Baking, Snacks

Veggie ‘sausage’ rolls

These were a real hit at our Christmas drinks party this year. The filling is similar to my Beetburger recipe, and they are a bit like mini versions of my beetroot Wellingtion. They tasted pretty meaty and spicy and are much tastier than using a meat substitute.

In a food processor I chopped an onion and a few cloves of garlic finely and then fried them in some olive oil. Then I finely chopped about 250g mushrooms and added them to the frying pan. Next I added a grated large beetroot and seasonings, some salt, a couple slugs of light (mushroom) soy sauce, half a tsp of chilli flakes / powder (mine is pretty spicy) and some herbs I used some dried thyme (sage would work too). Then I added a can of drained kidney beans that I mashed a bit and I fried this until most of the moisture that came out of the veggies cooked off. I allowed this to cool and meanwhile made some breadcrumbs. I used about 4 -5 slices of wholemeal bread and ground these in my food processor and then spread them on a baking try and put them in a low oven, about 150 degrees F / 300 C, for about 20 mins, turning them after 10 mins. This dries the breadcrumbs out which makes the sausage mix firmer. Then I chopped about 100g of cheese (I used Carré but goats cheese or Camembert or grated cheddar would be fine) and added this and the breadcrumbs to the veggie mix and mixed them well. I then chilled the mixture overnight in the fridge so that the breadcrumbs would absob the posture from the veggies. If you want to make them the same day then just chill the mixture for an hour or so.

Next roll out some puff pastry (you will probably need about 600-700g) into strips about 8 cm wide (you can make them bigger if you like but these were for a cocktail party) and put a ‘sausage’ of my mixture in the middle and ‘painted’ one edge with an egg and milk mixture and then rolled them over to seal them. Then I ‘painted’ the top with the egg mixture, pricked the top with a fork and cut them in to rolls. I sprinkled half of the with sesame seeds and put them on baking trays covered with baking parchment . Next I chilled them in the fridge for about 15 mins while I pre-heated the oven to 200 degrees C / 400 F. Then I cooked them in batches for about 15 -20 mins until golden and puffed up. Try not to open the oven while they are cooking. Once they are done cool them on a wire rack and put the next batch in the oven. Best enjoyed warm, but good once cooled too.

Baking, The Basics

Soda bread 

This is very quick to make as it does need to rise or be kneaded. It makes a delicious loaf that’s best eaten fresh and reminds me of my Irish friends. On visits to Ireland I would happily eat soda bread and yummy Irish butter. This recipe is based on Rachel Allen’s in her book ‘Bake’ and makes a classic soda bread. A friend recently brought some delicious soda bread to a party, He added olives and sun-dried tomatoes whicH was delicious too.

Pre-heat your oven to 220 degrees C / 450 F. Then sift 450g flour into a bowl (I used 2/3 strong white bread flour and 1/3 whole meal). To this add a tsp of salt, a tsp of baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) and 1/2 tsp of sugar and mix it together. To ensure the bread rises you need sour milk, you can either use butter milk or you can add a couple of tsp of lemon juice to some warm milk or use whey (if you have some from making  curd cheese, or Greek yoghurt). You will need about 400ml. Pour about 350ml into the flour mixture and either with a big spoon or using your fingers stir it together, don’t work it too much just mix it so it comes together into a thick dough. Add some more liquid if required. It should form a ball. Then on your work surface form it into a round and cut a cross in the top with a sharp knife and ‘paint’ the top with some of the milk and then put it in the oven. I cook mine on a pre-heated pizza stone. Once it’s in the oven turn the oven down to 200degrees C / 400 F. Cook for about 30 mins until golden brown on top. The base should also be cooked and make a hollow sound when tapped if not turn the loaf over and pop it back in to oven for a few minutes. When it’s done allow to cook on a wire rack. It’s delicious when still fresh and warm with butter.

Thai Food, Veggie mains

‘Jap Chai’ stew

This is great comfort food and a popular Thai-Chinese dish. Make a big pot and eat it for a few days it gets better with age and more cooking.

Start by cutting a block or two of tofu into cubes and fry them until they are golden. Meanwhile in a pestle and mortar crush the roots of a bunch of coriander with about six cloves some sea salt and some pepper corns. Fry this in a large thick based saucepan in sesame oil an then add mushrooms I used a mix of shiitake and oyster mushrooms, about 500g in total, fry these for a while and add a couple of tbsp of light (mushroom) soy sauce, and a couple of tbsp of dark soy sauce. Then add in the fried tofu and fry for a short while so everything is coated in the soy sauce. Next add a large carrot and a daikon radish chopped in to chunks then cover with veggie stock to well cover the veggies and bring to the boil.

