Cherry crumble slice

cherry crumble slice

Summer. It’s the season of abundance. Definitely my favourite time of year produce-wise, with all those delicious fruits that are so very missed during the cooler months; tomatoes, plums, peaches, apricots, berries, figs. Fantastic! Having too much of a good thing can be a bit irksome though, specifically when you somehow manage to end up with too much of one thing. The glut.

A lovely friend recently posted on the harvest and yarn facebook page requesting vegan cherry recipes, preferably using a lot of cherries. Firstly, I need to apologise for taking so long getting this up here. It’s one of those chaotic times when writing about food constantly falls to the bottom of the ‘to do’ list, following the ever growing amount of produce that needs cooking, drying or bottling. Secondly, this doesn’t use nearly as many cherries as I would have liked. I rushed straight to the farmers’ market to buy some, and was lucky enough to get a punnet from the last cherry pick of the season. But they were still expensive. I’m sure you’ll understand, Mia :)

To make up for this, I’ll just note that I’m certain you could probably double the cherries in this recipe and it would work just fine. Or even better, use a bigger pan, and triple the cherries! I’ve also found a couple of neat little vegan recipes that look super-tasty, and make me wish I had discovered them at the start of summer:

Homemade cherry ripe bites (Wholesome Cook)
Cherry Garcia Ice cream (Girl Cooks World)

I also had a flashback to a wwoofing experience last year, where we were instructed to cook up sour cherries with 80% as much sugar as fruit, which was then strained and bottled separately as stewed cherries, plus cherry sauce. Could go?

Anyway, fingers crossed cherry season isn’t long gone, but in the likely event that the glut is no longer existent, at least we all have a heads up for next summer.

cherry crumble slice 2

Cherry crumble slice

Base
1/3 cup almonds
1 teaspoon raw sugar
4 tablespoons vegetable oil (coconut or olive oil is fine too)
2 tablespoons soy milk

Filling
200g cherries, seeds removed (halving and picking them out is fine)
3/4 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
2/3 cup soy milk

Crumble
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 180C. Line a rectangular dish with baking paper, though it could really be any shape. (Mine was about 25x15x15cm).

Make the base by blitzing the almonds in a food processor to form a course meal, then mixing with the sugar. Add oil and soy milk and combine to form a crumbly mixture. Press about half into the base of the prepared dish.

Mix the flour, baking powder, sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl, then add the milk and vanilla essence and stir until well combined. Lay the cherries evenly in the dish on top of the base. If you want to add more, just pile them up a bit. Pour the filling on top of the cherries, ensuring it fills all the gaps.

To the remaining half of the base mixture, add the brown sugar and cinnamon, then sprinkle liberally on top of the slice. If you used more cherries, they might poke out the top, but that’d look quirky so don’t worry :)

Bake for 50 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean (but don’t worry if it’s not – the cherries keep it moist). Serve warm or cool with something tasty – ice cream, cherry sauce, or ideally both.

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Thyme and lemon biscuits

thyme and lemon biscuits

A little while ago I went on a crusade to find a good replacement for butter. After plenty of searching, numerous palm oil woes, and debates with myself about using biodynamic butter, I pretty much decided to just avoid it where I can, using olive oil instead, or coconut oil if I’m feeling rich.

In the process of reaching this conclusion however, I came across a certain product by Melrose, which I think ethically is not too bad, though obviously pretty processed and quite far from being actual food. It tastes alright (but not amazing), and goes fine on toast. The jelly-like consistency did irk us all a bit though, so I made the call that it definitely wouldn’t work to bake with this stuff. Fast forward about 9 months, and the poor little tub is still sitting in the fridge; forgotten, but otherwise fine.

It really needed to get out of our lives, however being one to avoid wasting anything, I decided to give baking a go.

Biggest. Mistake. Ever.

Heating this spread seemed to just compound its not-amazing flavour, and ruined a batch of what would otherwise have been quite tasty biscuits. I was saddened by this defeat, but was sure that these biscuits could actually be quite good. Herbs in sweet biscuits – what a delicious paradigm shift!

