Vegan hot cross buns – better than the original (in my humble opinion)

Confession…I don’t even really like hot cross buns. I’ve never been a huge fan of sweet bread or bread with sultanas/raisins in. I’ve never got what all the fuss is about over Easter.

But, here’s the weird thing, this Easter long weekend I woke on Easter Saturday with a craving for them. Bizarre indeed. So, with nothing else on my agenda for the day I googled ‘vegan hot cross bun recipe’ and made the first one I came across which happened to be this one. Pot luck.

IMG_0620.JPGAnd it was luck, because this recipe turned out to be amazing. Absolutely blo**y delicious. Both my husband and I enjoyed them so much – we ate about three each in as many minutes. They weren’t perfect by any bakers standards but they were fantastic by mine. I couldn’t do the little white cross over them as I didn’t have any powdered sugar, but I made up an oozy sugary topping anyway which tasted lovely just without the perfect looking finish.

And what was really satisfying, apart from the fact that they were vegan and yum, was that they were made from scratch with love. It’s actually really satisfying making your own bread, kneading it and waiting for it to rise. It gave me a real appreciation of the process.

So here it is, the recipe in all its glory (with a couple of revisions from me due only to what I didn’t have in my pantry…)

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (I used organic caster)
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 3/4 cup room temperature/lukewarm unsweetened oat milk (am guessing you could pretty much use any non-dairy milk you like)
  • 1/3 cup oil (I used olive)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I didn’t have any so I used all spice instead)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (I actually doubled this as was also supposed to be orange zest in the recipe but I didn’t have any)
  • 3 1/2 – 4 cups all-purpose flour (I used half all purpose and half wholemeal)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries (a bit unusual but I really like them. This was my addition to the recipe).
Vegan “Egg” Wash
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used oat again)
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (I didn’t have any which is why I couldn’t get the white cross. I just ground up some caster in a pestle and mortar and used instead. The flavour was lovely but as you can see from the pic…it doesn’t look like your usual ‘finished’ bun)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened non-dairy milk (oat)

As for the method…it took awhile. But that was ok because it was really satisfying to see them slowly rise and come to life!






I made a pizza base out of cauliflower…

Something caught my eye on the weekend…a blog post from a fantastic writer ‘Chocolate Covered Katie’. I felt like being creative, I haven’t had the time or inclination much of late. She made a pizza base using cauliflower, and as I started to Google I discovered this was a bit of a thing.

IMG_0483Half a cauliflower head was losing the will to live in my fridge and I thought it might be time to resurrect it or resign it to the bin and I REALLY hate food waste so really, in truth, the former was the only option.

A quick glance in the cupboard told me I had all the ingredients so I delved in and, last time, made myself a cauliflower pizza base complete with toppings.

The recipe was simple and promised only 5 ingredients. I thought to myself, this will either be amazing or it will be a complete flop. I’ll either be loving my dinner or trying to make the best of it!


Visit here for Katie’s recipe...or my slightly amended version is below:

  • 1/2 medium head of steamed cauliflower (4 cups of small florets)
  • 2 1/2 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup almond meal (I ground raw almonds)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt


The process was simple….

  1. Grind your almonds and set aside.
  2. Mix the water with the flaxseed and stick in the fridge for about 20 minutes so that it becomes all gloopy and egg like – this is what will hold your mixture together – the glue if you will.
  3. Steam your cauliflower and leave to cool (squeezing out any moisture if you can)
  4. Set your oven to about 220 centigrade
  5. Blend your cauliflower to a rice consistency
  6. That’s all your prep work done…..
  7. Now….combine your almonds with your cauliflower in a bowl. Add in the flax mix and stir. Then simply add your garlic powder, nutritional yeast, salt and oregano to finish things off. I used a spatula to stir and mix it all through. It forms a loose ball not unlike dough but a little wetter.
  8. I put baking paper on a large chopping board and place the ball onto it. I simply then used the same spatula to push it into a pizza base shape slowly – evening the edges and making sure it was an even thickness throughout (about 1/4 inch).
  9. Once done – I simply popped it into the oven for 25 – 30 minutes until the edges were browned and it felt firm to touch in the middle.

In the pic below the right is the pre-cooked and the left is the cooked. I think, in hindsight I might have cooked it for a little longer as although it was firm it could have been a little firmer. The outer edges were perfect and you could pick them up and eat them just like a pizza base but the inside wasn’t as firm and had to be eaten with a fork. It would be amazing if I could actually have flipped it and cooked each side in the oven…that might be an experiment for next time.

Once the base is cooked, simply add your toppings…I went for quite a simple selection…I spread tomato paste and white miso paste as the base. I then topped with chopped tomato, onion and mushroom. Finishing it off was grated Oliana vegan cheese and basil flakes with a grind of salt and pepper.


