A quick & easy guide to making your own bread

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Man holding bread

Making your own bread is really easy and can cut lots of plastic wrappers out of your life if you normally buy it from a supermarket.

When you’re used to popping to the shop to buy bread, making your own can seem like a far too time consuming task, but when you consider the time it actually takes to get ready, go to the shop, get what you need and get back again, you could probably have made a loaf and saved the stress of shopping!

Here’s what you need for a basic loaf (based on the BBC Good Food basic loaf recipe with some minor adjustments) :

  • 500g strong white flour
  • 1 teaspoon active dried yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 300ml warm water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Method

  • Mix together the dry ingredients then add in the wet ingredients. Mix until they’re combined and the dough is roughly together.
  • Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead gently for around 10 minutes
  • Transfer back to the bowl and cover with a clean cloth. Leave to rise for 1 hour or to have fresh bread in the morning, place in the fridge over night
  • Give the dough a quick, gentle knead to reduce the air and then shape in to a rough ball
  • Cover a baking tray with flour then place the dough on the tray. Leave for an hour to double in size again
  • Pre-heat the oven to 200°/gas mark 7
  • Lightly dust the dough with flour and score an x in to the top with a sharp knife
  • Cook for 25-30 minutes until it sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom
  • Leave to cool before eating

The BBC recipe recommends using baking paper to line the tray but we always use flour when making our own bread which prevents the dough from sticking to the tray while reducing the waste.

You could also break up the dough and make smaller rolls. You’ll need to reduce the cooking time. Start at 15 minutes and place back in the oven for extra time if required.

If you don’t have anywhere warm to let your dough rise, you can try the microwave method – untried by us but recommended to us. Let us know if it works!

Microwave proofing method

Heat a cup of water in the microwave for 2 minutes. Place the dough in to the microwave with the water, close the door, and leave it to rise. It should double in size but if not in around half an hour but if not, take the dough out and reheat the water then place the dough back in. Don’t heat the dough up directly in the microwave!

Taken from The Kitchn

Let us know if you try this and what your favourite bread making recipe is

How to make popcorn

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Popcorn

I have a confession to make – I love crisps. Crisps are such a serious addiction for me and I crave them a lot. Not even fancy flavours, just your basic ready salted crisps. But crisps come in that foil-plastic material which can’t be recycled and so I’ve been trying to curb my habit, and that’s where popcorn comes in.

Popcorn is such a quick, easy, and healthy snack to make and for me it satisfies my need for something crunchy and salty. OK so the salt makes it less healthy, but the great thing about making your own popcorn is you can flavour it any way you like, and you can also control the salt content if you like salty snacks like me.

There are two methods for making popcorn that we’re going to share here: microwave or in a pan.

Microwave

  1. Place a small amount of kernels in a microwave safe glass bowl – just enough to cover the bottom of the bowl in a single layer. Don’t add too many as they expand a lot and you’ll get un-popped kernels and/or an overflow situation which you don’t want.
  2. Cover the bowl loosely with a ceramic plate which is also microwave safe. If you can, leave a little gap for the steam to escape
  3. Heat the popcorn on full power for 4 minutes. It will take slightly longer than this but this is a good starting point.
  4. Once it ends, keep adding time on a little at a time while listening to the popping.
  5. Once the popping has slowed to less than 1 pop every 5 seconds turn off the heat.
  6. Leave the popcorn to rest for at least 2 minutes – it will be really hot. When you remove the plate, use an oven glove and watch out for steam
  7. Transfer to a bowl and flavour however you like. A light sprinkling of sea salt is my favourite

In a pan

  1. Use a good heavy-bottomed pan which has a lid (ideally a clear glass lid so you can see what’s going on, otherwise you can depend on listening to the pops).
  2. Put the pan on a medium-high heat and preheat slightly
  3. Add popcorn kernels to the bottom of the pan in a single layer. Like with the microwave method, don’t add too many. A little goes a long way with popcorn. You don’t need to add oil if your pan is non-stick or a well seasoned cast iron skillet, otherwise add just a little oil, not too much so you don’t get greasy popcorn.
  4. Put the lid on the pan. Don’t leave it unattended, you don’t want burnt popcorn and once they start popping things happen quickly.
  5. After a couple of minutes you’ll hear the kernels pop. Leave the popcorn on the heat until popping has reduced to less than 1 pop every 5 seconds.
  6. Take the lid off and leave to cool for a couple of minutes before transferring to your bowl of choice and adding seasoning of your choice.

