LAST YEAR I STARTED SMOKING AND IT TASTES FANTASTIC!

Well hello to you all and a happy new year! I hope you had a fantastic Christmas full of fun, laughter and of course, damn good food. My Christmas was everything I hoped it would be and my rich roasted tofu was a perfect accompaniment to the festive meal – a dish definitely to be repeated.

So it occurs to me that perhaps I should explain exactly what I mean by the headline of this blog. No, I haven’t after all these years, started smoking sixty Marlboro Red every day thereby indecently assaulting my bank account and kissing my lungs goodbye. Nor have I taken to a pipe or joined a Gentleman’s club where a large Port, fat Cohiba and smoking jacket are the order of the day. Aside from the gut wretchingly foul taste and the cocktail of unpronounceable chemicals i would be invading my bloodstream with, my asthma would force me to live in an oxygen tent; something at my age I’m just not prepared to do thank you very much. What I actually mean is, smoking my own food. Again, I’m not rolling up carrot ribbons and julienning sweet potatoes for some weird vegetable/cigarette hybrid project, but actually putting ordinary food in a smokehouse and turning it into smoky, woody heaven.

On the way up to spend Christmas with my Mother and Father-in-law, I spent Christmas Eve night at my Sister-in-laws farm with her, my other sister-in-law and my lovely wife. Now my sister-in-law has a wonderful farm in Yorkshire and one of the brilliant things she has is her own smokehouse. She suggested I bring up some blocks of firm tofu for us to smoke to see how it turns out.

I had never smoked my own tofu before and was intrigued to find out how it was done. As you can see from the picture, it’s a clever little contraption; even though it may  look a little like a barbeque with a piece of piping sticking out of it, attached to a giant wardrobe, Iooks can be deceiving – this barbeque/pipe/wardrobe thingy is a bloody marvel.

Now I don’t know about where you guys live but commercially smoked tofu is readily available in shops and stores in Brighton and it is very good indeed. We decided to smoke our tofu with a mixture of Apple wood (straight from the Apple trees in the orchard) and Maple wood chips and nothing and I truly mean NOTHING, compares to the sheer awesomeness of your very own home smoked tofu. The level and depth of flavour is incredible; you can actually taste the smoke, the burnt wood and burning cinders right through it all, each hitting you with different levels of flavour as you taste it. I can’t wait to go up there again with a giant box full of vegetables and strings of garlic and smoke them all. Hmmmm… smoked asparagus and shallots anyone? (Please restrain me when I get out the bananas and peas as by then I would have totally lost the plot.)

The only downside is it’s my food version of cigarettes; I want it all the time and  can’t rest till I get my fill. Sadly, I used my last block of tofu on the recipe I made for this blog; (Smoked Balsamic Tofu, Mushroom & Tarragon Risotto) and looks like I’ll have to go cold turkey seeing my supplier lives in Yorkshire and my habit just can’t support a 500 mile round trip to get its fix every other day. Well, it was nice while it lasted……

I don’t suppose nicorette do a smoked tofu patch by any chance?

 

Don’t be scared, it’s just food!

 

Danny x

 

 

Smoked Balsamic Tofu, Mushroom & Tarragon Risotto

This is a delicious risotto recipe with a light tarragon flavour complemented with the deep smoky yet sweet tofu sitting on top of it. Feel free to add a little more tarragon for a stronger taste  if you wish or even swap it for basil if you prefer. If you don’t have smoked tofu, you can use plain, adding a big pinch of smoked paprika:

Preparation: 20 minutes Cooking: 30 minutes

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

(For the tofu:)

1 block                  Smoked tofu (finely cubed)

Big splash            Balsamic vinegar

Big splash            Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt & pepper to taste

(For the risotto:)

1                             White onion (finely diced)

2 sticks                  Celery (finely sliced)

3 cloves                 Garlic (finely sliced)

2 handfuls           Closed cup mushrooms (sliced)

3 to 4 cups           Arborio or Carnaroli Risotto rice (depending on your appetite)

1                              Bayleaf

1 heaped tsp      Dried tarragon (or fresh if you have it)

1 cup                     Frozen peas

2 ½ pints              Hot vegetable stock

Big splash            Vermouth (or white wine)

Olive oil for frying

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Turn the oven to 250 oC

For the tofu: Place the tofu on a baking/roasting tray, add the ingredients and mix well. Cook for approximately 15 minutes, tossing regularly until the tofu is crispy and brown. (Feel free to add more balsamic vinegar throughout the cooking process to intensify the flavour.)

For the risotto: In a saucepan, gently sautee off the onions in the olive oil till soft. Add the celery, stir and cook for a further minute. Mix well and add the garlic, cooking for a further minute stirring regularly so the garlic does not brown and burn.

Add the mushrooms and cook until they start to soften. Add the rice and stir well, allowing the rice to absorb the liquid. Add the vermouth and stir till the liquid has been absorbed.

Next, add the vegetable stock a half pint at a time and stir well, ensuring the risotto does not stick to the bottom. Add the tarragon and bayleaf. Keep on stirring the risotto, adding the stock when the mixture starts to dry up. (Note: you may not need all of the stock so if the rice is cooked and you still have left over stock, do not add it.)

Cook the risotto for 12 – 15 minutes under a gentle heat until the rice is al dente (it still has a little bite to it.) Be sure to taste the rice regularly checking the seasoning and cooking stage of the rice and 5 minutes before the rice is cooked, add the peas.

Serve the risotto with the tofu stacked on top with a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil and lemon juice drizzled over.

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Posted in Arborio, Asparagus, Blog, Brighton, Carnaroli, Comfort Food, Delicious, Easy, Food, Hove, Liquid Smoke, Recipe, Rice, Risotto, Smoked, Stress Free, Tofu, Uncategorized, Vegan, Vegetable, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

PUT DOWN THE PROZAC – LET’S HAVE A STRESS-FREE CHRISTMAS!

Rich Roasted Tofu

Well, this has been my second Christmas/Holiday blog post since I started The Caper Tree last year and even though I’ve been away from the blogosphere for a while, I’m back now and gearing up for all the joy this festive season has to offer so bring it on!

Last Christmas had to be one of my all time favourite Christmases; it falls a little short of when I woke up to find the Millennium Falcon at the foot of my bed one Christmas morning, but it’s nestled right up there in my top five.  (See kids, dropping subtle hints to your parents such as, “Do you think Father Christmas knows that Millennium is spelt with two lls? Maybe I should write it down in big felt tip and stick it on the fridge just in case” really work!,)

My lovely lady and I spent the time in an old cottage in the Cotswolds with my Sister and Brother-in-law where we frolicked in the snow and removed giant icicles hanging from the sides of the houses and used them as light sabres, (yet another Star Wars reference – no wonder it was such a great Christmas!) made snow angels on Christmas morning in fields and ate and drank till we fell asleep.

Of course when you’re only catering for four people on Christmas morning, you have the run of the kitchen and no-one else to consider so you can lay out all your vegan goodies and treats and selfishly think of no-one but yourself. But when you’re a guest in someone else’s home and they are feeding many more mouths than just your big pie-hole, you have to think about things differently.

I cannot wait for Christmas this year; we are spending it with my fabulous in-laws in Yorkshire and it’s going to be jam-packed full of festive merriment and (if I have my way) lots of booze. There are only three vegans in the family for Christmas dinner this year, (there are more vegans in the family, just not present on the day) and the rest are omnivores.   So unlike last year, there are other people to consider when preparing the Christmas feast, as well as the fact that it’s not your kitchen and you’re a guest in someone else’s home.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who will be in this situation this year so what do you do to ensure your vegan Christmas Dinner is as fabulous as it would be if you had made it yourself? Here are a few tips and bits of advice to help you along the way:

Prepare well in advance: To save your host time and unnecessary worry to what is an already stressful day in a busy kitchen, offer to make and bring your main dish and gravy with you. Make sure whatever you bring is easy to cook on the day and make sure it is ready at the same time as the rest of the meal.  The last thing your host needs to hear twenty minutes before serving dinner is, “could you spare some kitchen space please? I just need to make my main meal and gravy. It should only take about an hour”.

Check out my recipe at the bottom of this blog for Rich Roasted Tofu – this is what I plan on having this Christmas; it is so easy to prepare and cook but tastes fantastic.

Make your gravy in advance and keep it in the fridge or freezer then all you need to do on the day is throw it in a saucepan and heat it through. Check out my e-book  ‘Tasting Menu’ which features a great gravy recipe and will add heaps of flavour to your Christmas meal.

Personally, I will be marinating my tofu and making my gravy on the 22nd or 23rd December and bringing it with me. Just roast, heat and serve: simple!

Control what you can & don’t worry about everything else: I wish everyone had a mother-in-law like mine; she takes so much care and attention to ensure all the vegetables she cooks are suitable for everyone to eat: her roast potatoes are cooked in oil, not butter or goose fat and she keeps all meat and non-meat utensils separate.  Not every family is blessed with such a wonderful matriarch so if you find yourself lacking in that department, then just control what you can. Casually find out what contains dairy, eggs and meat and avoid it at the dinner table. By casual, I mean don’t go steaming into the kitchen and ask what’s vegan and what’s not; it’s Christmas Day, not the Spanish Inquisition! Observe what’s being prepared and maybe even offer to help out. Then you can see what each dish contains and if you can eat them.  At best, you might be pleasantly surprised to find so much for you to eat; at worst, at least you know your main dish and gravy will be vegan!

It’s Christmas – enjoy it!: I personally don’t like to make a big deal out of what I eat and why I eat it, especially on Christmas Day; it’s busy and hectic enough as it is. Whenever I have been a dinner guest at someone’s house, I have been overwhelmed by the efforts they go to, to ensure I have as an enjoyable culinary experience as everyone else. It therefore ashames me deeply when a fellow vegan diner states rather pointedly something wrong with their meal and embarrassing the host.  If you notice something, quietly don’t eat it and let it slide, it’s not a big deal. They didn’t do it on purpose and nothing can be gained from upsetting them and thinking that they’ve failed you in some terrible way. There are more important things like opening presents and drinking lots and lots of Port to focus on!

So that’s my insight into having a brilliant Christmas and Happy Holidays – I hope you find them useful.  I’ll be back soon, (if not before the New Year), with lots more recipes, musings and hopefully my new cookbook. Until then, don’t forget to thank everyone for the presents you receive and to recycle the disgusting ones at your local charity shop. (Who in their right mind wants a fire breathing nun wind-up toy? Who I ask you, WHO??)

“Don’t Be Scared, it’s Just Food!”

Danny x

The Caper Tree

 

Rich Roasted Tofu

Rich Roasted Tofu

I call this Rich Roasted Tofu because of its deep, rich taste you get when you eat it. It’s so simple to prepare has only a few ingredients and can be made days in advance so you can make up a batch marinating in the fridge; perfect for when you’re in a hurry.

Preparation time: 5 minutes  Cooking time: 35-40 minutes approx Serves: 2

Ingredients:

1 pack                                   Firm tofu (drained & patted dry)

4 tbsp                                    Tamari

5                                              Olive oil

½ tsp                                     Freshly ground black pepper

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 250oC

Slice the tofu into ½ centimetre thick slices. If you have a big block, you may want to halve it first.

Place the rest of the ingredients into a jug and mix well. Pour a little of the liquid onto a roasting tray and coat the surface. Place the tofu onto the tray, making sure no slices overlap and pour the rest of the liquid even over the tofu. Carefully turn the tofu over, making sure all slices are completely covered.

Place into the oven and cook for 35-40 minutes, turning them over halfway through cooking. Keep an eye on them and remove any slices that start to burn.

Remove from the oven once cooked and serve immediately.

Once cooked, they should be a deep rich brown and have a crispy outside with a soft, fluffy inside.

 

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Posted in Blog, Book, Brighton, Cafe, Cafes, Christmas, Comfort Food, Cookbook, Delicious, Easy, Food, Gravy, Low Fat, Meat Free, Quick, Recipe, Stress Free, Tofu, Vegan, Vegetable | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK IN A NUTSHELL

Well hi there! It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a blog and that’s because I’ve been spending all my time writing food reviews and continuing the long and arduous task of writing my new cookbook: “The Home Bistro”.

Now whilst I love visiting different restaurants, cafes, gastro pubs, fast food joints, sushi bars and eateries and writing all about the experiences I have in them, (I hope you feel sorry for me cos this work ain’t easy you know!) I’ve also come to realise that people don’t always have time to read a 300 word review, especially when  you’re absolutely ravenous and looking for somewhere great to eat and fast!

That’s why I’m starting a new page on my website called “Nutshell Food Reviews” . The idea is for you lovely people (as well as me) to submit food reviews to my site using ten words or less. It’s really amazing what you can say in such few words if you put your mind to it and how effective they can be so if you have a favourite place to eat and you want the world and you want the world to know about it, write a review and I will post it onto my site. However be warned! Any review over the ten word limit will not be accepted, even if it’s only eleven words long. So there.

So to get the ball rolling, here is the first Nutshell review: (The name, address and rating out of 5 aren’t part of the review)

Foodlilic (All you can eat Buffet Cafe – Vegan Friendly)

60 North Street, Brighton, BN1 1RH

“Excellent salad dishes. Some food over salted.  Lunch highly Recommended” (4 out of 5)

Danny Vice-Holt

Believe it or not, this actually took me quite some time to write that but I think I captured the essence of the place.

So now I would like you to do the same. Wherever you are in the world, whatever place you eat at which you think we should know about (good or bad) then post me a Nutshell review and I’ll post it on my new Nutshell page on this site. Just follow the format shown above (establishment name, address, 10 word review, score out of 5 and your name & location).

We’ve had micro blogging, now it’s time for the micro review; all you need to know in a nutshell. See? It’s clever isn’t it?!

Happy blogging everyone and remember

“Don’t be scared it’s just food!”

 

Danny x

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a blog and that’s because I’ve been spending all my time writing food reviews and continuing the long and arduous task of writing my new cookbook: “The Home Bistro”.

Now whilst I love visiting different restaurants, cafes, gastro pubs, fast food joints, sushi bars and eateries and writing all about the experiences I have in them, (I hope you feel sorry for me cos this work ain’t easy you know!) I’ve also come to realise that people don’t always have time to read a 300 word review, especially when you’re absolutely ravenous and looking for somewhere great to eat and fast!

 

That’s why I’m starting a new page on my website called “Nutshell Food Reviews” . The idea is for you lovely people (as well as me) to submit food reviews to my site using ten words or less. It’s really amazing what you can say in such few words if you put your mind to it and how effective they can be so if you have a favourite place to eat and you want the world and you want the world to know about it, write a review and I will post it onto my site. However be warned! Any review over the ten word limit will not be accepted, even if it is eleven words long. So there.

 

So to get the ball rolling, here is the first Nutshell review: (The name and address aren’t part of the review)

 

Foodlilic (All you can eat Buffet Cafe – Vegan Friendly)

60 North Street, Brighton, BN1 1RH

 

Excellent colourful salad dishes. Some food over salted. Always busy!

That actually took me quite some time to write that but I think I captured the essence of the place.

 

So now I would like you to do the same. Wherever you are in the world, whatever place you eat at which you think we should know about (good or bad) then post me a Nutshell review and I’ll post it on my site.

 

We’ve had micro blogging, now it’s time for the micro review; all you need to know in a nutshell.

 

Happy blogging everyone!

 

“Don’t be scared it’s just food!”

 

Danny x

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Blog, Cafe, Cafes, Foodilic, Nutshell, Restaurant, Review, Ten words or less, Uncategorized, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

COMFORT FOOD IS LIKE A WARM BLANKET & THE PERFECT CURE FOR WHAT AILS YOU!

Having been out of action recently with my annual chest infection, (it just doesn’t seem like I’ve had a proper year without one), it has forced me to remain out of the kitchen and away from the development of my cookbook. Boo! On the plus side, it meant that I was looked after by the culinary excellence of my lovely wife so actually, hooray for chest infections!

When I’m ill I don’t want to eat a thing and even my favourite dishes wouldn’t rouse my tastebuds into anything more than an apathetic “meh.” But when I’m on the road to recovery, my tastebuds start to stir and start shouting loud and clear “COMFORT FOOD!” Now I’m not one to deny my body what it needs  – if I did I may have a relapse and my chest infection might return and I most certainly wouldn’t want that now would I?

So in order to sate the tongue gods, (and the belly god who heard what the tastebuds were saying and thought it would join in just for a laugh), I thought I would cook a vegan version of the ultimate in comfort food: Homity Pie.

Now I learnt all about Homity Pie when I first started my life in kitchens  in Trog’s Restaurant in Brighton where it was one of their signature lunch dishes. People would come far and wide for this  plateful of heaven because it was just so damn delicious. For those of you unfamiliar with this delicious creation, Homity Pie is basically mashed potato, peas, spring onions, cream and lashings and lashings of cheese; the cheesier the better in fact. I have also had it in other establishments where they cook it with a shortcrust pastry base but personally, I think that is carb overload and should come with free liposuction for dessert so I prefer it without.

I never made Homity Pie without cheese before and I tend not to use non-dairy cheese in my meals as I don’t actually like it, (unless it’s on a pizza), so I set about using different ingredients to provide the flaours and I have to say, I’m really rather proud of the result. One of the upsides of not using cheese and cream is that it is much healthier for you but every bit as delicious so your brain will revel in how naughty its being but your waistline will be tearfully thanking you for the mercy you’ve shown it.

If you want to be a goody two shoes, you can serve it with steamed vegetables or a fresh salad but personally I prefer to serve my Homity Pie with a side serving of Homity Pie. I don’t know why they compliment each other so well but they just do. Weird……

So now I’m better and back to full health, (all thanks to comfort food and nothing else), I have been integrating fresh vegetables, salads, nuts, pulses & grains back into my diet and I feel great and ready to take on the world. Oh hang on, I’m starting to feel a little tickle in my throat again and slightly feverish – maybe I need to break open the potatoes and other delicious comfort foods again, y’know, just to head off any further illness……honest!

Take care and remember:

“Don’t be scared, it’s just food!”

 

Danny x

The Caper Tree

 

Homity Pie

This is so quick and easy to make but so delicious, especially on a drizzly day. Minimum effort, maximum reward. Perfect!