I let the edges get quite brown as I like the crunch (and they tasted delish) but you could do it with a little less enthusiasm for brown edges if you like!!

Would I cook it again? Definitely. It was so tasty and my non-vegan hubby also loved it (an unexpected win).

Thanks Katie for your inspiring and simple recipe. That’s the first time I’ve eaten pizza and felt like it was doing me good…

My Childhood Favourite Oozes and Delights

A friend sent me a food porn recommendation last week – for vegan lasagne. Its worth mentioning that lasagne was my fave dish as a child. Something about it never ceases to delight me – the ooziness of the sauce, the crunch of the lasagne pasta that always crisps up towards the edges, and of course the cheesy bechamel sauce. It was always the meal I’d ask for as a birthday treat and more often than not, the one I’d order at restaurants. So simple. So much joy.

As an adult, however, I don’t cook it very often…the mind boggling number of calories late at night isn’t often my first choice, and, of course, it takes effort. Thought and planning are involved and when I get home from work I usually just want to throw something yummy together without all the prep lasagne involves.

But last week, as I said, a good friend sent me a link on FB to this recipe from Cilantro and Citronella and all week it was bouncing around in my thoughts and teasing my tastebuds. It promised to deliver an easy to cook, delish vegan lasagne and glancing over the recipe it did, indeed, seem pretty simple.

Thursday night beckoned and I got involved, elbow deep, in chopping, prepping and seasoning and I have to say it wasn’t hard at all. The whole process took me about 40 minutes to prep and then another 45 to cook in the oven and it was (and still is) delish. The portions made enough to serve about 8 adults (my husband and I will now be eating this for dayssssss) and it really is tasty, proper tasty.

The ingredients are simple but I confess I did thrown a few of my own into the mix…they are italicised below in case you want to give this one a crack and ignore my additions.

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil (for the flour blend stage)
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter (to fry the veg…my addition instead of olive oil as I like the buttery flavour)
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 600 grams (21 oz) button mushrooms, chopped (use the stems too)
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 400 grams (14 oz) frozen spinach, thawed according to the package directions and squeezed
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups (480 ml) unsweetened plant milk (they used soy, I used almond)
  • 1 cup (240 ml) vegetable stock
  • ½ cup (75 grams) flour
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast / I doubled this and used 4 as it wasn’t cheesy enough for me
  • 3 cups (700 ml / about a jar and a half) marinara sauce (I bought a large tin of crushed tomatoes and added fresh basil to it)
  • 2 tablespoons white miso (blended into the bechamel sauce mix after the flour and milk have been added…gave it another cheesy kick)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder (again added to the bechamel sauce)
  • 1 packet veggie mince fried in with veggies
  • Lasagna sheets

IMG_0470I wholeheartedly recommend this recipe to any vegan lasagne lovers out there. The only tricky bit was the bechamel sauce…which wasn’t even really tricky at all, you just had to keep a close eye on it. And my sauce was a little lumpy so I just used a hand blender to get rid of them and make sure it was silky and smooth. But the taste of the sauce is fantastic and goes so well on the lasagne. It even bubbles and browns and oozes on top…just like a cheese lasagne would…an amazing achievement to behold (and even better to taste).

Even writing this blog is making me think about eating some. Yup. Its that tasty.

Winter is Coming…

As surely as the Starks know that winter is coming, I know that one of my favourite cooking basics is back on the menu as the temperatures start to drop; soup.

I genuinely love cooking soup. And I’ve certainly learned a lot since I first stuck a bunch of boiled veg in a bowl of hot stock at uni and wondered why it didn’t taste that great. That watery uninspiring start has thankfully long been a distant memory. I learned the secret of many a good soup over the years; roast your veggies first for deeper flavour, salt and pepper them at the end so you can really closely manage it, and always use your spices and herbs to bring them to life and give them an extra lift.


Two of my all-time faves to cook are pumpkin and also cauliflower.

Today, as the light began to fade, I thought to myself…its a soup kind of evening. What better to compliment the home-baked pull apart bread I whipped up this morning. An amazing garlic tear and share bread topped with a homemade parsley pesto. Yum!

Something I’ve had to adapt to is making a yummy creamy vegan soup. What to use instead of butter? What about cream? I wanted to make something that both myself and my non-vegan hubby would both love.

And thankfully, I managed it.

I use soy cream (provamel single soy cream) and organic soy milk in my creamy soups. I also used some tofutti in this one for creaminess too. Finally – I am a massive fan of the gentle chef and always make my own butter from the non-dairy evolution cookbook (a book which pretty much revolutionised my life). So – if you are keen for some creamy warming yummy wintery goodness in your belly….try this cauliflower soup. You won’t regret it!

