Lemon meringue pie

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Let the egg-free meringue adventures continue…

Now basic meringues are one thing, but a lemon meringue pie? I thought that really was out of my reach. My previous recipe wasn’t suitable as an Italian meringue substitute. Would ‘aquafaba’ meringue be any more successful? Well, it was. A very successful Italian meringue can be created with chickpea water, giving the necessary soft, foamy meringue topping which can then be browned under the grill or with a blow torch.

Italian meringue is when you whisk a sugar syrup, that was heated up to firm ball stage (116-120 degrees C/242-248 degrees F) slowly into the whisked egg whites. In effect you re cooking the egg whilst the beating is taking place, avoiding the need to further bake the meringue in the oven. And it is the same process with the aquafaba/chickpea water producing clouds of edible meringue which can be piled on top of the lemon tart base and quickly browned. The only noticeable difference is the browned top has less of a crispy character than a usual lemon meringue pie. It’s not really a huge issue.

Lemon Meringue Pie (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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makes 1 tart

  • Short crust pastry, I used Jus-rol for convenience
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup custard powder
  • 1 cup dairy-free milk, I like Oatly
  • water from one tin of chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
  • pinch of zantham gum
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

– Line and bake blind a shallow tart tin, cool. Find instructions for a great shortcrust (sub dairy-free spread for the butter) and to blind bake here.

– Place the zest, lemon juice and sugar in a saucepan and heat to dissolve the sugar

– Mix the custard powder with a couple of tbsps dairy-free milk to form a smooth paste.

– Add the custard mix and the dairy-free milk to the lemon juice mixture.

– Heat gently, stirring now and then until it starts to thicken. When the consistency is similar to yogurt (gloopy but still a bit runny) pour into the tart shell.

– Leave to set in the fridge for an hour or so before topping.

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– Whilst the tart is setting, make the Italian meringue

– Whisk 1/3 cup chickpea water with a pinch of zantham gum and a pinch of cream of tartar until forming soft peaks

– Melt together the remaining 1/4 cup chickpea water (or use water instead) and sugar and bring up to 242-248 degrees F/116-120 degrees Centigrade

– With the stand mixer on medium, slowly drizzle in the hot syrup into the meringue mix

– Turn up to high for a minute or two until you have piles of white glossy clouds of meringue, beat in the vanilla

– Spoon over the top of the pie and brown under a grill or with a blow torch.

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– Eat as soon as possible.

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English spring garden salad

 

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You know that phrase used in American burger restaurants ‘take a walk through the garden’? Well, this is the elegant, English equivalent re-imagined onto your plate.

What is it with me and competitions? I never ever, ever win them. Even if only a few others have entered I still don’t win. I came across a Twitter competition last week to win a copy of Rachel Koo’s new cookbook and hamper of goodies – it’s oozing great design and I’d love to have it, but despite hardly any other entrants, I of course didn’t win. I’ll put it on my lengthy cookbook wishlist.

Anyway, in the attached article was a picture of her English Garden Salad, it looked so pretty and sent my imagination flying. I’m not even sure what exactly was in Rachel’s as I only caught sight of a small picture on my phone, so I just ran with the idea and created my version of an English spring garden salad.

Combining miniature new potatoes,  pink and crunchy radish, cucumber ribbons, herbs and leaves, all bathed in a chive vinaigrette, this is my interpretation of an English garden at this time of year.

English Spring Garden Salad (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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Serves 2

  • 2 handfuls of miniature new potatoes, boiled or steamed until tender then left to cool
  • Small bunch of radish, cleaned, topped and tailed and quartered or halved
  • 1/3 rd cucumber, made into thin ribbons with a potato peeler
  • 4 mint leaves, finely chopped
  • Small handful of parsley, roughly chopped
  • A scattering of salad leaves

Chive vinaigrette (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, soya-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp slat
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped chives

– First make the dressing – whisk together all the ingredients, taste
– Toss the new potatoes and radish in a little of the vinaigrette, place in the centre of a platter
– Drape the cucumber ribbons over the potatoes and place the leaves around the plate
– Scatter over the herbs
– Drizzle over a little more vinaigrette
– Eat straight away

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More Adventures in Egg-free Meringue

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Have you heard of chickpea meringue? If you haven’t, where have you been? Well, probably anywhere but the vegan online forums where chickpea meringue has taken over the world in 2015! It hasn’t really hit the allergy community yet, but it’s BIG in the vegan one.

