Vegan Month of Food 2013


You may have noticed the little icon which has appeared on my right sidebar? Vegan Mofo 2013!

Yup. I’ve signed up! After much deliberation and some encouragement from others I figured I could do it. If you’re new to Vegan MoFo and Coconut and Berries and missed my earlier explanation, the idea of Vegan MoFo (Month of Food) is for bloggers to write as much as they can about vegan food over the designated month, this year it’s September,  and show the world that vegan food is the way to go!

Bloggers usually take on a theme for the period and write posts accordingly. There aren’t strict guidelines for how often to write, but the idea is to shoot for every weekday, or about 20 times in the month.

This is my first year participating and I’ve got a busy month ahead of me so I’m keeping fairly simple and doing an A to Z theme.A to Z

I’ll be working through my pantry from A to Z, unearthing ingredients I’ve never or hardly used, or using more familiar ingredients in new ways. I’m planning on sharing a mix of my own recipes, other bloggers’ recipes and recipes from my cookbooks. I’m aiming to write every weekday, but you never know, I might throw in a few extra posts here and there if I have any more ideas (and can find time). There are some great MoFo ideas on this post some of which I’d like to do too! Too much to share, too little time!

I hope, whether you’re participating or reading, that you’re getting excited for kick-off!

See you back here for the letter A !!!

Smoky Black Bean Empanadas with Chipotle Sour Cream

Smoky Black Bean Empanadas with Chipotle Sour Cream

When I was younger and living in London, pre-theatre dinners or family get-togethers would often be a meal at an Argentinian steak restaurant, the Gaucho Grill. Of course, there’s no way I’d go there now (although I think it’s still one of my brother’s favourite places to eat…) , it must be the most un vegan-friendly place going- not just the menu but the décor too- the restaurants are all fitted out in black leather with cow hide furnishings everywhere! The one good thing I take from our visits though is the memory of empanadas.

Smoky Black Bean Empanadas with Chipotle Sour Cream

If you’re unfamiliar with empanadas, they’re popular street food in South America and are essentially flaky pastry pockets filled with a whole variety of fillings, often cheese, meat, and beans. For my vegan version I decided on a smoky, spiced black bean and vegetable filling and served them with a chipotle sour cream for a nice creamy contrast.

I ate a few for dinner alongside a fresh garden salad, but, like my beetroot falafel, they’re also great party food.  Pile up plates with the pastries, serve the sauce in a dish on the side and your guests can eat them with their hands.

Smoky Black Bean Empanadas with Chipotle Sour Cream

This recipe is rather time-consuming but it does make a lot. They are very moreish though so you might end up eating more than you anticipate! You can also freeze them either before or after baking and reheat or cook in the oven from frozen.

Smoky Black Bean Empanadas with Chipotle Sour Cream

Smoky Black Bean Empanadas with Chipotle Sour Cream:

For the Dough:

(Adapted from Viva Vegan! )

3C Flour ( I was using up odds and ends from the pantry so used a mixture of rye, spelt and cornmeal!)
1 1/2t Salt
1/4t Baking soda
7T Coconut oil, chilled
3/4C or more cold water

Non-dairy milk for brushing

Using a food processor pulse flour salt and baking soda together. Add solid coconut oil to the food processor and pulse again until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Remove mixture to a large bowl and stream in cold water while mixing with fingers. Add just enough water until dough comes together but is not sticky. Knead a few times, divide into 4 balls,  flatten each into a thick disc, wrap tightly in cling film and chill in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours.

For the Filling:

1T Olive oil
1 Onion, diced small
2 Cloves of garlic, minced
1 Red pepper, diced small
1 Medium courgette, diced small
1 1/2C (1 Can) Black beans
1/2t Salt
1/2t Cumin
1/2t Mild chili powder
1/2t Smoked paprika
1/4-1/2t Liquid smoke (If unavailable use a bit more smoked paprika)

Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes. Add garlic, red pepper and courgette and continue to cook until soft, approx 5-8 minutes. Add black beans, salt and spices and stir to coat everything well. Turn off heat and set aside until you’re ready to fill your empanadas.

