Pineapple Gingerbread Upside-down Cake

Here’s one I made earlier! That is, I actually made this cake some time last year but since I’ve been threatening to write a food blog (or zine) for years and have only recently got around to actually starting it, I have a bit of a substantial backlog of photos to base entries around. And this is the first of  those retrospectives.

Now, unfortunately I don’t actually remember where I found this recipe as it’s scrawled down on a scrap of paper (amongst many others) on the cookbook shelf in my kitchen. This means it’s not from any of the 3 dozen or so cookbooks I own. Oh well, I’ll post the recipe as I made it and if anyone happens to take issue or anything, then I’m happy to credit (or remove if asked).pineapple gingerbread upside down cake

I’m a MASSIVE fan of ginger. Most people that know me are no doubt well aware of this fact. It’s pretty much my favourite flavour, so when I decided I wanted to make a pineapple upside-down cake for when my parents came to visit on my birthday last year, naturally I had to see if it was viable to make a gingerbread cake the basis of this delight. And as you can see, it most definitely IS viable! The pineapple itself is coated in a rich, sticky caramel that’s not too firm that it won’t run down the sides of the cake when you turn it out onto a serving plate, but that just adds to the mouthwateringness (yes, that’s a real word. Well, it is now anyway) of this incredibly moorish dessert.

I used fresh pineapple to make this too. I think the flavour and texture of it is far, far superior to tinned pineapple slices, and if you’ve never bothered with them they are a lot easier to prepare than you probably think. As long as you have a good sharp knife, but if you don’t then you shouldn’t be in a kitchen really! I won’t go into detail here on how to slice a pineapple up though, but yeah, do that. If you really can’t be bothered and insist on using tinned pineapple slices, make sure you use the ones in fruit juice rather than syrup, and drain them as much as you can before putting them into the bottom of your pan/dish or your cake will be mushy and rubbish. And nobody wants that, especially not me. Also, I used a circular ceramic oven dish to make this in. I’m sure you could use a metal cake tin equally as well but I’d avoid using a springform one as the caramel and fruit juices are liable to leak out of it all over your oven. Right, here’s the recipe:

Cake

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 & 1/2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup rapeseed oil
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup molasses (I used blackstrap which makes the cake intensely rich but milder is fine too)
  • 1 cup soya milk
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Topping

  • 2 tablespoons soya margarine
  • 3-4 slices of pineapple
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 180C/350 F.

Melt the margarine in a stainless steel saucepan and add the brown sugar, dissolving it to make a caramel. Pour mixture into a 10 inch diameter non-stick or oiled cake dish with 2 inch high sides. Arrange the pineapple slices in a single layer on top of the caramel mixture leaving smallish gaps between them. No need to pack them in super tightly as the cake and caramel will fill in the gaps.
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices in a large bowl. In another bowl whisk the rapeseed oil, maple syrup, molasses, soya milk, vinegar and vanilla.
Stir the wet mixture into the dry until just barely mixed. Pour the cake mixture into your baking pan/dish until it’s around half full. It needs room to rise; it’s a cake after all!
Put it in the oven and bake for around 35-40 minutes. Test to see if it’s done- it is ready when a toothpick or small knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Put it on a cake rack still in the dish and allow it to cool for 10 minutes or so, then turn it out onto a serving plate.

This cake is delicious served still warm with vanilla Swedish Glace non-dairy ice cream, but it’s still good once it’s cooled to room temperature too. If you have any left for that long, that is.

Plum Compote!

Aldi special deals usually present some great opportunities (or at least, provide good value vegan essentials like onions and so on), and last week was no exception- a punnet of plums for 59p? Yeah, go on then.

I ate a couple of them just as they were, but remembered earlier that most of them were still in my fridge. Although still edible, they were looking a little worse for wear, so I decided to extend their usable life by stewing them down into a tasty compote! I picked up a punnet of end of season Scottish strawberries at a little local greengrocers this morning and this is what happened this evening:

Plum and Strawberry Compote.

  • 400g Plums, halved and stones left in
  • 400g ripe Strawberries, topped and left whole
  • 2 tblspns Caster Sugar
  • 1 tblspn water
  • 1 Star Anise, whole
  •  a dash of Vanilla Extract

 

 

 

Put all of the ingredients together in a stainless steel pan, cover and over medium heat bring up to a simmer, about 15 minutes or so.

Remove the lid and stir it to make sure everything is well incorporated and not sticking to the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat to keep the fruit just simmering and let it bubble away for at least 30-40 minutes, checking it from time to time to ensure it’s not sticking or burning; you want it to cook down to a consistency thinner than jam but not too liquidy.

Take it off the heat and let it cool down, then remove the plum stones and star anise and spoon it into sterilised airtight jars.

Allow it to cool down fully before putting the lids on the jars and it will keep in your fridge for a good 2-3 weeks. If you manage to not eat it all before that long!

It goes amazingly well with vanilla flavour Swedish Glace ice cream, or vanilla alpro soya desserts. That’s what I’m having now anyway!

Enjoy.

Courgette Lattice Flan

a pretty recurring event for me is impulse buying reduced price fruit and veg, then scouring cookbooks to try to track down something new to make with my haul, and that’s exactly what just happened. 500g of courgettes for 30p; awesome. Courgettes are great, and very versatile too actually. On this occasion, I decided to stick with the book I got the mushroom lentil soup recipe from that I posted the other day, “A Vegan Taste of France” (by Linda Majzlik), in which I spotted a recipe for a Courgette Flan that sounded simple, wholesome and tasty. It turned out to be really easy to put together too, a basic wholemeal flour pastry case filled with lots of courgette, tomato and fresh basil and a little bit of grated Cheezly Mozzarella (hey, it’s a French recipe- it’s a legal requirement for it to contain cheese or cream or butter or whatever!).courgette lattice flan

As usual, no recipe posted since it’s from a cookbook that’s still widely available and only costs a fiver or so, but if anyone wants the recipe for this flan then just drop me a line and I’ll email it to you. The flan is REALLY tasty; the recipe calls for celery seeds but since I made this to take for lunch when Ali and I go walking in the Peak District tomorrow and she doesn’t like celery, I omitted them and used a small amount of crushed fennel seeds instead.

The courgette retains most of its structure too, which I particularly like as usually it tends to be pretty mushy when cooked in a dish, so this makes a welcome change. Possibly the only complaint would be that the lattice itself is a little fragile, but that’s probably my own fault and easily rectified by making the pastry dough for the strips slightly wetter and not rolling it out quite so thinly, but that’s just a minor point and certainly doesn’t detract from the flavour of this (probably entirely unauthentic!) French flan.

Having had a small slice of this already (obviously just purely to create a nice photo!), I’d say that it’s the kind of thing that would be best eaten with cold dishes; a nice potato salad, beetroot salad, good tasty lettuce leaves or suchlike. Or equally, fine on its own as a smallish healthy lunch or snack. I’ll be enjoying a slice of it sat up on Kinder Scout tomorrow i think!

courgette lattice flan inside

(I used my actual camera to take photos of this rather than my phone. Makes a big difference, no?)

Tempeh Burgers!

Ever had to bribe one of your mates to help you out with something? I haven’t, because I have some kind and generous mates. I do, however, offer what I can in the way of a thank you to them when they give up their time and/or energy to assist, and this was the case last night. A couple of large and unwanted items of furniture needed to be removed from my flat so, despite being essentially barefoot in pretty grim Manchester rainy evening weather my friend Sam arrived at mine, to be greeted with a Tempeh Burger, roast broccoli with garlic tahini sauce and a baked potato. Sadly, I failed to take any useable photos of the complete dish so here’s a picture of the first time I made Tempeh Burgers instead:

Tempeh Burgers

Last night was only the second time I’d made these but they are seriously so easy to do; the most difficult task is grating a block of Tempeh! The recipe I use for these is this lovely one from the brilliant Vegan Dad blog, and I’d urge you to try it whether you like Tempeh or not. They’re fat free too, which is a bonus as they’re most definitely not flavour free!

When actually forming the mixed ingredients into burger shapes, a nice little trick is to use a rosti/cooking ring in order to get nice perfectly shaped burgers.tempeh burger raw close up Simply place the ring on a piece of greaseproof paper, put the burger mix (that you’ve already seperated into six) into the ring and press it down with the back of a teaspoon. As long as you’ve got the texture of the mix just right, the ring should slide off upwards without any trouble, leaving you with something like these bad boys you see here (these are from last night’s effort this time!). The rings are a very useful thing to have in your kitchen utensil armoury; you can use them to plate up grain dishes (such as rice, cous cous, quinoa), shape burgers (obviously) or even make rosti in them if you must! They’re only a couple of quid too, so you’ve no excuse really.

Finally, these burgers freeze brilliantly too so it’s not a problem if you’re not going to use all six in one go; just stack them with greaseproof paper in between each burger and shove them in a freezer bag in your freezer. Great!

Soup

My good friend Rob Scott once argued with me about soup. “It’s not a meal”, he insisted. I could kind of see his point, but at the same time I disagreed. Well, I think that he might be right depending on specifically what type of soup he had in mind; I like soup, I make quite a lot of soup at certain times of the year and I can’t remember ever making a soup that I wouldn’t consider to be a meal (although granted, some of them need to be accompanied by good quality crusty bread).

Anyway, we’re entering that time of year when soups are a regular production in my kitchen. It’s the seasonal ingredients available now that mean it makes sense, as well as the weather- we have an abundance of various squashes, wild mushrooms are at their peak, cauliflower and broccoli are amazing at the moment and a wide range of UK grown root vegetables are hitting the shelves from now too. And of course, leeks. Leeks are almost essential in soup for me. I say almost, because this particular one that I made this weekend doesn’t actually use leeks, but I reckon if you had one you could substitute it for the onion if you really wanted to, since the extra sweetness of the leek over regular onion would work nicely with the peppery flavour of the lentils in it.

Ali and I had lunch at The Coven in Wigan a couple of days ago and Ali had this delicious Mushroom Garlic soup, which sort of inspired me to make myself some sort of mushroom soup this weekend. I didn’t feel like replicating a creamy style one so I turned to a cookbook I’ve rarely used; Linda Majzlik’s “A Vegan Taste of France”. It’s a pretty good book actually, although when my friend Rèmi thumbed through it, all I could hear him say was “this isn’t a French recipe”, “we would never eat something like this”, “this is ridiculous” and various other denials. Whatever, some of the recipes sound good and this particular one, Puy Lentil and Mushroom Soup, grabbed my attention this time.

Puy Lentil and Mushroom Soup

Now, one thing I’ll say about this soup is that, as amazingly tasty as it is, it most definitely is NOT photogenic! Even allowing for the poor colouration thanks to using my phone to take a pic of it, it’s a sort of brownish grey in colour and probably doesn’t look that enticing, but I would encourage you to make this if you have a pile of mushrooms wanting to be eaten up. Puy Lentils are really easy to cook from dried too, although this recipe calls for them to be soaked in stock for an hour prior to the cooking.

Home made spelt flour rolls would be a perfect pairing with this soup, but this time I decided to just go with a nice big bowl of the soup on its own. Spelt rolls are easy to make. Really easy. Probably easier than regular flour breads as the dough doesn’t require the same length of time to prove/rise, and they also need less time in the oven to bake. Just so you know.

Now for a slight disclaimer here: I’m not actually going to post the entire recipe up for this, for the simple reason that it’s from a cookbook. You should buy this book. I linked to it above; it’s not that expensive really. If you really want just this recipe, ask and I’ll email it to you but I feel it would be poor form to post other peoples’ published recipes on this blog.

Stuffed Mushrooms.

Chickpea and spinach stuffed mushroomsFirst actual entry!

Sometimes, the best meals come about when you decide to try getting creative with things you need to use up. Of course, sometimes that can totally backfire and you end up with a pan full of Vegetable Munge, but thankfully this wasn’t one of those times. Actually I pretty much never have ‘those times’ these days, because I’m a talented man!

Anyway, back on track; I bought some nice looking flat mushrooms because they were reduced, without really having a plan for them but I knew I had about half a bag of fresh spinach in the fridge and what self-respecting vegan never has at least one type of canned bean or legume in their kitchen at all times? So, stuffed mushrooms it was. This was one of those things that didn’t really take much planning beyond deciding what the main ingredients were going to be- I followed the method I always use when making stuffed mushrooms of any denomination and just used a mixture of intuition and substitution to compose the “stuffing”. Dead easy really, and great to have for a tasty light meal any time. There’s enough for either 2 or 4 people depending on how hungry/greedy you are, or what you decide to serve them up with. Any green vegetable would be good, as would roast squash or sweet potato. Your call really!

Ingredients.

  • 4 large flat mushrooms
  • 200g fresh spinach
  • 200g cooked chickpeas (1/2 a can, drained)
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 large tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • sea salt and coarse ground black pepper to season
  • nutritional yeast flakes

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade.
First, wilt the spinach- put in a large pan with about a cm of water in the bottom, cover and over medium heat just allow the leaves to begin to wilt. Take them out of the water and leave in a colander to drain.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of your olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Remove the centre stalks from the mushrooms and finely chop them, being careful to leave as much of the rest of it (gills and all) as intact as you can. Add these to the oil along with your chopped spring onions, chilli and garlic and cook for about 3 or 4 minutes being careful to not let them burn!
Add the chopped tomato, drained chickpeas, cumin and dried sage and let the mixture cook for a couple of minutes.
Squeeze as much of the liquid out of your wilted spinach as you can (use your hands and squeeeeeze!), then finely chop it and add to the pan along with the parsley, tomato puree and a dash of salt and pepper. Stir the mixture thoroughly to get all the flavours well mixed, then remove from the heat. With the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, thoroughly coat the mushrooms (again, just use your hands and rub them all over but be gentle, you don’t want to break them). Place them in an ovenproof dish and using a dessert spoon, fill them as much as you can with the stuffing mixture. Pack it down pretty firmly but don’t be afraid to pile it up, then sprinkle a small amount of nutritional yeast flakes on top when they’re full. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes; you want them to remain intact but be nice and soft and juicy.

I steamed some purple sprouting broccoli and smothered it in Extra Garlic style Sriracha sauce for this particular tasty plate of food. I do that a lot. You’ll see.

Coming soon

This is a work in progress.

Another vegan food blog. Recipes, photos, reviews, recommendations and so on.

Watch this space.

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