I enjoyed the luxury of plenty of free-time this summer after my exams, and spent a lot of it in two of my favourite places- the kitchen and the garden!

Of course it’s pretty clear that I love cooking. But I do love being outside too and getting my hands covered in soil rather than flour for a change.  I get a real thrill out of seeing something grow from virtually nothing and get pretty excited about the appearance of a new courgette or a tomato turning red.  The resulting meals consisting almost entirely of home-grown vegetables are a lovely bonus.

I promised I would share some pictures of my garden, but, with the whirlwind of Vegan MoFo, didn’t get to doing so before it all got started.  I thought I’d take the opportunity to post them now it’s all over and while we’re still enjoying the novelty of autumn vegetables, not yet pining after the long-gone summer!


Sweet peas are the scent of summer! There was always a little vase of them on the kitchen table.





The flowers are my Mum’s domain. I try my best to learn all their names, but somehow always forget them… Our roses are especially beautiful.


The piles of green beans I was picking daily got bigger and bigger and admittedly we struggled to stay on top of them.


We actually grew these borlotti beans last year but they were too pretty not to share. We didn’t end up with a huge amount and I don’t really know how to use them fresh like this so we didn’t sow any more seeds this year. GardenTomatoes! What would summer be without them? We grew 3 varieties- my favourite were these little cherry tomatoes- sakura and orange paruche. They were like  sweets, and, warm off the vine were heavenly. We had so many that I ended up making a few batches of slow-roasted tomatoes with them as well.GardenI think every gardener experiences a case of courgette fatigue by the end of summer. They just don’t stop producing! I got a little cross that the muntjac deer kept sneaking up at night and chomping them, but after a while I was actually grateful for fewer courgettes to deal with!GardenPlenty of salad leaves. I love these crunchy little gem lettuces which we grow every year.GardenIt was fantastic to have our own beetroot, even if we didn’t have an awful lot. I think I mostly roasted them in tin foil and then ate them in salads. Though I’m sure I made my favourite tahini beetroot recipe with them, and there was Gena’s delicious beetroot-hemp granola too.

GardenWe were given the seeds for these squash so never really knew what variety they were. They seemed to be a hybrid summer/winter squash though. They had thick skins but the flesh was softer than most winter squash. It was fun to see them changing colour- first the stripes appeared and then they went yellow!


We discovered these little critters up near the house, trapped under a grate. Mr Frog……


…and Mr Toad! We put them in a bucket and took them down to the water.


There were so many butterflies this summer! They fly too quickly to take photos of though but I thought this spiky caterpillar was rather fun. (Update: Apparently he would have grown into a “Tussock moth” )


We don’t grow fruit usually (although there are plans to try some soft fruit next year apparently) but did try out these this year.

Do you know what it is? It’s a physalis/cape gooseberry/Inca berry. There are various names for them and I’d only seen them before as a garnish on dessert plates. Sadly they never ripened, even in the greenhouse and with all the sunshine we had.


This little plum tree was a new addition this year. We did really well from it and got a lot of fruit, despite its size. Most of these were eaten fresh but, combined with a neighbour’s fruit they also got turned into my Maple-Oat Crumble.


We do have wild blackberries galore . I picked several batches of them to go in the freezer to be turned into apple and blackberry compote, crumbles and smoothies. There are still some in there from 2012 though!


Alfie likes them too! We both enjoyed them out on our walks.


A few teeny-tiny wild strawberries were discovered too. These were very sweet-tasting as well as cute.


If only! Perhaps I was making up for the fact that we can’t grow citrus or bananas here in crocheting my own!

Did you grow your own vegetables this year? What summer vegetable are you going to miss most in the autumn/winter? Hopefully you’re not missing it already!

I’ll be back with a foodie post tomorrow!

Vegan Sausage, Lentil & Prune Stew


Regular giveaways were held at the Vegan MoFo headquarters during the month of September and I was one of the lucky winners! I won a selection of Vegusto products. Vegusto are a Swiss company specializing in “meat and cheese alternatives”, all entirely vegan, free from artificial colours, flavours and preservatves, soya free and palm oil free.

Vegan Sausage, Lentil & Prune Stew

I do prefer to stick to whole foods most of the time and haven’t really tried any of the meat or cheese “alternative” products out there, but I’d heard a lot of great things about Vegusto and was keen to give them a go.

