What an insanely topsy turvy week. I’ve been up, down, basically all over the shop and can’t seem to get my head straight … I blame the heat – and the fact that last Sunday was my first Father’s day without Dad. I don’t want to dwell too much on that here but obviously it was a tough one and this week has kinda sucked because of it. The house renovations (or lack thereof) probably haven’t helped either and so I found myself procrastinating on just about everything – including getting dressed … jammies featured heavily but I’m grateful I still had the will to get my daily yoga practice in.
I guess I haven’t really talked much about yoga on here but it has been something of a salvation for me on and off for a number of years. Until we moved house though it had definitely fallen by the wayside, mainly due to the lack of room in our previous flat – there was literally no-where to get a good stretch going on. Something changed though when we moved into our new home. I suddenly felt the need to integrate it back into my life on a regular and more consistent basis. I know the ‘yoga every damn day’ mantra has been toted a lot on the internet (particularly instagram) and seeing it in hashtag form was previously a sure fire way to make me instantly feel terrible. Worse still … useless. How do these people do it(?), I would think to myself … it seemed so unobtainable at the time I completely dismissed the mere prospect of it.
Granted, I’m not exactly your typical self-styled yoga queen quite yet, however, I have found a way to make it work for me on a daily basis – whether it’s a series of simple sun salutations or a mini compilation of poses that change regularly, I’ve been trying to do something to keep my hand in (almost) everyday. I even went as far as to buy a mat in LA just so I could keep my practice going. It’s now gotten to the stage where I feel my day is incomplete without it. Even as I type, I’m planning to hit the mat as soon as I finish this post. My advice is to start small and don’t put yourself under any pressure to do a set amount of time or a particular series of moves – go with the flow and let your body decide what it’s comfortable doing on any given day. This flexibility will mean you’re more likely to stick to it. I’m only two months in but already I’m noticing changes, not only physically (although I am getting stronger and leaner) but also mentally … being prone to anxiety etc. means I can get overwhelmed very easily but I’ve surprised myself (and my Husband) lately by how well I’m dealing with certain social situations. I’m calmer, less fraught and I can only put that down to the yoga and mediation I’m working into my routine.
I’ve also been getting a lot of renewed pleasure from being in the kitchen (despite it’s currently ramshackle appearance) and have been lapping up all these wonderful new cookbooks on the market. One such book is the new paperback edition of The Virtuous Tart by the incomparable (and hilarious) Susan Jane White … the mistress of all things healthy and sweet, in my humble opinion. Her treats are uniquely awesome and the book is simply crammed with delicious recipes that will make you feel as ‘virtuous’ as that half hour on the yoga mat. Almost. Having already made her AmazoniaN Truffles (which are legit ‘to die for’) I thought I’d give her seedy soldiers a go … not just any old granola slice I can assure you – everyone that’s sampled them (Husband, Husband’s work colleague and our lovely central heating guy, to be precise) has had an ‘eye widening’ reaction to them. That good. And now I only have two left. Sob.
Almost entirely vegan, this is a cookbook for any keen baker that wants to eschew refined sugar and dairy but still enjoy the odd slice of cake. With substitutes for virtually everything (bar 2, maybe 3 recipes) Susan guides you through all the ins and outs of dairy-free baking, making it feel like an absolute cinch. Food aside, her writing alone is enough to make you want this book. Her witty titles and intros had me seriously lolling and that humour feeds straight into her recipes too … everything about it feels effortlessly lighthearted, approachable and fun – plus the images are flippin’ gorgeous, just like Susan herself. Luckily for a few of you, I have three copies to give away (hurrah!) – all ye have to do is leave a comment below, telling me your all-time favourite sweet treat (well, why not?!) … I’ll then pop the entries into one of those number generator thingys and I’ll announce the winners in a week. In the the meantime, why not head over to Susan’s instagram/twitter accounts and show her some love … oh, and definitely go check her out on youtube – I’ll eat my hat if you don’t instantly fall in love with her effervescent personality too.
chocolate seed soldiers
taken from The Virtuous Tart by Susan Jane White (my comments are in italics)
what you’ll need
1 cup (140g) pitted dates, chopped
1 cup (120g) milled sunflower and pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup (140g) cashew nut butter
1/2 cup (75g) raisins
1/2 cup (65g) coconut flour
1/2 cup (125ml) maple syrup
2 tbsp. raw cacao nibs
2 tbsp. goji berries, plus extra to decorate
up to 1 tbsp. tamari or raw coconut aminos
130g 75% dark chocolate
what you’ll do
In a food processor, combine everything except the dark chocolate and decorative gojis.
Spread it out over a parchment-lined shallow tin. The perfect size tin is a 20cm x 25cm rectangular one, a little larger than the traditional 20cm x 20cm brownie tin. I place another piece of parchment on top of the base mixture, pressing down firmly with my fingers, Once the base is smooth, you can ditch the top piece of parchment. Chill in fridge – I refrigerated it for 30mins.
Meanwhile, slowly melt the chocolate in a bain-marie. This is basically a pot of simmering water, 2.5cm in depth, with a heatproof bowl sitting on top where a lid might otherwise have gone. The contents of the bowl will gently melt form the steam of the water underneath. The trick is not to let the water boil or let the bottom of the bowl touch the water underneath.
Smother the base in melted chocolate and parachute a few goji berries on top (I minced mine with a knife) for colour. Refrigerate overnight … I can also confirm that these actually get even better with time. Side note: when you initially remove it from the fridge, let it sit for a little while before cutting to avoid cracking the chocolate on top.
