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As a vegan, I seem to jack-knife between making funky, wild ingredients veggie stuff - and making more traditional stuff - but veganised. A veggie hot-pot with dumplings can be the ultimate in comfort food with its chunky veg like carrots, whole button mushrooms, beans and thick, rich-tasting sauce and the bit that makes it all worthwhile - the swollen dumplings bobbing on the top (they don't really bob that much but it sounded good). It's the perfect dish for a cold evening (or any evening). Now, when I went to school the teachers were not that concerned about healthy eating; our school cooking manual should have been re-named 'The Heart Attack Cookbook' - it was so full of revolting stuff like mince and lard and suet - the hard, fatty deposits around an animal's kidneys. I still have the cookbooks and they are an interesting read; so much of the food seems to be wrapped in a thick, lard pastry (sausage and egg pie, bacon and egg flan). However, that was my influence and it has made me a sucker for British Comfort Food. Thankfully, these days I can use vegan suet that is not so heavy for those dumplings and Atora (who also produce the animal suet too) have concocted a decent 'light' suet. Atora say of their product: 'For dumplings, pastries, puddings and pies. Suitable for vegetarians. Atora light shredded vegetable suet has 30% less fat than standard vegetable suet yet can be used in exactly the same way and more importantly tastes every bit as good.' Previously, Atora have been selling their light suet as 25% less fat but have recently reduced the fat content. The ingredients are: Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (47%), Wheat Flour, Sunflower Oil (16%), Stabiliser: Pectin Typical nutritional values for 100g gives you mono unsaturates 20.6g Energy 2874kJ/695kcal Protein 2.7g Carbohydrate 31.0g of which sugars 1.1g Fat 62.2g of which saturates 28.6g polyunsaturates 9.0g Fibre Trace Sodium Trace When perusing this list, it is interesting to note that most of the fat in this product is actually Hydrogenated vegetable oil (saturated fat) - so it's not that 'light' really - just lighter than animal fat. Packaging ------------ Never mind 'light', the packet is bright - gaudy even; the principle colours being red, yellow, green, black with a little white on it. Clearly designed to jump out off the shelf at you but not very nice to look at. Never mind - you won't loose it in the cupboard. Inside the box, the suet lives in an inner plastic bag. Suet ------ The suet itself is composed of white particles (the size of small maggots - sorry), lightly dusted with the wheat flour to keep them apart. Cooking ---------- There is a dodgy looking recipe on the box for a goat's cheese, pear and walnut quiche - but I don't fancy it. I cannot imagine anyone fancying it. I think you better stick to throwing some into flour, adding herbs and water and mixing it together so it is a stiff dough. I never measure this out - it seems too easy to go wrong, I just try not to put too much of that 'light' saturated fat in. Jam roly poly is another old suet favourite too. Atora also have a recipe book that you can send away for (£1.50). Glancing at that quiche, I don't suppose there's a great demand for it. Three stars because 'light' is a little misleading.
I remember as a little girl 'helping' my grandmother make her mincemeat on her big old scrubbed table. She used a huge blade set into a piece of wood and chopped all the ingredients by hand in a big heap on the table. It was hard work for her and my mom, who used to help her, but it was worth it as it tasted great! Later on I would help my own mom make her mincemeat, this time using a big metal mincer clamped to the side of the kitchen table. Later this week I will be making my own mincemeat using my mincer which is a lightweight up to date version of mom's old one! How times have changed. The recipe that I use is one that I found in a cookery book by Mrs Beeton years ago and I have used it ever since. The only changes that I make are not using candied peel as no one in our family likes it and I change the beef suet for a vegetable version. This means that the mincemeat then contains a lot less fat (and calories) and that it is suitable for vegetarians to eat. The 'suet' that I use is Atora Light Shredded Vegetable Suet. The beef suet version also made by Atora costs 73p per 25g packet and contains 826 calories and 87.4g of fat in every 100g of suet. The vegetable version costs a bit more at 92p and I will come to the nutritional values later. The packet is very similar to the one for the beef version and hasn't changed much since I started making mincemeat 30 years ago! It is a box shaped packet with the suet inside in a greaseproof bag. The top stripe of the box is bright red with the words '30% less fat', the middle stripe is yellow with the words 'Atora light' and the bottom stripe is green with the words 'shredded vegetable suet for dumplings, pastries, puddings and pies'. On the back of the box there is a recipe - the one on my box is for Mini Goat's Cheese, Pear and Walnut Quiche. (I've never seen a mini goat have you?) When you open the inner bag the suet looks very similar to its beef counterpart but it is lighter and actually looks less greasy. It is used in exactly the same way as the beef version and can be used for making suet pastry, dumplings, suet pudding etc., although I do only use mine for making my mincemeat. The nutritional information per 100g is as follows: Calories 669 (so it is still high) Protein 4g Carbohydrate 28g Of which sugars 0.6g Fat 60.1g Of which saturates 34.3g Fibre 1.2g Sodium trace As you see the fat and calories are both still quite high but are about 30% less than the beef version and the taste is the same. Well it is in my mincemeat anyway! As I say, since I make pastry with vegetable fats, it means that my mince pies are suitable for vegetarians as well as everyone else.
Aah, dumplings! I know that it's still supposed to be summer but the weather has been so dreadful that I am already thinking about winter stews and casseroles. A stew would not be a stew without dumplings and dumplings would not be dumplings without Atora Light Shredded Vegetable Suet. I use Atora Light nowadays; it contains 30% less fat than regular Atora and, in my opinion, makes lighter, fluffier dumplings. It is also suitable for vegetarians because it is made using vegetable suet. The ingredients are very simple; vegetable oils (59%), wheat flour, stabiliser and pectin, though, because of the wheat flour, it is not suitable for those with wheat gluten allergy. Dumplings are very easy to make. Just mix 100gms (4ozs) Atora Light, 50gms (2ozs) self-raising flour and a pinch of salt (I leave out the salt and it does not affect the dumplings) with approximately 5 tablespoons of cold water. I always add the water gradually because you need a firm pliable dough that is not wet or sticky. I also mix it with a knife, as I do for pastry, because this draws all the ingredients together into one lump and means that my hands stay clean. Using floured hands, form the dough into around 12 - 15 small balls and, twenty minutes before you are due to serve, add them to the simmering stew or casserole, cover with a lid and continue cooking for the final twenty minutes. Atora Light also makes wonderful suet pastry using the same quantities as for dumplings then rolling out and baking the completed dish for around 15 - 20 minutes on Gas mark 6, 200C/400F. I paid 89p for my last 2560gm box of Atora Light suet; it is easy to find in the supermarket due to its distinctive red, yellow and green box. You'll find it in the baking ingredients aisle.