The Starks Wintery Cauliflower Soup

  • 1 head cauliflower sliced
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 chopped medium sized potatoes (par-boiled and peeled)
  • 1 brown onion chopped finely
  • 3 sticks celery chopped
  • 5-6 swiss brown mushrooms
  • 3 spring onions chopped finely
  • 1 cup organic soy (or other preferred milk)
  • Half cup provamel soy cream (or other preferred)
  • 3 tablespoons tofutti cream cheese
  • Tablespoon better butter (or any non-dairy butter)
  • Tablespoon peanut oil
  • Pinch white pepper
  • Teaspoon dijon mustard
  • Tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parsley and fresh chives to serve

First of all, chop and prep all your veggies. Pop a saucepan on to boil and par-boil your potatoes. Meanwhile, fry up your garlic, onion, spring onions, celery and mushrooms in the peanut oil. Do not brown. The key to this soup is that we are trying to keep it as white as possible for the finished presentation.

IMG_0347.jpgThen, add in the butter and cauliflower and continue to gently fry for about 10 minutes and add the potatoes when they are almost cooked (you don’t want them falling apart). As soon as the potatoes are added – also add the stock. Turn the temperature down (so it doesn’t boil) and let everything simmer for about another 15 minutes. At this point add the cream, nutritional yeast, mustard, white pepper and milk. Stir to combine and then use a stick blender to combine until its really smooth. Then add the tofutti for extra creaminess. Blend again. At this point – add more cream or milk to taste and start to slowly add salt and pepper as meets your tastebuds! The overwhelming flavour should be one of cauliflower. Pop it back on the hob on the lowest heat for about another ten minutes to let all the flavours infuse and then serve and ENJOY.

We had it straight out of the pan and served with the home-baked bread. It was insane. I can’t wait to have it again tomorrow for lunch. Made with love in my kitchen.

Happy souping! 


Saturday Night Treats – Two Happy Tummys

I hate being vegan…I never have anything tasty to eat. Its basically all lettuce and dust (for the little Britain fans out there!)

This couldn’t be farther from the truth…as I now find myself nearly 2.5yrs vegan one thing I’ve noticed is that my tastebuds are constantly firing as new or interesting flavours surprise them. I can truly say that the last 2.5yrs have been nothing but an opportunity for me as I have tried more different foods on a regular basis and challenged myself to cook and try more things that I probably did in the previous years combined. When I became vegan I said I wasn’t going to focus on what i’d lost (re cheese lamentation) and instead focus on what I’d gained.

I have gained so much. I couldn’t be more thankful for my dear friend Elsie who challenged me to go down this road with her. I consider my lifestyle change to be a blessing.

This weekend saw a few firsts…I ate my first fresh fig in nearly ten years and couldn’t figure out why I’d ever stopped. They are amazing. I caught up with a dear friend who I haven’t really been able to catch up with for a while and she has recently become dairy free and it was so wonderful to have that time together. And I made the most sensational (sorry to sing my own praises) dinner for my husband and I on Saturday night.

I made us a creamy pumpkin soup with a baked cashew camembert. I have to say, genuinely, I could have kept eating it until I made myself unwell.

I am a sucker for a pumpkin soup as is my hubby. The baked camembert was a first. The soup is a staple. If you are keen to try the camembert…check out Bosh on Facebook and scroll through their page. I literally saw it on Saturday morning and basically fantasised about it all day deciding to make it that same evening. I can’t share the recipe for that as it was in a video with no URL but it wouldn’t be hard to find. Search for Camembosh! It was absolutely worth the 5 mins it took me to blend it and the 20 mins of baking for the end result. Its pretty garlicky though…so be warned if you aren’t a fan.

So my soup…I thought I’d share this love-filled, heart-warmer with you all. As that’s the only way to make it, with love.

Jac’s Pumpkin Soup

  • half pumpkin – sliced and de-seeded
  • 1 brown onion – chopped for frying
  • 2 red skinned potatoes – chopped for roasting – but smaller than you would usually for roasting
  • 5 garlic cloves whole – for roasting
  • pinch nutmeg
  • pinch paprika
  • pinch tumeric
  • 2 carrots peeled and chopped – for frying
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 1 carton soy / rice cream
  • 1 cup soy milk (or oat if you can’t have soy)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Peanut or coconut oil for roasting
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • Tablespoon sugar (Any kind)
  • tablespoon vegan butter for frying

Pop the oven on to about 180, fan based. Put the pumpkin, potatoes and garlic in a baking tray (with tinfoil or non stick under them) and cover with about a tablespoon of the oil and a pinch of salt. Make sure covered. Pop in over to roast for about 40 minutes (check once and shake them around a bit.)

Whilst roasting, fry off the onions and carrots in the butter (onions first until nearly clear and a little browned for flavour). Into the pan pop the turmeric and fry the veg until a nice golden brown yellow colour. Pop onto a very low heat until the roasting veggies are done. Once done – add them to the pan and immediately add the stock and the other herbs. Plus two bay leaves. Make sure the veggies are covered and add more stock if required to cover.