Tinned Potato Tacos. It’s has an air of 1972 about it. Not that I would know being an eighties child myself – and with little to no prior knowledge of such things having never even engaged with them up until now. Let me put this rather odd little convenience food purchase into context. I’m currently on the hunt for a very particular sized can … one that can both double as a vase (stay with me) and a cutlery holder. You see, I’m in the the business of repurposing things at present but that doesn’t mean my aesthetic requirements have gone completely out of the window. As soon as I spied this perfectly proportioned can in my local Lidl I was like ‘bingo'(!) – perfect height, width etc. Only problem is the contents look vile. I mean, they’re only potatoes but I still find it creepy. I have the same aversion to tinned sweetcorn. Creepy.
So, they’ve been languishing in my pantry (ahem ‘my pantry’ – so delighted with myself) for a number of weeks now whilst i summoned the courage to actually open and use the damn things. Anyway, yesterday was the day because I knew I should probably make dinner a little ahead of time as we had scheduled our first ever adult swimming lesson (we don’t suck but there’s so much room for improvement – keep learning kids!). I had a feeling I wouldn’t want to be getting too involved in any hardcore kitchen shenanigans afterwards but with very little in the fridge (and up to my ears in DIY chores) I decided to make do with what I had. Hence … tinned potatoes.
Turns out tinned potatoes really aren’t that creepy. Yes, tiny and perfectly peeled, but creepy? Not so much. I thought about roasting them or even frying them in a hot pan with spices but in the end I opted for the easy, er, option. I’m a total sucker for potato salad and because I also had some tacos lingering in my pantry (‘my pantry’ … now I’m just showing off) I thought what a perfect little lazy Wednesday pairing – and you know what? It really was.
Tossed with the most beautiful spring onions I’ve seen all season, minced jalapenos, chopped celery, cucumber and a handful of my all-time (okay, top three) favourite herb, dill, these sad looking little spuds were magically transformed into something moderately fresh. However, if your aversion to tinned tatties is even greater than mine, then by all means use some freshly boiled/steamed salad potatoes instead – I’m not a wholehearted aficionado myself but y’know, needs must. And also … real life eats!! Because whatever happened to that on the internet?! Does anyone even do that any more? Youtube seems to be the only place to get my ‘what I ate in a day’ fix these days so I’m bringing a little of that realness to this blog. Making do is a thing – and sometimes you get a cool (ish) cutlery container out of it too. Just saying.
what you’ll need
for the potato salad
560g tin peeled potatoes, drained and rinsed
2 large spring onions, finely sliced
1 heaped tbsp. minced red or green jalapenos
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1/4 cucumber, quartered and sliced
10g roughly chopped dill
juice 1/2 lime
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
sea salt & pepper
For the hummus dressing
juice 1/2 lime
6 taco-sized tortillas, lightly griddled
1 ripe avocado, sliced
100g shop-bought tomatillo (or regular) salsa
1 lime, quartered
1 heaped tsp. cumin for dusting
what you’ll do
Drain and rinse the potatoes and add to a large mixing bowl. Season generously before adding the spring onion, minced jalapenos, celery and cucumber. Spritz over the lime, drizzle over the olive oil and toss to combine. Roughly chop the dill and add to bowl. Gently toss and set aside until needed.
Heat a griddle pan on a high heat. Add the tortillas and lightly toast on both sides until they puff. Transfer to an awaiting plate and cover with a clean tea towel to keep warm.
De-stone the avocado and finely slice. Spritz over a little lime juice to prevent it browning. Whisk the hummus and lime juice together until smooth.
Build the tacos by first layering on the hummus dressing, followed by a generous heaping of potato salad. Add a slice or two of avocado and a drizzle of salsa. Finish with a few dill fronds, a dash of cumin and serve.
I don’t think I’ve ever had such a jam packed number of months … at least not in a very long while. The blog, as you may have noticed, was pretty much discarded during this time but now that I have a bit more time on my hands I’m desperately trying to repair the damage. Thanks to everyone who has stayed with me during this posting drought. I can’t promise it won’t happen again but I feel like I have a better handle on things at the moment and so I’m making hay while the sun shines, so to speak.
Instead of launching in with a food post (there are plenty of those in the pipeline) I thought I would instead open with a fashion feature. I recently uploaded one of these images to instagram and was immediately inundated with requests for more style-related content. If you’re a long-term reader you’ll already be familiar with my love for fashion and design, and even though those passions have never really waned, I had stopped posting them on this platform – I’d also completely avoided selfies and the like on places like instagram too. Perhaps it was just a self-conscious phase I was going through but I almost felt like hiding from the world for a bit … I’m glad to say I’m in a much better place right now, which means I’ve been dipping my toe into the fashion arena once more.
Being vegan, obviously means that my ethics do extend to my clothing choices too and so I’m always drawn to brands like Thought Clothing (formerly Braintree clothing). You may remember a post I uploaded a year or so ago but even since then they have evolved into one of my current favourite fashion outlets – they have all the eco-credentials I’m after coupled with the simple ease I’m always seeking for my wardrobe. When they sent me through a recent look book I was immediately drawn to this maxi dress. An absolute dream to wear, I’ve been pairing it mainly with my faithful pale grey Superga trainers – there’s no point in trying to over-style this number, as it is a statement in itself. I’m off to LA at the end of May and this will definitely be coming with me. I’ll probably wear it with some heeled clog-style sandals but I also think it would be a great cover-up for the beach … and we are staying right on the beach (Venice beach, to be exact), which is basically my dream scenario.