7                              Medium Potatoes (peeled & quartered)

200g                       Frozen peas (cooked)

1                              Bayleaf

2                              Cloves garlic (Peeled & quartered)

3-4 tbsp                Soya Cream

2-3tbsp                 Extra Virgin Olive Oil

3-4 pinches         Engevita or other yeast flakes (Big pinches!)

3-4                          Spring onions (Chopped)

To taste                Salt & pepper

Preparation time: 10 minutes     Cooking time (20 minutes)

Method:

Place the potatoes into a saucepan. Add the bayleaf, garlic and a few sprinkles of salt. Boil for approximately 20 minutes or until cooked.

Drain the potatoes and either mash them or put them through a potato ricer into a bowl.

Turn on your grill to high.

Add the soya cream, peas, olive oil, yeast flakes and spring onions. Mix well until creamy and smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste and more cream or oil if too dry.

Spoon into an ovenproof dish and sprinkle on a little more yeast flakes on top and drizzle with a little more olive oil.

Place under a hot grill until golden brown and the top starts to bubble.

Serve immediately.

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Posted in Best, Buffet, Comfort Food, Cookbook, Delicious, Easy, Food, Homity, Homity Pie, Pie, Potato, Potatoes, Stress Free, Uncategorized, Vegan, Vegetable, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

ROCKET OR ARUGULA – IT’S SO MUCH BETTER HOMEGROWN

Oh how I love the sunshine! Just the very thought of all that lovely Vitamin D seeping into my pores just makes me smile.  It’s not only me that worships those blessed UV rays; our garden is bursting with life with all our vegetables shooting up like, well, weeds. Thank goodness they’re actually scrumptious tomato plants, delicious shallots and fantastic cucumbers to name a few of the delights we have raising their leaves to the sky to catch those golden rays.

But one of the best things thats been growing is our Rocket (or Arugula for my American readers). The moment those seeds touched the soil it seemed as if they just jumped out of the earth and shouted “Ta Da! Here I am now EAT ME!” Well, perhaps I made up the “Eat me” bit but they look so sweet and tasty that I just can’t resist in munching those little blighters.  So I did.

There they were one minute, sitting happily in their recycled barbeque pot all innocent and the next minute they’re picked, washed and making the final steps to culinary nirvana.

Rocket is one of the most powerful and exciting leaves. Combined with Lamb’s Lettuce or Watercress and mixed with a little pear, walnuts toasted with Ras el Hanout (Morrocan spice mix), gives you a wonderful Middle Eastern take on a quintessentially traditional salad. But perhaps one of my favourite ways to enjoy Rocket, (with the exception of eating it raw straight from the ground), is to make a Salsa Verde with it.

There are many variations of Salsa Verde and I don’t know any two people who make it the same way, perhaps because  this ‘Green Sauce’ is open to such wide interpretation. I have tasted many over the years; some which are absolutely delightful and some with some highly questionable ingredients which I feel have no earthly business being in such a delicious sauce. Nevertheless, I have developed my own version over the years which I feel has all the essential elements of a good Salsa Verde: piquancy, depth, zing, massive flavour and of course a gorgeous green colour. It is supposed to be bold and powerful, giving your dishes a swift kick up the backside and yelling at it to wake up. The pepperyness of the Rocket certainly helps in that area.

It’s also incredibly versatile. I serve it as a starter just on its own with some freshly baked bread or toss it through some freshly steamed green beans or new potatoes just before serving. In fact, you can have it with just about anything. Just make sure you don’t cook it out or it loses its flavour and potency. That’s why if you’re coating vegetables with it, make sure you toss them once they’re out of the steamer or saucepan. The warmth of the vegetables is enough to draw out the best in the salsa verde but not cook it, reducing it from a powerhouse of flavour to a pitiful weakling.

I’ve decimated my Rocket crop, I hope the new batch I’ve planted grows as quickly as I’ve almost used up all the Salsa Verde and I’m about to get withdrawal. Come on damn you….GROW!!!!

Take care and until next time:

 

“Don’t be scared, it’s just food!”

 

Danny x

 

Rocket Salsa Verde

This basically means ‘Green Sauce’ and is really quick and simple to prepare. As you are using soft herbs, use all parts of the herbs including the stalks as they have a fantastic flavour.

Ingredients

2 handfuls                           Rocket leaves (chopped)

1 handful                            Fresh basil leaves (chopped)

1 handful                             Flat leaf Parsley (chopped)

½ handful                            Chives (chopped – approx. 16 chives)

8 med. Cloves                    Garlic (chopped)

1 heaped dsp                     Capers (chopped)

3                                              Spring onions (sliced & use all the green tops too)

250ml                                    Extra Virgin Olive Oil

175ml                                    White Wine Vinegar

½ tbsp                                   Agave or Maple Syrup

½  juice                                 Lemon

To taste                                Salt & Pepper

Preparation: 10 minutes  Makes: approx. 500ml.

Method

Place all ingredients into a mixing bowl. Stir gently till combined. Adjust seasoning & lemon juice if necessary.

This keeps in the fridge in an airtight container for a week.

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Best, Brighton, Buffet, Delicious, Easy, Food, Green Sauce, Quick, Recipe, Salsa, Salsa Verde, Simple, Stress Free, Uncategorized, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SO IT IS POSSIBLE TO BE A VEGAN IN WALES!

Asparagus Soup

Well I never thought I would be sitting on the beach getting a tan in April in the UK but here I am all golden and sunkissed.  My wife and I went away for a few days for her birthday in Wales and we had a wonderful time. We went Horse riding where we both fell deeply in love with our steeds. I tried to smuggle my horse ‘Jester’ out by stuffing him in the back of the Fiat 500 we had hired for the weekend but he seemed a bit cramped in the back seat so we didn’t bother.

Caswell Bay, WalesAs well as soaking up the welsh sun on sandy beaches and a botched attempt at horse rustling, we also struck gold with the place we were staying. I found it on one of those last minute booking sites and even though I don’t like doing a ‘Gump’ when it comes to booking accommodation (“you never know what you’re going to get”), we couldn’t have been treated more wonderfully we pretended our names were Kate & William and we were on our Honeymoon.  As I’ve mentioned before, getting fed as a vegan in Brighton is a piece of cake (sometimes literally) but when you venture farther afield, a vegans choices can be reduced to Houmous & bread from the local supermarket for breakfast, lunch & dinner and that’s if you get lucky. Furthermore, Wales is reknowned for its excellent quality meat, (especially Lamb) so my lady and I were perfectly prepared to improvise our meals and make the best of whatever situation came our way.

As a courtesy, I emailed the guesthouse I’d booked and said “look, I understand that this may not be possible, but my wife & I are vegan and we would really love it if we could have dinner in your restaurant on the actual day of her birthday. If not, then fine but I just thought I’d ask”. I got an immediate reply back saying “Sure that’s no problem. I’ve never cooked vegan before but I’ll do some research and I’ll come up with something special for you. Do you want any special sausages, spreads and milk for your breakfasts?” To say we were shocked was an understatement, not because they were from Wales, but because we’d never been treated so thoughtfully by any place we’ve stayed in apart from the homes of family and friends.

So there we were every morning, chowing down on our full English breakfast with vegan sausages, smearing our toast with soya spread and drinking our coffee with soya milk. And as for the birthday dinner, we started with a pan fried tofu, pear & walnut salad and for main course, they had made us a beautiful Paella filled with nuts, chopped vegetables and perfectly cooked rice, not to mention it was packed full of flavour and exquisitely seasoned.

On top of all this, we were surrounded by nothing but green rolling fields and a beautiful waterfall which gently sent you to sleep after stuffing your face with too much paella and drinking too much Champagne. Heaven!

So if you ever feel like travelling to Wales and you want to stay somewhere that is run by the loveliest family who treat you like a normal person by preparing you delicious food you can actually eat, then stay at “The Mill at Glynhir”. You won’t regret it I promise.

I am currently in my annual Asparagus devouring phase where I try to incorporate as much asparagus into every meal before it goes out of season. So far I have managed asparagus on pizza, chargrilled asparagus salad with walnuts & apple with crostini, asparagus risotto, wild mushroom & asparagus gnocchi in a white wine & sage cream sauce and just plain old steamed asparagus with olive oil, lemon & sea salt. Tonight I’m going to take it back to the old school with my own version of Asparagus Soup.

Soups are a wonderful way to level the culinary playing field when you have non-vegans dining at your table as people of all dietary persuasions enjoy soups and are just as delicious without dairy.

I know Asparagus Soup has been done before, (or ‘is a Classic’ in Chef’s parlance!) but if you get this right and don’t over cook the asparagus, it’s a delightfully fresh and slightly nutty soup which is perfect for the summer evenings. The trick is to let the asparagus speak for itself and not overpower it with lots of other flavours. This is why the only herbs I use are parsley and a bayleaf, which compliments the natural asparagus flavour.  You can serve it warm or chilled but personally, I prefer a little heat through mine, served with fresh bread and drizzled with a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil and lemon juice. Enjoy!

But there’s one thing I don’t understand: why does asparagus make your pee smell bad and dear God can I please use someone else’s bathroom until I’ve stopped eating the damn stuff?!

“Don’t be scared, it’s just food!”

 

Danny

 

Asparagus Soup

Asparagus Soup

This is a perfect Summer soup. It’s really important to keep it simple and let the asparagus speak for itself. It only uses 2 tablespoons of oil so it’s incredibly low fat. This soup is not supposed to be served piping hot as the heat masks its subtle flavour. Whether you serve it warm or chilled, it will taste equally as wonderful.

Preparation time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 25 minutes  Serves: 4-6

Ingredients:

2 tbsp                                      Olive oil

1 large or 2 medium               Onions (sliced)

1 handful                                 Fresh parsley (chopped)

2 cloves                                   Garlic (peeled & chopped)

4 medium                                Potatoes (peeled & diced into 1cm cubes)

250ml                                      White wine

1                                                Bayleaf

½ litre                                     Vegetable stock

2 bunches                               Asparagus (washed & stalks removed)

Drizzle                                     Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Drizzle                                     Lemon juice

Salt & pepper to taste

Method:

Fry the onions in the olive oil for 2-3 minutes or until soft & translucent

Add the parsley & cook for a further 2 minutes

Add the garlic & cook for 1 minutes making sure it doesn’t burn

Add the potatoes & bayleaf, coating them with the onion mixture

Add the wine & cook for 2 minutes

Add the stock, cover and cook for approx. 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender

Once cooked, remove from the heat and add the asparagus and leave to cook for no more than 2 minutes.

Remove the bayleaf and place the mixture into a blender and process until smooth, adding a little more hot water if too thick.

Allow to cool till warm (or chill it) and serve with a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil & lemon juice drizzled over it. Finish off with a few thinly sliced asparagus stalks & serve.

 

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Parsnips: The Noble Tuber Puts on its Mankini and Gets Dressed for Summer

Parsnip & Pistachio Remoulade With Orange ZestI am smiling again! The sun is out here in the UK, the evenings are bathed in daylight and we can all wear sunglasses again without looking like some celebrity who is trying desperately hard to be recognised by pretending they don’t want to be recognised. I wore shorts for the first time this year and I’m seriously considering a long term transfer of my Converse-type shoe to a flip-flop. Oh yes, things are really getting interesting in my life I can tell you.

Thanks to the brilliant weather we enjoyed last weekend, my lovely lady and I decided to finally get off our backsides and pump some life back into our garden. Last year was our first attempt at growing our own produce and thanks to our lovely long terrace which traps the sunlight, numerous containers and pots and obscene amounts of soil hauled up four floors, we managed to produce some delicious produce, all of it organically grown by us. Last year we feasted on the sweetest tomatoes and cucumbers, carrots, peas, kohl rabi, leeks, potatoes and strawberries to name but a few of our successes and this year we intend to repeat it. Last Sunday we turned over our soil beds and de-weeded where necessary but what we discovered in some of the beds caught us somewhat by surprise. Buried underneath the soil in some of the planters were whole, unshelled peanuts. This puzzled us for quite a while until I discovered that Magpies were taking peanuts from the squirrels in the park directly opposite us and were stashing them for safe keeping in our beds. The thing is, some of those peanuts were so old, they evidently have forgotten they hid them there and moved on. I had no idea Magpies did this and when I see one again, not only am I going to say, “Good morning Mr Magpie, how are your wife & children today?” (My Grandma told me it’s bad luck to see just one Magpie and that’s what you say to prevent misfortune and she wouldn’t lie), I am also going to ask them why they put their peanuts in my soil beds? Seeing as I don’t speak Magpie I’ll probably not get very far and unless they speak English or a smattering of French, it’s probably going to be a fruitless conversation. There are some things in life we shall never know.

So, with weeds and peanuts removed, we planted our seeds. We are also propagating lots of other seeds and as I write this blog, I can see before me on my windowsills, 17 little pots all with tomato, aubergine, cucumber and squash seeds nestled in them, basking in the sunlight coming through the windows. It never ceases to amaze me how one little seed can sprout a little shoot which then grows into a full plant and produces food for us to eat. Incredible! I can’t wait to start making lots of lovely dishes with home grown produce again; it just tastes so much better.

Parsnips Freshly PickedSpeaking of home grown produce; there is one vegetable planted last year of which I have still yet to pick the remaining harvest – Parsnips. I have just a few of these left and I have decided to make a light and fresh Spring/Summer dish with them; something that can be enjoyed with a crisp glass of Pinot Grigot and a bottle of suntan lotion. I’ll keep you all up to date with my horticultural antics over the coming weeks and don’t be surprised if I act like a proud father-to-be, shoving the ultrasound picture of his growing baby into the face of anyone who doesn’t walk with a white stick or guide dog, and plaster pictures of first the shoots coming through the soil on my site. I’m a proud father-to-be and I don’t care who knows it!

Until next time ‘Don’t be Scared, it’s Just Food!’

 

Danny

Parsnip & Pistachio Remoulade with Orange Zest

Parsnip & Pistachio Remoulade Close-up

This is a perfect recipe for summer-fying the delicious winter Parsnip. A remoulade is light yet luxurious, creamy and zesty and is more traditionally made with grated celeriac and Crème Frâiche. This version uses a cashew Crème Frâiche and is just as delicious and creamy as its dairy counterpart.  You can use other vegetables instead of parsnip with beetroot being a perfect substitute for this recipe; perhaps with a smattering of caraway or dill seeds if you like an aniseed twist.  This dish is perfect for a starter or as an accompaniment to a main meal and is also perfect for stuffing in roasted Portabello mushrooms. For the picture, I served the remoulade as a light lunch on a bed of wild garlic with homemade Melba Toast.

(Tip: if you make some cashew crème in advance and keep it in the fridge, it makes dishes like this very quick to make. I keep a tub of blended cashews & water (cashew crème) on standby at all times for dishes such as this. Then all you need to do is to add some salt & lemon juice and you have your Crème Frâiche!)

Preparation time: (not including 45 minutes of soaking) 10 minutes  Serves: 4

For the Cashew Crème Frâiche:

250g                            Raw, unsalted cashews (soaked in boiling water for 45 minutes until soft. Drain)

100ml                          Cold water

Juice of 1 ½                 Lemons

1 tsp                            Salt

Other Ingredients:

3 – 4                            Medium sized parsnips

Zest of 1                      Medium orange

1 handful                     Fresh Basil (chopped)

1 handful                     Fresh Parsley (chopped)

1 Handful                    Roasted Pistachios (roughly chopped)

Salt & pepper to season

To make the Crème Frâiche: Place the soaked cashews into a blender & add the water, salt & lemon juice. Blend down until completely smooth. You should have a crème which is totally lump free with a zesty, creamy consistency. Place in the fridge to chill.

Peel & grate the parsnips and place into a mixing bowl.

Add the orange zest, basil & parsley and spoon in the Crème Frâiche.

Mix gently with a spoon, making sure not to bruise the parsnips and season to taste.

Add a little more lemon juice if you wish and if it’s a little thick, drizzle in a little water. Just before serving sprinkle on the chopped pistachios.

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Posted in Best, Buffet, Cashew Creme, Cook, Cookbook, Creme Fraiche, Delicious, Easy, Food, Meat Free, Melba Toast, Orange, Parsnip, Pistachio, Quick, Recipe, Remoulade, Simple, Stress Free, Uncategorized, Vegan, Vegetable, Vegetarian, Zest | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

With So Many Cafes in Brighton, Why is it So Hard to Get a Decent Cup of Coffee?

The Caper Tree's 'Tasting Menu' Danny Vice-Holt
The Caper Tree’s ‘Tasting Menu’ Danny Vice-Holt

I hate to admit it but I have a confession to make. I am a junkie.  Well, a caffeine junkie to be more precise.  Yes, I know it doesn’t seem very serious but if you’re a caffeine junkie like me, you need a hit first thing in the morning just to get your brain’s rusty cogs squeaking into action. Oh, I also need a hit when I’m sitting behind my laptop writing articles like this one. And when I’m writing recipes. And when I’m having lunch. And dinner.  And what’s the most important thing about all these coffees? (apart from giving me heart palpitations and the shakes),  they all have got to be damn GOOD!

It’s a sad fact that the majority of places in Brighton & Hove serves  bad coffee and this is especially true in many of the major coffee chains. Why so many people queue out the door for poorly made, scorched, burnt, bitter coffee which scalds your mouth  just from sniffing it is a mystery to me. Coffee should be smooth, rich and nutty with a delightful auburn crema sitting on top of it and the water used should not be boiling as this burns the coffee, giving it that unique ‘just sloshed around the ashtray and poured back into your cup’ aroma and taste.

But it’s not all doom and gloom on the south coast though. There are some incredible places to go for the perfect cup of coffee so when you next visit my beautiful city, why don’t you check out these java worshipping havens:

Ground, 36 St Georges Rd, Brighton, East Sussex BN2 1ED, 01273 696 441

My absolute favourite place for coffee.  This is a brilliant cafe which serves some of the best coffee in town. Situated in Kemptown Village, it’s bright, contemporary and as well as the excellent house ‘Union Hand Roasted ’ coffee, they also serve specialist blends such as Sulawesi, Organic Mexican, Mocha Java & Panama Emporium. They offer these as a pour over or aeropress and are all individual in flavour and character. The staff really know how to treat coffee properly so don’t expect a rush job when you order; good coffee takes time to prepare so be patient. They are also vegan friendly with a choice of toasted sandwiches. Choose between a marinated asparagus, beefsteak tomato & olive tapenade sandwich or a marinated aubergine & rocket sandwich and polish it off with a healthy slice of cake. They of course have free wi-fi and a back room available for hire for private meetings. Oh, and they play brilliant music all day!