Note: Feel free to mix up the filling ingredients. I think corn would be a nice addition, crumbled tempeh, or maybe plantain?

Chipotle Sour Cream:

1/2C Cashews, soaked
1/4C + 2T Water
1T Chipotle chili in adobe sauce (I puree the cans and store in the freezer and break off a piece when needed)
1 Clove of garlic
1t Apple cider vinegar
1/4-1/2t Salt
Squeeze of lime juice

Blend everything together (a short-cup/personal blender is ideal for small amounts like this). Taste for salt.

Putting it together:

Preheat oven to 190C/375F

Remove dough from fridge and roll out a disc of dough between two sheets of parchment paper into a circle about 1/8” thick. Using a bowl as a guide, cut out circles of approx 4-5” diameter (you can make them bigger if you prefer but that’s the size I went for). Cover and keep cool while you repeat with the next dough disc. Gather up all the remaining dough scraps, re-roll only one more time and cut out as many circles as possible.

Place approx 1 1/2T filling in the middle of each circle, dampen edge with a wet finger and fold one side over the filling. Roll, braid or crimp edge to seal (It took me a while to get the hang of this but I found simply rolling the edge in was the easiest). Place on a lined baking sheet and brush lightly with non-dairy milk. Repeat process until all empanadas are filled- I had a little filling left.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, turning baking sheet half-way through cooking process to ensure even browning. Let cool for a couple of minutes and serve warm with chipotle sour cream.

I’m submitting this recipe to the weekly blog link-ups Wellness Weekends,  Healthy Vegan Fridays and Meatless Mondays

Smoky Black Bean Empanadas with Chipotle Sour Cream

Britain doesn’t have much of a tradition of street-food, although, in London especially, street food from other countries is getting really popular.

Where you live do you have street-food stalls available to you?

Chocolate-Sesame Biscotti

Chocolate-Sesame Biscotti

I shared pictures of these on instagram (@coconutandberries), google+ and facebook  on Saturday and feel a little mean for not having shared the recipe until now… but hopefully you’ll forgive me when you make them!

I do love raw sweets, but sometimes turning on the oven just feels right.

I didn’t actually bake a lot with my Mum growing up, I think our repertoire was limited to fairy cakes and rice krispie squares…but when my brothers and I went to stay with our grandparents, it was a different story. Rainy days were instantly designated as “Baking Days,” something my brothers and I all enjoyed.

After a long spell of sunshine the rain finally came at the weekend and I thought of Granny and our baking Smile . One of my lovely readers had put in a special request for biscotti so the timing seemed even more perfect.

Chocolate-Sesame Biscotti

If you’ve never had biscotti before you’re truly missing out. They are hard and crunchy because they are twice-cooked (‘bis’ is Italian for twice and ‘cotti’ means cooked) and perfect for dipping in a cup of tea or coffee (although apparently true Italians only dip them in Vin Santo, a sweet dessert wine, not coffee). In any case, when I was 19 I spent 6 weeks studying art history in the magical city of Florence, and, although I didn’t pick up the Italian espresso habit, I definitely got into biscotti!

The original recipe is made with almonds and is NOT vegan as it contains eggs (but no butter interestingly). I have made more traditional biscotti in the past but decided to try something different this time, opting for chocolate and sesame. I love the richness that tahini brings here, a perfect pairing with chocolate. I also added sesame seeds to amp up the sesame flavour and for texture, and a few chocolate chips for a little fun too.

Chocolate-Sesame Biscotti

Biscotti-making is not a complicated process and the only real difference to making other cookies is the shaping of the dough into a log and the twice baking.

Chocolate-Sesame Biscotti:

I made a small batch as I wasn’t sure how popular these would be at home, but perhaps I should have doubled it as they were gone in a flash!

