Thursday, December 31, 2015

Carrot and apple cake with a lemon drizzle icing

I am rather in love with this cake. Apple pieces are showcased to perfection against a backdrop of carrot cake, and the zestiness of the lemon drizzle allows a sweet but fresh finish. As you would expect with carrot and apple in the mix, the cake is moist (but not too moist) and it is sturdy enough to be sliced and taken on a walk (I know this because I did so).

I adapted this from a supermarket (Tesco) recipe and my changes included dropping the eggs (I didn't substitute anything else in, figuring the grated carrot would be sufficient, which it was), halving the butter / non-dairy spread component, and reducing the sugar by 25%. You won't miss what I took out because the carrot and apple give moisture and sweetness themselves.


Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas and 2015 reflections

The year is drawing to a close and what a year it has been. I may post again before the year is fully over, but it felt right to combine reflections on Christmas with thoughts on this year as a whole.

First, Christmas. It was lovely. I was getting a cold, which was less lovely, but it was our first Christmas in our new home and we enjoyed a relaxed and laid back day. There were lots of presents, lots of food, and just the right amount of effort to make it special. There is something to be said for a Christmas where you do everything just the way you want to.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Honeycomb and chocolate chip biscuits {Happy Christmas}

Honeycomb has been on my 'to make' list for a long time. On the weekend, I ventured into making it and then went one step further with these honeycomb and chocolate chip biscuits (cookies). They are easy to make, easy to eat, and a fun twist on standard chocolate chip combinations.

A word of warning, though, on baking with honeycomb: it has a tendency to explode out of your biscuits if you put too much in. I used nearly a cup of crushed honeycomb pieces and found some oozed out of the biscuits to form a burnt caramel layer on the baking tray. I have reduced the quantity in the recipe to half a cup, and advise keeping a close eye on the biscuits from the 8 minute mark!


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Edinburgh (a final Scottish recap)


Christmas decorations in Edinburgh

This is my fourth and final recap from our November Scotland holiday (previous posts covered south-west Scotland, Glasgow, and the Scottish Highlands). Edinburgh was our last overnight stop, but we drove to it via a large loop from the Highlands across to Aberdeen and down the east coast. This is far from the most direct route, but I was keen to see Aberdeen as my family nearly moved there when I was 8. My father's company wanted to relocate him (and thus us) to the area, and it took some negotiation to avoid the move. As a result, I've always been curious about Aberdeen and the possible parallel life I could have lived there.

Suffice to say, Aberdeen was not the highlight of our time in Scotland. Until we got there, I'd been increasingly convinced we should have moved when I was 8. Aberdeen, however, is rather different to the rest of Scotland. The sprawling outer suburbs held little appeal, and the city centre was as grey as its reputation (Aberdeen is often know as the granite city due to the use of granite in most of the central buildings). The city council building, pictured below, was impressive but I didn't find  much else to warm to.

Aberdeen's most attractive (grey) building

I was still glad to see Aberdeen and lay my could-have-been parallel life to rest. Driving down the east coast also allowed us to stop at Dunnottar Castle, an impressive semi-ruined castle perched right on the coast.

Dunnottar Castle 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Gold sparkled marshmallow crackles (vegan)

These crackle slices need a disclaimer saying "sparklier in real life than in photos". With hindsight, for photography purposes I should have made the slice chocolate flavoured, so the glitter stood out against a dark background. Still, life isn't all about photography for blogging. I promise you that if you make these, they will glitter and sparkle impressively.

Other than the sparkly top, these are a simple mix of (vegan) marshmallows, coconut oil, and puffed cereal. They're easy to make, easy to eat, and the sparkles make them perfect for the festive season. As they don't need baking, they're also a good option if you need something made in a hurry (although you will need to allow time for them to set).

Monday, December 14, 2015

Christmas scenes and vegan recipe ideas

Houses of Parliament, London, with the London Eye behind

I've been meandering along with a vague sense that Christmas is on the horizon, and all of a sudden that horizon is almost here. Ten days to go! I am not sure I'm ready!

In the spirit of all things festive, I thought I'd share some Christmas scenes and vegan Christmas recipe ideas. I haven't decided what to make for our Christmas meal yet (!) but the recipes below all sound appealing. I'm also sharing an easy recipe for baked pears in red wine and cinnamon, which may not suit Christmas day, but is perfect if you need a festive but low-key dessert. Paired with yoghurt or ice cream the pears are simple, sophisticated and entirely delicious.