What is your favourite way to flavour popcorn? Let us know in the comments

You can buy your popcorn from our shop here

6 ways to eat quinoa

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Quinoa

We love quinoa. It’s such a nutritious little grain, and thanks to our supplier Hodmedod, eating it supports British farmers rather than taking an essential food source away from communities in Peru. We often use it as a substitute for rice, or in salads but there are lots of ways to eat quinoa, even for breakfast!

We got lost in a quinoa rabbit hole on Pinterest, here are some of the best recipe ideas we dug out. All are vegan or can be made vegan with an easy substitution.

Crunchy quinoa wrap

Perfect for packing up in your lunch box and loaded with nutrients, this would make a deliciously healthy but filling lunch. We’d use our own cooked chickpeas instead of tinned and if you’re super prepared you can even make your tortilla wraps with flour, salt, and water.

Mexican quinoa wrap

Satisfy your burrito yearnings with this nutritious loaded wrap featuring quinoa, black beans and veggies.

One pot Mexican quinoa

One pot cooking is great for simplicity and saves on washing up too. This hearty Mexican stew features many of the same ingredients as the wrap above which is a great way to save time – cook your beans and quinoa once then use in two different meals for variation

Garlic mushroom quinoa

This looks like a really hearty and satisfying dish, yet is actually low in calories and full of goodness. Sub the parmesan for nutritional yeast blended with cashew pieces.

White bean quinoa chilli

Quinoa, cannellini beans, and chickpeas come together in this dish to create a fibre and protein packed meal.

Microwave breakfast quinoa

If you’re bored of porridge you can use quinoa instead of oats for a protein and fibre packed start to the day. This recipe is for cinnamon and banana flavour but you can add whatever flavours you would normally to porridge. Sub dairy milk for your favourite non-dairy milk

Do you have a favourite quinoa recipe? Let us know

Chilli sin carne recipe

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chilli

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4/5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 medium/large onion
  • 1 large red pepper
  • 6 medium white cap mushrooms
  • 1 pack frozen vegan Quorn/free from mince (approx. 450g)
  • 400g dry kidney beans, cooked/tinned, rinsed
  • 400g dry black beans, cooked/tinned, rinsed
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 400g carton passata or 3 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1.5 tbsp chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • Dash of cayenne powder
  • 1 tbsp sriracha (or any hot sauce)
  • Dried or fresh coriander and oregano  to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Generous dash Henderson’s relish (optional)

Directions:

In a large frying pan on a med/high heat, fry the onion and pepper in oil for a couple of minutes until they begin to soften – add crushed garlic, chilli powder, ground cumin, paprika, cayenne powder and herbs if using dried, and stir continuously for another 30 seconds to a minute to stop the garlic and spices from sticking.

Once the onion and pepper are well coated and fragrant, add the chopped mushrooms and mix well for about a minute before adding the mince.

Once everything is well incorporated and the mince is brown/no longer looks frozen (about one/two minutes), add the tinned tomatoes, passata/tomato purée, kidney beans and black beans if using tinned, red lentils and a dash of water/vegetable stock.

Add the sriracha, salt, pepper and Henderson’s relish before reducing the pan to a low simmer for approximately 45 minutes (if your chilli is more on the liquidy side, leave uncovered, if its thicker, half cover with a lid).

Stir every 5-10 minutes to ensure the chilli doesn’t stick and cooks evenly. You can reduce/extend the time it is left to simmer but we’d recommend a minimum of 25 minutes to let the flavours get to know each other. If using dry beans, cook separately until tender and add to the chilli just before serving. If using fresh herbs, add to the pan at the same time as the pre-cooked dry beans or simply use to garnish. Enjoy!

 

Notes:

Feel free to play around with different quantities based on your tastes! For example, you could switch out the vegan mince for more beans and sweetcorn, switch up the herbs, or use tomatoes and vegetable stock instead of chopped tomatoes and passata. Eat on its own, top with vegan cheese, put in a wrap with rice and lettuce to make a burrito, or even use to top an oven-baked sweet potato.

To keep this recipe as plastic-free as possible, buy the vegetables and beans loose, look for oil and sauces in glass bottles, replace the free from mince with something else such as other beans, use fresh tomatoes instead of tinned/passata etc., and look for spices and herbs in bulk!

How to meal prep

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Vegetables and knife

Let’s be honest; how many times have we all started the day with the purest of intentions, only for life to happen and for that cheap ready-meal or take away to look so much more appealing? Fortunately for us, even on the longest of days, we can still eat well and help save the planet with a little bit of pre-planning. Not only does it make us feel that bit better about ourselves for avoiding those unhealthy calories (and saving that hard earned cash!) but it also means we’re much more likely to avoid all of that unnecessary plastic that is synonymous with ready meals.

While meal prepping may be the holy grail of a plastic-free lunch, it doesn’t have to mean an entire day lost to the kitchen! With a bit of practice, you’ll be saving money, time, the planet AND your waistline in no time.

Here are our top tips:

  1. Get into a routine and stick with it as best you can. If you work 9-5 and want to do all of your prepping on a Sunday to take the pressure off during those busy weekdays, plan your shopping list in advance. Don’t wait until you get to your local shop/supermarket and try to plan in the moment – you *will* impulse buy and you *will* forget something.
  2. Find recipes you love and actually want to eat. Meals that are nourishing, filling, and most importantly, delicious are the ones you’re going to be wanting after that long day at the office, so make sure you have some of those lying around if you want to avoid that impulse drive-through on the way home! Meals that include lots of veggies are a great, easy way to make sure you still get those 5 a day even on days when you really don’t feel like cooking.
  3. Stick to your shopping list! If you just buy the things you need and have planned for (instead of all those appealing-looking junk foods), you’ll save money and you won’t even need your willpower not to eat them. When faced with the dilemma of having to actually leave the house to go and buy that packet of crisps you’re fancying, you’re much more likely to just eat the healthier snacks you’d planned instead!
  4. Keep things simple. The logistics of meal prepping can be daunting at first, so don’t head into your kitchen thinking you need to be a Michelin star chef for the next few hours! You can always experiment with more fancy recipes later when you know what works for you.
  5. You don’t have to prepare everything in advance. Some things like pasta don’t taste quite so good reheated, but only take minutes to cook. Instead, freeze your favourite pasta sauce and cook the pasta fresh – it still saves time, and means you don’t have to compromise on the flavour/texture of the dish.
  6. Mix it up! Don’t get stuck eating the same meals five days in a row. Batch cook a few recipes and freeze the leftovers in individual portions – this way you’re not limiting yourself to one meal every night for the next week (which gets boring real quick, trust me) and can still eat the foods you’re craving.
  7. Aim for versatility – in your meals *and* ingredients. Chilli can be eaten alone, on sweet potato, or in a burrito for example – an easy way to keep things interesting! Similarly try to go for recipes that use similar ingredients. That Singapore noodle soup recipe you saw may look nice, but noodles tend to go mushy when reheated and the numerous obscure ingredients you’ll probably never use again will just take up extra space in your cupboard.
  8. Get into smoothies. These are a healthy, easy, and quick breakfast if prepared in advance, and set you on the right track for the day. If you’re anything like me in the morning, the prospect of chopping various fruits, washing greens and getting the blender out just feels like far too much effort – even thinking about all that healthiness when I’m still half asleep is just too much. However, if you get the blender out the night before, chop those bananas and pack the right quantities into individual pots the night before, you can whip up a smoothie in no time.
  9. Use all of the space in your oven. Not only does this cut down on bills and cooking time, it’s also better for the environment! Veggies on one shelf, potatoes on the other, you get the idea. Just don’t forget to set a few timers…
  10. Invest in some decent tupperware. Ikea do some great glass ones with bamboo lids – the bases are oven, microwave and freezer proof, and they’re very reasonably priced compared to many other glass alternatives. If you think these aren’t for you, BPA-free is the way to go – we agree reusable plastic is better than single use, but you still don’t want any nasties seeping into your food!

