Vegan Chocolate Cake

It was Ellie’s birthday so obviously I baked her a cake. I used the recipe from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken.  The recipe was easy to follow and produced a rich, fudgey amazing cake. You can’t go wrong with chocolate. Not ever.

 

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Recipe: Vegan Christmas Pie

I came up with this recipe in defiant response to the constant “but what will you eat on Christmas Day?” questions from the non-vegans in my life. Let’s be clear, vegans can have as delicious a Christmas dinner as anyone else, and you don’t have to rely on meat replacements and the like if you don’t want to.

This pie is tasty, indulgent, Christmassy, and comes with the added bonus of working really well the next day, to eat cold with pickles and Bubble and Squeak on Boxing Day! It’s also really easy to put together, and doesn’t require any specialist ingredients, meaning that even if you’re back with your grandparents in the deep countryside, you should be able to get your hands on everything you need.

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We’re gonna need a bigger plate!

Don’t be daunted by the number of steps below, nothing in this pie is hugely technical, and you can swap out ingredients you don’t like for ones you prefer (if you hate parsnips, bring in more carrots, or celeriac – you could even include some gently roasted sprouts here if you wanted. The only thing to bear in mind is the overall water content and stability of the elements of the pie – if there are too many squishy things in there, the pie won’t hold and the pastry will get a bit soggy).

Makes a 10 inch x 6 inch rectangular pie, large enough to feed 4 hungry Christmas guests with a bit leftover for Boxing Day.

I use a veganized version of Delia’s quick flaky pastry which is quite rich – you can use your favourite shortcrust recipe if you prefer:

  • 225g plain flour
  • 175g butter alternative
  • A pinch of salt
  • Cold water, to mix

Sift the flour into a bowl, and then add the butter. It’s best to do this with the butter as cold as possible, and in pieces as small as possible. If you’re using a block (Stork, for example, is incidentally vegan) you can grate it in. If you’re using a tub, I’d suggest just using your finger to push small amounts of the fat off the spoon into the flour (but be wary of warming it up too much with your hands). Once all the fat is dotted around the flour, begin to rub them together. I do this by hand (even though Delia says it’s naughty because hands are warm), just rubbing the flour between fingertips until the mixture is even and crumbly. If you’re more patient than me, you can do this with a knife. Add enough water just to bring the mixture together (though you can always add more flour if it gets too wet) and, when the dough is a single ball, wrap it in cling film and rest it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. Be careful not to overwork the dough, or it will be slightly tough to eat once cooked.

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Don’t be left out when everyone tucks into their Boxing Day leftovers!

For the filling:

  • 3 parsnips
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 1 big (or 2 small) leeks
  • 340g fresh (or frozen) cranberries
  • 450g chestnuts (either fresh and raw, or those vac-packed ones you can get these days!)
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 lemon
  • 100g breadcrumbs
  • 40g + 1 tbsp vegetable spread/butter alternative
  • Olive oil
  • A generous pinch of red pepper flakes (if you can get them, paprika if you can’t)
  • 1 good handful of fresh rosemary, stripped from the stalks and roughly chopped
  • 2 good handfusl of fresh sage, roughly chopped
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Whole nutmeg (ground is OK if you can’t get whole, though most big supermarkets have it)
  • Stuffing (you can use a pre-made mix, most of which are vegan-friendly, or make your own using the recipe below)

Method

  1. First things first, prep your pastry and get it chilling whilst you assemble the other elements
  2. Prep the carrots and parsnips by scrubbing (and peeling if necessary), then chopping into rough even-sized chunks, slightly larger than 1 inch cubes.
  3. Toss the carrots and parsnips into a roasting tray with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and the rosemary and red pepper flakes
  4. Peel the butternut squash and cut into similar sized cubes, discarding the seeds in the centre (or saving them for later*)
  5. Toss the butternut squash into a separate roasting tray with some olive oil, salt and pepper, half of the chopped fresh sage and a generous grating of whole nutmeg (ground is fine if you can’t get whole, I just find whole is more fragrant)
  6. Roast both trays of veg for around 15-20 minutes at 180c, or until soft and slightly golden around the edges. When they’re done, just set them aside until you’re ready to assemble the pie.
  7. Whilst these are roasting, prep your chestnuts for roasting (if you haven’t got the vac-packed ones). First, score each chestnut – I’ve tried loads of methods for this, and find that scoring a crescent shape like a big smiley face on the flat side of the chestnut makes for the easiest peeling, but a cross on the flat side is also effective. Once all the chestnuts are scored, place them on a baking tray and into a hot oven () for (minutes). You’ll need to act relatively quickly to peel them, as the skins begin to stick back down as they cool – you’ll definitely need oven gloves and a sharp knife to pry the skins off. It sounds like a chore, but it makes the kitchen smell amazing, and is one of those really satisfying festive tasks best done by a group of you with a drink and a mince pie. Once they’re all peeled, roughly chop them and set them aside for pie assembly.
  8. Whilst the chestnuts are in the oven, wash the leeks and chop them into rough rounds about half an inch thick. Soften them up in a saucepan with a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of your butter alternative, and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Set these aside too – now you’re building up a nice lot of set aside elements for pie assembly!