The Small Batch Coffee Company, 68 Goldstone Villas, Hove, E. Sussex, BN3 3RU, 01273 220 246

These guys are a small outfit who roast their own coffee in the back of their shop and who know how to treat coffee beautifully well. Just down the road from Hove Train Station,they have the live train times on a screen so you know exactly when to run for your train at the last minute. I really know them through their little satellite stall they pitch up every morning at Brighton Train Station. The two guys who run it make beautiful coffee and I wouldn’t go anywhere else for my coffee  when I’m on my way to get the train. They’re always there with friendly smiles on their faces and they always remember the regulars’ coffee orders. Before they even open their mouths, those guys are halfway to making it for them. Now that’s service!  Their coffee is all organic and you can really tell the difference in quality and roasting it in small batches on site really makes a difference.  It’s also available to purchase in packs for use at home and I strongly recommend you buy some and taste for yourself.

Red Roaster, 1d St James’s St, Brighton, BN2 1RE, 01273 686 668

The longest established of these three and a real place of pilgrimage for the devout coffee zealot. These guys also roast their own beans on site and you’ll find many establishments in Brighton using their coffee beans. This is a lovely space with lots of room, comfy couches and tons of light pouring in through the big windows. They also have live music at night especially around Brighton Festival time or The Great Escape and the place becomes packed with a happy marriage of coffee and music lovers.  The owner, Tony, is a true disciple in the religion of making beautiful coffee (in fact he trained me many years ago) so you know his staff are more than capable of making you a delicious cup.

It seems sad that I can only think of three places which makes a truly awesome cup of coffee in a city which houses nearly a quarter of a million people. I’m sure there are more so please don’t be shy in telling me where they are – I’m in need of more places to drink coffee and use their premises as an office. If I keep going back to the same places, they’re going to start charging me rent!

Stay wired and until next time remember:

‘Don’t Be Scared, it’s Just Food!’ (or coffee)

 

 

Danny

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Posted in Best, Best Coffee, Book, Brighton, Cafe, Cafes, Cake, Chocolate, Coffee, Cookbook, Day, Delicious, Food, Hove, Meat Free, Sandwich, Sandwiches, Uncategorized, Vegan, Vegetable, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

From Cupcakes to Kebabs, VegFest was Brilliant!

Roasted Smoked Tomato & Thyme Parfait

Well hello there! It seems the last time I posted a blog was ages ago; where has the time gone? Well, I have been extremely busy this past month and last week was especially so but very exciting. After my article in this month’s edition, I can now confirm I have my first regular column in BN1 Magazine. Hooray!  Every month I provide a recipe and a restaurant review which means that sadly, I have the hideous task of visiting restaurants, eating there for free and telling you all about it. I know it’s a horrible and messy job but to save you all from having to do it, I shall stand firm and report back my experiences in minute detail. Ooh, maybe I’ll get an OBE for services to the British Empire or something!

I did my first review last Tuesday and had a fantastic time. I went to Aloka in Brighton and the food was superb. I’ll let you all know when it’s published but it should be in a few weeks’ time.

Another thing I did last Saturday was visit Vegfest; the UK vegan and vegetarian festival annually held in Brighton and Bristol. The Brighton one used to be in a much bigger venue but it seems they’ve had to scale it down a bit but nevertheless I had a great time and met some really fascinating people.

I started off by hunting out some much needed food. I was nursing a rather angry hangover after drinking far too much and dancing like a complete idiot in my local pub.  Even though I had a great time, Gin, red wine and lager are not the best of friends so I needed some good food inside me to mediate a peace treaty between them all. I went to the first food stall I could find and had promptly devoured a delicious Caramelised Onion & Lentil tart with Quinoa, Coleslaw and a three bean salad served with a Tomato Relish and a Green Banana & Ginger Chutney. It was all home made and the shortcrust pastry was deliciously light and crumbly.  The peace treaty was struck almost immediately and, feeling like a new man, I was ready to immerse myself in the all the delights that Vegfest had to offer.

The first thing that struck me was how many chocolate and cake companies there were and everywhere I turned there was another chocolate bar or cupcake being thrust in my face. I’m not complaining, I love chocolate, I love cakes and I especially love chocolate cakes but I do worry if they will all be able to survive in such a competitive marketplace. One of my favourites however was ‘Sweetcheeks’. The owner Catherine Rose, makes delicious cupcakes and cakes with really interesting flavours.  My other great favourite was ‘Ms Cupcake’ She makes really incredible cupcakes and layer cakes and she has even developed her own vegan Lemon Curd!  I love her branding and her 50’s style image is absolutely perfect for the products she is selling. She is a massive hit in London with pop-up stalls happening all over town.  Rumour has it she will be opening a shop in London soon and possibly Brighton shortly after. Time to get those elasticated leisure pants out of the attic again!

My Chocolate favourites were ‘Raw Goodies’, a completely uncooked chocolate product that is beautifully packaged and the chocolates are wonderful. Scoff them down and don’t feel guilty. I didn’t! Now I’ve seen ‘Moo Free’ chocolate buttons on sale in some supermarkets and I absolutely love them. They taste like milk chocolate and that is one thing I really miss. They also do Easter Eggs, bars and pralines so look out for them at your local shop.

I’m not a big fan of drinking soya milk. I’m happy to cook with it and eat it as  yoghurt but I’ve never liked it on its own and that goes for oat and rice milk too. One of the first things I came across at Vegfest was a coconut milk based drink called ‘Kara’ and it’s absolutely delicious! It tastes creamy and of coconut (obviously!), but it means I can have cereal for breakfast again. I can’t wait to crack out the Strawberry Clusters and have a good old munch!  I don’t know if it’s heat stable or if you can use it to cook with but I’m going to find out in the next few weeks when I start experimenting with it. Watch this space!

I also happened to meet a lovely lady called Karin Ridgers who runs ‘Veggie Vision TV’. This is a brilliant site offering some great internet TV from cookery shows, animal welfare, health & lifestyle programmes and loads more. You never know, you may just see me on there soon doing a cooking programme so keep your eyes peeled.

I know I’ve gone on about this before, but I was surprised to see so many different meat analogues available at the show. I don’t know why it surprised me because it is a growing industry and lots of vegans (including myself), like to eat them. I think what surprised me the most is the ones I’d never heard of before such as ‘Wheaty’, a German wheat-based product which can be turned into pretty much anything! There were loads of different types of Wheaty sausage including Salami, curried sausage and pizza sausage to name a few. I had a taste of the curried sausage in a sauce and it was nice. It had a fleshy bite to it thanks to the wheat gluten in it but if you’re on a gluten free diet this won’t be for you. The craziest thing I saw was the Wheaty Doner Kebab. Oh yes that’s right! There was a giant leg of vegan kebab meat on a rotating skewer and a guy was shaving slices off and putting them in a pitta! Now unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to try it but I really wanted to. In fact I could’ve done with one of those last Friday after my night out with loads of chilli and garlic sauce. And maybe some fries. And some onion rings. Ooh and maybe some mustard and ketchup… Sorry, where was I? Oh yeah Vegfest. It was great!

It was so great to see so much talent in one room at Vegfest and so many people out there trying to make a difference to the world we live in. I can’t wait for the Bristol event, it going to be huge and who knows , if I’m lucky enough, I might be at the VegFest in New York in October! Anyone care to buy me a plane ticket? And an hotel room? And spending money? Anyone? ANYONE?……….Please?

Take care and until then

‘Don’t Be Scared, it’s just Food!’

 

Love Danny x

 

Roasted Smoked Tomato & Thyme Parfait

This is a rich and smooth pâté with smoked chipotle chilli oil drizzled on top to give it that extra dimension of flavour to it. I always keep a bottle in my cupboard. Just place a couple of chopped dried smoked chipotle chillies into a bottle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and leave to infuse. You can keep on topping up the oil whenever necessary. If you don’t have smoked chilli oil you can use normal Extra Virgin.

Ingredients:

8                              Tomatoes (halved)

6 cloves                  Garlic (peeled & chopped  into chunks)

1 bunch                   Thyme or Lemon Thyme

13-15 drops           Liquid Smoke

138g                        Silken tofu

1tsp                        Coriander seeds

½ tsp                     Black peppercorns

½ tsp                     Salt

Splash                   Lemon juice

Smoked Chilli olive oil and normal Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Preparation time: 20 minutes   Cooking & Chilling time: 4 hours

Preheat the oven to 120oC

Halve the tomatoes and lay onto a roasting tin. Push one piece of chopped garlic into the flesh of each tomato and one small sprig of fresh thyme. Drizzle olive oil over each tomato and sprinkle with salt. Roast for approx. 2 hours or until completely soft and roasted. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.Roasted Smoked Tomato & Thyme Parfait

Next, dry fry off the coriander seeds and black peppercorns. Place them into a dry frying pan on a medium high heat until they begin to pop and smoke. Crush roughly with a mortar and pestle.

In a blender, place the tomatoes, silken tofu, 2 tsp of the crushed coriander and pepper, liquid smoke, lemon juice and salt and blend until smooth. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Spoon the mixture either into ramekins or one big serving dish and place in the freezer for at least 2 hours or until the oil has thickened. Transfer to the fridge for at least another hour until defrosted but the oil stays thick. Before serving, remove from the fridge and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes then serve.

  Copyright protected by Digiprove © 2011 Danny Vice-Holt – The Caper Tree

Posted in Book, Buffet, Chilli, Chipotle, Cook, Cookbook, Day, Delicious, Easy, Egg Free, Food, Liquid Smoke, Meat Free, Parfait, Pate, Recipe, Silken Tofu, Smoked, Smokey, Stress Free, Tofu, Tomato, Uncategorized, Vegan, Vegetable, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’ve Been Time Travelling, Struck Cookbook Gold & I’m Giving my New Cookbook Away for Free. I Must be Mad!

 

The Caper Tree's 'Tasting Menu' Danny Vice-Holt
The Caper Tree’s ‘Tasting Menu’ Danny Vice-Holt

I’ve just recently come back from travelling in time. It was an amazing experience really. I travelled back as far as 1836 and then yo-yo’d back and forth up to the present day. It was marvellous and fascinating and there wasn’t a DeLorean in sight.

No, I haven’t been out in the forest and made tea out of the various mushrooms I found growing there, I’ve actually been spending time at my wife’s Grandmother’s and that’s where she keeps the time machine. Well, I say time machine, I really mean her house. My wife’s Grandma who just turned 98 and is still going strong, has moved and gone to live with my wife’s parents. Her house needs selling so I happily volunteered to go and help prepare the house for sale. I started by knocking all the downstairs walls through, putting in a Jacuzzi by the TV, a home cinema theatre in the cupboard under the stairs, a bouncy castle in the front garden and turned the conservatory into a Romanesque health spa with sauna, steam room and full sized Olympic swimming pool right next to the bird bath. Well, that’s what I wanted to do but I was oddly vetoed on the matter for three main reasons:

1. We were only supposed to be tidying, rearranging furniture and maximising floor space,

2. It’s only a modest three bedroom terraced house with no room for a spa complex and;

3. The Olympic swimming pool won’t fit as there’s very little space between the bird bath and Geraniums as it is.

Anyway, one of the reasons I’ve always loved going to Grandma’s house is that she has such beautiful things; beautiful china tea sets and wonderful pieces of furniture still in perfect condition. I also love poring through the boxes and boxes of photo albums, (remember what a photo album looks like kids? No, I thought not), and seeing pictures of my wife aged five, all cute as a little button with her sun-kissed blond hair and baby teeth flashing through that innocent smile of hers.  This time however, I was told to hurry up as I’d been wasting far too much time crying with laughter looking at these photos and, after nearly giving myself a hernia, reluctantly got back to the task at hand.

The biggest treasure trove for me however, lay in the kitchen. Underneath the counter in a cupboard, lay Grandma’s collection of cookery books.  Lucky for me Grandma hardly threw anything away and kept with great care. I found a cookbook made by the Womens’ Institute in 1972 called ‘The All Purpose Cook Book – For People Living in Restricted Circumstances’, aimed at women who live on their own, are out camping, living on a boat, (that’s what it said, honest!) or have a small kitchen. It laid out menu ideas at the top of each page and had some recipes I’d never heard of before. Ever heard of ‘Viking Special’ – a mixture of bacon, celery, tomatoes and potatoes all mixed together with salad cream and laid upon lettuce leaves?  Just the name itself makes me want to make it (a vegan version obviously) and serve it to my guests, washed down with bottles of Blue Nun while we talk about how great that new Swedish band ABBA are! Brilliant!  Then of course there was the ‘Kenwood Cookbook’ from 1969. I know manufacturers still supply these and this cookbook you got for free when you bought a Kenwood kitchen appliance, like their ‘Kenwood Chef’ a leviathan of culinary brilliance, in fact it’s still one of the best mixers on the market.  This book had over 400 recipes. Yes….400 recipes, very few pictures and not a single recipe without meat, fish, dairy or eggs.  Under every recipe title, it told you what Kenwood ‘Chef’ attachment you would need but it also told you if you are going to need to use a can opener, potato peeler or even the refrigerator!  I bet the recipe book you get with the new Kenwood ‘Chefs’ contain a lot more pictures with a lot less recipes and it would assume I knew where the fridge was, I already owned a potato peeler and all my cans of tomatoes have ring pulls on them.

The next two books however, was where I struck culinary gold. The oldest cookbook Grandma seems to possess is a book from 1931. It’s called “A Selection of Proved Recipes for Use with New-World – “Regulo”-Controlled Gas Cookers and Radiation Ovens” . This cookbook was published when the first temperature controlled gas ovens were invented. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this but it never occurred to me there never was a time when a temperature controlled oven didn’t exist! Can you imagine what a revolution that must have been for people at the time? A device which allowed you to actually control the heat of your oven and cook different foods at different temperatures and times? This book was another hefty piece of tree but unlike the Kenwood book published some 38 years later – this had a vegetarian section in it! Admittedly I think I found only one vegan recipe but for its time, it was progressive.

The final (and I think best) book took me a little further forward in time. It was issued by the Ministry of Food in November 1943 and was aimed at women, advising them on how to feed their families on rations during the Second World War. It was a fascinating read. It was matter-of-fact, straight to the point, easy to read and for me, a marvellously personal glimpse into such a well documented piece of world history. What struck me the most about it was that some sections of it were in colour. Not the pictures obviously, but the paper had printed lines of orange and green making it more striking to the eye and easier to read. It also told mothers to feed their children rendered fat as a source of energy as sugar was in such short supply. Not something any government department would recommend nowadays but bread and dripping was a staple for our grandparents’ diets!

When I got home, I took a look through my collection of cookbooks and was really quite astonished to see how different they were compared to ones from all those years ago. Book of today are themed, diet specific; they’re image driven with less recipes in and I love that. If you look at the best selling cookbooks of today, you will see they are personality driven, with the chef or restaurant being just as prominent and important as the recipes themselves.  No-one wants a cookbook written by a corporations ‘Home Economics Department’ with hundreds of recipes you’re never going to use with no photos? I certainly don’t.  But it does make me wonder: what will our cookbook look like in 80 years time and will our grandchildren be smiling at the primitive way we used to cook: “Look mum, Granddad used to read BOOKS to get his recipes from! How old is THAT?!”

Now I’ve been having great fun working on my own cookbook. I’ve been getting it ready to unleash upon you hungry herbivores and open-minded omnivores and I am now pleased to say:

IT’S READY, IT’S DOWNLOADABLE AND IT’S FREE!!!

Taster Menu - A Caper Tree Cookbook

Click on me to download this book!

Just click on the link above or the image of the book below and hey presto, you’ve just got yourself a spankingly good cookbook for absolutely nothing!

It’s called The Caper Tree’s ‘Tasting Menu’ and it’s an ebook collection of all the recipes I’ve posted on my blog, plus a few new and exclusive recipes just for you all.

I wanted to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has followed and supported me with ‘The Caper Tree’  and I can’t think of a better way of doing that than giving you all something back in return. (I could give you all money as a thank you but I’m not rich and I’m not stupid!)

Please feel free to tell everyone that here is a free, animal-friendly cookbook with great recipes available for download. Spread the good word and pass it onto your friends, enemies, hell anyone you can think of that would appreciate this, it is totally free after all! The only thing I ask is if you reproduce any of the recipes or material, you mention The Caper Tree and Danny Vice-Holt (that’s me!) when you do it.

Once again, a big thank you to you all. I’m off now to work on my new cookbook which is due out later this year. (You’re going to have to pay for that one so make the most of the freebie while you can!)

‘Don’t be scared, it’s just food!’

 

Love Danny

The Caper Tree

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FRUIT SALAD? AGAIN?! GIVE ME A PROPER DESSERT PLEASE WAITER!

So Valentine’s is mere days away and the air is becoming thick with passion and love.  So what will you be doing with your beloved on Monday night?  Er…. perhaps I should rephrase that – I mean, are you taking my (rather sage) advice and cooking them a fantastic three course meal found exclusively on The Caper Tree website (hooray!) or are you taking them out for a candlelit meal in a restaurant instead? (Boo!) Well, if you do, don’t come running to me if you end up in some greasy dive somewhere with nothing to eat but dry toast and ice cubes ‘cos they’re the only things that aren’t deep fried in lard, and that’s only because you had to ask them not to.  Serves you right.  Actually, my lovely lady and I were talking last night about our favourite restaurants and our favourite dishes  when she raised a really good point. Of all the restaurants we frequent, many places fall flat on their face when it comes to desserts. I’m not talking about the specialised vegetarian and vegan establishments who go to great lengths to make and supply incredible sweet treats – I remember working at Infinity Cafe in Brighton and learning how to make their famous Date & Apricot Flapjacks where the filling oozes out in a delicious cinnamon, fruity, syrupy mess all over your fingers, or making a New York Vegan ‘cheesecake’ at Aloka (also in Brighton) that was so tall you had to use two cake slices to lift it out and hold it up.  Ooh, I really fancy a nice slice of cake now…. Back in a minute!

