Archive for December, 2010

The Spice Project

[tweetmeme source=”VeganChickie”] Aside from the food, bare-chested chef and I aren’t usually ones to celebrate Christmas, we don’t decorate our house, or have a tree or even buy each other gifts, but this year, after I spent 5 whole minutes searching for ground nutmeg in our disastrously disorganised spice drawer, I decided to break tradition and get us both the gift of organised herbs and spices.

Originally I had my heart set on making us something like the Dean & Deluca Spice Rack pictured here:

Which, while absolutely gorgeous, wouldn’t be entirely practical for use here. For a start, those tubes hold such tiny amounts of spices that I would still need to have storage space for all the excess and we have such a small kitchen that it just wasn’t feasible. Combined with the fiddly tops, the fragility of the tubes themselves and the fact that not only do I have limited bench space but I could only find test tube holders for a maximum of 24 tubes and we have over 70 spices in our drawer. All in all it was looking like it was a bad idea. Besides, we all know that spices need to be kept in the dark in order to hold their freshness right?

So, beautiful but impractical test tubes aside, I decided to focus instead, on turning our current disorganised spice drawers (we have two) into beautiful, alphabetized, anal retentive spice drawers. First up I found a local wholesale supplier of great quality glass jars who had an excellent deal on some beautiful hexagonal jars. They fit into each other beautifully in the drawer – like honeycomb – which means there isn’t a lot of movement or unnecessary clinking every time you open the drawer. Next up I found a seller on Etsy who makes waterproof and dishwasher safe labels and I got her to set me up a custom listing with all our spices, as well as some blanks for any interesting spices we acquire in the future. Then I just had the fun job of putting it all together, secretly transferring all the spices into the new jars and voila! Our new spice drawers live! The hardest part was keeping it all a secret from bare-chested chef until Christmas morning!

Each jar is 9cm tall and holds 190ml which is small enough to fit into even the most frugal drawer space but big enough to hold a really good amount of product. The metal lids cost a little more than the plastic ones but will have a much longer lifespan and – in my opinion – look much prettier too, and best of all, the drawers are nice and dark so the spices all stay lovely and fresh! Here are some before, in-progress and after photos of the project:


Vegan Christmas Cake

[tweetmeme source=”VeganChickie”] My apologies Dear Readers for the lack of recipes appearing over the last months. For those of you who don’t know, I’m pregnant! So amidst the morning sickness and exhaustion and food aversions, I’ve been focusing on cooking up this Vegan Chicklet and not spending too much time in the kitchen.

The last few weeks though, I’ve been feeling that cooking urge more and more, so fingers crossed that it will translate into some vegan food inspiration for us all.

Some of you will remember our Christmas Feast from last year – yum! Well, during the planning of this years festive meal, it occurred to me that there was a noticeable lack of Christmas themed desserts last year – as delicious as my chocolate pie is, it’s not all that Christmassy is it? – so this year I’m bringing back all the favourites from last year, like the nut roast and vegan stuffing, but will be topping the meal off with a humble Christmas Cake.

Ideally you’ll start preparing this cake the day before you plan to bake it, so that the fruit has plenty of time to soak up the alcohol.

Vegan Christmas Cake


400g currants
200g sultanas
200g raisins
150g red glace cherries (quartered)
50g green glace cherries (quartered)
50ml brandy
225g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground mixed spice
225g non-dairy butter
225g brown sugar
Egg replacement equiv. 4 eggs (the exact amount will depend on the brand you use, I use Orgran)
50g almonds (chopped)
50g walnuts (chopped)
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Grated zest of 1 orange
150g almonds (whole – to top the cake with before baking)

NB: You will also need baking paper.


The day before you plan on baking the cake, weigh out your dried fruit and place it in a large mixing bowl. Pour in the brandy in 3 lots, stirring well so that the fruit is well coated. Cover with a tea towel and let sit overnight (minimum 12 hours for best results).

The following day, preheat the oven to 140 degrees. Sift the flour, salt and spices into a mixing bowl. In a separate large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until well combined and fluffy. Prepare your ‘egg’ mixture as directed on the packaging and add it to the creamed mix one tablespoon at a time, mixing well after each tablespoon is added.

Fold in the flour and spice mixture, using gentle folding movements to keep in as much air as possible – do not whisk or beat the mix. Fold in the fruit, mixed peel, chopped nuts and the lemon and orange zest.

Transfer the mixture to a greased non stick cake tin, spread the mixture evenly with the back of a spoon and gently place the whole almonds on the top of the mixture in any pattern you like. Cover the tin with a double layer of baking paper with a 3cm hole in the middle.

Bake the cake on the lowest shelf in your oven for 4 and a half hours (yes, you read that right!). After 4.5 hours test the cake to see if it is cooked by inserting a skewer through the middle, if the skewer comes out clean the cake is ready, if not bake for another 15 minutes and then try again. Once the cake is ready, remove it from the oven and leave it to cool for 30 minutes, after 30 minutes remove from the tin and place on a wire rack to finish cooling, then store it in an airtight container.

Traditionally Christmas cakes are also ‘fed’ more brandy after the cooking is done but personally this cake was already boozy enough for me and since I’m pregnant and can’t drink, I left out this stage entirely. The feeding is supposedly to keep the cake as moist as possible but if you are planning on eating it within a few days I don’t think it’s required. If you would like to ‘feed’ your cake, put some small holes in the top with a skewer and spoon a few teaspoons of brandy over the top at intervals (whenever you like really) and store it in an airtight container.