Vegan Pumpkin Recipes: Pumpkin Pecan Cakes

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Following on from my pumpkin pasta bake, I decided to use the remaining pumpkin flesh to make something sweet. Now I’m still a novice when it comes to baking but I was feeling quite satisfied with this attempt. The pumpkin gave the cakes a real chewy texture and I used maple syrup to add a new dimension of sweetness. These were incredibly easy to make, even for my limited baking talents!

INGREDIENTS (9 cakes)
•Flesh of a third of a medium-sized pumpkin
•250g plain flour
•350g Demerara sugar
•1 tsp baking powder
•1 tsp salt
•250ml almond milk
•250ml veg oil
•1 tsp vanilla essence
•60g chopped pecans
•1 tbsp maple syrup

Method
1) Boil the pumpkin for 20 minutes, until soft. Drain, mash with a fork and allow to cool.
2) Pre-heat the oven to 180c. Sift the flour and mix with the sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the milk, oil and vanilla then mix through the mashed pumpkin. Add the pecans and maple syrup and pour into a lined 9×13″ baking tray.
3) Place in the oven for 25 minutes or 30 minutes if you prefer your cakes a bit less gooey! Remove and leave to stand for at least 20 minutes.

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4) Cut into 9 squares and place sheets of kitchen roll between to absorb any excess moisture. Serve with vegan cream or ice-cream.

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Happy Halloween!

Vegan Pumpkin Recipes: Pumpkin & Cashew Pasta Bake

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With Halloween looming, it only seemed appropriate to spend a day of my half term experimenting with some pumpkin recipes. I created a savoury and sweet dish for a dinner and dessert pumpkin overload!

Now before I delve into the ingredient side of things, I must get a minor vent off my chest. Let me stress; this pasta bake was originally intended to be a cannelloni. I envisioned myself creating the creamy cashew and pumpkin filling and rolling up the lasagne sheets with the mixture oozing out of the tubes.

I made an early morning dash to my local Co-op supermarket to gather all of my ingredients together. However my determination to shop from memory rather than list writing inevitably meant that something was forgotten, in this case, the lasagne sheets. Not to worry, I thought to myself, I can just head back there later. Although when I did return, were there any dried lasagne sheets in the pasta section? No. After pestering an unsuspecting shop floor assistant, it was concluded that the only available lasagne sheets were in the fresh section and, alas, contained egg. Not exactly a vegan’s dream.

I headed on out of there to a nearby Tesco Express in pursuit of dried lasagne sheets. There, situated between the penne and the linguine, were my beloved lasagne sheets. In a state of pasta-fuelled euphoria, I practically skipped to the self-service till. Then…disaster struck. An overly lengthy queue left me with time to peruse the packet. And what dastardly word did I see glaring me in the face? Egg. Egg! Why oh why do these food manufacturers presume that all people want egg in their pasta?! Usually the pasta in the dried section is vegan. Most disappointing, Co-op and Tesco.

I returned to the pasta shelf disheartened and picked up the last available option; this bag of large shell pasta that I decided to stuff with my mixture instead.

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With the rant over, it was finally time to focus on the cooking side of things.
This recipe makes enough for 4-5 large portions and the cashew cream filling made a fabulous vegan alternative for ricotta.

INGREDIENTS
•80g cashew nuts, soaked for several hours
•Salt
•Black pepper
•Pinch of nutmeg
•1/4 cup of water
•2 tbsps olive oil
•18 tomatoes, halved
• 3 garlic cloves, crushed
•1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
• A small handful of torn basil leaves
•The flesh of three-quarters of a medium-sized pumpkin
•300g large shell pasta, blanched in hot water for 3-4 minutes
•30g grated vegan cheese (optional)

Method
1) To make the cashew cream, blend the soaked cashews with water, a pinch of salt, pepper and nutmeg until a smooth, cream-like paste is formed. Set aside.

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3) To make the tomato sauce, heat oil in a large pan and add the tomatoes and garlic, stirring gently for 7-10 minutes until the tomatoes start to release some of their juices. Add the balsamic vinegar and basil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Stand for 5 minutes before blending into a rich sauce. Set aside.

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4) Now heat the oven at 180c. Boil the pumpkin for 20 minutes until soft. Drain, leave to cool and the mash with a fork. Mix with the cashew cream and stuff the pasta shells with a spoonful of the mixture, placing in a large Pyrex dish.

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5) Pour the sauce over the stuffed shells and sprinkle over the vegan cheese if desired.

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6) After 15 minutes, remove the foil, add a few basil leaves and put the dish back in the oven for a further 15 minutes or until bubbling and golden. Leave to stand for a further 10-15 minutes before serving.

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I served a large portion of this hearty, autumnal dish with a watercress side salad. Enjoy!

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Caffi V @ Gwledd Conwy Feast 2014

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I’ve just returned from spending a relaxing weekend in my native North Wales, the first time I’ve been back there since becoming vegan. Growing up a vegetarian, I never considered it to be the most progressive of areas in terms of food and meal options for me were somewhat thin on the ground when eating out. So this weekend I never imagined that I’d be taken somewhere I’d be able to gorge on a load of vegan food!

My brother and sister-in-law took me to a food festival in Conwy, a walled market town along the North Wales coast. Situated in the grounds of a B&B, against the backdrop of the castle, was Caffi V, a volunteer-led vegan cafe serving up a range of plant-based, ethical foods. The beauty of this organisation is that their food was actually FREE; donations were all that were requested!

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First of all, I virtually inhaled this delicious plate of vegetable korma and rice; it barely touched the sides!

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The group had even created a clay wood-fired oven in which they cooked their vegan pizzas. Despite having just eaten a curry, I couldn’t possibly leave without having sampled some pizza!

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Cashews and tapioca were blended to create the creamy, cheese-like topping, a refreshing change to soya cheese.

Great food, atmosphere and scenery made for a lovely afternoon. I might just have to start visiting the homeland more often now!

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http://www.conwyfeast.com/feast-fringe/

https://m.facebook.com/CaffiVegan?_rdr

Creamy Squash & Spinach Curry

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When it comes to curries, I don’t feel like there should be any set rules with regards to quantities of herbs and spices. Part of the fun should just be playing around with ingredients until you have it tasting just the way you want, which is exactly what I did with this flavoursome curry. I added Alpro soya cream to give it this creamy texture.

Ingredients (4 portions)
•1/2 an onion, roughly chopped
• 3 garlic cloves, crushed
•1 tbsp ground cumin
•1 tsp ground coriander
• 1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander (plus more to garnish)
•1/2 tsp tumeric
•1 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
•1 tsp ground black pepper
•Juice of 1/2 a lemon
•A pinch of chilli flakes
•1 tbsp veg oil
•800g butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and chopped into chunks
•1 can of chopped tomatoes
•1 cup of water
•1 tsp sugar
•250g spinach
•200ml soya cream (more to garnish)

Method
1) Place the first 11 ingredients in a blender and blitz until a paste is formed.
2) Add to the pan and cook on a low heat for 15 minutes. Add the squash and stir so that the paste covers all the chunks. Cook gently for a further 10 minutes.
3) Stir in the tomatoes and add the water bit by bit. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.
4) Add the sugar and sample the sauce of the curry. Add more water and seasoning if necessary, before adding the spinach. Stir in the cream and leave to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

To serve, add a drizzle more of cream and the chopped coriander. For a healthy touch, serve alongside wholegrain rice.

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Enjoy!

Roasted Red Pepper & Lentil Soup

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I love a hearty bowl of soup for lunch during the week and there’s nothing more satisfying than making your own, free from the high levels of salt, sugar and preservatives that the shop-bought varieties contain.

I made a massive batch of this delicious soup on Sunday afternoon and it has provided me with lunch for the entire working week.

Several red peppers are required in order to bring out the flavour in the soup but I can guarantee it’s worth it. I used a mixture of bell peppers and sweet pointed peppers.

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Roasting them for an extended period with thyme brings out immensely sweet flavours and the added red lentils give that hearty feel to it.

INGREDIENTS (4-5 portions)
•4 red bell peppers
•4 sweet pointed peppers
•4 tomatoes, halved
•3 cloves of garlic, crushed
•The leaves of 7 sprigs of thyme
•1 tsp black pepper
• Pinch of salt
•1tbsp olive oil
•700ml veg stock
• 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
•200g red lentils

METHOD
1) Pre-heat the oven at 180c. De-seed and roughly chop the peppers, placing in a large oven-proof dish along with the tomatoes. Sprinkle on the garlic, thyme, salt and pepper, drizzling over the oil.

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2) Place in the oven and roast for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. In the meantime, rinse and boil the lentils, drain and set aside.
3) When removing the peppers from the oven, leave to stand and cool significantly. Add the majority of the stock and blitz with a hand-held blender. Examine the consistency and add more stock if necessary. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, lentils and serve.

I drizzled a dash of soya cream on mine and served with a sprig of thyme. The rest of the soup was then dished out in tuppeware boxes, ready for the week ahead!

