N is for…


Simple Avocado-Cucumber Sushi Rolls, Carrot-Hijiki Salad

For the uninitiated, nori is one of many varieties of sea vegetable or seaweed, probably the most frequently found in the Western world due to its use as a wrap for sushi.

Sea vegetables, or seaweeds, are some of the most nutritious foods we can eat. They have more vitamins and trace minerals by weight than any other food. They are very alkaline, have antibiotic and antibacterial properties, aid in digestion, help maintain a healthy thyroid and reduce cholesterol. You also don’t need to have a lot to reap the benefits. Sound like a wonder food!

Just yesterday Christy at Blissful Bites posted about sea vegetables so if you want to learn a bit more  (as well as grab an intriguing sounding recipe for a wakame-tofu “bacon” quiche) head on over there.

Simple Avocado-Cucumber Sushi Rolls, Carrot-Hijiki Salad

I’ve been wanting to make my own sushi for ages, and armed with a bag of proper sushi rice (I’ve since learned this isn’t actually essential but does help it stick together more easily), another buy from the Japan Centre, I finally set out to have a go. I was pleasantly surprised that they’re really not as hard as I thought, even without any specialist equipment.

I followed the instructions here, using agave nectar instead of white sugar and without a bamboo mat.

Simple Avocado-Cucumber Sushi Rolls, Carrot-Hijiki Salad

Sushi doesn’t have to be about fish. Even in a typical Japanese restaurant you should find plentiful vegan options, simple avocado and cucumber maki rolls probably the most common. If/when I get back to NYC, I’m making it a priority to try the elaborate sushi at the all-vegan restaurant Beyond Sushi.

Simple Avocado-Cucumber Sushi Rolls, Carrot-Hijiki Salad

The only thing about sushi rolls is that you can’t really fit much of the good stuff in them. I had to eat the leftover avocado and cucumber strips on the side.

If, like me, you prefer to load up on the fillings, and avoid the slightly delicate task of rolling sushi, I think a sushi “bowl” would be a better idea. A base of rice (short-grain brown would be my preference), strips of cucumber and carrot, some baked tofu or edamame for protein and finally slices of avocado and nori snipped with scissors on the top! Serve it like sushi rolls with good quality soy sauce and pickled ginger.

Here are a couple of other bloggers’ recipes using nori that I’m keen to try:

Gena’s Chickpea, Avocado, Nori Spread and Ricki’s Raw Nori Rolls with a “Salmon” filling (made from almonds) and Spicy Ginger-Miso Paste

Simple Avocado-Cucumber Sushi Rolls, Carrot-Hijiki Salad

You may be wondering about that other dish on my plate? Well, I’m feeling generous today and giving you a 2 for 1post! My Carrot-Hijiki Salad made an excellent companion for the sushi. More of that tasty seaweed flavour, crunchy carrots and a sweet sesame dressing.

Considering I’m highlighting both nori and hijiki in today’s post, perhaps it would have been more fitting to have saved it for “S” for Seaweed…Never mind, they’ll be something else for S I assure you.

Carrot-Hijiki Salad

Hijiki-Carrot Salad

1/4C Dried hijiki
2C Shredded carrots (I used a food processor)
1/2T Rice vinegar
1/2T Tamari
1t Agave nectar
3/4T Sunflower oil
1/2T Toasted sesame oil
Pinch of salt
1T Toasted Sesame seeds

Soak hijiki in warm water for 10 minutes to soften, drain and rinse. Combine with shredded carrots.

Whisk together remaining ingredients in a small bowl and stir through salad along with the toasted sesame seeds.  Best eaten after refrigerating a couple of hours so the flavours can deepen.

Serve with sushi or as a side to any Japanese-inspired dish

There’s a huge variety of different sea vegetables out there but the only other one I’ve tried and use regularly is kombu. I add a strip to a pot of beans when soaking and cooking them as apparently it aids digestion.

Do you eat sea vegetables? Which others should I try?


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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

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.

Sticky Miso Aubergine

I’m just back from a little holiday in Edinburgh during which I took a bit of a digital detox (I did have 1 post scheduled for while I was away) which I’m sure was good for me, but I am missing blogging and blog-reading after only 5 days away from my computer! I’m beginning to catch up with my reader and thought I’d give you a recipe to keep you going before I fill you in on my time away.

A recent survey on The Kitchn showed aubergine (eggplant) to be the least favourite summer vegetable, something I’m not hugely surprised about, but a shame all the same. I’ve had some pretty bad aubergine dishes in the past until I learnt how to cook it to show it at its best. Roasting is usually the way to go for me: simply seasoned with salt and pepper and drizzled in olive oil, the spongy chunks sweeten and soften. I love aubergine in tagines and curries too, where, after a long simmer it seems to soak up whatever tasty sauce you’re using.

Sticky Miso Aubergine (Eggplant)

I wanted to try a different flavour profile this time, and travelled to the Far East for this dish. This is a cross-between Mabo Nasu, a Chinese aubergine stir-fry, and Nasu Dengaku, grilled miso-glazed aubergine. Both sounded good to me, so I combined them! It’s a quick recipe to make as all stir-fries are, and the sweet, salty miso sauce coating it all will, I’m sure, have even vegetable-haters hoovering up a whole plateful.

The seasonings I’ve used are ones I always have in my kitchen, but perhaps they’re not typical in everyone’s pantries… I’ve mentioned the company Clearspring on the blog before and their fantastic line of Japanese seasonings are what I’ve used here. I’m planning a full review of their products but for now will highly recommend these ones if you need to stock up on Asian supplies.

Note: Whichever brand of Mirin you use, something to be aware of is that most nowadays contain either sugar or high fructose corn syrup, and preservatives, so try to find one where the rice is naturally fermented and with no additives.

Sticky Miso Aubergine (Eggplant)

Sticky Miso Aubergine

We ate this as a main dish, just alongside some brown rice and stir-fried Chinese greens but it would be a welcome addition to any Asian meal.

1 Medium aubergine, diced large
1t Sesame oil (or another high-heat oil )
1/2 Onion, diced
1/2 Green pepper, diced large
1 t Sesame oil
1 Clove of garlic, minced
1” Piece of ginger, minced

1/2T Red miso
3/4T Agave nectar
1 1/2T Rice vinegar
1 1/2T Mirin
1 1/2T Tamari
1/2T Arrowroot
Pinch of chili flakes

Toasted sesame seeds to garnish.

Whisk together sauce ingredients  in a small bowl. Set aside.

Warm 1t sesame oil in a pan or wok over med-high heat, stir-fry the aubergine chunks in the oil for approx 10 minutes until fairly soft. Remove from pan to a bowl.

Heat another teaspoon of sesame oil in the pan and stir-fry the onion and pepper until soft. Add the garlic and ginger and continue to cook, be careful not to let them burn though.

Return aubergine to the pan and pour over the sauce. It should thicken up almost immediately and create a sticky glaze. Continue to stir until all coated and hot.

Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds to serve.

Are you one of the aubergine-haters out there? Perhaps I can change your mind with this dish!
If you’re a fan, how do you like to prepare it?