Rhubarb Phyllo Galette

4288212 Processed with VSCO with a5 presetNothing like sitting down in a cosy café to write up another yummy recipe. Just had a double salad full of gorgeous greens and beans, the sort of thing which this recipe perfectly complements. Going through recent journal entries always bring forth the necessity of consistency, self-belief, self-growth, and routine, but they also revealed how easy it is for me to get lost in a tangle of unhealthy mentality and unnecessary indecision. I guess it’s okay to excuse oneself for wondering which food photography backdrop to get next and whether the bananas I just caramelised with vegan butter and a lush deep muscovado sugar would pair better with melting dark chocolate or a simple cinnamon and coconut nectar drizzle (the former was quite the mouth show, and I need to do that more often. It’s basically a wholesome sundae for breakfast). The peril of freedom of choice! How superficial it seems, and yet, what changes they bring– to my entire outlook on life, on the way I behave. Just like how I had mushrooms on toast for brunch last Saturday and I could actually feel my heart leap with joy upon seeing perfectly caramelised onions, browned and gooey, stuffed between morsels of juicy oyster and morel mushrooms heaped on a bordering-carcinogenic piece of toast lovingly slathered with homemade hummus. Sweet moments make themselves known. Because they do make life that much sweeter.

Yesterday I ate a delicious carrot cake chockfull of walnuts. Not the most salubrious thing to have at 2pm, but it did hit the spot like nothing else. Typically a big green apple does it, but yesterday, that fine Tuesday, the cake was a brio in my mouth. If you’ve been following me for a while, you’d know just how much I resonate with the idea of moderation, so necessary in this age of health and nutrition information advertised to propagandic effect. Cake and coffee by myself, mindful and beautiful. Life is about health, and also about letting go. A pure, one-dimensional sweet this cake was, but what was missing was the hint of tart from the cream cheese component (if only vegan cream cheese wasn’t so pricey, right?) in the icing. Tart, the cousin of sweet, is sometimes necessary to balance whatever saccharine loveliness a baked good or breakfast item has to offer.

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Tart, this pinch of sour, to round off the sweet. Tart, like this rhubarb phyllo galette. Thank you Aldi for 50p on-sale fresh, seasonal rhubarb! This is a twist on a recipe recently written up by Linda Lomelino, one of my favourite baking and dessert bloggers. With plenty of phyllo pastry left over in my freezer, I thought it would be interesting to see what would become of it. Phyllo pastry may be delicate, but it’s also incredibly versatile, and should not be reserved just for baklava and other Middle Eastern desserts. Here is what happens: You layer half-sheets of phyllo pastry on top of each other, each layer brushed with a delicate layer of olive oil to help them stick together, whilst allowing the galette edges crisp up nicely in the oven (without burning). Broken pastry? No big deal. A galette is meant to be rustic, and tears and breaks here and there will only enhance, not detract, from this.

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Notes:

  • For whole, unscathed sheets of phyllo pastry, leave the frozen pastry in the fridge overnight, so do that the night before baking, or at least a couple of hours before. Microwaving the phyllo pastry to heat it up in a rush might leave some parts too delicate and others frozen stiff. That being said, you may still try microwaving the pastry (cover removed but still in its plastic wrap) for 30 seconds at a time, on medium power. Not the highest!
  • Cutting up the rhubarb into batons of equal length may leave you with little pieces of rhubarb. Don’t discard these, you could try fit a few cut-up pieces into nooks and crannies in the galette. Any remaining pieces can be eaten there and then.
  • The seeds and sugar sprinkled on top of the galette before baking is optional but highly recommended. The crunch gives the galette more textural fun.
  • It’s important to watch the galette carefully as it bakes– it’s done once the pastry is pale brown and edges are crisp. Baking time may vary depending on the brand of phyllo pastry you use, or strength of the oven.

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Rhubarb Phyllo Galette (adapted from Linda Lomelino’s recipe for a rhubarb almond galette– makes one 6-inch galette)

Ingredients

200g rhubarb (about 4 large stalks), washed and leaves/ other possible dirty bits and bobs cut off

juice and zest of half a lemon

1 tsp cornstarch

1 tbsp sugar (coconut or brown)

9 half-sheets of phyllo pastry, thawed (from frozen) in the fridge overnight

60ml vegetable oil or melted butter (use vegan butter or margarine if you are vegan)

2 tbsp granulated or turbinado sugar

*optional: sprinkle of mixed seeds (I used a very random mix of sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and some homemade buckwheat granola)

Directions 

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). After weighing out the rhubarb, cut each stalk in half lengthways, then cut into batons, each 4cm in length. Put the rhubarb batons in a bowl, add the lemon juice and zest, cornstarch and sugar, and mix well with a spoon, until the batons are all coated in the lemony-sugar mix.

