Death by chocolate

200g butter, softened (I use salted)

350g soft light brown sugar

seeds of ½ vanilla pod or ½ tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp Camp coffee essence (optional)

6 medium eggs (at room temperature)

280g wholemeal or regular self-raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

60g cocoa powder

210g crème fraîche (at room temperature)

FOR THE CHOCOLATE FROSTING

120g dark chocolate, melted

180g butter, softened

375g icing sugar

2 tbsp double cream

FOR THE CHOCOLATE GANACHE DRIZZLE

140ml double cream

140g dark chocolate, roughly chopped, plus extra for grating

EQUIPMENT

3 x 20cm round cake tins

stand mixer or hand-held electric whisk (optional)

1 Preheat the oven to 180C (fan 160C/350F/gas 4) and line the tins with baking parchment.

2 Put all the ingredients for the sponge in a bowl and whisk well until combined. You can do this in a stand mixer or using a hand-held electric whisk. You can also do this by hand, but it does take time and lots of elbow grease! Using a spatula, divide the mixture among the lined tins, smoothing down the tops.

3 Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the cakes are springy to the touch and a skewer inserted in the centre of each cake comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in the tins, then turn out on to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

4 When the cakes have cooled, mix together the chocolate frosting ingredients. I use my stand mixer with a paddle attachment and beat it for a good 5 minutes, until light and spreadable. You can do this by hand but it will take longer.

5 Smear a little of the frosting on your cake stand or plate – just a splodge to secure the first sponge. Place a cake layer on top and spread it with a little more frosting. Cover with another cake layer and more frosting.

6 Top with the remaining cake layer, flipping it over so that the flat side of the cake is now at the top (see tips below). Very lightly press all the cake layers together, then use a palette knife to spread the remaining frosting evenly over the top and sides of the cake so that the sides are nice and straight and the top is flat. I like to do a thin layer first for a crumb-coating and place the cake in the freezer for 10 minutes for this layer to firm up, then take the cake from the freezer and add another thicker layer of the chocolate frosting, having a good play around with the palette knife so that it is really smooth. Sometimes it helps to run the knife under warm water and then carry on smoothing the frosting. Leave it to set a little while you make the ganache drizzle.

7 Heat the cream in a pan until it is just steaming, but don’t boil it. Take the pan off the heat and add the chocolate, leaving it to melt for a few minutes, then stir the chocolate gently and let it cool down a little. Pour the chocolate ganache drizzle over the cake so that it forms a smooth layer all over the top and then drips nicely down the sides of the cake. Grate over the chocolate and serve.

TIPS I like to flip the top cake over, so that you end up with a good flat base for frosting the top. For a clean finish, don’t press down too much on the cakes as you’re frosting, as this can cause the filling to bulge out between each cake layer.

Lorraine xxx

All the Greens Vegan Pizza flat bread with avocado hummus

Quite possibly the easiest Vegan/Vegetarian pizza flatbread in the world. So this is a vegan pizza and a skin friendly one too. I have played around with some oatmeal flour and some buckwheat flour to make it gluten-free but you can also use a regular gluten-containing Strong white flour or just a gluten-free flour like Doves which would work well. If you do use different flour  you may have to adjust the water content a little bit, to give you a kneadable dough that is not to dry and that is not so wet that it sticks to the surface.

Brassicas like Kale, Cavolo Nero and Brocooli look and taste  good but they also have great benefits for health, and the skin. They have good anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial effects and contain things like antioxidants which can help againsts pre-mature aging. So get your fill of these green beauties to limit the free radical damage to your cells which can accelerate the aging process.

Vegan Pizza Base

200g of oat flour

100g of Buckwheat flour

1 sachet of fast action dried yeast

1 tsp of xantham gum (Not 100% necessary but it will make the dough a little more elastic and pliable.

1 tsp of salt

1 tsp of nutritional yeast (optional) This give the dough a cheesy taste

175ml approx of warm water

Topping

1 bunch of Cavolo Nero, woody stems removed and very finely sliced (or just use Kale)

1 handful of frozen peas, cooked

1 large handful of edamame, shelled

1 bunch of purple sprouting broccoli, lightly cooked

1 large handful of pumpkin seeds

1 large  handful of baby kale (or you can just use Rocket)

1 avocado

1 tub of ready-made hummus

1/4 of a lemon

salt and pepper

extra virgin olive oil

Basil (optional) to serve

Method

Oven on to 220c.

Tip the oat flour and buckwheat flour into a bowl. Add the yeast, xantham gum, nutritional yeast and mix together. Then add the water and stir together with a spoon.