There are so many pieces in the current Thought collection, I found it seriously difficult to choose just a handful – the shapes, styles and lengths are perfect for my figure, which is always a bonus … and the materials they use are sublime. Being quite short (5’4”) and with a typical British/Irish pear shape (smaller on top with wider hips and thighs) it can sometimes be tricky finding clothing that is flattering but this range manages it beautifully. Over the past few years I’ve been placing more importance on fit and cut rather than passing fads and trends, often opting for a size up to ensure it hangs just right. Because I’m female, I’m always berating myself for not being thin enough but recently I’ve really endeavoured to embrace all my imperfections and not get too hung up on being ‘perfect’ – easier said than done, am I right? I don’t know why us women are so critical of ourselves but it can be exhausting at times. I try to avoid sites and feeds that feed into my own insecurities but they seem to have a way of finding me, almost like a moth to a flame. The older I get though (I’m 36 on Sunday) the more I realise how redundant comparison is – it is the stealer of joy, after all. Right now I’m focusing on all the positives in my life … happily married, new house, healthy, in a job I adore and living in Cornwall. It’s all good stuff. I probably need to remember that more often.
what I wore//tanami maxi shirt dress/thought clothing//light grey superga cotu classic/superga//bracelets/cos//necklace/h&m
disclaimer: thanks to Thought clothing for sending through the wonderful pieces from their collection … whilst this is a sponsored post, I only ever work with brands I truly love.
What an insane couple of months it has been. Work things aside, we just purchased our first house … a massive milestone for us(!!!) – fellow self-employed peeps will understand, the phrase ‘minor miracle’ comes to mind. And while I’ve never been one for ‘planning’ as such, I did always hope that one day we would have a place to call our own. Us being us, of course, went for the more challenging option and decided upon a rather forlorn Victorian terrace that basically hasn’t been updated in decades. The fireplaces are from the forties (I like vintage but these are just naff) and everything but everything is panelled so it feels quite claustrophobic at present. Oh, and did I mention the delightful avocado bathroom? Okay, I’m not going to lie, I did consider keeping the bathroom suite purely for kitsch value but have opted for a slightly more contemporary vibe much to my Mother’s delight. Luckily these types of bathrooms are very desirable it would seem, so we’re hoping to sell it for a pretty penny online, which should cover most of the cost of the update. Hurrah! Likewise, we’re offering up the fireplaces to a local specialist who will come and take it away intact – no sledgehammers required.
Because we’re renovating on a micro-budget, we’ll have to do everything in stages – and a few (read many)compromises will be made in the process. That means no Fired Earth tiles for me (sob), and instead keeping things super simple. White walls, painted floorboards, clean lines … we’re just trying to create a tranquil space that still reflects who we are. Neither of us have any experience in this area so if you have any tips or advice please do leave them in the comments below – possible pitfalls, what room we should tackle first etc. etc. Thankfully, we have a three week head-start (we’re not due to vacate our current rental until late March) which will give us enough time to take down the wall between the living room and dining area. The light is already pretty good but I’m hoping this will really open everything up, and create a more open-plan space better suited to our needs. Don’t panic though, we’re not just barging in with all our 21st Century ideas and eradicating any hint of the buildings past. Our aim is to restore a little Victorian charm to the place while we’re at it. Most of our budget is going on the heating system (currently night storage heaters, ick) and installing cast iron radiators. Fixtures and fitting will also give a subtle nod to its heritage. Big ideas. Not a lot of money. Lets see how this pans out.
I’ve babbled long enough (I’m excited, what can I say!) so here’s the recipe you actually came here for … Popped Quinoa Granola. A bit of a revelation I recently (accidentally) discovered by way of another (savoury) recipe I was working on. Suffice to say, I had popped quinoa literally coming out of my ears, and so I decided to experiment and use it in a simple granola. The result? So. Freakin. Good.
A couple of things to note – don’t use jumbo oats, instead go for those piddly little porridge oats that are super cheap and can be found in just about every supermarket. This will let the quinoa shine and help form those desirable clusters we so desperately seek in our granola bowl. Also, don’t move or shake it too much – gently turn once, half-way through baking, and let it cool completely before transferring it to a clean jar. It’s robust and delicate all at the same time … and seriously addictive to boot. I’ve been adoring my oatmeal and polenta with it, sprinkling it over yoghurt and also eating it by the handful. Like I said. So. Freakin. Good. Enjoy!
what you’ll need
50g quinoa, rinsed and dried
30g pumpkin seeds
30g sunflowers seeds
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch pink Himalayan salt
1 tbsp. olive oil
60ml maple syrup
50g coconut flakes
6 dried figs, chopped
what you’ll do
Pre-heat the oven to 150c.
Heat a dry cast-iron (pref.) skillet or pan. Once it begins to smoke tumble in the quinoa and shake immediately to prevent burning. The quinoa should make a light popping sound fairly quickly. Turn the heat down to a medium flame or setting, cover and let the quinoa continue to pop for a few seconds, ensuring to stir or shake frequently. At this stage I like to add a splash of water (1-2 tbsp. approx) cover and let them steam for a further 30secs or so, again, shake the pan frequently to prevent sticking or burning – I find they tend to puff up a little more this way, however, you can totally omit this stage if you wish. Once toasted, transfer to a lined baking tray and set aside to cool.
