Let’s make soap!

I always wanted to make soap – especially as my hunt for gluten free vegan toiletries seems endless. So I did! I went for the hot soap process – it’s quicker and the soap is ready to use quicker. The cold process soap needs to be left to cure for weeks to allow the necessary chemical reactions to take place. The hot process speeds those chemical reactions up! I tested two recipes; castille and avocado and shea butter.

Sodium hydroxide (NaOH) is highly alkaline and therefore very, very, corrosive. To make soap you need to be sure you are using the right amount of sodium hydroxide (use a lye calculator) and you need protective gloves, glasses and a well ventilated area. Always add the sodium hydroxide to water NEVER the other way around. The NaOH solution will heat up so be careful. You must be confident you are taking all the necessary precautions to keep yourself intact and I am not responsible for any of your mishaps etc.

If you are worried about using something so corrosive on your skin. Don’t. The NaOH will react with the other chemicals in the soap during the process below to form a pH neutral (ish) soap.

Recipes… These are unscented soaps. More lovely scented soaps to follow…

Castille soap
397 g olive oil
397 g coconut oil
28 g castor oil
17 g stearic acid
125 g sodium hydroxide (NaOH)
280 g water

Avocado and shea butter soap
142 g coconut oil
113 g sustainable palm oil
85 g avocado oil
85 g shea butter
61 g sodium hydroxide (NaOH)
140 g water


1. Prepare a suitable mould and line with greaseproof paper. Make sure you are wearing suitable protective gloves, long sleeves and glasses.
2. In a safe, well ventilated area, place the NaOH to a large glass heat proof jug. Slowly add the exact amount of cold water stirring as you add. The solution will heat up. Don’t worry this is normal.
3. In a large pan place all the other ingredients on a very low heat until they are all liquid and combined.
4. Add the NaOH solution to the pan and stir well – keep it on a low heat. The mixture will look a little like custard and start to thicken. Keep stirring.
5. The mixture will soon start to separate and look like it has curdled. This is normal.
6. You will start to see small ‘champagne like’ bubbles forming and the volume of the bubbles will increase. Lower the heat to stop the mixture over flowing or even turn off until the volume reduces. You only need to stir intermitantly but keep an eye on it!
7. Keep going for about an hour until the champagne bubbles no longer form. The mixture will still look separated but you will notice the consistency start to change and thicken.
8. All of a sudden the soap will form and will start to come away from the side of the pan and become a cohesive mix. Turn off the heat and quickly fill your moulds.
9. The top of the soap will be crumbly and dry. This is normal and makes the soap look home made. You can cut it off if you don’t like it.
10. Once the soap has hardened it can be removed from the mould and sliced in to the size you like. Store it in open air.
11. The soap will harden further over the following days and the longer you leave it the harder it will be and the longer it will last

Gluten free vegan castille soap

Gluten free vegan castille soap setting in the mould.

Gluten free vegan castille soap and avocado and shea butter soap curing.

Gluten free vegan castille soap and avocado and shea butter soap curing.

Gluten free vegan castille soap and avocado and shea butter soap curing on greaseproof paper.

Gluren free vegan castille soap and avocado and shea butter soap curing on greaseproof paper.

Gluten free vegan castille soap and avocado and shea butter soap curing

Gluten free vegan castille soap and avocado and shea butter soap. Notice the green colour from the avocado oil.

Gung hay fat choy!

Gung hay fat choy! It’s Chinese new year this weekend so why not welcome in the year of the snake with some delicious gluten free vegan oriental treats.

Why not start with Vietnamese salad followed by tofu with lemongrass and ginger served with plain rice. Warming for the very cold (and snowy in some cases) wintry weather.

You could mix and match from my other oriental vegetarian recipes including rice noodle salad, tofu noodle soup, dried bean curd with mushrooms and bean sprouts, tofu with black beans and spicy rice noodles. Delicious!

Guacamole in five minutes

Do you really need a recipe for guacamole? Isn’t is obvious it is gluten free and vegan? May be, but because it tastes so good, it is so quick to make and it is 100 times better than anything you can buy in the shops, I’m including a guacamole anyway.

Dried bean curd with mushrooms and bean sprouts

Dried bean curd sticks were a bit of a novelty sat on the shelf in the local Vietnamese supermarket. Cheap (only £2) and weird looking – they went in the shopping basket. The packet weighs 200 g. Ingredients are soya beans (92%), water, preservative E222. Allergens: soya beans and sulphur dioxide. Don’t let the slightly dog biscuity smell put you off – it disappears after soaking.

Bean curd is another name for tofu: curd made from soya milk.

Dired oyster mushrooms are used in this recipe as the soaking juice is added to the sauce and adds a real depth of earthy flavour. Feel free to use fresh mushrooms and either use hot water or a small amount of hot vegetable stock.

This is a quick, protein packed meal serve with plain rice or spicy rice noodles.

2 sticks of dried bean curd
20 g dried oyster mushrooms
1 tbs vegeatble oil
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp dried red chillies
1 spring onion
2 tbs salted black beans, chopped
3 tsp tamari (or other gfv soya sauce)
40 g edamame beans (frozen)
40 g bean sprouts
1 small carrot
1 tsp lime juice
1 tbs toasted sesame seeds

1. In two separate bowls soak the bean curd and the dried mushrooms in very hot (not quite boiling) water for five mins
2. Heat a wok (or large pan) and add the vegetable oil
3. Skin and chop the garlic and chop the spring onions in to 2 cm length. Chop the black beans
4. When the oil is hot add the chilli flakes, garlic and half the spring onions (do not let the garlic burn it will add an unpleasant background taste to the dish). Stirring constantly
5. Add the black beans and cook for a minute
6. Chop the soaked bean curd in to bite sized chunks and add the bean curd and drained mushrooms (save the soaking juice) to the wok add the tamari and cook for two mins. Then add the frozen edamame beans and mushroom soaking juice and simmer gently for five mins
7. Peel and finely slice the carrot (use a mandolin or the slicer part of a grater to get it wafer thin)
8. Add the carrot, bean sprouts and lime juice. Stir until everything is well incorporated
9. Serve with plain rice or spicy rice noodles and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Dried bean curd anyone?

Sometimes you are put off buying stuff like dried bean curd stick because you just don’t know where to start! Only sometimes!!! Dried bean curd stick was a recent purchase from the local Vietnamese supermarket. Bean curd is great but I had never tried this and as it had been in the cupboard for a while I gave it a go last night…

The packet weighs 200 g. Ingredients are soya beans (92%), water, preservative E222. Allergens: soya beans and sulphur dioxide.

The bean curd retains a chewy texture after cooking (it loses the dog biscuit smell and does not have a noticeable smell or taste other than the ingredients of the dish). The dish was bean curd with black beans, mushrooms and bean sprouts with plain rice. I’ll post the recipe later.
Gluten free and vegan.

I liked it. I need to refine how it is used a little (soak it whole and then chop it up rather than breaking it up before soaking it).

Nice rice!

Rice cooked in a rice pot means perfect rice every time. As an almost daily rice eater I only ever use a rice pot. I do go on about rice pots a lot to anyone who will listen (or not!).

It couldn’t be easier. The beautiful ceramic rice pot has a line to fill rice to and then a line to fill boiling water to. You put the lids on and pop it in then the microwave or oven for light fluffy rice. The pot makes a good looking serving dish too.

Follow my plain rice recipe (not really a recipe – more instructions) and try a curry recipe – I can recommend my chickpea and mushroom curry.

Top tip: ginger

Root ginger freezes really well. If you buy a large chunk of root ginger and know you won’t use it before it goes off – freeze it.

Keep it in the freezer until you need it. It keeps for about six weeks. You don’t need to thaw it to use it. Use a sharp knife or a mandolin (careful!) to shave off what you need. (Don’t worry about peeling the skin – you can’t tell it’s there when you chip it from the frozen block.)