Steamed Bao Buns with Hoisin Duck

These homemade vegan Bao buns are just so good you will want to make them over and over again. They require a bit of time and preparation but it’s so worth it as they are utterly delicious. They are definitely the perfect sharing food when you have friends and family around and I promise they will satisfy even the most hardcore meat eater! I filled them with Linda McCartney’s Vegetarian Hoisin Duck which is so flavoursome and perfect for any Asian inspired dish. 

Ingredients:

Makes about 18 buns – (they are suitable for freezing)

For the bao buns:

530gr plain white flour 

1 1/2 tbsp of caster sugar 

1 tsp of fast action dried yeast 

50ml of unsweetened soy milk 

1 tbsp of olive oil + extra for greasing 

1 tbsp of rice vinegar 

1 tsp of baking soda

1/2 tsp of salt

For the filling:

1 pack of Linda Mcccartney’s Vegetarian Hoisin Duck 

1 carrot and 1/2 cucumber –  finely sliced in thin matchsticks

1 red chilli – sliced 

2 spring onions – finely sliced 

A bunch of fresh coriander – finely chopped 

A generous sprinkle of sesame seeds 

A squeeze of lime juice 

About 1/2 cup of vegan mayo (optional)

To make the buns: 

Mix together the plain flour, caster sugar and ½ tsp salt in a large mixing bowl.

Dissolve 1 tsp fast-action dried yeast and a pinch of sugar in 1 tbsp warm water, then add it to the flour with the soy milk, 1 tbsp of oil, rice vinegar and 200ml water. Mix into a dough, adding a little extra water if needed.

Place the dough onto a work surface dusted with some flour and knead for 10-15 mins, or until smooth. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise for 2 hrs, or until doubled in size.

Place the dough out onto a clean work surface and punch it down. Flatten the dough with your hands, then sprinkle over 1 tsp baking powder and knead for 5 mins.

Roll out the dough into a long sausage shape, about 3cm thick, then cut into pieces that are about 3cm wide – you should have 18.

In the palm of your hand, roll each piece of dough into a ball and leave to rest for 2-3 mins.

Use a rolling pin roll out each ball, one by one, into an oval shape about 3-4mm thick. Rub the surface of the dough ovals with oil and brush a little oil over a chopstick.

Place the oiled chopstick in the centre of each oval. Fold the dough over the chopstick, then slowly pull out the chopstick.

Cut 18 squares of baking parchment and put a bun on each. Transfer to a baking tray, cover with a clean tea towel or lightly oiled cling film and leave to prove in a warm place for 1 hr 30 mins, or until doubled in size.

Heat a large steamer over a medium-high heat (I have used a traditional bamboo one but any steamer will work) Steam the buns for 8-10 mins until puffed up (you’ll need to do this in batches). Remove them from the steamer and let them cool down for a coupled of minutes.

While you are cooking the buns prepare the Linda McCartney’s Vegetarian Duck. Simply add a touch of oil to a large frying pan and once hot add in the duck “meat” and fry for 1 minute. Add in about 50ml of water and continue cooking for 4-5 minutes. Remove from the eating and add in the hoisin sauce. Mix everything together and fill the buns adding  a teaspoon of vegan mayo, fresh coriander, chopped spring onions and chilli. You can also add the carrots and cucumbers or having them on the side.

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Neatballs with Celeriac Noodles

These are by far the best “meat free – meatballs” I have ever made! The consistency is really similar to regular meatballs, thanks to the combination between the cooked brown rice and mushrooms. To add that lovely cheesy flavour I have used nutritional yeast which works perfectly in this recipe. These “meatballs” are really versatile and they work really well with a simple tomato sauce and pasta dishes of if you want a lighter and fresher recipe I love serving them with these Celeriac Noodles. If you can’t get your hands on celeriac you can also regular white potatoes, sweet potato or courgette.

