Soda bread

Thanks again to Jack Monroe for the idea to make a vegan version of soda bread – this time from her article in The Guardian on storecupboard recipes. None of the ingredients need refrigeration. My niece is vegan and it’s always nice to bring something to a family tea that isn’t specifically vegan but that she will happily eat. This fits the bill perfectly as she used to love soda bread when she was a child.

  • 250g flour (doesn’t have to be bread flour – I usually do a mix of 2/3 plain flour to 1/3 wholemeal or 8 grain flour)
  • extra flour for dusting
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 180ml coconut milk (full fat for preference – but low fat would work if you add a bit of extra oil)
  • 1 dessertspoon vegetable oil

Measure the flour, salt, and bicarb into a big mixing bowl.  Combine them well so that the bicarb is thoroughly mixed into the flour.

In a jug, measure out the 180ml coconut milk and the lemon juice.  Add a splash of oil if you’re using low fat coconut milk.

Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture, and pour in most of the coconut milk/lemon juice mixture, and stir quickly until it comes together into a dough. You may not need to add the final bit of liquid – it depends on the flour whether it absorbs all of it or not. Flour your worktop generously, rub a splash of oil on your hands to stop the dough sticking to your fingers, then tip out the dough and knead it gently for about a minute, then form it into a ball.   Use some of the excess flour on the worktop to scatter on a baking tray, then place the dough on the tray.  Score a cross on the top of your ball of dough, dust it with more flour, then put it in the oven (fan oven 160 degrees C) for about 40 minutes.  When it’s done, you should be able to tap it on the bottom and it will sound hollow.  Leave to cool for a bit before slicing.

NB this soda bread recipe can also be made using yogurt, sour cream, or buttermilk in place of the coconut milk. But then it wouldn’t be vegan.

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Not quite pumpkin soup

Halloween happened, and hot on the heels of the spooky chili comes a spicy not quite pumpkin soup.  Pumpkins sold for decoration really don’t have much flavour at all, so we use butternut squash instead (don’t waste the scrapings from your pumpkin though, they can all go in to add bulk and a nice colour, just don’t put in any seeds or stringy bits).

  • 2 butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 can reduced fat coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon Thai curry paste (yellow for a milder flavour, red or green if you’re going for hot-hot-hot)
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 500ml boiling water and one vegetable stock cube ( we like mushroom)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the squash in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds and stringy bits.  Brush the cut sides with one tablespoon of the olive oil and put on a baking tray with the cut sides uppermost. Roast in a medium oven for about 40 minutes, or until the flesh is soft. Poke it with a knife to test.

Put the other tablespoon of oil in a large solid saucepan and soften the onions over a low heat for about 15 minutes.  Don’t let them stick or go brown.  Add the curry paste and paprika and stir it all about.

Meantime, scoop all the flesh from the squash and add it to the pan.  Nigella Lawson maintains that you can eat the skin of  roasted butternut squash but I’m not convinced.  If you have any pumpkin scrapings, now is the time to add them.  Pour over the coconut milk and the 500ml of boiling veg stock, give it all a stir and let it simmer for 20 minutes.  Test the pumpkin flesh after this time to see if it’s softened.  Take the pan off the heat if it’s all nice and soft, and blitz with a stick blender to a nice smooth consistency.  If it feels a bit too solid, you can add more stock.  Taste and add salt if needed, and several grinds of black pepper.  Serve with croutons and a swirl of sour cream.

This soup is vegetarian (but do check the ingredients in your curry paste – some contain anchovy), and vegan if you leave out the sour cream.