Sunday, 27 November 2011

Zesty Mincemeat

‘It’s starting to feel a lot like Christmas’…… Well that John Lewis advert is on the TV and random Z list celebrities are turning on lights in town centres across the country. I usually aim to avoid anything vaguely festive before December 1st at the earliest. But this year I decided to make my own mincemeat and to allow the flavours to mature a bit I thought I had better get into the Christmas spirit a little prematurely. I' ve also used a recipe that doesn’t contain any suet, as is traditional, and there are no nuts involved so it is suitable for vegans, veggies and nut allergy sufferers!

200ml cider
The zest and juice of 1 orange
The zest and juice of 1 lemon
300g dark brown sugar
1kg cooking apples (cored and grated)
225g sultanas
225g raisins
125g dried cranberries
2 teaspoons mixed spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
50ml Grand Marnier (or other orange liqueur)

Put the cider, zest and juice from the orange and lemon and the sugar into a large saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved.

Then add all of the other ingredients to the saucepan excluding the Grand Marnier. Bring the mixture to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer steadily for 40-50 minutes until the liquid has reduced and the grated apple has cooked and broken down to more of a paste like consistency.

Allow to cool slightly and then add the Grand Marnier to the mixture.

This can be used straight away to make mince pies or stored in sterilised jars until a little closer to Christmas!


There are a number of methods that can be used to sterilise jars but I usually do as follows;

Pre-heat  the oven on to 140 deg C.

Wash the jars in hot soapy water and then place upside down on a baking tray. Place the tray in the oven for 10 minutes and then turn off the heat, but leave the jars in the oven for another 20-30 minutes (so this could be done as you are making the mincemeat).

Finally take the jars from the oven, handling with oven gloves as the jars will still be hot, fill with the mincemeat mixture and cover the mixture with a circle of greaseproof paper before covering the jar with a circle of clingfilm or cellophane.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Chestnut Tofu Burger

I love crisp autumn days, wrapping up warm against the chill in the air and stomping through the large piles of golden leaves that collect on the ground. And whenever I venture back home to see my parents at this time of year those piles of leaves are also full of glossy little chestnuts. As a family we have always collected up this seasonal offering of free food and turned them into comforting soup or stuffing for the turkey at Christmas. But when I recently returned from a trip to see the family with a bag full of freshly harvested chestnuts I decided to do something a little different…and so was born the soon to become seasonal classic, vegan friendly, ‘Chestnut Tofu Burger’!

120g firm tofu
1 tablespoon olive oil
120g chestnut puree
1 leek (thinly diced)
60g whole, peeled chestnuts
60g breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon chopped thyme (can use 2 teaspoons of dried thyme if fresh not available)


If a back garden full of chestnuts isn’t available to you, or you aren’t able to find fresh in the local shops you can use already prepared chestnut puree. If you do have fresh chestnuts however you might want to know how to make your own puree! There are many different methods and much debate as to whether chestnuts should be peeled before or after cooking. I always peel mine whilst raw, carefully using a knife to slice off the flatter end before removing the rest of the shell. I then place all of the chestnuts in a large saucepan and cover with water (so that the water level is a couple of centimetres above the chestnuts). Then bring to the boil and simmer for 20-25 minutes until the chestnuts are tender. Keep an eye on the pan to ensure the water does not boil off completely, and top up as necessary. Then place the chestnuts and remaining liquid into a food processor and whizz until fully blended, adding a little extra water if the mixture becomes too stiff.
Any excess puree can be frozen and used at a later date for soup, stuffing or more chestnut tofu burgers!


Mash the tofu in a bowl together with the olive oil. Add the chestnut puree and mix well.

In a separate pan gently cook the leeks in a glug of olive oil until softened. Then add the leeks to the tofu mixture.

Crumble the whole chestnuts up into small pieces and add to the tofu mix along with the breadcrumbs, thyme and plenty of salt and pepper to season.

Finally take handfuls of the mixture and shape into burgers (possibly dust your hands with flour before doing this to prevent the mixture from sticking). This mixture should make approximately four burgers depending on how large you make them.

To cook place the burgers under a hot grill, turning after about five minutes, and cook until both sides of the burger are golden in colour.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Amaretto Almond Brownies

So this whole blog began life following a post work pub conversation one Friday. One of my colleagues (a.k.a Terry) thought it was about time I started airing my weird and wonderful kitchen experiments to a wider audience…and after a couple of pints of real ale I agreed with him! But even once the beer had stopped coursing through my veins I thought why not? And so ‘Something Missing’ was born. And upon its creation the very same Terry pointed me in the direction of a tahini brownie recipe to try out. Now I love tahini, there isn’t much better than eating sesame paste straight from the tub with a spoon (or is that just me!?!). My slight addiction to all things sesame, however, meant that when I got around to making this recipe my tahini stocks were depleted. But rather than let this get in the way of brownie production I made a few replacements and so the Amaretto Almond Brownie was born….a wonderfully nutty vegan treat!