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Mushroom & Red Onion Jam Filo Parcels

Served as part of our Sunday roast dinner.

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Last Sunday, I felt like spending the afternoon cooking up a tasty roast, something I hadn’t done since the start of the year! As much as I love a good nut roast, I thought I’d veer away from the predictable veggie centre piece this time and try something new instead. I was craving mushrooms and realised I hadn’t played around with pastry for a long time. I’d love to say I whipped up my own filo pastry…but that would be a lie! The ‘Jus Rol’ ready made pastry is super convenient and a valuable time saver. As mushrooms in pastry would have been rather bland, I decided to experiment with a red onion jam to compliment the saltiness of the mushrooms. My boyfriend grabbed these giant red onions from Chapel Market in Angel.

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INGREDIENTS (4 parcels and 3 jars of jam!)
•2 cloves of garlic
•2 tbsp olive oil
•4 portobello mushrooms
•2 knobs of vegan butter
•4 large red onions, roughly chopped
•A pinch of salt
•4 tbsps brown sugar
•100ml red wine vinegar
•2 sheets of filo pastry

Method
1) Pre-heat the oven to 200c. Heat the oil and garlic in a frying pan and lightly sizzle the mushrooms on each side until they begin to soften. Set aside on kitchen roll to absorb the moisture.
2) In another pan, heat 1 knob of butter and sauté the onions and salt on a high heat, stirring regularly. Once they have reduced and softened significantly, add the sugar and continue stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
3) Add the vinegar and cook for 20 minutes, gradually reducing the heat.

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4) Use 1/2 a filo sheet per 1 mushroom. Place the mushroom on the pastry and place a spoonful of jam on top. Hold the corners of the pastry and twist, pressing down in the middle.
5) With the remaining knob of butter, heat and brush onto the parcels, before placing on grease proof paper and putting in the oven.

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6) Cook for 15-20 minutes or until golden.

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I served these with thyme roasted carrots, swede and squash, spinach, sweet potato roasties, stuffing and porcini mushroom and red wine gravy.

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I’ve been left with ample amounts of the red onion jam and found it worked extremely well on top of one of my spinach and lentil harissa burgers.

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Great versatility!

Vegfest London 2014

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Last weekend saw the return of Vegfest to Kensington Olympia, a huge 2 day event for all things vegan and animal welfare related. As a vegan newbie, I was delighted to hear that such an event existed but wasn’t quite sure what to expect and I certainly didn’t imagine it to be so popular. I managed to drag my meat-eating boyfriend along; he’s fairly compliant when there’s any type of food involved!

Upon arrival, I was overwhelmed by the amount of stalls at the event, ranging from delicious smelling food to animal welfare campaigners and charities, I didn’t know where to start!

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It was incredibly inspiring to see so many groups of people coming together for the collective purpose of trying to make the world a better place, one way or another. The Vegan Society was there of course, offering support and advice to current vegans, as well as those contemplating a transition to a vegan lifestyle. Additionally, Greenpeace were at the event, continuing to raise awareness of climate change and global warming.

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Our advance tickets enabled us to pick up some freebies including granola, chia shots, yummy almond milk and not so yummy beetroot juice!

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After a few laps of the venue, it was time to make the all important decision of what food to eat. There was almost too much choice for me to handle. I really wanted the tofu tikka masala from Ruperts Street but they’d sold out!

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Whilst Tom opted for a Vietnamese baguette from The Hungry Gecko, I eventually chose some incredibly delicious Pad Thai from Bang Wok which left me ridiculously full!

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With the food part out of the way, it was time for me to treat myself. I picked up this handmade organic lemongrass and coconut body oil from Heavenly Organics which does, in fact, smell heavenly!

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I then came across the stall of a vegan hair salon, The Rabbit Hole, from west London. I purchased an organic hair treatment which seems to have worked wonders on my dyed hair.

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Knowing that I’ve always been somewhat of a cat obsessive, Tom treated me to this cute scarf from the Mayhew Animal Home.

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Before heading home, I grabbed a load of my beloved Nakd bars, as well as some vegan chocolate treats from Moo Free.

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Finally, Tom and I couldn’t resist the cookie sandwiches from Ms Cupcake but we were far too full to eat them then and there. However they proved to be a wonderful evening treat, washed down with a nice cup of tea!

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What a great, inspirational day it was which showed that veganism doesn’t have to be difficult at all and has such positive benefits to individual health, animals and the planet.

I’m looking forward to the next Vegfest event already!

vegfest.co.uk