On your work surface, place one half-sheet of phyllo pastry down. Brush this with a thin layer of oil or melted vegan butter, then place a second layer on top. Repeat, until you have three layers on top. Rotate this thin stack 90 degrees, then do the same with the next three half-sheets, not forgetting to brush each layer with  oil each time. Rotate 90 degrees again until you are at the same orientation as you were in the beginning with the first three sheets, and then layer on the last three half-sheets so that all 9 half-sheets are used up at this point. You should get what looks like a thick cross shape, with 8 corners

Fold each of the 8 corners down, so that you have an octagon shape. Take your rhubarb batons and place them in whatever pretty pattern you wish, in the centre of the octagon. I did a series of horizontal and vertical batons, but you could also just heap the stuff in the middle. Then fold over, somewhat in a rough and random manner, the perimeter of phyllo pastry, over the border of rhubarb to get the shape of a galette. Brush the pastry with more butter/olive oil, sprinkle on the 2 tablespoons of sugar, and the optional sprinkle of mixed seeds. Bake in the preheated oven for 13 minutes. Watch the galette carefully– it’s done once the pastry is a pale brown.

Leave the galette to cool a while on the counter, before slicing and serving with coconut yoghurt or a refreshing scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

The Best Chewy Snickerdoodles

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I have made these cookies at least 3 times, all within the same week I realised these cannot be anything less than the best vegan snickerdoodles EVER. Really, I was so excited. Just sitting there, spatula in hand, the other covered in a greasy mix of cinnamon, butter and sugar. How could this be? These must be one of the best things ever to savour (in moderation, of course). Preceding the most wonderful vacation I’ve had in a while (Belgium, Germany and Austria, woot!) were these cookies. Just these, nothing more and nothing less, and nothing more was needed, to be very honest. Now I’m babbling, but clearly you can tell how excited I am about these. I considered sharing the recipe for these on a whim on Instagram, but realised they’re too special not to have a reserved spot in the archives.

The word ‘best’ of course elevates everyone’s expectations, and I promise these won’t let you down. All my friends who tried it said various things:

‘Better than Ben’s (with reference to the popular Ben’s Cookies here in London)?!’,

‘Oh my God I can’t stop’

‘Holy s***.’

But enough with the all bark and no bite. I’ll rat this one out, you deserve at least that. These are by far the most chewy, delicious, cinnamony snickerdoodles I have ever had. Loving the cracks and crags of these, which you can enjoy below, alongside some shots of the trip I just came back from, where every day ended with a full belly and fuller heart.

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Munich’s harsh light that fine day
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Ghent, Belgium: That time someone actually cooked breakfast for me: Hot sautéed cinnamon apples on a bed of warm porridge. Mmmmm.
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Schladming, Austria: Where we dined on a dinner of fresh air, a view of the mountains, crisp white wine and a sweet potato eggplant curry

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Stiff and chewy all the way through. Rolling them in my ratio of cinnamon and sugar will yield incredibly chewy outer edges and a perfectly sweet bite each time. Cinnamon goes way back, and this love affair with this spice has no end. Cinnamon is able to prevent cognitive brain decline, whilst boasting many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Petri dish experiments, as reductionist as they sound, still have shown some potential anti-cancer properties. How cool is that?

Another day, another one-bowl wonder. It’s a simple matter of creaming together vegan butter and sugar, before adding the dry ingredients and mixing everything until you get a relatively dry mixture. But texture should not fool you– this recipe will yield the most chewy cookies after baking, as the butter melts and moistens everything. It is a true dream, I say.

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Vegan snickerdoodles (makes around 12 medium cookies)

Ingredients

330g plain flour, or use half whole-wheat if desired (I have not tried the latter, but I guess this would yield a sturdier, more earthy-tasting cookie)

1/2 tsp each of baking powder and baking soda

pinch of salt

1 flax egg– mix 1 tbsp ground flaxseed with 2 tbsp water

1 tsp vanilla extract

150g vegan butter or margarine

130g (around 3/4 cup) of white sugar

120g (around a packed 3/4 cup) of light brown sugar.

mixture to roll cookies in: 30g white sugar mixed with 1 tbsp ground cinnamon (you may realise you do not need all of it when rolling your cookie dough in this mixture)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 180C and line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.

