Giant couscous stuffed peppers with basil

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I had been looking around for giant couscous recipes for ages, but hadn’t found many that appealed.  Most of the recipes were salads, and I’m not a huge fan of salad to be honest (WHAT? A vegan who doesn’t like salad?  Burn the witch!!).

First endeavour into giant couscous and not only was it a success, it’s now going to be on high rotation on the Restaurant of Jen menu.

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Stuffed peppers are always a good shout if you want something that looks great and smells awesome when it’s cooking in the oven, and the added basil couscous is a winner.  You can sub normal couscous if you like, but I reckon this would be much tastier.

Ingredients

2 TBsp olive oil

1/2 cup giant wholewheat couscous (you can sub with normal couscous or non-wholewheat)

1 cloves of garlic, crushed

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

1/3 cup pine nuts

1/4 cup vegan Parmesan (I used Jezzano, bought from VX in Kings Cross)

2 sweet peppers (orange and yellow work well)

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Preheat oven to 175C/350F.

Heat 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the couscous and stir until fragrant (about 2 minutes – keep stirring though!).

Add one cup of water and bring to the boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes, or until the couscous is tender.  Drain and add salt to taste.

While your couscous is cooking, be a multitasking hero and prepare the basil dressing.

Add the crushed garlic, basil, remaining oil and pine nuts to your blender.

Pulse/blend until all ingredients are combined and a relatively smooth dressing is achieved.  Scrape down the sides of the blender regularly to ensure it is all mixed well.

Don’t worry if your pine nuts aren’t playing along – having a few chunky nutty bits will still taste awesome!  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer the basil mix to a small bowl and add the parmesan.  Stir to combine.

When your couscous is done, add the pesto dressing and stir to combine.

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Mmmm, pesto couscous…

Cut your peppers in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds and white parts.  You can leave the stalk on if you want (just don’t eat it…).

Fill the peppers with the basil couscous mix and arrange on an oiled casserole dish.  Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until the peppers are cooked but still firm enough to stand.

Serve with salad (or not salad!), rice or anything else that takes your fancy.

 

Makes 4 halves stuffed peppers (enough for two people), plus some leftover couscous

Time to make – 20 minutes for couscous and basil (make at the same time), 5 minutes to assemble and 45 minutes to bake = 1 hour 10 minutes

On a scale of easy (1) to pull your hair out difficult (5) = 3. There are three parts to this recipe, plus a lot of dishes at the end of it!

#nowplaying Radiohead – Burn The Witch

Tater tots

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Oh potato, what would I ever do without you?  So versatile, so tasty, so cheap.

I’m a big fan of the humble spud, especially when in chip form.  I’ve never bought tater tots from the supermarket before, but thought recently why not try and make them at home anyway.  They always look tasty, and homemade has to be better than store-bought, right?  Right.

These were cooked on Sunday and frozen to use later in the week.  They’re quite filling as a side dish, so don’t go crazy with the servings!

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Ingredients

1 kg starchy potatoes (russet, Maris Piper etc.)

1 TBsp all purpose flour

1/2 tsp garlic granules/powder

1/4 tsp onion powder

1/4 teaspoon dill

sea salt & cracked pepper to taste

1 cup vegetable oil

Method

Peel the potatoes, add to a saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 7 minutes, or until the spuds are par boiled.

Remove potatoes from heat, drain and set aside to cool.

When cool, grate the spuds with a box grater (or if you’re fancy and have one, a food processor with a grater blade!).  When grated, remove as much moisture from the potatoes as you can, with either a clean tea towel or kitchen paper roll.

Transfer grated spuds to a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients, apart from the oil.  Stir until combined.  The mix should be fairly dry at this stage.

Roll into tater tots sized balls and place on a plate/chopping board, ready to fry.  Your hands will get sticky give them a wash every five or so tots.

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Heat the oil in a saucepan.  Test the oil readiness by dropping a small grated piece of potato into the oil.  If it floats almost immediately then you’re good to go.

Carefully place six or seven tots into the oil, ensuring there is plenty of space between them.

Cook for four or five minutes, then turn over.  They should begin to brown nicely.

Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon/tongs (carefully if using tongs!) and place on kitchen roll to drain off the excess oil.