Ingredients:

Makes about 15-20 balls depending on the size 

For the Neatballs:

3 cups of cooked brown rice (for this recipe I find it works best short grain brown rice)

150 chestnut mushrooms – finely chopped 

1 cup of walnuts – blitzed to a fine crumble 

1 white onion 

2 cloves of garlic 

2 cups of porridge oats 

2 spring onions finely chopped 

1 carrot – peeled and finely grated

2 tbsp of nutritional yeast 

1 tablespoon of tahini paste 

1 tablespoon of maple syrup 

1 tablespoon of siracha or hot sauce 

2 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil + more for frying

3 tablespoon of soy sauce 

A bunch of fresh thyme 

About 2 cups of breadcrumbs for rolling the balls 

For the tomato sauce:

1 tin of chopped tomatoes 

1 small white onion – finely chopped 

1 garlic clove – minced 

An handful of chopped fresh basil 

Salt and pepper to taste

1 large celeriac 

Heat up 1 teaspoon of oil in pan, add the chopped onion and mushrooms and cook it a medium heat stirring from time to time for about 6-8 minutes until the onion has soften and all the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated.

In a bowl mix together the ground walnuts, brown rice, nutritional yeast, thyme, oats salt and black pepper. In a separate bowl mix the soy sauce, tahini, siracha, maple syrup, extra virgin olive oil and the garlic cloves finely chopped. Give it a good whisk until you have a smooth sauce. Once the mushrooms and onion are cooked add them to the bowl with the rice, together with the chopped spring onions and grated carrot. Pour the sauce on top and mix everything together. You should have quite a thick, dense “dough”.

With your hands scoop out about 1 tablespoon of the mixture and roll it into small balls. Roll the balls into the breadcrumbs.To cook the “meatballs” heat up a bit of oil in a large frying pan and cook them for a couple of minutes each sides until they start to go golden brown.   

Once they are cooked place them on plate and leave them onto one side while you are making the rest.

To make the tomato sauce simply add a dash of olive oil to a pan with the onion and garlic. Cook for few minutes until the onion starts to soften and caramelise. Add in the tinned tomatoes and the fresh basil. Season with salt and pepper and cook the tomato sauce for 10-15 minuets on a low heat.

Peel the skin off the celeriac and using a spiralizer make some “noodles”. Add the celeriac noodles to the tomato sauce and cook it for 5-8 minutes until they start to soften. Add more season if needed. Gently add in the neat balls and move them around the pan so they get coated in the tomato sauce. 

Serve everything while still warm. Sprinkle with some extra black pepper or nutritional yeast.

Note on the “neat” balls:

They hold the shape so much better if eaten the next day after being refrigerated overnight. They also freeze really well and you can just reheat them in a pan for few minutes from frozen.

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Creamy Cannellini Beans & Fennel Pasta

This recipe is simple, wholesome and delicious. I absolute love cooking with cannellini beans and they are so versatile, they are great in sauces as when cooked they become all mushy and creamy. I love using fennel as it adds a lovely sweetness and goes so well with the cannellini beans and the onion. To add extra greens I have used a generous handful of baby spinach but finely chopped kale will work as well/

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

1 tin of cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed 

1 small fresh fennel (or half of a large one)

1 white onion, finely chopped 

3-4 garlic cloves, crushed 

2 tbsp of nutritional yeast 

1 tsp of miso paste (optional but adds lots of flavour)

An handful of baby spinach 

A bunch of fresh parsley finely chopped 

Salt & peper to taste 

Pasta of of your choice (I have used brown rice)

To a large frying pan add a glug of olive oil then add in the chopped onion. Cook the onion for 3-4 minutes until it starts to caramelise. Add in the crushed garlic and cook for another minute. Add in the chopped fennel and cook for another 4-45 minutes until it start to soften. Add in the drained cannellini beans, the miso paste, nutritional yeast and about 200ml of water. Turn the heat down to a simmer and put the lid on. Cook for 10-15 minutes. At this point the beans should start to fall apart and you should have a creamy kind of consistency. Add another 100ml of water and cook for another 10 minutes. Finally add in the chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper. Fold in the spinach, cover with the lid and turn the heat off.

Cook the pasta according to the cooking instructions and once cooked mix in with the bean sauce. Serve straight away with a drizzle of olive oil and some black pepper.

