Happy 2nd Birthday Chocolate Cake and Oil Paint!

Today is my blog’s 2nd birthday!

What better way to celebrate than share with you my favourite recipes from the past two years? (Apart from eating cake, of course!)

Rainbow Cake (Feb 15, 2013) was a huge hit- delicious and beautiful! Perfect for a party.

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Surprise Inside Cake (March 25, 2013) is another crowd pleaser. Maybe not the most highbrow cake ever baked, but sure to get a great reaction!

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Blueberry Lemon Cake with Poppyseed Icing  (September 25, 2014) was also a winner. Blueberries are without a doubt my favourite fruit, and poppyseed icing is a complete revelation. This is the perfect cake for a summer day.

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Lime Cake with Pomegranate Icing (May 15, 2014) is another lovely cake for a birthday, or even just a weekend afternoon. It’s light and fresh and zingy.

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These Creme Egg Inspired Cupcakes (April 2, 2013) are really fun to make and even more fun to eat!

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Raspberry Frangipane Tart  (June 12, 2014) HAS to be on this list. It is my go-to dessert for any occasion. So simple to make and perfect every time! It can also be given a Christmassy twist- as I did only a few a weeks ago with this cranberry version.

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Apple pie is of course a classic, and these Mini Apple Pies (October 14, 2014) are a wonderful new twist on an old favourite.

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 Foccacia (November 3, 2013) is the perfect bread for a cold winter lunch.

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Cinnamon Swirl Loaf (October 12, 2013) was and still is the best thing ever. Seriously, ask anyone who tried it.

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Cinnamon Spiced Courrone (January 17, 2014) is basically a giant cinnamon roll. What’s not to love?!

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It’s all about blueberries for breakfast. Pancakes, buckle, on their own…

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Chocolate Fondants (July 16, 2014), need I say more?

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I love Sugar Cookies (December 6, 2014) for any occasion- but especially Christmas. Try making  hearts for Valentine’s Day or eggs and bunnies for Easter if you just can’t wait that long (I can’t)!

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Mexican food is my all time favourite. This Mexican feast (July 29, 2013) is honestly the best in vegetarian Mexican.

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BBQ Pizzas (July 7, 2013) are the perfect summer supper. You have to try them. It will change your outlook on pizza forever.

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Thank you all so much for baking with me for the last two years, and continuing to do so!

All my love,

xxR

 

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Vegan Feast: Quinoa with Roasted Tomatoes and Aubergine

This is the final instalment in my vegan feast.

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This was adapted from a couscous salad I had a few times over the summer, but quinoa is much better for you, especially if you are tying to cut back on gluten!

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It’s (again) very simple and very delicious!

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Quinoa with Roasted Tomatoes and Aubergine

1/2 an aubergine

1 punnet of cherry tomatoes

2 teaspoons of soft brown sugar

about 1 cup of quinoa

1/2 a veggie stock cube

handful of mint leaves

olive oil

salt and pepper

Cut the aubergine into small chunks, coat with olive oil and roast for about half an hour in a 180 degree oven. It should be soft and slightly brown around the edges.

Cut the tomatoes in half and arrange, cut side up, in a roasting dish. Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil, and sprinkle the sugar on top. (The sugar is optional, so if you are trying to reduce your sugar intake, you don’t need to use it, but it makes the tomatoes slightly caramelised and crispy on the top which is really delicious!) Roast for about 20 minutes, or until the tomatoes are bubbling and the skin is blistering.

Put the quinoa in a saucepan with about double the amount of boiling water and the stock cube. I never really follow the instructions on the packet for cooking quinoa because I think it always asks for too much water and becomes a bit porridgy. Instead, just keep an eye on it. If the water runs out and it’s still hard, add more. Of course this is up to you, but I like my quinoa with a tiny bit of bite still, so am always keen to avoid over cooking. I always add half a stock cube to give my quinoa a bit of flavour, but again, if you have another method that you prefer, do that!

When the quinoa is cooked, put it into a bowl and fluff it up with a fork. Add the aubergine and tomatoes. Finely chop the mint and add that too. Drizzle it with olive oil and a good pinch of salt and pepper and enjoy!

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xxR

Vegan Feast: Pesto and Butterbean Salad

Pulses are one of my favourite foods- I eat beans or lentils nearly every day!

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This is a really simple way of jazzing up butter beans. It’s great on its own, or as a side, or part of a selection. This salad serves two (or one as the main course), but it’s very easy to scale it up or down if you want to feed more- just add another tin of butter beans and increase the quantities of everything else!

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Pesto and Butterbean Salad

For the pesto:

1 big bunch of basil leaves

2 cloves of garlic

about 2 tablespoons of olive oil

handful of pine nuts

salt and pepper

This is very simple- it’s just a case of throwing all the ingredients into a food processor and whizzing them up until it resembles a fine paste. Keep tasting it- if you think it needs more garlic/ salt/ pepper add it!

For the salad:

1 tin or carton of butter beans

about half a bag of rocket

handful of sunflower seeds

Once the pesto is done and tastes right, fry the butter beans in the pesto until all the beans are coated and warmed through. They should also start to go slightly crispy on the outside.

Put them in a bowl with the rocket.