We know it takes time to get into the swing of things at first (and it will probably feel like you’re spending longer on planning your meals than it would probably have done to just cook them in the first place) but you’ll find it quickly becomes second nature. And, if you’re pretty lazy like me, just write up your week’s ‘menu’ and shopping list and keep it in a binder in the kitchen for future use – you’ll have your own personalised recipe book in no time.

For a great place to start, check out our last blog post for Jess’ chilli recipe!

Easy vegan chocolate cake – recipe

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chocolate cake

This a really easy and vegan-friendly chocolate cake which you can cook in your microwave for a speedy chocolate fix, or in your oven if you’re more patient than I am…

Note: this recipe uses cups which is 240ml

Dry ingredients:

3/4 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup golden granulated sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of sea salt

Wet ingredients:

1/3 cup sunflower oil
1/2 cup warm water

Mix all of your dry ingredients together in a bowl then add the wet ingredients and mix well.

Pour in to a glass bowl and cover with a plate, leaving a little room for steam to escape. Microwave for 4 minutes, allow to stand for 1 minute. Serve with homemade cashew cream, custard, ice cream, or just eat it warm straight from the bowl!

How to cook dried chickpeas

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Using dried chickpeas takes a little bit of preparation compared to grabbing a tin, but you’re rewarded with far better tasting chickpeas. Make up a big batch and use in lots of different things, from curries to hummus and falafel. They’re even great roasted for snacking and freeze well so you can keep them on hand for quick meals in future.

For both methods below, start by rinsing the beans and removing any bad peas or stones.

You can also cook your chickpeas with a pressure cooker but I don’t have one so it’s not featured below. If you have a tried & tested way of cooking chickpeas with a pressure cooker do let me know via shop@plasticfreepantry.co.uk

Slow cooker

This takes the longest and so isn’t great if you need to use the chickpeas on the same day, but this is how I do my chickpeas at the weekend in preparation for a big batch of hummus and using in a couple of different recipes in the week. You don’t need to pre-soak for slow cooker chickpeas.

Measure out your chickpeas and water using a 1:2 volume ratio and place in the slow cooker. I tend to use 3 cups of chickpeas. Cook on low overnight or for around 6-8 hours.

Soak & boil

Soak your chickpeas overnight in cold water, or speed the process up by covering the chickpeas with water, bringing to the boil for 1 minute, and then leave to soak in the water for 1 hour.

Drain & rinse the chickpeas then cover with double the volume of water to chickpeas.

Bring to the boil and then simmer for one hour, checking occasionally to make sure they haven’t boiled dry and topping with water as necessary.

How to make hummus – recipe

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Hummus

Hummus is incredibly easy to make. It does take a little time when you’re making it from dried chickpeas but it’s low effort, you can get on with other things while the chickpeas are cooking. Our favourite way to cook them is overnight in the slow cooker (we make up a big batch for using in lots of things, not just hummus) but the fastest way is with a pressure cooker. You can also boil them.

Ingredients

200g cooked chickpeas

juice of half a lemon

4 tablespoons of water. For extra flavour you can use water left over from cooking the chickpeas

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon of tahini

2 cloves of garlic

1 teaspoon of cumin

1 teaspoon of paprika

pinch of fine sea salt

Method

Add everything to the blender and blend . Taste and add any extra olive oil, salt, cumin, garlic or paprika to your personal taste. If the hummus is slightly dry and not blending well add extra oil or water. Enjoy with warm, fresh bread. Or chopped veg. Or in a falafel wrap. Or in big dollops straight from the blender 🙂

This recipe is vegan & gluten-free