Tuesday, 19 July 2011

A Gravy Fit For A King (or at least a Weasley King)!

It’s been a longer gap than I would have liked this time - my youngest has been poorly and my life got a little full with doctors visits, emergency doctors visits and not full enough with sleep! Thankfully he’s doing a lot better now - turns out he’s allergic to paracetamol which explains why the minor ear infection was causing such massive problems.

However, before all of this ill toddler panic, I was a very happy bunny as the fabulous weather decided to take a turn to the cool for a few days. I relished in the days of rain, storms and nippy breezes and dreamt of the autumn days to come. I’ve never been one of those typically English people who complains about the cold then complains that the summer is too hot - weather wise I do like to watch the seasons go by and I love the unpredictable nature of a good British summer but I just do not enjoy those super summer days that everyone else seems to relish in.

My other reason for loving autumn and winter is that I just LOVE the food that comes with the season, summer is all light food and snacking but I ADORE having a big plate filled with a hearty casserole or a perfect pie and piled high with a mountain of fluffy mash drizzled with too much gravy!

For the few days the weather was cooler I was in my element making lentil soup with fresh baked bread for lunch, a chickpea and tofu pie (my version of fish pie) and ending the cool spell with a personal favourite of sausage, mash and gravy.

I’ve decided to share with you my recipe for a fantastic mushroom gravy. It truly is scrumptious, easy to make and along with going well with a roast or the sausage and mash mentioned above it makes a great sauce and I often serve it with things like tofu and veg over a bed of quinoa.

Originally I wasn’t going to put this recipe up as I though ‘who wants a gravy recipe?’ but once I started working at my local health shop I was shocked at the number of vegetarians and vegans who didn’t know how to make a gravy and were reliant on nasty packet mixes filled with all sorts of chemicals or would just make up a vegetable stock cube to put with their dinner! After scribbling down the recipe a few time for customers and getting positive feed back I though it would be a good one to share with you.

This gravy is bold but not over-powering and I’ve served it to vegans and meat eaters alike and the recipe is always requested.

**One of the ingredients I use is ‘Shiitake mushroom powder’ now this isn’t actually anything I’ve ever seen for sale, what I do is to buy a bag of dried shiitake mushrooms, blend until fine then stick them back in the packet to store. You can use another dried mushroom if you’d like but PLEASE give it a go - it adds such a deep flavour you’ll end up adding a teaspoon here and there to all your favourite sauces then end up wondering how you ever got along without it! It works out well cost wise as also as although they are expensive to purchase you only use 1 - 2 tsp at a time so it will last **


Above: Taifun Herb Grill sausages served with mash potato, caramelised onions, peas, sweetcorn and the mushroom gravy. I’d added some butter beans to the gravy as we were all really hungry that night and they’re my daughters favourite but left to my own devices I would have added cannellini beans as I think they go really well with this meal.

Equipment needed:

Milk pan, wooden spoon, whisk (or just the wooden spoon for those with strong arms!), teaspoon, table spoon, measuring jug


1 tbsp non-dairy margarine
1 tbsp gram flour
2 ½ tsp shiitake mushroom powder **see note above**
½ tsp low salt stock powder
3 tbsp low salt soy sauce
½ tbsp balsamic vinegar (or cider vinegar)
300-400ml water
3 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes


1. Melt margarine in pan on a low heat

2. Mix in the gram flour until it makes a smooth paste then mix in the mushroom powder and stock powder.

3. Increase the heat to medium/high and add the soy sauce and balsamic vinegar, stirring all the while.

4. Switch to using your whisk (this will prevent you ending up with a lumpy gravy) and start to gradually whisk in half of the water.

5. Let the gravy simmer for 3 - 5 mins on a low heat until it’s thickened then whisk in more of the water until the gravy is at the desired thickness.

6. When ready to serve switch off the heat and whisk in the nutritional yeast flakes.

If you’re really wanting the gravy to pack a mushroom punch try adding a drizzle of truffle oil just before serving.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Worzel's favourite dinner....probably.

What a scorcher hey??!!! I had planed to go to the Library and then for a picnic in the park with the kids today but we ended up hiding out in the cool of the library for several hours, snacking on sandwiches and tiffin thankful that the children’s section kept us hidden from the watchful eyes of the librarians!

While there we got a chance to have a really good look around and I managed to come a way with a couple of great traditional English cookbooks which are already calling at me to spend my days lost in them, notepad at the ready, to veganise some of my old favourites. Well….actually, that’s a bit of a lie as, bar cakes and puddings, my mum was really more of a ‘roast on Sunday, pasta bake on Monday, Sheppard’s pie on Tuesday, Mincemeat w/ pasta on Wednesday’ and ‘dear god kill me now -I can’t believe I can still remember the meal plan this is probably the reason why I rebel against any form of routine thrown my way’ on Wednesday (you get the picture!!).

