Friday, 3 June 2016

Baked Tofu with Spicy Baharat Marinade

As you'll know if you've been following me on Instagram or Twitter, I had my PhD viva last week. After several long years and a hell of a lot of work, I'm finally Doctor Cotterill! (Well, it'll be official once I've turned in my corrections. But it's close enough.) It's been a tiring process, and blogging has been very much on the back burner over the past year while I was writing up, however I'm optimistic about having a bit more time to get back to it, now.

There have been a lot of days lately where I've felt too tired to shop, let alone get creative in the kitchen, and my first priority for food has been "uses ingredients from the cupboard". As such, I'm feeling a lot of responsibility to myself to make sure my pantry and freezer are constantly stocked with good quality ingredients that can easily be turned into healthy meals.

When Morinaga sent me some tofu to sample, then, I was impressed by the fact that it has a really long shelf life and doesn't need refrigerating until the pack has been opened. Perfect qualities for a store cupboard staple. And as well as being a great source of protein, the other benefit of tofu is that it's always really quick and easy to cook.

This time I made up a simple marinade with soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, baharat spices (a sweet-ish blend of allspice, coriander, cumin, cardamom, nutmeg, and cinnamon), and a little chilli powder for an extra kick.

This is a recipe that benefits from being prepared early, either in the morning or the night before, but it involves almost no actual work -- it's just a waiting game, both in pressing the excess liquid out of the tofu, and in giving it time to soak up the marinade.

Baked Tofu with Spicy Baharat Marinade
Serves 2

1 pack (349g) firm silken tofu
4tbsp dark soy sauce
1tbsp toasted sesame oil
1tsp baharat spice mix
¼ tsp chilli powder
  1. Press the tofu: drain off any excess liquid, wrap the block in a couple of sheets of paper kitchen towel, and place between two plates. Weight down with something heavy (like a tin of beans or a hardback book) and set aside for a couple of hours. Change the paper towels once or twice once they're soaked through.
  2. Slice the pressed tofu into six thick slices, and arrange on a non-stick baking tray.
  3. Make the marinade by combining the soy sauce, sesame oil, baharat, and chilli powder.
  4. Brush the marinade over the tofu slices, then flip them over to coat the other side.
  5. Set aside to allow the marinade flavours to infuse (I left mine overnight in the fridge).
  6. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  7. Just before baking, brush the tofu with a generous amount of extra marinade.
  8. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until piping hot, and serve immediately.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Warm Asparagus & Mushroom Salad

Asparagus is one of my favourite vegetables, but I was in my teens before I discovered the additional delight that comes from asparagus prepared as a Chinese dish. This salad is loosely inspired by the menu of my once-favourite Chinese takeaway, now sadly closed, which really did some excellent asparagus.

I feel like something's gone slightly wrong if you have to weigh ingredients for a simple salad like this, but for the sake of completeness, I weighed the asparagus and mushrooms after I'd chopped them, and found it came to about 120g of each. Of course, the mushrooms shrink down and lose a lot more water during cooking.

5:2 Intermittent Fasting button5:2 Diet
In total, this salad only comes to about 120 calories per portion, but it feels quite filling thanks to the bulk of the asparagus and the crunch of the walnuts.

Warm Asparagus & Mushroom Salad
Serves 1

12 asparagus spears
8 medium-sized chestnut mushrooms
1 spring (green) onion
8 walnut halves
1tsp soy sauce
1tsp shaoxing rice wine
a small handful of fresh coriander
  1. Rinse, trim, and chop the vegetables: quarter the mushrooms, cut the asparagus into 3-4 pieces, and finely slice the spring onion.
  2. In a frying pan, sauté the asparagus and mushroom over a medium heat.
  3. Once the vegetables are starting to soften, add the spring onion, soy sauce, and rice wine to the pan, and continue to sauté until the spring onions are cooked and the liquid has reduced.
  4. Meanwhile, heat a separate frying pan to a high temperature, and toast the walnuts until they are golden brown and the oils are starting to emerge.
  5. Toss the walnuts together with the asparagus mixture, and add the fresh coriander just before serving.
  6. Serve warm straight away, or chill in the fridge if you prefer a cold salad.

I'm linking this recipe up for May's edition of No Croutons Required, a monthly vegetarian soup and salad challenge hosted by Lisa's Kitchen and Tinned Tomatoes.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Cheltenham Dippers

I always enjoy seeing the round up of recipes gathered under the Tea Time Treats umbrella each month, although I've been a bit lax about joining in, lately. But this month's theme is local and regional specialities, which is always a topic close to my travel-obsessed heart, so I especially wanted to make sure I came up with something suitable this month.

But where to start? I couldn't decide whether to focus on the town where I was born, or the county where I spent most of my childhood... I was even tempted by the regions my parents and grandparents hail from. There are just so many great recipes to choose from.

Then I read an article about the history of cake in Oxford, which referenced a couple of traditional Oxfordshire cakes that have subsequently gone out of fashion, and it got me wondering what local delicacies I might not yet have discovered in the area where I live now. I tried feeding a couple of local towns into Google without much luck, but before long I turned up this recipe for Cheltenham dippers. I've never noticed these in the shops, although they're apparently related to lardy cakes, which I've seen but always steered clear of (because lard is perhaps the least-veggie cake ingredient you could imagine). But how could you go wrong with layers of bread dough, fruit, butter, and sugar?

And these were utterly, ridiculously delicious -- it was hard to stop at a single slice, even knowing just how much butter went into the recipe. And they were also really fun to make. I'm grateful to Karen at Lavender and Lovage, and Janie at The Hedgecombers, for hosting this challenge and inspiring me to try something a bit different. I adapted the original recipe slightly as I was only using butter, and I used a mixture of sultanas and cranberries for the filling, though I imagine you could make all sorts of interesting combinations with different fruits.

Cheltenham Dippers
Makes 10

For the toffee base:
30g butter
2tbsp brown sugar

For the dough:
500g white bread flour
1tsp salt
15g butter
7g fast-acting 'easy' yeast granules
300ml warm water

For the filling:
150g butter
150g sultanas
50g dried cranberries
90g brown sugar

For the glaze:
1tbsp sugar
1tbsp boiling water

  1. To make the toffee base, grease the base and sides of a deep, large (22x30cm) baking tin with butter, and scatter sugar evenly across the butter. Set aside.
  2. Mix the salt into the flour, and rub in the 15g butter.
  3. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, and add to the flour.
  4. Bring the flour and liquid together to form a smooth dough.
  5. Knead until smooth (I found about 5 minutes of vigorous kneading was enough).
  6. Place the dough in a bowl and covered with cling film or a damp tea towel to prevent it drying out.
  7. Set the bowl in a warm place, and leave to rise until doubled in size (mine took about an hour).
  8. Combine the sultanas and cranberries, and divide into thirds. Also, divide the butter for the filling into three equal parts.
  9. Once the dough has risen, roll it out to a fairly large rectangle. (I always use cling film on my work surfaces to stop the dough from sticking too much.)
  10. Spread one third of the butter over the surface of the dough (in lumps is fine) and scatter with a third of the fruit. Scatter across a third of the sugar.
  11. Press the fillings lightly into the dough so it doesn't all fall off during the next step.
  12. Fold one third of the dough into the middle, and then fold in from the opposite end, to create a layered 'sandwich' of dough and filling.
  13. Roll out to form another rectangle, and repeat steps 10 to 12 to form the next layer.
  14. Repeat this process for a third time using the last of the fillings.
  15. Once you've formed the final layers, lightly roll out again to the size of the baking tin.
  16. Arrange the dough in the baking tin, and set the tin in a warm place to rise again.
  17. Preheat the oven to 190°C.
  18. Once the dough has risen (I left mine for about 30 minutes), bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown.
  19. Make the glaze by dissolving the sugar in hot water, and brush over the top of the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven.
  20. Cool for a few minutes in the tin, before cutting into squares, and removing to cool on a wire rack. (Although don't let it cool completely, as in my opinion it's best eaten fairly fresh from the oven!)