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    Look at all those tasty festive layers
  9. For the cranberry layer, there will most likely be a recipe for cranberry sauce on your packet, but I keep it really simple – put 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar into a pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and add the cranberries. Bring back to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes, as the cranberries begin to break up. Ideally, you’ll be able to let this sit for a little before adding to the pie, as it thickens up wonderfully as it cools, but if you haven’t the time don’t worry, it’ll permeate the pie deliciously!
  10. Next, the stuffing. If a packet mix feels more manageable then go for it – Christmas is stressful enough! If, however, you’re game for it, this is super easy, I promise! Sweat one large onion in 40g of your butter alternative, add the remaining half of the fresh chopped sage and a generous helping of salt and pepper, grate in the zest of the lemon and cook for a few seconds. Take off the heat and stir the breadcrumbs through, allowing them to pick up the butter and onion and distribute the seasonings. Done!
  11. Now, the fun part! Divide your pastry into 2, with one portion of around 1/3, and the other around 2/3 of the dough. Roll out the larger portion – you probably want it around 3mm/1/8 of an inch thick, and big enough to cover your pie dish bottom and sides
  12. Place the parsnips and carrots onto the pastry as the bottom layer of the pie, trying to get a good mixture.
  13. Sprinkle over the chestnuts, and then layer on the leeks
  14. Now layer on the butternut squash, and pour over the cranberry sauce
  15. Finish with the stuffing, either as a layer of its own, or rolled into balls to hold up the pastry lid if you prefer
  16. Roll out the smaller portion of pastry to the same thickness, and cover the pie. Pinch the sides and top of the pastry together and cut off any excess
  17. Cut a small hole in the top of the pastry to allow steam out, and decorate the top with any leftover pastry shaped into leaves, letters, or whatever takes your fancy!
  18. Gently and lightly brush the top with some soya milk for a shiny finish, and bake until the pastry is golden brown, around 15-20 minutes, at 180c
  19. Serve with all the usual trimmings and a generous slug of onion gravy

Merry Christmas!

P.s. If you miss that Boxing Day sandwich, like Lewis, don’t hold back…

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Yep, that’s pie, sausage, bubble & squeak, stuffing and piccalilli (and ketchup, of course)

Recipe: Fudgey Chocolate Banana Brownies and Rich Ganache Sauce

So, chocolate brownies have been my go-to specialty since I was in my teens, and were therefore one of the very first things I veganized. I’ve been refining the recipe ever since, and it’s now versatile enough to provide a great vegan alternative for brownies, and for a family birthday favourite: the Bruce Bogtrotter cake.

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This recipe is quick, easy, and produces wonderfully fudgey, rich chocolate brownies. The sauce/topping makes this into a decadent dessert option, or a great full size cake and topping.

For 16 brownies/1 large cake:

6oz vegan butter alternative
12 oz caster sugar
4 oz cocoa powder
4 bananas (ripe-ish if you can)
4 oz plain flour
1 flat tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence/vanilla bean paste

For the topping:

1 can of full-fat coconut milk
4oz cocoa powder
agave nectar to taste

Method – Fudgey Chocolate Banana Brownies:

Melt the butter in a generous saucepan (you’ll mix the brownies in this pan, so make sure it’s large enough!).

Remove the pan from the heat, and add the sugar and cocoa powder, and mix until completely combined

In a separate bowl, mash the bananas to a puree (I use a potato masher, but a fork would be fine if the bananas are ripe enough!)

Add the banana puree to the butter, sugar and cocoa powder mix, and stir until completely combined. Add the vanilla.

Sift in the flour and baking powder, and combine.

Pour into a greased and lined baking tray (I like a thick brownie and so usually opt for a 9 inch round tray for a large cake, or a 9 x 11 inch for brownies – bear in mind that this mixture doesn’t rise a great deal, because the bananas are quite heavy)

Bake at 180C or gas mark 4 for 20-25 minutes, until they’ve just stopped wobbling if you shake the tray, but a knife comes out with a sticky (not sloppy) coating. If the knife comes out clean, you’ve baked them for too long!

perfect brownie test knife

Cool the brownies in the tray, and lift out when they’re just warm, or fully cool. For brownies, cut them before you turn them out.

These brownies are really fudgey and decadent, so you don’t need a big piece to satisfy those chocolate cravings. Adding the sauce below takes them from a teatime snack to a decadent dessert or celebration-worthy cake (and is also a really versatile recipe to have in your vegan treats armory)!