Repeat until all of the tots have been cooked.

Serve immediately, or keep warm in a low temperature oven until ready to serve.

To freeze, ensure your tots are fully cooled and store in a freezable container.  When you want to have them again, remove from freezer and place on a baking tray.  Bake at 200C for 20 minutes and serve with burgers, beans or whatever the hell you want!

 

Makes enough tots for a side for 4 people (or be a piggy and eat them all in one sitting!)

Time to make: 10 mins boiling spuds / 15 minutes grate and roll / 15 minutes frying = 40 minutes (this doesn’t include the half hour or so it takes the spuds to cool)

On a scale of easy (1) to pull your hair out difficult (5) = 2.5, recipe has quite a few steps, plus waiting for the spuds to cool, and getting your hands dirty.

#nowplaying The Last Shadow Puppets – Miracle Aligner

Get saucy – Big Mac “special sauce” (vegan)

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In the first instalment of an ongoing saucy series, I’m going to share with you how to make a Big Mac “special sauce”.  There’s nothing special about the ingredients, but there IS something special about the taste.  It tastes like the real thing.

Can’t say I was ever a huge fan of Big Macs (I was a double cheeseburger girl myself… disgraceful) but when you become vegan you just want to veganise ALL the things.

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Veganised Big Mac… tongue back in mouth please.

There are a lot of special sauce recipes floating around on the internet but I’ve found this combination of ingredients to be the tastiest/most realistic.  To get the best out of your sauce, build a burger with soft seeded burger buns, Fry’s Family Foods Traditional burger patty (or two per burger because, y’know, #fattyvegan), Violife original cheese slices, chopped up lettuce and pickles/gherkins.

You will never want for a dirty McDonald’s Big Mac again.  Promise.

 

Ingredients

1/4 cup vegan mayo (I use granoVita Mayola – find them in Holland & Barratt, Ocado or Amazon)

1 Tbsp Italian dressing (you can sub French dressing if you have it to hand)

2 Tbsp chopped gherkins/dill pickle

1 Tbsp finely chopped white onion

1/2 tsp sugar

salt & pepper to taste

Method

Prepare all your ingredients and mix together in a small serving dish.  DONE!

 

Makes enough sauce for two burgers

Time to make: 5 minutes to chop ingredients and mix = 5 minutes

On a scale of easy (1) to pull your hair out difficult (5) = 1, chop, mix, done!

#nowplaying Yak – Alas Salvation

Smoothie bowls

 

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Spirulina BABY

Summer is pretty much here (in the Northern Hemisphere in any case) so it’s time to use spotty bananas for smoothie bowls rather than banana bread.

You know how easy it is to make smoothie bowls?  SUPER easy.

The best thing about smoothie bowls is you can put in it whatever you want.  See a recipe you want to try but it has YUCKY spinach in it?  Don’t put it in.  See a recipe you want to try but you want to put raspberries in instead of blueberries? DO IT.

The base of any good smoothie bowl is frozen bananas.  When your ‘nanas get those brown spots on their skin – peel them, chop into bite sized pieces and freeze in a container.

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Blueberry BEHAVE

 

Don’t feel limited to what you can and can’t put in a smoothie bowl, because the possibilities really are endless.

Pack in as many fruit and veggies as you can, and add whatever toppings you like.

Ingredients

3 x frozen bananas, thawed for 20 minutes if you have time

1 x cup frozen blueberries (or fresh – I find frozen gives more of a purple colour to the smoothie)

1 x teaspoon ground flaxseed (a great source of Omega 3 for vegans)

1/2 cup leafy green veggies (try spinach, kale, lettuce or even avocado – mix it up)

1/2 cup hemp/soy/almond/hazelnut milk

Method

Add all of the ingredients to a blender/food processor and process until smooth.

Scrape down the sides as and when needed.

Add more milk if needed – don’t add too much as you don’t want it to go sloppy.  Be patient with the blending process as it might take a few pulses/stop starts to get it mixed thoroughly, and for the bananas to go creamy.

Transfer to a small bowl and add your favourite toppings.