Get your hands in the bowl and the start squeezing the mixture. It will start to come together in to a ball. You are looking for a soft dough which is not too sticky or dry. If you feel it needs more water, then add a couple of tablespoons. If you feel it is a little too damp and is sticking to your hands alot then add a tablespoon or two of flour.

Put some flour on to the work surface and then roll out the dough to an oval about 1cm thick. Place the pizza base on to a baking tray and then pop it into the oven for about 10-15 minutes or until the base is going crispy and golden brown. The cooking time will vary depending on the type of flours that you have used.

As this cooks prepare and cook all your veggies. Mix the avocado with the hummus and add a little lemon juice on top so that it does not go brown. Put the Cavolo nero into a bowl and drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil, season with salt and pepper and massage the oil in to the leaves a little.

I saw this technique used in a kitchen when I was on a job in Atlanta eating at his fabulous restaurant. They are in several locations over the U.S. so if you get the chance, do give one a try. Massaging oil in to the leaves this way makes the Cavolo Nero (or Kale) easier to eat and less tough. Feel free to make your own toppings and whatever you have to hand to make it your own signature veggie pizza! If you are looking for a meat containing pizza, how about this recipe here. 

Once your Vegan pizza base is cooked remove it from the oven and leave it to cool a little. Then spread the avocado hummus over the base of it. Pile on the veggies and seeds and then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Season, add the basil if using and then serve.

Lorraine x

 

Ps. If you spot any typos let me know and I will correct them.

 

Vegan lasagne with Shiitake and Chestnut mushroom, hazelnuts and thyme

Vegan lasagne with Shiitake and chestnut mushrooms,  hazelnuts and thyme

The holidays are just around the corner and you are perhaps getting your food ready for the weekend. You have all of the usual suspects but you have vegan/vegetarian coming around and you really want to do something extra special. Here is the answer. A delicious Vegan lasagne to wow your non-meat eating friends. I hope you find that it tastes so good for you that your meat eating guests can’t get enough of it too!

I large onion, finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic finely chopped

1 large handful of thyme leaves

450g of chestnut mushrooms, blitzed in a food processor

200g of shiitake mushrooms blitzed in a food processor

300g of kale, woody stems removed, blitzed in a food processor

salt and pepper

extra virgin olive oil

2 knobs of butter

Cheesy sauce

2 tbsp of butter (regular of vegan

2 tbsp of gluten-free (or regular) flour

500ml of almond milk (or regular milk)

150g of vegan cheddar or regular cheddar grated

2 tsp of of paprika

3tsp nutritional yeast (optional, gives a cheesy taste if you’re going for the vegan option)

3 tsp of English Mustard

pinch of nutmeg

200g of gluten-free or regular lasagne sheets (the type which do not need to be precooked)

1 handful of toasted hazelnuts, blitzed a little in a food processor (not to a powder)

small lasagne dish

Oven on to 200c.

Put the onion in a pan  with some oil and cook until tender, stirring from time to time. Once the onion is soft, add the garlic and thyme and cook for another minute. Add the mushrooms and turn up the heat and cook until they just start to realise their liquid. Add  2 knobs of butter and some salt and pepper, stir and set aside.

Put the kale in a bowl and drizzle over some oil add some salt and pepper, stir and set aside.

Put the butter in a small pan over a medium heat, Once it has melted add the flour and stir well. Remove the pan from the heat and add the almond milk gradually stirring well between each addition. Then return the pan to the heat and bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Boil for a minute or two until the mixture thickens. Then remove it from the heat and add the paprika, nutritional tests if using, mustard and nutmeg and most of the cheese. (reserve a little for later for the top).

Now time to layer up. Put a third of the mushroom mixture on the bottom of the dish. Then add a third of the kale followed by a layer of the lasagne sheets and then a third of the cheese sauce. Repeat this two more times so you have 3 of each layer. Then sprinkle over the remaining cheese and add the hazelnuts on top.

Place in the oven and cook for 45 minutes or until the top is bubbling and going brown and the pasta sheets are cooked,

Serve with a crispy green salad.

Chocolate fruit and nut Simnel cake

Simnel cakes are light fruit cakes that are traditionally made at Easter. Many people in my family are not fans of rich fruit cake, but throw some chocolate in and they come running for it! I hope you like this twist on the traditional. Use whatever dried fruits and nuts you prefer, just keep the quantities the same.

