Ode to asparagus

A bit like Danny Devito, British asparagus season is short but sweet. You can buy it all year round but it’s a pale imitation of the stuff you’ll find during the spring and summer months.

Asparagus is full of vitamins A and C, potassium, iron and calcium and it’s also a diuretic – and as we all know, it makes your pee smell. That’s because (here comes the science bit) it contains a sulphurous compound called mercaptan, which is also found in rotten eggs, onions and garlic.  When your digestive system breaks down mercaptan, by-products are released that cause the strange smell.

Don’t let that put you off though; in-season asparagus has long been regarded as a delicacy and is delicious lightly steamed and seasoned with salt and pepper, lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil.

In this salad, the asparagus is the star of the show, with zesty lemon and salty pistachios as its backing singers. The giant couscous and chickpeas make it a substantial meal and it’s perfect for a packed lunch or picnic – or a speedy supper as it takes under 10 minutes to put together. If you can’t get hold of purple sprouting broccoli (its season is almost at an end, after all) use the ordinary kind.

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Asparagus salad with chickpeas, giant couscous and pistachios

(Serves 2–3)

Ingredients

100g giant couscous

1 can (400g) chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 packet of asparagus (or 7–8 spears)

1 packet of purple sprouting broccoli (or half a head of broccoli, cut into strips, including the stems)

Half a bag of spinach

2–3 handfuls pistachios, shelled

1 lemon, juiced

2–3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to season

 

Method

Using a sieve, rinse and drain the couscous then add to a pan of salted boiling water and cook for 5–6 minutes. At the same time, in a separate pan, boil or steam the asparagus for 5–6 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix the chickpeas and spinach and massage with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and half the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Drain the couscous and add to the bowl (its warmth will gently wilt the spinach leaves) and do the same with the asparagus and broccoli. Top with the pistachios and dress with the remainder of the lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

If you want to know more about asparagus and how to cook it, check out this handy guide from Quick Easy Cook.

British Sandwich Week

New York Deli

I love a good sandwich (my nickname at school was Sarah Bread Head – go figure) but now that I’m vegan, I rarely find anything other than the ubiquitous falafel wrap when I’m out and about. I’ve done my research though, and as it’s British Sandwich Week (14–20 May), I’ve rounded up the best vegan (and veggie) sandwiches you’ll find in Cardiff. Enjoy.

Wally’s

Wally’s has been something of a food fairground for me since I was a kid and turning vegan hasn’t stopped that. The Kaffehaus is king of the open sandwich and although there’s lots of meat and cheese on the menu, the staff are happy to change the fillings for you. For example, you can make the Linz vegan by simply taking out the halloumi and adding extra avocado. Win win.

New York Deli

This is another Cardiff institution and somewhere I’ve shied away from since ditching the pastrami as I assumed there’d be nothing there that I could eat. Turns out I was wrong. This heavenly hoagie (that’s a submarine-type roll to us non-Yanks) contains two types of vegan cheese, and all the salad, relish and sriracha sauce a girl could want. Other vegan options include a bagel burger and the grinder with veggie mince.

The Moos

Don’t be fooled by the name; everything at The Moos is 100% vegan and delicious to boot. Check it out for super sandwiches, cakes and hot drinks with a twist. The menu changes with the seasons which is a good excuse for me to go back.

Falafel Wales

I’m in love with this cafe on Cowbridge Road in Canton. Pop in for a Middle Eastern breakfast, some of the best houmous in the capital or this fabulous falafel wrap. Ask for it with everything (I always get extra hot sauce) and prepare yourself for one filling lunch. At £3.50, it’s a bargain too.

Falafel wrap. I asked for it with 'everything'.

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Chapter

The veggie sausage from Chapter is pretty perfect, especially with heaps of HP sauce and a strong Americano. It’ll power you through the fiercest of hangovers, a looming deadline, the latest art house film – or simply the little darlings running around the place.

Fresh Baguette

This tiny little baguette shop is tucked away in the Royal Arcade and every lunchtime, a queue forms for one of the tastiest (and best value) lunches in the city centre. Gareth’s been feeding Cardiff’s office workers for over 15 years and is passionate about using high-quality fresh ingredients – the clue’s in the name, really. There are plenty of veggie options on the menu and you can easily ‘build’ your own baguette. This one with houmous, vegan pesto and roasted vegetables is just amazing.

Wyndham Tea

I’m so pleased that Waterloo Tea opened a branch in the city centre, because it does some FINE tea, sandwiches and vegan cake. The open sandwiches are the stuff of dreams and especially tasty when served with the soup of the day.