Right now where was I? Oh yeah, desserts and restaurants. Why aren’t there more vegan dessert options at traditional restaurants? I think it’s because that, unlike many vegetarian dishes that can be converted to vegan if you remove or replace the dairy, it’s impossible to do the same for many desserts. You can’t remove the egg from a lemon drizzle cake or a meringue and you can’t remove the cream and custard from a trifle and because of that, many restaurants just don’t have the time, energy or desire to make something extra for the few people who might walk in the door wanting a animal-free dessert. To me this is really sad because I think these guys are missing a trick here. There are so many great tasting vegan desserts that I’m willing to bet when put next to its dairy equivalent, it would be almost impossible to tell them apart. There are some incredible vegan birthday cakes I have had the pleasure of eating and making over the years that my non-vegan family hadn’t even realised was egg and dairy free, pausing only to wonder if the vegans were eating it because they’d given in to the temptation of a good egg-based sponge.

My point is to chefs and restaurants is that if you can make a vegan dessert equally as delicious as its dairy counterpart then why don’t you? It’s going to cost less to make with no cream, milk or eggs, and stored correctly, should stay fresher for longer as the dairy ingredients are the ‘high risk’ foods which spoil first. I mean you can’t go wrong can you?

I also wonder if it’s a case of a lack of knowledge;  classically trained chefs are not taught to make vegan food and traditional French and italian desserts whilst beautifully crafted and requiring great skill to perfect, consist very heavily of eggs and dairy. I’m not saying it’s possible to make a vegan version of a cream éclair or a Panna cotta but its not as if there aren’t enough fantastic recipes out there to get even the most staunch carnivores tastebuds tingling?  Take for instance, the magical marriage of peanuts and chocolate:

Last Summer, my sister-in-law and our wonderful nephews came to say with us for a few days.  One night, I had a sudden hankering for something sweet so I raided the cupboards and cookbooks and decided to make Chocolate P-Nut Butter Squares from Dreena Burton’s book, ‘Vive Le Vegan’. Oh my sweet, sweet lord had I never known such fantasmagorical nutty choc nirvana before, but have revisited this magical place many times since. (Thank you Dreena, remind me to send you the bill when I need my door frames widened won’t you?)  We knew the boys would love such a gooey treat but it was nearing their bedtime so we did what any responsible mother, aunt and uncle would do –  we waited until we put the boys to bed and secretly ate it whilst they were sleeping. And do you know the worst part? We didn’t save them any to eat the next day, washed up the evidence and never told them what we did! I’m sure Karma will make us pay for our crimes eventually so keep your pointy judging fingers to yourselves please!

Nevertheless the fact remains; if I was offered that at a restaurant, I would jump at it and so would all my non vegan friends purely because it sounds so damn good. So if my friends would want it, why wouldn’t many other people? You see, vegan desserts aren’t just for vegans, they’re for everyone who loves something delicious and sweet to complete their meal. So come on restaurants, get wise and get some vegan treats on that dessert trolley…trust me, no-one will know unless you tell them!

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.

“Don’t Be Scared, It’s Just Food!”

Love Danny

The Caper Tree

PS – You may very well be wondering what I’m doing for Valentine’s night… Well , I have a rehearsal with my band every Monday night so it’s pretty safe to assume that none of us have been shortlisted for the ‘Most Thoughtful Lover’ Award this year, and we’re all sleeping on our couches for the night with nothing but a takeaway burger and a mere whiff of what could have been if we’d only rescheduled our bloody rehearsal ,to keep us company!

Chocolate Pie with a Pomegranate & Mint Crème

Well here it is, my final instalment of my Valentine’s Night menu. These little chocolate pies are deliciously rich and dense yet still quite light and not overpoweringly sweet. They are accompanied by a subtle yet lifting pomegranate and mint crème. If those little aphrodisiacal buds of the pomegranate don’t help you get in the mood for love, then I can do nothing more for you and you’re on your own! Feel free to add more Agave to the chocolate ganash and/or the crème if you like things a little sweeter but personally, I find the balance just right.

Again you can make these the day before. This may seem like an involved recipe and yes, it does take a little care and effort to get this right but it’s totally worth it, I promise. If you are really pushed for time and you want to make one big tart then the quantities are the same and it won’t take as long. If you absolutely have to buy pre-bought shortcrust pastry or pastry cases, then I won’t judge you too harshly but just remember to add more sweetness to the ganash if the pastry is unsweetened. Enjoy!

Serves: 8 individual pies or one big tart. (Keep them in the fridge for a week – they’re only little!)

Preparation time: (including chilling time) approx. 90 mins with cooking time: 30 mins

To Make The Pastry:

You Will Need:

Mixing bowl

Table knives

Scales

Measuring jug(s)

A cupcake, muffin or Yorkshire Pudding tray

Rolling pin

Greaseproof paper or Baking parchment

Pastry brush

A glass measuring 8.5/9cm in diameter

Ingredients:

140g                                       Plain White Flour/All Purpose Flour

30g                                         Cocoa Powder

15g                                         Caster Sugar

85g                                         Vegetable Shortening eg – Trex  (pre-cut into small pieces & kept in fridge)

2tbsp                                     Cold water (you probably won’t need it all)

Some                                    Ceramic baking beans, Chick peas or Haricot beans for blind baking

One                                       Palette Knife

A Pair                                    Scissors

A pinch                                 Salt

A little                                   Oil for brushing

Method:

  • Pre heat the oven to 200 oC (conventional) or 180 oC (fan)
  • Make sure your shortening is kept in the fridge right up until you need it and your mixing bowl is as cold as possible.
  • Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder & salt into a mixing bowl.
  • Put the shortening into the flour mix and, using 2 table knives, use the knives like scissors to chop the shortening into the flour for a few minutes.
  • Once it has worked its way into the flour, use your hands to ‘rub in’ the shortening. You do this by gently gathering the flour mix in the palms of your hands and gently rubbing it with your thumbs and fingers back into the bowl. You’ll see it start to form a dough.
  • Gradually add a little of the water and, using one of your knives and your fingertips, mix it till it properly forms a paste. Add a little more water if necessary but Be Careful! You don’t want to add too much water.
  • It should now look like a lump of smooth plastacine or as it is properly called, a paste. It is  very fragile and prone to breaking so please treat it with great care.
  • On a lightly floured surface, carefully roll out your paste till it is approximately 3mm thick.
  • Take your glass and, placing it on the pastry, push down and make little pastry circles. You will need to re-form and re-roll the dough a few times to get your 8 circles.
  • Lightly brush 8 of the holes of the cupcake or muffin tray with a little oil.
  • Using your palette knife, gently remove the pastry circles from the board or work surface and place them gently into each of the holes in the muffin tray.  Make sure they go all the way in, creating no air bubbles. Gently press them down using a little piece of the pastry so it doesn’t break.
  • Place into the fridge to chill for at least 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, take a long strip of baking parchment and fold it in half, then half again and continue until you’ve done this at least six times. Place the glass on top of the parchment and draw around it. Take your scissors and cut around the circle. You should now have enough circles of parchment (or cartouches) to blind bake your pastry.
  • Remove the pastry from the fridge and place a cartouche over each hole and gently press it onto the pastry. Add some baking beans into each hole, making sure the cartouche is touching the bottom all the way round, ensuring the pastry does not rise up when baking.
  • Place into your preheated oven for 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven. Gently lift up each cartouche and place the beans into a container, (keep them for future baking) and discard the cartouches. Return the pastry to the oven and cook for a further 10 minutes.
  • The pastry should now be cooked. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tray. Do not touch the pastry or it will crumble!)

While the pastry cases are cooking, you can make the filling:

Chocolate Ganash:

Preparation time: 40 minutes (including soaking time)

You will need:

Blender

Ingredients:

300g                       Cashews (Raw, unsalted & unroasted)

200g                       Dark Chocolate Minimum 70% cocoa solids (but I recommend at least 85%)

1 single                 Vanilla pod seeds, scraped out (or 1 ½ tsp Vanilla Extract)

1 kettle                 Boiling hot water plus

100ml                    Boiling hot water

3 tbsp                    Dark Agave Syrup (light is also fine or maple syrup)

A pinch                 Salt

Method:

  • Place the cashews in a mixing bowl and pour the boiling water over them, covering them completely. Cover with a lid and leave for at least 30 minutes.
  • While they are soaking, melt the chocolate in a bain marie (A pan of hot/simmering water with a glass or metal bowl placed on top.) Break the chocolate into the bowl and stir occasionally until melted.
  • Place 200g of the cashews into the blender and add the chocolate, agave, half the vanilla seeds, salt and 50ml of the hot water. Blend and pulse until smooth, stirring and scraping the sides down regularly. Add more of the hot water if necessary to achieve a smooth, rich yet spoonable paste. Set aside. (You’ll need the remaining 100g of cashews for the crème.)
  • By now the pastry cases should have cooled, very gently remove them from the tray using the tips of your fingers and place on a cooling rack.

To make the Crème:

Preparation time: 5 minutes

You will need:

Blender

Ingredients:

100g                       Soaked Cashew nuts (soaked from the previous recipe)

1                              Pomegranate (reserve half of the seeds for decoration)

1 bunch                                Fresh mint (keep some for decoration)

100ml                    Water

Vanilla pod seeds or 1tsp vanilla extract

1tbsp                     Agave Syrup

Method:

  • Remove the pomegranate seeds from the skin by cutting it in half, resting it on your open fingers and tapping the back of it with a wooden spoon. Do this over a bowl so all the seeds fall into it.
  • Place half the seeds and all the other ingredients into the blender and blend until smooth, adding a bit more water if necessary. It should resemble the consistency of double cream.

To Assemble:

  • Carefully spoon the chocolate mixture into the pastry cases.
  • Place a spoonful of pomegranate seeds onto each pie and decorate with a sprig of mint.
  • Spoon a little crème onto a serving plate and decorate with more seeds and mint.
  • Either warm the pie a little in a medium oven or serve at room temperature. Do not serve straight from the fridge.
  • Place the pie on the plate and dust with icing sugar to finish.
  • Serve immediately.


  Copyright protected by Digiprove © 2011 Danny Vice-Holt – The Caper Tree

Tell Me Your Comments on the vegan food and recipes you see here. It's OK, don't be Shy!

Posted in Chocolate, Delicious, Dessert, Easy, Egg Free, Food, Pastry, Pie, Pomegranate, Pudding, Recipe, Simple, Stress Free, Uncategorized, Valentines, Vegan | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

SMOKED CHIPOTLE CHILLI & RED WINE ROOT VEGETABLE STEW

OK. I made this a few nights ago and it went down a storm. SMOKED CHIPOTLE CHILLI & RED WINE ROOT VEG STEW. No pics for this and no exact measurements needed. Just quickly throw it together and chuck it in the oven:

(Serves 4 or 2 Super hungry people.)

Place whatever peeled and chopped root veg and pulses you fancy (I used black eyed beans/peas) in a casserole dish with 1 chopped onion, 2 peeled and slcied cloves of garlic & 2 sticks chopped celery.

In a big jug or bowl, add: 1/3 bottle red wine, 2 big pinches veg bouillion (marigold is best), 1 Bay leaf, 2.5 tsp dried mixed herbs, 2 smoked chipotle chillies chopped with seeds removed, 2 dsp paprika, pepper, 2 heaped dsp tomato puree, 2 teaspoons cornflour, salt & pepper to taste.

Mix well, pour over the veg & beans, cover with a lid and place in an oven at 150 OC for approx. 2 hours. 20 minutes before serving, place your dumplings on top of the stew, cover and cook.

(You will need vegetable suet for the dumplings & the recipe is on the packet – they’re  SO easy to make!)

For even better results, put it in the oven in the morning at 8o OC and it will be ready in the evening tasting amazing!

Hope you like it.

“Don’t Be Scared, it’s Just Food!”

Love Danny

(PS – Check out the final installment for my Valentine’s three course meal this week – Pomegranate Chocolate Pie with Vanilla & Mint Cream)

  Copyright protected by Digiprove © 2011 Danny Vice-Holt – The Caper Tree

Tell Me Your Comments on the vegan food and recipes you see here. It's OK, don't be Shy!

Posted in Casserole, Chilli, Chipotle, Day, Delicious, Easy, Egg Free, Food, Meat Free, Quick, Recipe, Simple, Stew, Stress Free, Uncategorized, Vegan, Vegetable, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

MEAT SUBSTITUTES ARE FINE AT HOME, BUT THAT BETTER NOT BE TVP IN MY CHILLI, CHEF!

I didn’t give up meat because I hate the taste. Quite the contrary, I love meat! I love the way it tastes, the way it smells.  It’s moist, it’s fatty, it’s lean, it’s an all-in-one great big fleshy delicious munchy bite. I do love meat more though when it’s still breathing and happily moo-ing, baa-ing or clucking its way through the field and living its happy little life and that’s the reason why I don’t eat it.  There are many other ways to get your Recommended Daily Amount of protein as many of you I’m sure will know. No, I don’t mean roaming the streets at night Nosferatu style, slurping on the neck of the nearest virgin bride, (they’re pretty rare nowadays), or seeking out the nearest road-kill badger to slap in your Panini. I am of course referring to protein rich meat substitutes.

The number of meat substitute products, (or ‘analogues’ as the food industry so delightfully refers to them), on our supermarket shelves seem to me to be growing at an exponential rate. Gone are the days of my then-student wife scouring the shelves for the last packet of BeanFeast or Sos Mix to accompany her instant mashed potato toasted sandwiches. (I honestly don’t know what worse; the fact the potato was instant or that she thought: “hey, I don’t have enough carbs here – let’s whack it in a toastie!”) Nowadays, you can buy sausages, burgers, bacon, mince, fake chicken bites, pork pies, the list is endless. You name it and somebody somewhere has probably made it. In fact, sales in meat substitute products reached $2.9bn in Europe and $326m in Northern America in 2009 and even though sales growth is slowing down, it’s still bloody big business! What’s more is that meat sales are also on the decline, indicating that people are moving away from eating so much animal and turning toward a more plant-based lifestyle. I sincerely hope it keeps moving in that direction.

Now I could sit here and witter on that as a vegan Chef, I don’t need to buy meat-free sausages and burgers because I can (and do), make my own and indeed that is true. But I do anyway. I’m only human you see, and there are times when I just can’t be bothered to make my own sausages and Just want to grab a pack of trusty old bangers out of the freezer, whack ‘em under the grill and stick ‘em between 2 bits of crusty bread smothered in Ketchup. I don’t make any apologies for this but if I did plan my time a bit better, I would make a big old batch of red onion and herb sausages, (see my recipe for Sausage Rolls from by previous blog), and delicious chunky burgers and freeze them. But I’m very busy and pretty rubbish with my time, so when I get home late after a hard days’ ahem…work, out come the tofu wieners and a jar of French Dijon Mustard and its cold hot dog dunkers for dinner yippee! Now whether you agree with and use meat substitute products is of course entirely your decision and I am not here to debate that; indeed some of my friends eat loads of them and some fellow chef friends of mine won’t touch them with a bloodied kebab skewer, which leads me rather neatly onto my next point: Even though I eat meat substitutes myself, I would never expect to see meat substitute products used or served in a good quality cafe or restaurant.

When I took over the last kitchen I worked in with a good friend of mine, we noticed the previous chef used pre-bought sausages and burgers. A little shocked, we promptly evicted these from the kitchen and made our own. This was an establishment renowned for its excellent vegetarian and vegan food and it wasn’t handmade?! That’s not the worst of it though sadly. There is a vegan cafe, (which shall remain nameless), which I visited last year and the menu was filled almost entirely with pre-bought meat substitute products; it seemed that nothing was made on the premises except  for the bland, under-seasoned tofu scramble and under-cooked tomato I endured for my breakfast. When I go out for a meal, I expect the thought, care, attention and skill of the person preparing my food is included in the price of the dish and not something that some microwave jockey has ripped out of a packet and zapped for two minutes that was made on a factory production line. Hell, even the fast-food burger place I go to make their own veggie burgers and you wouldn’t expect that from looking at it!

I realise I might be coming across as somewhat of a ranting hypocrite here but I’m not, really. You see, in amongst the many, many, many different sides to my personality, there are two here worth mentioning, (the rest I’ll save for Rikki Lake). On one side you have Chef Danny who will make you a delicious, well balanced dish using fresh ingredients and great flavoured sauces and on the other side, you have Dan who will come home, chuck on his pyjamas and scoff a plate of spaghetti with frozen peas and veggie sausages cut up in it. Dan never cooks for anyone but himself and that’s the way it shall always stay. I wouldn’t expect to go out to a restaurant and be served that spaghetti-sausage thing just as you wouldn’t expect to be served a tin of cold baked beans with a spoon in it so why is it OK for some vegetarian and vegan establishments to serve exactly the same thing you can buy off the shelf and cook at home? Well, I don’t think it is.

“Don’t Be Scared, It’s just Food!”

Love Danny x

(Figures listed are taken from this article: http://www.foodnavigator.com/Product-Categories/Meat-fish-and-savoury-ingredients/Have-meat-substitutes-missed-the-boat

OK, so here it is – Part two of my Valentine three course menu. This is my modern take on the great 1970’s Scandinavian export, the cheese and meat fondue by throwing Japan right there into the mix. It consists of a dish of raw vegetables & tofu, some brilliant dipping sauces and tempura batter. The idea is that like a fondue, you place the hot oil in a fondue bowl in the middle of the dining table and cook your food right there. You skewer your vegetable with your fondue fork, coat it in the batter and put it straight into the hot oil. After 30-45 seconds, it’s cooked and you remove it, placing it on a piece of absorbent cloth to remove any excess oil and then dip it in a sauce of your choice. BE WARNED, IT’S GOING TO BE HOT so you may want to put it on your plate and eat it with a knife & fork once it’s cooled.