The world of egg-free meringue has changed forever thanks to Joel Roessell of Revolution Vegetale who I believe is the true originator. The idea seems crazy, and perhaps a little bit… gross even, but it works a treat. His idea is using the discarded water (brine) from a tin of beans or chickpeas to be whipped up into an egg white substitute. Then Goose Wohlt, who can be found at www.aquafaba.com brought the concept to the masses (by which I mean the online vegan community). If you are tempted to try, and I urge you to, do think of posting your recipes on the Facebook page Vegan Meringues: Hits and Misses, as the recipe has been developed as a collaboration ( and do join the FB page as there are some amazing experiments taking place).

I first heard of the idea from my online friend Somer McCowan of Vedged Out fame and I have to say I was sceptical – a meringue made from the water from a tin of chickpeas and some sugar! To be honest, it does sound utterly bonkers doesn’t it? Besides I’d previously created my own egg-free meringue of which I am inordinately proud, surely my recipe couldn’t be trumped by a can of chickpeas, could it?! Well, I still stand by my recipe – when it works it gives fantastic results, but it can be a tricky beast – there are a fair few processes and unusual (and expensive) ingredients and sometimes it does fail – but when it does work the taste is absolutely perfect.

But I had to try this new kid on the block. So with some trepidation I gave it a go. Surely a meringue made of chickpea water isn’t going to be nice? But the first thing I noticed is how easily you can create the soft fluffy, meringue peaks, those voluminous pillows of meringue cloudy fluff with just two ingredients – you simply cannot fail to be impressed. A stand mixer helps because it really does need serious high speed whipping, but seriously you get clouds of the stuff from one tin of chickpeas (or more accurately I should say the water you’d normally throw down the sink) and half a cup of sugar. Having tried the recipe a few times I believe that a pinch of Xanthan gum gives a better finish, but plenty of people prefer just the bean water and sugar. The flavour… well, GREAT was the first feeling. But I’d add that a slight beany flavour comes through as the meringues sit so would encourage you to consume them as fresh as possible. And using vanilla as well as the sugar in the making is a nice touch for flavour.

So over the next few weeks I’ll be taking you along on my journey of discovery of previously thought impossible egg-free meringue-based dishes. As mentioned before, have a look at that Facebook page for further inspiration. I’ve got one or two ideas that I don’t think anyone has tried yet, so keep watching here too.

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So, starting with the basics…..

Egg-free Aquafaba Meringue (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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makes a good 3-4 trays of meringues!

  • 1 tin of chickpeas or other pulses (standard size)
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar, plus 3 tbsps (whizzed in a blender to become finer, if you use icing sugar beware of brands that contain cornstarch as that prevents the meringues from working)
  • 1/4 tsp Zantham gum
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

– Drain the chickpeas letting the liquid fall straight into your bowl and put the pulses to one side (you’re going to have to start eating a lot of chickpea/bean based dishes!!)
– Add the Zantham gum and whisk on high speed until you have piles of soft pillowy clouds of mixture
– Start adding the sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, letting it fully combine between each addition.
– Once all the sugar is incorporated whisk in the vanilla
– You should have stiff peaks of meringue fluff
– Pipe or spoon onto lined baking sheets
– Bake at 120 degrees centigrade for 30 minutes
Then turn down the oven to 90 degrees centigrade and cook for a further 1 hour
Turn off the oven and leave them to cool for another 1 hour
– Peel off the paper and try not to gorge yourself on too many! Keep in an airtight, dry container.

 

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Syrupy Oaties

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Sometimes there is the need for a cookie that is a little more wholesome, a little more sturdy, a little less fancy. In those times this is the cookie to turn too – they may look unassuming but boy, do they pack a punch of oaty, syrupy goodness – just perfect for days out and getting an energy boost.