Trafalgar Square, London

Friday, December 11, 2015

Scottish Highlands

After our time in Glasgow, we drove north-west to spend 3 days in the Scottish Highlands. I was particularly excited about this part of the trip, as I'd heard so many good things about the scenery in north-west Scotland and was looking forward to soaking it up. (Incidentally, given recent Scottish storms, floods and snow, we really were very lucky with our sunshine and minimal rain.)

Loch en Eilein, Cairngorm National Park, Highlands

The highlands cover a large area - basically the north-west half of Scotland - and we stayed in Port Augustus on the lower edge of Loch Ness. We chose it as a central location and because of good self-catering options. Where we stayed, a one-bed self-catering apartment in an old convent, was perfect and I don't hesitate to recommend it. Whilst technically an apartment, it felt more like a cottage due to the generously sized rooms. The rooms were also beautifully furnished and there were lots of thoughtful touches like a completely equipped kitchen (I could have baked a cake if so inclined), books and DVDs, and lots of maps and local guidebooks.

The Old Convent self-catering cottage

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Vegan chocolate cranberry layer cake with a cranberry ganache icing

Last weekend was my birthday and therefore a good opportunity for cake experimentation. It is helpful when the only person you'll let down with a baking failure is yourself; it frees one up to try something new and not worry too much about what may go wrong. In my case, the 'new' was this chocolate cranberry layer cake with a cranberry ganache icing.

I surprised myself by choosing a chocolate cake, as I think of my cake tastes as more aligned with fruit and vanilla. Not this year! In saying that, there was a definite fruit component to this cake and (I think) the cranberries made it more exciting than your typical chocolate cake.

I adapted the cake from a chocolate cranberry cake on Brave Tart, which wasn't vegan but did provide gluten-free options. My cake contained gluten but omitted the eggs and used dairy substitutes. It was dense and decadent whilst also being fluffy, and chocolatey without being overpowering. The cranberries within the cake were subtle and those in the icing allowed for a tart edge that balanced the usual sweetness of ganache.

Monday, December 7, 2015

A review of Plant-Based Breakfasts for Kids (Kyra Howearth)

Some of you may be familiar with Kyra Howearth's blog, Vie de la Vegan. If you're not, Kyra is a plant-based (vegan) Australian blogger who shares plenty of delicious recipes. I like that she uses straightforward ingredients and shares dishes that involve minimal fuss. As she is a mother of three, Kyra is also great at sharing child-friendly dishes.

Given my enjoyment of Kyra's online recipes, I was delighted when she asked if I'd like to review a copy of her first e-book, Plant-Based Breakfast for Kids. I don't have children, so my review is based on my adult opinion. However, I can confirm that the dishes appear child-friendly. For example, what child wouldn't want to try breakfast pizza, no bake breakfast cookies, or pancakes of any variety?

I am not usually a huge fan of e-books, on account of finding it hard to justify purchasing an e-book when there are so many great free recipes online. However, this particular e-book may have converted me. It was set out simply, with beautiful photographs accompanying each recipe, and every one of the 25 recipes appealed to me.

No bake breakfast cookies

Friday, December 4, 2015

In My Kitchen - December 2015

I am linking this in to Celia's monthly In My Kitchen event at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial - which as of January, will have a new host in the lovely Maureen of the Orgasmic Chef!

Pineapple chocolate chip loaf

In my kitchen, there have been a few recipes that I've liked, but which haven't quite been good enough to share. A pineapple chocolate chip loaf, above and below, was one example. I made it without any additional sweetener (beyond the pineapple and chocolate chips) and while I loved it, I can see it wouldn't be to everyone's tastes. It wasn't to Mr Bite's, for example (poor Mr Bite - I'm not painting a good picture of his eating options this week).

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Smoky paprika risotto with chickpeas (and giveaway winner)

I was recently pleased to pick up some liquid smoke in the supermarket. I haven't cooked with it since we moved to the UK and have missed the option of smoky, South American style dishes. Mr Bite was less pleased as he is not a big fan of liquid smoke flavoured meals. However, sometimes I exercise the cook's prerogative and serve them to him anyway...

It is perhaps not very surprising that where I loved this dish, he just tolerated it. I am posting it anyway because I am confident that in this instance, his lukewarm attitude stems from his dislike of the ingredients. If you are kind, you probably won't give this to someone who isn't a big fan of liquid smoke or chickpeas. For everyone else - I am certain it will be enjoyable!