I recommend you make the dips the day before and you can even prepare the vegetables & tofu at the same time. However, make the batter just before you are going to use it – the fresher the better.

There’s nothing like sharing and participating in a meal together and this is absolutely ideal for getting the two of you nice and cosy so enjoy!

Champagne Tempura Fondue (wf, gf)


There are three dips as part of this dish; one has a deep, miso & Tamari flavour, one is a zesty piquant lime & edamame bean and the final one is a poky smoked chilli & tarragon sauce. I developed these especially for this dish and they all complement each other perfectly. Making them a day in advance will allow them to develop and mature and shouldn’t take more than an hour to make all three. You will also need a blender or hand blender to make these: (Please remember to serve these at room temperature as they will taste better)

Miso, Tamari & Garlic Sauce

You will need:

35g                  Miso bean paste (I recommend Hatcho Miso as it’s very strong and deep)

2tbsp               Tamari (or soy sauce if you’re not wheat free)

1 clove             Garlic (roughly chopped)

4tbsp               Groundnut oil

2tbsp & 1tsp    White Wine Vinegar

Juice of 1         Lime

2tsp                 Maple Syrup or Agave

Pepper to season

A little water to thin it out

Method:

Place all the ingredients including a little water into the blender and blend until smooth. Add a little more water if necessary. It should be the consistency of salad cream.

Edamame, Ginger & Mint

You will need:

100g                Edamame beans (I use frozen as they’re easier to find in supermarkets)

2cm root         Fresh Ginger (Peeled)

1 clove             Garlic (finely sliced)

Zest & Juice of            1 Lime

1 med handful Fresh mint (very finely sliced)

1tbsp               Tamari

3tbsp               Groundnut Oil

2tbsp               White Wine Vinegar

1tsp                 Maple Syrup or Agave

½                     Red chilli (finely sliced, no seeds)

A Little warm water

Salt and pepper to season

Method:

Place the edamame bean into a bowl and pour over boiling water. Leave for 10 minutes then drain.

Whilst you are waiting for the beans, place the oil, tamari, vinegar, maple syrup, red chilli, pepper & garlic. Grate the ginger & squeeze the juice into the bowl. Squeeze as hard as you can then discard the remains.

Place the drained beans, a little salt and some water into a blender and puree until smooth. (you can use a hand blender for this too).

Once smooth, carefully spoon it into the tamari & vinegar mixture and stir gently. Add the chopped mint and season if necessary to finish.

Smoked Chilli, Tomato & Coriander

I used 2 smoked chipotle chillies with their seeds for this and it really packed a hefty punch! If you want to tone it down, use 1 chilli and remove the seeds. The smoky quality to this dip is fantastic – I eat it with spoon it’s so good!

You will need:

1 or 2               Dried Smoked chipotle chillies (chopped & seeds removed if you wish)

1                     Red Onion (peeled & sliced)

1 clove             Garlic (Peeled & chopped)

1                      Tin chopped tomatoes

1 bunch           Fresh Coriander leaf (Roughly chopped)

Salt & pepper to taste

Method:

Sautee the onion till soft & translucent

Add the chilli and stir well, allowing to cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for a further 2-3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, salt & pepper and stir well. Allow to cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and add the coriander, keeping a little back for decoration.

Transfer the mixture into a blender and process until smooth. Season if necessary & transfer to a bowl.

For the Champagne Batter:


170g                Flour (I use Wheat & gluten Free flour but you can use plain)

2stp                 Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking soda

A little salt

125ml              Champagne (Prosecco & Cava is also fine or even sparkling water)

Method:

Place the flour, salt and Bicarbonate of Soda into a bowl. Gradually add the champagne and mix until you have a good coating batter.

It should be the consistency of double cream – not gloopy but thick enough to coat the vegetables.

Vegetables:

I used:

Baby Sweetcorn

Button Mushrooms

Tofu (drained & squeezed)

Mange Tout (Snow Peas)

I personally don’t like aubergine (egg plant) in this dish as it absorbs too much oil but feel free to use whatever vegetables are suitable to your taste.

Cooking Method:

Here it is again to save you going to the top of the recipe!

Place the hot oil in a fondue bowl in the middle of the dining table.

Skewer your vegetable with your fondue fork, coat it in the batter and put it straight into the hot oil.

After 30-45 seconds, it’s cooked. Remove it.

Place it on a piece of absorbent cloth to remove any excess oil and then dip it in a sauce of your choice.

BE WARNED, IT’S GOING TO BE HOT so you may want to put it on your plate and eat it with a knife & fork once it’s cooled.

  Copyright protected by Digiprove © 2011 Danny Vice-Holt – The Caper Tree

Tell Me Your Comments on the vegan food and recipes you see here. It's OK, don't be Shy!

Posted in Asian, Buffet, Chilli, Day, Delicious, Easy, Egg Free, Fondue, Food, Meat Free, Recipe, Stress Free, Tempura, Thai, Tofu, Valentines, Vegan, Vegetable, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Come on, you can do better than beans on heart-shaped toast; its Valentines For Crying Out Loud!

You may think its ages away but it’ll creep up on you I promise. Yes, now we’ve put Christmas to bed and we’re just breathing out the last of the Vodka-soaked fumes from New Year, it’s time to look towards the future. You might, like me, be in the middle of the usual January ritual of desperately trying to shake off those Christmas pounds through vigorous(ish) exercise and existing solely on fruit smoothies, detox tea and the smell of fried breakfasts drifting out from nearby cafes but remember, it’s all for a good cause. I’m working this hard now so I will be nice and trim for the next big event in my social calendar – Valentine’s Night! Now let me be clear here; I don’t mean Valentine’s Day. I don’t mean Valentine’s- ‘the shamelessly commercial , companies doing everything they can to squeeze every post-Christmas penny out of you, cheesy, tacky, really has nothing to do with St Valentine any more, and just because you stick a heart on it doesn’t mean you can charge double now does it?’-Day. No, I mean Valentine’s Night. That’s when the magic happens. Oh yeah baby, you know what I’m talking about don’t you eh? That’s right; I’m talking about damn good food. What…?  Well what else did you think I was going to say? This is a food blog after all you know!

For me, Valentine’s night is the perfect excuse to eat really delicious, tasty, sexy food with the one you love. I don’t know about you but to me good food is great whereas great food is sexy.  I’m not talking ‘Nine and a Half Weeks’ sexy with whipped cream in the belly button or a pickled onion up the nose, I’m talking about food tasting so damn good that it does a tango in your mouth and (tastefully) lap dances on your taste buds whilst singing the sweetest siren’s song inviting you to crash into the rock of  it’s calorific ecstasy. You see?  Sexy.  I realise I am possibly alone in sharing this point of view; many chefs I have worked with over the years think this is just plain weird and have suggested I leave my food fetishes at home in the fridge by the carrots and expired yoghurt where they belong. But if there is any time of the year that food should be sexy then it’s got to be on Valentine’s night. Whether you’re with the love of your life, in the first flushes of romance, on a first date or hell, even on your own, the food’s got to turn you on! You could book a table and go out for dinner; there are loads of amazing restaurants out there that will wow you with their sexy food. If you really want to impress the one you’re with however, you could start by cooking dinner yourself. What better way is there to show your Valentine that you’re not just a pretty face and a demon in the sack – you can cook as well.

Over the next few weeks leading up to 14th February, I am going to be giving you recipes for a three course menu created especially for Valentine’s Night. I have tried my best to design an intimate sharing menu which allows you to get up close and personal with your Valentine through food. It’s easy to make but looks fantastic and most of it can be prepared ahead of time so you’re not stuck in the kitchen all night. Equally as important,  it’s delicious but light – you don’t want loads of heavy grub weighing you down at the end of the night do you? Especially if after dinner coffee is to be followed by a healthy serving of sexytime. (I can’t help you out there but I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you all!)

The type of menu I have chosen is Asian. This is of course a very broad cuisine, encompassing many different styles of cooking from all over the Asian continent but the essence I wanted to capture was its fullness of flavour accompanied by the sharpness of citrus and ginger combined with the lightness of coriander. I think it works – I hope you do too.

What I’ll do is give you the starter now with the main course and dessert to follow in my next two blogs. Please do contact me if you have any questions or queries – I’ll be happy to help you as best I can. In the meantime, happy cooking and remember:

‘Don’t be Scared, it’s just food!’

Love Danny x

The Caper Tree

PS – if you have, or know someone who has a fondue set, dig it out of the cupboard or steal it from your friend when they’re not looking – you’ll need it for the main course!  If you don’t have one, you can pick up a new one for under £8 at Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/Funky-Fondue-set/dp/B00261ZGI2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=A1KA4XBH5O5K77&s=generic&qid=1295015355&sr=1-1 I strongly recommend you get hold of one but if you can’t don’t worry, there are ways to get around it.)

Asian Sweetcorn Fritters with Pak Choi with a Lemongrass & Mint Citrus Cream (wf, gf)

This may seem like a tricky and fiddly recipe with its many elements but it’s not trust me. Most of it can be made the day or even a few days before so make sure you keep some time free for a stress free Valentines! I recommend you definitely make the Lemongrass & Mint Citrus Cream in advance although you can buy a ready-made Balsamic reduction/glaze if you want to (http://www.sainsburys.co.uk/groceries/index.jsp Most supermarkets do their own versions.) You can also make the garlic, ginger & coriander paste for the fritters in advance too but I recommend you make the fritter batter on the day as they’ll taste better. You can make the fritters earlier in the day however and reheat them in the oven on a medium heat for around 10 minutes just before serving.

The key to this dish is presentation. Get that right and this dish will look after itself.

Serves: 2

You will need:

Food processor

To make the Mint Citrus Cream:

Preparation: Approx. 35 minutes

1 stick                          Lemongrass

250ml                          Unsweetened Soya Milk

1 carton (349g)           Silken tofu

Juice of 2                     Limes

½ bunch                       Mint

2tsp                             Maple Syrup

2tsp                             White Wine Vinegar

Salt & Pepper to taste

Cold water

Method:

  • Place the milk into a pan. Remove the outer skin of the lemongrass and gently hit it with a rolling pin or wooden spoon. Add it to the milk and place on a medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce down to a third of its volume. This should take around 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  • Place the tofu in a food processor. Add the lime juice, mint, maple syrup, white wine vinegar, salt, pepper and soya milk (discard the lemongrass first). Blend it all together until smooth.
  • Transfer the mixture to a jug or bowl. Gradually add cold water and stir well until you achieve a consistency slightly thicker than single cream.

To Make The Fritters:

300g                           Sweetcorn (defrosted if from frozen)

4 cloves                       Garlic (roughly chopped)

1 root                          Ginger approx. 6cm long (peeled & roughly chopped)

3tbsp                           Ground Coriander (ground from coriander seed is best)

1tbsp                           Ground Cumin (from cumin seed is best)

1 big bunch                 Fresh Coriander Leaf (roughly chopped)

½ bunch                       Fresh Mint Leaf (roughly chopped)

½                                 Green Chilli (deseeded & roughly chopped)

Zest of 1                      Lime

4tbsp                           Sunflower Oil

¾ tsp                            Salt

½ tsp                            Ground Black Pepper

80g                              Gram or Gluten Free Flour

1 ½ tsp                         Baking Powder

100ml                          Unsweetened Soya Milk

Method:

  • First, make the paste. Place the garlic, ginger, ground coriander, ground cumin, coriander leaf, mint, leaf, oil, chilli, lime zest, salt, pepper and sunflower oil into the food processor and mix.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times and repeat till it’s well mixed. Remember, you can make this in advance and keep it in the fridge till you need it.
  • Place the mixture in a bowl and add the sweetcorn, soya milk, flour and baking powder. Mix well.
  • Next test the mixture: Lightly oil a frying pan and gently fry a dessertspoon of mixture on both sides till golden brown. You won’t need too much oil in the pan as there is enough in the mixture. Taste the fritter and adjust seasoning if necessary. Set mixture aside.

You Will Also Need:

1 head                         Pak Choi (Washed and separated into individual stems)

1 pack                          Rice noodles

1 litre                          Sunflower oil

Balsamic reduction

Baby spinach leaves (some left whole & some as a chiffonade)

4 thin slices                 Red chilli (Deseeded)

To make the Balsamic Reduction:

  • You don’t need an expensive balsamic for this. Place half a bottle of Balsamic Vinegar in a saucepan and simmer down till it reduces to a thick syrup. Be careful though – you don’t want to reduce it down too much or it will turn solid. It will thicken as it cools so take it off the heat when it’s still a little runny. If it’s too thick when it has cooled, gently heat it until it loosens up before serving. Don’t forget to make this before you need it or buy a pre-made one.

To make the Rice Noodles:

  • These are dead simple to prepare. You just place approx. 10 individual rice noodles in the deep fat fryer or a pan full of sunflower oil.

BE CAREFUL! OIL CAN CATCH FIRE IF YOU LEAVE IT ON TOO HIGH A HEAT AND FOR TOO LONG. NEVER LEAVE A PAN OF HOT OIL UNATTENDED AND REMOVE FROM THE HEAT AS SOON AS YOU’RE FINISHED.

  • As soon as they hit the oil they puff up instantly. Remove immediately from the oil before they burn and set them aside on absorbent paper. You can also make these well in advance on the day and keep until you need them. These Rice noodles are for decoration and make the dish look great but if you don’t want the hassle of  deep fat frying, you can leave them out.

How to finely slice (or chiffonade) spinach:

  • Take approximately 10-15 spinach leaves and stack them together all facing the same way. Roll them up very tightly. Place the roll horizontally and slice it as finely as you possibly can. Repeat if you need more.

How to Assemble:

  • Place a saucepan of water with a pinch of salt on to boil for the pak choi.

  • Dress the plates: Fan out some spinach leaves in the centre of the plate (see pic) and place in the middle of the plate. You’ll probably have to do two semi-circles to make a full circle.
  • Fry off the fritters: Lightly oil a frying pan and place 2 dsp of mixture per fritter into the pan. Cook on both sides until golden brown.
  • While they are cooking, place the pak choi in the boiling water and cook for approx 2-3 minutes.
  • Place one fritter in the middle of the spinach and top it with the pak choi. Place the other fritter on top of the pak choi.
  • Fry off the fritters: Lightly oil a frying pan and place 2 dsp of mixture per fritter into the pan. Cook on both sides until golden brown.
  • While they are cooking, place the pak choi in the boiling water and cook for approx 2-3 minutes.
  • Place one fritter in the middle of the spinach and top it with the pak choi. Place the other fritter on top of the pak choi.

  • Next, spoon the lemongrass & mint citrus cream around the plate. Make sure you keep the edges nice and neat. You can tidy them by wiping a clean cloth round the edges.
  • Drizzle the balsamic reduction in neat lines over the lemongrass cream.
  • Take the spinach chiffonade with your fingers and place them on top of the fritters, making them as fluffy as possible.
  • Top with the rice noodles and some red chilli slices. Serve immediately.

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Old Habits May Die Hard, But I’m Gonna Strangle Them Till They Do.

I have to admit, I am a creature of habit. I like certain rituals or routines because they make me feel in control of my life. It is human nature after all. We all have our rituals don’t we? For instance, in the morning do you always brush your teeth first or do you put the kettle on? Do you always listen to the same radio station when you’re munching your toast? Do you always have toast?  If you own a set of those ‘Days of the Week’ knickers, do you always have to wear the right pair on the right day or the world will end? I know I do. One of my rituals takes place every New Year’s Eve; I sit down and make a list of all the things I want to accomplish in the forthcoming year. This makes me feel optimistic and all juiced up for what life has to offer me over the next twelve months. The other ritual I have religiously stuck to is by the 5th of January, that list is buried deep in a drawer somewhere and forgotten about until two years later when it’s accidentally unearthed whilst fumbling around for some scrap paper to write the Scrabble scores down on. I treat this marvellous discovery with awe and reverence and begin with moist-eyed nostalgia, the sweet journey through all the things I planned to do with my life those many moons ago, (“aaah…I can’t believe I actually wanted to run the Marathon in nothing but a pair of stilettos and a Mankini.  What was I thinking!”) The sweetness soon turns sour however as a wave of dread, guilt and disappointment washes over me with the realisation that I have managed to achieve absolutely nothing on this list and I am in exactly the same place in my life as I was 24 months ago. Not even a permanent black marker vigorously scrawled over the accusing words can erase them; they‘re forever seared onto my brain and acid-etched onto my conscience. Not even using all my Scrabble tiles on a Triple Word Score whilst using ‘Q’ and ‘X’ eases the pain and that’s saying something believe me. (It’s Quincunx by the way. It’s a real word honest. Look it up if you don’t believe me.)

So this year I decided to use a different approach. Whilst asleep in bed, a thought hit me like a bolt from the blue. A thought so radical yet so simple it was amazing I’d never thought of it before. This year, I’m actually going to do everything I’ve written down on the list. There. See? I told you it was amazing didn’t I? Well no, it’s not really amazing, it’s just good common sense actually and high time I put words into action.  I’ve already sat down and had meetings with my Business Manager, Personal Manager, Life Coach, Executive Life Coach, Efficiency Agent and Image Therapist (my wife,) and we’ve mapped out all my goals up until December 2011. I tell you, there’s some pretty amazing stuff happening this year; I’m writing my first cookbook which I’m launching at Brighton’s first ever Book Festival, Bookstock (www.brightonbookfestival.com) in June. I’m also writing articles and columns for several publications and launching my video blog site in the Summer and that’s just the tip of a very busy iceberg.  Phew! Now it’s in print (well, cyber-print anyway) I’d better bloody well do it all hadn’t I?!

To be honest, I am being a little hard on myself. In 2010, I broke my wrist spectacularly in 5 different places and am only now recovering properly. I did however start this blog (which I’m rather proud of!) and I saw amazing performances from Stevie Wonder, Snoop Dogg and loads of other artists at Glastonbury whilst simultaneously helping to cook Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner for 40 people from the Brighton Peace & Environment Centre so I maybe I should ease up on myself a little. My point is however, if I managed to do what I did last year without really trying , imagine what I could achieve if I really put my mind to it?  Imagine what we could all achieve if we put our minds to it?

