Kale Salad with Balsamic Black Beans & Za’atar Roasted Sweet Potato

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I made this salad over a week ago so the details are sketchy to say the least but this is the general jist of the dish … kale meets black beans meets sweet potato. Nothing wild or crazy, juts a solid little salad that will see you right through to autumn and beyond – because it’s technically a warm salad it kind of straddles all seasons, in my opinion. Also, I just felt like posting, even if it’s not perfect or a concrete recipe, it’s gives a better indication of how I actually cook … usually on the fly and with whatever few ingredients I have to hand. Recently I’ve been buying my produce in small batches from our local organic grocers and only going to the supermarket if I really need a specific ingredient that I can’t find elsewhere. Buying local and seasonal (and indeed organic) is becoming increasingly more important to me but I’m also mindful of cost, which is why my dishes probably contain fewer ingredients that they usually do – and truthfully, they might be better for it. Like style, I tend to think food is best when pared back to the essentials with maybe just one unexpected flourish to make it stand apart … this is how I dress and how I cook, in fact – and maybe even how I decorate my home. Speaking of homes, we have been hard at work getting ours into shape. It looks like a wreck still but we can see the progress and I suppose that’s all that matters. We’re focusing on the upstairs at present … working our way down and finishing with the biggest job at hand – the kitchen. For that, we want a handcrafted open-shelving style space, which may or may not come to fruition depending on how much we have left in the budget although we’ve been pretty frugal so far … doing most of the work ourselves means we’ve saved a ton in labour costs. Of course, there are certain things we won’t tackle such as plumbing and plastering but other than that we’re happy to roll up our sleeves and get stuck in. Let me know if you’d be interested in seeing pictures of our progress and maybe I’ll do a specific renovation post.

 

Kale Salad with black beans & za’atar roasted sweet potatoes

with a balsamic orange dressing

 

what you’ll need

1 large sweet potato

1 heaped tsp. za’atar

zest of 1 orange

1 tbsp. olive oil

sea salt and pepper

 

for the kale salad

150g kale, leaves stripped

Juice of 1/2 orange

200g pre-cooked black beans

2 tbsp. hemp hearts

salt and pepper

 

Balsamic & Orange Dressing

1 heaped tsp. dijon mustard

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

juice 1/2 orange

1 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tbsp. agave or coconut palm syrup

pinch of salt and pepper

 

what you’ll do

Pre-heat the oven to 200c/Gas Mark 6. Peel and cube the sweet potato, and transfer to a baking sheet. Sprinkle over the za’atar, orange zest, olive oil and season generously. Toss to coat and bake for 30mins until crispy and golden, shaking the pan from time to time.
 
Tear the kale into bite-size pieces and add to a large mixing bowl. Squeeze over the orange juice, lightly season with salt and pepper and massage the leaves until they begin to soften. Set aside to wilt further in the juice.
 
Place the dressing ingredients in a bowl and vigorously whisk until it emulsifies. Drain and rinse the black beans and transfer to a small bowl. Pour over half the dressing and gently combine.
 
Add the black beans to the kale and spoon over the remaining dressing before adding the sweet potatoes and hemp hearts. Toss to combine, sprinkle over a smidge more za’atar and serve.
 

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Roasted Golden Plums with Coconut Yoghurt

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Sometimes I fancy something mildly sweet after dinner but I still want it to verge ever so slightly on the healthy side. Fruit is an obvious choice but I always like to spruce it up a little – it just makes it feel that extra bit special. If you already own my second book, The New Vegan, you’ll no doubt already be familiar with my penchant for roasted plums. These are a little spin on that concept but with orange blossom water and ground ginger instead … I also crumble over some brown sugar so that the tops get nicely caramelized in the oven. You can obviously make these ahead of time and store them in the fridge but for the full effect I prefer them warm, served alongside my favourite coconut yoghurt and a scattering of toasted almonds. So simple but oh so good.

 

I’ve been taking things easy in the kitchen lately. Eating and shopping reasonably frugally and not getting too caught up in making every meal a groundbreaking dish. I’m actually getting so much pleasure from keeping things basic, relying on organic, seasonal produce and making do with what I happen to have in the pantry. As a food writer/recipe developer, it’s so easy to get caught up in the chaos that is social media … truthfully, too much time spent on any of these popular platforms can zap your creativity. Far from it being inspiration, for me it can almost lead to the recipe equivalent of writers block … nothing ever feels good enough and so I find myself doing nothing at all.

 

Of course, no-one is really to blame in these scenarios other than ourselves. Whilst I’m borderline addicted to instagram, I’ve also become increasingly wary of it, which has led to me posting less regularly but more purposefully. I find this brings me greater joy in the long run because it feels authentic and a more genuine reflection of me and my life. Becoming overwhelmed by social media and our participation in it can be challenging for everybody at times and whilst it can breed a positive sense of community and connection (something we all crave) I also think it has the potential to create a damaging sense of distrust. It can be difficult to differentiate the person from the persona, fact from fiction … if you get what I mean? It’s a funny old thing when you think about it – we’re revealing aspects of ourselves that present a partial but not wholly accurate picture. Like a rose-tinted ‘vsco-ed to the hilt’ glimpse into a fraction of our day. Why do we even do it? 21st century living is insane.

 

Anyway, I’m pleased that I’m making strides in finding a better balance for me. My love for blogging has been re-awakened recently and because of that I’ll soon be moving the whole kit and kaboodle over to squarespace, complete with new name and logo. It’s definitely time for a change … a lot has transpired over the last seven or eight years and I now need an online space that echoes that. Don’t worry though, it’ll still be the same old me, same old musings but with hopefully some new and interesting content too – I really hope you’ll join me on this next phase of my blogging life, it really wouldn’t be the same without you!