Toppings

I’ve used a variety of the below toppings before, but use whatever you like:

  • Fruit – raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, mango, kiwifruit, oranges (all can be fresh or frozen), dried goji berries, cranberries or coconut (dessicated or fresh)
  • Seeds – sunflower, chia, hemp, pumpkin, sesame, poppy, buckwheat (seeds are also a great source of Omega 3, plus fiber and protein)
  • Other fun stuff – granola, cacao nibs, spirulina or matcha (SO green) or chocolate/chocolate sauce

 

Makes 1 smoothie bowl

Time to make: 5 minutes in the blender + 5 minutes assembly = 10 minutes

On a scale of easy (1) to pull your hair out difficult (5) = 1, just blend and go!

#nowplaying The Family Rain – Every So Often EP

Vegan apple tart

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Pastry on EVERYTHING.

When you discover vegan pastry (hi Jus Rol puff pastry!) you have to make everything you’ve ever made with pastry one more time, y’know, just to test whether or not it’s any good.

So far, so yum.

Apples and pastry go together brilliantly, and this recipe is so easy you have no excuse not to try it.  If you know of any vegan whipped cream recipes to go with it, holla at me!

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Ingredients

1/2 sheet of Jus Rol puff pastry

1 x apple (red, green, whatever you prefer)

1/4 cup brown sugar (I use Biona organic unrefined coconut sugar)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/3 cup apricot jam

Method

Preheat your oven to 190C/375F

Take your pastry out of the fridge, unfold to flat on a baking sheet and let it warm to room temperature (if you are defrosting from frozen allow to defrost before trying to unfold!).

While your pastry is warming, core and thinly slice your apple.  When sliced, add to a small bowl with the sugar and cinnamon.  Stir to coat.

When you pastry has warmed to room temperature, prick every inch or so with a fork.

Transfer the apple slices to the pastry, leaving an inch or so between the apple and the side of the pastry (see below).

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Spray the exposed pastry with a mist of water, or use a pastry brush to brush a small amount of water over the pastry.  You don’t need egg wash to make pastry brown sexily!

Transfer pastry and apples with the baking sheet to a baking tray and place in the oven for 12 – 15 minutes, or until starting to brown.

Place the jam in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 20 seconds, or until soft.

Brush the jam evenly over the apples, and return to the oven for 3 – 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before scoffing!

 

Makes dessert/a treat for 4 people

Time to make: 15 mins total prep / 20 minutes total in oven = 35 minutes

On a scale of easy (1) to pull your hair out difficult (5) = 2, recipe is done in two steps, but generally idiot-proof.

#nowplaying Eagulls – Ullages

 

Vegan “bounty” bars

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Thought it might be an idea to start off the blog with one of my favourite treats – vegan Bounty bars.

I was a huge fan of Bounty bars before going vegan, and this just goes to show that you don’t actually give anything up if you make the switch to a plant based lifestyle.  There’s still tasty, tasty chocolate, and lots of it!

So – if you like coconut, chocolate and easy-as-hell recipes, then these are for you.

 

Ingredients

400ml can of coconut milk (cream only)

1 1/2 cups dessicated coconut

2Tb agave nectar

1/4tsp salt

300g dark chocolate (Lindt 70% is perfect for this)

 

Method

Keep coconut milk in the fridge until ready to use, to separate cream from the rest of the liquid.

Scoop out the cream from the top of the can and discard the coconut water (or if you’re a stickler for no waste, add to your next smoothie!).

Combine cream, coconut, agave nectar and salt in a bowl and mix together.  Feel free to add to a food processor if you want a smoother filling.

Shape into rectangles (or balls if preferred) and place on a baking sheet on a flat tray.  Freeze for an hour.

Melt your chocolate by placing in a heatproof bowl/container and rest on a strainer in a saucepan half filled with boiling water (see below).  Stir occasionally.

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When the chocolate has melted, remove the bars from the freezer and one by one dip into the chocolate.  Use two forks to ensure fully chocolate coated, and allow excess to drip back into the chocolate bowl.

Place back on the baking sheet and allow chocolate to harden, before scoffing!  They won’t last long…

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Makes 10 – 12 bars or around 15 small balls

Time to make: 15 mins prep / 1 hour to freeze / 15 mins to coat = 1.5 hours total

On a scale of easy (1) to pull your hair out difficult (5) = 2 (chocolate coating can be a bit of a faff)

#nowplaying Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression