15 October 2016

Spooky Spaghetti and Pumpkin Eyeballs

Halloween is such a fun holiday when you're a child, but it can also be a very unhealthy one. At university lately we've been learning about childhood nutrition and as you can probably expect the numbers of children who are not meeting daily requirements for simple things like fruit and veg intake is quite shocking. We learnt about a term called nutrient displacement, where the intake of certain, more unhealthy foods may fill the children up, or satisfy their sweet tooth, so they then don't feel they need the healthy things, like a piece of fruit for example, and miss out on the nutritional foods required for them to thrive.

This next recipe is perfect for a Hallows eve dinner, all the spooky and super healthy too! Black bean spaghetti, topped with blood-red sauce and pumpkin eyeballs...perfect for the kids (and grownups) this Halloween! Packed full of veg and protein, this themed recipe will fill your kids up on the good stuff (leaving less room for the bad!).

The recipe can take a little while, with roasting the pumpkin and boiling the red lentils, but it's more than worth it and you could always use canned pumpkin puree and lentils for a quicker method.  You can also fry them, instead of baking and even prepare the mixture the day before, for a more speedy prep time on Halloween. This recipe is gluten free, allergen free and of course vegan, so perfect for children with special dietary requirements too.

Spooky Spaghetti and Pumpkin Eyeballs | Serves: 4-6 | Time: 1 hour 50 mins

You'll need

  • Chopping board
  • Knife
  • Large baking sheet
  • Medium saucepan
  • Large saucepan
  • Large frying pan
  • Mixing bowl
  • Measuring cups
  • Potato masher


Pumpkin Balls:

  • 1 white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1.2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1.5 tsp dried sage
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Pinch black pepper
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 cup dried red lentils/ 2 cups cooked red lentils
  • 1 small pumpkin/ 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups chickpea flour 
  • 6 pimento stuffed olives

Spaghetti & Sauce

  • 1 red onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • Salt & pepper


Pumpkin balls

  1. Chop the pumpkin, removing the seeds, but leaving the skin in place and roast at 200°C for 30-40 minutes, then boil the red lentils for 15 minutes and drain. Skip this step if using canned pumpkin and lentils. 
  2. Chop an onion and fry on a medium heat for 5 minutes, then mince the garlic and add this to the pan along with the rosemary, thyme, sage, 1/2 tsp salt and a pinch of black pepper. Fry for a further 5 minutes, then transfer into a large mixing bowl. 
  3. Peel the roasted pumpkin, mash, season with salt & pepper and add to the mixing bowl along with the cooked and drained lentils and the chickpea flour. Combine and refrigerate for 30 minutes, until cooled and set slightly. 
  4. Shape the mixture into 24 balls and place on a large baking sheet - the mixture will be quite wet so do not worry about this. Slice the olives and place one slice onto each ball and press down slightly. Bake the balls for 20-25 mins at 200°C.

Spaghetti & Sauce
  1. Dice the onion and fry for a few minutes, before adding the garlic, basil, salt and pepper. Fry for 2 more minutes, then add the tomatoes and tomato puree, simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add the pasta and boil for 4-5 minutes, then drain.
  3. Divide the pasta onto 4-6 plates, top with the tomato sauce and then place the 'eyeballs' on top. Serve up and enjoy! 
Cassidy xx

8 October 2016

Wild Mushroom Tart

I completed my first assignment of third year yesterday and the relief of this is simply huge. But really, I've only just begun the journey and good time management will become essential over the next 9 months until I graduate. Before I really dive into it I'm going home this weekend, which will allow me to regroup and relax a little, which I think I definitely need. It's times like this, when I'm really busy and short on time, that I need meals I can quickly throw together that are super delicious too. This could also be served up as an appetiser or main when cooking for friends or family, the addition of the wild mushrooms add not only flavour and texture but a level of sophistication, too. 