I’m really excited about 2011 and at the moment my glass is most definitely half full. We all need a little motivating to keep on track from time to time however so if you see me in the street wearing anything less than a smile and a purposeful stride, feel free to give me a swift kick up the arse and shout, “Oi slacker, where’s that bloody book you promised us?!”

Happy 2011 everyone!

Don’t be Scared, it’s Just Food!

Love

Danny x

The Caper Tree

As I wanted to move away from the pastry-based main meal for my Christmas dinner last year, I came up with the idea of Crispy Marinated Tofu Steak and it was a  triumph. It can be quite difficult for tofu to absorb flavour even if you marinate it so I decided to turn the marinade into a batter, coat it in polenta and fry it. The result was a crispy, firm tofu steak packed full of flavour. The beauty of this recipe is that you can make whatever marinade you want based on the type of meal you are having. I have since used this to make Tofu Burgers, Satay Tofu with Edamame Rice and Crispy Lemon Tofu with Mushroom Fried Rice, (recipes to follow soon.) If you like this, check out another great recipe for Tofu Fingers by an amazing guy called Franklin at www.opensourcevegan.com. This recipe is perfect if you have children, (or if you’re me!)

Crispy Marinated Tofu Steaks

Wheat Free (WF) Gluten Free (GF)

Serves: 2 (with enough marinade to use again for 2 more steaks at a later date)

Preparation time: 30 minutes (including marinating time) Cooking time: 5 – 8 minutes

Ingredients:

For the marinade:

½                          White Onion (sliced)

2 cloves                 Garlic (Finely sliced)

6tbsp                     Tamari

4tbsp                     White Wine or Cyder Vinegar

Dash                      Maple Syrup, Agave or natural sweetener

½                         Green chilli (finely sliced. Seeds removed – optional)

Juice                      ½ Lime

1 handful                Fresh Coriander (roughly Chopped)

Ground Black Pepper (to taste)

You will also need:

1 medium pack        Firm Tofu (drained)

Cornmeal also known as Corn flour. (NOT to be confused with                            Cornstarch or fine white Cornflour)

Polenta (dried, not ready made)

Oil for frying

Ground Black Pepper (to taste)

Method:

  • Drain the tofu and place into a colander. Carefully place a bowl on top of the tofu and weight it down. (I use a couple of tins of tomatoes) This squeezes out as much moisture from the tofu as possible. Leave for at least 10 minutes.
  • Make the marinade. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
  • Take the tofu and cut the block horizontally in half. Place the two steaks into the marinade and cover well. Leave in the fridge for at least 20 minutes or as long as possible, ideally overnight.
  • Meanwhile, pour some polenta into a bowl and add some freshly ground black pepper. Mix well. There should be enough polenta in the bowl to cover at least two tofu steaks.
  • Remove the steaks from the marinade and set aside. Strain the marinade until you have only the liquid left. Carefully and gradually add cornflour a little at a time to the liquid and gently whisk until you have a batter the consistency of a beaten egg.
  • Add the tofu steaks to the batter and cover well.
  • Heat some oil in a frying pan on a medium heat.
  • Place one tofu steak into the polenta and coat completely. Place immediately into the frying pan. Repeat with the other steak.
  • Pan fry for approximately 5-8 minutes turning occasionally until each steak is crispy and golden on all sides. Serve immediately.

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I Don’t Want to be a Show Off, but I Secretly Want those Turkey Eaters to be Jealous of my Spuds & Gravy!

Like many of you I’m sure, I was raised on a diet of meat, fish, chicken, dairy and lashings of vegetables.  My Sister and I were lucky enough to have at least four amazing cooks in our lives when we were growing up; Mum, Dad, Aunt and Gran. We had a wonderfully varied diet and our Mum, (the main food provider on a daily basis,) never once laid a plate of food in front of me that I didn’t like. Well…. actually, that’s not entirely true. There was the time when she made Spaghetti Bolognese with Turkey mince instead of Beef as a’ healthy substitute.’  After 23 years I can still recall the overwhelmingly vile taste and the hurt look my Mum’s face when I raced to the bin and, after spitting every molecule out, said it wasn’t really my cup of tea and didn’t think I could eat another bite. That hurt look lasted only for a few moments as when she tried the turkey mince for herself, she did exactly the same thing as I did and promptly declared we were having Chinese takeaway for dinner.. At least our dog got a hot meal for once although he probably couldn’t tell the difference as it looked pretty much like the contents of one of his tins of Turkey & Offal ‘Chappie’ that he loved so much. Probably tasted like it too. Aaah, memories eh?

I think the meal I remember enjoying the most was the one my Mum, Dad, Aunt and Gran all excelled at in equal measure; the traditional Sunday Lunch and of course the big cahuna – The Christmas Dinner. Just thinking about going to my Gran’s house on Christmas Day and inhaling all those festive smells when you walk through the door just makes me want to eat every single one of those Christmas meals all over again. The rich flavours from the two types of stuffing, the crispy roast potatoes, the deliciously sweet roast parsnips, the rich and creamy bread sauce, (which my Mum always made and no-one has bettered since) and of course, the crowning glory to any Christmas Dinner – The Gravy.

As a child, Christmas Dinner gravy was like drinking ambrosia stolen from the gods.  It was as if somebody had taken all the flavours from the Christmas dinner and distilled it into a luscious hot brown liquid which tasted just as great drunk from a glass as it was poured all over your food. Of course ,that is essentially what gravy is; the juices from the turkey and water from the boiled vegetables, mixed together with red wine, herbs and a little flour and simmered gently until magic happens. I don’t mean smoke and mirrors magic, I mean really actual really real magic. That’s the only explanation I can think of when gravy turn out just right.

But what do you do when you become Vegetarian or Vegan? What do you do if you decide to have a meat free Christmas? What do you do if you want a healthier Christmas and don’t want to use the fat and juices of your bird? How does the magic happen then eh? If you take away the top hat, where does the magician pull the rabbit from? It’s very easy to make bland, watery gravy that looks like you’ve dunked the gravy boat into last night’s washing up bowl andtastes like water with senile dementia; it knows it’s supposed to taste like something but it can’t quite remember what.

It took me a while to develop a good gravy and even longer to master a great one but I did it and I can confidently say, my gravy puts the magic smack bang in the middle of your Christmas dinner. I used to make this gravy for Sunday lunch in the cafe every weekend and people alwaysasked for more. It’s a perfect accompaniment to any Sunday roast no matter what your diet requires of you as it’s wheat free & gluten free as well. This recipe is packed full of flavour and taste and will add a great boost to your meal. It’s also thick, rich and dark just the way a gravy should be.

Oh, one last thing before I go, I just wanted to share with you my new-found delight and joy. Gordon Ramsey uses Goose Fat, My dad uses Beef Fat and Jamie Oliver uses Olive Oil or Butter. What do you roast your potatoes with? I used to use olive oil but it wasn’t until just recently that I took the advice of a friend (thanks Andie!) who told me quite some time ago to use something different – Coconut Oil. I was a bit sceptical at first but I thought I’d give it a bash and as soon as the first spud reached my mouth, I kicked myself for not doing it sooner. The taste is truly amazing! They don’t taste like coconut whatsoever but what they do taste of is creamy butter with crisp golden brown skins. I am never roasting my potatoes in anything else from now on because I don’t believe I’ll find anything else that compares to it. If you want to have a go at the perfect roast potato, (and make your turkey-loving family & friends jealous,) try out the recipe below.

But you know, it wasn’t just food that made Christmas so special as a child; it was being with family. It was the ritual of having the same experience every year of opening presents under the tree in the front room and sharing food together. Every year it was the same and every year I loved it more and more. Incidentally, these were the times where I learned to make the best Gin & Tonics around and I still get asked by my family and friends to make them because mine are, (apparently), the best. Well, when you learn how to make them from the age of six, you’re bound to be an expert by now aren’t you?

Have a wonderful Christmas and a fantastic new year. See you in 2011.

Don’t be scared, it’s just food!

Love Danny x

The Caper Tree

Best Ever Gravy

Preparation: 5 minutes.       Cooking: 25 minutes at least. (the longer you leave it the better)

Makes: approx. 1 ¼ pints.

Ingredients

2 tbsp                  Olive oil for frying

3 tbsp Tomato Puree

1                           Onion (finely chopped)

3                           Cloves garlic (finely sliced)

1                           Handful parsley (chopped)

1                           Bayleaf

6                           Sprigs Thyme

250ml                Red wine (whatever you’re drinking at the time should be fine!)

60ml                   Balsamic  vinegar

125ml                 Tamari (or Soy Sauce if you’re not gluten free)

2 tsp                    Bouillion powder

350ml                Water retained from cooking fresh vegetables (not potatoes) or hot water

1 big tsp             Marmite (or similar yeast extract spread)

Pepper to taste

Method:

1.    In a frying pan, gently fry the onions until soft and translucent on a medium heat.

2.    Add the parsley. Stir well and cook for 1 – 2 minutes.

3.    Add the tomato puree and mix well. Fry the mixture stirring occasionally until the oil turns a rich red colour. This means the tomato is cooking out, creating a lovely rich flavour. Add a little more oil if the tomato puree begins to stick.

4.    Next, add the wine, vinegar, bayleaf, thyme, tamari, boullion and water. Stir well.

5.    Add the marmite and a little pepper and stir again.

6.    Bring to the boil and then immediately reduce heat to a gentle simmer.

7.    Allow to simmer for at least 25 minutes without a lid, allowing it to thicken and develop. Once cooked, remove from the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes. This allows the flavours to rest and you get the best out of your gravy.

Tip: The longer you let you cook your gravy for on the lowest simmer possible the better. I like to cook my gravy on a low simmer for at least an hour. This time allows it to thicken and develop beautifully and once rested, has a well rounded yet powerful flavour.

Tip: You can also make this gravy well in advance and freeze it for months in an air tight container or bag. It keeps its flavour beautifully and tastes just as good as the day it was made.

Crisp & ‘Buttery’ Roast Potatoes

Preparation: 10 minutes  Cooking: 40 minutes in total

Makes: 12 roast potatoes

Ingredients

6                                  Medium potatoes (peeled and chopped in half)

1                                   Bayleaf

2                                  Cloves garlic (peeled)

2 heaped dsp          Coconut Oil

Salt & Pepper

A few sprigs of sage for decoration (optional)

Method

1.    Preheat the oven to 200oC/395oF/Gas Mark 6

2.    Place the potatoes, bayleaf, garlic and a sprinkle of salt into a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Cook for 10 minutes.

3.    While the potatoes are boiling, place the coconut oil onto a roasting tray and place in the oven.

4.    Remove the potatoes from the heat and drain in a colander. Gently toss the potatoes in the colander, giving them a fluffy        appearance all over. Remove the bayleaf.  Do not turn off the hob you were using for boiling the potatoes just yet.

5.    Carefully remove the roasting tray from the oven and place it onto the hob you were previously using, keeping the oil nice and hot.

6.    Gently place the potatoes into the hot oil – watch out for any splashes. Gently turn the potatoes in the oil using tongs or a couple of forks.  Sprinkle with salt.

7.    Place in the oven and cook for approx. 30 minutes, making sure you turn the potatoes over every 15 minutes or so.

This method should give you crispy golden brown potatoes on the outside and soft and fluffy insides with a wonderful buttery taste.

Crisp & ‘Buttery’ Roast Potatoes

Preparation: 10 minutes Cooking: 40 minutes in total

Makes: 12 roast potatoes

Ingredients

6 Medium potatoes (peeled and chopped in half)

1 Bayleaf

2 Cloves garlic (peeled)

2 heaped dsp Coconut Oil

Salt & Pepper

A few sprigs of sage for decoration (optional)

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 200oC/395oF/Gas Mark 6

2. Place the potatoes, bayleaf, garlic and a sprinkle of salt into a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Cook for 10 minutes.

3. While the potatoes are boiling, place the coconut oil onto a roasting tray and place in the oven.

4. Remove the potatoes from the heat and drain in a colander. Gently toss the potatoes in t

Crisp & ‘Buttery’ Roast Potatoes

Preparation: 10 minutes  Cooking: 40 minutes in total

Makes: 12 roast potatoes

Ingredients

6                           Medium potatoes (peeled and chopped in half)

1                           Bayleaf

2                           Cloves garlic (peeled)

2 heaped dsp                    Coconut Oil

Salt & Pepper

A few sprigs of sage for decoration (optional)

Method

1.    Preheat the oven to 200oC/395oF/Gas Mark 6

2.    Place the potatoes, bayleaf, garlic and a sprinkle of salt into a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Cook for 10 minutes.

3.    While the potatoes are boiling, place the coconut oil onto a roasting tray and place in the oven.

4.    Remove the potatoes from the heat and drain in a colander. Gently toss the potatoes in the colander, giving them a fluffy appearance all over. Remove the bayleaf.  Do not turn off the hob you were using for boiling the potatoes just yet.

5.    Carefully remove the roasting tray from the oven and place it onto the hob you were previously using, keeping the oil nice and hot.

6.    Gently place the potatoes into the hot oil – watch out for any splashes. Gently turn the potatoes in the oil using tongs or a couple of forks.  Sprinkle with salt.

7.    Place in the oven and cook for approx. 30 minutes, making sure you turn the potatoes over every 15 minutes or so.

This method should give you crispy golden brown potatoes on the outside and soft and fluffy insides with a wonderful buttery taste.

he colander, giving them a fluffy appearance all over. Remove the bayleaf. Do not turn off the hob you were using for boiling the potatoes just yet.

5. Carefully remove the roasting tray from the oven and place it onto the hob you were previously using, keeping the oil nice and hot.

6. Gently place the potatoes into the hot oil – watch out for any splashes. Gently turn the potatoes in the oil using tongs or a couple of forks. Sprinkle with salt.

7. Place in the oven and cook for approx. 30 minutes, making sure you turn the potatoes over every 15 minutes or so.

This method should give you crispy golden brown potatoes on the outside and soft and fluffy insides with a wonderful buttery taste.

  Copyright protected by Digiprove © 2011 Danny Vice-Holt – The Caper Tree

Tell Me Your Comments on the vegan food and recipes you see here. It's OK, don't be Shy!

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If they Don’t Contain Meat, are they Still Called Pigs in Blankets?

Well Christmas is nearly here and the Tofurkey is getting fat! Actually I’ve never had Tofurkey and I don’t intend to start this year  I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with it and it tastes just fine and I shouldn’t be so prejudiced but… well… it’s just the name – Tofurkey. It sounds just exactly like what it is doesn’t it? Every time I hear the name, I imagine Dr Frankenstein deep in his lab, sewing bits of tofu to a dead turkey then shoving 10,000 volts of electricity up it’s backside to reanimate the poor devil thereby creating a creature so hideous its own mother would drown it. Couldn’t they come up with a better name than Tofurkey? Eeuugh – I have to stop typing the word Tofurkey – it’s making me nauseous.

Actually, I’m not too sure what I’m going to have with my Christmas dinner this year. I know a lot of people have a parcel or tart as their main but my wife and I aren’t big fans of pastry-based main courses with our roast potatoes and parsnips as it’s rather heavy. To be honest I think I’m to blame for that. It was some years ago and before I began cooking as a profession.  I volunteered to cook Christmas dinner for my wife, my best friend and I and iIn order to start the day in style, I thought I would treat us all to American pancakes, veggie sausages, streaky ‘bacon’ with maple syrup and Buck Fizz for breakfast. The pancakes I made were the size of dinner plates, 2 inches thick and we each had three of them. They were so filling we only managed 1 and a half each and felt we couldn’t eat ever again. That didn’t stop me though and I immediately set to work on preparing the Christmas dinner. We had all the usual trimmings; roast potatoes, roast parsnips, carrots, sprouts leeks, peas, stuffing, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, white sauce, gravy and an individual smoked tofu wellington each; so big they each occupied over half a dinner plate. I must have been chopping, slicing, dicing and cooking like a demon because it was ready approximately 2 hours after we finished breakfast and our digestive systems were still doing battle with the mega pancake invasion they had just recently encountered. However, you know the true measure of friendship when you announce that dinner is now served and your beloved and your best friend clap their hands with joy and exclaim how much they are looking forward to eating this wonderful dinner, all the while secretly praying that there really isn’t enough food in front of them to feed the entire street and they’re actually in a maple syrup induced coma, imagining the whole thing.   Alas it is real and we all plough on like troopers yet still only managing to eat a few mouthfuls before we all retire to the couch and do not move for the rest of the day except to open all the windows to deal with the Brussels Sprout fallout (if you know what I mean.) Not the most exciting way to spend a Christmas day I admit but lesson learned thereafter – no pastry for Christmas dinner and NO pancakes for breakfast!

One thing I do like about Christmas food though and has always been a tradition in my family  is evening tea. Just the very thought of it takes me back to my Gran’s house where she would lay out lots of lovely salads , pickled onions, gherkins, scones, Christmas cake  and my favourite – home made sausage rolls.  In fact, I have found it difficult over the years to find good sausages that are tasty and dairy and egg free. There are lots of acceptable ones on the market if you have a good shop near you and there is of course Linda McCartney sausages available in most supermarkets but when I was Head Chef in a cafe in Brighton, I developed my own sausages because I couldn’t find any that I really liked. It took me a while and after a bit of tinkering here and there I had it perfected. It was met with great approvaland the customers loved it.  The great thing about this mix is that you can change the herbs in it according to your personal taste and also with the seasons. For instance the recipe I’m going to give you is flavoured with deep flavoured herbs perfect for winter, but in the summer, I like to use fresh thyme, parsley and lemon to give them a fresh twist.

This sausage recipe is so versatile you can pretty much do what you want with it; they’re great with a full English breakfast, in a sandwich, with mash and gravy, with pancakes and maple syrup and, of course, in  Sausage Rolls. I make these sausage rolls for events I cater for and they are always the thing to disappear the fastest and get the biggest compliments on, many people not knowing they aren’t actually made of meat. It just goes to show that no matter who you are – you can’t beat a good sausage!

Don’t be scared, it’s just food!

Love Danny

PS – this recipe is dedicated to my wonderful little nephew who, when visiting us this summer, inhaled as many of these sausage rolls as he possibly could on our picnic!