In a separate mixing bowl, combine the oats, seeds and cooled quinoa. Add the cinnamon and salt, and stir to combine. Lightly whisk the oil and syrup together and pour over the oat mixture. Stir to coat and transfer to the same lined baking sheet you used to cool the quinoa. Bake for 20mins.
Remove from oven and add the coconut flakes and chopped figs. Gently combine before returning to the oven for a further 15-20mins.
Set aside to cool completely before transferring it to a clean jar. Will keep for at least a week. Serve with fruit and yoghurt for a quick breakfast or snack.
Ok 2017, I’m slowly getting to grips with you but we’ve a ways to go yet.
Amidst computer woes (the bugger has officially given up the ghost) and working on a project that is taking up all my creative energies(more on that soon) this blog has been pushed waaaaay down the bottom of my priority list – and not for the first time either. It seems I’m not exactly great at juggling (literally and metaphorically) so something always suffers in one way or another when I have anything more pressing on my agenda. Granted, I’ve also been distracted because of a few exciting life developments … the main one being that we are in the process of buying of first ever home. So. Freakin. Excited. Nomads no more!
I honestly thought the day would never come when I would (make that ‘could’) own my own house (my own ruddy kitchen!!) – i just felt like too much of a pipedream given our dual self-employed status. And yes, I’ve been pinning away like a madwoman since our offer was accepted just before Christmas – mood boards a go-go … white everything with pops of colour. Obviously this was best Christmas gift we could’ve asked for and we’re still pinching ourselves. As for the house itself, it’s moderately sized, with a plenty of space for me and Husband to live our simple Cornish existence. It’s definitely what I would call a ‘fixer-upper’ – the thought of moving into a house that’s already been decorated to someone else’s taste doesn’t really appeal to be honest and this place has so much potential. So much!
As soon as we get those keys we’ll immediately ‘do a Kirsty’ and take down the wall that divides the living-room and dining area, creating one huge living space – the kitchen is separate, which I previously thought I would hate but weirdly I am more than fine with it. Perhaps it’s because I work from home and spend basically all-day everyday cooking and whatnot, so the thought of having that mental separation between life and work has become increasingly more important to me. Of course, I cook in the evenings too and I’m sure we’ll still have a couple of stools out there so my Husband can keep me company.
Our budget is pretty tight so we’ll have to be quite clever with our funds if we’re to create the awesome space we both envisage … we’ll be on the hunt for good quality bathrooms and kitchens that don’t cost the earth but we think we have a few ways to get around it – for example, my Husband reckons he can do a bit of carpentry in the kitchen and my in-laws have already donated their range cooker, which really helps. The bathroom currently boasts a rather exquisite avocado suite (which my Mum loathes, haha) and whilst I know I could make it work we’re probably going to sell it on ebay (they’re surprisingly desirable) and use that money to give the room a total make-over.
Anyway, you came here for a recipe (not to hear about avocado bathrooms) so let’s get this ‘Miso Noodle Bowl’ underway. One-pot meals are a bit of an obsession of mine. Anything to save on the washing up. The particular bowl is so soothing, it makes for the perfect late January lunch or supper. You could easily make it stretch between two by adding another nest of noodles but in all honesty I inhaled this entire thing by myself in one sitting, so, y’know …
what you’ll need
1 stick of celery
5 chestnut mushrooms
50g sweetcorn kernels
handful cavolo nero or kale
1 heaped tbsp. white miso
2 tbsp. tamari
splash of rice mirin
10g chopped coriander, plus stalks
juice 1/2 lime
1 heaped tsp. coconut oil
1 x nest rice noodles
for the tofu
150g firm tofu
1 heaped tsp. wasabi
1 tbsp. tamari
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tbsp. sesame oil
1/2 tbsp. maple syrup
juice 1/2 lime
radish – cucumber – coriander – sesame seeds – chilli flakes
pre-heat the oven to 200c.
cut the tofu into cubes and transfer to a baking dish. in a separate bowl, whisk the wasabi, olive oil, sesame oil, tamari, maple syrup and lime juice together until totally combined. pour over the tofu. gently toss to combine. set aside for 5 minutes to marinade.
meanwhile, slice the celery and carrot diagonally. heat the coconut oil in a heavy-based saucepan. add the sliced celery and carrot and saute for a minute or two until they begin to soften.
place the tofu in the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until golden and crisp at the edges. shake the dish from time to time to ensure an even bake.
roughly chop or tear the mushrooms and add to pan. stir-fry over a high heat for a few minutes until they release their juices and shrink.
roughly chop the cavolo nero and add to pan. liberally douse the vegetables in tamari and splash over the rice mirin. once the cavolo nero wilts, add the miso paste and 1 litre of freshly boiled water. simmer for 5-7 minutes before adding the sweetcorn, lime juice and chopped coriander. check for seasoning – it may need another splash of tamari.
turn the heat off, add the noodles and cover with a lid. once the noodles have sufficiently softened, transfer to a warmed bowl and top with the baked tofu pieces. garnish with chopped radish, cucumber, coriander leaves and some sesame seeds.
Coconut oil makes for a great base to homemade chocolates. The texture and flavour are perfect for that most decadent of treats – truffles. Tahini might seem like an odd addition too but trust me when I say, it emphatically works! To put an extra festive spin on proceedings I’ve added orange extract and zest, and loaded up on pistachios and dried fruit … my preference is cherries but you could easily use raisins or cranberries. Once rolled and dusted, they can be wrapped in parchment paper or placed in a cellophane bag, ready for unexpected guests to take home with them. When it comes to gifts, I always think the personal touch goes a long way in impressing – even if they happen to be ridiculously easy to make. Merry Christmas!