Dreamy lunch @wyndhamtea #vegan #vegetarian #vegansofinstagram #whatveganseat #cardiffvegans #veganfoodshare

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Kemi’s

Kemi’s in Pontcanna is best known for its sunshine salads but if you’re more of a bread head, try the sandwiches and wraps on offer. This combination of houmous, baba ganoush, sweet potato and caramelised onion wrap is genius.

Grazing Shed

Grazing Shed is home to Cardiff’s beefiest burgers (and also does some veggie and vegan options – if you haven’t tried the Wah Wah, what are you waiting for?) and at the weekend you can do brunch at its St Mary Street restaurant. As well as the ubiquitous avocado smash, you can also enjoy this kale fritter with cashew cream.

Stir crazy

I’ve never had much time for risotto. It takes patience and I don’t have it. I’ve tried to practise mindfulness but it’s no good; I’ll always be thinking about something else. Before you mistake me for some type A person (and anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m definitely not in this camp), the reason I’m not very good at relaxing is because I’m quite easily distracted.

Risotto has its uses though. For a start, it’s pretty good comfort food and we’re certainly in need of that at the moment. Just as we sloped back to work after a long Easter weekend, Theresa May (who, in some circles, is nicknamed Tresemmé) called a general election. Some called it a snap election; I’d liken it to Mayday. My first reaction can’t be repeated in polite company so I’ll leave the politics there but you get my drift. To paraphrase Whitney, it is right (wing), but it’s not OK.

So back to risotto. It’s actually pretty easy to make but does require a fair bit of stirring which, I discovered, is rather soothing – meditative, almost. I’m not promising that risotto will make you feel any better about Britain’s future but it might help a little. This recipe is also a good way to use spring greens and in-season asparagus and peas – and getting your vitamins will give you more strength to fight the system, right?

One last thing: what exactly is a ‘clean’ Brexit anyway? If it’s anything like clean eating, I’m sure that most of us will agree that it’s a load of bull…

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Easy peas-y risotto

Serves 4

 

Ingredients

300g risotto rice

200g frozen or fresh peas

2 shallots, diced

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 litre of vegetable stock

1 tbsp olive oil

300g frozen or fresh spinach leaves

Juice of 1 lemon

A few leaves of fresh mint, finely chopped (optional)

Freshly ground pepper

 

Method

Heat the oil in a large pan, then add the shallots and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes. Using a sieve, rinse and drain the rice, then add to the pan. Mix well, coating each grain in oil – add a little extra if necessary.  Add a ladleful of the hot stock to the rice and stir well. Bring to a simmer as the liquid is absorbed by the rice.  Continue adding more stock, a ladleful at a time, letting the rice absorb it gradually; do this for about 15-20 minutes, until the rice is soft. Add the peas and stir through. After 2 minutes, add the spinach, lemon juice and black pepper until the spinach is just wilting.

Stir through the mint leaves (if using) and serve with steamed asparagus, green vegetables or on its own.

You say potato…

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Poor old potatoes. The starchy spheres are often cast aside, especially now that the likes of courgetti and cauliflower rice are favoured over good old-fashioned carbs. I still enjoy a spud once in a while because sometimes only chips, mash or roast potatoes can fix a bad day, a broken heart and many maladies in between. In Heartburn (if you haven’t read it, what are you waiting for?), the late, great Nora Ephron writes about potatoes and love.

“I have made a lot of mistakes falling in love, and regretted most of them, but never the potatoes that went with them.”

Amen, Nora. I don’t think I’ll ever fall out of love with potatoes either.

This is a zesty take on classic roast potatoes and adding the spring greens makes it a lovely lunch for lighter, brighter and (hopefully) warmer days. Also, it’s asparagus season so any excuse to eat ’em… The ras el hanout, which is available in lots of international supermarkets and shops, works a treat but use a little cumin and cinnamon powder if you can’t get hold of it. Likewise, if you can’t find pomegranate molasses, just leave it out of the dressing.

This makes the perfect amount for two people but obviously you can change the quantities if you need to – potatoes are cheap, after all. I used Maris Pipers (my mum won’t use any other variety for her roasties) but any kind will do.