Mix the ground flaxseed and water in a small bowl and set aside to gel up. Cream together the butter and sugar using a fork or electric whisk. I simply use a fork and spatula to cream it to save on some washing! Mix the butter and sugar until you get a smooth, fluffy consistency. Add the flax egg and vanilla extract and mix until incorporated.

Next, add the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Mix everything by hand or with an electric whisk. The mixture will be quite dry and crumbly (don’t worry, they won’t turn out like this). Roll the mixture into 2-inch balls, then roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place the balls at least 1 inch apart as they will spread a little.

Bake them in the oven for 18 minutes. Once baked, take the cookies out and use the bottom of a glass to lightly tap on the tops of the cookies to flatten them just a little. This evens out the conduction of heat and makes the cookies incredibly chewy and less raw in the centre. The cookies will look slightly pale and perhaps a little raw once out of the oven, but leave them to cool on your counter and they will stiffen and cook a little more. Resist if you can (I can’t). Enjoy on their own. These last quite a few days in an airtight container.

 

Apple Strudel

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Things to be grateful for the past week:

  • Billie Holiday. Happy belated, you star.
  • Extended periods of concentration
  • My mum’s lipstick (oops).
  • Discovering new, creative inspiration all around me, in the air, sights, people (Instagram aside, of course).
  • Daily yoga practice. Still trying to get better at certain inversions and balances. Nothing else truly grounds and invigorates me.
  • Love. Everywhere. Phone calls or video calls. Precious and genuine.
  • Making mistakes, and distinct feelings of unease. And then letting the right balance of stoicism and determination kick in. Feel, embrace, face obstacles, before trying to untangle and change them.
  • Coming across the cutest café (named Moreish) near the Wellcome Collection full of delicious vegan options, including vegan gelato!!
  • Coming up with more easy, AMAZING new recipes which I am so excited to release week after week! And just refining some sweet (literally) cult classics whenever I can. Snickerdoodles, red velvet cake, carrot cake, fudgy brownies galore. These things just can’t go wrong.My most recent experiment was particularly exciting and got me squealing on my knees at 10pm last night. Seriously.

Over the Easter weekend I was privileged enough to be hosted by my boyfriend’s family in Austria. On the plane ride back, my hands were itching to start playing with the Austrian cult classic– yes, the one and only apple strudel. I remember my first encounter with the traditional Austrian pastry before I went vegan so distinctly, The first bite was an explosion of thick-cut chunks of tender, stewed, cinnamony apple, enveloped in light-as-air, flaky pastry. Drenched in vanilla sauce (you usually douse your pastry in either this or vanilla ice cream if you have it), each vanilla speckle visible in pure, vivid ivory, if ivory could be so vivid. It’s the perfectly flaky pastry encasing soft apple, firm yet two steps away from being mush upon the pressure of your spoon, that I wished to replicate the past weekend.

And that I did.

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This easy vegan apple strudel is about an hour away from you if you feel like buying some filo tonight. Seriously, it’s so darn easy and delicious I can’t possibly think of what is stopping you. Since I was only making this for me and my uncle last weekend, the strudel I ended up with was a rather small thing of a sausage, but nevertheless satisfying in portion. Double the ingredients if you wish to make this for a larger party or, say, 5 or more friends who are more cautious than carefree when it comes to dessert after a hefty dinner of pot stickers and the likes on a Saturday night. I personally enjoy any dessert a la mode, as opposed to drenching it in custard or vanilla sauce. Ice cream any day for me, who’s with me?? I also drizzled over some of my homemade salted caramel sauce of extra pizzaz, though any sauce is of course optional, if you’re the sort who also hates stuff like sweet chilli sauce. Is that even possible?

Filo pastry actually comes in so handy for these types of dessert– I like to chuck mine in the freezer and let it thaw for at least 3 hours or overnight in the fridge to be used the next day.

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Apple Strudel (makes one 4×8-inch strudel. enough for 2-3 people)

Ingredients

2 large apples, diced

juice of half a lemon

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

2 and a half sheets of filo pastry, with the 2 larger ones cut in the middle along the longer edge, so you end up with 5 halves. If you’re using frozen filo pastry

A handful, or about 30g of chopped nuts (or buckwheat groats, as I used in my case since I didn’t have many nuts lying around– sacrilege!), and some extra for sprinkling later on

4 tbsp vegan butter, melted in the microwave

4 tbsp brown or coconut sugar

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C (350C). In a bowl, mix together the chopped apple, cinnamon, lemon and nuts. If you don’t have any nuts or buckwheat groats, granola or any trailer mix sort of thing works well too. Set the bowl aside.

Place a piece of parchment paper that fits a standard baking tray, and place the paper on the tray. Flour the parchment and lay down one sheet of filo pastry. Carefully (filo pastry is quite delicate) brush on some vegan butter, then sprinkle on a tablespoon of brown or coconut sugar, then some of your finely chopped nuts/granola/something crunchy basically! Then lay down your second piece of pastry and repeat. Repeat until all five sheets are used up. Place the filling in the middle of the pastry, leaving a border of an inch from the shorter edge (breadth) and 2 inches from the longer edge (length). Refer to the pictures above for a clearer idea of what I’m saying. Using a sharp knife, roughly cut lines going from the edge of your filling to the length of the pastry, spaced 2 cm away from each other and parallel to each other. The lines should match up to each other on both sides of the filling.

Carefully fold the strips of pastry towards the middle, using the extra melted butter to stick any overlapping bits together. Continue doing this along the length of the strudel until you reach the bottom. Brush the top of the pastry with more melted butter, sprinkle on some brown sugar, and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes. The pastry should not be dark, but crispy all the same. Serve with a healthy dollop of vegan vanilla ice cream, and more nuts for crunch. This can be kept in the fridge for a few days

 

Double Chocolate Coffee Cookies (gluten-free)

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Bossa nova, and then Elvis in the background. At a new café in London (Abuelo) in the heart of Covent Garden, enjoying the serenity of solitude. Peaceitude. Hopefully there will be a vegan mud pie for me soon, to complement this matcha latte velvet. Despite my need for solitude, this heart is full with emptiness after a full 2 weeks of living and enjoying life to the fullest with my favourite human being over the Easter break. The past few weeks taught me that sometimes, all that’s needed is frugality and acceptance of what is. A fresh page in my diary for a fresh day. The simple, dense crumb of a freshly-baked loaf (missing the cheap and delicious bread from Germany so much!). The still invigoration of a short morning yoga flow, which pervades the air you breathe every second of every day with a keen alertness, curiosity and beauty. Nothing more sleek or necessary.

Success need not be about ticking off the 100 things on your to-do list, rather it could be absolute mindfulness. The absolute mindfulness of a cheeky bite of a chewy-edged, gluten-free chocolate chip cookie, which I made for my boyfriend’s dad who is extremely sensitive to gluten.

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These cookies have double the chocolate than your average cookie. In other words, they’re double the fun and flavour. Each break and pull yields strands and streams of melting dark chocolate (or stuff in some vegan milk chocolate if you wish, go on). The best part is of course the coffee, which brings out the flavour of the chocolate while illuminating a hint of morning smokiness. Using just buckwheat flour will make the cookies sandier in texture, but this is somewhat offset but the chewy edges, gooey middles and countless pools of melted chocolate. YUM.

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Gluten-free Double Chocolate Coffee Cookies (makes 6-8 medium-large cookies)

Ingredients

180g (1.5 cups) buckwheat flour (or use half buckwheat and half whole wheat/ plain flour)

100g chopped dark chocolate, or use a mix of dark and milk vegan chocolate if you prefer slightly sweeter cookies

100g vegan butter, at room temperature. Alternatively, you can use coconut oil.

140g brown/coconut sugar

1/2 tsp each of baking powder and baking soda

1 tsp espresso powder

1 tbsp vanilla extract

120ml (a half cup) plant milk of choice

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C and line two baking trays with baking parchment. In a bowl and with a fork or whisk, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the baking powder, baking soda, espresso powder, vanilla and plant milk. Mix everything together well. Add the buckwheat flour and chopped chocolate, and mix together until batter is well incorporated. It should look relatively thick and clumpy.

Dollop heaped tablespoons of batter onto your lined sheets, and press down on the cookies a little to flatten them. Bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes exactly. They should be really soft, in fact a little too soft to fiddle with once right out of the oven. Wait 10 minutes for them to firm up a little, before taking them off the tray and eating them (ideally with a cold glass of almond milk!).

Banana Bread Oatmeal and Little Lessons

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Having just finished Buddha Brain by Rick Hanson, it’s come to my attention how disengaged and out of focus we tend to be in our stimulated environments, especially in fast-paced cities such as London. Somehow we are always trying to do more in less and less time, and this has potentially devastating lifelong consequences. It’s blind attention. Some days we go through the motions and feel rewarded or successful upon ticking off multiple checkboxes. But life isn’t a checklist, and isn’t supposed to be. How crazy are we to think we can be both productive and happy going about life in this robotic, stress-fuelled way?

This audiobook sort of links to the one I’m reading now– Whole, by one of my idols T. Colin Campbell. All this stress increases risk of certain diseases and accelerates ageing. Food of all things is so underrated in its effects on our mental and physical health, as well as the way we behave towards and learn from others. How could we use food to help us live better lives?

There are a few strategies about both food and lifestyle that I have included in the past few years, each starting at different points in my life, but all practiced towards the same degree. For example, I have done yoga and meditation for 2 years now, but only started mindful eating a few months ago. Naturally I am a rather indecisive person (4-5 delicious Gail’s vegan muffins or a manicure kit? Help??), but these techniques put the minute decisions into the broader context of life better, helping me achieve a better, more logical state of mind.

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The most incredible vegan sorbets and ice cream (coconut, deep and rich dark chocolate, raspberry and lemon basil) at Ballabeni in Munich!

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  • Make eating a meditation. Eat slowly, and savour every mealtime. Put your fork down between each bite, don’t have blazing screens on for at least 2 out of 3 of your meals, talk to a friend or loved one. Think about where each ingredient on your plate came from. This process clears your head, refreshes the mind. You know you are putting good things into your body. The pictures above are from my recent trip to Munich to see my boyfriend and his family. Every morning welcomed me with fresh bread and jam. Each bite was more alluring than the last, a chunk of fresh hope and energy for the day’s next few steps. Even if it’s a slice of cake, remember where that cake came from, each sweet mouthful airing your body with life and energy. It may not be the slow sustained energy you get from your daily bowl of oatmeal, but it’s food to savour and enjoy all the same, and by practicing mindfulness, you’ll get used to treating your body better, and crave cake a few times a week, not twice a day. And on that note…
  • Include some source of protein and fat at at least 2 of your meals. This way, you are satiated and don’t mindlessly snack on sugary foods throughout the day (I have had enough experience with this, ugh). I bake once a week and indulge in whatever experiment that day holds, but my diet is primarily a whole foods, plant-based (WFPB) one, and I testify to moderation as salvation  Having had a turbulent relationship with food in the past, particularly my early and mid-teens, WFPB has healed me from the inside-out. Nothing else is more satisfying, refreshing and nurturing. Best part? You can be incredibly creative with any WFPB food! Flax in your baking, carrots in your cake, rich cocoa in your hot chocolate… go mad.
  • Immerse yourself in nature once in a while, and move your body. This is especially important if you live in an urban area like London. In Munich, the forest and her sharp air was particularly surreal despite the stroll’s brevity.  Sometimes, there is nothing more beautiful or necessary. Exercise is equally as important to keep the mind fresh and strong.

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So here is a little breakfast bowl that I made last week. It’s not your traditional bowl of oatmeal, but it’s just as wholesome and only a tad more fancy. It’s the perfect way to start a mindful day. This was further jazzed up with a matcha bar bite I bought at a café, but that;s optional. The focus here is the natural sweetness of the banana and the thick, almost rich flavour it lends to the oatmeal. Watery business begone. Back to basics, the best way.

Banana bread oatmeal (serves 1)

Ingredients

45-50g (about a half cup) oats (I use a mix of porridge and whole rolled oats for texture)

1 banana, half of it mashed, the other half chopped into coins

120ml (half a cup) each of plant milk of choice (I use almond and oat), and water

1/2 tsp cinnamon

pinch of salt

some crumbled banana bread

2 tsp each of almond butter and maple syrup

Directions

In a saucepan or microwave-safe bowl, mix the oats, salt, mashed banana, milk, water and cinnamon together. If you’re using a saucepan, bring the mix to a boil, then lower the heat a little and stir until you get a thick and only slightly gloopy consistency. If you’re using a microwave, microwave on high for 2-3 minutes. Take it out in between (after 1.5 minutes) just to stir it and make sure nothing bubbles over, because that may happen if your microwave is especially strong.

In a pan heated on medium heat, lightly oil the base and place your banana coins in the pan. after 30 seconds on medium heat, flip over to check if they’re nice and brown. Heat them a little longer if they’re not. Flip and caramelise the other sides. Place the banana coins on your hot bowl of oatmeal, top with the crumbled banana bread, almond butter, maple syrup, and if you want, a splash more plant milk. The cold milk seeping into the thick and gooey, hot oatmeal is divine.