(Adapted from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar)

3/4C Light spelt flour (or other flour of your choice)
1/4C Cocoa
1/8t Salt
3/4t Baking powder
1/2C Coconut sugar ( I like to use coconut sugar in my baking as it’s less processed than other sweeteners, it’s also less sweet than refined sugar so these are more chocolatey than super sweet, perfect for this chocolate lover)
2T Tahini
2T Oil (I used rapeseed, but any neutral oil is fine)
1T Ground flaxseed
1/4C Non-dairy milk (You might need 1 or 2 extra tablespoons of milk if your tahini is very thick. Mine is very runny)
2T Sesame Seeds
2T Chocolate Chips (or more! That’s all I had left!)

Preheat oven to 180C/350F

Sift together flour through to baking powder in a large bowl and stir in the coconut sugar. Whisk oil, tahini, ground flax and milk together in a small bowl. Combine wet with dry ingredients and combine with your hands to form a thick dough. Stir through sesame seeds and chocolate chips and shape dough into a ball, pressing chocolate chips back in if they pop out.

On a baking tray lined with parchment paper shape the dough into a rectangular log approximately 4” by 6”. Flatten and square off edges as best as you can.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until log is puffed and firm. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack and leave to cool for 20-30 minutes.

Chocolate-Sesame Biscotti

Preheat oven (again) to a slightly cooler 160C/325F.

Carefully slide the log off the baking tray onto a chopping board. With a sharp, heavy knife, cut the log width-wise into slices, on a diagonal if you like (I forgot!). Carefully return the slices to the baking tray, standing them on their sides (see wire rack picture below). Bake slices again 10-15 minutes on one side, then flip gently and bake a further 10-15 minutes on the reverse side. 15 minutes will give you a slightly crunchier, more authentic biscotti texture, 10 minutes will leave them a little softer. Allow the biscotti to cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet and then carefully remove to wire racks to complete the cooling. Warm biscotti can be fragile! They should store well in a covered container, if you don’t eat them all!

Makes 10-12

Chocolate-Sesame Biscotti

Chocolate-Sesame Biscotti

Enjoy dunked in a cup of tea ( herbal if you’re me!) or coffee, or if you want to be authentic, after a meal with vin santo!

Chocolate-Sesame Biscotti

Have you tried or made biscotti? What flavour would you like to see?

Review: Clearspring Products

Review-Clearspring Products

Review: Clearspring Products

I’ve talked a lot about Clearspring  before on the blog, but I really do love the company and want you to try their products for yourselves! Their Japanese range is what I’m most familiar with, but it turns out they have 3 different product ranges: “Authentic Japanese”, “Organic Fine Foods” and “Free From Range”.

As well as the huge range of different items available, what I especially love about the brand is their dedication to quality ingredients. They even have a “brand promise” on their website which states:

• Authentic and traditional recipes
developed by master artisan producers.
• 100% vegetarian / vegan foods and
• Wholesome and great tasting daily foods
for optimum nutrition.
• No artificial additives, MSG, colourings,
preservatives or added refined sugar.
• No hydrogenated fats or palm oil
• Ethically sourced foods which support
producer communities.

Pretty impressive, no?

As mentioned, all Clearspring foods are free from added refined sugar and dairy but many are also free from gluten, wheat and nuts too if that’s a concern for you. All are clearly marked as such and you can find listings of these products under the “free from” section on their website. Review: Clearspring Products

I recently had the opportunity to try some of their new-to-me products and am excited to share with you today.

Review: Clearspring Products

Organic Instant Miso Soup on the go: These are convenient single serving freeze dried blocks of organic instant miso soup. They come in 2 varieties- white miso with tofu and red miso with sea vegetables.  I loved these, especially the red variety, as I love anything with seaweed. I’ve eaten these up at home but they’re great for if you’re out and about too- you can simply ask for a cup of hot water in a coffee shop, dissolve the little block in the water and you’ve got yourself a nourishing snack Smile

I use miso a lot in my cooking and love the depth of flavour it adds to sauces, dressings, marinades- Clearspring have a whole range of varieties- you’ll always find a pouch of their sweet white miso in my fridge.