When I say ‘my old favourites’ I should explain what I mean - I have always been a bookworm and when friends were off running around being naughty I was easily found in my room with several stacks of books (if not I was either watching wrestling or on my weekly pub/cinema visit) and it still makes me giggle that they used to push me to go out on dates when I was in college - probably not what most parents envision having to do!! So when I say that I’m going to ‘veganise some of my favourites’ what I’m talking about is the food that inspired me, the food that made me start taking a real interest in cooking, that conjures up such vivid memories of happy childhood for me and that is the food that I read about in the worlds of Enid Blyton and Harry Potter. These are the meals I would seek out when at restaurants or friends houses and why my first job, working at a hotel, was so exciting for me. I don’t think the chefs had ever seen anyone so excited to get a portion of chicken and ham pie (there was even treacle tart for pudding!!). These are the recipes I am seeking out to bring to you in vegan form as for me they are truly magical and I hope they turn out to be just that for you too.

I do have several ‘traditional’ recipes floating around already but sadly my old computer gave up on me and took the pictures with it :-( (I know, I know - I will always back up in future!!). So for now I’m giving what is still a very British recipe - a curry. Yes, I know, some people try and deny it but curries are as British as The Queen and this lovely creamy coconut curry doesn’t even resemble anything you might get in India! It’s a personal favourite of mine as it’s very easy to make and the use of dried beans means is a great store cupboard recipe. I also love that it has a yummy coconut cream flavour without having to go to the expense of coconut milk which seems to get more expensive by the day!

This recipe is a lovely way to work adzuki beans into your diet which are packed with magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, manganese and B vitamins. They’re known for being a great weight loss food as they’re low in fat and high in nutrients and can also help to lower blood pressure. They’re packed with soluble fibre which binds itself to toxins and cholesterol and can help to eliminate it from the body. For this reason they are know to be a very healing and cleansing bean but I just eat them for the nutrients and because they taste nice!

To stick with the magical theme the lovely Worzel Gummidge joined us for dinner - thankfully he kept his head on! We ended the meal with a cup o' tea and a slice o' cake.



2 medium sized bowls, 1 large saucepan with lid, blender/stick blender/ food processor, chopping board, knife & vegetable peeler


6oz adzuki beans, soaked over night

3oz coconut chips (or any unsweetened dried coconut0
2oz flaked or ground almonds (you can use whole almonds if you have a good food processor)
500ml warm water
1 tbsp of oil (preferably virgin coconut oil)
½ tbsp cider vinegar
2 tsp rapadura or unrefined sugar
1 ½ tsp curry powder
1 ½ tsp garlic granules (or 3-4 cloves minced)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp onion granules (or 1 diced onion)
½ tsp seasoned salt or to taste
½ tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp cinnamon

2 carrots, diced
1 sweet potato, diced


1/ Place the adzuki beans in a pan with fill with plenty of water (until there is roughly 3cm of water above the beans) bring to the boil then cover and simmer gently for 45mins or until the beans are tender. REMEMBER TO CHECK!!! The last thing you want to do is to just assume your beans are done and have to put up with a curry filled with crunchy beans!

2/ Meanwhile, place the rest of the ingredients bar the carrot and sweet potato (or the onion and garlic if using fresh) in a bowl and cover with the warm water. Leave to soak for 30-45 minutes.

3/ If using fresh onion and garlic: Fry the onions in a pan over a medium heat in 2 tbsp of oil until soft (around 8mins) add the garlic and cook over a low heat for 3 more minutes then set aside.

4/ After the coconut mix has finished soaking transfer to a blender and blend until smooth, stopping a couple of times to scrape down the sides. Once it is a smooth consistency set aside.

5/ Once the beans have cooked transfer them to a colander and rinse. Give the pan they cooked in a quick rinse then add the cooked beans back to the pan along with the coconut mixture, carrots and sweet potato (also add in the fresh garlic and onion if you opted to use them).

6/ Cover the pan and bring to the boil, then simmer for 15 minutes until carrots and sweet potato are tender.

Serve with Chapattis or Basmati rice.


If you like a lot of sauce with your curry to get optimum dipping then add 300ml extra water and 2 tbsp of gram flour

For a beautiful curried soup simply blend all of the ingredients after they have all finished cooking, adding extra water if necessary.

For a more intense almond flavour try toasting the almonds in a dry pan first until they turn golden brown in colour.