Then chop up other green leaf veggies e.g. Chinese leaf, pakchoy, Thai-style kale (pak kana) and cauliflower if you like. You need quite a lot (at least a colander full) as when they go in the stew they will boil down. You may need to do this in two batches and let them cook down a bit. I also add the coriander leaves and some white pepper and then simmer for a couple of hours until the veggies start to break down (a bit more than in the picture above). It won’t look so pretty but it will taste good. Below is the same stew on the second day. Serve on it’s own or with rice and other dishes if you like but I like to keep it simple so may just have it with rice and perhaps a Thai omelette.




Glazed almonds

These are based on a recipe for teriyaki almonds in a great book ‘Vegeatarian Party Food’ which is sadly out of print. These are a great snack for a drinks party.

Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees C / 400 F. In a bowl mix about 250-300g of almonds with 1tbsp of honey, 1 tbsp dark soy sauce, a slash of alcohol sherry or masala are fine, today I used whiskey (the original recipe uses mirin) a pinch or two of sea salt and about 3 tbsp of sesame seeds (I used a mix of black and white). Mix everything together then spread the almonds on a baking sheet covered in baking parchment. Put the in the oven and after 5 mins, give them a stir and turn the oven down down to 150 degrees C / 300 F. Bake for another 15 – 20 mins turning them a couple of times. They will become sticky and go golden brown. Alom them to cool and they will become brilltle. Break them up and put them in a bowl and enjoy!

Baking, Snacks

Mini olive tapenade & pine nut rolls


These make a good snack drinks party, perfect finger food with a glass of wine.

I made batch of focaccia dough then I rolled it out thinly into a long oblong about 20 cm wide and about 60cm long. Then I spread it with 100g of black olive tapenade and sprinkled over 50g of pine nuts. I then cut the dough down the middle lengthways so the strips were only about 10cm wide and then I rolled them up into long logs and brushed the top with olive oil and cut them into small rolls and put them on a nonstick baking sheet and covered them with a tea towel and left them fore about 30 mins to rise. Meanwhile I pre-heated the oven to 200 degrees C / 400 F. I sprinkled the rolls with some crushed sea salt and put them in the oven for about 15 mins until golden brown. Serve warm or allow to cool. Yummy!


Baking, Edible gifts, Snacks

Cheddar & walnut bites


If I had to choose one snack to serve at a drinks party I think these little taste sensations would be the one. They are so cheesy and delicious with a glass of wine. If you like cheese and you like shortbread biscuits you’ll love these. The mixture can be made in advance and frozen. This recipe is based on one in  the Tartine bakery cookbook and will make about 40 bites.

So what do you need?

  • 225g mature cheddar
  • 60g unsalted butter (softened)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp of wholegrain mustard
  • 70g walnuts
  • 125g plain flour

So what do you do?

Grate the cheese into a mixing bowl and mix in the butter, mustard and salt and stir until it’s well combined. Next crush the walnuts into the mixture they should be in small to medium pieces. Then sift in your flour and mix it in. It will come together into a thick dense dough. Divide this in half and roll each out into a log about 2 1/2 cms in diameter on a floured surface. wrap them in cling film and freeze them until hard (at least an hour). Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C / 400 F then take the logs out of the freezer and cut each log crosswise with a sharp knife into thin discs about 1/2 cm thick. Place these on a baking tray covered in parchment paper and bake for 10 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy. They can be stored in an airtight container for a few days.



Mulled wine


This goes perfectly with mince pies and fills the house with lovely spicy festive aromas.

Frist I stud two or three oranges with cloves and put them in a saucepan with a couple of sticks of cinnamon and a few star anise. I also add some roselle flowers if I have them. I then put in a couple of cups of water and about a half a cup (or just over) of brown sugar and simmer this for about 10 mins so the flavours start to come out in the water. I then add about 2 litres / 3 bottles of red wine and two or three good slugs of brandy and warm the mulled wine through, you can taste it and add more brandy / sugar depending on your taste. You can then sere it or leave it for a couple of hours to ‘mull’ and warm it up again before serving. It’s lovey to keep it warm beside an open fire and then people can help themselves to more whenever they need a top up. Don’t let the wine get too hot / boil as the alcohol will evaporate!