Banana cake with almond okara

13 June 2011

Gâteau banane

There’s no shortage of banana cake recipes online (or anywhere else, for that matter) but I’d still like to introduce you to this one. I make this cake often because it’s easy, light and moist, and a handy way of using up the okara left after making almond milk at home.

The basic recipe comes from Jeannette’s website, which is a good starting point for anyone new to vegan baking. This simplified version does without the chocolate icing that is apparently a common coating for banana cakes in New Zealand. And if you don’t have okara, just replace it by 90g of ground almonds and an additional 50ml of liquid (water or plant milk), as in the original recipe.

The bananas I used weighed a total of 200g after peeling. I’ve also made this cake using 250g of cooked, pureed apples or quinces instead. The texture is very good too, but the taste of the fruit is less pronounced than with bananas.

170g wheatmeal or unbleached white flour
150g rice flour
2 tsp sodium bicarbonate
Pinch of salt
200g cane sugar
160g almond (or other) okara
2 ripe bananas
100ml almond (or other plant) milk
2 tbs lime or lemon juice
100ml groundnut oil

Preheat the oven to 180°C (Gas 5). Line a round 23cm cake tin with baking parchment.

Mix the two flours, sugar, sodium bicarbonate and salt together in a bowl.

In another bowl, crush the bananas roughly with a fork or potato masher. Add the okara and mix to combine. Gently incorporate the plant milk, lime or lemon juice and oil, then stir in the flour mixture.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for about an hour, or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin for about ten minutes before turning it out onto a cooling rack.


Watercress, avocado and pear salad

28 April 2011

Salade cresson-poire comp

It’s taken me ages to find really good cranberry juice hereabouts. Most of what’s available seems to be mostly sugar, low on cranberries and even lower on taste.

So I was delighted to find a brand (Prosain) containing 100% cranberry juice at my local organic shop. Here at last was the true taste of the fruit: so tart that it’s difficult to drink just as it is. But add a splash to orange juice and it really wakes up the flavour as well as adding a rosy glow.

The only drawback is that Prosain is imported from Canada so its ethical quotient is lowered by rather a lot of air miles. As this juice is starting to become known in France as an effective remedy for cystitis and similar infections, hopefully manufacturers will soon find it cheaper to grow the berries here.

Cranberry juice can replace lemon juice in all sorts of dishes. I used it to make a dressing for this salad, where it adds piquancy to a taste combination so gentle it could almost be a dessert.

Serves 2

A good handful of watercress
Some salad leaves (I used red oak-leaf lettuce)
An avocado
A ripe pear
1 tbs pinenuts
2 tbs sunflower oil
1 tbs cranberry juice (or lemon or lime juice)
Small pinch of salt

Wash, dry and tear up the watercress and salad leaves. Peel and stone the avocado and chop the flesh. Core the pear (no need to peel) and chop that too.

Toast the pinenuts in a cast-iron pan, stirring constantly so they don’t burn.

Put the oil, cranberry juice and salt in a small glass jar and shake well. Dress the salad with the mixture and sprinkle over the pinenuts just before serving.

Pumpkin and walnut loaf

15 February 2011

Pain potimarron-noix

I devised this recipe for a competition run by that wonderful bread resource Votre Pain last year but for some reason it never made it onto the blog – until now.

The two stars of this loaf were chosen because they’re the only garden produce in which I can claim to be more or less self-sufficient. Both pumpkins and walnuts, if stored carefully, will stay in good shape until the next harvest with no need for sugar or vinegar, and without using electricity.

The vital supporting role goes to my home-made leaven, which I keep at room temperature and feed regularly with whole rye flour. A leaven refreshed with white bread flour would do just as well.

150g leaven
100g whole rye flour or white bread flour
100ml barely tepid water

500g wholemeal bread flour
½ tsp salt
About 150ml barely tepid water
1 tsp olive oil
200g raw pumpkin
60g walnuts

The night before baking, stir into the leaven first the 100ml of water, then the rye or white bread flour.