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What I have learned in 2018

2018 was by far the toughest year of my life so far. My mum got diagnosed with cancer in February and all of a sudden everything just stooped. You hear stories from people going through cancer and you always think it must be bloody hard, but you never really know what it’s really like until it happens to you. February and March for me are almost ingulfed in a dark cloud, I remember the snow falling mercilessly in Italy and I just remember this deep sense of unshakable sadness wrapping my heart. I guess I could look at 2018 easily as the worst year of my life. I mean, would you blame me? Even if 2018 for obvious reasons has been pretty shit, somehow I am still approaching the new year with a deep sense of gratitude. The past 12 months have taught me a lot, I feel like a lot has shift in my mind and my heart, my approach and my outlook to life has dramatically changed, ironically for the better. 

I am very conscious that with a large audience it’s very important to talk about the bad times as well as the good. I want my platform to be as real and authentic as I possibly can. I know lots you of might go through difficult times and I hope that me sharing my lows will help you feel less alone.

2018 has been an incredible tough teacher and this is what I have learned. I hope you are going through something similar it can somehow make you feel better or being of some kind of comfort.

1- You can’t help anyone if you are not looking after yourself – It’s so easy wanting to complete dedicate yourself, body and soul, to a close member of your family when they get seriously ill. It’s so easy not to eat properly, not to sleep enough, not to take a break when you feel you HAVE to look after them. Because they are in pain, because they have this horrible disease and you don’t. So you HAVE to be there ALWAYS, right? Well, your health matters too, your wellbeing, your sanity is even more important when you have to face something so devastating as seeing your loved ones sick. You GOT to take a step back and realise that you need to be healthy and full of energy to be able to look after anyone.

2- Time heals everything – I am sure you have heard this before and I know when you go through a really shit time you really can’t imagine that eventually things are going to get better or you are going to feel better, but I promise it does. One day you wake up and for no particular reason you feel a bit lighter and things somehow are looking up. Cry as much as you need, eat all the ice-cream, watch all the Netflix, it’s totally ok to feel rubbish, but please know it will get better. 

2- We are not eternal – Ok, massive cliche but life is really to short. When you face, even indirectly, a life threating disease you are reminded with a slap in the face, that eventually we will die. I don’t want to sound too dramatic but we really don’t know what’s around the corner, we don’t know how long we have on earth. We owe to ourself to live the life to the fullest, to live a life full of passion and purpose. Whatever dreams you have grab them by the balls and start NOW on making them happen. I feel so lucky to be able to do something which I am truly passionate about, something which allows me to design my life as I want it to to certain extent. My mum illness remind me even more to keep working on making my dreams and ambitions happen, to really ask myself everyday “What do I really love doing and how can I do more of that?” 

3- There is always something to be grateful for – As I said I can easily look back at 2018 and cross it as a really bad year, but so much good stuff happened too! I refuse to look only at the negatives, I really want to focus on the positive and be grateful for it. I am grateful for my family, for my friends, for Sam. I am grateful to have food on table everyday, I am grateful for my health, for our beautiful planet, for my home. I am grateful to be able to travel and to do job that I love and adore. As I said, there is always something to be grateful for.

4- Happiness can be found everywhere – I have always been one those people that had to have something booked in to “look forward to”, a holiday, a dinner out, weekend etc.. to be happy. In 2018 I have learned that happiness  can be found in the “now”, in the everyday smallest and most insignificant actions. Happiness can be a piping hot cup of chai on a cold morning, it can be watching a movie while stroking my cats, it can be walking to the gym on a sunny day. Ultimately it’s up to us to create these “happy moments”, we have the power to create these moments every single day no matter how terrible we feel. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this very personal blog post. I wish you all an amazing 2019, full with love, passion and laughter. Thank you for being with me on this crazy journey. And if you are going through shit right now I feel you and I send you all my love. 

XX

Elisa 

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Coconut & Lime Dahl

This is my go to Dahl recipe. It’s super simple, nutritious, perfect for mid week dinners. You can easily make a big batch on Sunday and freeze it, perfect for when you have no time to cook.  I absolutely love the contrast between the sweetness of the coconut milk and the zestiness of the lime.  I love serving with a dollop of coconut yogurt and some brown rice.

Ingredients:

Serves 4 people

 About 250 grams (2 and 1/2 cups) split red lentils – rinsed well

4 tsp virgin coconut oil

1 can of full fat coconut milk

3 garlic cloves finely chopped 

1 white onion – peeled and finely chopped

1 inch fresh ginger, finely chopped

2 tsp ground coriander seeds

1 tbsp of curry powder 

1/2 tsp of ground turmeric 

1 bunch of chopped coriander

About 3 cups of veggie stock 

juice and zest of a lime

Add the coconut oil to pan and once it’s melted add in the ground coriander, fresh ginger, curry powder, turmeric powder and chopped onion. Cook the onion on a medium heat with the spices until the onion is soften and start to caramelised. Stir in the lentils, add the veggie stock, and let it simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes.

Add the tinned coconut milk and cook for a further 20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and add the lime zest and juice, coriander leaves and season it with salt.

I like to serve it with some brown rice and dollop of coconut yogurt. You can also have it as it and if you have like more a soup kind of consistency just add more water.

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A Long Weekend in Iceland

If you have been following me for a while you know that I normally travel to hot and if possible tropical countries. I am not a winter person and I never will be, as soon as the temperatures drop I go into hibernation mode and all I do is googling :” where is hot in December”. Although I know I will probably always gravitate towards hot climate my recent trip to Iceland really changed my prospective about cold countries. I am actually really looking forward to visit more north European countries and yes I will probably go again during the winter months as I really think there is such a magical atmosphere that you won’t have during the summer.

Let me start by saying that Iceland was a surprise mini break for Sam to celebrate our tenth anniversary. We left London on Friday and we came back on Monday evening. Flights from London can be really affordable, especially if you book them really in advance, something to bear in mind considering that you stay in Iceland overall probably won’t be cheap! 

DAY 1:

When we arrived at the airport we went to pick up our car (I booked it in advance) and since it was already mid afternoon we drove straight to our first hotel. Unless you are on an organised tour, having a car in Iceland is pretty much essential. It will give you the freedom to drive around and see probably the most gorgeous road sights of your life! The first night we stayed in Hella (around 1 hour and 40 minutes from Keflavik airport) at the River Hotel. The main reason why I decided to not to book all our 3 nights in Reykjavik (the capital) is because I was hoping we could see the northern lights which you are most likely to see if you are in the countryside. Sadly we didn’t see them! I know, gutted! With the northern lights is really a matter of pure luck, it’s kind of impossible to predict wether you are definitely going to see them or not. But a girl can dream, right? 

Anyway the River Hotel was lovely, super clean and very very scandi style, aka very minimalistic all the way throughout. It also has an outdoor sauna and a hot tub which they can be turned on on request. Since you have to pay extra for breakfast I requested some vegan options and they were super accomodating, they even got me some vegan cheese! 

DAY 2: 

We decided to do what is generally called the “Golden Circle”  which if you have your own set of wheels will probably take you 4-5 hours in total. The first stop were Gullfoss Waterfalls which are by far the most powerful and spectacular waterfalls I have ever seen in my life. In wildness and fury they are actually second to only the Niagara Falls. They were definitely breathtaking so I couldn’t not recommend more to pay them a visit.

The second stop was Geysir which again if you are in Iceland you can’t miss! You only have to wait 10-15 minutes to see an eruption. It’s the biggest geysir in Iceland as well!

The third and the final stop of the golden circle was Pingvellir national park which was so beautiful, even more so as when we got there the sun was of a mellow shade giving the surrounding a touch of golden glow. Since it was freezing cold we didn’t stay too long, if you are not the biggest fan of walking you can just go for a 30 minutes loop and still be able to experience the beauty of the landscape.

We left the national park heading to Reykjavik where we stayed for the other 2 nights. When we got there we were absolutely starving as we still haven’t had any lunch so we went to Egill Jacobsen which they are kind of brunch/lunch place with few vegan options on the menu. I had the vegan brunch plate and it was huuuge! Definitely the biggest plate of food I ever had! It had scramble tofu, baked beans, vegan cheese, avocado, hummus and sweet pancakes. Overall it was very delicious and I was seriously fulled afterwards! The other vegan option on the menu was a bean burger.

In Reykjavik we stayed at the Kvosin Downtown Hotel which is super convenient as it’s bang in the city centre and close to all the shops and restaurants. The hotel itself is divided in mini apartments  and I just love how cosy and stylish our little flat was. I would definitely recommend to stay there, although is definitely not the cheapest option. All the hotels in Iceland are quite expensive, I definitely went slightly over of what I would normally spend as it was a special occasion. Nevertheless the hotel was really beautiful, spotlessly clean, really cosy, comfiest beds and in a super convenient location.