             Review: Clearspring Products         

Review: Clearspring Products

Organic Black and White Sesame Brown Rice Crackers: Most crackers out there are not as good for you as they might claim, full of preservatives or merely refined flours lacking in nutrition. You won’t find any nasties in these crackers whatsoever, just pure, unadulterated goodness.

They’re light and crisp but unlike potato chips/crisps they don’t seem to get crushed easily, so again they’re a good snack to stash in your handbag. We enjoyed them as pre-dinner nibbles.

Review: Clearspring Products

Organic Roasted Seed + Nut Snacks:

You’ve probably heard talk of how protein staves off hunger so it’s a good idea to include it in meals and snacks. These snacks certainly prove that it’s easy to get enough protein eating a plant-based diet, each of the small bags of lightly roasted soya beans and seeds (and dried fruit) contains a hefty  8-13g of protein. These little seeds are very moreish too, I munched my way through these packets in no time!

Review: Clearspring Products

Review: Clearspring Products

Tamari Roasted Cashew Nuts: These slightly sticky Tamari roasted nuts were my favourite of the pouches of nuts. I adore cashews and the tamari adds a lovely savoury flavour. I tossed a few on my 10-minute Raw Peanut Noodle Dish for a little crunch.

Review: Clearspring Products

Review: Clearspring Products

Roasted Seeds + Soya with Goji Berry

Review: Clearspring Products

Review: Clearspring Products

Roasted Seeds + Soya with Cranberry

Two of the snack pouches include dried fruit in the mix too, dried apple and cranberries and goji berries. Most dried cranberries are prepared with added sugar to sweeten them, but the organic cranberries used here are combined with apple juice concentrate which keeps their real fruit flavour and adds just a little sweetness. I’m a fan of sweet and savoury together so these varieties went down a treat.

Review: Clearspring Products

Roasted Seeds + Soya

Review: Clearspring Products

Tamari Roasted Sicilian Almonds

Review: Clearspring Products

Tamari Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

The Tamari roasted pumpkin seeds and Sicilian almonds were perfect for sprinkling on salads. I found the little pouch was the perfect size for topping a large salad for two. Of course, you can just eat them from the packet too- I don’t usually eat plain nuts and seeds as a snack but the gentle roasting and tamari makes these much more flavourful and appealing to me.

Review: Clearspring Products

Clearspring have a range of organic cold-pressed oils too. If you’ve been reading Coconut and Berries a while you’ll know I already use and love Coconut Oil, and this one’s great quality.  I was unfamiliar with these other varieties though.

Organic Corn Germ Oil: Unlike large scale and higher yielding conventional corn oil extraction where solvents are widely used as well as alkali treatments, Clearspring oils are cold-pressed to preserve nutrition and flavour.  Corn-germ oil has a high smoke point so is ideal for high temperature cooking like stir-frying. Its flavour is fairly neutral I found so it’s good when you want something less obtrusive than coconut or olive oils

Organic Argan Oil: I’d heard of argan oil used in cosmetics and hair treatments so was a little surprised to see it suggested for culinary purposes. But apparently it’s  one of the world’s most precious culinary oils and is produced using very traditional, labour intensive methods. Produced from the kernels of the argan tree (endemic to Morocco and UNESCO protected) it takes about 15 hours and 30kg of fruit to produce 1L of argan oil! I loved the mild, nutty taste of this oil on a grain salad, or Clearspring also suggest it as a dip for bread which sounds really good to me. It’s also worth knowing that argan oil is super high in Vitamin E, with twice the levels in olive oil, making it a powerful antioxidant.

Review: Clearspring Products

Organic Sweet Grains Dessert, Brown Rice Amazake

This was a product I’d never heard of before but has been a great discovery.

Amazake is made from just 3 ingredients- whole grains, water and salt. The traditional Japanese process uses a koji culture to convert the carbohydrates in the grains into simple sugars and magically transform them into these wonderfully thick and creamy dessert.