Syrup Oaties (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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makes about 24

  • 150g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 150g rolled oats, ideally small
  • 150g sugar
  • 150g dairy-free spread/margarine
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup (maple syrup or honey if you need)
  • 2 tbsp dairy-free milk

– Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade/gas mark 4
– Lined two cookie sheets with parchment
– Place all the dry ingredients into a bowl and stir
– Melt together the spread, syrup and dairy-free milk
– Pour into the dry ingredients and mix well
– Roll out tbsp sized balls of dough and gently press down onto the baking sheets
– Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden
– Cool on a wire rack

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Panko Crusted Pea and Potato Cakes with Tartar Sauce

20150409-194616.jpg I was out for supper with some friends and one of them had fish cakes with tartar sauce -they looked so appealing with their crispy outer, soft centre and zippy sauce. It seemed to me that it was a type of dish vegetarians/vegans don’t get to eat; but I suddenly really fancied my own version of this fishy classic. After some research and development, here is my veggie and friendly version of a real classic, perfect for a Friday. I tried various combinations to replace the fish, but then decided to go with the other traditional accompaniment to fish and tartar sauce – peas. Perfect! I was worried that it would be too simple – potato and pea cakes, served with homemade zingy sauce and leaves. But actually we decided that, yes, it’s light but also entirely satisfying and an ultimately comforting dish perfect for spring. D had never tried tartar sauce (I know, crazy!) but he has never liked fish – as such he was sceptical of a mayo based concoction framed with cornichons, capers and parsley, but in the end really enjoyed the combination, particularly with the crispy cakes. I prefer to bake the potatoes before mashing as I find it makes the mix fluffy and dry, and therefore better for coating and frying. Feel free to boil the potatoes if you prefer but be aware the mix will be wetter and will probably need longer to firm up in the fridge. Panko Crusted Pea and Potato Cakes (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, soya-free, vegetarian and vegan, gluten-free if use gluten-free breadcrumbs) 20150409-194555.jpg Serves 2 (multiply as necessary)

  • 2 baking potatoes
  • Handful of frozen peas, blanched
  • Handful of parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp dairy-free spread/margarine
  • 1 cup panko crumbs, or fresh breadcrumbs

– Bake the potatoes until totally tender scoop out and mash or rice the centres – Stir in the other ingredients, taste and adjust seasoning as desired – Form into 4 patties and whilst warm coat in the panko crumbs – Rest in the fridge for at least half an hour to firm up – Shallow fry in flavourless oil until crispy on both sides – Either immediately transfer to a warm oven to finish cooking, or put aside until ready to heat later Tartar Sauce (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, soya-free, vegetarian and vegan) 20150409-194628.jpg makes plenty for 2 potato cakes

  • 6 tbsp egg-free mayo, i like Plamil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp capers, rinsed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup cornichons, finely chopped
  • Handful of parsley, finely chopped
  • Squeeze of lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

– Combine all the ingredients, taste and adjust seasoning as required – Keep refrigerated until ready to use 20150409-194649.jpg

Fondant Fancies (French Fancies)

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Fondant fancies with their beautiful pastel hues and elegant stripes were always my favourite cake as a child – well, what’s not to like about a sponge cube coated in sweet icing? They always seemed like the right choice for a tea party for my dolls – pretty, dainty and oh so appealing. So their recreation for my girls was a must – how could they miss out on such a gorgeous childhood treat?

As it turns out, fondant fancies aren’t hard to make dairy, egg and nut-free – they’re mainly an assembly of vanilla sponge, buttercream blobs and thick but pourable water icing. Not hard at all, but definitely a labour of love in that they take time. You’ll need to leave aside a good couple of hours to fit in the different stages and the final icing is certainly a bit of a challenge. Whilst I was happy with my results, the final appearance was a little more knobbly than a shop bought version!

Having said that, the delight on the girls faces of being able to eat a fondant fancy like their friends made it all worthwhile :-)

Fondant Fancies (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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makes about 18

Vanilla sponge

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  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 100g caster sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 100ml sunflower oil
  • 150ml oat milk
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla

– Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 5

– Line a rectangular baking tray with parchment.

– Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Stir in the sugar.

– In a separate bowl, mix together the oat milk, bicarb, lemon, vanilla and oil.

– Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently mix, until well combines.

– Fill the baking tray and bake for 25-30 minutes, until lightly golden and a knife comes out clean.

– Cool on a wire rack.

– When completely cool, cut into squares with a serrated knife

Buttercream

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  • 2 tbsp vegetable fat (such as Trex)
  • 1/3 cup dairy-free spread (such as Pure)
  • 1 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 2 tbsp cup oat milk

– Whisk together the spread and vegetable fat.

– Add the icing sugar, 1/2 cup at a time with a splash of the oat milk, until fully combined and nice and fluffy.

Nappage

  • 1/4 cup apricot jam
  • 1 tbsp water

– melt the jam into the water. Keep warm.

Water Icing

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  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • water
  • food colouring

– gradually add  little bit of water at a time until you have a thick but pourable icing

– place 2 tbsp in a icing bag with a narrow tip

– colour the rest with a lovely pastel food colouring

Assembly

  1. Once the sponge is totally cool, slice into even sized cubes, around 5cm in diameter is about right, discarding the edges
  2. Paint the cubes with nappage (warmed, thinned apricot jam) to stop the crumbs getting mixed into the icing
  3. Pipe or spoon a dollop of buttercream onto the top of each sponge, then place in the fridge to firm up (about half an hour
  4. Spoon some water icing over each fondant fancy and then using a palette knife, evenly coat the sides. If you have time, put two coats on each fancy for an even finish. Drizzle over white icing lines.
  5. Leave to set
  6. These fancies keep well for up to 4 or 5 days

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Lemon drizzle scones

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Spring makes me want to add some zing – some bright, sunshine freshness to add light to the palate and awaken the taste buds after months of comforting cosy foods.

My mum recently gave me a lovely little elegant plate which was my grandmother’s favourite. It’s so pretty that I decided it needed to be used for an elegant but also traditional dish, and not much fits the bill as perfectly as some scones.

But these scones don’t just look pretty, they also provide the double whammy of lemon scented insides and surprisingly zingy lemon drizzle topping. Unusual for a scone that’s for sure, but also totally delightful. Best served with a warm blueberry compote.

Lemon Drizzle Scones (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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Makes about 12

  • 220g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp dairy-free spread
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • Pinch of salt
  • Up to 100ml oat milk
  • 1-2 tbsps granulated sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon

– Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade/Gas mark 6
– Grease and flour a baking sheet
– Mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar and lemon zest. Rub in the spread until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
– Pour in the lemon juice and some of the oat milk. Gently bring together to form a soft dough (do NOT knead or you’ll end up with rock hard scones!). Add more milk if necessary.
– Gently pat out to a circle about 5cm thick. Stamp our circles and place on the baking sheet. Gather up the remaining dough, pat out again and stamp out more circles until all the dough is used up
– Brush the tops with lemon juice and sprinkle over some granulated sugar
– Bake for 20-25 minutes until well risen and golden on the tops and bottoms

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Mini Berliner style Doughnuts

IMG_5788 Friday after school always calls for a proper sweet treat. A ‘well done the week’s over and welcome to the weekend’ kind of treat. Doughnuts must be the ultimate naughty treat – deep-fried, sugar-coated, jam-filled bites of pure naughtiness, and so totally perfect for welcoming in the weekend! These mini Berliners are filled with blackcurrant jam whereas more traditionally it would be raspberry.