150g butter, softened (I use salted)

220g caster sugar

120g sour cream

4 medium eggs

180g self-raising flour, plus 2 tbsp for dusting the raisins (see tip)

40g cocoa powder (sifted if lumpy)

½ tsp baking powder

100g toasted skinned hazelnuts, finely chopped

20g toasted blanched almonds, finely chopped

100g raisins

300g white marzipan

100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped, plus extra for shavings, if desired

FOR THE CHOCOLATE ICING

70g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

120g butter, softened

100g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting

EQUIPMENT

2 x 20cm round cake tins

1 Preheat the oven to 180C (fan 160C/350F/gas 4) and line the cake tins with baking parchment. Put the butter, caster sugar, sour cream, eggs, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, hazelnuts and almonds into a large bowl. In another bowl, mix the raisins with the extra 2 tablespoons flour.

2 Tip this raisin and flour mixture into the main bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until well combined. Then, using a spatula, divide the cake mixture between the lined tins and level the tops. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre of each cake comes out clean, and the cakes have shrunk slightly from the edges of the tin. Once the cakes are cooked, remove them from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tins.

3 When the cakes have cooled, make the chocolate icing. Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie by setting a heatproof bowl over a small pan of simmering water, making sure that the water in the pan does not touch the base of the bowl. If it does it can ‘seize’, making the chocolate very grainy and unpleasant to use. You can also melt the chocolate in the microwave in 40-second blasts, stirring well after each blast until smooth. Set the melted chocolate aside to cool a little. Now, put the butter in a bowl with the icing sugar and beat together until light and fluffy, then add the slightly cooled, melted chocolate to the mixture little by little, mixing to combine as you go.

4 Remove the cakes from the tins and place one on a serving plate with a blob of the chocolate icing underneath to stop it from moving around. Spread with a nice thick layer of the chocolate icing and then place the other cake on top, bottom side up so that it is nice and flat.

5 Spread the top of the cake with a thin layer of the chocolate icing and then set this aside. Reserve about 1 tablespoon of the icing to stick the chocolate covered marzipan balls on top of your lovely cake!

6 Dust the work surface with a little icing sugar and then roll out two-thirds of the marzipan to the thickness of a £1 coin (about 3mm). Using a small, sharp knife, put the 20cm round cake tin on top and use it as a stencil for a circle of marzipan.

7 Remove the cake tin and set aside and then place this marzipan circle on top of the cake, pressing it down with a little gentle pressure. You want it to be nicely smooth and even. Then crimp the edges to decorate using your thumb and forefinger, or you can just mark the edges with a fork for a pretty pattern.

8 Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and set this aside. Melt the 100g chocolate over a bain-marie or in the microwave, as before. Leave to cool a little and then roll the rest of the marzipan into 11 equal-sized balls.

9 Take a marzipan ball on a fork and dip it into the melted chocolate, then remove it, letting the excess drip back into the bowl. Place the chocolate-coated marzipan ball on the baking parchment. Repeat with the rest of the balls and then, using small blobs of chocolate icing, stick the balls around the cake an equal distance apart.

10 When you are ready to serve, lightly dust the cake with the icing sugar. You can also sprinkle over chocolate shavings, if you fancy it.

Big love

LPx

Protein Packed Vegan Buddha Bowl with black Sesame

Can’t get enough protein on a vegan diet? Well this dish should solve that problem for you. This Buddha bowl is packed with protein and all the good stuff. A perfect dish for your meat free Monday, Vegan vibrant and quick. I chose a balsamic ginger dressing but feel free to dress with whatever you like.  It is snowing outside, but having  just spent the last 24 hours travelling, I was craving something fresh and clean. So I battled the elements to buy these ingredients and throw them all together. Here are five reasons why you should make this salad for you next weekday lunch. For the dressing add 1 part balsamic to 3 parts oil and then grate in some ginger. Season with salt and pepper and then drizzle over the salad. If you have a juicer you can juice the ginger and add that to your dressing instead.

It is Vegan

Even if you are not a vegan, having a meal or two away from meat is only a good thing. I am a part-time vegan which comes in to play as the mood suits.

There are more anti-oxidants in black beans than in any other legume

There are lots of anti-oxidants in this dish but black beans are my go-to when I fancy a legume. Not only are they they highest in anti-oxidants but they also are very high in protein and lower in carbs too.

Microgreens rock

Are unbelievably tasty and have more nutrients then their fully grown brothers. Additionally they are so easy to grow. Remember the mustard microgreens you may have grown at school. I would love to say I picked these fresh this morning from my abundant window planter, but they are actually from M and S.

Short Cut Spiraliser

The courgetti look like they have been spiralised or at the very least julienned. But this handy work is thanks to a serrated edge potato peeler available here. Simply peel the courgette as if you were just removing skin and then keep on peeling. Magic! And no washing and storing of that big old plastic thing.

Black sesame seeds

Not only do they have a load of nutritional benefits such as lowering cholesterol and balancing hormones but they make the tofu taste much better too.

Enjoy!

Lorraine x