It’s delicious straight from the jar and in Japan is traditionally enjoyed as a sweet, hot drink, simply mixing a spoonful with hot water, but, as I’ve now discovered, it works fantastically as a sweetener in non-traditional recipes too, from smoothies to baked goods.

I’ve got a delicious recipe to share using it…but I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a little longer for it…

Other Clearspring products I use are their Japanese seasonings, tofu, soba and udon noodles and seaweeds.  There are still many more I haven’t tried yet but am keen to, such as their sugar-free organic fruit spreads and organic oatcakes.

I feel good about supporting the company, not only because they’re producing fantastic vegan products, but also for their strict food and environmental standards, something which is extremely important to me.

All the products mentioned are available from Clearspring’s new online shop (UK and Ireland) and numerous other online retailers in Europe. Many of their products are also available in independent health stores and Sainsburys and Waitrose in the UK, so be on the lookout!

Have you tried any of these products? Which would you be most interested in?

Note: These products were sent to me for review purposes, but the opinions expressed are my own.

Raw Vegan Green Tea Ice Cream

Raw Vegan Green Tea Ice Cream

I don’t like the taste of coffee so I drink a lot of herbal teas. I only recently found out that green tea (and chocolate!) contains caffeine. Maybe the little energy kick I get from it is what makes it appeal so much to me?

Well, ice cream is definitely a pick me-up, so this green tea variety is sure to give you a boost!

Raw Vegan Green Tea Ice Cream

You might have had green tea in bags but not tried matcha powder. Matcha is a type of finely milled green tea grown in the shade and which is traditionally used in the Japanese tea ceremony. It’s this shading process which turns the leaves darker and results in higher levels of caffeine and antioxidants than found in other teas.  The matcha lattes, cakes and smoothies you might have come across aren’t traditional recipes but matcha has a delicious, unique  flavour that’s perfect for desserts.

I used Clearspring Organic Matcha Green Tea Powder for my ice cream, a premium grade variety and smoother and less bitter than others I’ve tried so I highly recommend it. Note that if you use other varieties you might want to add more or less to taste.

A full review of Clearspring Snacks is coming up tomorrow!

Raw Vegan Green Tea Ice Cream

I’ve seen various matcha ice cream recipes about but they’re usually either not vegan or high in sugar and so I ruled them out. I’ve also seen matcha banana soft serve which I’m sure is delicious but I wanted mine to be a little richer, and scoop-able! Cashews are a staple in my pantry as they blend up into creamy, dreamy sauces and I decided they’d work well here.

I used frozen bananas for their natural sweetness and a little drizzle of agave and blended them with cashew cream for my thick ice cream base.  A touch of matcha is all you need for the distinctive flavour and pretty shade of green. Finally, a few mint leaves in the mix add a little “somethin’ somethin’” too so if you have them available to you definitely use them.

Raw Vegan Green Tea Ice Cream

Look at that pretty green colour!

Raw Vegan Green Tea Ice Cream:

I made this WITHOUT an ice-cream maker and it was still luscious and creamy, although you need to leave it out for 5-10 minutes for it to be scoopable. Using an ice-cream maker would be preferable but mine takes up so much space in the freezer that I rarely use it!

1C Cashews, soaked
3/4C Water or non-dairy milk
4 Bananas, frozen and broken into chunks
5-6 Mint leaves
1T Agave nectar
1 1/2t Matcha (Green Tea) powder
1/4t Xanthan gum OR 1/2T Vodka (stops it being too solid)

Blend cashews and water in a high powered blender until smooth. Blend in frozen bananas. This might take a little time depending on how powerful your blender is, but stop and scrape down the edge several times to get everything incorporated. Add in matcha powder, mint leaves and agave and blend again. Finally add xanthan gum or vodka and blend for a final time. Pour into a freezable container (I used a loaf pan) and cover tightly. Freeze for several hours until solid.

Serves 4-6

Raw Vegan Green Tea Ice Cream

Have you tried Matcha before? How do you like to use it?