Let this delicious mix simmer away on a low heat for about 30 minutes to soften the potatoes completely and for the flavours to infuse.

Post this point add in the soy milk and stir. I then blend straight away – I keep it all in the pan and use a stick blender. Once blended I then add the soy cream and the salt and pepper to taste. I also add the tablespoon of sugar (use whatever variety you prefer it really doesn’t matter). The flavour just helps to bring out the pumpkin.

Then I pop it back on the hob, on number 1 (the lowest temp) and leave it for another 30 minutes to simmer gently away and to let the flavours settle. I usually make this a little ahead of time as it gets better after a few hours. So – if you can, turn the heat off, and leave it cooling on the hob with a lid on for 3-4 hours. Serve later that same day with toasted french stick (or whatever bread you like with your soup) and the camembosh.

Truly truly yummy.

I hope you enjoy it!

And remember, this is another example of what you gain as a vegan rather than what you lose. There is absolutely no reason why this lifestyle choice should mean you compromise on your tastebuds or your health.










Taking the Taste for Granted – Chilli Jam Goodness

Where did it all begin?

Funnily enough, it began with a glut of fresh chilli growing on my balcony. My much loved (not enough watered) chilli plant has been going strong for over 5 years now. Every year I think it’s died and every year it resurrects itself. And it seems to be going from strength to strength. 2016 was definitely its year. We had chilli galore and the entire jam idea began from a simple conversation with my husband that went along the lines of… ‘What on earth are we going to do with all this chill?’ 

Much to his surprise, having never made a relish or a jam in my life prior to 6 months ago, I announced that I was going to make a chilli jam. I think my words went along the lines of, ‘how hard can it be?’

What’s easy about jam, I have discovered, is making it. Its not arduous and its not complex. But what’s hard about jam, which I have learned since the heady days of my first successes, is that its hard to make it consistently well with a depth of flavour and to achieve that same depth batch after batch.

I am simply a women who loves to cook, who loves bold flavour and who loves knowing exactly what’s in her food. That’s all I ask for in a meal – for my taste buds to be delighted and for my body to benefit.

I firmly believe that we are what we eat and my jams are an extension of that belief. They have nothing in them that you can’t pronounce. Nothing in them that’s processed. They are simple and made with love in my kitchen.

File 9-4-17, 1 55 13 pm.jpeg

And so the jam making began in earnest. Chilli came first because, for no other reason, that’s what I had in season on my balcony. And I confess I have gone from being someone who hardly ate any chilli jam, to someone who can’t get enough of it. On everything. I hope that’s what you find too when you try it.

It works with meat, cheese, roasted veg, salads, on toast, with avocado and apparently (a genius idea from Tim) with an egg and bacon slider (smiles). 

Welcome to my jCF386171-2ADA-4E59-9E50-E9B663600D33ams and welcome to my kitchen. I hope you enjoy them as much as I love making them.

Next up will be some experimentation with a rosemary / mint jelly and perhaps a ‘winter is coming’ Game of Thrones inspired shiraz jam.

I am super excited to be working with Tim and Bluesalt Catering and look forward to being part of their menus.

Happy Jamming everyone. Don’t forget to indulge and to feel free to take them for Granted.

Bread and tomatoes…its the simple things

2017-01-14 12.24.19.jpgIts the simplest things in life right.

I recently bought an amazing vegan cookbook by Smith and Daughters which has been something of an affirming life force for me. Everything I’ve cooked from it thus far has been stunning. Their recipes are PACKED with flavour and I love love love big flavours.

One of the recipes is a pan con tomate (bread with tomatoes) which is sooooo good I had to share my version of it. Its simplicity is its brilliance. Its an amazing take on a Spanish classic which both my husband and I have completely fallen in love with (I think i’ve made it 5 times now and he’s also made it for his family too).

I wanted to share it here and just put it out there…its pure vegan joy to eat this and its one of those things that you can cook for others and they won’t care that there is no dairy or meat in it because its so bloody tasty.

Here goes:

  • 5 tomatoes (grated including the skins)
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil (or olive)
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • Generous handful of finely chopped parsley or Basil (both work brilliantly)
  • pinch himalayan pink salt
  • cracked black pepper
  • teaspoon caster sugar (fine)
  • 1 crushed / minced garlic clove

fb_img_1485928889054All you have to do is put all the ingredients together into a bowl…and stir away until they are combined.

Leave for a bit to the side to let all the flavours marinate and then serve however you fancy it…on simple griddled bread is my fave so far but its also sensational on baked sweet potato.

Please try this. Its absolutely amazing and one of the simplest things I have ever served up. Tomato JOY.