For dinner we went to a ramen place called Ramen Momo which serves an excellent vegan ramen with amazing kimchi. I also ordered some veggie dumplings and they were delicious too. The pace is super small, only 10 seats so be ready to maybe have to wait 10-20 minutes for a seat.

DAY 3: We decided to explore the south shore so we headed all the way to Vik, a fisherman village on the coast with dramatic black beaches and its iconic cluster of sea stacks known as Reynisdrangur which rise from the ocean like ebony towers.

The thing that I liked the most about Iceland was definitely the landscape, I could literally drive around for hours without ever getting bored of my surroundings, from golden fields, snowy mountains, the cutest horses to waterfalls and cute as a button tiny villages, Icelandic landscape is really incomparable to anything else. The second stop was Skogafoss Waterfalls which were so majestic and so tall! Literally breathtaking, we also walked all the stairs to the top and the view was just amazing! For lunch we stopped at the small restaurant at the bottom of the waterfalls, probably not the best idea as being such a tourist spot it was quite expensive but we were starving! I had a plate of pasta pasta with tomato sauce as there weren’t any other vegan option.

The final stop of the day was another waterfalls location, Seljandsfoss which again were breathtaking and so majestic. 

All the main attractions (like waterfalls) are clearly indicated so you really can’t miss them.

When we arrived back in Reykjavik we popped into the cat cafe –Kattakaffihúsið– for a cup of tea and a slice of cake. You can’t miss the super cute and very pink small cafe where all the baked goodies are vegan! I had a the mocha cupcake and it was utterly delicious! Plus you get to stroke 2 adorable fluffy cats, what more can a girl ask for? 😉

For dinner we chose asian food again, I mean how can you beat a piping hot bowl of soupy noodles when it’s freezing cold outside? This time we decided to go a Vietnamese restaurant called Pho – Laugavegur. The food was ok, I definitely wouldn’t say it was the best vegan pho I haver ever had but it filled me up and it was relatively cheap.

DAY 4: Since our flight back to London was at 5pm we decided to dedicate the last day to the Blue Lagoon. I guess you can’t go to Iceland without visiting the Blue Lagoon, is like going to Paris and not see the Tour Eiffel.  It’s on the way to the airport so I thought it made sense to leave it to last. Since it was our anniversary I booked the premium spa package which is definitely not cheap but I have to say it was a lovely treat and I really enjoyed every minutes. 

Before we headed to the Blue Lagoon we had breakfast at Bergsson mathus which is a lovely breakfast/ brunch place just around the corner from our hotel. I love the vibes of the place and my breakfast was delicious. I had a soy cappuccino and a massive avocado toast with hummus, cucumber and tomatoes.

If you are planning to visit the Blue Lagoon I would recommend to buy online the tickets in advance as it can get really busy. Standard entry is around £47.In the spa package I chose you have exclusive access to the Spa facilities (although any massage or treatments needs to be booked and paid separately) and you have also a private section of the blue lagoon which is definitely less crowded. I have to admit the spa is beautiful, you have access to sauna, steam room, relaxation room and to body treatments which you can do yourself like scrub, algae face and mask and another mud mask. You also have your own very fancy private changing room. We definitely felt very blissed out after few hours there and we also decided to have lunch at the spa restaurant. To my surprise they were few vegan options on the menu and a good selection of juices and smoothies. I ordered the miso soup with tofu and hummus with seeds crackers. Again it wasn’t cheap but it was such a lovely way to end our stay in Iceland.

Overall I really can’t recommend to visit Iceland more! If you are a nature, wildlife fan like me this country has be on your bucket list! There is so much to see! therefore if you have the time I would probably recommend to spend at least 7 days. I wish we could have stayed longer but I am already thinking about going back during the summer time to see everything else which we didn’t have the time to see.

The only thing which sadden me about Iceland is that they are still hunting whales and sharks. And what it’s even sadder is that the majority of whale and shark meat is actually consumed by tourists. If you are visiting Iceland I beg you to think twice before consuming what it’s sold as a “local delicacy”. 

On the bright side the vegan options have literally popped up everywhere! So don’t worry, you won’t have to eat potatoes for a week! In Reykjavik especially there are plenty of vegetarian or vegan friendly restaurants, I wish I could have visited more of them! To easily find them I always use the app Happycow which list all the vegan/vegetarian restaurants around you wherever you are in the world.

A final eco friendly note, Icelandic water is by far the cleanest water you will ever drink (it will probably be straight from a glacier) so please pleased don’t buy plastic bottle water! I promise tap water has never tasted so good! I had my 2 reusable bottles with me and we just refill them at any restaurants or bars which seems to be super common!

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Christmas Wreath

This is by far one of my favourite Christmas savoury recipe. I promise you whether you are veggie or carnivore your will totally love this dish. The filling is packed with gorgeous seasonal flavours and it’s perfect paired with indulgent flaky puff pastry. I love serving this dish as a Christmas main with lots of rosemary roast potatoes, maple brussel sprouts and cranberry sauce. 

Ingredients:

1 roll of puff pastry

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 small red or white onion cut into quarters

4 clove of garlic – unpeeled 

1 cup of roughly chopped mushrooms

1 tbsp of dried thyme

1tbsp of rosemary

1/2 teaspoon of salt 

2 small sweet potato cut into bite size pieces

1 pouch of cooked chestnuts (180gr)

2 cups of destemmed and washed kale 

salt & pepper for seasoning 

for the flax egg:

1 tablespoon of milled flaxseed + 3 tablespoons of water

about 2 tablespoons of almond milk to brush the pastry.

I like it serving with cranberry sauce but even on its own it’s absolutely delicious.

In a small bowl mix together the milled flaxseeds with the water and leave it onto one side for 5-10 minutes until it becomes gloopy.

Place the chopped sweet potatoes, onion and garlic cloves into a roasting tray with a glue of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the sweet potatoes are soft. In a frying pan add another glut of olive oil and cook the mushroom for 5 minutes until soft, add the kale in and cook for another 2-3 minutes until it has wilted. Leave the pan onto one side.

One the roasted vegetables are cooked put them in food processor (except the garlic cloves) with the mushrooms and kale. Pop the cooked garlic out of their skins and add them in. Finally add in the flax “egg”, the rosemary and the thyme a pinch of salt and black pepper.Process until the mixture is fairly smooth.  You should have a gloopy and thick kind of consistency.Dust you rolling surface with some flour. Roll out the puff pastry. Cut out a long rectangle, about 90cm length x 20cm width (don’t worry it doesn’t have to be precised). Spread the “sausage” mixture all the way along on the pastry strip. Roll it and Shape the sausage roll into a circle, making sure to keep the pastry seam at the bottom and gently lay on the baking sheet. Use a little almond milk to stick the two ends together.Using a very sharp knife cut about 12-13 sausage rolls, leaving the inner circle of pastry connected, creating a wreath shape .Use the almond milk to brush the whole wreath.

Place it in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius for about 25-30 minutes until golden brown and flaky.

It’s best to serve it straight away while still warm. 

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Butternut Squash & Kale Tart

This tart is a great option if you want something different than a traditional nut roast.  It might seem a bit daunting to make your own pastry but I promise this is super easy! I have used Vita Coco Extra virgin coconut oil that once has been chilled in the fridge it’s the perfect healthier replacement for butter. I absolutely love the sweetness of the butternut squash combined with the earthiness of the kale. The tofu creates almost like a “ricotta” kind of consistency and it becomes even creamier when combined with the roasted butternut squash. If you have any leftovers they are absolutely brilliant for lunches on the go! 

Serges 4-5 people 

Ingredients:

For the base:

1/2 cup of oat flour

1/2 cup of almond flour 

1 1/2 tablespoons of chilled in the fridge Vita Coco extra virgin coconut oil 

3 tablespoons of cold water 

1/2 teaspoon of salt 

For the filling: 

1 block of firm tofu – about 280gr 

About 1 cup of chopped butternut squash + about another 1/2 cup for decoration 

1 cup of destemmed and washed kale – you can add a bit more if you are a fan of greens 🙂 

1 small white onion -finely sliced 

3 cloves of garlic – crushed

2 tablespoons pf nutritional yeast 

A generous handful of thyme – roughly chopped + extra to sprinkle on top

1 tablespoon of almond milk 

1 tablespoon of olive oil 

1 tablespoon of dried mixed herbs

1/2 teaspoon of salt 

1/2 teaspoon of pepper 

Optional: the seeds of 1/2 pomegranate to sprinkle on top 

Preheat the oven at 180 degrees Celsius.

Place the chopped butternut squash on a baking tray and drizzle some olive oil, sprinkle some salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 25-30  minutes until they are soft when pierced with a fork. Leave the tray onto one side

To make the crust in a bowl mix the oat flour, almond flour and salt. Add in the chilled coconut oil into pieces and pinch it with your hands while mixing it with the flour. Add in the water and keep working the dough until you have a firm dough. Place it in the fridge to set for about 1/2 hour.

Grease a tart case with some coconut oil. With your fingers press the dough into the tart case until it covers the base and the sides. Prickle the base with a fork top prevent from puffing up during the cooking time. Place the tart in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius and bake for 10-12 minutes until it start to brown. Remove from the oven and let it cool for 10-15 minutes.

Add the olive oil to a pan and once hot add in the sliced onion. Cook for 5-8 minutes until it starts to become translucent. Add in the crushed garlic and cook for another minute stirring from time to time to prevent from burning. Remove the pan from the heat and leave it onto one side.

To make the filling place the tofu, cooked butternut squash (reserve some pieces for decoration) kale, cooked onion and garlic, nutritional yeast, thyme, almond milk, mixed herbs, salt and pepper into a food processor and pulse for few seconds until all the ingredients are well combined. Pour the filling into the tart case spreading it with a spatula. Place the tart back in the oven at the same temperature for another 20 minutes until the top feel kind of solid and it starts to turn golden brown. Remove the tart from the oven and let it cool down for 5 minutes. Add the butternut squash pieces on top and extra fresh thyme leaves. Serve while still warm or slightly cold. Store any leftover in an airtight container the fridge for 3-4 days.

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Jerusalem artichoke & Thyme Soup

Jerusalem artichokes are such an underrates vegetable! They are currently in season in the UK and they work so well in so many dishes. They have a similar consistency to potatoes with a subtle artichoke flavour. I really love them in soups and stews as they make everything extra creamy. To make it extra special and to add a bit of wow factor I served it in a sourdough loaf “bowl” which is work like a dream as the bread soaks up all the favours from the soup! 

Ingredients:

Serves 3-4 people 

1 tbsp of coconut oil 

2 shallots final chopped 

About 400gr of Jerusalem artichokes – peeled and cut into thick slices 

3 garlic cloves 

400ml of vegetable stock 

A bunch of fresh thyme

1 can of full fat coconut milk 

1 tsp of agave nectar 

1 tbsp of lemon juice 

Salt & pepper to taste

1 round loaf of sourdough to serve it in 

For the Cashew “parmesan”:

100gr of raw cashews

3 tbsp of nutritional yeast 

A squeeze of lemon juice 

1 tsp of salt 

Spread the artichokes slices onto a tray and drizzle them with some coconut oil and a pinch of salt. Bake them in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 15-20 minutes or until soft.

To large pot add in 1 tbsp of coconut oil. Once hot add in the chopped shallots and garlic, cook for few minutes until they start to caramelise. Add the fresh thyme and the roasted artichokes and fry for another minute. Add in the veggie stock and coconut milk. Add the agave nectar, salt and pepper. Put the lid on and cook for 18-20 minutes. 

In the meantime make the cashew parmesan. Place all the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until you have a fine crumble kind of consistency. 

Cut a circle out of the top of the bread loaf and scoop out the bread from the inside to make it hollow.

Remove the soup from the heat and blend until smooth. Serve the soup in the bread loaf, sprinkle over some of the cashew parmesan and a sprinkle of black pepper.

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Christmas Dinner

Christmas for me is all about spending time with the people you love and eating delicious food. This year I will spending Christmas with my parents and I will be the one in charge of the all the cooking! We are going to have for the first time a vegan Christmas and I hope I can show them that you can have an utterly delicious and sumptuous Christmas without animal products. The mushroom & nut wellington is probably one of my favourite thing to make when it comes to celebrations, the filling is very “meaty” and packed with lots of different textures and flavours. And how can you beat a flaky layer of puff pastry? The lemony potatoes are officially my favourite way of eating potatoes EVER! The lemon together with the garlic and rosemary infuse the potatoes with the most gorgeous flavours! Finally the maple Brussel sprouts are probably my favourite way to eat Brussel sprouts as the maple syrup adds a lovely sweetness that goes so well with the crunchy hazelnuts and the more tangy pomegranate seeds. 

Mushroom & Nut Wellington 

Ingredients:

Serves 4-5 people

Filling:

1 white onion – finely chopped 

2 garlic cloves – chopped 

1/2 cup of red split lentils

7 chestnut mushrooms- sliced 

1 cup of mixed nuts – I have used a mix of walnuts, hazelnuts and Brazil nuts – roughly chopped 

1 carrot – peeled and chopped in small pieces 

1/2 cup of cooked chestnuts (about 80-100gr) – roughly chopped 

1tbsp of brown miso paste 

A small bunch of fresh sage- leaves finely chopped 

An handful of fresh thyme leaves 

And handful of fresh rosemary – roughly chopped 

1tsp of apple cider vinegar 

A dash of oil for cooking 

Salt & pepper to taste

1 pack of shop bought puff pastry 

Give the lentils a rinse, place them in a pan, cover them with boiling water and cook them until soft and mushy. About 10-15 minutes. Drain them and set onto one side.

Preheat the oven at 180 degrees celsius.

Add the oil to a large frying pan. Once hot add in the chopped onion and carrot. Cook for 3-4 minutes until translucent and soft. Add in the chopped garlic and cook for another minute. Add in the chopped mushrooms and chestnut. Cook for 4-6 minutes until all the water from the mushrooms has evaporated. Add in the miso paste, all the herbs and the nuts. Mix everything really well and keep cooking for another 5 minutes. Transfer the mushroom mixture to a food processor and add the cooked lentils as well. Pulse few times, you don’t want to have a completely pureed mixture so make sure you don’t over processed it.

Cover a large baking tray with some parchment paper. Roll the puff pastry sheet onto it. Place the mushroom mixture in the middle of the sheet trying to form a “sausage” kind of shape. Fold the pastry from each side onto the mixture sealing the wellington. Close each ends by folding the pastry. Cut out the any excess and if you want roll the pastry again an cut out stars to decorate the wellington. Flip the wellington onto the other side so you won’t see the seam of the pastry fold. Brush it with some non dairy milk ( I have used cashew milk) and place it in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until the puff pastry is nice and golden. 

Cut the wellington into slices and enjoy while still warm! 

Lemon & Rosemary Potatoes 

Serves 3-4 people 

500gr of baby potatoes 

1 head of garlic 

A generous bunch of fresh rosemary 

1 lemon – preferably organic or unwaxed 

3 tbsp of olive oil 

Plenty of salt and pepper to taste 

Cut the lemon into slices and place them at the bottom of a baking tray. Place the potatoes on top. Add the olive oil, rosemary (stalk included) and all the garlic cloves. With your hands mix everything together so the potatoes get fully coated. Make sure the lemon slices are still at the bottom of the tray. Generously sprinkle salt and pepper on top. Roast them in the oven for 30-35 minutes until the potatoes are golden brown and slightly crispy. The lemon slices should have gone soft and squidgy. I love rubbing them onto the potatoes for that extra zing! 

Maple & Cranberries Brussel Sprouts 

Serves 3-4 people 

Ingredients:

500gr of Brussel Sprouts 

1/2 cup of hazelnuts 

An handful of dried cranberries – soak in some warm water for 30 minutes 

2 tbsp of maple syrup 

1/4 cup of pomegranate seeds 

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven at 180 degrees Celsius. Slice the Brussel sprouts in half and add them to a baking tray with a generous drizzle of olive oil, 1 tbsp of maple syrup, salt and pepper. Roast them in the oven for 15 minutes. At this point add in the hazelnuts. Place them back in the oven for another 15 minutes until they start to go golden brown. Remove the tray from the oven, add the other tablespoon of maple syrup and sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds, cranberries and some black pepper.

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