1 ½ tbsp. *vita coco coconut oil
150g dark chocolate (min. 70% cocoa solids)
3 tbsp. light tahini
1 tsp. orange extract
Zest of 1 orange
2 tbsp. agave
Pinch of sea salt
50h roughly chopped
50g dried cherries
2 heaped tbsp. raw cacao powder
50g pulverized pistachios
Place the coconut oil in a small saucepan and melt over a low heat.
Break the chocolate in small pieces and add to pan. Gently melt, using a spatula to incorporate the oil and chocolate.
Take the saucepan off the heat and add the tahini, orange extract, zest, agave and salt. Whisk vigorously to combine. Return to the heat for a few seconds to ensure the tahini is thoroughly incorporated and the mixture is silky smooth.
Fold in the dried cherries and chopped pistachios before transferring to a small lined loaf tin. Refrigerate for at least 6hrs until solid.
Pulverise the remaining pistachios until they resemble a fine dust. Transfer to a shallow dish, ready for rolling. Place the cacao in a separate bowl.
Once solid, remove the chocolate slab from the fridge and let it soften for 5mins before scooping out approx. ½ tbsp. worth of chocolate – a melon baller is handy. Tip the ball into the cacao to lightly coat before rolling into a smooth ball. Transfer the truffle to the pistachio dish and gently roll to coat, gently pushing the truffle into the nuts for maximum coverage.
Repeat until all the chocolate mixture is used – you should get about 20 balls from each batch.
Refrigerate until needed.
Alternatively, line a muffin tin with baking parchment and divide the mixture between each mould. Refrigerate for at least 6hrs before using the baking parchment to carefully remove the chocolates from the tin – this will render 12 large discs. Similarly, refrigerate until needed.
*this is a sponsored post but all views etc. are authentically mine – enjoy!
I read a blog post recently on food bandits that really resonated with me. If you’re a freelancer like myself and have frequent, crushing episodes of ‘self-doubt’ then I think it might be worth taking a peek … I’ll leave the link here. Go have a gander. It got me thinking … in this current social media focused climate, we are often tricked into thinking everyone’s else lives are so much better than ours. More organised. More fun. More whatever. And we buy it. We take those proclamations of perfection and hold up our own meager life offerings up in direct comparison. Same goes for work. I know I have periods when I feel like my efforts are totally redundant – it’s not rational on any level but I can’t say I don’t have a continual worry that I’m failing.
Failure and success are such strange concepts really. Even when my career is going well I can’t help but feel I could be doing more, creating more, achieving more. At what stage do we actually allow ourselves to think ‘I have succeeded’. When our books are selling well and work prospects seem bright? Maybe. Or, if you’re me, you might constantly looking for the negative in any given situation … my inner monologue swings from ‘how long will this last?’ to ‘you can’t rest on your laurels’ to ‘what if they next book isn’t as popular!’ and on and on it goes.
I said to my Husband just the other night that I wished we lived in a simpler time. Yes, I’m probably one of those people that views the 90s and early noughties through rose tinted glasses but I pretty sure I was more content without having a phone attached to me at all times. Whilst it’s wonderful to be ‘connected’ to so many people, I often wonder if that’s such a good thing? The wheel turns faster now than it ever has done, leaving very little time for actual living.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for instagram and twitter, and most of the time get pleasure out of posting but sometimes, sometimes, I’d like to hop off the merry-go-round for a while just to catch my breath. Does this make any sense? Perhaps my lonesome freelance lifestyle really has propelled me one-step closer to the loony-bin. With that said, I honestly wouldn’t change any of it … where I am currently, how I got here and what the future holds. Of course, I’m going to have ‘off’ days but it’s comforting to know that other creatives are going through the same thing. We really are a self-critical bunch, aren’t we? Sheesh.
For me, I know it’s important to step away from the chaos for a bit and do something for myself. Today, I finished off a little bit of work in the morning before allowing myself a bit of playtime in the kitchen. There’s was limited light in our already quite dark living area but I think I just about got away with it – and even though it’s not the most festive of dishes, my mood required something bright and cheerful. Now I feel totally ready to shake off the week and enjoy (savour) the weekend. Hope you have a good one planned too.
what you’ll need
1 large garlic clove
1/2 vegetable stock cube
250g frozen peas
1 heaped tbsp. coconut cream
1 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
for the roasted veg
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
30g toasted almonds
handful of pea shoots
1 tbsp. chives
what you’ll need
pre-heat the oven to 200c.
halve the radish and cut the celeriac into cubes. Place in an ovenproof dish, add the balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Season generously and toss to combine. Roast for 30mins, shaking the pan from time to time.
place the almonds in an ovenproof dish or baking tray and pop in the oven for 10minutes, giving them a good shake about half-way through.
heat the olive oil in a small saucepan. slice the leek and add to pan. season and sweat for several minute until it softens.
add the stock cube, cover with water … about 350ml – and pop in the garlic clove, no need to peel.
bring to the boil, add peas and then simmer gently for a few minutes until the peas are just cooked through.
drain the peas, reserving the broth, and transfer to a food processor. Unpeel the garlic clove and add to processor along with the coconut cream and a little more seasoning. Pulse until it forms a coarse, nubbly puree. Return to pan and heat through.
divide the puree between two plates and top with the roasted veg, toasted almonds and some chopped chives. Spritz the pea shoots with a little lemon juice and place a handful on each plate.