Cheltenham Dippers

Cheltenham Dippers

Cheltenham Dippers

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Vegan Odyssey Part 2: Warsaw

This is the second in a two part series covering my mum's birthday trip to Berlin and Warsaw. Part 1 covered the first leg of our journey, from London to Berlin.

We arrived in Warsaw after dark, so it was lucky that we'd already decided where to go for dinner: a popular vegan burger bar not far from the railway station. Even with the help of the Happy Cow app, it took us quite a while to track down the tiny Krowarzywa, not least because the frontage was covered in scaffolding.

Still, when we did find it, I was very happy with my burger, complete with yummy garlic mayo and a frankly excessive quantity of beansprouts. We were intrigued by the basil lemonade that was on offer, but after a single sip I handed it over to my mum (who, thankfully, loved it) and reverted back to a very British ginger beer.

Vegan burger

Then it was time to find our hotel and settle in for the night. I'd actually managed to find a small apartment that was, for some reason, cheaper than a regular hotel room. Although the hotel was very central, it was set back in a small courtyard, so it felt quite private.

The view from our apartment

The next morning dawned grey and damp, but we'd already identified a plausible spot for breakfast, so we put on our raincoats and walked around the corner to Organitheka. They'd only just started opening in time for breakfast -- we were the first to try their porridge, served with a healthy scoop of stewed apple and cinnamon. The coffee was good, too. My mum had an almond milk cappuccino, which is a form of cappuccino even I can get behind!

Porridge for breakfast

Then, because it was still decidedly gloomy outside, we went to admire the lovely glass ceiling of this shopping centre that I remembered from my previous visit to Warsaw.

Warsaw shopping centre

Once the rain let up a bit, we went out to admire the architecture of the city. Warsaw is a pleasing mixture of pretty European squares...


...towering Soviet landmarks like the Palace of Culture...

Warsaw Palace of Culture

...and the medieval castle, which (along with much of the old town) has been painstakingly reconstructed brick by brick after it was destroyed in the war.

Warsaw castle

For lunch, we had soup that came with a garnish of raspberry puree and popcorn, and huge glasses of vegan hot chocolate to warm ourselves up.


We continued our walk around the city in the afternoon. I took hundreds of photos and I won't share them all, but I did think Copernicus looked particularly striking in silhouette against the gloomy skies.

Copernicus statue in Warsaw

In the evening, we went to Lokal Bistro, which gets some of the best ratings on Happy Cow. They're known for creating vegan equivalents of traditional Polish dishes, which stands out a bit against the burger-heavy vegan scene. We were hoping to make the most of this, but several things had sold out (although we went quite early!). Combined with some language issues, we basically ended up ordering random food, but it was still good.

Lokal bistro in Warsaw

I particularly loved this tempeh salad, with fresh spinach, various chopped veggies, and a decent quantity of olives.

Tempeh salad

For dessert, we had blueberry and almond cake, which was one of my favourite cakes of the trip.

Blueberry & almond cake

The next morning we got coffee from Caffe Nero, which was just a few steps from our hotel. Even chain stores are different when you're overseas -- in this case, there was an interesting range of baked goods, and I enjoyed a cardamom and almond bun for my breakfast.

Cardamom bun for breakfast

The weather was a little better on the second day, so we set out for a long walk through Łazienki Królewskie park.

Łazienki Królewskie

Flowers in the park


Lazienki Park, Warsaw

I've always loved red squirrels, and these ones were completely fearless, coming to see if we had any snacks to share. I was just a bit sorry that I didn't have anything in my pocket!

Red squirrel

Next on our foodie agenda was Chwast Food, another spot that specialises in vegan burgers. I had a mushroom burger with horseradish sauce, which was a great combination, and the multiseed buns were also some of the best I've ever had. We were totally won over by this place, and got some cakes to take away with us (ready for breakfast the next day, as it was Sunday, and we were afraid we wouldn't find anywhere open).