Method – Rich Ganache Sauce

This recipe is so incredibly easy, and has a multitude of uses:

Hot (either straight from the pan, or warmed up from a jar in the fridge), it makes a rich hot chocolate sauce ideal for pouring over desserts or ice cream.

Chilled, it sets like a ganache or chocolate spread, and is great as a topping for pancakes, spread over a cake or cupcakes, or eaten straight from the jar with a spoon!

It can be added to hot almond milk for a decadent hot chocolate, or poured hot into a clean dry jar and given as a gift (it keeps in the fridge for a couple of weeks)

So, to the recipe:

Gently heat the entire can of coconut milk in a saucepan

Add the cocoa and whisk until fully incorporated and all the lumps are gone

The mixture should be the consistency of a thick custard, but will taste pretty rich and bitter at the moment.

fudge sauce method

Add the agave to taste – I usually add 1-2 tablespoons (slightly more if I’m hoping to use it as a chocolate spread, less if I’m going to top an already sweet dessert with it)

Keep heating the mixture until fully incorporated and dark and glossy in appearance, and then remove from the heat. Avoid boiling the mixture.

Allow to cool fully before using (unless it’s intended as a hot fudge sauce). If you’re spreading it onto a cake, make sure the cake is completely cooled too – it doesn’t take much for this sauce to revert back to liquid, so it’ll slide straight off a warm cake!

chocolate spread

Enjoy making (and eating) these – they work especially well with a hot pot of half earl grey and half English breakfast tea, or a pot of hot black coffee.

Ellie x

Vegan Christmas Gift Guide

Plenty of us look around at Christmas and think “do I really want more stuff?”, or “what do I get for the person who has everything?” In these cases, things like subscriptions and charity gifts can be a great option. We’re planning to give our charity cash to Crack + Cider this year. It’s a pretty simple idea – you take the ticket for your selected item to the till and pay, and instead of taking the item yourself it’s given to a homeless person in need. The products available range from hats and gloves to high performance coats and bags, and you can purchase them online, or from One Good Deed Today. Another great option is a subscription to Ethical Consumer. This online resource collates research and reports into the activities of a huge range of companies, so that you as a consumer can make more ethical choices for all kinds of routine purchases. Alternatively, a Vegan Society membership is a really great gift for anyone who might like to be a genuine card-carrying vegan – it entitles the user to a bunch of discounts in vegan-friendly retailers, and a subscription to The Vegan. If, however, your loved ones will be happier with a well-stuffed stocking on Christmas morning, check out the rest of our list below for our most coveted items…


Top of my own wishlist is some new jeans – I’m fed up of buying jeans that rip or sag after a couple of months, and always feel it’s a waste to throw these out after all the resources that go into producing a pair of jeans. Both Mud and Nudie jeans have the answer! Nudie Jeans offer a great range (and no male/female divisions, just great cuts). They offer loads of options for repairing, reusing and recycling your jeans: nothing says Christmas like circular economy! Mud Jeans also champion the circular economy and, like Nudie, they put a lot of effort into making their production as sustainable and fair as possible. Mud offer options to purchase and lease their jeans, so you can swap out or upgrade to a new pair when you want to. Mud are also a B Corporation. Both companies provide an admirable level of transparency around their production and sourcing, and offer realistic and appealing options for recycling and reusing your jeans.

So we all know that Beyonce wore a ‘KALE’ sweatshirt and suddenly they’d sold out everywhere, but I think the sweatshirt is old news. What I’m after is a KALE heart necklace from All Glamour No Guts, in collaboration with Bete Noire. A totally vegan company with ethics at their heart, AGNG provide accessories and garments, as well as more functional items like raw vegan lip balms and after tattoo treatment. For the pun enthusiast in your life, maybe the HAIL SEITAN necklace will be even more fitting…

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All Glamour No Guts ‘Hail Seitan’ Necklace, £14

If accessories are your thing but you’re after a real classic, you can’t go far wrong with a Matt & Nat bag. I’ve caught myself countless times admiring a bag from afar, only to realise when I get a little closer that it’s by Matt & Nat. This vegan brand focus on classic styles and shapes with a contemporary twist, and there’s something for everyone. They also make great wallets and purses, and other accessories too.

My current coat was bought on a whim when I had a tight budget and a looming work trip to Canada in March. That was OK with me, until I found out about HoodLamb and their incredible coats – made entirely from hemp with some careful thinking around production and workforce, these are stylish and durable coats with sustainability at their heart. Something to covet, for sure.

It’s easy to over-indulge at Christmas, so why not speed up your recovery with some seriously tasty coffee roasted right here in the UK. Jericho Coffee Traders roast their beans in Oxford, and ship them around the UK, and have just started offering a subscription service too. We’ve tried several of the varieties and visited their roaster, and their dedication to a quality product really comes through in those tasty tasty beans!

I’ll be honest, I love a candle all year round, but there is nothing I like better than a scented candle, a Christmas movie, and all my gift wrapping (even better if the weather outside is foul). Earl of East London produce great soywax candles, and their Smoke & Musk scent is absolutely perfect for a cosy winter night in. If you fancy something a bit more overtly festive, the Yule Spice candle from Corinne Taylor seems to last for ages, and gives a gently festive scent with cinnamon, cloves, and basically all the mull you could want (except the wine).

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Earl of East London 17.5oz candle, £45

Honest Skin Care produce all natural and fantastically simple skincare products as well as room sprays and candles, and they also have a lovely looking Treatment Room in Birmingham (UK). I’ve got my eye on the black pepper and lemongrass handwash, but I don’t think I’d be too put out if Santa managed to get a trip to the Treatment Room in my stocking!

One of the best bits of Christmas (for me, anyway) is filling the cupboards with loads of lovely treats and snacks for those festive movie sessions and visits from friends. This is slightly harder as a vegan, but far from impossible. As well as picking up anything that takes our fancy from the Accidentally Vegan Instagram account, we’ve also got our eyes on a few special treats. For our morning coffee (or afternoon slump), we’re planning to pick up a delicious home-baked panettone from Pomodoro e Basilico. For those chilly evenings in front of a favourite film, some Jaz and Juls hot chocolate (with their vegan marshmallows included, of course!). If you’re after something really decadent, you can’t go wrong with a box of Booja Booja truffles *hint hint*. Finally, no Christmas would be complete without mince pies, and Foods of Athenry make some luxury ones which are completely vegan.

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Pomodoro e Basilico Vegan Panettone, £28

If you’re after a pair of non-leather shoes for yourself or a loved one, Wills have got your back. Wills are a UK based company who specialise in ethically produced vegan shoes. Their wide range caters for people looking for male or female styles. I have a pair of which have lasted me ages. If you’re after something a bit more casual, it’s something approaching impossible to find a pair of trainers that aren’t made by a multinational.  Muroexe have stepped up to produce a fresh and clean looking shoe. The simplicity in their design is coupled with the discerning colour range of available styles. Manufactured in Europe, utilising  vegan friendly materials, that are good for animals and humans alike.

Ethletic challenge the status quo. Their sneakers are vegan, produced in Fair Trade supply chains and use organic materials. The classic range of hi and low top sneakers may look like others on the market, but they are worlds apart. You can’t help but applaud everything this company is about. Style and substance in equal measure.

To show off your new shoes you’ll need some legit socks. Minga Berlin Socks come in playful range of styles. Their socks are unisex (thumbs up) and produced to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). I love their plain and colourful patterned socks in equal measure. They have three kinds of black sock available which I think is a great thing. I’m definitely going to pick a few pairs up. Companies like this make me happy. They  prove that ethical goods do not have to forsake aesthetic appeal.

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Minga Berlin Socks,  EUR 12

Ethics and Antics apparel is all over social media at the moment. And with good reason. They present the vegan message in a subtle way. Those of us in the know ‘get it’ without coming across as militant to the Majority. The VGANG tee is sick. I’m also a fan of the fact they use different kinds of people to model their garms.

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Ethics and Antics VGANG T-Shirt, £25

Black Sage Supply create utilitarian goods free from leather, wool or animal-based waxes. They produce, among other things, bags, belts and aprons.  Many of the pieces are made to order. Their waxed aprons are rather smart. Get one for the wanna-be barista in your life. I was put onto Black Sage Supply by Dark Arts Coffee. They roast great coffee in Hackney and are refreshingly chilled out about it. Their filter – Heart of Darkness is my go-to from them. Check out their Instagram page for movie nights with vegan food too.

I have already gotten myself a ‘I ❤ Vegan Junk Food’ apron by SSOV. It’s no good baking Ms. Cupcake recipes unless you’re ‘reppin vegan garms. 10 vegan points if you pick one up.

I’m big into Christmas but hate the nonsensical perfume and aftershave adverts we’re subjected to at this time of year. Haeckels create handcrafted fragrances in their lab on the clifftops of Margate. They also have a considered range for hair, body and skin all presented with stripped back branding. Of their perfume range, Eau de Parfum 26 is the stand out for me.

It’s not just clothing and toiletries that are wising up to an ethical and sustainable way of doing business.  Fairphone have designed and manufactured the worlds first ethically produced smart phone. They’re a B-corp, and launched Fairphone 2 in the last quarter of 2015. From funding and mining to design and manufacture, ethics are at the heart of this product. It has been produced to be easily repaired and thus sustain the lifespan of each device. My current phone is on the way out so I’m looking to pick one up.

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Fairphone 2, EUR 529.38

Reproduced under CC BY-NC-SA, Credit: Fairphone, via Flickr