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Zesty potatoes with spring greens and creamy tahini sauce

Serves 2

3-4 large potatoes

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Juice of ½ lemon

1 teaspoon ras el hanout

5-6 sundried tomatoes, sliced

3 tablespoons black olives

 

Green vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus and cabbage

For the dressing

2 tablespoons tahini

1 tablespoon olive oil

Juice of ½ lemon

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

Salt and pepper (to season)

 

Method

Rinse and scrub the potatoes (leave the skin on for extra crispness) and cut into even-sized pieces – you’ll usually get 3-4 from a large potato and 2-3 from a smaller one. Place the potatoes in a pan, cover with cold water, add a pinch of salt, and parboil for 7 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200C (gas mark xx). Drain the potatoes and then return to the pan, cover with a lid, and give the potatoes a good old shake – this helps make them really crispy.

In an ovenproof dish, mix the lemon juice, ras el hanout and olive oil and add the potatoes to the pan making sure that they are coated in the mixture. While the potatoes are cooking, make the dressing: simply place the ingredients in a small bowl and stir well. After 20-25 minutes, remove the potatoes from the oven and stir through the sundried tomatoes and olives. Return the dish to the oven and roast for a further 5 minutes. Now, stir fry or steam the green vegetables for about 5 minutes and in a dry pan, toast the pine nuts for 2-3 minutes – any longer and they will burn.

When everything is ready, sprinkle the pine nuts and chopped mint onto the potatoes and drizzle the tahini dressing over the vegetables.

Under the weather

I don’t want to annoy anyone (or tempt fate) but I hardly ever get ill. No, I’m not a virtuous vegan; I’ve always had a pretty hearty constitution. So when I get a case of the sniffles, it always comes as a bit of a surprise. I’ve been known to have what I call a ’24 hour cold’, which is when, you’ve guessed it, my symptoms magically disappear after a day or so. This weekend, however, I was poorly for a good three days – well done, common cold. And while I definitely didn’t lose my appetite (that will never happen), I was definitely less hungry than usual. Yes, it’s true that I managed a trip to Wahaca on Saturday (spicy food is good for a cold, OK?) but generally I stuck to soups and salads as my body was clearly in need of a vitamin boost.

I thought I’d share some simple recipes that you can make when you’re feeling under the weather. They’re quick and easy to make and full of goodness – they should make you feel better, even if it’s only because they’re delicious.

 

Super sunshine salad

This takes ten minutes to put together and will make you feel full of the joys of spring (hopefully) – and doesn’t it look pretty? Purple foods like radicchio and beetroot are full of antioxidants which help the body produce nitric oxide, which improves blood flow and may have other cognitive benefits too, so this this salad is good for your mind as well as your body.

The picture and caption (can you spot the typo?) below tell you all you need to know. I used tinned green lentils and vacuum-packed beetroot but you could use the fresh stuff. Any salad leaves will do, although I do think that radicchio, watercress and romaine work pretty well. Oh, and I’d normally add capers but didn’t have any in the house. Don’t forget to squeeze some of the blood orange juice over the salad to give it extra zesty freshness.

 

 

Cheering carrot and sweet potato soup

Next up is this carrot and sweet potato soup. I was feeling pretty cranky when I made it and all the chopping, stirring and subsequent slurping really did soothe my spirits. The cumin, chilli and ginger work wonders for a cold, as do the carrots and sweet potato as they’re full of vitamin A which helps form and maintain healthy skin, teeth – and mucus membranes. Tasty.

This will take about 45 minutes to make. It’s best to prep all the vegetables so that they’re ready to chuck into the pan when the time comes.

Heat a large pan and melt two teaspoons of coconut oil (or olive oil if you prefer). Add a mugful of red lentils and a teaspoon of cumin (powder or seeds), grated ginger and a finely sliced red chilli. Allow the lentils to absorb the flavours for 2-3 minutes, then add three shallots (or a large onion), finely sliced, a sweet potato and 5-6 carrots, both chopped into small cubes, to the pan. Now add 1.5 litres of stock (I like to use Bouillon) and season with salt and pepper. Squeeze in the juice of one orange for a hit of vitamin C. Place a lid on the pan and cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring regularly. If you’re blending this, allow it to cool for 10 minutes or so and then use a hand-held blender until you have a fairly smooth and creamy consistency. Serve with bread or on its own.