Chwast Burger

After some more walking, we dropped into a little cafe called Legal Cakes for afternoon tea. We'd hoped that somewhere dedicated entirely to cake, which advertised its vegan credentials, would be a great place to indulge, but sadly it was all a bit disappointing. There wasn't as much choice as we'd hoped, and everything was trying a bit too hard to be virtuous at the expense of flavour and texture.

Cake from Legal Cakes

Legal Cakes

That evening, I was determined to find some pierogi. We tried a vegan cafe that was supposed to have good ones, but they'd completely sold out, so we ended up at a tourist trap with kitschy decor. It didn't look promising, but they had loads of different veggie options, and the prices actually weren't bad. And a glass of Polish beer to wash it down certainly didn't hurt!


The next morning we had cake for breakfast, courtesy of Chwast -- a rich carrot cake, and cheesecake with a thick layer of fresh berries. The cheesecake base was a little weird, as it appeared to be made out of cornflakes, but the carrot cake was amazing.

Cakes from Chwast Burger

This was our last day in Warsaw, so of course we wanted to explore the city a bit more before we headed home.

Warsaw street scene

We managed to fit in one last burger from Chwast before leaving -- our first visit had been just so good that we decided to go back there rather than further expanding our horizons. This time I had the famous beetroot burger (which had been sold out the day before), and my mum was even persuaded to try it, despite generally hating beetroot. Again, a total success. To be honest, I'd probably come back to Warsaw just to eat these burgers.

Beetroot burger

And that's about it, really. We returned to England via the overnight train from Warsaw to Köln (Cologne), then on to Amsterdam, and back to the ferry. Unfortunately, by that stage I'd walked so far that I could barely manage a few steps, so we spent quite a lot of time in railway station cafes while we changed trains. All in all, we had a really lovely trip, and it was exciting to see the developing vegan scene in Warsaw. Given the rate that new places were opening up, it's probably completely different by now!

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Vegan Raspberry Lemon Drizzle Cake

I've been meaning to create a vegan version of my favourite lemon drizzle cake for a while, now, and I finally got around to actually making it for a party recently.

While I was in the kitchen, though, I had a moment of inspiration. What's better than lemon drizzle cake? Lemon drizzle cake with raspberries. There's just something so obviously right about this combination that, once I'd thought of it, I couldn't believe I hadn't done it earlier. I had enough lemons for two cakes, so I decided to do an impromptu experiment.

I used dried raspberries, but I'm sure fresh would be even better, when they're in season. Friends have also recommended blueberries as an alternative that works well, so I'm looking forward to trying that out next time.

Vegan Raspberry Lemon Drizzle Cake
Makes 1 cake

2 lemons
350g (2 cups) plain flour
220g (1 cup) caster sugar
2tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
120ml (½ cup) sunflower oil
25g (⅔ cup) freeze dried raspberries
50g icing sugar
1tsp granulated sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (340°F), and line a medium loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
  2. Zest and juice the lemons, discarding any pips from the juice.
  3. Measure out half the juice, and top up to 240ml (1 cup) with cold water.
  4. Sift together the flour, caster sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  5. Add the sunflower oil, lemon juice and water. Stir to make a batter, taking care to fold in all the dry ingredients.
  6. Put a layer of plain cake mixture into the loaf tin.
  7. Mix the raspberries and most of the lemon zest (reserving a little for the topping) into the remaining batter, and pour into the tin.
  8. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a knife comes out clean.
  9. With a few minutes' baking time remaining, heat the remaining lemon juice with the icing sugar in a small pan, and simmer to form a light syrup.
  10. Turn the cake out onto a wire rack and prick the surface with a fork in several places.
  11. Carefully spoon the lemon syrup over the cake, while the cake is still hot.
  12. Sprinkle granulated sugar over the top of the cake, and arrange the remaining strands of lemon zest to decorate.

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