125g good quality dark chocolate
150g almond butter (like peanut butter but made from almonds, I imagine any other form of nut butter could be substituted in here)
150g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
150g caster sugar
100ml orange juice
50ml amaretto liqueur (or if you don’t want to use any alcohol just add another 50ml of orange juice instead)

Set the oven to 180 deg C / 350 deg F
Line an 8” square deep baking tray with greaseproof paper.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water, removing from the heat once melted.

Put the sugar, orange juice and amaretto in a separate saucepan and heat gently, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

Add the almond butter to the melted chocolate, stirring until combined. Then add the orange juice, amaretto and sugar mix to the chocolate.

Sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda together and gradually add to the chocolate mixture folding all of the ingredients together until fully combined.

Pour the mixture into the lined tin, spreading it as evenly as possible and bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until the top is nice and crispy, leaving the middle slightly gooey.

Allow to cool slightly before slicing into brownie sized chunks!

Adapted from Taste of Beirut and  We Heart Food

Monday, 7 November 2011

Choc Chunk Cookies

I have quite a serious addiction to ice cream. It is the one food stuff I find it impossible to resist and once a tub is open it doesn’t last long in my freezer! This summer as well as eating ice cream I discovered the joys of making my own, experimenting with various flavour combinations….but this left me with an excess of egg whites that I just didn’t know how to use up (especially as I’m not a big fan of meringue). So I divided the egg whites into food bags and bunged them in the freezer until I could discover a use for them. Not too long ago however, I stumbled across a cookie recipe that only required egg whites….so finally I am starting to make a dent on my egg white reserves!!

INGREDIENTS (makes at least 30 cookies – depending on how big you make them!)
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup soft margarine
2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
150g good quality dark chocolate
2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 deg F / 180 deg C

Line 2 baking trays with non stick parchment.

In a large mixing bowl beat the sugar and margarine with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy. Add the flour, oats and baking powder and mix until a thick dough forms.

In a separate, clean bowl whisk the eggs whites up until soft peaks are formed. Then gradually fold the egg whites into the dough mix, a spoonful at a time.

Finally break the chocolate into large chunks (I find bashing the chocolate bar with the end of a rolling pin normally works well!) and fold these into the mixture.

Use a dessert spoon to dollop small amount of the mixture onto the baking tray, leaving a couple of centimetres between each dollop to allow the cookies to spread during baking. Press down each dollop of mixture slightly using the back of a floured fork or spoon. 

Bake for 12-15 minutes until the cookies just start to turn golden in colour. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cool on the baking tray for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Adapted from Not Quite Nigella, which was originally taken from Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

No Knead Pumpkin Bread

So from chocolate cake to something a little more savoury…’Pumpkin Bread’. A recipe which seems appropriate at this time of year, as the nights are drawing in and the golden leaves start to fall from the trees. But what is missing this time? Well kneading! The main technique usually required to produce a loaf isn’t ‘needed’!!! You just have to leave the dough over night to do its magic. And there are no eggs or dairy products in this loaf either making it suitable for vegans and veggies.


Preheat the oven to 350 deg F/ 180 deg C.
Take a small pumpkin and clean the skin to remove any excess dirt or soil.
Slice the pumpkin in half and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds.
Then slice the pumpkin into large wedges and arrange in a roasting tray.
Add a cup of water to the tray and cover with tin foil.
Bake in the oven until the pumpkin is tender and easily peels away from the skin (it will probably take about 90 minutes, depending on the size of the wedges).
Once cooked remove from the oven and allow the pumpkin to cool until you are able to handle it. Remove the skin from the wedges, put the flesh in a sieve or colander placed over a bowl and allow any excess moisture to drain off of the pumpkin.
Finally place the flesh in a food processor and blend to a smooth puree, it is now ready to use in the recipe below (any excess puree makes a great base for pumpkin soup, or can be frozen and used at a later date).

INGREDIENTS (makes 2 loaves)

1 cup pumpkin puree
2 cups warm water
1 packet fast action dried yeast (7g)
2 tsp salt
6 cups plain flour (plus extra for dusting)

Put all of the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and stir well using a wooden spoon or spatula to form a wet, sticky dough.
Once all of the ingredients are fully combined cover the bowl with a lightly oiled piece of cling film and leave for 12 to 16 hours.

Flour a work surface well and using a spatula scrape half of the dough out of the bowl and onto the work surface. The dough will still be very sticky, but flour your hands well and shape the dough into a rough square. Fold each corner into the centre and carefully flip the dough over so that the folds are facing down and all sides of the loaf are coated in flour. Flour your hands again if needed and shape into a round loaf.

Dust a baking sheet with plenty of flour to prevent sticking and transfer the loaf to the tray (folds facing down) sprinkling the top of the loaf with flour.

Repeat this process with the remaining dough to make a second loaf.

Leave the dough in a warm room for 1 ½ hours to rise.

Place a roasting tin, half filled with water, in the bottom of the oven and preheat the oven to 425 deg F / 220 deg C. Make an incision across the top of each loaf using a sharp knife and bake in the oven for 50 – 55 minutes. If the crust of the bread colours quickly reduce the temperature of the oven to 350 deg F/ 180 deg C for the final 10 minutes of cooking.
Allow to cool before slicing.