Herbs de Provence Sausage Rolls

You will need:

Food Processor

Rolling Pin

Pastry brush

VERY clean hands!

Preparation time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 20 -25 minutes

Ingredients:

For the sausage mix:

240g                      Chickpeas (cooked and drained. Dry them as much as possible.)

1                           Red onion (sliced)

3 tsp                      Herbs de Provence

Dark Soy Sauce or Tamari

1 tsp                      Olive Oil

Plain Flour or Gram Flour (preferred)

10-20ml                 Cold water

Pepper to taste

To make sausage rolls:

1 small block ready- made puff pastry

Method:

Preheat oven to 200oC

1             Place the onion in the food processor and blitz until finely chopped. Remove & place into a mixing bowl.

2             Place the chickpeas into the processor and blitz until they resemble breadcrumbs. Add them to the onions.

3             Add the herbs, oil, soy sauce or Tamari & pepper and mix well with your hands.

4             Add the flour and mix well.

5             Gradually add the water a little at a time until you have a mixture that you can roll into a sausage with your hands without it falling apart or being to mushy. If the mixture is too crumbly, add a bit more of the water. If it is too mushy, add a bit more flour. You may not need all the water so be very sparing with it unless you need it!

6             Heat some oil in a frying pan on a medium heat. Make a small sausage patty and fry on both sides until golden brown. Once cooled, taste the sausage and adjust the seasoning to your taste.

7             Once you are happy with the seasoning, lay out your pastry and roll it out into a square approximately 3mm thick.

8             Take a knife and cut the bottom edge of the pastry off so you have a nice straight line to lay your sausages on.

9             Roll out your sausages approx. 1.5cm in diameter and lay them lengthways on the pastry from left to right. Make sure you leave a 2cm space from the bottom edge of the pastry as you will need this to roll up your sausages.

10          Once you have made a line of sausages, brush the bottom edge of the pastry with water. Carefully take the bottom edge of the pastry and wrap the sausages quite tightly in it. Make sure you fold the pastry right over.

11          Next, take a knife and cut the pastry lengthways 2cm from where your rolled sausages are. Brush the 2cm of pastry with water and carefully roll the sausages over the pastry. You should now have one long sausage roll with the pastry seam on the bottom.

12          Repeat with the remaining sausage mix and pastry.

13          Next, trim off the ends with a knife and then cut the sausage rolls into 3cm mini sausage rolls.

14          Place onto a lightly oiled baking tray with the seam side down and brush with water.

15          Cook for approx. 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

If you’re just making sausages, roll them out into sausage shapes and fry them off on a medium heat and serve with whatever you fancy. These sausages will also keep frozen for ages. Just place them in an airtight container and use as needed. They only take a few hours to defrost and then they’re ready for cooking.

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The Hens May Thank Me But What Am I Supposed To Dip My Chips In Now?!

I was talking with my lovely wife the other day about all the foods we miss eating being vegan. Before I became vegan I was vegetarian for almost 10 years and was a massive cheese gobbler; any cheese, anytime, anywhere. I could destroy a Brie wheel or a wedge of Dolcelatte in moments whilst simultaneously inhaling a mighty chunk of mature vintage farmhouse cheddar, then immediately wonder where my next cheese fix would be coming from.   But with great lactic pleasures come great lactic problems; not only does too much cheese give me a nice round belly of plumpness, it also gives me rather nasty eczema and the worst asthma attacks I have ever experienced. In fact the last cheese-related asthma incident I had lasted for 4 days; not a pleasant experience for anyone I can assure you. So for that reason, (amongst others,) I decided to give up cheese and dairy and see how I fared. Within a few days, my eczema started to clear up, my lungs felt fantastic and I lost weight (hooray!) You might think I would have been OK if I just reduced the amount of cheese I ate but to me, it was like asking a drug addict to cut down on the Crack a bit – not really considered the easiest thing in the world in to do. So it was cold turkey for me on the cheese and dairy front and do you know what?– it was easier than I thought. I thought I was going to have to reconstruct the scene from Trainspotting and lock myself in a room with various buckets until the cheese sweats and hallucinations passed from my system but to my surprise I was OK. I didn’t miss cheese as much as I thought I would and I still don’t, probably because I feel so much better without it. However, there is one thing my wife and I still miss terribly and were totally unprepared for when we took upon the diet on the Vegan:

Eggs.

Eggs – the versatile and tasty foodstuff. You can scramble, poach, fry, coddle, omelette, make sauces, bind other food with them, whack them in cakes, have them with toast, have them on their own, eat them raw; hell, have them any damn way you want, they’re so versatile! Sorry, got a bit carried away there… Right now where was I…? Oh yeah, eggs.

Seriously, even though I miss them I get by without them quite easily and food tastes just as great without them. My full English Breakfast is still delicious, my homemade burgers and falafels don’t need binding with them and my cakes taste great without a sniff of them in sight.

Now I’m not going to tell you there are great vegan versions of an omelette or give you a recipe for vegan fried eggs because that would be ridiculous but for recipes that include eggs as one of their components such as a chocolate mousse, there is usually a replacement. (I’ll give you a great chocolate mousse recipe very soon – it gorgeous!)

The recipe I’m giving you today is really simple and really delicious and is one of my favourite things of all time: Mayonnaise. Now I know one of the main components of Mayonnaise is egg yolks but it is possible to make a vegan version which is just as creamy and delicious. If you look on the ‘Free From’ shelves of almost any supermarket, you will probably find an egg-free mayonnaise product sitting there. There are in fact many different brands of egg-free mayo on the market but there are only a few that I like and even those ones aren’t a patch on a homemade version.

One of my favourite types of mayonnaise is Aioli; a garlic, lemon and sea salt mayo found in French Provencal Occitan and Spanish & Catalonian cuisine; all with their own regional variations.  I add Rosemary to mine and even Lavender in the Summer and serve it with just about anything I can get away with. It’s perfect with lightly grilled vegetables, in a coleslaw or remoulade and of course it tastes absolutely wonderful with crispy golden brown hand cut rustic wedges or chips!

All you need is a blender, hand blender or food processor and you’re away. I hope you enjoy this recipe and realise that it’s not just egg-eaters who can enjoy a beautiful mayonnaise. (PS, feed it to non-vegans and see if they can tell the difference – I bet you they can’t!)

Aioli with Rosemary

You will need:

Food processor

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

150ml          Unsweetened soya milk

250ml          Olive oil

100ml          Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 ½             Lemons (squeezed)

3                 Cloves garlic (peeled & sliced)

1                 Big handful rosemary (chopped)

½ tsp           Salt

Method:

  • Place the soya milk and lemon juice into the food processor and blitz together. The soya milk will have thickened.
  • Turn on the processor and gradually drizzle in the Olive Oil. Make sure you do this slowly so the soya milk absorbs the oil completely
  • Add the chopped rosemary and slowly drizzle in the Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Taste and serve.
  • This Aioli will keep in an air tight container in the fridge for at least a week.

Happy dipping!

Don’t be scared, it’s only food!

Love

Danny x

The Caper Tree

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These Goosebumps Tell No Lies…Winter is Here!

OK Winter you win. I can deny it no longer. You are here. I tried to ignore your frosty mornings and gale force winds knocking my watering can over on the balcony at three in the morning. I even tried to ignore your bone-drenching rain showers and your rudeness at turning off the Sun at 4pm every afternoon. But what really made me admit defeat was when my heating and hot water boiler broke down 2 days ago. There you were, standing there and waving your wintry arms around shouting, “Look at me, look at me! You can’t escape me now! I’m the one freezing off your fingers and toes and any other bits you may have on you and there’s nothing you can do about it!” And whilst I was there waiting for the boiler person to come and warm up my baubels, I succumbed to the inevitable and allowed winter into my life and do you know what? It actually wasn’t that bad. Once I had conceded to the elements, (and my water was hot again), things started to look a bit more rosy.

I’ve never been a Winter person. I’ve always craved the hot sun and long evenings and when the winter draws in, I sit and wonder what life would have been like if my Dad had decided to take that job in New Zealand and emigrate the family there when I was 2. Well know I would have a spanking tan right now and a brilliant Kiwi accent but, knowing me, I would probably be sitting there, craving long wintry nights, snow at Christmas and longing for highly questionable knitted sweaters to keep me warn when the boiler breaks down. Maybe I should just stop complaining and be thankful for what I have.

I was a little preoccupied last week to post a blog as it was mine and my lovely lady’s 8th (really, 8th? Blimey!) wedding anniversary and we decided to celebrate in style. We had a bottle of bubbly on the beach for breakfast, played games on Brighton Pier and to top it all off, we came home and did some winter gardening. Oh I know what you’re all thinking; “Slow down before you hurt yourselves!” Well don’t worry, we’re not always so reckless; we do boring things too.

Joking aside, getting the garden ready for winter was really quite fun. My wife and I live on the top floor in an apartment block so even though we’re not blessed with a garden, we do have a pretty impressive balcony so this year, we decided to create a rooftop garden using old boxes, planters, giant flowerpots and hundreds of litres of soil and grow our own veg. To say we didn’t have a clue to begin with is an understatement. I was so clueless I could kill a weed just by glancing at it and so we decided to go on a course run by a fantastic Brighton & Hove outfit called Harvest. They showed us how to grow what we wanted and how and when to plant it. This year we have had some amazing produce; incredible tomatoes, a delicious variety of cucumber that looks like a small tennis ball called ‘Crystal Lemon’ and my favourite thing of all; sweet, green, freshly podded peas to name but a few things we grew. So, whilst we were out there winterising our garden, we dug up our remaining carrots and I thought what better way to welcome in the winter than to make a deliciously hearty carrot soup. You might be thinking, “What’s he giving us a soup recipe for? Soups are boring. Anyone can make soup.” Well yes, maybe anyone can make soup, but not everyone can make a great soup. Poorly planned soups can be watery, tasteless and overcooked and can, quite frankly, put you off soups for life. A great winter soup should be something that is packed full of deep, robust flavour and is thick, creamy and satisfying. The recipe I’m about to give you is Winter Carrot & Rosemary Soup with a Garlic & Parsley Drizzle and is fabulous. A drizzle is a tangy and zesty concoction which you literally drizzle onto the soup just before serving. I’m a big fan of a drizzle in soups; balanced correctly, they can add a dimension of sharpness and zing whilst complimenting the richness and depth of the soup itself.

Our foundations for this soup lie in the onions, celery, parsley and garlic, with our middle flavours coming from the rosemary and bayleaf. It’s important to balance these correctly and not overpower the freshness of the carrots and allowing the stock to bring everything together. The drizzle at the end just lifts the soup and intensifies the flavours. Oh by the way I forgot to mention, this soup is dead easy to make! It would be useful of you had a food processor handy as this will save a lot of time but if you don’t, you’ll have to chop it by hand. However as this is a blended soup, you will definitely need a blender or a hand blender:

Winter Carrot & Rosemary Soup with a Garlic & Parsley Drizzle

You will need:

Food processor (optional). If you don’t have one, you can chop everything by hand

Blender or hand blender (essential)

Preparation: 10 mins Cooking time: 20 mins

Ingredients:

For the soup:

2-3 tbsp olive or sunflower oil

2 medium onions (peeled & quartered)

3 cloves garlic (peeled & sliced)

2 sticks celery (roughly chopped)

1 big handful fresh parsley (roughly chopped)

1 bayleaf (fresh if possible)

2 big sprigs fresh rosemary (de-stalked & roughly chopped)

600g carrots (chopped into approx. 2cm chunks) If the carrots are organic, don’t peel them just give them a wash. If they’re not, peel before chopping.

1 litre hot stock (I prefer Marigold Swiss Vegetable powdered Bouillon. Make sure you buy the vegan version (NOT the one in the green tub.)

Salt & pepper to taste

For the drizzle:

5 cloves garlic (peeled and finely chopped)

2 handfuls fresh parsley (finely chopped)

6tbsp extra virgin olive oil

4tbsp white wine vinegar

3tsp lemon juice

Dash agave nectar or ½ tsp brown sugar

Salt & pepper

Method:

In a big saucepan, pour in the oil and place on a medium heat.

Place the onions the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. (Don’t over pulse the onions or they will become mushy and watery.) Add the onions to the saucepan and stir well, cooking for approx 2 mins or until they become soft and translucent. If they start to stick or brown, add a little more oil.

Add the chopped parsley and stir well. Cook for approx. 1 – 2 mins stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, place the celery into the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add to the onions and parsley and stir well, adding a little salt. Cook for approx 2 mins stirring often or until the celery has softened.

Next, add the garlic and cook for approx 1 – 2 mins, stirring often. Make sure the garlic doesn’t burn, as this will give the soup a bitter flavour.

Now add the carrots and mix well, covering them in the onion mixture. Add some freshly ground black pepper and cook for approx 2 – 3 mins stirring occasionally so they don’t stick.

Add all of the hot stock to the carrots and stir once again. Cover the soup with a lid and bring it to the boil.

Now it’s time to make the drizzle.

Place all of the drizzle ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly. Set aside and allow the flavours to mingle together.

Once the soup has come to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for a further 10 – 15 mins or until the carrots are tender but not mushy.

Remove from the heat and remove the bayleaf. Carefully transfer the soup into a blender. Make sure you only fill three quarters of the blender jug or you will decorate your kitchen and yourself in very hot soup! You will probably have to do this in stages so get a bowl or extra saucepan ready.

Carefully blend the soup until it’s smooth and lump free. You cannot over-blend this so don’t be afraid to give it a little longer in the blender than you think it might need. When I blend hot soup, I also place a tea towel over the top of the blender lid in case any of it escapes. Remember, start blending slowly and work up to a quicker speed. That way, you reduce your chances of hurting yourself.

If you find the soup a little thick at this point, add a little hot water until you reach a thick yet spoonable soup consistency.

Pour the soup into bowls and taking the drizzle mixture, carefully drizzle 3 dsp of it onto each soup. This adds a rather lovely look to the soup as well as giving it an extra dimension of flavour.

Serve immediately.

If you have any drizzle left over, you can place it on the table in case anybody wants any more or you can keep it in a sealed container in the fridge. It will last for ages.

I hope you enjoy eating it as much as I did and don’t forget if you want to receive future blogs by email, just sign up on the top right of this page and they’ll come rolling to you.

Happy Winter everyone!

Love Danny x

The Caper Tree

“Don’t be scared, it’s just food!”

  Copyright protected by Digiprove © 2011 Danny Vice-Holt – The Caper Tree

Tell Me Your Comments on the vegan food and recipes you see here. It's OK, don't be Shy!

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I’m Not Letting Go of Summer Yet and No-one Can Make Me!

Hello!

It’s been a  long time since I posted a Caper Tree blog and I must apologise for my prolonged absence.  The reason I’ve been away for so long is that I broke my right wrist rather badly and after an operation to repair it, the poor thing has been stuck in a cast for two months.  Unfortunately, my chopping hand is attached to the wrist I broke and it’s been impossible to pick up a knife and use it. I did try chopping an onion by bashing it to death with a wooden spoon but it really didn’t have the same effect and my kitchen ceiling still has bit of onion carnage stuck to it. My kitchen was most displeased with me.

So now on the road to recovery and plaster cast-free, I decided earlier this week to cheer my kitchen (and myself) up by making my first tentative steps into making some properly delicious food. To my delight, I came up with a rather lovely dish which my wife also appreciated by whisking it away from me as soon as I finished taking the photos and claiming it as her dinner. It was the last I ever saw of it but at least I have the pictures and memories to remind me of what I once loved and lost.

Seasonally speaking, I suppose I feel a little behind everyone else at the moment. I feel I didn’t get the chance to really see out the summer by cooking the last of those light, fresh and sunny dishes which taste all the better when eaten outside with a nice glass of wine and watching the sun set in the distance. Now it’s dark before 5pm and we’ve moved  into Casserole, Stew and root vegetable territory, but as my brain is still stuck in September, I’m going to cling on to the Summer by my fingernails and present to you this wonderful ‘Chargrilled Vegetable and Avocado Club Sandwich’. It’s packed full of flavour and has that slightly barbequed taste which makes me want to pack a suitcase and fly off to the nearest Australian beach party.  Strictly speaking, the vegetables are not chargrilled – I use a device called a skillet which is basically a frying pan with raised ridges on it which the food sits on. When you brush the pan and the food with oil and sprinkle on salt, it gives this wonderful smoky flavour and brings out the very best in the food you’re cooking. Skillets are relatively inexpensive, ranging from £13 upwards and if you don’t own one, I strongly recommend you get one. They are extremely versatile and you can cook almost anything on it.  It’s also a healthier method than frying as the food doesn’t sit in the pan covered in oil. Alternatively you can cook the vegetables under a medium grill, brushing them occasionally with oil.  It won’t have the same intensity of flavour but it will still taste great.

OK, so if like me, you want to ignore the fact the clocks have gone back and that Christmas is staring you in the face, then why don’t you try this:

Chargrilled Vegetable and Avocado Club Sandwich

If you can make the flavoured oil a day in advance, you will get a better result. If you don’t have the time, at least make it 20 minutes before you use it.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes (if you don’t make the oil the day before)

Serves: 2

You will need:

1 Skillet

1 Pastry or oil brush

Tongs (preferably) or a slotted slice

Ingredients:

For the Flavoured Oil –

4 tbsp             Olive Oil

2 tbsp              Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1                      Bayleaf

2 cloves           Garlic – peeled and sliced

Handful           Fresh Oregano or Marjoram – roughly chopped (or use 1tsp dried if fresh                          is unavailable)

Handful           Fresh Sage roughly chopped (or use 1tsp dried if fresh is unavailable)

1 tsp                Salt

Sprinkle           Black Pepper

Everything Else –

3 Slices            Really nice fresh bread -  As long as it’s soft and square, you choose.

1                      Aubergine – sliced lengthways into strips

1                      Courgette – sliced lengthways into strips

Handful           Green Beans – trimmed both ends

1                      Avocado – peeled and sliced

1                      Tomato – sliced

1                      Lemon

2                      Olives

3 dsp                Vegan Mayo (Look out for a brilliant homemade recipe in the near future!)

1 dsp                Dijon Mustard

Salt

1                      Toothpick

Method:

Before you start, turn on your extractor fan and open your windows – just like a barbeque, it’s going to get a bit smoky!

Pre-heat the oven to 160oC or Gas 5

1.       Make the flavoured oil – pour out the oils into a bowl and add the bayleaf, garlic and the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and set aside to allow the flavours to marinate.

2.       Mix the mayonnaise and mustard together to make a Dijonnaise. (If you fancy, mix in a chopped gherkin or a couple of cornichons for a bit of extra zing!)

3.       Turn on your hob to medium/high. Put on the skillet and lightly brush the pan with the oil you prepared earlier.

4.       When the pan starts to smoke slightly, lay the aubergines and courgettes into the skillet. Don’t crowd the skillet – leave enough space to turn the vegetables without damaging them.

5.       Brush the vegetables with the oil, making sure you get bits of garlic and herbs onto them as well and sprinkle with salt. After 2-3 minutes, gently lift up the veggies. If they have dark stripes on them, they are ready to be turned over. They should be well oiled enough but if you see any bit of vegetable without oil, (especially the aubergines), give them a quick dab.

6.       Once the veggies are cooked, place them onto a plate and put them in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with the rest of the vegetables until they are all cooked and warming in the oven.

7. Leave the green beans till last – they will retain their crunchiness for longer if you do.

8.       Place the bread in the oven for approximately 3-4 minutes or until it’s warm and slightly toasted (you don’t want too much colour on it, you want that just- toasted texture.)

Now here’s the fun bit – Making your sandwich:

1.       Place some of the aubergine and courgette on the bottom slice of bread.

2.       Take the second slice of bread and spread the Dijonnaise on both sides and place on top of the vegetables.

3.       Take some of the avocado and place it on the second slice of bread then top with the remaining aubergine and courgette. Gently place the green beans on top and finish with the remaining avocado. Sprinkle with a little lemon juice to give the entire dish a lift in flavour.

4.       Place the final slice of bread on top and gently press down, making sure nothing falls out.

5.       Gently insert the cocktail stick and finish off by layering with slices of tomato with olives.

The green beans are really important in this sandwich as they give the dish a wonderful crunch which is a great contrast to the now soft and tender aubergines and courgettes.

Cooking vegetables in this way is definitely one of my favourites. It’s very easy to boil, roast or fry the flavour out of a delicately flavoured aubergine, carrot or mushroom but when using a skillet, the flavours jump out at you, giving an almost (dare I say it,) ‘meaty’ flavour. By that I mean it has the richness and depth of flavour which can sometimes be lost in meat, fish and dairy-free meals.

If you don’t like Dijonnaise, you can use the Sun-Dried Tomato and Rocket pesto instead, (see my previous recipe). It’s quite powerful in flavour so use it sparingly; you don’t want to overpower the vegetables.

I would be really interested to hear what you think of this so please recipe so please let me know how it went after you made and (hopefully) enjoyed eating it. You can now sign up for all future blogs to be sent to you via email and you can follow The Caper Tree on Facebook and Twitter – just click on the icons on the top of this blog.

Take care and until next time – don’t be scared, it’s only food!

Lots of love

Danny x

The Caper Tree

  Copyright protected by Digiprove © 2011 Danny Vice-Holt – The Caper Tree

Tell Me Your Comments on the vegan food and recipes you see here. It's OK, don't be Shy!

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How Do You Make Great Vegan Food? It’s Just Like Building A House.

People eat meals with no animal products in them for many reasons; you may be vegan, you may be vegetarian but wish to cut out the amount of cheese and cream you eat in your food, you may want to try something different, you may be under doctor’s orders to cut out the amount of meat and dairy in your diet or you want to sign up for the Meat-Free Monday campaign but don’t know how to cook without it. Every reason is different and personal but whatever your reason, there is absolutely no need for anyone to cook and eat a meal that has no flavour or excitement. When you cook with meat, fish, dairy or eggs it’s easy to rely on these ingredients to provide the basic flavour that the dish is based upon. That is absolutely fine as those ingredients, especially meat, are the main component of the dish and you base your surrounding flavours around it.

But what do you do to if you are cooking a meal with no eggs, dairy, fish or meat to flavour your food? What do you do if the main component of a dish has a subtle flavour – Butterbeans or Tofu or Courgettes for example? Where do you go to create those rich full flavours of a French Onion Soup or the deep and spiky taste of a slow cooked Chilli? Where can you go for a tasty, exciting Fresh Herb Pesto without the cheese to give it that well-rounded boost of flavour? Well maybe this will help you out.

To me, creating and cooking a dish is like building a house; you start from the bottom and you build your way up to the top. To me, all good food starts with its base flavours, moving up to the middle flavours and finally working their way to the top and you should be able to taste them on your tongue as you eat it. Now if you don’t have any eggs, dairy, fish or meat to give you flavour, you have to go elsewhere to find it. This can be really exciting and I often see it as working with a blank canvas – there is no dominating flavour and I can create something that tastes and looks great without any restrictions! Great eh? Just remember though, ingredients such as vegetables and beans do have a flavour of their own so whatever you cook needs to work with them and not overshadow them completely.

There are some amazing products available on every supermarket shelf and over the years I have built up what I call my ‘Flavour Bible’. Over the next few weeks I shall be sharing this with you and taking you through it so you can begin experimenting yourself with all the different tastes and flavours that are animal-free.

To start off however, I would like to take you through a recipe; one which has all the three stages of flavour building and is absolutely delicious! It’s a really simple Pesto recipe which I developed over the years but is rich, zingy and packed full of flavour.  It’s also incredibly versatile and with a tweak here and there you can make loads of different dishes with just this one recipe. Instead of just giving it to you though,  I’m going to walk you through the ingredients so you know which ingredient provides what type of flavour and how they work together:

Sun-Dried Tomato, Rocket and Herb Pesto

You will need:

A Food Processor

Preparation time: 10 minutes (Once you have pre-soaked the Sun Dried Tomatoes)

Ingredients:

275g                       Sun Dried Tomatoes (These give the pesto it’s base notes with the richness of the concentrated tomato).

½ tsp                     Capers (These add a further depth of flavour with a hint of sharpness. If you hate capers leave them out      but you can’t taste them I promise!)

Dash                      Tamari or dark soy sauce (Just a tiny dash of this rich, strong salty sauce replaces the salt needed to bring all the flavours together but with an extra dimension of taste .An unusual ingredient to use in Pesto but it works.)

5 Cloves               Garlic, peeled (Garlic is the perfect foundation builder. It gives the dish a bit of a kick on the tongue and  lifts the tomato and capers nicely.)

125g                       Walnuts  (A middle flavour. Walnuts give the pesto it’s earthy, creamy taste at the back of your throat and carries the main dish along. If you find the taste too earthy, used de-skinned walnuts or replace half the walnuts with cashews.)

95g                         Rocket  (This adds a middle-top flavour with it peppery taste. It adds a little spice too.)

25g                         Basil (The classic herb for pesto. This unique top flavour is classic in any pesto and  should be dominant in this dish. Feel free to add more if you wish.)

130ml                    Extra Virgin Olive Oil (This binds the dish together but also adds another top flavour.)

Juice                      ¼ lemon (The ultimate kick in the pants! Just a little lemon juice will lift the whole dish and bring out all the flavours to their best potential. Absolutely essential.

To taste                Freshly ground Pepper (There is a lot going on in this dish but you will be surprised just how a few turns of the peppermill can make all the difference.)

Cold water (in case it gets too thick)

Method

Place all the ingredients except the Extra Virgin Olive Oil and lemon juice into the food processor. Add around half of the olive oil and pulse the mixture until it starts to blend. Gradually add more olive oil and continue to blend. Repeat with the remaining olive oil and add the lemon juice. If you feel it is a bit too thick, add a small splash of water and blend until you reach the desired consistency.

When you taste it, you will see that it is very rich, very deep, very creamy and zesty all at the same time. It has some wonderful flavours in it and all of them animal free.

I make my mixture quite thick and keep it in an airtight tub in the fridge and it lasts for about a week. This is because it is so versatile and you can make so many different things with it:

Pesto/Pasta Sauce: Stir a little more oil and a few dashes of water into a few spoonfuls and stir through freshly cooked pasta for a quick and delicious meal.

Pate: Roll it in chopped herbs and spread it on toast or freshly baked bread.

Tartlet: Add a little water till it’s of a spooning consistency. Place 1 or 2 spoonfuls onto a cut-out circle of pre-rolled puff pastry. Place into a medium oven for 10-15 minutes until risen. Add a spoonful of tofu cream cheese or soya yoghurt mixed with lemon juice. Return to oven for 5 minutes and serve immediately. (See picture)

Salsa Verde: Add a splash of white wine or cyder vinegar and more oil until you have a sauce you can pour. Marinate some chopped mushrooms, courgettes, tomatoes and peppers in the sauce for at least 2 hours in the fridge. Remove from the marinade and stir fry or barbeque on skewers until tender. Remove from the heat and pour over the remaining marinade. Serve immediately.

There are lots of other uses for this pesto but I won’t overload you with them all now. If you need further inspiration, drop me an email and I will be happy to provide you with some.

Hopefully this recipe has shown you how to build flavours from the bottom up and how different flavours work together, but more importantly, I hope it has shown you that you don’t need to rely on meat, fish, dairy or eggs to make tasty food. Don’t be afraid to mess around with this recipe and change it according to your tastes. Find the flavours that excite your palate and create a whole new recipe of your own. At the end of the day, food should be fun so enjoy it!

Don’t Be Scared, It’s Only Food!

Lots of love

Danny

The Caper Tree

  Copyright protected by Digiprove © 2011 Danny Vice-Holt – The Caper Tree

Posted in Delicious, Easy, Food, Meat Free, Recipe, Stress Free, Uncategorized, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Don’t Be Scared, it’s Only Food!

Question:            So what do vegans eat?

Answer:               Food.

My wife is lovely. She is smart, beautiful, intelligent and witty and she lights up a room whenever she walks in.  You may think (and quite rightly) that I am biased due to the nature of our relationship, but you might be surprised to hear me ask the question: why, when we go to restaurants, do people look at my wife as if she is has an embarrassing debilitating illness and have no idea how to deal with her? Oh yes, I forgot to mention; my wife is Vegan.  If we are going out for dinner with our families she’s very responsible and always phones at least 4 days in advance and asks what is on the menu for her to eat. Sometimes the chef says they will cook her something special, sometimes she has to make do with jacket potato and a salad. Sometimes the dish the chef has prepared is jacket potato and salad or for instance at one place, she was given a tiny plate of lettuce, couscous with red pepper and baked beans. All on the same plate.  She was then told if she wanted anything further to eat, she could help herself to the meat trolley. She doesn’t make a fuss, she gets on with it. She eats whatever she is given (provided it is Vegan) and she politely thanks the staff for their troubles.

The thing is, she is not alone. There are over 3 million vegans in the US and 186,000 in the UK , so why is it that so many british restaurants, cafes and the chefs working in them have such an aversion to vegan food? You could say that eating establishments just don’t care and think they’re all fussy and cause problems wherever they go but I think it’s more simple than that. I think it all boils down to one simple word: VEGAN.

To the uninitiated, the word Vegan can be shrouded in confusion, mystery and only for hippies. Vegans are thought to be malnourished, underfed tree-huggers with a deathly paleness about them because they aren’t getting the essential vitamins and minerals you can only get from meat. Well anyone who knows about being vegan knows that this is simply not true and you can get everything your body needs from a non-animal diet. The vegans I know are happy, healthy, full of life and colour and only hug trees on weekends when no-one’s looking and in the privacy of their own home.  So what is it about the word Vegan that turns people off?   Say the ‘V’ word to some meat eaters and it’s like you’ve found the secret code word to switch off their brain; their eyes glass over, their speech centre goes on strike and they start to make a hasty retreat for the comfort of the nearest mixed meat platter or the soft caress of a pork pie. The alternative response is one of utter disbelief which then progresses into a barrage of questions mainly ending with, “but why don’t you eat meat? Why, Why, why? “  Each vegan has their own reasons and whether they choose to share them with you or not is their prerogative, just as a carnivore’s choice to eat meat is their’s.

I think basically, it comes down to fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of not knowing what vegans eat and what they choose not to eat and I think it’s time that the walls of myth and confusion surrounding the word Vegan, was pulled down.   It’s simple: vegans eat food. Just like everybody else. So for those who don’t know what Vegan means (in food terms anyway), let me break it down for you:

A Vegan consumes every type of food or drink that doesn’t contain meat, fish, dairy and eggs, or anything containing a by-product of meat, fish, dairy and eggs. For instance, they don’t eat jelly containing gelatine, (boiled up cow or pig hooves), but there are some great alternatives on the market which don’t use gelatine which are wonderful. Some vegetarian products on supermarket shelves contain albumen (egg white) which is a binding ingredient so a vegan would find an alternative to that as well. When it comes to alcohol, a vegan would choose a bottle of wine which was filtered through charcoal instead of gelatine or isinglass (the air bladder of a fish), which many of the wines on sale are. The same also goes for beer.

Now there is more to being a vegan than that but in dietary terms, that’s it in a nutshell. See? It’s not weird is it? It’s just food with paying a little more attention to the ingredients that’s all! It’s true that with a vegan diet you have to be aware of what you eat to make sure you get everything your body needs, but shouldn’t everyone? Just because a person eats meat doesn’t mean they are eating healthily does it?

To be honest, I don’t blame people who are afraid of the word vegan and I truly believe that it’s up to us to change that. How are people supposed to change their views if we don’t raise awareness and dispel the myth and stigma surrounding the word Vegan? I don’t know about you but I want an end to the hastily thrown together last minute restaurant meals my poor wife has to endure. I want an end to the annoyed and frustrated looks she gets from chefs who don’t know how, or refuse to, make a very simple effort in catering for someone who phoned days in advance to make sure she was no bother. I want an end to the ignorance of people who just hear the word vegan and look at you as if you just asked them to do something highly questionable with a close member of their own family. I want everyone to know what vegan means and accept that this is how it is.

Now I am a vegan chef. I have been cooking in vegetarian and vegan cafes and restaurants for 7 years now and I find creating vegan recipes and making vegan food enjoyable and something that comes quite naturally to me. I must admit however, it was rather daunting when I first started; where do I get my flavours from? If I can’t make a béchamel sauce for my lasagne with butter, milk and cheese, what the hell do I do instead? What do you mean I can’t put an egg in the burger mix to bind it? How is it going to stay together? No butter and beef stock in the French Onion Soup? Are you crazy?? But I learned the ways of the vegan chef  and I have to say that cooking a meal this way is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable things to do. When developing a dish, you have to think about your flavours and how maximise them so it tastes every bit as delicious to a non-vegan as it would to a vegan. (more about building tastes and flavours in my next blog.)

You may be thinking right now, ‘oh it’s all right for him. He knows how to cook vegan food. He can just do it whenever he feels like it. What about the rest of us?’ Well fear not because with every blog I post, I shall be giving you a vegan recipe which is quick and easy to prepare and tastes absolutely delicious. These recipes are perfect to keep for whenever you have a vegan friend for lunch or dinner or if your son or daughter brings home a new boyfriend or girlfriend and tells you 2 hours before lunch, “Oh didn’t I tell you, my new girlfriend’s vegan.” (Sound familiar Dad?) These recipes aren’t exclusively for the non-meat eater. To all you carnivores out there, I urge you to try these recipes and I dare you to tell me honestly, that you miss the meat.

I don’t expect non-vegans to suddenly understand what being vegan is, just to accept it. It’s a personal choice just as it is your choice to eat meat. I may not like the fact you do eat meat but I accept it as your choice so why can’t you do the same for me?

Don’t be scared, it’s only food.

Love from

Danny  x

The Caper Tree

Slow Roasted Tomato and Pepper Tricolore Ciabatta

This is a perfect lunch dish and great for entertaining. The vibrant colours of the peppers and tomatoes combined with the deep richness of the soft slow roasted vegetables makes a wonderful combination. Make sure the peppers and tomatoes are completely soft and almost mushy; this is when they give out their full roasted flavour. However, keep an eye on your tomatoes as they can dry out and burn if you’re not careful.

Preparation time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 2 hours (it’s worth the wait!)

Ingredients

2 of each                   Red, green, yellow peppers

6                                  Tomatoes

6 sprigs                      Thyme

1                                  Ciabatta loaf

Handful                     Basil

Handful                     Rocket

Drizzle                        Balsamic vinegar

Drizzle                        Lemon juice

Drizzle                        Olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste

Preparation Time: 10 minutes       Cooking Time: 2 hours

Pre heat oven 170c / 150 fan / gas mark 3

1. Cut the top off each pepper and deseed. Wash out the remaining seeds and place whole peppers in a roasting tin lightly seasoned with olive oil.

2. Cut the tomatoes in half and place in the roasting tin

3. Destalk the thyme and place on each half of tomato. Drizzle olive oil over the peppers and tomatoes and sprinkle with salt. Place the tin on the bottom shelf of the oven and allow to cook for 1 hour and 50 minutes – 2 hours. Halfway through cooking remove from oven and turn peppers over.

4. Once the peppers have cooked, cut ciabatta in half lengthways and put in the oven for 5 – 10 minutes until crisp and slightly brown.

5. Rub the ciabatta with garlic and place the basil and rocket on top followed by a drizzle of balsamic vinegar

6. Place the peppers on the herbs, followed by the tomatoes. Squeeze the lemon juice over the sandwich followed by olive oil if desired.

If you want to cut the cooking time, you can increase the oven temperature to 200c. The peppers and tomatoes won’t be as soft but will still taste delicious.

If you are in a hurry and don’t have time to roast your tomatoes and peppers in the oven, cut and deseed your peppers, cut them into slices approx 1 inch thick and pan fry them for approx 10-12 minutes, sprinkling the thyme and salt on as you go. Place in a pre-heated oven to keep warm and repeat with the tomatoes, being careful not to break them in the pan. Retain any remaining pepper and tomato liquid from the pan and drizzle over the sandwich before serving.

Tell Me Your Comments on the vegan food and recipes you see here. It's OK, don't be Shy!

Posted in Delicious, Easy, Food, Meat Free, Recipe, Stress Free, Uncategorized, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments