Tag Archives: Vegan

Vegan Sweet Shortcrust Pastry

A lot of people (including me before I really thought about it) think that it is difficult to cook for vegans. However, with a little forethought, and some minor adjustments, it isn’t actually that difficult.

If you make it yourself, pastry is one of the easiest recipes to adapt to a vegan diet. When I was younger, and the world hadn’t woken up to the horrors of transfat, my mother used a special kind of margarine that as a solid at room temperature, and as a vivid yellow colour.I have no idea what was in it, and I am probably a bit afraid to find out!  Nowadays you can get a number of olive and vegetable oil-based ones. These are not so yellow either.

The following recipe is enough to give you the base for a large tart, or several smaller ones. I got 24 mince pies using this recipe.

Recipe: Vegan Sweet Shortcrust Pastry


250 g plain flour

125 g block margarine (not the stuff that you spread on your bread – it needs to be more solid)

50 g icing sugar

Zest of a lemon


First, measure the flour and sugar into a mixing bowl, and zest the lemon into a separate container. Take the margarine out of the fridge, and try to work with it as cold as you can. Cut the margarine into cubes and add to the flour. Try to hold as little of it in your hand as possible, to avoid melting.  Rub the flour, sugar and margarine to a fine breadcrumb, by rubbing your hands through the flour and margarine with your thumb over your upturned fingers. When you are done it should look like this:

flour dough as breadcrumbs - before you ad liquid.

The breadcrumb effect

At this point, mix in the lemon zest.

Then get some cold water in a jug – run the tap a little first to make sure that it is as cold as you can. Pour a little at a time into the flour and margarine mix and stir with your hands until it comes together to form a nice dough. At this point cover tightly with either cling film, greaseproof paper or foil. I never use cling film, so I just wrap my dough with whichever of the other two I have to hand. refrigerate for at least half an hour to allow the pastry to relax. If you don’t do this, the pastry will be difficult to work with, and may be too sticky or too short (crumbly).

Roll the pastry out thinly on a well floured surface. To get it even, turn it 90 degrees after each roll, and this should give you an almost circular piece of dough to work with. If you do not need all the dough at once, cut it in half, and put the bit you are not working with back in the fridge,after you have wrapped it up again, until you need it

Use in any recipes that require pastry, but that would be otherwise suitable for vegans. Instead of greasing the tin you are going to bake it in with butter, just use a liberal coating of olive oil.

Wherever you would use an egg/milk wash – i.e. any part of the finished product where the dough will be on display, such as pie crusts; or where you may need to add a liquid filling after a prebake, such as tart bases, then simply brush with water.

The resulting dough is quite short, but a bit denser in texture than all butter dough, and it is paler. My take on it is though, if you have one vegan guest, the other can eat vegetables, whereas your vegan friend cannot eat their food. This dough certainly passes muster for people who are used to eating animal products, so no need to cook special food for one or two.

UPDATE: I have now tested this same pastry with ground almonds, and it makes the pastry richer, and has a lot of flavour. For the amounts given in this recipe, add an additional 75 g ground almonds with the flour, and work with the butter, as above.


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Sing A Song of Six Quince


A bit like large, hairy pears

The quince is an odd fruit. Part of the rose family, with a hard, fuzzy fruit that is easy to overlook if you don’t know what it is. It is often possible to forage the quince, as they do occur in the odd hedgerow, and a few lucky people grow them, or know someone else that does.

This is another of those things that I really hope to find out and about. The flowers are really beautiful, so they are often planted in municipal areas. I have heard rumour of one in a local park, although I have not found it myself. You also have to be pretty quick if you are to get there before the parakeets that live wild here.

However, I have found them on my local market. A basket full caught my eye, and I felt a rush of excitement, as I hurried closer to see whether or not I was in luck, or if they were just large conference pears. Luckily for me, my first glance was right, and I went home happily clutching a bag full of kweepeers, as they are called here.

I have cooked with them before, having baked them in a similar way to apples, but I have always wanted to try my hand at making membrillo. I first had some on a holiday to Barcelona, where it is served with sharp manchego cheese, and its sweetness and texture really are the perfect foil for this cheese. I have also used it with pâté on crackers, where it finds another worthy partnership.

I looked around for a good recipe, and Nigel Slater had a good one on the BBC site. When I read this, my first thought was that I could maximise the quince output by making jelly too. This appeals to the tight-fisted food waste geek in me – I really hate throwing stuff away, so any recipe where I can save scraps or cooking liquor to make something else out of is off to a good start already!

The quince might be an odd-looking fruit, but its perfume  is quite something. As I peeled and cored them, as per the instructions, my kitchen was filled with a gorgeous smell, very similar to ripe raspberries. As they cook, you get hints of their rosaceous origins as well.

One thing that cooked quince is famed for is its beautiful deep red colour, so imagine the panic I had when I cooked the fruit when they were still a pale off white colour, and the cooking liquor was pretty beige.

Part cooked quince

Taste the rainbow?

A while ago, I had promised a friend a session in nostalgia and jam making, so she headed round after work, and we got down to make the jelly. The first lot I made was with the cooking liquor that was drained from the fruit. Since the membrillo recipe says to peel and core the quinces, and this contains a good deal of pectin, this is also perfect for jelly. I boiled these up in some more water, and re-used the vanilla pod in it too. The strained liquor made yet more jelly.

Making jelly is really a question of proportion. For every 600 ml of liquid, you need 400 g of sugar. You can play around with this proportion a little, and I have reduced the amount of sugar for some fruits. However, the quince is a relatively unknown quantity for me, so I stuck with the tried and tested ratio.

We boiled it up to a nice rolling boil, and let it cook off for 10 minutes. These days I have taken the guess-work out of jam making by investing in a sugar thermometer. When the thermometer reaches 104.5°C, you know that you are done. I still like to check, since the first time I used a thermometer, the jelly I was making turned out a bit runny, because I had taken it off the heat the second it reached temperature. Also, it was good to show my friend the low tech way of seeing if your jam has reached setting point.

The Fridge Test is the old-fashioned way to ensure the setting point is reached. You put a plate in the fridge to cool. Drop a little jam on the plate and leave for a minute. If the jam wrinkles when you run your finger through it, then it has reached setting point. If it doesn’t wrinkle, stick the plate back in the fridge, leave the jam to cook, and try again in a few minutes.

When you have reached the setting point, take the jam off the heat and pour into hot, sterilised jars. Fill  them almost to the top, cover with waxed paper discs (wax side down) and seal with a hot, sterilised airtight lid.

As you can see from the picture, my worry that the final product would be beige was unfounded. They don’t tell you this in the recipes, but the quince does not take on its customary red until quite near the end of  the cooking process.

Quince Jelly

Not beige

Today I made the membrillo, as per the recipe. This too takes its time to reach the right colour, but when it does, it is a really thick paste, and has a grainy texture. I poured it into a roasting tin, but you could also use a swiss roll tin if you like it thinner.

I baked it in a low oven, but I should note that it still wasn’t entirely set, so I put it back in on low for a while.


The membrillo paste before it went in the oven

I cut this into two. The one half I have wrapped in greaseproof paper, and foil, and I will keep it somewhere cool and dark until it is required. The other half, I shall cut into squares, sprinkle in caster sugar and serve as a sweet at my upcoming party.

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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas?

Pear and Ginger Mincemeat

Yup, looks like Christmas to me

Now, don’t get me wrong, I can’t stand the commercial run up to Christmas, which seems to start in about July in some places. I think that all the Christmas stuff should start in December, so that we don’t all get Christmas fatigue by the time schools start back. However, there are a few things that you need to get ready in advance, and homemade mincemeat is one of them, as it needs time to develop and for the flavours to meld.

At a small food fair last weekend, we picked up a bumper load of pears for next to nothing. I poached some, while they were still firm, but there were too many to eat like this, or to have as a fruit on their own. We also had cakes, compote and so on, but what I really wanted to make with them was the Pear and Ginger Mincemeat that I had seen in Pam Corbin’s Preserves book.

I have been making my own mincemeat for a few years now, if only to prove that I can. Here in the Netherlands, it becomes necessary if you don’t want to add it t o the list of Stuff Visitors Have To Bring You. Our list is long enough, with English mustard, Pimms, Salad Cream, veggie suet and so on. The Big Guy also asks for Brown Sauce, despite being Swedish. I think he has assimilated.

This mincemeat ticks a load of boxes for me, since I love pears, I really love ginger, and we regularly host a Mince Pie and Mulled Wine each Christmas, and you can’t have that without sweet mincemeat.

I made a couple of amendments to Pam’s recipe. I have not yet seen cooking apples in the Netherlands, so I only used eaters, but I took half of them and stewed them until they were quite liquid. I think it needs to have some more liquid contents, as this mincemeat does not use suet (which I always substitute with vegetable suet, so that any veggie or vegan friends can also have some), so the stewing will prevent you having dry mince pies.

Secondly, instead of all of the sultanas and raisins she suggests, I added half sultanas and half dried cranberries. There is something great about dried cranberries, and they are traditional Christmas fare, albeit not in the sweet courses!

I also made my own candied peel – much nicer than the tacky shop bought stuff.

I cannot recommend enough trying this version for yourself. Just look how great it looks, and the smell is something else. I could not resist trying a teaspoon, and trust me, this is the best mincemeat ever, even before the flavours have had time to meld and develop.

Sweet, Sweet Mincemeat

Smells amazing, looks pretty, tastes delicious - sweet, sweet mincemeat

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Candied Camera

Homemade Candied Peel

Candied Peel – the nice kind

Loads of people object to candied peel. I think this is possibly because they have only had the sticky, cheap, pre-made stuff. After all, many of those people don’t object to zest in a lot of other recipes, so what makes it so different when it has a sugar coating?

To get around this, I make my own. It has the advantage of allowing you to put your favourite citrus fruits in, and to play around a little with the proportions. Any citrus will do, but the commercially available ones are more often mostly lemon, I think. A better balance of lemon and orange, or experimenting with grapefruit, blood oranges, or even the more unusual citrus fruit, such as pomelos should also help turn even the most ardent haters of this little treat.