 

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This is bound to brighten your spirits

 

Season’s eatings

Rhubarb and blood oranges are in season so I’m having a field day. Not really, but I am taking every opportunity to eat them. If you’re feeling full of vigour (i.e. not ill) you might like to try this tasty rhubarb and apple cake. Otherwise, just stew and slice – sounds like a torture method, right? Stewed rhubarb is such a simple pleasure. Because of its sharp flavour, you’ll need to add some sweetness with sugar or a spoonful of date syrup – or just stew some apples with the rhubarb. Ginger and cinnamon (root or powder) go very nicely with this. For pudding the other night I had stewed rhubarb with sliced blood orange and a dollop of soya yogurt – tip: the Tesco unsweetened version is the nicest I’ve tried.

 

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And the prize for the most seventies-esque crockery goes to…

 

Otherwise, just spoon onto porridge – ideal for the days when you just crawl back into bed…

 

 

Try these bowls of comfort food when you’re feeling less than tip top; they might just be what the doctor ordered.

Love your lunch

A recent survey has found that one in six Brits eat the same lunch every day. That’s a lot of ham sandwiches. I get it, working at an office doesn’t exactly inspire creativity, but surely a nice lunch (away from your desk if possible) is something to look forward to during a day that is normally punctuated by emails (and sometimes, even worse, actual meetings) about ‘projects’ and ‘objectives’. Even if you’re a freelancer or work from home, taking a break for a quick bite to eat is one of the healthiest things you can do.

Now, if you’re vegan, you might think that you’re destined to eat houmous on rice cakes for the rest of your working life (sometimes when I’m lazy I do this) but with a bit of forward planning, your lunchbox might become the envy of your colleagues – or your Instagram followers.

If I haven’t been organised enough (me, disorganised?) to make something the night before, I’ll pop to the supermarket on a Monday and stock up on enough food to make lunches for the week. Granted, I’m lucky that my office is within walking distance of three convenience stores but unless you’re in the middle of an industrial estate (and if you are, I’m sorry), you should have a Tesco nearby. A bag of spinach, a punnet of cherry tomatoes, a couple of tins of chickpeas or kidney beans, some avocados and a lemon are all you need. And maybe a tub of houmous and a few pouches of microwave rice, too. I know I keep banging on about these, but they’re amazing – my new fave is the Sainsbury’s one with lime and coriander).  If you keep olive oil, Tabasco sauce,salt and pepper in the office cupboard, you can add a bit more flavour, too.

lunch

In need of some vitamins? You can steam broccoli in the microwave and add it it to cooked quinoa, chopped carrot and cucumber, spinach and houmous. Dress with a little olive oil and lemon juice and voila, a super healthy lunch.

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Leftovers always work well, too.

You can’t go wrong with beans on toast. Or avo toast, for that matter.

And if you really can’t be bothered or are in a rush, don’t dismiss the usual suspects like M&S, Pret A Manger and Sainsbury’s. Shop carefully and you can pick up a tasty little vegan lunch.

Keyboard clacking driving you mad? This dreamy combo from Sainsbury’s will soothe you. I usually find a walk helps, too…

Sainsbury's

The new vegan options at Marks and Sparks are marvellous.

Pret’s pretty perfect, too, and offers a fair few vegan sandwiches, soups and salads.

And how’s this for a balanced meal? Thank you, Waitrose.

Car picnic. 'Balanced' meal 🙄 #basicbitch

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Food for thought, whether you’re chained to the office desk or working at home in your PJs.

Getting in a flap

It’s something most of us are confronted with on a fairly regular basis: those overripe, brown bananas left in the fruit bowl. I only enjoy them when they’re just off-green but am loath to waste food so I’m always thinking of ways to use them up. There’s only so much banana bread a girl can bake – and eat – so this week, I’ve had a go at making these banana flapjacks. These are super sweet thanks to the bananas and dried fruit and if you’re cutting back on sugar, you can skip the maple syrup. Having said that, if you’re feeling decadent, you could add some dark chocolate chips to the mixture.

For this recipe I’ve used Fairtrade bananas, and I always buy these when I can, along with coffee, dark chocolate and sugar. Most of us know that lots of farmers in developing countries aren’t paid enough to support their families so buying Fairtrade helps them.  Fairtrade Fortnight ends on Sunday and you can find out more how you can take action here.

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Banana flapjacks

(Makes 12-14 flapjacks)

Ingredients

3 really ripe bananas squished

440g (2 cups) oats

100g (1/3 cup) seeds (flax, sunflower, pumpkin, sesame)

170g (1/2 cup) dried fruit chopped (figs, dates, cranberries, apricots)

170g (1/2 cup) mixed nuts broken up (pecans, walnuts, cashews)

2 tablespoons maple syrup

80ml (1/3 cup) oil (coconut, olive, vegetable)

2 tablespoons nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew)

1 teaspoon cinnamon powder

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 190C (gas mark 5).

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and add the mashed bananas.

Heat the maple syrup, oil and peanut butter in a saucepan over a low heat until combined.

Add the wet mix to the mixture and stir well until everything is combined (this shouldn’t be too wet).

Line a baking tray with grease proof paper and spread the mix on top, around an inch thick.

Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, leave to cool slightly and then divide into squares.

Chucking the chocolate

DECHOX-FB-Header-Im-on-a-DECHOX

Here’s something I never thought I’d say: I’ve given up chocolate. I’m taking part in DECHOX, British Heart Foundation’s challenge to ditch the cocoa-based products during March. Yes, vegans can be chocoholics too. I eat a couple of squares of dark chocolate every day, sometimes more, depending on how fed up and/or hormonal I am. Not a huge amount, I know, but I’d like to prove to myself that I can survive without it. Going cold turkey on coffee, bread or wine (my other weaknesses) seems impossible but this I just might be able to do.

Now, obviously I’m raising money for a good cause, but I’m hoping it’ll benefit me as well. I’ve been feeling a bit chunky recently and I know it’s because I’ve been eating a little too much of the sweet stuff and not exercising. In my head, I think I’m going to wake up on 1 April a few pounds lighter but my appetite has other ideas. Apple strudel, Hobnobs and rounds of white toast with Vitalite and maple syrup (I was hungover, OK?) have been a regular feature this week. Surely I can’t be the only Dechoxer who’s struggling.

In all fairness, there are plenty of other sweet treats you can enjoy instead of succumbing to sugary snacks. I’ve been trying to curb the cravings with fresh fruit, especially as pears, apples and rhubarb are now in season. Dried figs and dates also hit the spot too you can’t go wrong with banana – try it mashed on wholemeal toast with peanut butter and a sprinkling of cinnamon or ginger powder.

I guess I just need to practice the art of mindful eating (I’m not talking mindfulness here; I’d never have the patience for that) and do more baking. There’s something so soothing and restorative about sieving and sieving your way to a teatime treat. Much better than demolishing half a box of Cinnamon Grahams (if you’re reading this, you beautiful box: you had me at hello) on a Monday evening. Baking is good for the mind and soul, plus a slice of cake is guaranteed to put a smile on someone’s face.

This weekend I’m going to bake this seasonal spiced rhubarb cake, which I first made a couple of weeks ago and it was just lovely. Because it’s flourless (I’ve used ground almonds instead), it’s gluten free as well as vegan and is light and fluffy. It’s low in sugar and isn’t overly sweet although if you can add more maple syrup if you have a particularly sweet tooth.

So if you’re off the chocolate (or even if you’re not), make the most of pretty pink rhubarb while it lasts and give this cake a whirl. While you’re at it, chuck a few pounds towards a noble cause, would you? You can sponsor me here.

teisen-rhiwbob-ac-afal

Spiced rhubarb and apple cake

 

Ingredients

For the rhubarb

200g rhubarb

3 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon powder

1 teaspoon ginger powder

For the rest of the cake

200g ground almonds

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

3 small apples, grated

150ml almond milk

1 banana, mashed

4 tablespoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon cinnamon powder

1 teaspoon ginger powder

Method

Cut the rhubarb into small pieces and stew over a low heat with a little water and the sugar, cinnamon and ginger for 5 minutes. Sieve the rhubarb and allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 170C (gas mark 3). Sieve the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl and stir in the ground almonds.

In a separate bowl, grate the apple, then add the mashed banana, almond milk, rhubarb and the remaining spices.

In the bowl containing the dry ingredients, create a ‘well’ in the middle, the pour in the wet mixture and stir thoroughly. Grease an 8×8 baking tin with a little oil and pour in the mixture, making sure to spread it evenly.

Place on the top shelf of the oven a bake for 50-55 minutes. Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes then enjoy!

St David’s Day

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi hapus! Yes, it’s St David’s Day, a national holiday (I wish) when we celebrate the patron saint of Wales, poets – and vegetarians. Yes, our Dave was a plant eater, would you believe. He also coined the phrase ‘gwnewch y pethau bychain’ or ‘do the little things’. in English.  His last words were:

“Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed. Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about. I will walk the path that our fathers have trod before us.”

Wise words indeed and something I’ve taken quite literally this St David’s Day as I’m just too darn busy to bake Welsh cakes this week. Instead, I’ll be enjoying some sweet treats from Fabulous Welshcakes in Cardiff Bay. I’m not waxing lyrical when I say that they’re the best I’ve tried – but I’ve eaten a lot over the years and these are just delicious. Excitingly for me, they sell a vegan version and gluten free and diabetic versions are also available and you can buy these little beauties online, too.

fabulous-welshcakes

If you have a bit more time on your hands, here’s a recipe for vegan Welsh cakes which I made last year.

 

Welsh cakes

Ingredients

440g (2 cups) self-raising flour

220g (1/2 cup) vegan margarine like Vitalite

130g (3/4 cup) caster sugar plus more sprinkling later

42g (1/4 cup) sultanas

42g 1/4 cup) raisins

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp mixed spice

A splash of plant milk

A mixing bowl

A rolling pin

A large non-stick frying pan (if you have a griddle that would be perfect)

A plate

Cookie cutters (a cup or glass would do fine)

 

Method

Measure all of your ingredients out and add them all to a large mixing bowl, except for the milk and fruit.

With your fingers, rub the mixture together until it becomes like breadcrumbs. It should be crumbly and even with no lumps of butter.

Add the dried fruit and mix it in.

Add a small dash of milk and mix it in with your hands. Add a tiny bit at a time until the crumble mix turns into a dry dough. It should be dry enough that it doesn’t stick to the bowl, but wet enough that it will stay in a ball.

Flour up your work surface and place the dough on it.

Flour up your rolling pin before rolling the dough until it is approx. 1cm thick. You don’t want them too thick or they won’t be cooked through.

Using your cookie cutter cut out your shapes. You should get about 18 good sized ones out of this dough.

Pre-heat your non-stick frying pan or griddle on a medium heat, don’t turn it up too high or the outside will cook too fast. If you don’t have a non-stick pan you can use a normal one, just remember to lightly grease it up first. You don’t want to fry them, we’re just heating them through.

Once they’re cooked they should be dry not greasy and firm not soft, and of course beautifully golden brown.

It will take 2-3 minutes either side for them to be golden brown and properly cooked. Once you’re done put them on a plate and sprinkle with caster sugar either side while they’re still hot so it sticks.

 

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I

Pancake Day

Another year, another Pancake Day. Time flies, doesn’t it? One minute you’re nursing the huge hangover that was 2016 and trying to ease yourself into the year when all the bad stuff actually happens (I don’t think I need to name any names here) and the next thing you know it’s Shrove Tuesday and spring is (allegedly) just around the corner.

For now though, it’s still rainy and cold so whipping up a batch of pancakes is a cheering way to spend this Tuesday evening. Shrove Tuesday was traditionally a time to use up and any fat and eggs left in the house before fasting began for Lent. Times may have changed (and according to a recent Waitrose survey, only 12% of people questioned will give something up for Lent this year) but most of us will enjoy a pancake or three tonight and it’s really easy to make vegan versions, too.

This Pancake Day I’ll be making these cute little American-style pancakes which are really quick to put together and because they’re smaller than the traditional kind, you can just turn them over with a spatula – perfect if you’re flip phobic like me. This recipe uses almond milk, although any plant milk will do. The bananas act as a binding agent (to replace the egg) but also add a subtle flavour – don’t worry if you’re not a huge fan of bananas as they don’t taste overly fruity.

These are delicious topped with thinly sliced banana, a sprinkling of cinnamon, a handful of flaked almonds or chopped pecans and generous drizzle of maple syrup; I used Clarks Original – well, it’s made in Wales so it’d be rude not to!

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Clarks Original works a treat on these pancakes

American-style pancakes

Ingredients

2 ripe bananas

140g (1¾ cups) plain or self-raising flour

1½ tablespoons sugar

1½ tablespoons baking powder

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

⅛ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

225ml (1 cup) almond milk

Vegan margarine/spread for the pan

 

Method

In a large bowl, mash the banana. Add the oil, vanilla, and milk. Stir to combine.

Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix together. If you use a blender, you will get a smoother consistency (and fewer lumps) but don’t worry if you don’t have one.

Place a tablespoon of vegan spread in a large frying pan, and heat over medium low heat.

Once the pan is hot, spoon the batter into the pan using a ladle. Cook the pancakes low and slow, it may take about 3-4 minutes on each side. Once the pancakes are done around the edges, flip them over. Cook for about 3 or 4 minutes more, then remove from pan.

Repeat with the remaining pancakes. Top with fruit, maple syrup or whatever you like.

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I was clearly too excited to eat these, hence the less than perfect photograph…