price and chef rating.

What do you think of the concept? Would you use a service like La Belle Assiette?

If you’re new to Coconut and Berries, please sign up for email updates and join me elsewhere!  I’m on FacebookPinterestInstagram(@coconutandberries), Google + and Twitter! You can also follow Coconut and Berries with Bloglovin or Feedly.

[Disclaimer: I was invited to attend the dinner party, free of charge. However, I was not obliged to review and all opinions are my own]

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Plant-Powered Families: Review & Double Chocolate Orange Banana Muffins

Double Chocolate Orange Banana Muffins

Plant Powered Families by Dreena Burton

If you’ve been reading Coconut and Berries for any length of time you’ll know that I’m a Dreena devotee! I’ve been enjoying her recipes for a long while and actually reviewed her last book, “Let Them Eat Vegan” when I was just getting started blogging (nearly 2 years ago!). I’ve also had the privilege of photographing some of the recipes for her blog. Naturally, I was more than a little excited when I heard she was writing a 5th cookbook! 

Plant-Powered Families focuses on healthy, easy, family-friendly recipes using whole foods. All recipes are vegan and there are plenty of nut-, soy-, and gluten-free options (As far as I can tell all the recipes are also oil-free).

As a busy Mum of 3, Dreena clearly understands the need for meals you can get on the table fast! And, more importantly, food that’s both healthy and that everyone is going to enjoy. In other words, this is a book you’ll actually cook from!  

Tofu Feta Greek Salad

Tofu Feta (& Greek Salad)

I love the whole look and feel of it, especially the fact that ALL the recipes have accompanying photos! Nicole Axworthy’s photography is particularly gorgeous and really brings the wonderful recipes to life.

It’s a really well rounded book too – with breakfast, lunch, dinner and sweet treats all covered fairly evenly. It’s divided into four parts: Introduction, Recipes, “Plant-Powered Challenges & Solutions”, which includes how to deal with picky eaters and school/lunchbox solutions (useful even for adult lunches!) and “Plant-Powered Support”, where you’ll find cooking guides, sample meal plans, a very complete FAQ and nutrient charts.

I’ve already made a fair few of the recipes. Pictured are just some of those I’ve made so far.

I was really surprised at how flavourful the Tofu Feta (above) was as I’ve attempted tofu feta before and it was rather lacking. I used it in a classic Greek Salad but there are lots of other serving suggestions listed. Also in the “Lunch Fixes” section, the Chickpea Nibbles are a must try! I’ve been making batch after batch to throw into lunches or just for “nibbling”. 

Double Chocolate Orange Banana Muffins

 Double Chocolate Orange Banana Muffins

I tend to be a little sceptical about oil-free baking as I’ve had some chewy, tasteless oil-free muffins and cookies in my time…but these chocolate-y little gems were moist and perfectly flavourful (See bottom of this post for the recipe!). The “Best Banana Bread” (made as muffins) was also a hit. 

Saucy BBQ Chickpeas & Green Beans

Saucy BBQ Chickpeas & Green Beans

I’ve hardly scratched the surface of the “Dinnertime” section. The Saucy BBQ Chickpeas & Green Beans is deceptively simple but the easy homemade BBQ sauce really makes it special. I loved it stuffed into a sprouted wheat wrap with a few chunks of avocado. The Hummus Tortilla Wraps and Ultimate Teriyaki Stir-Fry are also real game-changers for me for busy weeknights. Both super quick and delicious.

Lentil Pumpkin Seed Pie with Lemon Tahini Sauce 
Lentil Pumpkin Seed Pie with Lemon Tahini Sauce

Most recently I tried the Lentil Pumpkin Seed Pie.  This has a lovely chewy, nutty texture and makes a really satisfying meal served with Lemon-Tahini Sauce, Sweet Potato Fries (I’ll have to try Dreena’s Balsamic-Glazed Seasoned Yam Fries next time…) and broccoli or another green veg. 

I’ve been remarkably restrained with delving into the Sweet Treats section. Not that all the puddings, cookies, bars, ice cream and cakes aren’t incredibly enticing! I did love the Peanut Butter Pudding with Berrylicious Swirl and the leftover berry sauce was lovely stirred into non-dairy yogurt too. 

The book’s publishers, Ben Bella Vegan, have kindly allowed me to share the recipe for the Double Chocolate Orange Banana Muffins. Hope you enjoy them as much as me! 

Double Chocolate Orange Banana Muffins

Yield: 11-12 Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups whole-grain spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour (see note for nut-free option)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1-1/2–2 teaspoons orange zest (from 1 large or 2 small oranges)
  • 1/4 rounded teaspoon sea salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup pureed overripe banana (see note)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from 1 large or 2 small oranges)
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup nondairy mini or regular chocolate chips (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 11–12 cups of a muffin pan with large cupcake liners.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the flours, cocoa powder, orange zest, and sea salt, then sift in the baking powder and baking soda.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the pureed banana, orange juice, maple syrup, and vanilla extract.
  4. Add the wet mixture to the dry, then add the chocolate chips and stir through until just well combined (don’t overmix).
  5. Ladle the batter into the cupcake liners and bake for 17–19 minutes, until a toothpick or skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Notes

Banana Note: If you have an immersion blender, puree about 2 large overripe bananas in a deep, large cup, then measure to get your 1 cup. If you are a little shy with the measure, use applesauce to make up the difference!

Nut-Free Option: If you’d like to make these nut-free for school lunches or other allergy concerns, substitute 1/2 cup oat flour for the almond flour. They won’t be quite as moist, but will still have lovely flavor and texture!

Reprinted from Plant-Powered Families by Dreena Burton, with permission of BenBella Vegan.

http://www.coconutandberries.com/2015/06/29/plant-powered-families-review-double-chocolate-orange-banana-muffins/

Hopefully I’ve convinced you that if you don’t have the book yet, to get yourself a copy asap! Although it’s written with families in mind, you definitely don’t have to be cooking for children to get a lot out of it. Every time I pick it up I seem to find a new little nugget of information, a fun serving suggestion or useful tip.

I honestly want to make ALL the recipes but next on my list to try are: Thick ‘n’ Hearty Tomato Sauce, Tofu in Cashew Ginger Sauce, Red Lentil Hummus, Apple Pie Chia Pudding, Vanilla Bean Chocolate Chip Cookies, Chocolate Sweet Potato Cake.

N.B. All photos in this post are my own. See the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon for sample images from the book

Have you got your copy yet? What recipes have you been enjoying so far? Or, if you haven’t got the book yet, which recipe most tickles your fancy?

If you’re new to Coconut and Berries, please sign up for email updates and join me elsewhere!  I’m on FacebookPinterestInstagram(@coconutandberries), Google + and Twitter! You can also follow Coconut and Berries with Bloglovin or Feedly. 

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Red Lentil, Spinach & Potato Curry with Baobab [& a Giveaway!]

Red Lentil, Spinach & Potato Curry with Baobab | coconutandberries.com

Red Lentil, Spinach & Potato Curry with Baobab | coconutandberries.com

If you’re a regular Coconut & Berries reader, you might have caught my Green Hummus Crackers recipe a few weeks back. I included Moringa green superleaf powder in the mix, produced by a company called Aduna

I’ve since found out a lot more about the company, their backstory and their inspiring mission and wanted to share it with you too – as well as a yummy recipe using another of their amazing products – Baobab.

I’m also giving you the chance to WIN a whole hamper of Baobab goodies for yourselves! (See bottom of this post for instructions)

Aduna Baobab Superfruit Powder

I imagine Coconut and Berries readers might be more in the know than most about healthy foods so you probably have heard of baobab. However, 95% of people haven’t and that most definitely needs to change!

It’s packed with vitamin C, fibre, antioxidants and minerals including calcium, magnesium and potassium, which gives it an amazing range of potential health benefits.

BUT, not only is it an amazingly healthy (and tasty!) fruit that’s great for all of us who eat it, it also has the potential to transform millions of lives.

Red Lentil, Spinach & Potato Curry with Baobab | coconutandberries.com

Baobab trees grow so abundantly in Africa that if there were a global demand for the superfuit then this existing crop could be worth $1bn to rural Africa and create sustainable income for up to 10 million African women.

The company has been working towards this goal on a shoestring since the launch in 2012 but last week were announced as Semi-Finalists in Virgin’s Pitch to Rich competition. You can see the entry here. If the company finishes in the top 3 they will win a £250K marketing campaign and get Richard Branson’s backing. This would transform awareness of baobab – and with it potentially millions of lives.

Red Lentil, Spinach & Potato Curry with Baobab | coconutandberries.com

I think it’s awesome to see a social business get so far in the competition and hope you’ll agree that they should be in the final!

Anyone who votes can enter to win a whole hamper of Aduna baobab goodies, including their superfruit powder and raw energy bars) and, if that’s not enough, all voters are automatically entered to win £10K from Virgin Media.

Just follow the instructions in the image below and cast your vote HERE (Giveaway open worldwide)

GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER. CONGRATULATIONS TO WINNER JESSICA!

Win a hamper of Baobab goodies

I mostly use baobab in smoothies and love its slightly sweet, tangy taste, but I thought I’d experiment with it in savoury dishes too and loved the result in this Red Lentil, Spinach & Potato Curry. Tamarind, which is similarly sweet and sour, is traditional in curries after all, so it’s not all that wacky an idea! 

There are lots of other recipes and serving suggestions on the Aduna website. 

Red Lentil, Spinach & Potato Curry with Baobab

Yield: 4-6 Servings

Red Lentil, Spinach & Potato Curry with Baobab

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp Coconut oil
  • 1 Small onion, diced
  • 3 Cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2" ginger, peeled & minced
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded & minced
  • 1 Tbsp Curry powder (use your favourite blend)
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 C Red lentils, rinsed well
  • 1 Can (400g) Chopped tomatoes
  • 3 C Water
  • 250g/8oz New potatoes, halved OR quartered if large
  • 2 Tbsp Baobab powder OR 1 Tbsp Tamarind paste
  • Couple of large handfuls of spinach
  • To serve (optional):
  • Non-dairy yogurt
  • Fresh coriander, chopped
  • Wholegrain flatbread

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the garlic, ginger and chili and cook for a further couple of minutes. Add the curry powder, salt and red lentils and stir to coat well.
  3. Add the tomatoes,water and new potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover the pan and simmer for approx 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. When cooked, the potatoes should be fork tender.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in the baobab powder (or tamarind) and the spinach. The residual heat will wilt it.
  5. Serve with a sprinkle of fresh coriander, a dollop of non-dairy yogurt & flatbread on the side.
http://www.coconutandberries.com/2015/06/07/red-lentil-spinach-potato-curry-with-baobab-a-giveaway/

Red Lentil, Spinach & Potato Curry with Baobab | coconutandberries.com 

Hope you enjoy this recipe and let’s Make Baobab Famous!  

If you’re new to Coconut and Berries, please sign up for email updates and join me elsewhere!  I’m on FacebookPinterestInstagram(@coconutandberries), Google + and Twitter! You can also follow Coconut and Berries with Bloglovin or Feedly.

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Vegan Hazelnut-Coffee Mousse (& Banana Crunch Parfaits)

Vegan Hazelnut-Coffee Mousse

Vegan Hazelnut-Coffee Mousse | coconutandberries.com

I finally managed to whittle down my out-of-control nut butter stash to just 2 jars  - 1 peanut, 1 almond (coconut butter and tahini don’t count ;) ) but then my cupboard was looking a little bare so I had to restock again (!) and decided to do so with some of the homemade variety. 

Roasted Hazelnuts

If you haven’t made your own nut butter before,  I urge you to remedy that now. It’s so easy, you can control the added ingredients (most of the store-bought varieties still contain unnecessary palm oil), it’s much cheaper than buying it and roasted nuts make your house smell amazing!

Hazelnut butter is a good one to start with since hazelnuts are on the higher fat end of the nut spectrum which makes them quicker to blend and gives you a super silky end product. And remember, nuts contain the good kind of fat which is so important for both physical and emotional health, so don’t be afraid of them! 

Homemade Hazelnut Butter

Once you’ve got a lovely jar of homemade hazelnut butter you’ll of course have to make my favourite Hazelnut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins

Vegan Hazelnut-Coffee Mousse | coconutandberries.com

But for this recipe, as mad as it might sound to some, I wanted to go chocolate-free. 

I bet if you played the word association game and asked people to name the first word they think of when someone says “hazelnuts”, it would be chocolate. And you’d definitely be in the minority if you didn’t like Nutella growing up….

But, as much as I’m a fan of the chocolate/hazelnut thing, hazelnuts are amazing in their own right and other pairings are also worth exploring.

Vegan Hazelnut-Coffee Mousse | coconutandberries.com

Coffee and hazelnut is another magical combination but until now I’d only had it with chocolate in the mix too, as in my Healthy Mocha-Hazelnut Shake. Another must-try!

Vegan Hazelnut-Coffee Mousse | coconutandberries.com

You honestly do not miss the chocolate one bit in this recipe. The mousse is sweet and creamy, with a rich, nutty depth and kiss of caramel flavour from the coconut sugar.  I didn’t want it to be too heavy so instead of going all out on the nuts, I used silken tofu as the base. You don’t taste it so don’t worry if it sounds strange!

See my Little Lemon Pots  and Blueberry Coconut Cream Parfaits for other tofu desserts.  

Vegan Hazelnut-Coffee Mousse | coconutandberries.com

I especially love the Hazelnut-Coffee Mousse layered up with sliced bananas and chopped roasted hazelnuts for some crunch. It’s a really easy, pretty wholesome, and outrageously delicious dessert!

Vegan Hazelnut-Coffee Mousse | coconutandberries.com

 

Vegan Hazelnut-Coffee Mousse (& Banana Crunch Parfaits)

Serving Size: 3-4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 x 200g/7oz pkg Silken tofu, drained ( I use Clearspring Organic )*
  • 1/4 C Roasted hazelnut butter*
  • 1/4 C Coconut sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Maple syrup (optional, if you like your desserts on the sweeter side)
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp Instant coffee (I used Four Sigma Foods Mushroom Coffee with Chaga & Cordyceps)
  • To serve:
  • 1/4 C Roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 Ripe banana, sliced

Instructions

    To make hazelnut butter:
  1. Preheat oven to 190C/400F, spread hazelnuts in a roasting dish/tray and roast for approx 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, wrap the nuts in a tea towel and rub together vigorously to remove most of the skins ( don't worry if a few don't come off). Place the skinned nuts into a food processor with a large pinch of salt and process until smooth. This can take at least 10 minutes. You will need to stop and scrape down the sides a few times at the beginning.
  2. For the mousse:
  3. Blend all ingredients in a food processor or high-powered blender until smooth. Pour into a bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. When ready to serve, spoon into small glasses or ramekins, layering with sliced banana and roasted hazelnuts if desired.

Notes

*If using unsalted hazelnut butter, add a pinch to the mousse ingredients when blending.

*If you're using a larger pkg of tofu and have some spare, try adding it to a smoothie for a creamy texture and protein boost!

http://www.coconutandberries.com/2015/06/03/vegan-hazelnut-coffee-mousse-banana-crunch-parfaits/
 

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Have you tried making your own nut butter yet? What’s your favourite flavour? 

If you’re new to Coconut and Berries, please sign up for email updates and join me elsewhere!  I’m on FacebookPinterestInstagram (@coconutandberries), Google +and Twitter! You can also follow Coconut and Berries with Bloglovin or Feedly.

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Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto & Asparagus Quinoa Salad

Sun-Dried Tomato & Asparagus Quinoa Salad

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto & Asparagus Quinoa Salad | coconutandberries.com

After making my Mini Vegan Pizza Potato Skins the other week, I had a little jarred sun-dried tomato paste left which I used to make a quick quinoa dish for lunch. I hadn’t anticipated it being that special but I loved it so much that I decided I’d have to make something similar to share with you all here.   

Vegan Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto|coconutandberries.com

Since I’d finished up all the sun-dried tomato paste and also because I wanted everyone to be able to make this recipe, I made my own sun-dried tomato pesto from scratch. I’m calling it a “pesto” rather than a “paste” as I left it a little chunkier and added some pine nuts to the mix for even more flavour and texture.

Vegan Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto|coconutandberries.com

If you can get your hands on a readymade vegan version then you could of course use that but this recipe requires only a few easy-to-find ingredients and a minute in the food processor so it’s really not much effort.

Sun dried tomatoes have such an incredible sweet, savoury flavour that this pesto adds a bit of pizzaz to anything it touches.

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto & Asparagus Quinoa Salad | coconutandberries.com

I mixed a good few spoonfuls of the pesto into fluffy quinoa, along with some fresh vegetables, for a delicious meal that is just as good eaten immediately as it is the following day from your lunchbox! 

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto & Asparagus Quinoa Salad | coconutandberries.com 

I’m trying to eat as much asparagus as I can before the season’s over and it is particularly lovely in this dish but Tenderstem broccoli or French green beans would also be good options. Cherry tomatoes add little juicy pops of sweetness throughout and balance the rich flavours nicely.

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto & Asparagus Quinoa Salad | coconutandberries.com

I especially love this quinoa Salad over a couple of handfuls of fresh spinach with a squeeze of lemon and a dollop of homemade hummus!

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto & Asparagus Quinoa Salad | coconutandberries.com

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto & Asparagus Quinoa Salad

Yield: 4 Servings (6 as a side)

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto & Asparagus Quinoa Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/2 C Sun-dried tomatoes, divided (dry-packed kind)
  • 1/2 C Basil (loosely-packed), divided
  • 1 Clove of garlic
  • 2 Tbsp Toasted pine nuts
  • 1 Tbsp Nutritional yeast
  • 3-4 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 3/4 C Quinoa
  • Couple of big handfuls of spinach
  • 1 C Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 Bunch of asparagus (approx 200g), woody ends snapped off/trimmed
  • 1 Tbsp Lemon juice
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Hemp seeds (optional)

Instructions

  1. Rinse the quinoa well then place in a pan over medium heat with 1 1/2 C water. Bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes until all the water is absorbed. Stir in the spinach then re-cover and leave for at least 10 minutes before fluffing with a fork.
  2. Soak the sun-dried tomatoes in hot water for 30 minutes while the quinoa is cooking, then drain (reserving a little water).
  3. Add 2/3 of the sun-dried tomatoes to a food processor with half the basil, the garlic, pine nuts, nutritional yeast and salt and pepper and pulse to combine. Stream in the olive oil while the motor is running and process until a thick paste (leave a little texture). You can add a Tbsp or so of the tomato soaking water for a looser consistency.
  4. Steam the asparagus for 2-3 minutes then refresh in cold water and chop each stem into 2 or 3 pieces.
  5. Roughly chop the remaining sun-dried tomatoes and basil.
  6. Stir the pesto into the quinoa, followed by the asparagus, cherry tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, basil & lemon juice.
  7. Check for seasoning and sprinkle with hemp seeds (if desired).
http://www.coconutandberries.com/2015/05/25/sun-dried-tomato-pesto-asparagus-quinoa-salad/

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto & Asparagus Quinoa Salad | coconutandberries.com

What are your favourite recipes for packed lunches or to take along to picnics and BBQS? 

If you’re new to Coconut and Berries, please sign up for email updates and join me elsewhere!  I’m on FacebookPinterestInstagram(@coconutandberries), Google + and Twitter! You can also follow Coconut and Berries with Bloglovin or Feedly.

 

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