I’ll be sharing what I’ve made with the other products and my thoughts on them over the coming days, but to start here’s a recipe which turned out really tasty, and which I made using their sausages . If you can’t find Vegusto where you live then try it using another brand of vegan sausages or make your own seitan sausages.

Vegan Sausage, Lentil & Prune Stew

This Sausage, Lentil & Prune Stew is perfect winter comfort food. It’s hearty, filling and full of goodness.

Don’t be put off by the prunes! I know so many people associate them with their grannies, but, even if you don’t eat them normally ( I personally love them, as a snack instead of dried apricots or dates, or stewed with a cinnamon stick and orange slices) I promise they work in this dish and add a lovely richness and little bursts of sweetness, almost like in a tagine.

Vegan Sausage, Lentil & Prune Stew:

(Adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for The Guardian)

1T Olive oil (divided)
1/2 Onion, thinly sliced
1 small stick of celery, chopped (on the bias)
1 small carrot, chopped (on the bias)
1 large Vegusto sausage, or 2-3 regular-size vegan sausages, cut into slices (on the bias)
1/4C Puy lentils (green or brown would also be fine, but you may need to adjust cooking time accordingly)
1/3C Whole dried prunes (the soft-kind)
3/4C Vegetable broth
Sprig of fresh thyme
Salt + Pepper

Warm a pan with 1/2T olive oil over medium heat, add the onion and a pinch of salt and cover to cook for 10 minutes until very soft, stirring occasionally. Add the celery and carrots, re-cover and continue to cook for another 10 minutes until all the vegetables are soft.

Meanwhile, fry the sausage(s) in the remaining olive oil in a frying pan over high heat, flipping to brown all over.

Add the lentils, broth, prunes and thyme and stir gently. Top with the browned sausage, cover and simmer on low for approx 30 minutes until the lentils are cooked through and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 2


Vegan Sausage, Lentil & Prune Stew

There’s plenty of flavour in this dish so I kept the sides simple and served it with a jacket potato and steamed broccoli.

Obviously it’s been quite a long time since I’ve had meat but this sausage really hit the mark for me. It’s got a great texture, firm but not overly chewy and with a delicious savoury flavour. I used the “Farmhouse-style” sausage (as that’s what I received) which is reminiscent of a frankfurter, but think their “Herb” or “Onion” sausages might have been more fitting.

Have you ever tried Vegusto products? Or do you like any vegan cheeses or meats?

Looking forward to sharing my experiences with the other products I was able to try.

Leek, Sun-dried Tomato + White Bean “Risotto”

Leek, Sundried Tomato & White Bean "Risotto"

I’m back! Did you miss me?! I doubt anyone actually noticed I was away, it was only 2 days off blogging after all, but having got into the habit of posting every day it felt strange not to publish a post for a couple of days…

Leek, Sun-dried Tomato + White Bean "Risotto" (Cauilfower Rice)

Most vegans, myself included, go vegetarian for a time before moving to vegan, and in that period, whenever I ate out, the typical restaurant menu offering was risotto (usually “wild mushroom” ! ).

This unfortunately wasn’t to my liking, not just because I would have liked to see a bit more creativity, but what came out of the kitchen was always a plate full of stodge. Pretty much just rice, lots of cream and butter and maybe the odd piece of vegetable if you were lucky. Too rich for my tastes and not heavy enough on the veg!

Maybe I shouldn’t complain, at least there was something vegetarian available, not usually the case with vegan meals….

Leek, Sun-dried Tomato + White Bean "Risotto" (Cauilfower Rice)

I’m not against rice in any way and have made pleasant enough vegan risottos at home using it in the past, but wanted to try something a little different this time.

If you’ve been reading a while you may remember my Cauliflower Fried Rice with Grilled Asian Tofu. A dish I really enjoyed, so along the same lines, I decided on cauliflower as the rice component in my risotto!

I used a white bean purée to give the dish some creaminess and studded it with rich sun-dried tomatoes and sautéed leeks for a good punch of flavour.

I loved that this dish was substantial but not heavy and think it would be a great base for all sorts of flavour combinations. A Spanish paella with tomatoes, brightly coloured peppers and olives would be scrummy I’m sure, or how about adding chunks of sweet potato and spinach? You could also add some nutritional yeast for cheesiness.

Oh, and there’s none of that standing over the stove and stirring endlessly that traditional risotto involves here.

Leek, Sun-dried Tomato + White Bean "Risotto" (Cauilfower Rice)

Leek, Sundried Tomato & White Bean “Risotto”:

(Adapted from Fork and Beans)

1/2 Medium head of cauliflower (to yield approx 3C when chopped fine)
1/2T Olive oil + 1t (divided)
1/2 Onion, thinly sliced
2 Cloves of garlic, minced
3/4t Dried thyme or 1 sprig fresh thyme
1 1/2C/1 Can Cooked white beans
1C Vegetable broth
1 Large leek, trimmed and sliced into half-moons
1/3C Chopped sun-dried tomatoes (soft or rehydrated)
2T Pine nuts, toasted
Salt + Pepper
Squeeze of lemon (optional)

Place the cauliflower florets in a food processor and pulse until you get a coarse “rice” like texture. Be careful not to overprocess as you want some texture.

Heat 1/2T olive oil in a medium-size pan and sauté onion for a few minutes until soft. Add garlic and thyme and continue to cook for a minute, stirring. Add half the white beans and the vegetable broth. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Blend this mixture using an immersion blender  until a smooth purée.

Meanwhile, in another pan, sauté leeks for 10 minutes in remaining oil with a pinch of salt, for 10 minutes, or until soft.

Add the leeks, sun-dried tomatoes, remaining white beans and cauliflower rice to the white bean purée, season well with salt and pepper and stir. Cover and let simmer for 5 minutes until everything is warmed through. Add a squeeze of lemon if you like.

Divide between 2 bowls, top with a few grinds of black pepper and toasted pine nuts.

Serves 2


I’m submitting this recipe to the weekly link party, Wellness Weekends, and Comfort Food Potluck Party over at Pure Ella.


What’s your experience of the typical veg meal on the menu?

Are you a risotto fan?

Vegan MoFo 2013- The End


So, Vegan MoFo is all over for this year. It was my first year participating (it’s my first year blogging) and I loved being part of the event.

Thank you again to everyone who has read and commented this month, and especially to those who’ve made my recipes and let me know how you liked them.


I set out with the aim of posting 26 times, with an A-Z theme highlighting a pantry ingredient for each letter in the alphabet. I managed 25 times ( I had to skip X) plus a bonus post reviewing my favourite Oxford restaurant, Al-Shami. Overall I’m pretty pleased  as I really wasn’t sure I’d be able to make my goal, especially as September also saw me moving to a new city and starting my Masters programme! There were definitely some panicked moments, but the fun of it all far outweighed those.

Below is a little photo gallery I made with pictures of all my creations this MoFo, from A to Z. If you joined the party half-way through and/or missed some posts, or just want a reminder of what I posted, I’ve created a new page (see menu bar) with a list of the ingredients I chose, photos and links to the posts and recipes.

Vegan MoFo 2013 Collage

The most-viewed post this month was: “P” is for…Pesto-Polenta Triangles, Balsamic White Beans with Cherry Tomatoes & Basil

The most commented post this month was: “L” is for…Raw Lemon-Lucuma Macaroons

My Personal favourite post this month was: “I” is for…Mediterranean Israeli Couscous Pilaf, Nutty Crusted Tofu & Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Did you have a favourite?

Of course I couldn’t write this post without mentioning all the wonderful, other bloggers who took part in Vegan MoFo this year. I was blown away, every single day, by the creativity I saw. I’ve stashed away an overwhelming number of recipes to try!

My 3 favourite blogger themes this month were:

- Amy of Vegan Eats & Treats‘s “Noshtalgia”, which featured foods and recipes with memories attached to them such as “Mommy’s Mexican Bean Salad”, “Grandmommy’s Applesauce Spice Cake” and “Grandpa Slim’s Pasta Primavera”. The series brought up lots of lovely memories for me too and I especially loved Amy’s charming cartoons.

- Megan (Maggie Muggins) of the Vegan Cookbook Aficionado’s “Brown Baggin’ it”, with a new packed lunch-appropriate recipe every day and an abundance of useful “lunch lady tips”. I’m going to have to start packing lunches a few times a week for when I’m up at university all day, so I’ll definitely be trying out some of these.

- An Unrefined Vegan‘s “Peanut Butter + Jelly” theme. The PB + J combination is far less common over here than Stateside, but is a flavour pairing I’ve come to love. The recipes featured here this month were unbelievable and included such deliciousness as: Seitan Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce and Plum BBQ Sauce, and the one I’m most excited to try, Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Chocolate-Blueberry “Fudge”

Where to now?

Of course the end of Vegan MoFo doesn’t signal the end of Coconut and Berries! This month I’ve truly come to love this little space on the web, recipe-creating, photo-taking, writing posts and connecting with all you amazing people! There’s no way I can keep up the same blogging schedule, as much as I wish I could, but I’ll still try and post as frequently as possible.

I’ve got plenty more recipe ideas and reviews in the pipeline. Also, especially given the number of other bloggers’ recipes I’ve amassed this month, I plan to make and photograph some of these dishes and share the successes with you so you can make them too. The only negative for me about blogging is that creating my own recipes has meant I’ve neglected my bookmarked recipes and cookbooks! I hope this will go down well with you folks.

Other Notes:

Mid-way through September I set up a new print recipe feature on the blog so you can print a pdf of individual recipes rather than having to print the whole post. Do check this out and let me know if it’s useful or if another format would be easier.

Finally, If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve seen here and want to stay connected (I hope so!) then please do sign up for email updates and join me elsewhere: I’m on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram (@coconutandberries), Google + and Twitter!

Z is for…



Za'atar spice blend

There are certainly some bona fide foodies amongst my readers, since many of you guessed correctly what I would choose for “Z” !

I’ve posted a recipe using Za’atar before on the blog, my Wheatberry, Chickpea & Za’atar Salad and talked a little about it then. I’m sure there are many of you who aren’t familiar with this ingredient though so here’s some info: Za’atar is a herb and spice blend widely-used in the Middle-East.  Its specifics vary according to region but it usually includes toasted sesame seeds, dried thyme and sumac, a tangy, lemony spice.

Both Sumac and Za’atar have become much more widely known in recent years, due, almost exclusively, to the world-renowned chef, Yotam Ottolenghi, as it’s an ingredient that features in many of the recipes in his popular cookbooks. It’s used as a seasoning for grilled vegetables, salads, sprinkled on top of hummus and the traditional recipe I just made, Manakish Za’atar , which are traditional Lebanese flatbreads spread with a topping made from Za’atar combined with olive oil.

Manakish Za'atar- Lebanese Flatbreads

I basically followed this recipe from The Kitchn, making only a small batch (something I definitely regretted as they were soooo delicious) and using light spelt fLour instead of all-purpose.

The flatbreads kind of reminded me of a crispy focaccia, with the olive oil in the dough and the salt in the topping, but this is even better with its bright herbs, spices and toasted sesame seeds.

Baba Ghanoush

I had planned to make my usual hummus recipe to serve with it but remembered the meal we enjoyed at Al Shami a few weeks ago and that amazing Moutabel/Baba Ghanoush. Since then, I’ve been wanting to replicate it at home and this felt like the perfect opportunity!

Like hummus, baba ghanoush is a spread which includes tahini, garlic and lemon, but instead of chickpeas, blackened aubergine is used instead.

Grilling the aubergine until nicely charred lends a deep, smoky flavour to the dip which is divine. There are a million variations on this dish but this is the ratio of ingredients I like best:

Baba Ghanoush with Lebanese Flatbreads (Manakish Za'atar)

Baba Ghanoush (Moutabel):

2 Medium aubergines, to yield 1 heaping cup cooked flesh when drained of excess liquid
2 Cloves of garlic, minced
1/4C Lemon juice
1/4C Tahini
3/4t Salt
Dash of smoked paprika
Fresh chopped parsley and more paprika to serve

To cook the aubergine, prick all over with a fork, place on a baking sheet and cook under the grill/broiler for 20-30 minutes until collapsed and blackened.

Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Cut aubergines lengthwise down the middle and scrape out as much of the flesh as you can, leaving behind the skin (a few little flecks of skin are ok). Squeeze the flesh to remove liquid or drain in a colander for 15 minutes.

In a food processor combine all the ingredients and process until smooth.

Garnish with more paprika and chopped parsley.

Serve with Manakish, pita and crudités or other meze.


Baba Ghanoush with Lebanese Flabreads (Manakish Za'atar)

And so we’ve reached the end! A-Z complete!

Thank you to everyone who’s stuck with me this month and especially to those who’ve commented or even made one of my recipes.  As much as I love recipe creating and blogging, you lovely readers make it all the more worthwhile!

I’ll be back tomorrow for a little Vegan MoFo round-up, featuring some of my favourites from Coconut and Berries this month, as well my top picks from elsewhere, sharing lessons learnt and what the future holds for the blog.