December is upon us and I am really ramping up the hygge factor in my kitchen. Being a die-hard crumble fan, I tend to make one a week during these crisp, cold winter months – nothing beats a warming bowl of this doused in soya cream, custard or in this instance a dollop of zingy coconut yoghurt. This is a bit of a sweet ‘n’ savoury affair … not too sweet with just the right amount of herb and vinegar action to make you raise an eyebrow. I adore the granola topping so much I think I might be reluctant to go back to the traditional variety – the nutty crunch is seriously moreish and would make a terrific granola in of itself. In you are so inclined, simply lay the mixture flat on a baking sheet and bake in a pre-heated oven (150c) for 20mins before giving it a gentle mix – return it to the oven for a further 10-15mins. Bingo, you have a wondrous breakfast at the ready. Truth be told, I would happily chow down on this crumble first thing without so much as a single guilt pang – hence my coconut yoghurt suggestion.
I have a lot of cooking lined up this season. I’m determined to perfect my mince pie recipe (happy with my filling but my pastry needs work) and am having a strange cracker obsession presently … so sick of buying of buying shop bought ones that are almost always ‘meh’. A bad cracker lets down a great ‘cheese board’ and now that I’ve nailed my ultimate cashew cheese recipe (all in good time) pairing it with a sub-par ‘gary’ vehicle would be a travesty. Even though this Christmas is going to be lacking in festive cheer, I’m using food as a much welcome distraction. Luckily I’ll have many willing mouths on hand to hoover up whatever I put in front of them. This crumble will most likely make a number of appearances too.
What you’ll need
for the filling
9 plums, stoned and sliced
handful of dried cherries
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
50ml maple syrup, agave or other liquid sweeneter
for the oaty topping
30g ground almonds
30g flaked almonds
sprig of lemon thyme
pinch of salt
2 heaped tbsp. light tahini
30ml maple syrup or agave
1 tsp. almond extract
juice 1/2 clementine
30ml olive oil
What you’ll do
Pre-heat the oven to 175c.
Toss the sliced plums with the dried cherries, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, balsamic and sweetener. Set aside while you make the topping.
Whisk the tahini, maple syrup, almond extract, clementine juice and oil together until smooth.
Transfer the plums to an ovenproof dish.
In a separate bowl, lightly mix the oats, ground almonds, flaked almonds, thyme leaves and salt together before adding the tahini mixture. Stir to combine, ensuring everything is coated.
Spoon the granola mixture over the plums, ensuring it is pressed reasonably flat to avoid it charring too much on top before the fruit is cooked through.
Bake for 20mins. Remove from oven and lightly fork through the topping to ensure the granola topping is evenly cooked. Return to the oven for a further 10-15mins or until the plum juice begins to bubble and the top is golden and crisp.
Let it cool briefly before serving. Adorn with lemon thyme and add a dollop of fresh coconut yoghurt to each bowl.
Oooomph. Where to begin. It’s taken me nearly 24hrs to get this post uploaded – not because of the recipe, more because I’m really not sure what to say. I guess I could gloss over the election but truthfully, that doesn’t sit well with me – it’s just too damn important. Even if I don’t get it right all the time, I’m a passionate person and this Trump debacle has really got me riled. Like many, I had so much hope he wouldn’t win but deep down I knew it was a very real possibility – we had a dry-run with Brexit, which set the alarms bells officially ringing. Back then I thought the likelihood of us voting to leave the EU was slim to none and whilst I had pretty strong opinions on the matter, I kept reasonably quiet beforehand.
Then, in the wake of the result, I found myself so angry and full of contempt for anyone who didn’t vote to remain, I was almost blinded to what was really going on. Similarly, the US have found themselves dumbfounded that something which had been under their noses the whole time was seemingly ignored. As I said at the time (of Brexit that is) – it’s as if the veil has been lifted and we are seeing the society we live in clearly for the first time. It’s a frightening thing when you suddenly feel like you’re surrounded by strangers – I’ll admit I couldn’t look people in the eye for a number of weeks, thinking ‘did they… ?’ ‘was it them who landed us in this mess?’ ‘what were they thinking?!!’, which only really results in a climate of collective distrust.
And then I realised that’s exactly how many ‘Brexiteers’ and ‘Trump Supporters’ have most likely been feeling for years. Outsiders. The forgotten ones. Voiceless and discarded. We’ve only had a few months of it but can you imagine what that must feel like on a permanent basis? I fully acknowledge my privileged upbringing and by that I mean having two parents who did everything in their power to give my Sister and I the best possible start in life. The word ‘opportunity’ has been bandied about a lot these last few days and that is precisely what I was always afforded – the encouragement to believe I could do anything, regardless of how much money we had or what my gender was. It’s amazing how powerful someone believing in you can be … I can tell you now it made me fearless.
However, and despite my unshakeable demeanour I do know what it feels like to be judged on your nationality – it’s hard to believe now but I used to accept someone saying to me ‘oh, that’s so Irish’ with the implication my heritage somehow equaled stupidity – and no, I wasn’t simply misunderstanding the tone or being ‘paranoid’, this is precisely was they meant. Even in recent weeks I’ve heard people referring to my fellow Northern Irish folk as a ‘bunch of misfits’ (as well as gleefully dismissing our border concerns – we don’t want one, by the way) and I can tell you it hurts … such small-fry though when you consider the hate that has consumed people recently but no less significant.