I made some with orange and lemon, because I like it, and I had quite a few that I was going to use for something else.

Recipe: Candied Peel


Citrus fruits of your choice. Try to get unwaxed if possible.

200 g sugar per 3 fruit


Thoroughly wash and scrub the fruits.

Slice the ends off each fruit, then cut off the peel in wide strips. I find it very easy to do this with a vegetable peeler, but a knife is also fine. This is one recipe where you want to retain the pith, which will help the peel stay juicy.

Put each kind of peel in a separate saucepan, and cover with cold water. Boil the peels until they are soft to the point of a knife. The time this takes for each will vary greatly, which is why it is important to do them in separate pans. This can take up to an hour or even more for some of the tougher peels, whereas something like a clementine will take less than 15 minutes. Do not let the peels dry out, so if you need to, top up with the water from a freshly boiled kettle. Drain all the peels as soon as they are soft.

Boiling Peel

Cooking Peel

Make a sugar syrup by dissolving  200 g sugar per 100 ml of water, and multiplying up accordingly. Bring it up to the boil, and carefully add the drained peels. It is important that it covers the peels, so add more syrup if you need to.

Let the peel simmer in the syrup over a low heat, stirring occasionally. When the peel has absorbed almost all of the syrup, then it is done. Towards the end, don’t take your eyes off this, because it can burn, and then tastes really bitter and unpleasant. Err on the side of a bit more syrup in the pan,rather than too little.

Grease a baking sheet or tray, and line it with greaseproof paper. Put the peel on the sheet to dry out. Be careful, they will have scaldingly hot sugar syrup on them. Leave them in a warm place to dry oven the next 3-4 days, and turn them over when you remember them.

They will store well in an airtight container. Cut them into smaller pieces when you need to use them in baking, or as decoration for desserts. You will find that the sugar coating will mostly fall off.

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Fantastic Finger Food Part 1

I was asked to provide some finger food for a friend’s birthday party. I agreed to do a number of savoury dishes.

Most of my friends and I are what is often referred to as hippies. I hate this term, not jut because it is usually levelled at us as a pejorative, but also because I like to think that my views are a more modern take on the environmental and peaceful aims that a lot of hippies espoused in the 60s.

One thing I guess we do have in common is a reluctance, or downright refusal to eat other animals. Many of my friends are vegetarian, including the birthday girl. So I made a whole range of veggie finger foods for the occasion. Here are a few selected highlights.I even managed to make some of these vegan!

Bloody Mary Tomatoes

Bloody Mary Tomatoes

Boozy Tomatoes – rated 18

This one starts with a confession. This was originally a Delia Smith recipe. I am not a massive fan of the patron saint of the British home cook, if I am honest. This opinion may get me strung up from the nearest pasta tree, but there, I have said it. I know she has done many good things to improve cookery skills and so on, but I find most of her recipes a little staid. Then there was the infamous bean incident that we no longer discuss, but let’s just say that her  (rubbish) cheat for beans left a party of hungry walkers without a stew for several hours too long, and left me beside myself with embarrassment. Luckily, I think they all got a little merry and didn’t notice exactly how late their dinner was.

All that said, this recipe will blow your socks off.

The basic premise is that this is a bloody mary in solid form, which saves on washing up of all those pesky glasses.

Firstly, mix the ingredients for a bloody mary. The following figures are really rough, and you should mix it to your taste anyway.

200 ml vodka

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Dash Tabasco sauce

1/2 tsp celery salt

If you are particularly keen on other things when you make a bloody mary (eg I did know someone who insisted on adding some English Mustard Powder) then add that too. Why not? Give it a good whisk to blend the ingredients as well as you can.

Cut crosses in the bases of a load of cherry or baby plum tomatoes. A mix of red and yellow is also attractive. Place these quite snugly in an airtight container, with the cross facing upwards.

Pour the bloody mary mix over the tomatoes. Seal the container, and marinate in the fridge for as long as you can. Two days is ideal, but I often forget that they should have this long, so often only do one.I also forgot a second bowl in the fridge at a party, and the booze kept them good for a couple of weeks.

Drain them, then arrange on a plate to serve. You can keep the vodka mixture for another batch if you like.

These are really popular, and will go quickly. It will be up to you what excuse you use to make sure any kids at the party eat the undoctored tomatoes, and not these.

Marinated Tofu Skewers

Tofu Skewers

Tofu and Tomato Treats

I found this recipe over at raspberry eggplant. I wasn’t able to find ginger soy sauce, so I made my own by using dark soy, and lump of garlic about 2cm thick, which I then grated into the soy. This does the trick, and imparts a lovely flavour to the tofu, but it does leave it much blacker than the ones that Roopa has photographed over there.I have tried water down the soy, but that does not seem to make much difference.

Nevertheless, they went like hot cakes, despite being cold skewers.

Well, I don’t want to bore you with overlong posts, so the next lot of these will appear tomorrow.

Update: I was asked on facebook what was between the tofu on the skewers. It is cucmber, that I peeled to give a stripy effect, deseeded and cut into similar-sized lumps to the tofu. Roopa used them in her original recipe. I also think cherry tomatoes would work just as well.


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