The yeast risen dough is light and fluffy with a crisp outer and I was informed that they are doughnut perfection! Who needs eggs and dairy when the results without are as good as this. Sadly, I didn’t quite achieve the white ring around the diameter of the doughnut for true Berliner style – any advice on how to achieve would be gratefully received. Warning: don’t eat too many at once, although you may find it hard to stop!IMG_5785 Mini Berliner Style Doughnuts (dairy-free, egg-fre, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan) IMG_5782 makes about 20

  • 1 cup plus 1 tbsp hand-hot water
  • 1/2 tbsp dried fast action yeast
  • 2 tbsps melted dairy-free spread, such as Pure
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • Seedless raspberry jam to fill
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar, to roll in

– Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, yeast and cinnamon (if using)

– Stir in the 1/3 cup caster sugar

– Pour in the water and melted spread and bring together to form a soft dough. Knead well. Cover the bowl and let rise for an hour or two

– Roll out the dough to about 1 inch thick and cut out circles and place on a floured baking sheet. Cover and leave to prove for an extra 15 minutes

– Bring 5cm/2 inches of flavourless oil up to temperature (it’s the right temperature when a piece of bread bubbles on contact)

– Deep fry 2-3 doughnuts at a time until well browned all over then drain on paper towels. Roll in the sugar whilst still warm.

– To fill the jam doughnuts: once cool, make a small hole in one side and pipe in some smooth blackcurrant jam. IMG_5781

Chocolate Ganache topped 3-2-1 Tray Bake

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This week is going to have a distinctly sweet theme, after last week’s little foray to Mexico. What better way to start the week than with something rich, chocolatey and irresistible?

Sometime a tray bake fits the bill perfectly – for those occasions when you need to feed a crowd with little fuss but somehow has the wow factor. This recipe makes 2 failsafe trays of light chocolate sponge that is then topped with rich chocolate ganache before being feathered with white chocolate for a really professional finish. (Top tip: a bit of not-so-tricky white chocolate feathering never fails to impress!)

This sponge recipe is one to always keep to hand, so simple and one to turn to when you’re on holiday with little baking equipment to hand. It’s as easy as anything, able to be made without scales or measuring cups just as long as the proportions are right: 3 parts flour, 2 parts sugar, 1 part cocoa, 2 parts water and 1 part oil with a bit of baking powder and salt on top.

Chocolate Ganache topped 3-2-1 Tray Bake (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free [if chocolate soya-free], sesame-free vegetarian and vegan)

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makes 2 tray bakes

  • 3 cups of self-raising flour
  • 2 cups of soft brown sugar (any sugar will do, but I prefer soft brown)
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup sunflower oil
  • 2 cups of water

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for the ganache: (for one tray bake, double for both)

  • 1/2 cup dairy-free chocolate
  • 1/2 cup dairy-free cream, I use Oatly
  • 1 tsp syrup
  • 2 tbsps dairy-free white chocolate

– Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 3

– Line two brownie tins with baking parchment

– Mix together the dry ingredients and pour in the wet. Mix well and pour into the lined tins.

– Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a knife comes out clean and the cake is well risen. Cool.

– To make the ganache: melt together the cream, syrup and chocolate then bring to a boil and simmer for 1 minute stirring all the while.

– Pour over the cake and smooth with a palette knife. Before it sets, pipe lines of melted white chocolate and then drag a tooth pick up and down to give the feathered effect.

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Mexican Rice and Beans Salad

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The sun is shining and it’s starting to feel a little warmer – yippee! After the long dark, cold months there suddenly light and colour, oh what joy! I was intending on cooking another hearty vegetable soup for lunch but the sun’s warming rays made me quickly shelve that idea. What we needed was some vibrancy and colour; some freshness and zing to match the weather.

So a quick rummage in the larder later and I had the ingredients I needed for this wonderfully zingy and alive rice and bean salad, which also handily continued the Mexican theme that started with pinto bean soup the other day.

The vegetables add jewels of colour and flavour and the lime makes the dish zing. Wonderful eaten on the day, this salad also keeps well for a couple of days. For me, however, its best use is as the base of a delicious taco salad (pictured below): rice and beans salad combined with fresh salsa, lettuce, avocado, dairy-free soured cream and topped with crunchy tortilla chips and coriander – divine!

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Mexican Rice and Beans Salad (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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serves at least 4

  • 1 cup of rice, cooked
  • 1/2 tin of beans, ideally borlotti or pinto
  • 1/2 tin sweetcorn
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped into small dice
  • Juice of 1 1/2 limes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp chipotle Tabasco sauce, or 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • Handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

– Whisk together the lime, oil and salt (and chipotle sauce, if using)
– Pour over the other ingredients and mix well

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