Trump’s election too has worryingly legitimised these beliefs and made it okay for people to freely say what they’ve obviously been thinking for years. And perhaps therein lies the problem. Do we really know what has contributed to the current hate-filled climate, where we are turning on our neighbour and saying unfathomable things to one another? How have the political, economic and social structures been a factor in cultivating beliefs that simply aren’t true … no, not all Muslims are terrorists and (despite Trumps shocking proclamations) not all Mexicans are ‘rapists and criminals’. P.S. I did a little fact check on the exact words he used, if you need further reminding of his rampant xenophobia:
When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.
What a charmer, eh? And how nice of him to acknowledge there’s a few good ones in there too. A real stand-up guy. Cripes, is anyone else missing Obama already? What I can say is, from personal experience, and having lived in an area of Chicago that had many wonderful, hardworking, talented, friendly, law-abiding Mexicans, Trump couldn’t be more wrong about this wonderful community of people. Of course, every nation has bad apples but that is something certainly not peculiar to Mexico. As an aside, I was thinking about the similarities between the Mexicans, Polish and Irish (and other countries that have suffered economic/social difficulties), and that is our readiness to go to where the work is. When times are tough, our willingness to pack our bag, get out there and survive is something to be admired, in my opinion, not something to be sneered at or derided. We like to put our best foot forward and graft … even if it means living hundreds or thousands of miles from home. It’s not always ideal but sometimes it has to be done.
What I’m trying to say is, in many ways, I sympathise with Trump supporters, and those who voted leave – I really do. But many wrongs do not make a right. It seems to me their identity is wrapped up in a past that no longer exists, and that is difficult to come to terms with. Luckily us Irish have had many years of practice, which means our sense of identity is kind of rock solid – we take it with us wherever we go, and I dare say it’s the same for the Mexicans et al too. All of this (feeling alienated in their own country, limited work prospects, and the rest) amounts to a collective sense of injustice, which is precisely when you hear people mouthing off about ‘immigrants taking our jobs’ and whatnot – absolute nonsense, of course, but this is what people really believe. True story – my Dad’s job was to get people into work and he told many, many stories of highly educated immigrants (I’m talking Doctors, Lawyers, Educators etc.) taking low-paid ‘menial’ jobs just to earn a buck … jobs, I might add, that nobody else was willing to do. To live in another country, respect its way of life, contribute economically and still retain a strong sense of self must feel like a slap in the face, even when it’s not intended that way. However, the blame cannot be laid at the feet of the people simply trying to do right by themselves and their families.
People are angry then and have turned to Donald Trump, of all people, for help and guidance. Sigh. The man that has espoused so many offensive, nasty, vitriolic things over the past year and a half is entering the Whitehouse, and will reign supreme as of January. Misogyny aside (that’s a whole post in of itself and Hadley Freeman has already done a better job than I ever could in how it overtook the campaign), Trumps win this week has given the almighty thumbs up to blatant racism with a fair old nod to fascism too – the far right have readily claimed the victory as their own, which can only have a unsavoury ripple effect around the world. No, not all Trump supporters are racist but when you align yourself with the likes of the KKK and Marine Le Pen, you must know you’re headed in the wrong direction for answers and solutions, no? Then again, I would probably be described as one of these mythical ‘Champagne Socialists’ I keep hearing about … even though my budget is more cava and I left my hardcore socialist tendencies back at college. Side note; I did enjoy canvassing for the socialist alliance with Mark Steel once back in the day … that man is an absolute hoot and I thoroughly enjoyed trundling the streets of southeast London with him even if we came nowhere close to winning. In case you’re interested, his column on the whole Trump catastophe is way more insightful (and hilarious – I may have howled, ahem) than mine, so I wholly recommend you give it a read, especially if you’re in need of a laugh. I know I was.
Ugh. So what to do now. Well, in addition to sharing every relevant Guardian/Greenpeace article I come across (yup, I am one of those annoying left-wing people – hi there!) and spamming Facebook and Twitter like a maniac, I’m also going to try and properly connect with my community more. No, really. Those disenfranchised people we’re alluding to? They actually exist – and they’re not all evil or want every immigrant deported asap. Equally though, that doesn’t mean we have to tolerate the bile that has been spewing from people’s mouths nor do we stand by when others are being abused for their religion, race or sexual orientation. We move forward, we come together but we emphatically do not sweep the hate that has been openly incited under the carpet because otherwise it’s all been for nothing. I could write a list of further concerns from the environment to planned parenthood and beyond but I get the sense you came here for a recipe and were greeted with a rant and for that I can only apologise. If you would like to add your tuppence-worth, by all means leave a comment below … just remember there’s enough hate out there at present to fill a thousand arks, so let’s keep it on the right side of kind. Instead, let’s give each other a much needed virtual hug and enjoy a nice slice of Citrus Tart. M’kay? M’kay.
what you’ll need
for the crust
50g desiccated coconut
50g brazil nuts
pinch of salt
1 tbsp. coconut oil
4 medjool dates
for the filling
juice 1/2 lemon
juice 1/2 orange
zest & juice 1/2 grapefruit
1 tsp. lemon extract
1 heaped tbsp. agar agar flakes
1/4 cup/60ml water
1/4 cup/60ml agave
pinch of salt
20g crushed pistachios
what you’ll do
place the cashews in a large bowl and cover with freshly boiled water. set aside for 30 minutes.
pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
place the coconut, pistachios and brazil nuts in a food processor and pulse until it becomes like fine rubble. add the coconut oil, salt and dates and pulse again until it just comes together – pinch some of the mixture between your fingers to test … if it sticks, you’re good to go.
transfer the crust mixture to a small tart tin and press into the mould using your fingers. refrigerate for 10 minutes to harden slightly before baking for a further 8-10 minutes in the oven – you can add baking beans if you wish but it shouldn’t make too much of a difference. remove from oven and cool in the fridge until needed.
drain and rinse the cashews and add to a blender.
place the agar agar flakes in a small saucepan along with juices and water. simmer for 5-10 minutes or until it completely dissolves. this will also intensify the citrus flavour.
add the liquid to the cashews along with the lemon extract, grapefruit zest, agave and salt. blend until it is completely smooth, scraping down the sides from time to time. this will take anywhere between 10-15 minutes, depending on your blender and will go through several stages … coarse, nubbly, thick and then smooth. if it is not entirely silky, you must keep blending until you achieve the desired consistency otherwise it will negatively affect the texture.
pour the filling onto the cooled crust and smooth with the back of a spatula. cover with clingfilm and freeze until set (about 2 hrs) before transferring to the fridge for at least and hour or preferably overnight.
roughly chop the remaining pistachios and scatter around the edge of the tart before serving. serves 4-6
We’ve had a jam-packed ‘Halloweeny’ weekend in the lead-up to the day itself. Both myself and my Husband like to eek out every second of it because (a.) we are die-hard horror fans and (b.) I happen to come from a wee town that knows how to celebrate this holiday (and then some) so I’m wholly determined to keep the tradition alive – even if it’s not exactly a major ‘thing’ here in Cornwall. Sure, we get the odd trick or treater but nothing like my hometown where the kids are out in full force from 4pm onwards. It really is a sight to behold. It always struck me odd that England doesn’t make more out of Halloween but I guess it is more of an Irish tradition … Samhain and all that. I’m so glad we got to experience Halloween in Chicago too – it’s a similar set-up … trick or treating earlier in the evening and then partying for the grown-ups later on. Side note: the whole ‘sexy costume’ malarkey utterly baffles me. I usually team up with my Husband (our homemade Jack Skeleton and Sally costumes complete with papier mache head were a hit) and our last efforts actually seen us walk away with a ‘best costume’ award, if can you believe it, even if most people had no clue what/who we supposed to be. Here’s a clue; we had to carry a ‘dead body’ around with us all night dressed in 80’s gear. Got it? Let me know in the comments if you think you’ve guessed correctly.
That was a couple of years ago now, when we lived in the bustling town of Falmouth, so recent festivities have been rather quiet in comparison – I think we had one kid call to our door last year so we ended up scoffing the remaining sweeties ourselves. Tonight’s viewing, as ever, will include ‘Night of the Living Dead’ (Barbara! They’re coming to get you Barbara!), Halloween (I am John Carpenter worshipper – p.s. he’s performing in London tonight, gutted I won’t be there), Rosemary’s Baby (obvs.) … and we’ll probably throw in a newbie for good measure too. The Shining was showing at our local film house last night, which was epic, to say the least. We’d never seen it on the big screen before and it totally took it to a whole new level – I feel like I know that film inside out, upside down but I was seeing things last night I’d never even noticed before. It’s a ruddy masterpiece. Kubrick rules.
Anyway. Halloween means pumpkins, which is fine by me because it’s just about one of my favourite ingredients to cook/bake with. I’ve been perfecting my breads, cakes and muffins but I also wanted to share something a little simpler in the form of a smoothie bowl. If you can’t get your hands on pumpkin puree, don’t worry I’ve got a tutorial here – it’s a lot easier than you might think (and whilst I love the convenience of a can) you can’t beat freshly made pumpkin puree. The remaining ingredients are items you’re likely to have hanging about your fridge/cupboard, making this a cinch to throw together. You could top it with fresh apple (or pear also works well) but I like to ramp up the flavour by tossing the chopped apple in cinnamon and maple syrup before roasting it in the oven until soft. I also used it to fill the centre of a Pumpkin Bundt Cake (loosely based on this recipe) I made for a small Halloween shindig I threw on Saturday. If you follow me on Instagram stories you’ll have caught some of the silly shenanigans.
Must dash now, as I haven’t bought anything for tonight’s mini frighteners and I also have a mountain of work to do. Oh Monday. You suck.
what you’ll need
4 heaped tbsp. pumpkin puree
3 tbsp. coconut yoghurt
3 tbsp. rolled oats
60ml/1/4 cup coconut milk
4 deglet nour dates (or 2 medjool dates)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
pinch of allspice
pinch of salt
handful of ice
for the apples
2 large apples (cox or similar)
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
pinch of salt (or cinnamon salt, if you can get your hands on it)
what you’ll do
pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. peel and chop the apple, and place in an ovenproof dish. toss in cinnamon, nutmeg and syrup, and sprinkle over a little salt. roast for 20-25 minutes until soft, shaking the pan from time to time. set aside until needed.
place the bananas, pumpkin puree, coconut yoghurt, dates, oats, coconut milk, spices, salt and ice in a blender and blend until completely smooth – I generally run it through twice to be sure. I like it reasonably thick but you add add more plant milk to thin it out if you wish.
divide between two bowl and garnish with the roasted apples, toasted flaked almonds, flaxseed and a dash of maple or pomegranate syrup.