 

what you’ll need

5 organic golden plums

2 tbsp. agave or maple syrup

1 tbsp. orange blossom water

2 tbsp. orange juice

1/4 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tbsp. light brown or palm sugar

 

to serve

coconut yoghurt

1/4 cup toasted almonds

basil leaves

 

what you’ll do

 

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6/200c.

 

Halve the plums, remove the stones and place flesh side up in a small baking dish. Pour over the sweetener, orange blossom water and orange juice before dusting with ground ginger and brown/palm sugar. Bake for 25-30mins until bubbling and ever so slightly charred.

 

Distribute the flaked almonds on a baking tray and place in the same oven for 5 or so minutes, shaking the pan from time to time, until they are evenly toasted.

 

Fill a small bowl with coconut yoghurt and top with the roasted plums. Finish with a smattering of toasted almonds, a few basil leaves and serve.

 
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Dreamy Days with Waitrose

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It’s been a while since I attended a garden party. Heck, it’s been a while since I attended any kind of party – let it be known your thirties are pretty dry on the party front so make the most of it while you can. When this delightful invite from Waitrose came through the door then (in all it’s hamper and Heston’s ‘Garden Cup’ glory) I already knew it would be swell (I’m bringing back this much maligned word), making my answer a very easy ‘yes’! Obviously, the one thing Waitrose has in bucket-loads is style … make that laid back, 100% British class – but I wasn’t fully expecting the bells and whistles shindig they hosted in the grounds of the stunningly beautiful Leckford Estate. Did you know they’re the only supermarket in the UK that has their own farm? Nope, neither did I.

 

Seasonality was at the heart of the event with a to-die-for menu created especially for the mostly vegan/plant-based guests who ranged from The Little Plantation (stylist extraordinaire) to ‘Ballet Blast’ Beauty Naturally Sassy and the smoothie-bowl queen herself Alpha Foodie. After a guided tour through the nursery we entered into something of a magical fairyland complete with grounds that would make you weep … if you ever get the chance you must take a stroll through the water garden, it is beyond breathtaking and I could quite happily have spent the day there. Already feeling pretty zen we made our way to the teepee the organisers had erected near the lake – it’s always best to err on the side of caution in England and lo it did actually rain momentarily before the sun came out and the temperature soared. Hurrah!

 

Sipping on apple juice and crunching on probably the best vegan arancini I’ve sampled, us bloggers mingled and chatted, oohed and aahed, at well, pretty much everything. Glancing over the menu (p.s. all recipes are on the Waitrose site I believe), I was so impressed with the thought and precision that had gone into our super elegant lunch (huge shout-out to Waitrose Cookery School) … from the courgette fritters to the roasted cauliflower (with insanely yummy maple granola) and especially (oh, especially) the dessert options … three no-less if you count the apple crisp palette cleanser, crazy delicious lemon jelly and a coconut panna cotta I can only describe as akin to eating a cloud. All of it lush. All of it seasonal. I was a very happy vegan indeed.
 
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Having not consumed alcohol for the best part of a month, I really savoured the chilled white ‘sauvignon blanc-esque’ wine they served, as well as the sweet dessert wine, which had some unusual bitter notes too … a little reminiscent of aperol, which is totally up my street. The alcohol on offer was British made and, of course, 100% vegan, so I felt it would’ve been churlish not to indulge somewhat;)

 

The purpose of us being there? Well, apart from having a lovely afternoon, we got to see firsthand the passion that goes into the produce on offer at Waitrose under the hashtag #WaitroseAtSource. It’s no news to me that the quality is some of the best you’ll find in the UK but I was still amazed at the obsessive care that goes into growing it. Whether it’s the tonnes of mushrooms that are produced directly on the estate each year to the vineyard that supplies the grapes for the wine, all of it echoed the sentiments of the team who talked enthusiastically about the estate and also working for Waitrose. It was an education to say the least.

 

After all that eating, drinking and chatting, the only way to rightly bookend a very British garden party is to indulge in a little flower arranging – am I right? Off we trotted down to an abundant flower display where we chose our favourite blooms, which were then transformed them into a beautiful bouquet … I’m not saying I may have required a little more ‘flower arranging’ help than most but I definitely required more help than most, ahem. Suffice to say it was a dreamy end to a dreamy day, and has certainly got my summer off to swell (there’s that word again!) start. Now if only I can recreate the same mood in my teeny soulless courtyard out the back … well, God does love a trier!
 
*this is a sponsored post but all words and thoughts are 100% heartfelt xxx
 
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‘The Virtuous Tart’ Giveaway!

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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.

 

*This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to everyone who took part! The lucky winners were Louisa, Laura Buckley and Sarah McKenna.

 

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.
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Potato Salad Tacos

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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

150g hummus

juice 1/2 lime

 

to serve

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.

 

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Thoughtful Fashion

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.
 
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Popped Quinoa Granola

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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

100g oats

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.

 

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Miso Noodle Bowl (for one)

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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

1 carrot

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

 

to serve

radish – cucumber – coriander – sesame seeds – chilli flakes

 

Method
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.

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Pistachio Dusted Tahini Truffles

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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!

 

Ingredients

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

 

To coat

2 heaped tbsp. raw cacao powder

50g pulverized pistachios

 

Method

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!

 

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Garlicky Pea Puree with Roasted Radish & Celeriac

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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 leek

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

125g radishes

1/2 celeriac

1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp. olive oil

salt and pepper

 

to serve

30g toasted almonds

handful of pea shoots

1 tbsp. chives

lemon juice

 

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.

 

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