Next morning, mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the leaven, followed by 100ml of water. Mix thoroughly, then add more water gradually, a tablespoonful at a time, to form a slightly stickly dough. Cover with a clean teacloth and leave to rest for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the pumpkin into cubes of about a centimetre. Some pumpkins need to be peeled, but the skin of the Hokkaido variety I used is perfectly edible and adds lovely deep-red flecks to the finished loaf. Roughly chop the walnuts.

Smear a work surface with a little olive oil and turn out the dough, which should already be feeling slightly elastic. Knead it quickly – less than a minute will do – cover with the cloth and leave again for 15 minutes.

Gently incorporate the pumpkin cubes and chopped walnuts into the dough. If it starts to stick, add a little more oil. Shape into a ball, cover again with the cloth and leave for an hour or more, until the dough has doubled in volume.

Form the loaf into your favourite shape. Place it on a well-floured baking tray, cover and leave to rise again for 30-45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 220°C (Gas 7), with a baking stone if you have one.

Cut a few slashes in the top of the loaf and slide it quickly onto the baking stone (or put the tray in the oven). Bake for 40-50 minutes and let the loaf cool completely on a rack before slicing.

Really frothy chai latte

8 February 2011

Since returning from Stockholm I’ve been dreaming about the café lattes topped with creamy soya foam that I enjoyed there.

It was really easy to find soya milk at Starbucks’ many Swedish cousins and even in the more traditional coffee shops called konditorier.

Even so, I noticed that the froth on soya lattes was not so robust as the dairy variety and I wondered if adding a little fat would make it firmer. I found that a small amount of coconut oil made all the difference, while also adding a pleasant taste to the drink.

And because I’m trying not to drink too much coffee, I made this chai latte, laced with warming spices, instead. Sometimes I add some freshly grated ginger too, while those with a sweet tooth may prefer a spoonful or two of agave or rice syrup.

Chai latte 3
Makes one large cup

Large pinch of Quilan oolong tea
Small pinch of cloves
Small pinch of fenugreek
A few cardamom pods
150ml soya milk
1 tsp coconut oil
Ground cinnamon or nutmeg

Crush the spices roughly in a mortar. Pour boiling water over the tea and spices and leave to brew. Meanwhile, heat the soya milk and coconut oil in a small saucepan. Use a stick blender to whizz the mixture up to a good froth, then pour it gently over the tea and sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg.

If the tea is too hot, the milk may curdle when you pour it in. This is no problem – blend again for a few more seconds and the chai will be restored to perfect creaminess with its froth intact.

Sip slowly, remembering that spring will be here soon, as this celandine spotted outside yesterday reminds us…


Parsnip and chestnut patties

5 February 2011


Despite an ever-expanding collection of cookbooks that constantly threatens to overwhelm my burgeoning bookshelves, most of my inspiration for everyday dishes comes from reading blogs.

I turn to recipes gleaned while rambling round the blogosphere at least two or three times a week, while loads of others are put aside to wait for the right ingredients, the right season, or just for guests. I improvise, modify, swap some ingredients for others and have fun generally.

And on to the next recipe…

Sometimes, though, one stands out from the pack, delivering such a successful flavour combination that not only do I make the dish again and again, but I seek more ways of using the same ingredients.

That’s what happened with this recipe from My Sweet Faery’s blog – a simple parsnip and chestnut puree made silky-smooth by the addition of some almond butter. I went on to prepare a soup from these perfect partners, and then I had the idea of making these patties.

This recipe makes quite a large quantity of the mixture because the patties freeze well. Otherwise it will easily feed six people.

For about 12 patties

800g parsnips (about 4)
400g vacuum-packed chestnuts
1 tbs mustard
1 tbs tamari
2 tbs oat flour
Freshly ground pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
50g chestnut flour
Vegetable oil

Peel the parsnips and chop them roughly. Simmer or steam for about 15-20 minutes, until tender. Drain and put in a bowl with the chestnuts, then mash together with a fork.