Determined to eat these biscuits, I tried again with old mate nuttelex. It may not be the greatest solution to my butter woes, but it came through with the goods. I was rewarded with golden, sugary discs of thyme and lemon, and the realisation that I probably just need my own cow.

thyme and lemon biscuits 2

thyme and lemon biscuits 3

Thyme and lemon biscuits

Makes about 20

4 tablespoons butter/margarine
1/4 cup raw sugar
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
1/2 cup plain flour

Preheat oven to 180C, and line a baking tray with grease-proof paper.

Grind thyme to a pulp using a mortar and pestle. Whisk butter/margarine and sugar in a medium bowl, then add thyme and lemon rind and mix to combine.

Sift in flour and mix to form a dough. Roll out dough between two sheets of baking paper to approximately half a centimetre thick. Cut into rounds (or the shape of your choice) using a biscuit cutter, and transfer to prepared tray. Sprinkle lightly with raw sugar.

The baking time will vary with your oven, but will be around 7-12 minutes. You might need to rotate the tray halfway through if your oven cooks unevenly (like mine). Just keep watch – they’re done when they’re lightly golden. Allow to cool, then eat.

Lavender and honey muffins.

Lavender and honey muffins

I promise this is the last muffin post for a while. It just can’t be helped. Being Christmas crazy time, it’s easy to get swept up baking elaborate fruit cakes and nifty edible gifts for others. I feel like it’s probably important to take a break now and then though, drink plenty of tea, and enjoy a muffin.

When I cook, I generally use what’s available, rather than making a special trip to the shops for ingredients. I enjoy the creativity that comes with this, but it’s also always nice to avoid unnecessary errand-running. This time, there was a shortage of sugar and apples in the cupboard, so I used honey and eggs. These muffins are therefore a bit of a deviation from my usual muffin formula, so although they’re not vegan, they could easily be made so with a couple of substitutions.

I’ve never actually used lavender before, but the bush in full flower outside the window was too lovely to ignore. When I was in Paris recently, I had a delightful lavender and apricot cupcake from a little place called Vegan Folie’s, so I knew it could be done. Here’s a little taste of how amazing vegan cupcakes can be: (The lavender one is at the front, and the one in the background is felafel and hummous flavoured… more on this another time.)

vegan folie's cupcakes

With a little help from Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion, I figured out the right quantity of lavender so as not to overpower. Be careful though, some varieties are more suited to cooking than others. “Provence” and English Lavender seem to be a couple of the more preferred varieties.

Now, put the mince pies aside, hunt down a lavender bush and bake some muffins. Quite possibly the best antidote to Christmas mayhem.

Lavender and honey muffins 2

Lavender

Lavender and honey muffins 3

Lavender and honey muffins

Makes approximately 12 muffins

1 1/2 cups plain flour
3/4 cup wholemeal flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers (strip flowers off the stem after drying, or dry roast fresh flowers in a pan on the stove to speed up the process)
1/4 cup raw sugar
*2 tablespoons honey
*1 egg
3/4 cup soy milk
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 1 teaspoon vanilla essence)

*Vegan alternative:
Replace honey with either agave or another 1/4 cup of raw sugar.
Replace egg with 1/2 cup applesauce.

Preheat oven to 180C, and grease muffin pans.

Combine flours, baking powder and soda and lavender in a large mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl, lightly beat egg, then mix in sugar, honey, milk, water and vanilla until well combined.

Add wet ingredients to the dry, then mix until combined. Divide mixture among muffin pans, filling each to roughly 3/4 full.

Bake for 18-20 minutes until slightly golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Serve with cups of tea, warm or cold, alone or with a mildly-flavoured spread of your choosing (eg butter/coconut butter).

Rose and almond muffins.

rose and almond muffins

I am a fan of muffins. It’s barely a secret. They are so easy to make, versatile, not terribly unhealthy, and a brilliant multipurpose food (breakfast/snack/dessert anyone?)