I tossed the mushrooms into a mix of olive oil, thyme, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper and black olives, then spread out on the puff pastry sheet with mushroom flavour violife and baked until golden and crisp, to then top with some balsamic coated rocket leaves. This whole dish is deeply savoury, with a refreshing tang from the balsamic rocket. 

1 October 2016

Vegan Lasagne

It occurred to me the other day, that whilst as a vegetarian lasagne was one of my favourite foods, I still hadn't made one as a vegan, so I thought I should put that right! I used a tomato and lentil base, sandwiched between layers of al dente lasagna sheets and thinly sliced aubergines & courgettes, topped off with my ultimate vegan cheese sauce from the previous post. 

The lasagne was everything I hoped it would be and I definitely had to resist eating it all at once! I used green lentils as a protein source, which are rich in folate, iron, manganese and many other vitamins and minerals; they've also been shown to have cardio-protective effects and help the regulation of blood sugar levels. You could also use a mince substitute if you prefer this over the texture of lentils. I used a mix of yellow zucchini and aubergine as the veg in this, best sliced as thinly as you can manage (use a veg peeler if that's easier), but you could always roast some peppers, chunks of aubergine, courgette, onion and mix in some olives or capers to make a Mediterranean inspired lasagne.

24 September 2016

Ultimate Vegan Cheese Sauce

This next recipe has been a long time coming on the blog and I do not use the title of 'Ultimate Vegan Cheese Sauce' lightly. Earlier in the year I said on here that I would work on this recipe, after lots of different attempts and research I have come up with something worthy of the term 'ultimate'. Without going to much into the science of it, my degree has taught me a little something about the properties of different foods and what they can add to a recipe; aside from the taste, the second most important thing about a vegan cheese/cheese sauce is the texture...so this recipe is creamy, tangy, stretchy, gooey and of course, 100% Vegan. 

The recipe is comprised of simple, easily available ingredients, including two flavours of violife, to deliver that strong 'cheese' flavour. Throughout the recipe testing process I knew I wanted the base of this cheese sauce to be cashew nuts; they're so creamy and add a certain richness to the final taste of the product, that just can't be achieve with a roux base. I also added tapioca starch for a bit of stretch and another secret ingredient that the world has come to know as the secret to a great cheese sauce...nutmeg! Nutmeg takes this recipe to the next level and I'm not joking when I say this recipe tastes like a dairy cheese sauce. As I'm sure many of you were before your vegan days; I was a dairy cheese addict - no suprise when they've shown how addictive it really is - but this cheese sauce more than satisfies any lingering cravings and I'm not ashamed to say that I've been craving this sauce since I made it the other day!

17 September 2016

Fig Chutney, Mozzarella & Watercress Panini

It's that time of year again, where the days are getting colder and everything is 'spice' flavoured; you find yourself caught between wanting to eat something warm and comforting and not wanting to admit to yourself that summer is officially over. This panini is so melty and delicious that it will effortlessly ease you into autumn food - a homemade, no added sugar fig chutney and Violife mozzarella with peppery watercress sandwiched between a toasted ciabatta roll, that's been rubbed with garlic. There's so much flavour in this one sandwich and it's comfort food, without compromising on health. Whilst most shop bought chutneys are laced with sugar, this recipe contains only naturally occurring sugars, without compromising on taste!

The wonderful people over at Violife have launched organic versions of their regular cheese and pizza cheese, so to celebrate, sent me a very generous sample of their cheeses to cook with and share the recipes with you all. My first recipe uses the mozzarella slices, I was researching different chutney and dairy cheese pairings to best decide which Violife flavour to use, a mild creamy cheese such as mozzarella was suggested for a fig chutney, so I went with this one first. The Violife mozzarella really captures the creamy, mildness of dairy mozzarella and worked so well in this recipe; I would happily feed this sandwich to anyone and wouldn't have a doubt to whether it was enjoyed or not, this panini truly is incredible!