Stir in the mustard, tamari and oat flour, and season with salt, pepper and grated nutmeg. Shape into patties and coat with chestnut flour.

Fry the patties in a little oil until golden – about five minutes a side.

Sesame - panais

Quality control: Sesame checks that the parsnips and other vegetables are up to house standards.

Stockholm in winter (Part 2)

25 January 2011

From the dining room at Hermans, Stockholm’s best-known veggie restaurant, you can watch the boats plying their way between the city’s islands throughout your meal. Even on a grey, misty day, the view is enchanting. On the right of the photo, a folded sunshade waits for warmer weather before welcoming customers to a table on the terrace.

We went there on a Wednesday because that’s when the lunchtime buffet is 100% vegan. For 100 SEK* you can pile your plate with a wide choice of hot and cold dishes. Coffee and a selection of teas and tisanes are included. I ate all this…




 … leaving a little room for one of the desserts which, like other drinks, cost extra.

Hermans is at Fjällgatan 23B, on the north-east corner of Södermalm island. Remember to book a table by the window to enjoy the view.

Much smaller, but in my opinion offering even better food, is Hermitage, at Stora Nygatan 6, in the heart of the Old Town (Gamla Stan). The lunch menu is similar – buffet plus hot drinks – and we ate very well there for 90 SEK*. The bread rolls were excellent.


Just across the street at Stora Nygatan 11, you’ll find Sattva Naturbageriet, an organic bakery selling vegan bread and cakes. The company’s main outlet is at Krukmakargatan 27A.

At Chutney (Katarina Bangata 17-19), the vegetarian and vegan dishes are particularly attractively presented, so it was a shame my camera decided to go on strike that day. Be warned: the portions are American-sized. Not knowing whether they had also adopted the transatlantic custom of doggy bags and not daring to ask, I was once again forced to clear my plate.


The same thing happened at Abyssinia, Vanadisvägen 20, an Ethiopian restaurant a short walk from our hotel.

Samples of specialities (veggie, vegan or including meat) from this elegant cuisine are served on large pancake-style breads. Everything was delicious, original and superbly spicy. The desserts looked more mundane, which was just as well because we couldn’t have managed another mouthful.

The warm welcome and attentive service made for a particularly pleasant evening.

Another, larger Abyssinia can be found at Ringvägen 105, in the south of the Södermalm district.

It’s as well to remember that people in Sweden eat early (often at around 6pm) so check restaurant opening times if you plan to dine out.

Tasty and affordable lunches are also available at the city’s covered markets. We looked around three of them.

In the Östermalm market, Planet Food sells a variety of vegan sandwiches and freshly made juices. At the food market on the fifth and sixth floors of Söderhallarna, a new shopping centre, it’s easy to find a veggie snack: try Beirut Café Deli, for instance (vegans can ask for a "mezetallrik" without yogurt). The more multicultural basement market at Hötorget will delight fans of chocolate and Middle Eastern sweetmeats.

Finally, here’s a short list of veg-friendly Stockholm restaurants we didn’t get around to visiting. Next time…

Lao Wai
(Chinese, vegetarian), Luntmakargatan 74
Govindas (Indian, vegetarian), Fridhemsgatan 22
Legumes (veggie buffet), Hornsgatan 80
Malaysia (vegetarian and vegan options), Luntmakargatan 98
Kokyo (vegetarian and vegan options), Sveavägen 105

* Swedish kronor. Check the latest exchange rates here.

Stockholm in winter (Part 1)

21 January 2011

It may not be the first season that comes to mind when you consider travelling north but I’ve returned from the Swedish capital thinking there may be no such thing as a bad time of year to visit this enchanting city.