Gently toast the pumpkin seeds in a frying pan for a few minutes until they start to darken slightly. Be careful not to burn them, they should just be slightly darker than normal.

Toss them into the salad and give it all a good mix.

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xxR

Vegan Feast: Kale Salad

This salad is the simplest thing ever. It’s literally two ingredients- and then some salt and pepper.

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Raw kale might sound unappealing, but trust me, this is good. The lemon juice starts to break down the kale, so it becomes softer and easier to eat. My mum makes this all the time for lunch. It’s an absolute staple in our house and I love it!

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Kale Salad

1 large bowl of kale, finely chopped

juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon olive oil

good pinch of salt and pepper

toasted pumpkin seeds, optional

Make sure that all the hard, stem parts of the kale are cut off- those are really gross to eat.

In a jar or small bowl, mix together the lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper. Then drizzle over the kale. Sprinkle in the pumpkin seeds if you’re using them, and toss.

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xxR

Vegan Feast: Sweet Potato, Lentil and Mint Salad

Sweet potatoes are the ultimate food. They are so easy to cook- you just throw them in the oven- and they always taste delicious.

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This salad combines sweet potatoes with brown lentils and lots of fresh mint. Let me assure you- this combination is a winner. And very very simple.

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Sweet Potato, Lentil and Mint Salad 

250ml dried green, brown or Puy lentils- your choice!

1 litre boiling water

1/2 veggie stock cube

3 large sweet potatoes

handful of mint leaves, finely chopped

salt and pepper

Roast the sweet potatoes at 180 degrees for around 30 minutes, or until they are really soft.

Boil the lentils in the water with the stock cube for about 25-30 minutes, or until the lentils have gone a bit tender but not too soft and mushy. Rinse under cold water and set to one side.

When the potatoes are cool, you can really easily peel off the skin. Chop the potatoes into chunks. I left mine quite big, but it’s up to you.

Mix the lentils and sweet potatoes together, then add the mint leaves and a good pinch of salt and pepper.

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xxR

Vegan Feast: Houmous

Homemade houmous is probably one of life’s best kept secrets. I feel like no one does it, but it’s so good! Endlessly satisfying, very cheap, super easy and simply delicious. It’s also very good for you- tahini is really good for your skin, it’s full of calcium and loads of other minerals, and homemade houmous doesn’t have all the weird additives that are often lurking in shop bought food.

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It’s definitely better than the shop bought equivalent, and making it yourself allows you play around with the flavours. This is a pretty basic version. All you’ll need is….

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Houmous

1 can of chickpeas

2 tablespoons tahini

2 tablespoons olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

3 cloves of garlic

small handful of basil leaves

good pinch of salt and pepper

Put the chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic in a food processor and whiz it up until it has formed a smoothish paste. Then taste it- if it needs more garlic or lemon (or anything else- you can get pretty creative here) add it.

Add in the basil leaves and salt and pepper and give it another quick whiz. Put it into a bowl, drizzle with a little more olive oil and decorate with a few chopped basil leaves. Easy!

xxR

Vegan Feast: Baguettes

A lot of my nearest and dearest have recently become vegan- my littlest sister made the change from straightforward veggie to dairy free a few weeks ago, and one of my good friends is also making the transition.

Personally, I’m thinking about creeping that way too. Almost a year ago I stopped drinking cow’s milk in favour of the almond variety, and I’m eating less and less dairy in other guises too. The meals I eat tend to be vegan- it’s just the baking that lets me down!

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Last night my newly vegan friend and another friend came to dinner, so I cooked up a feast of all my favourite vegan dishes. My diet tends to be very based around salads- so these are also some of my personal favourite things to eat anyway!

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I think vegan food can be as exciting and delicious as non-vegan, however there is still such a stigma around it that it’s boring or hard to cook or whatever. Well that, my friend, is completely wrong. Vegan food, when done well, is totally delicious- and really good for you!

This feast consisted of:

butterbean and pesto salad

sweet potato, lentil and mint salad

kale salad

quinoa with roasted tomatoes and aubergine

homemade houmous

and freshly baked baguettes…

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As you may know, my new thing is bread, so I didn’t want to pass up an opportunity to fire up my oven and bake a few loaves! Okay, so I admit- baguettes are not really good for you. But you’re of course allowed to have a little bit of slippage…

Baguettes 

makes two good sized loaves

200g strong white flour

50g wholemeal flour

5g salt

5g fast action yeast

30ml olive oil

180ml water

Begin by weighing your flour and placing it into a large bowl. Add the salt, yeas, olive oil and most of the water and mix together to form a dough. You can do this in a machine or by hand.

Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, then cover and leave to rise for an hour to an hour and a half.

Once it has risen, tip the dough out only a lightly floured surface. Knock the air out of it, divide into two and roll each into a baguette shape. Put them onto a greased baking tray and leave to rise again until doubled in size- about 40 minutes to an hour.

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees. Put a roasting tray full of water in the bottom of the oven- this will create steam which will give the baguette a nice crunchy crust. Right before you put them in, slash the top of each baguette three times at a slight diagonal to help it rise.

Bake the baguettes for 30 minutes, then lower the temperature to 200 degrees and cook for 10 more minutes. Enjoy straight from the oven with lashings of homemade houmous (coming tomorrow…)

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xxR