Soap Nut Shells!

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I first came across soap nuts at Spitalfields market in London, they aredried fruit shells that contain a natural detergent- perfect for eco-conscious vegans!

They come with a little cotton bag, which you can put them in and add to your wash.

My fiance was not a fan!!! We had a couple of bag losing incidents and moved to using socks, which the shells sometimes found their way out of and ended up leaving bits of nut shell all over our clothes. Also he found the smell a bit strange. The clothes were cleaned though!

Then, when I went to Brighton Vegan Fayre this year his last words to me were “don’t you dare get any more of those awful soapnuts” But I did.

At the fayre, the couple on the stall explained how you could make your own detergent by boiling up the shells and adding some fragrance oil. I got an excellent deal on 2 packs of soap nut shells, a bottle of fragrance oil and a pump that turned the soapnut liquid into foam (great  for washing hands etc.)

It’s really easy- take a handful of the shells, a pan full of boiling water and boil for about 20 minutes, remove the shells and store the liquid (we use an old 2 litre drinks bottle) then repeat 1-2 more times with the same shells and keep the liquid. Add some fragrance oil and then use a cup full in each wash load.

We also add tea tree and lavender essential oil to some of the liquid and keep it in a spray bottle for household surfaces.


Typewriter cake

I have a lovely friend who has always identified with the character of Daisy in Spaced (played by Jessica Stevenson)  I’ve been trying to find a clip of a particular episode online, but I can’t. It’s a series 2 episode where it’s Daisy’s birthday and she is brought a cake in the shape of a typewriter and then everything dissolves into a cake fight. Anyway, I decided to finally try making my friend a typewriter cake for her birthday!

I used the basic sponge recipe, doubling quantities. So:



100ml light oil- sunflower, vegetable, canola

200ml soya milk (other non dairy milks do work but the texture is stronger and springier with soy)

1.5 teaspoons apple cider or white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence


275g self raising flour

175g caster sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of salt


Whisk wet ingredients together, combine dry ingredients and mix together.

I used a 20cm x 20cm cake tin lined with greaseproof paper, put all the batter in here and baked in the preheated oven at 180’C for 20 minutes.

Here is the cake straight out of the oven:

I let it cool slightly and then turned out of the tin and peeled off the greaseproof paper.

I cut a 3-4cm strip off one side of the cake and placed it on top at the edge:

As it was the only kind of vegan icing sugar at my corner shop, I used tate&lyle fondant icing with a drop of black food colouring, some trex vegetable fat (to keep it soft) and water, whisked together to a fairly thick but spreadable paste. I didn’t make enough for a layer as thickas I wanted but managed to cover the whole cake in grey icing.

I had wanted to use chocolate buttons for the keys but couldn’t find any, so used one of my favourite vegan chocolate bars (I had 2 easter eggs of this stuff) by Kinnerton. Unfortunately the bar didn’t break up exactly along the lines, but I decided wonky keys would be ok!

I used white icing through a small nozzle to write on the keys.

A Kinnerton dairy free chocolate lolly in the side made a lever and some thicker icing rolled out (justmade from my fondant icing with more sugar/less water) made the paper.

It managed a trip on the tube, a little taxi journey and was well received the other end 🙂

Awesome Bank Holiday Coconut curry (with pictures!)

I’ve had a lazy day and decided the way to top it off would be by using our lovely fridge full of vegetables to make a tasty curry. Any vegetables can be used and I often use peanut butter rather than cashew. I do love nuts and nut butters in my curries though.


1.5 carrots

3 small potatoes

1 red onion

1 clove of garlic crushed

1cm cubed (ish) of root ginger, chopped or grated

2 teaspoons of cashew butter

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon medium curry powder

1/2 yellow pepper

1/2 green pepper

4 mushrooms

small handful of cashew nuts

1/2 can coconut milk

1 teaspoon soy sauce

pinch of cayenne pepper


Chop all the vegetables.

Put the carrots and potatoes in salted boiling water for 10 minutes to parboil while frying the onion, garlic and ginger gently (there is nothing worse than burnt garlic).

When onion has softened, add the cashew butter and spices and a splash of water to make a paste. Add the mushrooms and peppers and fry for 5 minutes, then add the drained potato and carrots. Make sure all the veg get nicely covered in the paste.

Add the cashew nuts and pour over the coconut milk. Add soy sauce and catenne pepper to taste and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender.

Serve with rice.

Jen’s standard sponge

This is my fail-safe recipe for cake. It has never gone wrong. I’ve been meaning to put it here for a while but I never get around to taking photos of cake before it’s eaten and now I’m properly on the diet. No more cake for a while for me. But here’s the recipe!



50ml light oil- sunflower, vegetable, canola

100ml soya milk (other non dairy milks do work but the texture is stronger and springier with soy)

1 teaspoon apple cider or white wine vinegar

Few drops vanilla essence


140g self raising flour

90g caster sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt


Whisk together the wet ingredients until frothy- preferably with an electric whisk and set aside.

Combine dry ingredients.

pour wet into dry and mix together.

bake in a preheated oven at 180’C for 15 minutes for cupcakes or 30 minutes for a 9 inch round cake, or until lightly browned and a cocktail stick comes out clean.


The quantities will make 12 small cupcakes. I would probably double for a good sized round cake.


There are so many variations. I make lemon drizzle cake by replacing the vanilla with the zest of one lemon and using the lemon juice with 50g caster sugar boiled up for the syrup to drizzle over.

Add chocolate chunks or blueberries and use muffin cases for muffins- the quantity given will make about 6 muffins.

Replace  30g of the flour with cocoa powder for a chocolate cake.