Stockholm in the snow seemed to have slipped straight out of a fairy tale. It was beautiful, elegant and above all practically empty: no traffic jams, no queues, no crowds in the shops even though the January sales were in full swing.

The best way to get around is on foot. The city centre is fairly compact, many streets are reserved for pedestrians and Swedish motorists always seem to stop at zebra crossings. You just need to keep looking down, to avoid falling on the ice, and up, where huge icicles threaten constantly to become dislodged and stab the unwary walker.


Water, in a less menacing guise, is everywhere. This "Venice of the North" (Stockholm shares the title with Amsterdam and Saint Petersburg) is built on 14 islands and you’re never far from a stunning waterside vista, or a bridge where you can watch fascinated as flotillas of ice floes come rushing past.

But you can get cold standing still for too long, so this might be a good time to explore one of the city’s 70 museums (here’s a sample) or go underground to admire the works of art on display at many metro stations.

When you want to give both body and brain a rest, you could take a break at one of the bars and cafés where rows of cushions snuggle invitingly up against those cold windows…


or pop into a bakery for something sweet…


Stockholm is also a city where it’s relatively easy to eat vegan. And although Scandinavia has long had a reputation for being an expensive place for holidays, we found prices quite affordable. Hotels (with generous breakfasts) are certainly cheaper than in London and eating out is comparable.

Even the winter nights weren’t as long as I’d feared: daylight arrived at the same time as it does in France right now, and night fell at around 4pm, much like midwinter London.

In a few days I’ll tell you about some of the great restaurants where we ate during our stay.

Swedish glögg

1 January 2011

A certain well-known Swedish retailer used to hand out samples of glögg – a sort of mulled wine – to customers over the Christmas holiday period.

Sadly, this heart-warming custom has gone by the board and nowadays you have to buy your glögg in bottles from the company’s food shop. It lacks the charm of a freebie, so I’ve learnt to make my own.

To launch the new year in festive style (and end this mini-series on nordic cooking), I made a glögg in which beer replaces the more usual red wine. I found the recipe on Cecilia’s blog, which anyone with a sweet tooth will enjoy browsing: Cecilia’s cupcake photos are so gorgeous as to be almost indecent (scroll down through the Swedish version of the recipes for English translations).



This recipe calls for low-alcohol beer. I used a French brand called Buckler, which is marketed (quite legally) as "alcohol-free" but actually contains about 0.9%. A similar brand, Tourtel, contains 0.4%. In any case, fermentation nudges the glögg’s alcohol content closer to that of a wine, and you can always boil some off before serving.


For about 5 litres of glögg (7 x 75cl bottles)

6 litres of low-alcohol beer
400g potatoes, finely sliced
60g instant dried yeast
15g cloves
25g cardamom pods
5cm ginger root, crushed
4 cinnamon sticks
250g raisins
250g dried apricots
2.5kg white cane sugar
The peel of a large orange

Glögg ingrédients

Put all the ingredients into a large, food-grade container, such as a brewing bucket, and stir well.

Glögg j1

Place a lid on the container, leaving it slightly ajar, or cover with cling film (make several holes in the cling film to let out escaping carbon dioxide). After three days, the sugar and yeast will have joined forces to boost the alcohol content and the mixture will be bubbling away merrily.

Glögg j4

Glögg comp1

Once the bubbles have subsided, leave the glögg to macerate at room temperature for three to six weeks before filtering and bottling it in beer or sparkling wine bottles. This is essential because of the slight risk that the glögg may continue to ferment inside the bottles (thanks to Seth for pointing this out – see the third comment below).

Just before serving, heat some glögg gently in a saucepan and pour into small heatproof glasses. Put a few hazelnuts, raisins and/or slivered almonds into each glass. The glögg is sweet, aromatic, comforting, and more or less alcoholic depending on whether you serve it as soon as it comes to a simmer or leave it to bubble for a few minutes.