They’re also a fun medium for playing with flavour combinations, and although these ones aren’t terribly adventurous, I have been known to make banana and coriander seed muffins in the past. Whoa!

Though I don’t have any exciting stories to tell today, it’s probably afternoon tea time somewhere in the world, so why not bake some muffins?

These vegan lovelies are deliciously rose-flavoured with crunchy almond bits. Might I suggest enjoying with a cup of tea, probably from a teapot, because it’s always better that way.

rose and almond muffins 2

rose and almond muffins 3

rose and almond muffins 4

Rose and almond muffins

Makes 12 small-medium muffins

1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup almonds
1 apple
4 tablespoons water
1/2 cup raw sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons rose water
1 cup non-dairy milk (I used rice milk)

Preheat oven to 180C and grease or line your muffin pans.

Lightly toast almonds using your preferred method. I threw them in a bowl in the microwave for one minute. Once toasted, roughly chop.

Core and roughly chop the apple, then whizz it in a food processor (a small one if possible), with the water. This makes a kind of instant applesauce. If you have applesauce on hand, use about half a cup of that instead if you like.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the applesauce, sugar, rose water and milk. Use a whisk or a fork to mix it well.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and powder and chopped almonds, then add the wet ingredients, whisking to combine well.

Spoon the mixture into your pre-prepared muffin pans, until they’re about 3/4 full. Bake for around 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Getting crafty.

Hey friends.

This afternoon we’re going to poke our heads around a new corner, and embark on an adventure down a different street. You may have noticed that the tagline at the top of the page says “adventures in gardening, cooking and craft”. It’s hardly a secret that numbers one and three in that trio are pretty heavily overlooked, though in actual fact, they feature quite prominently in my day-to-day happenings. I spend many days in the garden, tending to herbs and vegetables for the kitchen and for sale at the local farmers’ market. Most other times are spent cooking or baking, or surrounded by calico, glue, and paper-making equipment.

Earlier in the year, I came up with this little plan to make things from recycled, found and foraged materials, and create an online store where they could sit, and hopefully find a home. Over six months later, I have finally taken some mug shots and escorted them to Made It – an online market for goods handmade in Australia (similar to etsy). Let me introduce you to twig & stitch.

At this stage, there are only three items, looking a bit lonely. But I’m hoping that making twig & stitch known will provide me with some motivation to pursue the crafties and get creative.

Have a look if you like, and enjoy your evening :)

www.madeit.com.au/twigandstitch

Chocolate (and vegetable) cupcakes.

I don’t really know what to say.

I’ll be the first to admit to being quite a fan of slipping legumes and vegetables into sweeties, so I was fairly stoked to find that this month’s Sweet Adventures Blog Hop theme is “Cake and Three Veg”. However this time, I may have developed a slightly crazed obsession and got a little bit freaky with my veg-sugar combinations.

It’s always nice to think that eating a cake could actually be providing you with nutritious goodies like iron and protein, not just sugar. In the past, I’ve experimented a lot with chickpeas, pumpkin and zucchini in cakes, and have come up with delightfully tasty results. As I sat, brainstorming ideas for this month’s little challenge, for some reason I became fixated on the idea that including just one vegetable would definitely not be enough. The result was this: Chocolate, bean and chard cupcakes with potato icing. I know. I’m still not sure whether this decision was a strange delusion or what, but I did it. The truth is that these are just the vegetables and legumes I happened to have in the kitchen and garden. Simple decision really.

I stealthily went about my baking, feeling terribly uncertain about what on earth I was doing. My dad walked past as I was finishing icing the last cake. He remarked that they looked good, and asked if he could have one. My response was something along the lines of, “Errr, yeah, you can if you like… but they might be a bit… weird. I don’t know. It’s up to you. I won’t mind of you hate them.”
Not exactly brimming with confidence, was I? Must work on that.

I was pleased that the feedback was positive, and that they were “good” and “chocolatey”. Relief. I chose not to tell him what was in them, out of fear that the rest wouldn’t be eaten.

And so, here is a piece of advice on serving sweet foods made of vegetables. Unless you have very adventurous friends, hold off telling people what’s hidden in your tasty creations until after they’ve tried it. In fact, it may not even be necessary to tell people at all. Though in the case of these cupcakes (which are pretty much a meal in themselves), a warning not to eat too many might be in order. You could even try serving them as a main+dessert combination, just to revel in the confusion that will follow.

There is just one problem. I know exactly what is in these cakes, and my head is putting up an extreme mental barrier to eating them. Healthy – yes. Chocolatey – yes. But there’s chard in them. I love chard, but my brain screams “not with chocolate!”. Never mind. I’ll just have to feed them to unsuspecting visitors*.

*To my friends, I promise I won’t trick you into eating any more vegetables unknowingly. Legumes, yes. Chard and potato, no.

Chocolate (and vegetable) cupcakes

Makes approx 15 cupcakes

Cake mix:
2 large leaves (or equivalent) of chard
230g cooked red kidney beans
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup cocoa

Icing:
320g potatoes
3/4 cup icing sugar
50g dark chocolate

(Note: if you’re piping the icing, you’ll need more than this, so scale it up a tad. But you should be right if you’re just spreading it on with a knife.)
Preheat the oven to 180C and line muffin pans with patty pans or other liners as you see fit. (I made some up out of squares of baking paper and brown wrapping paper. Suitably earthy, I thought, given the contents of these cakes.)

Blitz the chard in a food processor, then add beans, oil, sugar and water and whizz until you get a fairly smooth consistency with as few lumps of chard and beans as possible. It will look green and you will wonder what you’ve got yourself into. Don’t worry!

Combine the remaining dry ingredients in a bowl, then add the wet to the dry, and mix well. Fill the pans to 3/4 full, then bake for 15-20 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.

Meanwhile, peel, chop and boil the potatoes, then drain and mash really well. Melt the chocolate using which ever method works for you, then add it to the potato along with the icing sugar. Mix well, and pipe (or spread) on the cupcakes when cool.

Place innocently on display and wait for people to eat them.

 

This post is part of the November Sweet Adventures Blog Hop. Check out the other entries via the link above.

 

Vanilla chai biscuits.

A few years ago I travelled to India. Of all the things I brought back with me, possibly the coolest but least-useful items were wooden stamps.

On the odd occasion, I’ve felt really creative and dusted them off to create stamped gift cards or decorated book covers and such. But I have never been so excited when I thought of using them to stamp food. “Such genius!” I told myself, as my mind raced with possibilities.

I have to confess that stamping biscuits has quite possibly become my new favourite activity. I thought that a vanilla chai flavour would be quite fitting for the Indian stamps, though the flavour seems somewhat less important than the fact that these just look really cool! The biscuits themselves are flavoured with spices, with the vanilla flavour coming from the icing on their bottoms.

Might I suggest enjoying these with a cup of tea?

Vanilla chai biscuits

1 egg white
1 egg yolk
1/8 cup sugar
1/8 cup olive oil (or other oil)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
approx 10 cardamon seeds, ground (or a small pinch of ground cardamon)
1 tablespoon ginger powder
1 cup plain flour

1 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
dash of water

Preheat oven to 180C.

Whisk the egg white until fluffy, then add in sugar. Whisk the yolk with the oil, then add to the egg white along with the spices.

Fold in the flour until combined.

Roll teaspoon-sized quantities of dough into balls, then space evenly on a lined baking tray. If you have a stamp, now is the time to get funky. Push the stamp into the balls of dough to flatten. If you don’t have a stamp, try using a fork or a spoon.

Bake for approximately 12 minutes or until solid and turning golden. Meanwhile, mix the icing sugar, vanilla essence, and enough water to form a just-runny mixture (which will fall from a spoon, but not in a continuous stream).

Cool the biscuits briefly, then dip the base of each in an icing mixture. Allow to dry on a cooling rack. Tasty!