Share it with family and friends, give a bottle as a present… or keep it until the next time you have something to celebrate.

I wish you all a wonderful 2011. May serenity provide a backdrop to good food and whatever else makes you feel joyful.

Norwegian lace biscuits (Kniplingskaker)

29 December 2010

Kniplings comp

These biscuits are adapted from a recipe I snipped out of The Observer’s cookery section sometime in the 1980s.

Does that mean there’s still hope for the hundreds more recipes in the form of cuttings, pages printed from blogs, bookmarks and text files I’ve been hoarding over the years? I doubt it: this particular glut calls for urgent action and most of them will soon be headed for the compost heap or the trash icon in the corner of my screen.

These biscuits definitely deserved to be rescued though. They’re light, crunchy and cut an impressive figure at teatime but are not at all hard to make. You could even leave out the slightly tricky stage of shaping them and just leave them flat; they’ll still have that attractive lacy look.

For about 12 biscuits

2 tbs plant milk
½ tsp cider vinegar
2 tbs groundnut oil
2 tbs cashew or almond paste
70g porridge oats
100g cane sugar
1 tsp flour
1 tsp ammonium or sodium bicarbonate

Mix the milk and vinegar in a small bowl and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (Gas 4). Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Lightly oil a rolling pin.

Put the oil and cashew or almond paste into a non-stick saucepan over a very low heat and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add the oats, then the sugar and milk (which will have curdled somewhat) and stir until melted.

Take the pan off the heat and beat in the flour and ammonium or sodium bicarbonate. The mixture will immediately start to froth.

Using a teaspoon, quickly place six good dollops of the mixture on the tray, spacing them out well, and bake for 6-8 minutes. Keep an eye on them: each dollop will spread out to form a flat biscuit and bubbles will form all over the surface. As soon as they begin to brown, take the tray out of the oven and leave to cool for a minute or so. Remove the biscuits with a metal slice and drape them over the rolling pin, bending them gently around it.

Prepare the next batch straight away. The biscuits on the rolling pin will have cooled enough to remove by the time the second lot are ready.

Spice cookies with a Finnish twist

23 December 2010

National symbols are legion, ranging from flags and coats of arms to flowers and animals. But as far as I know, Finland is the only country to boast a national shape.

Vase_aaltoAlthough it doesn’t have official standing, this shape has become an icon of Finnish design and pops up all over the place. Husband-and-wife team Alvar Aalto and Aino Marsio, who designed the original glass vase, say it was inspired by the traditional costume of Sami women. Its curvaceous contours are also reminiscent of Finland’s countless lakes.

I even found a cookie cutter of the same shape in a Helsinki department store a few years ago – the obvious choice for this recipe with its distinctive Finnish flavours.

The most typical of these is fennel, which also seems to cut through the sweetness of the cookies to add a deeper, more complex taste. You could also use other spices, such as cardamom or allspice.

As a final nod to the Nordic countries, I used as a raising agent the ammonium bicarbonate that Virginie was kind enough to give me at Paris Vegan Day. The cookies rose impressively and the slight smell of ammonia from the oven while they were baking was barely noticeable.


For about 20 cookies

100g cane sugar
1 tbs cider vinegar
1 tbs molasses or agave syrup
70g almond or cashew paste
4 tbs groundnut or sesame oil
2 tbs plant milk

120g unbleached white flour
70g ground almonds
A pinch of salt
1 tsp ground fennel
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ammonium or sodium bicarbonate

Mix the sugar, vinegar, molasses or syrup, nut paste, oil and milk together in a bowl. A stick blender makes the job easier, especially if you want to scale up the recipe.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (Gas 4). Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Mix together the rest of the ingredients in another bowl, then add to the liquid ingredients. Knead just enough to form a soft, smooth dough. Roll it out (no flour is needed) and cut out shapes with your favourite (or most seasonal) cookie cutter.

Bake the cookies for about ten minutes.

Shapes 3